HC Deb 25 February 1914 vol 58 cc1789-91

I beg leave to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to prohibit the use of hop substitutes in brewing."

I make this Motion not for the first time. My justification in asking for a few moments of time of the House, in introducing this Bill, is to enable me to point out, as I think should be pointed out, that matters which have proved to be a subject of contention and given rise to opposition to previous measures introduced for the same purpose, have, I think, been entirely eliminated from the Bill which I ask leave to introduce to-day. These contentious matters were, firstly, certain provisions in previous Bills which provided for quite a different subject from that of substitutes, namely, to mark imported hops. Although I should like to see legislation compelling the marking of imported hops, yet, at the same time, opinion is divided on that subject, and, therefore, I am dropping it from my Bill this Session. Secondly, a great deal of discussion and dispute has arisen from time to time with reference to the amending of what I may call the prohibition Clause of this Bill. In some Bills the clause was so wide in effect that it would have interfered seriously with the legitimate operation of the brewing industry, and that is not desired. I think that the wording which I propose to adopt while, on the one hand, entirely preventing the use of any substances for brewing in substitution for hops, on the other, will not prevent the legitimate and necessary use of chemical substances for the purposes of cleansing and disinfecting, and so on. That I am justified in my belief is shown by the fact that I am supported in this matter by two of the most prominent Members of this House connected with the brewing industry.

4.0 P. M.

As to the use of substitutes against which the Bill is aimed there is no doubt that in many quarters there has been some exaggeration as to the quantity of substitutes used, and as to the competitive effect which their use has had upon the hop trade. I do not wish to fall into that error of exaggeration to-day. According to the brewers' returns for 1911, only some 5,000 lbs. weight of substitutes were employed. That figure has increased to 15,000 lbs. Although the official returns for the year just completed are not yet available, I am informed that the figures for 1912 have increased, and that, therefore, there is some reason to believe that the use of substitutes at the present time is a growing practice. It is further well to bear in mind that although we have no special reason to doubt the accuracy of the figures in the brewers' returns, yet at the same time there is no power to enforce disclosure of those matters, and, therefore, there is the possibility that the figures do not show the worst. I would further remind the House that those objection able substitutes are not used in any case by the better class of brewers, and that the great bulk of the brewing industry are quite prepared to see their use prohibited by Parliamentary enactment; another ground for asking the support of this House to this proposition is the matter of public health. The Select Committee on the Hop Industries reported in 1908 that in a number of cases hop substitutes had been found which contained large quantities of arsenic and antimony, which were injurious and dangerous to public health. They further reported that— It seems clear that no substance having at once the aromatic flavouring, preservative, and precipitating properties of the hop is known to science. They specially condemned those hop substitutes most commonly in use, and drew attention to the fact that Growers and brewers appeared to be generally agreed that hop substitutes can be safely dispensed with. They cannot in any true sense supply the peculiar properties of the hop, they introduce an unnecessary and a foreign element into the process of brewing, they may be the source of dangerous contamination, and, in the opinion of your Committee, their, employment should be prohibited by legislation. Although there were three draft reports submitted to that Committee, all three agreed on that point. The demand for this Bill is further supported by continual agitation among the hop growers and the hop trade. It is supported by the principal brewers, and during the last two or three years it has been supported, not only by pledges of His Majesty's Ministers, but by the introduction of more than one Bill by them; and it is in the hope that the early introduction of a private Member's Bill for this purpose may lead to the passing of this small but much desired reform that I may ask leave to introduce this Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Courthope, Mr. Gretton, Mr. Hewins, Captain Clay, Mr. Ronald M'Neill, Captain Clive, Mr. Edgar Home, Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Wheler, Mr. Cautley, Mr. Wright, and Sir George Younger. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Monday, 9th March, and to be printed. [Bill 75.]

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