HC Deb 06 July 1920 vol 131 cc1277-99

(1) In lieu of the duties of customs payable on wine imported into Great Britain and Ireland, there shall, as from the twentieth day of April nineteen hundred and twenty, be charged, levied and paid, subject as hereinafter provided, the following duties (that is to say):—

£ s. d.
Not exceeding 30 degrees of proof spirit, the gallon 0 2 6
Exceeding 30 but not exceeding 42 degrees of proof spirit, the gallon 0 6 0
And for every degree, or fraction of a degree, beyond the highest above charged, an additional duty the gallon 0 0 6
Sparking wine in bottle, an additional duty, the gallon 0 5 0
Still wine in bottle, an additional duty, the gallon 0 2 0
and in the case of sparkling wine in addition to the above duties a duty equal to fifty per cent. of the value of the wine.

(2) This Section shall have effect subject to the provisions of Section eight of the Finance Act, 1919, and as though the Second Schedule to that Act provided that the preferential rate of duty as respects the ad valorem duty on sparkling wine were two-thirds of the full rate of that duty.

(3) Sub-section (2) of Section eight of the Customs and Inland Revenue Act, 1890, (which provides that wine rendered sparkling in warehouse is to be deemed to be sparkling wine for the purpose of a certain duty imposed on sparkling wine), shall apply for the purpose of the ad valorem duty imposed on sparkling wine by this Section as it applies for the purpose of any other duty imposed on such wine.

(4) In this Section the word "wine" includes the lees of wine.

The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper in the names of Mr. LYLE and Earl WINTERTON:

In Sub-section (1), after the word "provided" ["as hereinafter provided"], insert the words "save on wines supplied on prescription in hospitals."


I think this matter was dealt with yesterday on Amendments to Clause 4.

Rear-Admiral ADAIR

I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "Sparkling wine in bottle, an additional duty, the gallon…. 5s. I have three Amendments on this Clause, and I would submit that it would facilitate progress if you allowed me to deal with the three simultaneously.


Yes, I think it would be convenient. I understand that the hon. and gallant Member's point is contained in the three Amendments, and, therefore, if he moves the first, we will take the discussion on all three together.

Rear-Admiral ADAIR

The collective result of these three Amendments is to put sparkling wine on exactly the same footing as any other wine. The Clause provides that all the taxes on wines of every sort are doubled this year. But, in addition, on the sparkling wine there is put on an ad valorem duty of 50 per cent. That means an enormous handicap on the sparkling wine. I would like to say very definitely and at the outset that I am not putting forward these Amendments on behalf of the consumers, or on behalf of the wine merchants of this country. I am all for taxing luxury, and those who provide it, but my concern is for the people who produce these wines, the people of France, and particularly those of the Champagne districts. Throughout the War the whole of the French vineyards suffered from want of man-power, but, in addition to that, the Champagne district of Rheims and other Champagne districts suffered enormously from the devastation due to the warfare carried over them. In fact, I am informed that at the present moment there is scarcely one-third of the Champagne vineyards productive. I would ask, if that be so, is this the time for us to put such a heavy handicap on champagne? Should we not rather help these people to recover that prosperity which has been lost to such a large extent in the War? We ought to encourage them, as I propose to do, by actually diminishing the taxation on champagne and other wines. The effect of such a reduction as I propose of the taxation per gallon in wines in bottle is this: whereas last year the taxation was 2s. 6d. per gallon on champagne, it will be, if my Amendment is carried, only 2s. this year. I do that by way of encouragement to these devastated districts.

The champagne industry has been very seriously prejudiced in other ways. The United States of America, one of the largest markets for it, has gone dry. Russia, which was also a very large market has gone red, and, I presume, will not hereafter drink champagne. [An HON. MEMBER: "It has gone dry, too."] All the more reason then for their not having champagne there. Germany has more or less gone to ruin. There remains only ourselves as the great market for champagne, except, perhaps South America. We are proposing to put on such prohibitive taxation as will, I feel sure, enormously reduce the consumption of champagne in this country. In my opinion it means death to the champagne industry, and that is my principle reason for putting forward these Amendments. This may sound rather sentimental, but it is more than that. France owes us a very large sum of money. If we do not facilitate her regaining her prosperity we shall be the losers. I think that is a practical reason for encouraging, if possible, the great stable industry of wine production. There are other reasons altogether apart from the sentimental ones. These prohibitive duties will so reduce the consumption that they will really defeat their own ends.

Secondly, the ad valorem duty is, I think, distinctly a bad one. The enormous consumption of champagne which has taken place since the Armistice is no guide whatever to what is likely to take place this year or in the future. At the end of the War people in this country, in the fulness of their hearts, lavished money on champagne and liquers and so forth. Thousands of young soldiers came back from France with their pockets full, many of them with money the like of which they had never known before. They did not know how to spend their money. They spent it in a prodigal manner on champagne, treating their friends and so on. Then, too, there was the general election. One effect of it was that the cellars of the House of Commons were depleted. The upshot of this enormous consumption was that the enormous stocks could not be replaced, and prices went up. We have come to this stage now that with the new duties of which the Chancellor tells us, the price of a good bottle of champagne will be 35s. or 40s. I think that is the figure the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us. No person with any decent regard to private economy is going to pay a couple of pounds for a bottle of champagne. Anyhow, that is my opinion. He should rather buy Exchequer bonds. I am glad to say that the City companies are setting an example in this matter. One of them actually notifies in the press that at their entertainments in future champagne will be banned. There goes one source of revenue.

At public dinners it is disappearing—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is" and laughter]—but not in the manner at which hon. Members are hinting. We had a dinner the other night at a club with which I am connected where before the War we always drank champagne. There were 160 of us dining, and no champagne was drunk at all. As to the consumption in private houses, I feel quite sure that there are very few people who are drinking champagne to anything like the same extent as they did in pre-War days. The outcome of all that is that there is an enormous reduction in the drinking of these wines. I am assured that it has been as much, since the beginning of this year, as 33 to 50 per cent. in some of the bigger restaurants. I do not know whether the Chancellor thinks there will be a fall in the price of champagne and that the consumption may be kept up by that apart from the new taxes. But in all these large restaurants where they charge such enormous prices, and presumably make large profits on champagne, they are absolutely bound to do so to pay their enormous on-costs. It is only by their profits on wine that they are able to pay their on-costs and pay any dividend on their capital. The outcome of the additional taxation will simply mean that the prices at restaurants will go still further, and there will be a still further reduction in consumption.

Any ad valorem duty, I think, is bad, and that is my objection to it. As to the increase on the duty on sparkling wines I should be glad to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer how he proposes to assess the value. Is it to be done by an actual drinking test or is it to be by invoice value? If, it be by a drinking test, it means setting up additional Custom House officers and experts in champagne, at very high salaries. There are many Members of the House who are aware that the tea merchants in China have their tea tasters, and these men are paid very highly. In the old days these tea tasters used to be great "swells" in China. It will be absolutely necessary, if we are going to assess the value of champagne by taste, to have a similar class of men employed in assessing the value of champagne, at very high salaries—if they are to be in use. That means an increase in the taxes of the country, and in that respect it is objectionable. Further, it would undoubtedly lead to any amount of friction between the Government officials and the importing wine merchants. If the right hon. Gentleman is going to use the invoice value, I think it is opening the way to fraud. I am not imputing dishonesty to the wine merchants generally, but I think it must be obvious to any business man in this House that there may be fraud, and that fraud in this case would be very easy to perpetrate. The revenue would be defrauded, and the dishonest merchants would probably be able to underseell the honest merchants. If the Chancellor is going to proceed now to an ad valorem duty, I invite him to consider, rather the substitution of a flat rate per case of wine. This will mean no testing, no invoice value, no additional staff, and no possibility of fraud. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give this matter his serious consideration, and in making his reply I shall be glad if he will refer to it.

Finally I do not wish the Chancellor to think that I am against the taxation of luxuries, or that I am with those who waste their money and squander it on luxurious living and mere amusements. Far from it. I am all for the taxation of that class of people. I desire to encourage that by two new Clauses which I propose, and which hon. Members will find on the Order Paper. I am all for the taxation of luxuries, but I want it to be done in such a way as not to hurt our friends. I am suggesting taxation on luxurious meals and additional taxation on mere amusements. This will not hurt our friends, and will hit much more effectively those who obviously can afford to help to pay these duties to the country.

5.0 P.M.


Perhaps it will be convenient if I speak at once and inform the Committee, with your permission, Mr. Whitley, of the course which I am prepared to suggest to the House. But before I come to that I should like to make one or two general observations arising out of the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend. It would have been impossible for the Government to have proposed the additional large increase in the duties on beer and whisky, the cheaper and more generally drunk alcoholic beverages, and to have left untouched the wine duties, particularly the duties on sparkling wines, which would bear no sort of suitable proportion to the cost of the article and the money expended on it. We therefore felt bound in connection with our other Budget proposals to suggest this increase in the wine duties. When a heavy duty on a commodity is proposed, which commodity varies enormously in value, a mere flat rate tax is always open to criticism. It has been my fortune or misfortune to listen to a great number of Budget Debates, and I think there has never been a Budget Debate in which some hon. Member has not suggested that it is unfair that all tea should pay the same duty irrespective of the price charged for it. I have scarcely listened to a Budget Debate where the same kind of criticism was not passed upon the Tobacco Duty. When I came to propose a large increase in the Wine Duties, I felt that to increase in the same proportion the rates on sparkling and still wines was a proposition which I could not justify. Even amongst sparkling wines there are such differences in value that a flat rate of increase would be unjust to the cheaper wines. A flat rate would be most inadequate to the more expensive wines and would be oppressive to the cheapest kind, which can only exact the lowest price. That is the reason why I propose a further differentiation between sparkling wines and still wines, and why I propose an ad valorem duty on sparkling wines.

My hon. and gallant Friend is afraid that we shall have great difficulty in assessing an ad valorem duty. That argument used to be urged from both sides of the House, but during the War we imposed ad valorem duties, and those duties have been administered without friction with singular success and with comparative ease. If a trader under those duties is aggrieved by the assessment made by the Revenue authorities he has a right of appeal. It is true that the number of duties is very small, but the number of different articles which have to be assessed within the scope of those duties is very considerable. If it were impossible to assess an ad valorem duty equitably and with satisfaction to the trade the number of appeals of aggrieved parties would have been considerable. They have not been considerable, in fact there has not been one single appeal. I think the test of the pudding is in the eating, and that shows that these duties have been a success.

In the great majority of cases the evidence which the importer produces will be accepted without trouble to him or the Customs Authorities. Where the Customs have reason to suppose from a comparison with the returns made by other importers or from any other cause that the returns are not accurate, the importer will be challenged and shown up, where they are fraudulent or do not represent the real total. That, however, will be a very small minority of cases, and in cases where an expert is required he will be at the service of the Customs to give the opinion which he is technically qualified to express. My hon. and gallant Friend says that these wines cannot bear this tax. Is he quite certain of that? Is he certain that there is not room for further taxation without curtailing the consumption of wine? We all know that the cost of any particular wine bears no relation which is measurable by us to the cost of the same wine when we find it on the list of a restaurant. Assume that the restaurant has to put on an additional profit, which is not always the case, because they are wholesale buyers, assume they have to pay an additional profit, will the difference between the cost of the wine to us and the cost to him be accounted for by the additional profit or by the additional profit which the restaurant or hotel puts on all the commodities he sells to make his own profit? In other words, the restaurant taxes wine, and especially sparkling wines and champagnes, to meet a large proportion of their expenses and profits and they make a profit out of all proportion to what is put on the food prices by general tariffs. Is the restaurant to be allowed to tax the wine and the representatives of the public to be prohibited?

I think it is quite possible that restaurant keepers will have to revise their practice and charge a little more for the food or other accommodation, and not tax their wines quite so heavily with charges that have no relation to the cost of the wine to them. If the restaurants and hotels are not afraid of losing their wine custom, there is room for a readjustment of the prices which, by lightening the taxation which they put upon the wine, may enable them to lower prices and meet the demand of their customers for a less expensive article. A friend of mine told me that he bought in France, from an hotel or restaurant, some wine. He bought it through friends living in France, and it cost him 11s. 6d. per bottle. It was champagne. It was not one of the best brands, but he invited me to taste it, and it was a very good wine. I satisfied myself that it was an article that I should not be ashamed to offer to people who accepted my hospitality. My friend went into a restaurant in London, and he found the same wine listed at 27s. 6d. or 28s. 6d., and he thought that confirmed his judgment as to the sound character of the wine, and he tried to get some more. He was told, however, that he could not have any more. The hotel or restaurant in France where he bought the wine must have paid the profit required by the merchant, and, in addition, they must have charged my friend with a profit satisfactory to themselves, but they could not sell him any more, because they had ascertained that the wine which they had previously sold him had been shipped to England, and they were not allowed to sell it at that price to the English market, although they could sell at that price to the French market. This means that not merely in public places is a tax put on wine for the private profit of the caterer, but that in France a tax is put upon champagne by the exaction of a greater profit if the sale is in England.

Why should there be all these disastrous consequences which have been predicted in the champagne trade? I say that in the case of champagne there is a sufficient margin of profit, and the prices charged whether sold as in the transaction, for the history of which I am indebted to my friend, or as sold in public restaurants, there is a margin which makes me feel pretty safe in suggesting that those wines can bear a heavier, and ought to bear a heavier taxation than they have yet contributed to the revenue of the country. Having said so much, I desire at this stage to inform the Committee that in consequence of information which we have obtained since I made my Budget statement, I must correct the Budget anticipation. For the purposes of the Budget statement and the preparation of the Budget, the Board of Customs had nothing to go upon but the average value declared by importers. The information since received shows that that was too high a value and contained elements which were of no consequence at that moment except statistically, but which could not properly be included in the values subject to the ad valorem tax. Various items were included which would not be included in ad valorem tax levied upon the wine as imported. Therefore, instead of the average value of the imported wine being as estimated on the information before me, 57s. 6d. per gallon, it appears that the average value on which duty would be charged would probably not exceed 40s. per gallon, instead of the basis of my estimate taken when I introduced the tax. The Committee will see at once that there is a very great difference between the amount realised by a 50 per cent. duty on an article valued at 40s., and one valued at 57s. 6d., and I placed the value per bottle and per gallon too high.

My hon. and gallant Friend has made another appeal, an appeal which has been made by other hon. Members more than once during the earlier stages of this Debate, and that is that His Majesty's Government in this matter should have regard to the feelings of the greatest of our Allies, and especially to the condition of the ravaged territory of France, or of that portion which is included in the wine-growing district. I yield to no one, I hope, in admiration of France, in sympathy with her, and in affection for her, and I should be very sorry if I personally, or a Government of which I am a Member, should be thought insensible to her sufferings or unwilling to do the most we can to facilitate her recovery. I have, therefore, reconsidered the position. As I say, owing to a miscalculation, inevitable perhaps, and at any rate excusable, the tax will not produce what was anticipated. In deference to the appeal made, even more than to any anticipation of real damage that the tax might do, I venture to suggest to the Committee that, instead of levying this ad valorem duty at the rate of 50 per cent., we should reduce it to 33⅓ per cent. If that proposal find approval in the Committee, I shall be glad to move an Amendment to that effect.


Does the righ hon. Gentleman propose to charge the ad valorem duty on the net value of the champagne delivered here, or on its wholesale value as landed here?


On the c.i.f. value landed here. With the permission of the Chair and of the Committee, I think it would be for the general convenience if I explain another point. The Bill as drawn gives two moments at which the value may be ascertained. It says the value shall be ascertained at the moment the duty is paid, it may be over the ship's side, or when the wine is withdrawn from bond. For reasons which I need not stop to argue at this stage, I am quite prepared to do what I believe will be agreeable to the trade in respect both of wine and of cigars, and charge the duty only when the wine or cigars are withdrawn from bond, the charge to be always at the c.i.f. value as landed.


I am very glad my right hon. Friend has made some concession. I wish it could have been a little larger. Will he kindly inform me how much he expects now to receive from the duty?


The error in miscalculation to which I have already referred would reduce the yield on the basis of a 50 per cent. ad valorem duty to £1,150,000 for the current year and £1,200,000 for a full year. The yield on the 33⅓ per cent. basis is estimated at £750,000 for the current year and £800,000 for the full year.


No doubt if these Estimates are realised the right hon. Gentleman will next year consider whether or not he can further reduce the duty. I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister of Transport have left the Committee, because I was going to call attention to a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman as to the price at which champagne was charged and to the extent to which it ought to be reduced. I wanted to call the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport to the statement of his chief a few days ago in which he took great credit to himself for blaming the railway companies for making reasonable charges for champagne, and in which he suggested that those charges ought to be very largely increased. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for whom I have the greatest respect, suggests that they charge too much. The Minister of Transport takes another view. What am I to do? I can only hope that an arrangement will be come to between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Transport whereby a reasonable amount shall be allowed as that which railway companies shall charge to consumers of champagne.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I want to reinforce what the right hon. Baronet has said. I, too, hope that next year there will be a still further reduction in this duty. I may surprise some of my hon. Friends by what I am going to say. In imposing these duties on sparkling wines we are taxing wines which stand in a class by themselves, really exquisite wines. Sparkling wines, both red and white, are in a class by themselves and are drunk by people who drink nothing else, or rather by people who drink very little indeed, and when they do drink take this class of wine. I am not one of them, but I speak for them, and I say that to pick out sparkling wines and put this extremely heavy tax upon them, for even a 33⅓ per cent. duty will be very high, is, I think, contrary to the best traditions of taxation in this country. This is what will happen. The rich profiteer will still go on buying champagne. He is one of the class who cannot properly appreciate it. No doubt he will buy the special brand of champagne which the right hon. Gentleman told us he understood had been specially manufactured for the new class of champagne drinkers. The very fact that this brand is expensive will attract them. There are poorer classes who like to drink champagne. There are those who take it for medicinal purposes. There are the great mass of the middle and lower middle classes who open bottles of champagne on the occasion of weddings, christenings, and so on. They are going to be hit very hard by this additional duty. The profiteer does not care for this champagne tax. He will only charge a little more for the necessities of life in which he is profiteering. You are going to still hit another class. The people in the mining villages of Yorkshire drink champagne. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I suppose I know my own native valley pretty well. The pits are very deep there. A man puts in two or three days' work at a time. When he comes up he finds his home beautifully clean, and always at his first meal, after a very hard time below, he opens a bottle of champagne. I hope hon. Members really are not going to suggest that if a miner can afford to open a bottle of champagne when he comes up from below ground he is not just as much entitled to do so, and even more entitled to do so, than people who never did a day's work in their lives. I am going to reinforce what the right hon. Baronet has said. I do not often agree with him, but I do not see why these really exquisite wines, which are in a class by themselves, should be specially picked out for taxation to the hurt of poor people who take them rather as a luxury and to whom as a result these wines will, I am afraid, become forbidden luxuries. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider that.


When this Bill was debated on the Second Reading I ventured to ask my right hon. Friend if he would not consider the possibility of making a concession on this Clause. I am very glad, indeed, he has seen his way to do it. I think it most important that the public outside, and in fact the world at large, should realise the reason for which the Government is making this concession, and why it will be accepted, if it be accepted, by the House of Commons. I was very much struck by what my right hon. Friend said. In fact, I think we must all have thought at the time when extra taxation was being put on the cheaper forms of beverage, that it was impossible, from any point of view of equity, to refrain from putting additional taxation on the more expensive drinks. If we had to consider this merely as an internal question from the point of view of taxation, I do not believe that any hon. Member of this House would have quarrelled with the proposals made by the right hon. Gentleman in his Budget. This concession, however, has been made by the Government, and, I hope, will be made by the House of Commons, as a mark of our sympathy and affection for our Ally, France, which is the nation producing this subject of taxation. If my right hon. Friend had not announced that concession, I had it in mind to say a few words in support of my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment, and to point out that it seemed to me, in the circumstances, impossible that any concession should be made unless it were with the whole-hearted approval and support of the Labour party. I think it would have been a graceful act if the Leader of the Labour party had seen his way to make a request, on behalf of our French Allies, that this concession should be made. I do not know what attitude hon. Gentlemen opposite are going to take up, but I think it would have been graceful and to their honour if they had helped to show in a conspicuous way the desire of this country, at such a time as this, to do anything in its power to assist our French Allies in their recovery. If the House accept the proposal which my right hon. Friend is going to make, and if the Labour party join in approving of it, I hope the reasons for it will not be left in any doubt, but will be proclaimed as conspicuously as possible.


I am sorry I cannot join in thanking the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what he is pleased to call a concession in this matter. If I had come into the House knowing nothing about this question the right hon. Gentleman's able speech in favour of the Bill as it stands would have satisfied me that the proposal contained in the Bill was a sound one. He has shown us very clearly and eloquently that the restaurant-keeper charges a heavy price, and he very pertinently asks, why should not the State get some of this? He gave an eloquent example of the case of a friend who stood him a drink—a very cheap drink, apparently—and who paid the full duty for that drink.


The old duty.


The right hon. Gentleman also told us how that particular consignment of which he had a part was only what I may call a sample, because, the moment the French exporters heard of this small consignment coming to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's friend, they immediately put their foot down and said, "No more champagne cheap for the Englishman; we are going to keep the price up." That is profiteering with a vengeance, and by the people whom we are asked to-day to support. I never heard any more scandalous suggestion in my life than that this country should hesitate to put a proper tax on champagne in proportion to that on beer and whisky because it is suggested that the French people will in some way benefit. The French people will not benefit. There is no question of the French grower benefiting at all. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has definitely shown us by examples within his own practical experience that the profit will go either to the French exporter or to the English middleman. Then he comes forward, having made such a good case, with an entirely different proposal, and surrenders some £400,000 to these people. He has proved to the House conclusively, and, to my mind, very satisfactorily, that the whole of that £400,000 would go into the hands of the profiteers in France and in this country. He says we are doing this out of kindness to the French Republic, but I call that an absurd proposition to put before this House. We want this money. We are always asking for things that we want done in this country, and yet we are going to surrender £400,000 to the French exporters and English importers, without a penny of advantage to the country as far as I can see. They will not let us have cheaper champagne. The right hon. Gentleman had a bottle cheap, but no one else will. How can it be shown that this is in any way benefiting the people of this country? My hon. and gallant Friend behind me (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) said that the Labour party were benefiting by this. I do not see the Labour party present in force to support the proposed reduction. I think they will agree that, if there are those amongst Labour who enjoy the luxury of champagne, they should pay their tax like anybody else. I am not going to argue whether the Labour party always drink champagne or not. My experience is that they do not, and if they do they ought to pay the tax. I am sorry to hear that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made this surrender, and I think he has given us sufficient proof that he ought to withdraw his own proposals.


I should like in a word to try and stiffen the back, for once, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If there be one class of the community who ought to pay through the nose for their luxuries it is that of the champagne drinkers. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down that the right hon. Gentleman has shown that this is not merely a concession to the sentiment of the French people. If it were, then, even though it cost £500,000, I should be ready to see that money spent to show to our French Allies how much we value their friendship, and how determined we are in every way to show our feelings of cordial sentiment towards them. It is certain, however, that this money is going, not to the grower of the wine, but to the profiteer, who to-day is battening on every luxury of the British people. I know something about the price of champagne to-day, because I sometimes associate with gentlemen who drink it—not Members of the Labour party, but other gentlemen. The price of champagne to-day is scandalous, and nothing will be done to alter it by the kind of concession which the right hon. Gentleman intimates that he is going to make. The tax on the working man's beer ought to be reduced, because beer is an essential of the people; but champagne is not necessary. It is a luxury, and such a luxury that the man who wants it can well afford to pay for it. If you were to ask any restaurateur to-day he would tell you that, in spite of the increase in price, they are selling just as much as they did six, nine, or 12 months ago. I beg the right hon. Gentleman for once to be firm, and not to make any concession. Let us go for this 50 per cent. ad valorem, and show that, while we should be perfectly ready to do anything to demonstrate our real and abiding friendship for our French Allies, we think that this is a ridiculous concession, which will do no good to anyone who deserves to have it.


I desire to associate myself with those who are opposed to the reduction in the tax which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has suggested. Having regard to the fact that the tax on tea has been increased year after year, why should the luxury drinkers of champagne not pay this tax, which, even as contained in the Finance Bill originally, is not proportionate to the excessive duties which have been put upon beer and whisky? When the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) suggests that miners, when they come up from the pit, open bottles of champagne and drink it, he is talking sheer and utter nonsense. The miner's wage would not permit it. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman has been supplying some of them with it himself. I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to stick by his original proposal, and, at any rate as far as the Labour party are concerned, we shall certainly vote against the proposed reduction.


I should not have risen had it not been for the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull. I hope no one will endeavour to defend the reduction of this tax on the ground that it will injure the miners of Yorkshire. I live in Yorkshire, and am fairly well acquainted with the mining area, and it is a calumny on the mining population to say that they habitually consume champagne. I say in all seriousness that, if one visited the restaurants or public houses in the mining districts, one would find more places of call where champagne was not to be found on the premises than places where it is obtainable. As a matter of fact, it is not a profitable commodity for the inn-keeper or publican to keep by him. Here and there, perhaps, a couple of miners may "crack" a bottle of champagne, say, over the result of a football match, or the St. Leger, or something of that sort; but to say that it is "habitually consumed" by the mining population of Yorkshire does not represent the true facts of the case. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will stand by his original proposal. He told us, if I remember rightly, in his Budget speech, that the wine duties had not been touched since 1899, and that during that period the upward tendency of taxation upon other alcoholic beverages had been progressive. Further, I think we ought to realise that the importation of French, Spanish and Portuguese wines in 1919 was treble what it was in 1913, and that the increase in the importation of champagne last year was 300,000 gallons above the quantity imported in 1913. Obviously there is a consuming public for this commodity, and it is not a working-class beverage, as the hon. and gallant Member would lead us to believe. I agree that it is a question of the consumer having to pay. The consumer has to pay in these cases every time, but this is a case where the consumers can afford to pay, and I am prepared to let them do so.

Rear-Admiral ADAIR

In view of the concession which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has proposed, I shall be glad to withdraw this Amendment and also the other two in the same Sub-section which stand in my name. I should like to say, however, that I hope it will be thoroughly realised why he has made this concession. His reason is my great and principal reason, namely, consideration for the French people, whose livelihood depends on the production of this wine.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the word "fifty" ["a duty equal to fifty per cent. of the value of the wine"], and to insert instead thereof the words "thirty-three and one-third."

I desire to add one word to what I have said before, with special reference to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Geutleman opposite (General Sir I. Philipps). He says that this is no concession to France, but I have reason to think that it is concession which will be much appreciated by the French people. We have received a most considerate representation from M. Millerand on behalf of Rheims and the Rheims district, not asking, of course, for this particular concession, but asking us to reconsider the situation and see whether, with justice to our own people, we could not alleviate what his constituents felt to be the hardship to France. It is in deference to that very friendly appeal, and in the same spirit in which it is made, that I have suggested this concession. I should not like it to go out, and it ought not to go out, that France will be ungrateful for this. I have every reason to believe that the concession, and the reason for it, will be appreciated in France.


I personally felt very strongly opposed to the reduction which the right hon. Gentleman suggested a few months ago, but I think the statement he has just made must be accepted in all good faith, as he must obviously know very much better than any ordinary Member can, to how far this proposed reduction really will benefit the French nation. My difficulty is this. I know that the best wines which are bought by the retailers in this country, the restaurant keepers and so on, are bought at 20s. or less per bottle, and yet we have to pay 40s. or 42s. or thereabouts for a bottle of champagne in the principal restaurants. I cannot see how, if the right hon. Gentleman had maintained the previous tax, the French nation would have suffered by it. It seems to me that the tax would inevitably be paid by those who are charging such exorbitant prices in this country. But in view of what he has said, I am satisfied, and I shall support him.


In view of the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I feel that some of my remarks ought to be qualified, because there is no one who is more anxious to do everything in his power to maintain the friendly alliance with France, after both countries have suffered so much together, and therefore I feel that it puts us in a very difficult position. I think we are put in a still more difficult position by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has shown the British public that, however much this concession may be to the sentiment of the French nation, and I think we should do all we can to sympathise with them in that matter as well as in hard cash, France will not benefit financially by it, and it is purely a matter of sentiment. Our difficulty is that we are giving up hard cash to benefit the sentiments of another nation with which we all sympathise, but that we are suffering in hard cash. The money will not go into the Treasury, and it will not go into the other country's Treasury. He showed us that quite conclusively. But in view of what he has just said about friendly working through such strenuous years with France, which I hope will be continued for many years to come, I shall certainly not oppose the reduction.


I should like to say one word of very cordial congratulation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the concession which he has made, and I hope his words will go out from the House to our allies in France and will be accepted by them in the spirit in which they were uttered. I believe he has been, from the international point of view, exceedingly wise in making this concession in the graceful terms which he has employed. My hon. and gallant Friend opposite has another point. He said it would be a loss to the Exchequer. On that point I rather take leave to disagree with him. I am not at all certain that, quite apart from the sentimental point of view, the point which is appealing to the House and which has been accepted by the House, from the purely revenue point of view he has not been exceedingly well advised in making the reduction. For, as far as I am able to judge—I speak neither as a producer nor to any other than a very insignificant extent as a consumer of champagne—I am very much inclined to believe that we have reached the point at which it would be inadvisable to impose further taxation on this commodity. I have made careful inquiries, and I have come very deliberately to the conclusion that that point, if not actually reached, will be reached very soon. I understand my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Geddes) has also made inquiries on this point in regard to some of the hotels with which he is indirectly connected. I have made inquiries in the same quarters and from the replies I have received I have formed the very deliberate conclusion that a distinct check has already been imposed by the proposed tax on the consumption of this commodity. Therefore, both on the sentimental ground and from the point of view of the production of revenue, I believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer is very warmly to be congratulated on the concession he has made.


As I spoke rather strongly on this question, perhaps I may be allowed to say I am perfectly convinced by the right hon. Gentleman's statement. I am so tremendously impressed with the need of showing our solid and deep affection for our French ally, that even if it cost me a little money, I think that cost is well spent in maintaining the bond of sentiment and affection which we have for France to-day. After the right hon. Gentleman's statement, I shall most cordially support the reduction.

Captain W. BENN

I wish to say why I intend to record my vote against the reduction. I believe a duty of this kind falls on the consumer, and whole I associate myself very warmly with what has been said about our feelings towards France, which are of the warmest description, I do not think this represents any money to the French producer but a relief to the English consumer; and, while I entirely agree as to our feelings towards France, it is a great pity that

the right hon. Gentleman has selected this particular tax to relieve the consumer of this article, and shown such a very stiff upper lip when we have asked for a reduction of other duties on articles, the consumers of which are not in the same position as the consumers of these wines.

Question put, "That the word 'fifty' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 90; Noes, 261.

Division No. 186.] AYES. [5.53 p.m.
Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth) Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)
Astor, Viscountess Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Atkey, A. R. Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar Robertson, John
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Hayday, Arthur Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Barton, Sir William (Oldham) Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston) Rodger, A. K.
Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk) Hinds, John Royce, William Stapleton
Benn, Com. Sir I. H., Bart. (Gr'nw'h) Hirst, G. H. Sexton, James
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Holmes, J. Stanley Shaw, Thomas (Preston)
Blair, Reginald Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Bramsdon, Sir Thomas Irving, Dan Sitch, Charles H.
Breese, Major Charles E. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)
Broad, Thomas Tucker Kenyon, Barnet Spoor, B. C.
Bromfield, William Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale) Strauss, Edward Anthony
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Lawson, John J. Swan, J. E.
Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's) Lister, Sir R. Ashton Sykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)
Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender Lunn, William Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. M'Guffin, Samuel Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Coote, William (Tyrone, South) McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Tootill, Robert
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H. Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian) Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.
Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe) M'Micking, Major Gilbert Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Davies, Major D. (Montgomery) Mosley, Oswald Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.
Dennis, J. W. (Birmingham, Deritend) Murray, Lieut.-Colonel A. (Aberdeen) White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)
Donald, Thompson Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross) Wignall, James
Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot Murray, John (Leeds, West) Willey, Lieut.-Colonel F. V.
Galbraith, Samuel Newbould, Alfred Ernest Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)
Gardiner, James Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Yate, Colonel Charles Edward
Glanville, Harold James Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central) Ormsby-Gore, Captain Hon. W.
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Grundy, T. W. Raffan, Peter Wilson Mr. Hodge and Mr. Myers.
Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S. Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H. Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A. Curzon, Commander Viscount
Bagley, Captain E. Ashton Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)
Baird, Sir John Lawrence Burdon, Colonel Rowland Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Burdett-Coutts, William Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel A. H. Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G. Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay) Dawes, Commander
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Butcher, Sir John George Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals) Campbell, J. D. G. Denison-Pender, John C.
Barnston, Major Harry Carr, W. Theodore Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)
Barrand, A. R. Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H. Doyle, N. Grattan
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington) Duncannon, Viscount
Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Casey, T. W. Du Pre, Colonel William Baring
Bennett, Thomas Jewell Cautley, Henry S. Edge, Captain William
Bigland, Alfred Cayzer, Major Herbert Robin Elliot, Capt. Walter E.(Lanark)
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston) Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.
Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West) Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Falcon, Captain Michael
Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.) Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.
Blake, Sir Francis Douglas Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood) Farquharson, Major A. C.
Boles, Lieut.-Colonel D. F. Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill Fell, Sir Arthur
Borwick, Major G. O. Clough, Robert FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.
Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith- Coates, Major Sir Edward F. Foreman, Henry
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Coats, Sir Stuart Forestier-Walker, L.
Bowles, Colonel H. F. Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K. Forrest, Walter
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Fraser, Major Sir Keith
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Collins, Col. Sir G. P. (Greenock) Gange, E. Stanley
Bridgeman, William Clive Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.
Briggs, Harold Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole Gardner, Ernest
Brittain, Sir Harry Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely) Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Camb'dge)
Bruton, Sir James Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid) Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John Mallaileu, F. W. Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)
Gould, James C. Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.) Samuel, A. M.(Surrey, Farnham)
Grant, James A. Marriott, John Arthur Ransome Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)
Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.) Martin, Captain A. E. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.) Matthews, David Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.
Greer, Harry Middlebrook, Sir William Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Greig, Colonel James William Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B. Shaw, William T. (Forfar)
Gretton, Colonel John Mitchell, William Lane Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Gritten, W. G. Howard Molson, Major John Elsdale Simm, M. T.
Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E. Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S. Smith, Harold (Warrington)
Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J. Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Moreing, Captain Algernon H. Stanier, Captain Sir Beville
Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin Morrison, Hugh Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.
Haslam, Lewis Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. Starkey, Captain John R.
Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.) Mount, William Arthur Steel, Major S. Strang
Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, Yeovll) Murchison, C. K. Stewart, Gershom
Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon Murray, Lieut.-Colonel A. (Aberdeen) Sturrock, J. Leng
Hills, Major John Waller Nall, Major Joseph Sugden, W. H.
Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G. Neal, Arthur Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.
Hood, Joseph Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley) Sutherland, Sir William
Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn'n,W.) Nicholson, William G.(Petersfield) Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)
Hopkins, John W. W. Nield, Sir Herbert Taylor, J.
Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead) Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G. Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)
Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H. Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)
Howard, Major S. G. Palmer, Charles Frederick (Wrekin) Thorpe, Captain John Henry
Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster) Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark Tickler, Thomas George
Hurd, Percy A. Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L. Townley, Maximilian G.
Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H. Parker, James Tryon, Major George Clement
Inskip, Thomas Walker H. Pearce, Sir William Turton, E. R.
Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike Waddington, R.
James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.) Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)
Jephcott, A. R. Perkins, Walter Frank Warren, Lieut.-Col. Sir Alfred H.
Jellett, William Morgan Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City) Weston, Colonel John W.
Jenson, C. Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W. Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.
Jodrell, Neville Paul Pliditch, Sir Philip White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)
Johnstone, Joseph Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles Whitla, Sir William
Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke) Pollock, Sir Ernest M. Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)
Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly) Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud
Joynson-Hicks, Sir William Pratt, John William Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert
Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George Preston, W. R. Wilson, Capt. A. S.(Holderness)
Kidd, James Prescott, Major W. H. Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)
Kiley, James D. Pulley, Charles Thornton Wilson, Col. Leslie(Reading)
Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Purchase, H. G. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)
Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Rae, H. Norman Wilson-Fox, Henry
Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.) Randles, Sir John S. Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)
Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales) Raper, A. Baldwin Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)
Lloyd, George Butler Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N. Wood, Sir J.(Stalybridge & Hyde)
Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East) Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)
Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tlngd'n) Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple) Woolcock, William James U.
Long, Rt. Hon. Walter Reid, D. D. Yeo, Sir Alfred William
Lorden, John William Remer, J. R. Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)
Lyle, C. E. Leonard Remnant, Sir James Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)
Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray Rendall, Athelstan Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)
Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie) Renwick, George Younger, Sir George
Macmaster, Donald Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecciesall)
Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury) Roundell, Colonel R. F. Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley
Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I. Royden, Sir Thomas Ward.
Maddocks, Henry Rutherford, Colonel Sir J. (Darwen)

Question, "That the words 'thirty-three and one-third,' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.