HC Deb 05 July 1917 vol 95 cc1288-90
62. Mr. W. THORNE

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware of the discontent in all the large towns, and more especially in towns like London, Barrow-in-Furness, Sheffield, Birmingham, Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, and Nottingham, because of the shortage of beer; if he can state whether the Government will consider the advisability of increasing the barrel-age from 10,000,000 to 15,000,000; and if he is now prepared to make a statement on the matter?

71. Major HUNT

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food if he is aware that in some parts of Surrey working men have had to pay Is. a quart for their beer during the hay harvest; and whether this price is supposed to be justified by war conditions; and, if not, what steps he intends taking in the matter?


There is always a greater consumption of beer in the summer months, and the Government are aware of the difficulties caused by the shortage of beer in some of the large centres of population and for harvest purposes, and they have decided to permit the brewing during the quarter ending the 30th September next of an additional amount of beer not exceeding 33⅓ per cent, of the amount already allowed for that quarter. The permission will be given on certain conditions for securing a reduction in the gravity of a considerable proportion of the total amount of beer brewed and for putting a share of the extra barrelage at the disposal of the Food Controller for distribution to munition areas and to agricultural districts for the harvest. These conditions will be contained in the Order allowing the increase which is to be issued by the Food Controller forthwith.


Does the answer of the right hon. Gentleman mean that the Government have decided to change the total barrelage brewed for the year from 10,000,000 barrels or does it simply mean that there is going to be brewed more beer during the summer and less during the winter, so as to keep the total at 10,000,000 barrels?


On a point of Order. May I ask, Mr. Speaker, how it is that a teetotaler caught your eye first?


Not being a teetotaler, may I say a word? Arising out of the reply of the right hon. Gentleman, I desire to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the effect of lowering the gravity of the additional beer to be brewed will be seriously damaging to the Irish brewing trade, as no stout or porter can be brewed at the suggested new gravity; and whether, under these circumstances, he will arrange that the proportion of the additional beer which may be brewed in Ireland may be of such a gravity as to enable the Irish brewers to retain the distinctive quality of their product?


As regards the question of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. L. Jones), the decision of the Government does mean that the total barrelage will be increased by the increase permitted. In respect to the second question, the proposal does not interfere with existing brewing arrangements. It gives the option of increasing the amount, if the gravity can be reduced, of a certain proportion of the beer brewed. I hope that Irish brewers will be able to take advantage of this option, and the hon. Member will be better able to judge after he has seen the Order which will be issued this week.


Will the malt now in stock be sufficient for the proposed increased barrelage?

Sir J. D. REES

Does my right hon. Friend's first reply mean that anything that is added to the quantity will be taken from the strength? If so, does he think that is likely to allay the existing discontent on this subject?


Is it intended to use any additional supplies of sugar or any additional supplies of grain for this purpose, and does the right hon. Gentleman mean now to revise the abatement of the Licence Duty?


My hon. Friend asks if there is sufficient malt for this purpose. There is. As regards the last question, the subject was raised in Debate, and I then pointed out that the remission was not based exclusively on this consideration. We do not propose to make any other change. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sugar!"] I fancy it will not be possible to brew a larger quantity of beer without some increase of sugar. [HON. MEMBEBB: "Grain!"] No more grain—only malt. As regards the question of my hon. Friend (Sir J. D. Rees), my information is that it is quantity more than quality which is lacking at present.


Arising out of the answer to my hon. Friend (Mr. Devlin), can the right hon. Gentleman state what the gravity will be for the new beer? Is he aware that no Irish beer can be brewed under 7?


I cannot answer questions about details, as to which hon. Members will have to wait for the Order.


There is no sugar used for this purpose in Ireland.


Did not the right hon. Gentleman give us to understand that his statement would be of such a character that Members would have an opportunity of discussing it?


I do not think it would be feasible to give an answer including the details. We must wait for the Order. After that the subject can be discussed, if desired.


When will the Order be issued?


This week.




Order, order! The thirst for information is so great that further questions should be put down.


(at the conclusion of Questions) I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, "the anouncement of a change of policy on the part of the Government in allowing an increase of 33⅓ per cent, in the output of beer, thereby causing a further drain on the limited supply of sugar in the country."

The pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. SPEAKER called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places, and, not less than forty Members having accordingly risen, the Motion stood over, under Standing Order No. 10, until a Quarter-past Eight o'clock this evening.