§ (1) In lieu of the existing duties upon licences to be taken out annually by brewers of beer other than brewers for sale there shall, on and after the first day of October, nineteen hundred and nineteen, be charged, levied and paid the following duties of excise (that is to say):
|If the beer brewed by the brewer is chargeable with duty||0||4||0|
|If the beer brewed by the brewer is not chargeable with duty, then—|
|(a) where the brewer is the occupier of a house of an annual value exceeding ten pounds, but not exceeding fifteen pounds||2||10||0|
|(b) where the brewer is the occupier of a house of an annual value of ten pounds or less||1||5||0|
§ (2) If the annual value of the house occupied by a brewer of beer other than a brewer for sale does not exceed ten pounds, duty shall not be charged on beer brewed by him, and if the annual value of the house occupied by him exceeds ten pounds and does not exceed fifteen pounds, duty shall not be charged upon beer brewed by him provided that he brews solely for his own domestic use.
§ Major HOWARD
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the wordsProvided that a bonâ fide labourer who occupies a house of an annual value not exceeding fifteen pounds and brews for his own domestic use a quantity of malt not exceeding eight bushels in any one year shall be exempt from duty and licence.This Clause takes away the privilege which used to be held by rural labourers, in the Eastern counties for instance, of brewing beer free of duty. It started a long time ago, when the malt duty was abolished, I believe, by the Revenue Act of 1880. It was then provided that a man occupying a house not exceeding £10 a year should not be charged any duty on the beer brewed but should pay a licence of 6s. It was not only the labouring man who could brew, but the farmer could brew for consumption by his own workers. In the Revenue Act of 1881 the annual 1768 value of the premises on which the brewing could take place was extended to £15, but in a house valued at between £10 and £15 he could not brew beer for other than his own use. The licence was reduced by the Act of 1885, and by a later Act it was entirely swept away in all cottages under £8 annual value. I will ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can accept this Amendment, because here we are not asking anything like what they had the right to do before the Budget, namely, to brew an unlimited quantity. It would be unreasonable to ask to be allowed to brew an unlimited quantity, but I think it is only fair that I should ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the question of allowing them to brew a limited quantity. I am not wedded to the quantity of eight bushels, and if the Chancellor thinks that is too much I am willing to consider a lower amount, but I ask that he will favourably consider allowing these men in the Eastern counties, who from time immemorial have been accustomed to brew beer for their own domestic use, especially at harvest time, to continue to do so to a limited amount. We are told they can get the beer from the public houses, but men who go to work early in the fields, as I have gone myself, and go a long way from the village, and want to take some beer with them to consume with their breakfast after doing a hard morning's work in the harvest field, can only do so by going overnight and getting Government beer from the public house. I think every man who drinks beer knows very well what stuff that will be in the morning. Therefore it is absolutely impossible for the man who requires beer for his breakfast or during the morning to get it from the public-house. These men are engaged in laborious work for long hours in the harvest, and I think they are entitled to brew for themselves a little good beer. We hear a great deal in this House about a "wash," and we have seen it a great deal more in agricultural districts, and it is not very good stuff for men to do hard work upon. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would be granting to these men nothing more than their right if he would allow them to brew a limited quantity. I can assure him there will be a great deal of unrest, and more than at the present moment, in the agricultural districts if this is refused, and they are called upon, as they will be under Clause 6, to pay £2 10s. if occupying a house of an annual value exceeding £10 1769 but not exceeding £15, and £1 5s. where the annual value of the house is £10 or less. When they find this out, especially those men who went from the land into the Army to France and other places to fight, and come home to find that their right to brew beer has been taken away and that this duty has been put upon them, they will ask, "Where is that better England which we were promised when we returned? Where is that better life in our villages which we were promised by every Member of Parliament before the last Election, if we are not to be allowed to have a little home-brewed wholesome beer when we go to our work in the harvest field?" I am sure the Government will make it very difficult for agricultural Members, especially in the Eastern counties, to face these men with a clear conscience unless they have done their duty to preserve what these men have a right to expect to be preserved, and I do appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accept the Amendment either in this or a modified form, because the loss in revenue will be so insignificant compared with the unrest and bitterness that he will create by refusing the Amendment.
I could not accept my hon. Friend's Amendment. In the first place, I think it would be very difficult. There is no definition of a bonâ fide labourer, and if you could define or distinguish him I do not see why a bonâ fide labourer is to be treated differently from a person living in a house of the same value, and presumably in much the same circumstances as a bonâ fide labourer.
Would my hon. Friend call a schoolmaster a bonâ fide labourer? All I say is a bonâ fide labourer conveys no clear idea, and if it means a particular class of worker, and not another class of worker living under the same circumstances and in the same sort of house, then I think this distinction would be unjust. As to the object of the Clause. The duty on home-brewed beer was 6s. 3d. per barrel, subsequently reduced to 4s., and has, I think, remained at that rate ever since.
That was on houses under £8. The duty per barrel is no longer 6s. 3d. but 70s. If you make no 1770 change in the rates allowed for homebrewed beer you simply give an enormous extension of advantage to the homebrewed beer at the double expense of the Revenue and of the brewer whose product would be taxed. The proposal of my hon. and gallant Friend would really relieve people who had to pay the duty in pre-war times. While the duty on beer brewed by the brewer has gone up you would relieve the people who had to pay for a small licence before the War. There is another reason for not accepting the Amendment. My hon. and gallant Friend has put his figure far too high. The proposal to exempt on the conditions named would mean this: Eight bushels of malt are estimated to produce about four standard barrels of beer, and the duty on that would be £14. The amount which the person brewing his own beer not liable to beer duty is required by the Clause, as it stands, to pay, is 25s. if the house does not exceed £10 annual value, and 50s. if the house exceeds £10, and does not exceed £15. I do not think I can accept the proposal to allow the private brewer to brew that which, if he bought from a brewer, would pay a duty of £14, to brew for himself beer which would pay no duty at all, and therefore contributes nothing to the Revenue. However, I will consider the matter of the very small brewer, and I will endeavour between now and the Report stage to give some relief to the small man in a house not exceeding £8 who went scot free before. I will undertake not to let him go scot free, but to charge him something less than the 25s. that his Clause covers. I hope my hon. Friend will be content with that undertaking.
§ Major HOWARD
The right hon. Gentleman seems anxious to meet my point, and sees that there is something in it. Under the circumstances I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.