§ Any brewer or retailer of beer in Great Britain or Ireland who shall transfer or endeavour 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, 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 endeavoured 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. — [Mr. Hohler.]
§ Brought up, and read the first time.557
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
Then I think it is not in order. It is not within the scope of the Bill at all. The duty imposed upon beer is a duty based on the retail price of beer, and there is no question whatever as to any imposition on one special class without a reduction. If this particular Clause is allowed a charge would be imposed which the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not propose at all. It is quite beyond the scope of the Bill to propose it.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir E. Cornwall)
I cannot see that there would be a charge imposed by this Clause.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I quite understand that my hon. Friend and the trade will oppose this Clause; of course they will; I fully expected them to. I was asked if I proposed to withdraw it, and I said, "Certainly not; I propose to move it."
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I would ask for a ruling on this point. The penalty has nothing to do with it. I say that no hon. Member is entitled to propose a charge, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has not proposed, in one particular Section of this Bill.
§ Mr. HOHLER
It does not really impose a charge. I quite agree that the best way of trying to get rid of it is not to have it discussed. At any rate, I am now in order in moving it. The object of the Clause is, under a very severe penalty of £100, to prevent the brewer or any retailer of beer from transferring the increased duty to the consumer. I venture to think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will accept it. I object to the brewer putting the increased duty on the retailer and on the licensed victualler. My objection to this whole procedure is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in announcing the increased tax which he proposed to put on beer, told us in the clearest terms that 558 the brewers have made a very good profit, and that he proposed to take a part of it. Thereupon he further told us that this new tax should not be transferred to the consumer. In the Finance Act there is no Clause which secures it. I have observed in, the newspapers that, under, I suppose, D.O.R.A., or some Regulation which exists, they are proposing, in regard to the person who buys a glass of beer at the public-house, that he shall not pay the increased price. That does not cover the point at all. What are the brewers doing? They cannot put up the price as against the man who buys his glass of beer at a public-house bar, but they can do so against their own licence holders, and they can transfer their tax to them. The most important thing is with regard to the clubs of the country. Every workmen's club is hit by this; the brewers have transferred the whole tax to them.
§ Colonel GRETTON
What evidence has the hon. and learned Gentleman of that statement, that the practice has been general, or, indeed, that it has been carried out at all?
§ Mr. HOHLER
Now that my hon. and gallant Friend has interrupted, he shall hear the whole of the case. I will tell the Committee exactly what happened. I told the hon. and gallant Gentleman in conversation how unjust this was, and that I had put down this Clause. He came and asked me if I intended to move it, and I said I did. He asks what is my evidence. This is the evidence, from the brewers in Kent. One notice was issued on 12th May, another on 10th May, and a third also on 10th May. There is also another notice, issued by another brewer, in Kent Here is one of their notices. I do not want to advertise any particular firm gratuitously, but I shall be pleased to give the Chancellor of the Exchequer the evidence. The notice is as follows:
§ "12th May, 1919.