§ Dear Sir— In order to meet the increased Beer Duties we have decided, on and after 12th May, to invoice our beers as follows:
|4d. per pint, pale ale, No. 2||…||72s.|
|5d. per pint, pale ale, No. 2||…||88s."|
Both qualities will be brewed at the highest gravity allowed in order to comply with the Regulations.
Will you kindly inform us which quality of ale you require us to send you.Anything more in defiance of the Chancellor's intentions it is difficult to conceive. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept the Clause. It has gone out all over the country, and to the workmen's clubs, that this is a tax which the brewers are to pay, and that it is not to be transferred to the public. Every club throughout the country will say, "The first thing the brewers have done is to transfer this to the public. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that he was going to prevent this, and he has allowed it. He has taken no step to prevent it, and we have to pay this tax." This is one of those things which will create profound unrest. I think the policy of the brewers has been exceedingly foolish, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to stop it. He can do so most effectively by this simple Clause.
We are told about the profits. I would not have said these things if the brewers did not do these things, but all the brewers in this country, throughout the War, have made a splendid profit. Breweries which were in the gutter are up again and have made fine dividends. They are not content with that; they will get an increase on their beer which will give them a bigger profit, and they are going to transfer this tax, either partly or wholly, to the licensed victualler, and wholly to the clubs. What the Liquor Board are going to do for prevention in this matter is wholly inadequate. My Clause is perfectly simple, and the brewers and the legal fraternity will find a great deal of difficulty in geting out of it. It says:
Any brewer or retailer of beer in Great Britain or Ireland who shall transfer or en deavour to transfer to a customer or a licensed victualler the whole or any part of the increased duty imposed by Section five of this Act shall be liable on summary conviction to a penalty not exceeding one hundred pounds—
I go on to show how that case can be proved—
proof that the price of the beer supplied as aforesaid has been in fact increased since the first day of April, nineteen hundred and nineteen, shall be primâ facie evidence that the brewer or retailer has transferred, or en-
deavoured to transfer, the whole or some part of the increased duty, and thereupon the onus of proof shall be cast upon the brewer or retailer to satisfy the Court that the increased price charged is due to some cause which has no relation to the increased duty.
If that Clause become law, I think that there will be no transfer of this tax. There will be nothing to increase the unrest which has been created. We have paid a big price for miserable stuff long enough. Now we are going to have an increased tax to take away a part of their profit, and I protest against its being in any way transferred to the customer or the consumer. I therefore beg to move the Clause. The stout opposition it has at once met with from those whom, I have reason to think, may be interested in the trade only shows the justice of the proposal I am making.
There is one difficulty with regard to my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment for which I hope he will have some consideration, even though when I come to argue the Clause on its merits I hope I shall be successful in convincing him. I am convinced that if I accepted his Clause I should take this Finance Bill out of the category of a Money Bill, and thereby destroy the single control which, as long as it is a Money Bill, this House has over it. That really would make it impossible for me to accept my hon. and learned Friend's Clause as part of the Finance Bill, even if I were ready to agree that all its proposals were justified and in consonance with the previous statements I have made, and to which he has alluded. But I think my hon. and learned Friend laboured under some misapprehension as to what I had said, and made some confusion in the course of his speech between the customer and the consumer. What I said in my speech was that it was not intended that this charge should be passed on to the consumer. What he has in mind is more particularly the club, but also the publican, who is the instrument of distribution between the producer and the consumer. The consumer's protection is absolute under the Order of the Food Controller.
§ Mr. HOHLER
Surely that only refers to a man who gets his pint of beer over the counter and drinks it.
Of course the Order applies to that. The consumer is protected by the Food Controller. It was never intended by me, when I 561 proposed this tax, nor, I think, by the House, when it sanctioned it, that the whole of the charge was to fall on the brewer alone. It was intended that the charge should fall partly upon the brewer and partly upon the other interests. The hon. and learned Gentleman treats the club as the consumer. It is not the club, but the members of the club. The club is only in the position of the distributor to its own members, and certainly I contemplated in such a case that the brewer should be entitled to pass a portion of the charge, which should be settled by the interplay of trade action, on to the club, as the middleman between the producer and the customer who consumed the beer.
In the same way the brewer should not pay the whole duty as brewer but part of the increased charge should fall upon the public-house, which has got the advantage, like the brewer, of the increased transaction which the increased value allows. Accordingly my objections to my hon. Friend's Amendment are, first of all, that it would take the Finance Bill out of the category of Money Bills and is, therefore, not an Amendment which could be placed in the Finance Bill; secondly, that it is not necessary for the protection of the consumer, and that if such a step were necessary for his protection this is not the place for it—it should be taken by an Amendment to the Food Controller's Order; and thirdly, that it never was intended that the whole charge should be borne by the brewer. If his contention is that the Food Controller ought to fix the price not only for the sale to the consumer but also at each stage through which the beer passes, as has been done in the case of spirits, I venture to suggest that it is an argument which he ought to address to the Food Controller. It is not a proposition which can be introduced in the Finance Bill.
§ Mr. REMER
I am not at all satisfied with the reply which has been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am in the greatest sympathy with the remarks of the hon. Member who moved this Clause. There is undoubtedly the greatest grievance among the publicans and the licensed victuallers on this question. It is not the fact, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, that only 562 a small proportion has been passed on by the brewers to the publician; they are attempting to pass the whole of this tax on to them.
§ Mr. REMER
It is certainly the case in the county of Cheshire. There is great discontent on this question, and I want to impress upon the Government that whichever way this is dealt with it should be dealt with strongly and firmly. It is a matter of great urgency, and it is felt as a great grievance among many classes of the people.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
There may be brewers who have raised their prices too high. There is no reason why that should not be dealt with and why somebody should not go into the matter or some fair arrangement be made. The retailer who will have a larger amount of beer to sell ought to make a profit. It depends upon the price the brewer charges whether this proposal is fair or unfair. I have heard of a case where one brewer sells at 77s. and another at 88s. Would the hon. Member treat those two the same? Of course be would not. This Clause would be grossly unfair to the man who charges the lower price.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I will just answer the replies which have been made. I respectfully say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that his point in regard to this being a Financial Bill is very specious. Nobody will suggest that another place could throw the Bill out because it contained this Clause.
No, no! I do not suggest that they will throw it out. My hon. Friend's proposed Clause has not the effect of a Money Clause, and therefore the other place would have power to deal with the whole of it. The Bill would not be certified as a Money Bill, add therefore the other place would have its full rights in regard to this Bill instead of being limited as they would be in regard to a Money Bill.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I do not think the Committee is at all convinced by that argument. It may be a fact, but the arguments are fiction, and everybody is satisfied that the other place will not deal 563 with this Bill in the way the right hon. Gentleman suggests because it contains this Clause. After all, it comes within the category of a Money Bill, because it secures that the tax shall be paid by the person on whom it is imposed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has had an opportunity of saying that he did not mean what I certainly understood him to mean, and, what is worse, what the country understood him to say. I have had working man after working man seeing me on this question, and they say they clearly understood from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this would be paid by the brewer.
I asked the hon. Gentleman whether he meant consumer, and he said, "Yes." He qualified that by saying "consumer or customer." If a customer, he includes the public-house and the club as the mediums between the brewer and the actual consumer. What I said was that it could not be transferred to the consumer.
§ Mr. HOHLER
It will be transferred to the consumer. The man who buys the beer will have to pay it. In fact, in regard to the club, you are putting it on to the consumer. The Regulations under the Defence of the Realm Act simply refer to the sale in a public bar or a public-house; they do not refer to anywhere else. I am satisfied that there are more men belonging to clubs who go to public-houses as well. It is, therefore, an important question to them. The transfer of this tax has meant that those to whom it has been transferred cannot precisely apportion it. They have to put up their prices, and there is no means whereby they can adjust it. In regard to the private consumer, it is a direct transfer of the tax to him. I have given the Chancellor of the Exchequer an opportunity of proving this by law. I regret exceedingly that he has not seen his way to do it. My Clause would not affect a single brewer who acted fairly, because, first of all, there is no evidence of this transfer until the price has been increased from the 1st April, 1919. That is only after primâ facie evidence. Then the brewer can satisfy the Court that the increased price has nothing to do with the duty.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
What the hon. Gentleman does not know is that a certain 564 increase in the output of beer was indicated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer a month before he introduced his Budget.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I am satisfied that the general public will be deeply disappointed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not seen his way to accept my Clause. I am satisfied also that they will think that this is another case of profiteering, and that they have been misled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement. They understood that the tax would not be transferred to them, and when notices are read showing what the brewers are doing, all we are told is that another place can deal with it. If my Clause is too wide I will take out "licensed victuallers," and move it in the amended form. If it is not accepted, I have done my duty in trying to prevent what is causing considerable unrest.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
I am not quite clear in regard to the argument that this Amendment puts the Finance Bill outside the category of Money Bills. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not say why. What the hon. Gentleman has said regarding the belief that the increased taxation is to be paid by the brewers was generally understood by the publicans themselves. It all comes to this, that the man who drinks the stuff has to pay the tax. I would like to know why the whole of the new Clause, as it stands, takes the Finance Bill outside the category of Money Bills?
I am sure I cannot satisfy the hon. Member. I am sorry I cannot assist him. All I can say is that the inclusion of this Clause would prevent the Speaker from giving his certificate. That has happened once or twice before. The hon. Member may remember the Budget which caused the Parliament Act to be passed. When it was finally passed it was not certified as a Money Bill under the Parliament Act. At any rate, that was a surprise to the authors of the Parliament Act, and the result was not expected. If the hon. Member will refer the question to the Speaker or to the authorities of the House, I am sure he will get the answer. It is a point which is within the discretion of the Speaker. I am advised that this Clause, if accepted, would probably prevent the Speaker from giving his certificate.
Mr. T. WILSON
Will the right hon. Gentleman go more fully into the 565 matter; if so, perhaps he will be able to explain more fully than he has been able to do this evening?
Mr. J. W. WILSON
I am surprised that this argument should be brought forward as having any direct bearing upon the Clause. I remember the case to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred when one or two Clauses in the Budget of that particular year were, in the Speaker's opinion, outside the provisions of the Act. As far as I remember they were Amendments of administration connected with a previous Budget, and not the particular Finance Act in question. From what little I know of the subject I should hesitate to prophesy whether the fact that a par-