§ (1) No British or foreign spirits shall be delivered for home consumption unless they have been warehoused for a period of at least three years:
§ Provided that—
- (a) this restriction shall not apply to spirits delivered for purposes for which they may for the time being be delivered free of duty or to mixtures, compounds or preparations which have been charged to duty in respect of the spirit contained in them or used in their preparation or manufacture; and
- (b) subject to the payment of such duties (if any) as Parliament may determine, and to compliance with such conditions as the Commissioners of Customs and Excise may impose, this restriction shall not apply—
- (i) to spirits delivered to a licensed rectifier, to a manufacturing chemist, or to a manufacturer of perfumes, for use in their manufactures, or to other persons licensed by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise; or
- (ii) to spirits delivered for scientific purposes; or
- (iii) to imported Geneva and perfumed spirits, and foreign liqueurs; and
- (c) subject to the payment of such duties (if any) as Parliament may determine and to compliance with such conditions as the Commissioners of Customs and Excise may impose, this restriction shall not apply for a period of one year after the commencement of this Act—
- (i) to spirits of any sort delivered for home consumption, if they have been warehoused for a period of at least two years; or
- (ii) to imported rum delivered for home consumption, if it has been warehoused for a period of at least nine months; and
- (d) any period which, in the case of imported spirits is shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise to have elapsed between the dates of distillation and importation shall be treated, for the purposes of this Act, as a period during which the spirits have been warehoused.
§ (2) If any person procures, or attempts to procure, the delivery of spirits in contravention of this Act, or acts in contravention of or fails to comply with any conditions imposed by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise in pursuance of this Act, he shall be liable to a Customs or Excise penalty, as the case may be, of one hundred pounds; and any spirits in respect of which the offence has been committed shall be forfeited.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "consumption" ["delivered for home consumption"], to insert the words "during the period of the War."
This Amendment will make the Clause read that no British or foreign spirit shall be delivered for home consumption during the period of the War. I shall not occupy the attention of the House for long in explaining my reasons for this proposal.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
Yes, not the twenty years one, but that relating to the period of the War. Am I able to discuss the points of my other Amendments on the Paper?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Not the "twenty years"—I could not accept that. That is an objection to the Bill as a whole. The hon. Member's proper course would be to move to reject the Bill on Third Reading. He could move his first Amendment—"during the period of the War"—as it stands by itself. That is an allowable Amendment.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
If the Amendment to insert "twenty years" is ruled out of order, I do not desire to move my first Amendment, as that was the reason for moving it. May I take it, then, that if this specific term of twenty years will cause the Amendment to be out of order, a less number of years would bring it into order?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The suggestion that no whisky is to be drunk except after it has been in bond twenty years is absurd, and 2173 makes nonsense of the Bill. It is tendered in a "spirit of mockery," and, therefore, I cannot, accept it; but the hon. Member is entitled, if he likes, to move the first Amendment to limit the Bill to the duration of the War.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
Could I move subsequently that the period should be ten years, or would you, Mr. Speaker, indicate what period would relieve me of an absurd Amendment?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member had better move his first Amendment, and when that is disposed of the matter can be considered.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
I am not quite sure what Amendment I have to answer, because the Amendment standing alone simply limits the Bill to the duration of the War. That is not the object of my hon. Friend. His object is to move that in order afterwards to insert ten, fifteen, or twenty years. I, therefore, really do not know what I am to answer. I am afraid I cannot accept his Amendment.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
My difficulty has arisen from Mr. Speaker's ruling that the next Amendment standing in my name is out of order.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I do not know what the intention of the hon. Member is, but the Amendment as it stands would limit this Bill for the period of the War. That may not be his intention, but it is the Amendment which he has moved, and, personally, I am in favour of that Amendment. As this Bill is an emergency Bill, it should be limited to the duration of the War. There have been various arguments which appear to be almost unanswerable, and the first is that we are supposed now only to deal with emergency legislation required for the War, and, therefore, it is consistent that we should make that legislation what we suppose and what we think it ought to be—namely, for the duration of the War. The second 2174 reason is that, if we limit this Bill for the duration of the War the compensation which will have to be paid, I believe, will be less. That seems to be perfectly clear, because the Irish people will only lose the sale of their liquor for the duration of the War, and, therefore, the compensation to be paid to them is the loss which will fall upon them during that period. If, on the other hand, we leave the period unlimited, the Irish whisky people might perfectly well say, "Here is this Bill which will destroy our business for a period of three years, and at the end of that time the probability is our business will have gone into other channels, and we shall not be able to get it back. Under those circumstances we shall require such compensation as will put us in a position which we should have been in if we had been able to dispose of our business to a willing purchaser." Therefore, under those circumstances, and if it is clear that the compensation to be paid must be much larger than if the period is limited to the duration of the War, and in view of the enormous sums of money we are paying to everybody, and the enormous increase of our debt, I think we ought seriously to consider every shilling we are paying, and if we can save compensation or anything else by making any alteration in the Bill, we ought to do so.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Acland)
The hon. Baronet speaks, as he always does speak, in the interests of economy, but I do not think really this Amendment would make for economy. Let us see what would really happen. The extra expenditure on these firms, I submit, would be largely in the direction, first of all, of not getting their ordinary profits from sales during this year, and, consequently, having to provide warehouses and so on in which to keep their whisky until it reached the right age for sale. I do not know how long the War is going to last, but towards the end of the War they will be beginning to get the value of what they have spent on their whiskies, and their trade will be all the better, no doubt permanently, for having kept these whiskies a sufficient time. Therefore I submit that to make all the expenditure in building warehouses useless to the firms by saying that, In any case, there shall be no chance of getting any return out of that expenditure when the War is over, will certainly be, used by the firms as an argument to increase compensation rather than decrease it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that in all probability it will be useless for them to build warehouses because their trade will be gone—the Scottish people will have got it?
§ Mr. ACLAND
I do not think it is so bad as all that. I think so long as it can be put on the market cheaply enough, people will buy it
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I think my Friends here will agree with me when I say we do not expect very much benefit to come from this Bill if it should be passed into law. Notwithstanding that, we have no desire to limit the operation of this Bill to the period of the War. If the hon. Member is not going to move his consequential Amendment there is no reason why we should support this Amendment. I do not know whether I should be in order in moving a shorter term than twenty years, and I do not know whether you, Mr. Speaker, would consider that a practical Amendment which you could accept. If I get an affirmative answer, then we should persist in the Amendment now before the House.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am afraid that I am no expert in these matters. I do not know how long whisky is kept in bond, but I am quite sure that a period of twenty years is extremely absurd.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I do not know, Mr. Speaker, whether you are aware that many spirit merchants advertise that they sell no whisky unless it has been ten years in bond.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
If the term of three years is agreed to it practically means the prohibition of the sale of these spirits because there is no stock.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I really cannot name any fixed period, but I do say that to suggest twenty years is ludicrous.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Would a period of seven years be in order? I understand that the best whisky is kept for seven years in bond, and therefore an Amendment of that kind would secure that none but the best whisky would be sold.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
An Amendment was ruled out of order yesterday beause it practically amounted to the actual prohibition of the sale of spirits. To put in the period 2176 named would do exactly the same thing. It would amount to prohibition because there is no stock.
§ Amendment put, and negatived.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the word "three," and insert instead thereof the word "five."
Your ruling, Mr. Speaker, places me in a difficulty because I am not sure that there is such a vast difference between five and two years to effect the purpose I have in mind. We know that yesterday the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) moved a resolution of prohibition for the period of the War, and that was ruled out of Order. Some hon. Members who support the right hon. Gentleman expressed great regret that that should have happened, and the feeling throughout the House was that a measure of prohibition during the War would have met the feelings of the House and the public sentiment outside the House. That led me to put down an Amendment making the period twenty years, my object being to get as near prohibition as I possibly could. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said yesterday that there was a great and significant difference between raw whisky and well-matured whisky, and I was very much impressed by that statement. If there is such a vast beneficial difference through maturing whisky for three years then there must be a still greater benefit accruing if you mature it for five years. The right hon. Gentleman told us a story about two monkeys, one of them having been given raw whisky and getting offensive, while the other was given matured whisky and remained genial and everything that a monkey should be. I do not know whether the whisky that had that effect had really been matured for only three years, but probably it was whisky which had matured for five years, and therefore, to carry the principle expressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his example into effect, I think the right hon. Gentleman should support the Amendment, and make the period five years. The longer whisky is matured and kept in bond the better it is, and if it is kept in bond altogether till the War is over so much the better. I ask those to support this Amendment who object to the view held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer 2177 when he said, in relation to certain proposals of his for restricting consumption of drink:—We miss the fearlessness of Hugh Price Hughes more than ever when you have the House of Commons quailing before a huge crowd of Irish publicans and distillers.I think it was the Government that quailed on that occasion and not the House of Commons. I feel that by moving this Amendment and by extending the term, it will afford the House of Commons an opportunity of relieving itself of the innuendo and aspersion cast upon it in the words which I have quoted.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I beg to second this Amendment, seeing that this proposal has the support of the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones) I think we may take it as a proposal which it is safe to adopt.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The reason I am opposed to this Bill is that we have to pay compensation, and the longer the period the more the compensation. I object to the House of Commons being asked to pass a measure which in itself does not say a single word about compensation, and yet this Bill goes before a Committee who will decide the amount of the compensation, and the House of Commons does not even know the reference which that Committee will have before it, and we do not know who will be paid and who will not be paid. Consider the position in which we stand. We were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that compensation will only be paid if a business is completely ruined. Is that to be paid merely on the dictum of the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not object to discussing the question of compensation at the proper moment, but this is not the right Amendment.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I take it that if the period is not extended the amount of compensation will not be increased.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think the point which the hon. Baronet wishes to raise is one which should be dealt with on the Third Reading, when the whole subject will be open to discussion.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Both hon. Members who have spoken on this Amendment have been quite frank with the House in stating what was their desire in putting forward this Amendment. One hon. Member says his object is to get as near prohibition as he can, and the other hon. Member is opposed to the Bill on the question of compensation. I do not think hon. Members realise the difficulty that my right hon. Friend had in this matter. I will not say there is an agreement because the Government is asking those concerned to go very much further than they want to go. I do not think hon. Members realise how difficult it will be if we accept such an Amendment as this to arrive at any settlement or understanding which would enable the Bill to go through at all.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I agree that there has been no settlement, and this is being done in the face of great opposition. I think if hon. Members would only realise that fact they would hardly ask us to change the whole basis of the Bill at the eleventh hour, with the inevitable consequence of arousing again all the feelings of opposition to the Bill. It is really almost impossible now to change the whole policy and put the whole proposal in a different light. There has been no agreement. One cannot say that to make this change would absolutely amount to a breach of faith, but it is a fact, as hon. Members present yesterday will remember, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir E. Carson) said that while in no way withdrawing or modifying his opposition to the Bill, yet if it remained the policy of the Government to pass it in its present form he would allow the opposition of those he represented to be overridden. That was stated on the basis of the period at present named in the Bill, and it is hardly possible, in view of that position, suddenly to entirely revert to another period, although many of us on both sides of the House may have considerable sympathy with the general principles in hon. Members' minds, namely, to approach nearer to absolute prohibition. I hope the House will not ask us after the Bill has gone so far to reverse the central principles in it.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I only desire to say that so far as the distillers who claimed my attention when I put the matter before the House are concerned, it does not matter one iota whether this Amendment 2179 is carried or not. The Bill has been framed to ruin them as regards their stocks, and to suit other distillers as regards their stocks; consequently you may as well insert twenty or any other figure so far as I am concerned.
Mr. DUNDAS WHITE
Assuming the circumstance with regard to these particular distillers to be as stated, we would really like to know if it is proposed to give them compensation on the basis of their business having been destroyed or what is the basis? That is really very important from the point of view of this Amendment, because there may be others affected by it. The amount of compensation will presumably be paid upon the amount of damage, and, if the period were increased from three to five years, there would presumably be more damage done and therefore a greater amount of compensation payable. I suggest that the House should be informed on that point, and that we should know how we stand. It affects my view very much, because if it means increased compensation I should certainly be against the Amendment and should want the period shortened as much as possible.
§ Question, "That the word 'three' stand part of the Clause," put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. LOUGH
On the point of Order. I would like to ask how we can raise a question with regard to new matter in the Bill? It was not circulated till this morning, and it was not till this morning that we saw that the Government had introduced new provisions, particularly Clause 1 (a). How could I call attention to that matter?
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I beg to move, in Clause 1, Sub-section (1), at the end to insert the words, "Nothing contained in this Section shall interfere with the supply of rectified spirits of wine for the purpose of making medicines to registered medical practitioners, to hospitals, and to persons, firms, and bodies corporate entitled to carry on the business of a chemist and druggist."
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I was profoundly dissatisfied with the position in which this matter stood when I left the House yesterday, and my misgiving was greatly increased this morning when I received two communications—one from the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, speaking for the whole of the pharmacists of Great Britain and Ireland, and the other from the British Medical Association, asking that this Amendment should be moved to-day on the ground that they as experts are satisfied that the Bill as it stands does seriously interfere with their obtaining, as they now obtain, rectified spirits of wine for the purpose of making medicines. The position in the Bill is this: Spirits, if they are immature—if they have not been bonded for a term of three years—cannot be delivered except to certain people who are specified in Clause 1, paragraph (b)(i),… to a licensed rectifier, to a manufacturing chemist, or to a manufacturer of perfumes, for use in their manufactures, or to other persons licensed for the purpose by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise.Yesterday I pointed out that you were there limiting the people who could get rectified spirits of wine to those named in the Bill, namely, manufacturing chemists and manufacturers of perfumes. The Government did then accept an Amendment to add the words "other persons licensed for the purpose by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise," but in accepting that Amendment the right hon. Gentleman made it very clear indeed that he could not recommend the House or the Commissioners of Excise to grant licences to pharmacists. If pharmacists, doctors, and hospitals are not to be allowed to obtain this rectified spirit, then the position is, indeed, extremely serious. The Pharmaceutical Society have forwarded me a copy of a letter which they have addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in which they have put to 2181 him the arguments in favour of this Amendment. I cannot do better than quote those arguments:—The society is seriously perturbed by the provisions of the Immature Spirits (Restriction) Bill as it left the Committee stage in the House last night. It is essential to the preparation of medicine that rectified spirits of wine should be available for use by registered medical men, hospitals, and pharmacists for the making of preparations of the British Pharmacopœia. In the 1914 Edition of the Pharmacopœia there are 27 preparations and of these rectified spirits of wine is a necessary ingredient in 163. As the law stands it is absolutely illegal for anybody to make those preparations of anything but the rectified spirits of wine.That being so, it is essential to the carrying on of these people's business that they should be in a position to obtain rectified spirits of wine, which is the only substance which they can legally use in making 163 out of 400 odd preparations in the Pharmacopœia. The other point which they bring to the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is that an investigation of roughly 20,000 chemists' prescriptions showed that 2,521 of them contain Pharmacopœia ingredients made with rectified spirits of wine, and in 343 of them rectified spirits of wine was actually prescribed as a distinct ingredient itself. In another batch of 13,000 nearly 6,000 contained spirituous medicines of the British Pharmacopœia, all required to be made with rectified spirits of wine. I do ask attention to this matter, because it may be that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will tell us that he and his advisers are satisfied that it is already provided for in the Bill. It is important, however, that these experts should themselves be satisfied, and they say that no provision is made in the Bill to enable medical practitioners and pharmacists to obtain that spirit.My society feel confident that neither the Government nor Parliament desire to change the conditions under which doctors and pharmacists obtain rectified spirits of wine for this purpose at present, and in order that this shall be made quite clear in the Bill the society have asked Mr. Glyn-Jones to move the amendment.That is a very important pronouncement from the body which represent the whole of the pharmacists of Great Britain and Ireland. I have another communication to which the House will, I am sure, pay equal attention. The British Medical Association have this morning directed a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and they have sent me a copy. The British Medical Association have no pecuniary interest in the matter at all. If the Government say that they are not to have rectified spirits of wine—well, the people who will suffer will be their 2182 patients, and not themselves. These people responsible for the practise of medicine in this country to-day tell the House now, and they have told the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that—The association notes with great concern that, according to the provisions of the Immature Spirits (Restriction) Bill, it will be impossible for doctors who dispense their own medicines, and for pharmacists who dispense medicines for doctors, to obtain rectified spirits of wine.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I understand that he proposes to accept this Amendment. I am quite convinced that it has never been the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to interfere with the existing arrangements with regard to rectified spirits of wine.
§ Question, "That the words proposed be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I beg to move to leave out Clause 2.
I move this Amendment for the purpose of asking my right hon. Friend exactly how far the Clause goes. It is quite new in the Bill since yesterday. It deals with existing contracts, and I may say incidentally that it shows how wide the difficulties may be which the Bill may raise. It says that where existing contracts are interfered with by the Act the contractors shall, to the extent of such interference, be relieved therefrom. Of course that is quite clear, but it raises the question of compensation again. If they are relieved from their contracts, of course it means that they will not be forced to carry out contracts which might be contrary to the law. Will they have a claim for compensation for the amount of profit that they might have made if they had completed their contract? I believe that these whisky transactions are often stretched over a considerable period and affect the second and third year of manufacture. I want to know whether the Compensation Clause will make good to these people who have made contracts any losses they may suffer by not being allowed to carry out their contracts? I do not know how far it may be necessary to object to the Clause. I do not move the Amendment in any hostile spirit, but the Clause is quite new, and we have not had time to 2183 consider it. Therefore I move the Amendment for the purpose of getting information.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
This is practically the same Clause as was inserted in the Defence of the Realm (No. 2) Act. It is to safeguard the case of a distiller who has undertaken to deliver a certain quantity of, say, six months' old spirit, or even younger spirit, and who will now be unable to do so. He would have been liable to damages if it had not been for this Clause. Therefore the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) was perfectly right in insisting on the same Clause being inserted here as was inserted to meet the case of engineers in the Defence of the Realm Act. So far from this increasing compensation, the effect will be to diminish any possible compensation, because there might have been a heavy claim for compensation against any particular distiller who failed to deliver the goods, and that claim might have been passed on to the Government.
§ Question, "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I spoke very strongly against this Bill last night, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made an appeal to me on the ground that there are now sitting two very important Committees which he has to attend. I was prepared, to make a speech occupying three-quarters of an hour in opposition to this Bill, but if the Chancellor of the Exchequer assures me that there are two important Committees which in his opinion it is vital that he should attend, I do not think it would be right to prolong the discussion. I will only say that I think it very unfortunate that this Bill should have gone forward. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is in the position of being able to persuade this House to do anything which the House does not want to do. One of the leading gentlemen connected with the railway world said to me, "Mr. Lloyd George has a most wonderful voice; he can persuade me to do anything, because 2184 he has a voice which would make the birds in the trees sing." He can at any rate persuade the House against its better judgment to pass measures which not a single man on either side wants to see passed. If I persisted in voting against this Bill I should probably, under the circumstances, be in a minority of one; and as the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes an appeal to me in a time of great national danger I have nothing to do but to let him have the Bill. Therefore, I would put it to hon. Members who share my views, seeing that we can do no good for fighting the Government, as they have a majority and they have the Whips behind them, that, having made our protest in the most forcible language we can command, the only thing we can do is to let them have the Bill.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
As the hon. Baronet opposite has spoken about the persuasive tongue of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I wish to guard myself and those who think with me against its being supposed that we have been in any way persuaded by the right hon. Gentleman's eloquence. We have not at all. We remain of the opinion that we have held throughout, that this Bill will do no possible good towards increasing the output of munitions, but that it will do a very serious injustice to a considerable and important industry in which we take particular interest. This is only one more case, of which there are many, where we have entirely sunk our own views and principles in obedience to one consideration, and one consideration alone—not because we have been persuaded that the views of the right hon. Gentleman are correct, but in obedience to the appeal to the patriotism of the House and of the country. We feel that at the present time, whatever the Government say on their responsibility may be necessary for the efficient carrying on of the War, such an appeal is one which under no circumstances we would be justified in resisting. For that reason, and for that reason only, we acquiesce in the passing of this Bill.
§ Mr. COWAN
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and to add at the end of the Question the words, "upon this day three months."
My object in moving this Amendment is not to destroy the Bill—I hardly think it worth destroying; it can do no good and possibly very little harm—but in order to give the Government an opportunity of 2185 stating, after twenty-four hours' reflection, what the approximate amount of compensation payable under this Bill is likely to be. Many Members on both sides of the House feel that they are entitled to some indication of that sort. Is it a matter of £5,000 or of £200,000, or is it, as some fear, a matter of perhaps £5,000,000 or £10,000,000? If I believed that this Bill was going to confer any real benefit on the country or contribute in any material degree to the more rapid production of munitions, I should be the last Member even to criticise it. But knowing as I do that there is so large a quantity of immature spirits free in the country out of bond, a quantity which, beyond dispute, will supply all the munition workers at any rate for six months, I cannot regard the Bill as a real emergency Bill, nor the compensation payable under it as a legitimate item of war expenditure. Therefore, although believing in compensation wherever a legitimate interest is prejudiced for the benefit of the nation, I cannot approve of any large compensation being payable under this measure, because I do not believe that the nation will receive any value for it.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
I beg to second the Amendment.
I understood that until after the War no contentious measure was to be brought forward. I am at a loss to understand what is a contentious measure. If a Bill is opposed by the Front Opposition Bench, or by the Leader of the Irish Party, it becomes a contentious measure and is at once withdrawn; but if it is opposed by Members on the Back Benches on this side and by a few Members on the other side, somehow or other it ceases to be a contentious measure and is pushed forward, although many of us strongly object to it. What is the case in regard to this Bill? My right hon. Friend brings it forward and immediately the right hon. Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) rises and says, "No, this is wrong. You are going to destroy the business of some of my clients, or of some of my friends. Therefore I shall oppose the Bill." A little conversation goes on across the Table, and immediately everything is smoothed. But no consideration at all is given to us on this side. A bargain is made, a promise is given, some solatium is offered by way of compensation to certain distillers in 2186 Ireland. That we know is at the back of this Bill, and that is really why we object to it. If this compensation was to be general, and the object to be obtained really worth it, I for one would not object. But when you come to look into the matter and see that the Bill does not touch gin, brandy, or rum, or if it does it does so very gingerly, and that it does not touch all the present stocks on the merchants' premises or in their warehouses, you find that it is of very small value and is really not worth paying compensation for. If you were going to pay compensation on a just principle there would be something to be said for it. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, when the point of the Irish distillers was made, immediately said, "Oh, no, there are other people. Take the case of the trawlers." He himself instanced the case of the trawlers. In their case the exigencies of the State have actually shut down a good and beneficent business, but they are being left out in the cold altogether. If you said that everybody whose business was injured to the extent of 20 per cent., 50 per cent., or 80 per cent. was to be recompensed, I could understand it; but you find that the whole of the compensation is going to be paid to two or three Irish distillers, and there the matter ends. The Financial Secretary let something out which rather confirms what I say. What these distillers want is to be able to build bonded warehouses so as to be in the same position as the distillers who already have them. The figure he gave was something like £250,000. The whole of this Bill is to give compensation to three or four men and to nobody else.
Moreover, this Bill is not to affect the munition areas at all. The Government have already complete power to deal with those areas. This Bill is to effect a wayside temperance reform of very doubtful value, in a time of stress when we are not allowed to vote against the Government or to put pressure upon them. We are not here for the purpose of discussing a temperance measure at all. The Bill is brought forward as an emergency measure, but there is not a single element of emergency in it. My right hon. Friend rested his argument really upon the monkey case, showing that with mature spirits a man might be intoxicated and become maudlin drunk, whereas with immature spirits he would become quarrelsome drunk. I do not care whether a man is quarrelsome drunk or maudlin drunk, 2187 he is contemptible in either case, and it does not make much difference to the public good which it is. I do not object to compensation being paid if the object is worth it; and at this time when money is being thrown about I would not object to compensation being given to a man who lost his business, or a part of his business, because of the exigencies of the State. But when I see money going to be spent for the purpose of compensating the very people who are giving out raw spirits to the public, and compensation refused to the trawlers for the loss of their business, it seems to me so grossly unjust and inequitable, and so against all moral principles, that I shall have to vote against the Bill.
§ Mr. DENMAN
Could the Chancellor of the Exchequer inform us how the compensation will be paid? Shall we in this House first have an opportunity of examining an estimate, and then, if we so desire, of voting on the amount? I quite understand that the Commission will make recommendations, and I take it that the voting of the money will still remain with the House.
§ Sir J. D. REES
If the Government insist on going on with this Bill, in the beneficent effect of which hardly anyone, believes, the country must necessarily pay the piper. I have risen only to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is the case, as the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division suggested yesterday, that the claims for compensation will be claims which the Government may or may not, as they please, honour. I understand that there is an absolute obligation upon the Government to favourably consider every claim upon which the Compensation Committee favourably reports. As the hon. Gentleman seemed inclined to withdraw that point, the Chancellor of the Exchequer might think it worth while even now to say that that is so. When I put a question to the Prime Minister—it was put down before the Debate yesterday, or I should have taken it off the Paper—I did so because the matter was very important. The Bill is very harsh to the trade concerned, particularly in England. It has been argued chiefly on the Irish and the Scotch case. As to the persuasive eloquence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I do not regard the language of exaggeration which the right hon. Gentleman sometimes uses, when, for instance, he com- 2188 pares drink with the Germans and when he says that this House has quailed before the Irish, as being in any way persuasive. The truth is that the House has not thought that the measure is calculated to carry out the object in view.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire (Mr. J. M. Henderson) that no attention has been paid to the expostulations urged upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer from this side of the House. On the contrary, three or four great changes have been made in the Bill, and my right hon. Friend, in reply to a question I put to him with regard to Clause 2, said something that should, to a certain extent, comfort some of my hon. Friends who are anxious upon the question of compensation. He explained that although the men who had made contracts will be relieved from any necessity of fulfilling those contracts, yet they will not have any claim to compensation for the profits they might have made under the contracts. That relieved my anxiety about Clause 2, and tends considerably to limit the question of compensation. My right hon. Friend will, I think, feel bound to say another word on the question of compensation, and I should like very much to hear the answer to the questions which have just been put to him. I wish to call his attention particularly to something that is new in the Bill, especially at the beginning of Clause 2, where we find exempted from the restrictions all mixtures, compounds, or preparations which have been charged duty in respect of the spirit contained in them. This may lead to the growth of a great trade in mixtures, compounds, and preparations that will have all this young whisky in them, and which will be a substitute for the immature whisky that might otherwise have been distributed. Those words are now before us for the first time, owing to the hurry of the proceedings, of which I do not complain. Perhaps my right hon. Friend can reassure us as to these words because they appear to deprive the Bill of meaning. We know that the night before a fair in Ireland, mixtures, compounds, and preparations are made up containing trifling proportions of "finish," or deleterious things which would not be worth keeping. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is 'finish'?"] It is something used in connection with varnish.
According to paragraph (b) we find that this Bill is not to apply "to other persons 2189 licensed by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise." Who are these favoured "other persons"? The provision may be all right, but are these exemptions to be given wholesale by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise? I ask these questions in a friendly spirit. Obviously, these are new words which have been put in in order to deal with objections raised with regard to the Bill, and if my right hon. Friend could say a word about them, I should be glad to hear it. So far as I am concerned, and I believe there are other Members on this side of the House who feel as I do about it, the great point on which we are alarmed is that of compensation. We think this Bill differs from all other Bills in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has applied the principle of compensation. The other Bills only threw the onus upon the Government. The other Bills did not necessarily raise any case for compensation or the purchase of any business, but it was thought that in carrying out the provisions of the Bill, if a business was acquired, then due compensation ought to be paid. That is the only sense in which the principle of compensation has been applied under the Defence of the Realm Acts up to the present time. In regard to this Bill, what alarms us is that the moment it is passed we might have a thousand claims for compensation which would spring into existence. We may be unduly alarmed about the matter. There may also be compensation claims for rent of premises for storing this immature spirit for three years, and warehousing and casks that may be necessary to the business might have to be paid for. We may be exaggerating all that, and if we are doing so we shall all be glad to hear a statement to that effect from my right hon. Friend. If his object is merely, without damage to the State, to improve the quality of whisky, it is a curious thing that we should plunge into that matter at this time, but at the same time I suppose we must accept his assurance that he is doing it in the best interests of the country and that this is a War Emergency Bill. I think we might have one or two words about the position before we lose control of the measure.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
I should like to say a word on the question of compensation, because I understood the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire (Mr. J. M. Henderson) to say that there had been something in the nature of a bargain 2190 between the Government and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson). I have been here during the whole of the Committee stage, and I do not remember anything that could be construed as being a bargain with my right hon. Friend. So far as I recollect, what occurred was simply that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, being questioned on the point, said that compensation would be payable under this Bill just as it is under the Defence of the Realm Acts, and the question would be submitted to the Committee presided over by my hon. and learned friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke). The Mover of the Amendment asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what principles would be applied by the Government in granting compensation under this Bill. As I understand it, the Government have nothing whatever to do with that. They have nothing to do with the principles of granting compensation or with the amount which may be granted for this, that, or the other claim. A large quantity of emergency legislation has been passed which must necessarily affect a great many interests in the country—a number of Acts called Defence of the Realm Acts—and this Bill will be an Act under another title, but will form part of the series. The Government have set up an independent and quasi-judicial Committee presided over by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter, and any claims which may arise under this Bill and under other Acts will be submitted to that Committee, who will be guided by the same principles in the one case as in the other. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lough) has suggested that compensation could be given for losses of all sorts, or for liabilities for rent, and so forth. All these dangers might just as well arise under the other Acts. We have committed ourselves, and it is an act of faith, to granting these powers to that particular Committee to deal with questions of compensation. I cannot see that any greater difficulty or danger with regard to compensation will arise under this Bill than under the other Acts, but if the right hon. Gentleman is going to say anything upon the subject I should be glad to be assured that my view of the matter is correct, because so many hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to think that the Government are dealing with compensation in some special way in this Bill, and it is desirable that the matter should be cleared up.
§ Sir T. WHITTAKER
When this Bill was introduced none of us had any idea that any question of compensation was involved in it. It came forward as the result of a case that was stated in regard to the distillers in the North of Ireland, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer then gave a promise or made a suggestion in response thereto. I feel very uneasy and very much alarmed about this particular compensation. I do not like leaving it to this tribunal to decide whether there should or should not be compensation. There will be very strong opposition to it in the country. An enormous number of people are suffering very seriously from this War in many ways. They are suffering by the act of the State; suffering quite as much as these distillers in the North of Ireland will be and this compensation will make them feel they suffer from an injustice because some people are being compensated and others are not. They will feel the Bill is an injustice also because they will have to pay their contribution towards the compensation paid to these other people. I ventured to suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday that the Defence of the Realm (No. 3) Act gave him power enough in the scheduled areas to do anything he liked with regard to spirits. In reply to that he said that once you let spirits out of bond you could not tell where they would go and that practically you could not guard against the difficulty of the use of immature spirits in those areas unless you had something like a cordon of Custom House officers round the district. That is not the case. That would he the case if you had to deal with the matter in the ordinary course of law but under the Defence of the Realm (No. 3) Act the Government are given absolute power to do what they like in these districts. They could take absolute control of the trade there. I understand the proposal is to do something of the kind.
When they have absolute control, they can determine what spirits shall or shall not be sold there. In the houses they control they can do that completely, and in regard to the houses they do not take over they have nothing to do but to issue warnings to those publicans that they have reason to believe that immature spirits are being sold in those houses, and that they will either forbid those particular houses to sell any raw spirits of any kind whatever or that they will close the houses for the period of the War. The mere holding out of that warning to these 2192 houses will be quite sufficient to deter them from attempting to sell these spirits. The Government have absolute control of these areas and can deal with this matter; they can prevent the sale of immature spirits in these areas. In my judgment that is a sufficient power. It is as much as they require. The Government should rely upon that and the Bill should not proceed further. That would remove all difficulty with regard to the thorny question of compensation.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for the Mansfield Division (Sir A. Markham) for exercising such restraint upon himself, because I have to go away. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Cowan) that this Bill will do no good. He says it cannot come into operation for six months. He must have some information about the withdrawal of spirits from bond that is not in the possession either of the Customs or of myself, because that is certainly not the view of those who advise me. He probably has taken the figures for the whole of the whisky that has been withdrawn from bond during the last six or seven months. The whisky which has been withdrawn during the last three months is not merely immature whisky but includes a vast quantity of matured whisky. I should not be surprised if the greater part of it was not matured whisky which was withdrawn because people wanted to stock their cellars. They have done it to a very large extent because they anticipated very heavy duties, and were rather frightened of actual prohibition. There has been a good deal of stocking, not of raw spirit, but of good old twenty-years' spirit. Therefore, my hon. Friend is absolutely wrong there.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am not forgetting it at all. But even then, on the assumption that the War is coming to an end in six months, it would not help us much with munitions of war if they had six months' stock. My hon. Friend is very sanguine. I wish I were as sanguine as he is. But at any rate it is not our business to legislate on the assumption that all is going to be well in six months. On the contrary, I have always taken the view that the business of this House is to proceed on the assumption that it may be a 2193 very long business and to make preparations on this basis. The effect, undoubtedly, will be that at a period when these stocks are exhausted, you will prevent a flood of raw, fiery, cheap whisky being poured on the market. No one who knows anything at all about what is going on in the munitions areas can doubt for a moment that that is a good thing from the point of view of the health of the people, and from the point of view of keeping them at their work.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My hon. Friend is stating a point which has been made very much better by my right hon. Friend (Sir T. Whittaker). That is another point. Let us take one point at a time. The first is this, that if you can stop these floods of raw, cheap whisky being put on the market, in the first place you will put up the price Putting up the price always has the effect of decreasing the consumption—by putting up the duty by 3s. 9d. a gallon the consumption was depressed by over 20 per cent. in the first year, and even now, when trade is good and there has been plenty of time for recovery, the consumption of spirits has been down by about 7,000,000 gallons compared with what it was before 1909. By the Bill you are limiting the quantity that can be put upon the market to begin with, and, in the second place, you are withdrawing the cheapest form of whisky, which will have the effect of diminishing the consumption of spirits; and who can doubt that that is a good thing?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I take my hon. Friend as a witness. I wish he had emphasised that side of the case a little more. If he had, he would have given some sort of argument which would be valuable, because he comes from a district where they are interested in stocking whisky. They are much more interested in Aberdeen in the production of barley than in the production of Indian corn. Here my hon. Friend admits that it is a good thing in itself to stop raw, crude whisky. If it is a good thing to stop raw, crude whisky, is not the Bill that does it a good thing? He said that no one in this House was in favour of a Bill to stop the selling of immature whisky. He himself is in favour of it.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I wish that instead of reserving all the unpleasant things he said in my presence he had also repeated the very pleasant things he says now to me for the first time.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
You were talking to the First Lord of the Admiralty and did not pay the slightest attention to a word I said.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My hon. Friend made a very big impression on me by all the things he said, but it is very odd that those things that he now emphasises, and which I have managed to get emphasised by a process of very simple and innocent cross-examination—the facts which are in favour of the Bill—they somehow seemed to escape my hearing. I do not mind saying there is not a man in the House who, hearing the speech of my hon. Friend, was under the impression that he was supporting my Bill. Now I discover that the speech which I thought was against the Bill was really intended to support it. That is a very valuable admission which escaped me during the time I was talking to my right hon. Friend the First Lord. My hon. Friend is becoming more mature. There is no doubt at all that there is a great volume of opinion that points to the conclusion that these fiery raw spirits are in themselves deleterious and unwholesome. I conclude from that that the Bill that stops them must be wholesome.
Now I come to the second point which has been put by my right hon. Friend (Sir T. Whittaker). He and I have been so much in agreement upon the whole treatment of this question that I am very sorry to find myself for the first time slightly disagreeing with him. I do not think he need be alarmed. There is no distinction drawn between the way we have treated compensation in this Bill and the way we have treated it in regard to all the emergency Bills. There has been a good deal of emergency legislation in the past, and the question of compensation has been referred generally to a Commission, because the House of Commons could not, during the War, sit down and prepare an elaborate set of rules and principles upon which you were going to settle compensation. It would have been fatal. I doubt whether the House of Commons could give the necessary attention and concentration of mind to settling the principles 2195 of compensation upon which you are to take a lathe from a factory, close a shop here or a public-house in another place, cut a trench across a farm, demolish a house here and a business there. It cannot be done. Therefore, the House wisely determined that the best thing to do was to set up a Commission of fair-minded men in whose judgment and impartiality they would have confidence—for the purpose of ascertaining what would be fair to pay. When the question was put to me by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) what I thought would be fair, I stated explicitly what the view of the Government was, and I repeat it now. I do not think it would be fair for a man to come forward and say in consequence of this legislation of yours my business has been disarranged. I have sustained a certain amount of loss. I agree with my right hon. Friend that business men must put up with that sort of thing in time of war, and the publican's trade is not the only trade which must be prepared for loss of profit. But that is not the case put forward. The case my right hon. Friend put forward was, owing to a direct act of the legislature, not that they suffered inconvenience and that their dividends would practically disappear this year, but that their business would be completely destroyed. That is wholly different from the case of the distiller who says, "I have not the same number of stocks. It would be a great inconvenience to me in my business if I cannot pay the same dividends this year as last year." I say frankly I do not think that is a case for compensation, because they have to suffer like other business firms in the community. But when a man conies forward and says, "Owing to your action in the House of Commons, my business has been destroyed," then I say that seems to be a case for consideration by this Commission. But that is a totally different thing from a man saying, "Here, I am not doing as well as I did last year!" That is not a case where compensation ought to be paid. My hon. Friend has asked me if I can give an estimate. I make exactly the same answer here as though he had asked me the question when I brought in a Bill dealing with engineers shops. If he asked me now to give an estimate of what it would cost to cut trenches across the farms of the East of England, I could not possibly do it. How could I? If he asks my opinion on the subject, I think it would be a very small matter.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If my hon. Friend, instead of putting a dialectical question to me, were really putting a business question, he would know perfectly well that is a question I could not possibly answer. We are simply treating the distillers here as we have been treating the brewers in the other case. Where their business is completely destroyed in consequence of our action in that particular neighbourhood, that is a case for compensation by the Commission. I think ray hon. Friends are unduly alarmed. The statement I make now is the statement I made across the floor of the House to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson).
§ Mr. DENMAN
Will the House of Commons have an ultimate say? When the Commission reports, will it be for us to vote the money and say what the amount is to be?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think the sum of money to be given as compensation, not merely for this but for other purposes, will have to be voted by the House of Commons, and then my hon. Friend and those interested can discuss the general question, but I should have thought the question of compensation would not arise for a very long time, because I cannot see how any distiller can be in a position to say now what the effect will be. My own opinion is that these gentlemen are exaggerating the damage which will be done to their business. They think it will be destroyed altogether. I do not think so. I do not blame them for thinking so, and I am sure they are quite honest in thinking that. Here is a very serious interference with the business which they have conducted, and when a man has devoted his life to building up a great business and finds a blow like this coming he is naturally disposed to exaggerate the effect of it. I feel confident, that the amount of damage done to their trade will be considerably less than they seem to imagine now. At any rate, the question of compensation cannot arise for some time. They must await developments. You cannot estimate at present what the injury will be.
§ Mr. CURRIE
How do you propose to deal with the position of working men and barmaids, for instance, who might be thrown out of employment at once? Do you propose to include or exclude them?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That is a very remote case. Take the Defence of the Realm Act, where we propose to close public-houses. There, by the direct action of the State, men are thrown out of work, and I imagine compensation will have to be paid, but this is a very remote case.
§ Mr. CURRIE
However remote it may be, if it arises, will it be excluded or will it be fairly considered by the Commission?
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The first point I want to ask is with regard to Clause 4 which we were discussing last night, and the meaning of the words,Shall be delivered for home consumption.I understood from the Attorney-General that he would put in an Amendment to meet that point. No Amendment has appeared up to the present time. Therefore, if I call his attention to it now, he may attend to the matter. Coming to the main question, I may say that nobody doubts that the Chancellor of the Exchequer means well by this Bill, and I think very few of us doubt that immature spirits taken in the morning are a bad thing. It is not often that I support the teetotal party here, but I will now say, and they may accept it for what it is worth, that I think drinking raw whisky in the morning is deleterious under any circumstances. The object of this Bill apparently is to prevent the workers getting immature spirits whilst they are preparing munitions of war. It does not propose to prevent them getting mature spirit during that period, and it does not prevent them getting immature spirit so long as the existing stock lasts, but whether that will last another two, three, or six months, apparently no one knows. One wants to know before we pass this Bill, which will cause considerable inconvenience and will cost a considerable sum of money, what exactly is the amount we have got to pay for it. The good we are going to get from it, so far as whisky drinking is concerned, is very nearly infinitesimal, because, as I said before, you can drink a certain amount of whisky in the morning, even if it is matured, with great harm to yourself. As to the rise in the price which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made so much about, you must remember that these men are earning double wages, and therefore the rise in price is not going to be a bar to their getting refreshments.
2198 The object of the Bill may be good, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer says, "If that is so, you must support my Bill." That is where the fallacy in his argument comes, in assuming that because the object of a Bill is wholesome, therefore the Bill itself is wholesome. The view of the people who have been criticising this Bill is that it is a Bill hastily constructed, badly put together, and not really thought out, although the object is an excellent one, namely, to prevent people from getting immature spirit. We think that this Bill does not carry out its object, and many of us object very strongly to this somewhat loose way of doing business, saying, "Compensation is to be paid, but we can give you no estimate. Compensation is to be paid supposing a person's business is entirely ruined in that neighbourhood." My hon. Friend behind me thinks there is no difficulty in applying that principle, and that any tribunal could apply it to any measure of damage. I think he is exceedingly hopeful. What does "entirely ruined" mean? If it is a tied house in a particular neighbourhood and immature spirits are prevented from being sold there, is that a complete ruin of the business in that particular neighbourhood, and is compensation to be given in such a case as that? One might multiply instances of this sort. I do submit that it is a very loose way of doing business, and to pass Bills in this way really means that the House of Commons are abrogating a very large part of their function. This Bill is marvellously different from what it was twenty-four hours ago. Though I was here practically the whole of last night attending very closely to the Bill, I say frankly—I do not know whether other hon. Members are in the same position—that I do not understand the real effect of a large number of the alterations made last night from Amendments not upon the Paper, but handed in by the Government, and without our having an opportunity of considering them at all. Such Amendments as Clause 2, a new Clause in regard to existing contracts, which says:—
"When any existing contracts are interfered with by this Act, the contractors, to the extent of interference, can be released therefrom."
That is a pretty sweeping matter, and there are other Amendments in the Bill which certainly alter it very much. I do not protest against the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying that because you approve of the object of the Bill therefore 2199 you must necessarily say that the Bill, which is brought in with these good intentions, is perfect. To say that, is a complete fallacy. The Government, however, is responsible for the Bill, and naturally I do not oppose it, but at the same time, I think it is the very worst way of carrying legislation to pass it through this House in a great hurry, without giving us proper opportunity of considering the effect of the Government Amendments from day to day.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I do not want to detain the House from getting the third reading of the Bill, but I want to say a few words in regard to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech about compensation. Certainly he did not dispose of any misgivings which I feel in regard to that matter. He says compensation is going to be paid in the case of a business which is absolutely destroyed by this Bill, but if compensation is payable at all, surely it is payable also in the case of a business partially destroyed. There is surely nothing in the argument which says: "If you do a man £1,000 worth of damage you shall give him compensation, but if you only do him £100 worth of damage, you shall not give him compensation." That is an argument that I cannot follow in the least, and I cannot imagine that any tribunal set up will agree to such a principle. It is clear that compensation is going to be paid for any proved damage under the Bill. I think most people will feel that this Bill is an alternative to taxation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer brought in most drastic taxation in regard to spirits. So drastic that it was obviously prohibitive taxation. No compensation would have been paid if these taxes had been proceeded with. No compensation would have been payable if the Government had lowered the taxes to shall I say, a more reasonable figure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) has stated that the proper way to deal with this problem was by way of a Sur-tax on the raw spirit, and a less tax on the matured spirit. There would have been no compensation payable in such a case. Instead of that you have a Bill brought in which is to achieve some of the objects which would have been achieved by taxation, and you have the whole question of compensation raised, and we are told that we ought to pay compensation to the people injured by this Bill. I think the 2200 House will agree that that is a very unreasonable way of dealing with the problem.
I am not greatly enamoured of this Bill. I think it may do some little good. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says raw spirits are deleterious in the morning. Of course they are, and so are any other form of spirits Seven-year-old whisky drunk at seven o'clock in the morning will not help a workman in his work. This is a pretty illustration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's persuasive ways. He says: "My Bill goes to prohibit raw spirits, therefore my Bill is good." That does not necessarily follow. I take it that the Bill will do some little good. Hon. Members around me protest that mature whisky does less harm than raw whisky. The Commission is against them, but they say the Commission know nothing about it. The evidence is that it produces these effects upon monkeys. That may be so, but I think the evidence is very doubtful. Assuming that it is so, this Bill may do a little good. Nobody thinks the Bill will do very much. Nobody thinks that it is going to help in the munition areas problem which is the immediate problem before the country. I believe the whole House feels that they might have let the Bill pass without protest if we were going to get it for nothing, but if we are to pay for it an unknown sum, and if we are to incur an unknown liability, I think it is not treating the House of Commons fairly for the Chancellor of the Exchequer on his responsibility as a great Minister in time of war to come here and say, "We must have this Bill. I can hardly tell you why, but we must have it, and we appeal to the House to give it to us and not to hamper us." We yield under protest, and I think the protest is made in every quarter of the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in spite of his persuasiveness, has not convinced us that he has done well in substituting this for the taxation which he proposed.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir J. Simon)
I do not rise to renew the general Debate. My hon. Friend who has just spoken and the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Rawlinson) to some extent were speaking on the general question which was dealt with by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is, however, a question which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to which I do not wish to be overlooked. It is quite true, as he says, that in the Committee stage he 2201 drew attention to these words in the first line of the Bill,
"No British or foreign spirits shall be delivered for home consumption."
and he suggested that that might be misunderstood, and be supposed to be some prohibition on the retailing of spirit by the publican or other retailer. I told him then, and I know he accepted it at once, not only as putting forward the common-sense point of view but after examination of the Statute, that really that is not the intention and it is not the effect of the words. I thought, however, it was desirable to see whether we could use language which would be more obviously understood on the face of it. I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman there is nobody in this House who is more anxious to use plain language in order to express precisely in popular terms what is wanted than I am. I have the greatest possible dislike for what is sometimes called "lawyers' technical English." But the House will appreciate that this really is a Bill that is grafted on to a great body of legislation. The Spirit Act of 1880 is an enormous Act. It is a tremendous code, and it deals with all kinds of things, and this expression about being "delivered for home consumption" is an expression which is perfectly familiar to the authorities and is to be found again and again in the Spirit Act. With the best will in the world I have not been able to suggest a form of words which does not lead to the obvious inconvenience that the main Act uses one set of expressions while the amending Act uses another. I apologise to the hon. and learned Gentleman for not having had the opportunity of speaking to him on the matter, but I have been engaged on public duties elsewhere until the last few minutes. I had not in any way overlooked the point. I am sorry I am not able to suggest an improved form of words. If, however, after the Third Reading is carried, anything occurs to me that really can be used, and which I consider to be a better form of words, I shall be quite willing to see that the matter is considered in another place. There is just this other point which arises at the end of the proviso (a) in lines 12 and 15, which stipulates that the restriction shall not apply to
"mixtures, compounds or preparations which have been charged to duty in respect of the spirit contained in them or used in their preparation or manufacture."
2202 These words are extracted from the definition of "spirit" in the Spirit Act in order to make it quite plain that medicines which contain some preparation of spirit should not be affected by the first words of Clause I dealing with "British and foreign spirits." That is the only reason for putting these words in. If it is the pleasure of the House I hope that we may now get the Third Reading, because I know that arrangements have been made in another place to receive the Bill there, and I think it will be agreed on all sides that whatever may be our views as to the expediency or the effect which these proposals are likely to have, they have received what all emergency legislation has not received, and that is very considerable discussion of the many points of view raised in the course of the Debates.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
I think as a matter of fact the whole House is against this Bill altogether. It is so-called emergency legislation which has been recommended on the ground that it is going to do good in the future as well as the present. The point I wish to make deals with a remark made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said that to advance the price of whisky will lessen the consumption, and that lessening the consumption will be a very good thing. He also said that by the prohibition of the sale of raw spirits the price of mature spirits would be raised by 3s. 6d. per gallon. If he is going to raise the price of mature spirits by 3s. 6d. per gallon, then the people who at present have the mature spirit are going to get all the advantage. I think myself that, if compensation is to be paid to those who at present sell the immature spirit, then we should tax the mature spirit and let the tax come out of the pockets of these people. Instead of that, by this Bill enormous sums are going into the pockets of those people who have the mature spirit, and the taxpayers are to pay the compensation to those who sell the immature spirit.
§ Mr. COWAN
My object in moving my Amendment has been to some extent obtained by the discussion which ensued, and by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is one point, however, with which the right hon. Gentleman did not deal, though it was raised repeatedly in the course of the Debate yesterday, if not to-day. Some answer I think should be given, though I suppose no answer can be given. Before asking 2203 the House for leave to withdraw my Amendment, I desire to call attention to this point. The House agrees that raw spirit contains a rank and dangerous poison. The House also agrees that age removes the poison, and that in three years this particular poison is practically eliminated. The people who have been selling spirit containing rank poison, which they could have removed by the mere process of keeping in bond for three years, have been committing a moral crime against the community. Why should they be paid any compensation at all, merely for ceasing to do something which they had never any right to do? We have never had an answer to that question. The question of compensation in relation to this Bill is in an entirely different position from the question of compensation in relation to the other Defence of the Realm Acts. I think that I could answer successfully some of the points which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made against myself, but I do not think it necessary to do so, and I am not going to take up time in doing so. But I do say that this proposal to compensate persons for selling a poison when, if they would, they could sell what would be pure and comparatively harmless, is a proposal of a most dangerous character. I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read the third time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.