HC Deb 06 May 1925 vol 183 cc980-1013

First Resolution read a Second time.


I beg to move, in line 5, to leave out the word "fourpence" and to insert instead thereof the words "one penny.".

The principle underlying my Amendment is one which we on this side of the House support against the Government. We support the idea of direct taxation as against indirect taxation, but we are not proposing to raise that issue at the moment. As the House will observe, I am asking for threepence reduction on the Tea Duty, making it one penny, leaving the Debate on the principle to a more appropriate occasion. One of the reasons for moving this Amendment is that we do not agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his hope that he will succeed in his taxation in balancing the scales of social justice between the various classes. We think that if he could accept our Amendment he would more nearly succeed in his object than by the present Budget. In saying that we are leaving out of account altogether the Widows' Pensions Bill, which, of course, is not really connected with the Budget this year. I am pleading that we may have some remission of taxation which will help those who need help most, the very poor, the war widow, the old age pensioner, the disabled ex-service man, and others.

One of the reasons why we are asking for this remission of taxation is that a great deal of what these very poor people pay in taxation when purchasing their tea does not find its way into the Exchequer, because the wholesale tea merchants and the grocers all want their profit, not only on the price they pay for the tea, but also on the capital which they have to lay out in payment of the tax. As the number of hands through which the tea passes increases, so the amount increases. The habit of tea drinking appears to increase the further you go down in the social scale. The ill-nourished poor, feeling the need for some stimulant, take tea rather freely. I know of my own knowledge that poor working girls, whose wages are very low, take it with every meal, and, in fact, drink nothing else, so the incidence of taxation is very great on them. We feel that in the case of working-class families, where there is some need of relief, this Tea Duty puts a greater incidence of taxation on a large family, even though it may be the family of a poor labouring man on unemployment benefit, or even in receipt of Poor Law relief, than on a single person, or on a family with one or two children.

4.0. P.M

It may be said, as has been said in this House, that any remission of the duty would not reach the consumer. That is part of our case against the system which is supported by hon. Members opposite. I was glad to notice that in his Budget statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the old laissez-faire mid-Victorian Radicalism had been superseded by a more businesslike system, and we hope that those who sit behind will follow him. We are not yet, however, prepared to sing our Nunc Dimittis, because we are not quite sure that we are not rather inclined to be like Oliver Twist and ask for more. We believe, if this argument be used, that the whole question shows the immorality of the present system, under which people take to themselves profits which really are immoral from our point of view.

There is one class of workman for whom I want to plead, and on whose behalf I want to repeat one or two arguments that I used two years ago. I refer to the railwaymen. I formed one of a deputation who went to see Lord Rhondda during the War and asked that railwaymen might have a little more generous allowance of tea. He asked me whether I put up the point that tea was food. I said, "No." The point I made was that tea was a stimulant, and I showed him how, as railwaymen, we had found the utmost difficulty in keeping awake young firemen before they had got used to being up all night. I put the point to him that tea was a very fine thing for the purpose. I gave that testimony because I personally had proved it. During the early part of the War I tried, when on the footplate, to quench my thirst with water, but it was not very exhilarating on a winter's night when dashing along on the Scottish express through a snowstorm. I believe even the undergraduates at Oxford, when cramming at night for their examinations, find that tea keeps them awake and enables them to apply themselves better to their studies.

I would like to ask hon. Members whether, when we break up in the autumn and they go north in the express to shoot grouse, they ever consider how much their safety depends upon the fogmen keeping awake. In the autumn we always have fogs, due to the fact that we have warm days and cold nights. The fogman, perhaps, has been at work all day with pick and shovel, and just as he has done his work the call-boy may come for him to go fogging. He has to stand up by the signal and hold up a green light when the signal is at the all-right position. In many places, the only indication that the driver of the train has of his whereabouts is the fog signalman showing his light. Should the fogman fall asleep, there is always the danger of a train with its precious freight running to disaster. It is therefore very necessary that these lowly-paid men should be able to provide themselves with tea in order to keep them awake. The same thing applies to the signalman in his lonely signal-box. I have seen Members doze in this House after they have had or ought to have had a good night's sleep. It is, however, much more difficult for a signalman in a lonely position to keep awake.

It is not as though railwaymen can get a good night's sleep as easily as people in the sheltered neighbourhood of Mayfair. In the daytime, in industrial areas, we have children playing, porters going round with various commodities, and knocks at the door, and, as I said two years ago, it is very difficult to get sleep. More than once I have gone home, after 10 or 12 hours on the footplate, and have never been able to sleep at all. Then I have gone out again, and in the early hours of the morning, when I have been very drowsy, tea has helped to keep me awake.

On behalf of the widows and orphans and the poor, and in order that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be assisted to give greater social justice, I ask that this duty should be remitted. The remission of the Tea Duty is not likely to flow to the hotels on the Riviera, to the tables of Monte Carlo, or to the tables of the rich. But it would be spent by the poor and the lowly in other necessities. We on these benches believe that what is needed today the world over is a greater purchasing power by the workers. We do not believe that industry is in need of new capital. We believe that there is capital to spare. Speaking to the cashier of one of the largest engineering firms in Leeds, I asked him if he could do with more business. He replied: "More business? We are not running more than 50 per cent. of our works." They do not need capital; they need customers, and we believe that the way to get customers is to give the workers greater purchasing power, so as to create a demand for the things which the big firms produce. We believe that one way to do that would be to remove this Tea Duty.


I beg to second the Amendment.

The arguments that have been used for and against the reduction of the Tea Duty have been repeated on the Floor of this House, I suppose, many hundreds of times, but, so long as the Tea Duty remains a part of our fiscal system, so long will it be necessary to repeat at all events the more cogent of these arguments. So far as I have been able to understand it, there have always been two or three outstanding reasons put forward why it was inexpedient or unwise to reduce this duty. One of the main arguments has been that if you reduce very considerably, even to the point of extinction, an important indirect tax like that of the Tea Duty you are passing into the danger zone where the great majority of our wage-earning citizens will not be actually sharing in providing the finances which are necessary from year to year for the maintenance of the life and activities of the State.

It has been urged again and again that it is wise from every conceivable point of view that all citizens, both men and women, should have some direct financial responsibility towards the State, and some direct personal relation with the great concerns of the State. While we may accept that as a sound and wise principle in connection with any form of government and any form of State, yet that principle would not be affected by the remission of the Tea Duty, even if it were remitted altogether. It is perfectly clear that in the last resort the wage-earners of the country do contribute very materially to the revenue of the State. We know that all taxes in the last resort come from the produce of industry, and hon. Members on all sides of the House will agree that the contributions which the wage-earners make through industry to the national wealth from year to year are by no means reabsorbed by them in wages. Therefore, whatever changes may take place in regard to the duty on tea, the wage-earners will always contribute collectively a very large proportion of the revenue required by the State.

It has also been said that one of the main reasons why the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot see his way still further to reduce the Tea Duty is that it is a tax which is very convenient to collect and of a very productive character. These maxims have been heard again and again to support this particular duty, but I want to suggest that, taken by themselves, they can never be sufficient to justify the continuance of a policy, no matter how old that particular policy may be. We are not justified on grounds of convenience or on grounds of productivity in inflicting this particular Tea Duty on the community. We can see perfectly plainly that the argument of convenience leads to disastrous results when applied in other spheres. For example, it may be convenient to re-elect M. Rault as President of the Saar Valley, on behalf of the League of Nations, for another year, but everybody knows that it works out disastrously in the political practice of the European States. Again, it may, for example, be convenient to throw the whole responsibility for the War on to the shoulders of one particular State, but no one who has studied the whole of the facts will agree that that by itself can be taken as wisdom. I want on the same ground to submit that these two arguments are not sufficient to justify the continuance of the policy of taking millions of pounds from poor people by the imposition of this Tea Duty. I submit that the argument usually put forward for the continuance of the Tea Duty when we want to associate the workers of the country with the financial policy of the State, is that this particular tax is unusually productive and convenient to collect. But these grounds are not sufficient by themselves to justify the continuance of the Tea Duty in the present Budget. On this side of the House we oppose the Tea Duty, not on grounds of convenience or inconvenience, or whether it is productive or unproductive, but on the ground of a quite definite political principle. When we come to apply the principle of equality of sacrifice in the gathering in of the money for the State, and when we try to work out the idea of placing the burdens of the State upon the citizens of the community in accordance with a definite principle of ability to pay, then we are bound to take exception again and again, and year after year, to this indirect method of taxing the necessities of the people.

In the first place, we say that it is quite impossible, and has proved to be impossible hitherto for the State to enforce indirect charges on tea, and work out any satisfaction whatever on the principle of ability to pay among the consumers. This Tea Duty, which is going to be enforced again this year, imposes a flat rate of 4d. per lb. upon everybody who consumes tea, and it exacts the same 4d. per lb. whatever the price of the tea may be. From that point of view alone, the State is obviously guilty of a very grave act of injustice to those millions of consumers of tea whose purchases are confined to the cheaper brands of tea which are available.

It we look at the matter from a family point of view, the larger the family the bigger the indirect tax which the State inflicts upon those families. When that is assessed, we are face to face with several millions of small acts of injustice. I know it will appear to many hon. Members that these are only very small acts of injustice, but that does not justify their commission, and on the ground of inability in imposing this tax to avoid doing a grave injustice and putting the heaviest burden upon the people who are least able to bear it, I think we have a fundamental and permanent objection to this particular tax. I gather that from time to time a question has been raised as to whether a much larger duty should not be placed upon the higher priced tea, and whether tea selling at 10s. or 8s. a lb. should not have a larger duty, and in that way some of the most tedious objections on the ground of equality of sacrifice could be removed. I think that is a point upon which we might have some further discussion.

In the next place, we take a very grave objection because in this Budget which has conferred very real financial benefit upon certain classes of the community, and if we rule out the hypothetical advantages of the social insurance policy, we find nothing whatever for the benefit of the great mass of wage-earners throughout the country. We feel very strongly that in a Budget in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has gone out of his way to express sympathy with millionaires, he might have paid some attention to reducing the price of the cups of tea of the poorer members of the community. Further, we take the view that this tax on tea could be removed, following the example set by the Labour Government last year, and we argue that a considerable increase of purchasing power would be placed in the hands of the workers, and that would lead to a direct increase of trade and a corresponding diminution of unemployment. Assuming that the price of tea was reduced and the workers purchased more tea, then we should be compelled to send out more exports to pay for that tea, and in that way we should stimulate home production. If the workers decided not to purchase any more tea than they do at the present time, then the amount of the reduction in the Tea Duty could be spent on other necessities, and the trades supplying those other necessities would receive a definite stimulus as a consequence of the reduction of the tax.

I know many hon. Members opposite will argue that perhaps one of the reasons why the reduction of the tax has not been considered is that if the reduction was made the workers would not receive the benefit of it. The experience of last year's Budget will be pointed to as definite evidence in that direction, and as a definite proof of that contention. Of course, we arc all aware that on the surface of things that contention does seem to have some truth in it, although I think it would be important if we could find out the tax, and obtain a statement as to what would have been the price of tea to-day had there been no reduction of the duty last year. I do not think we are justified in concluding that the price would have been the same, and the balance of argument is in favour of taking the view that if the Tea Duty had not been reduced last year, the workers would have been paying a higher price for their tea than they are paying at the present time. I quite realise the difficulties of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because the tea trade is in a position in which it is able to make very large exactions from the tea consumers, not only of this country, but of all countries throughout the world. The profits made in the tea industry last year are phenomenally high, and I can quite understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer hesitating when he is confronted with such a formidable body as those engaged in the tea trade.

I find from the reports of tea companies for 1924 published in the "Statist," for example, that the Deamoolic Tea Company, Limited, declared a dividend of no less than 60 per cent and put 20 per cent. of its capital to reserve, and carried forward another 35 per cent. on capital. The Upper Assam Tea Company, I find, increased its capital last year by distributing two new shares for every share held in 1924. It has declared a dividend of 25 per cent. on the new capital, which is equivalent to 75 per cent. on the old capital. The Tara Tea Company—


This is a proposal to reduce the Tea Duty, and I do not see how the arguments used by the hon. Member are relevant.


I am trying to show the relation between the problem of reducing the tax and conferring the benefit upon the workers of the country, and I have been giving these examples in order to emphasise the difficulties there may be in working out this policy of reducing taxation in order that the workers of the country may benefit. I submit that if objection to this policy of reduction is made on the ground that it is difficult, if not impossible, to prevent any tax reduction finding its way to the great body of consumers, there are other methods which can be adopted. It seems to me not at all a sound or wise proposition to take the view that the only way in which we can prevent tea companies from increasing their prices is to withhold definite benefits from the great mass of the workers through a process of indirect taxation. I submit the point of view that the way to promote a definite solution of this problem is to increase the amount of tea production, and whatever else does happen, in the long run, no hon. Member can deny that the policy of reducing taxation is calculated to increase the amount of tea purchased throughout the world.

Here we are face to face with two problems, and we have no right on grounds of justice or of fearing the consequences to the tea producers of the world to continue this injustice towards the great mass of wage-earners throughout the country, and we are definitely bound, if we are to work out a sound system of taxation, to try and rid the community of these old and worn out and unscientific methods of raising from the citizens the amount of money required by the State. I suggest that the problem of preventing a rise of prices as a consequence of a tax is quite a separate and distinct question. All hon. Members know that this problem of controlling prices is one of the greatest that confronts us at the present moment. We have had to face it in the case of the housing industry, and I think the Government should be encouraged by realising that there is a party growing up which has another solution of this problem is not one of maintaining these taxes on the earnings of the poor. We are prepared to recommend public control of prices as the ultimate solution of the problems with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is dealing in this Budget.


The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. R. Smith) said that this subject had been raised upon Ways and Means Resolutions upon hundreds of different occasions in this House, and I should like to pay my tribute to the ingenuity exhibited by him and the hon. Member for South Leeds (Mr. Charleton) in finding new arguments upon so old a question. It is the privilege and, indeed, the pleasure of every Opposition to open our Debates at this stage of the Budget by moving for a lesser burden on the taxpayers of the country, and it is always easy to take the necessarily limited remissions of taxation which have been announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to argue that he might have shown a wiser choice. I am sure that we on this side of the House have often voted, when we have been in Opposition, for the same kind of Amendment which has been put forward to-day, and if we vote in the contrary sense on this occasion, we have the satisfaction of feeling that we can do so with complete consistency, because Budgets must be considered as a whole, and it is in no way to condemn the alternative proposals on their merits to say that we are obliged to limit our support to those remissions of taxation which are within our financial power and in accordance with the general policy proclaimed by the Government.

The hon. Member for Penistone, and I think also the hon. Member for South Leeds, suggested that it was due to the indirect taxpayer to give a certain remission. I think the indirect taxpayer has done pretty well, all things considered. Before the War he was paying 42½ per cent. of the total of tax revenue; in this Budget he will only pay 34 per cent. But that is not the whole story. One must not merely consider the burdens of direct as compared with indirect taxation, but must remember that year by year, and most of all this year, the benefits of social legislation are more and more being extended to those classes which for the most part only contribute by indirect means to the Exchequer. The Tea Duty is one which is of great value to any Chancellor of the Exchequer, because of its very wide incidence. Those other duties on more fortifying types of beverage are only paid by limited sections of the community, whereas as hon. Members opposite have pointed out, the Tea Duty—.


What is the more fortifying beverage of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks?


The hon. Member is, I know, an expert on the more fortifying types of dutiable liquor, and it is, no doubt, largely due to the warnings which he has uttered that so many of the community leave the burden of the taxation on these particular classes of exciseable liquor to a smaller section of the population than bears the burden of the Tea Duty. Of course, in the case of any duty so wide in its incidence as the Tea Duty, any reduction is necessarily popular, and that popularity is, I think, reflected in the very favourable treatment which the Tea Duty has received in succeeding Budgets since the War. In our War-time Budgets the duty on this article was raised from 5d. to 1s. per lb. In the first Budget after the War, an Imperial Preference of one-sixth was applied to the Tea Duty, reducing it from 1s. to 10d.; and, as we draw nine-tenths of our tea supply from Empire sources, it will be seen that this was, in effect, a reduction of the effective rate by 2d. In 1922, a further reduction took place to 8d. as the standard rate, or 6¾d. as the five-sixths preferential rate. Last year, again, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer further reduced the duty to 4d., or 3⅓d. in the case of Empire tea. The result that tea is now paying a lower import duty than it did before the War.

The hon. Member for South Leeds made a good deal of the necessity of tea to those in receipt of low wages, and he instanced the workers on the railways; but he did not mention that, while the Tea Duty is lower than it was before the War, their wages are considerably higher than they were at that period. The hon. Member for Penistone asked whether the duty had been passed on, and I think he wanted to know what would have been the movements of prices if the remission last year had not taken place. As the late Chancellor of the Exchequer knows, that is a very large and very difficult subject. The right hon. Gentleman says he thinks it is as easy as A, B, C. I do not profess to the same economic omniscience, but I do not want to say anything controversial. I agree that last year the remission of duty was, at the time of the change, passed on to the consumer, but at the present time the consumer is no longer enjoying that full remission. The average prices, both of the more costly blends of tea and also of the more popular blends, are only about 1d. less than they were before the Budget was announced last year. I think it is a matter of difficulty to say dogmatically whether the rise in price has taken place owing to the increased demand for tea brought about by the Budget reduction last year, or whether the increase in price has taken place owing to the decrease of supply; but I do feel that under present conditions, where admittedly there is a short supply, a further decrease in the import duty, on a short market, is likely to bring about such an increase in demand as to cause a quite disproportionate movement upwards in prices.

Of course, the really important point in this matter, from the point of view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is what the proposed remission would cost. In the present financial year, the proposal of the hon. Members would involve us in a loss of £3,000,000 of revenue, and in a full lnancial year it would involve us in a loss of £4,200,000. But that is, not the whole story, because it is an accepted principle that the duties on coffee, on chicory, and on cocoa vary directly with the level of the Tea Duty, and on that account we should make a further loss in the current year of £500,000, rising to £700,000 in a full year. The House will see that, quite apart from all other reasons, we are, therefore, unable to accept a proposed remission of duty, which would involve the Exchequer in a loss of nearly £5,000,000 in a full year, and which in the first year would be so serious in its effect as completely to upset the balance of the Budget.


The speech of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has been very much on the lines of the speeches of representatives of the Treasury in previous years when reductions of this duty have been moved from this bench. In speaking on that point, the right hon. Gentleman said that Oppositions were always in the habit of leading off the Debates on the Budget with a demand for a reduction of the Tea Duty. I think his memory is a little short as to what has been the annual practice, say, when his own party have begin in Opposition. I have not noticed that they have been completely consistent, when they have been in Opposition, in asking for reductions of the Tea Duty.


Time after time the Conservative party have moved for an Imperial Preference in the Tea Duty, and, as hon. Members opposite must know, where you get nine-tenths of your tea from Empire sources, that is tantamount to a reduction of the duty.


That is just the point I was coming to when the right hon. Gentleman interjected. They have repeatedly moved Motions as regards Imperial Preference, but, as a fact, those Motions would never have had any real effect upon the consumer. I do not think it has ever been demonstrated, from the history of the markets, although 90 per cent. of our tea comes from within the Empire, that that has had any other effect than that the calculations have always been based upon the full standard rate of duty included in the fiscal policy of the year concerned. There is a point which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned in the early part of his speech which is of great importance. My hon. Friend the Member for South Leeds (Mr. Charleton) thought that this was not, perhaps, the most suitable occasion to draw attention to the difference in burden borne by indirect and by direct taxation, but he will notice that the Financial Secretary himself has raised the issue by drawing attention to the fact that, before the War, the proportion paid by indirect taxation was 42½ per cent., and he now says that this year the figure is down to 34 per cent. I think, however, that if he takes a careful view of the Budget statement this year, he will find that it is rather more than 37 per cent. if he takes the whole of the taxes raised from indirect sources. On this point it has been stated again and again in the last few years that there ought to be a move towards the pre-War figures—somewhere near, as some Members have said, to a parity of 50/50.

The view of myself, and, I think, of my hon. Friends on this side, is that there is nothing really sound about that argument as to the relation between indirect and direct taxation. After all, taxation must be, if it is to be sound, upon a really equitable basis; in other words, it must be placed upon the citizen in relation to his ability to pay; and I think it is beyond question that the bulk of indirect taxation falls to be collected, in the main, from the poorer classes of the community. Moreover, in comparing the percentage of revenue now obtained from direct taxation with the yields from that source in pre-War days, it must be remembered that without doubt the result of the Great War, and also, one might say, of all previous wars, has been to fulfil the statement of one of the great economists of the nineteenth century. that war always makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. I support that as being the present position with two statements. First of all, there is the Report of the Committee on War Wealth, which stated that a comparatively small number in the community increased their pre-War wealth by not less than £4,000,000,000; and, secondly, I would remind the Financial Secretary of the point made by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer last week, that in the year in which the assessment of tax covered, on the three years' average, the worst three years we have yet had, the increased yield from Estate Duty, Income Tax and Super-tax was over £14,000,000—further evidence that the effect of the War has been to make the rich richer, and we might say from other evidence the poor poorer. In these circumstances it is surely unreasonable to suggest a return to anything like the pre-War distribution of taxation as between direct and indirect taxation. That was recognised and acted upon by the Government who were responsible for raising the special finance for prosecuting the War, for if the right hon. Gentleman will go back to the year 1917-18 he will find that the proportion of indirect taxation was not 42½ per cent. nor 37.3 per cent. as it will be this year, but only 17 per cent. Although, as I have demonstrated, the rich have been getting richer and the poor poorer, what has happened since 1917-18 is that always, with the exception of last year, the proportion rte burden upon the indirect taxpayer has, speaking generally, been increasing instead of decreasing. In regard to the fact that the percentage of indirect taxation is to be increased in this Budget, that is further emphasised by the fact that this year you are actually going to raise in taxation for Budget purposes £1,000,000 more than was raised last year, so that the actual burden upon the indirect taxpayer is much worse than last year.

The general case for the relief of consumers of tea has been very well put by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment and I need not dwell on that, but I desire to refer specifically to the statement of the Chancellor last week that the remission made by my right hon. Friend last year has been almost entirely extinguished by larger price movements in the world market and the Financial Secretary, though he has not been quite so emphatic as the Chancellor, has repeated that statement to-day. My right hon. Friend said it was not a difficult matter to prove the contrary, nor do I think it is.

It is quite simple. The wholesale price of tea is not a fixed figure and if the duty had not been reduced by 4d., whatever the economic price of tea to-day might be the price to the consumer would have been 4d. more than it actually is. So the consumer of tea has gained very substantially as the result of the action taken by the late Government, even allowing for world price movements. The right hon. Gentleman thought the market to-day would show that practically the whole of the amount remitted last year had disappeared in the price movements. Let me point out how the consumer has benefited. In the first place, as soon as the remission was announced in last year's Budget the whole trade reduced the price by 4d.—that is the standard rate—although by doing so they would lose two-thirds of a penny per lb. on 90 per cent. of their actual output and sales, and the consumer benefited in that way. Then the argument that the rise in the price of the commodity had almost entirely extinguished the benefit of the remission is not borne out by the actual movement of prices. If you were to take the average price of tea, as given by the trade statistics, for the whole of 1924 you would not find that the wholesale price, which was 1s. 6d., had risen during the whole of that period to 1s. 10d. As a matter of fact the approximate average price for 1924 was 1s. 8d., and if the right hon. Gentleman will look at the average price of tea to-day he will find that last week the price was actually slightly less on the wholesale market than 1s. 5d., as compared with the figure of 1s. 6d. when my right hon. Friend reduced the tax last year.

Although there have been large price movements, and therefore at some periods heavy increases to the consumer, taking the whole year and taking into view the present position of the wholesale tea market, not only has the consumer gained during the past financial year, but he now stands to gain the whole reduction of duty which was given by my right hon. Friend this year. I think it ought to be said also that there were two factors in regard to the heavy wholesale market price movements during the year. One to which the Financial Secretary referred was the estimated shortage of supply in relation to what the anticipated demand was, but I think the more im- portant factor was that very large firms in the trade were engaged, actually two or three months before my right hon. Friend framed his Budget, in making very heavy purchases of crops still growing, to keep tea off the market at their discretion and create something of the nature of a "corner." While I am not going in detail into that, I think I could demonstrate, if I had the time, that that was the main reason for the heavy fluctuation in the tea market during the year. Those who in any way try to make a corner in food supplies usually get caught out, and the fact that they were up against the world tea trade, and in this country were up against a great consumers' organisation, has now brought that corner to be of none effect. I think it is true to say, therefore, that, in spite of these movements in the wholesale market, to a large extent the consumer has benefited by the Budget reduction of last year and, it is clear, will now continue to benefit. Nor is there any doubt in my mind nor in the mind of my right hon. Friend that a further reduction, as asked for in the Amendment, on this important article in the diet of the people would result in direct relief to the great body of working-class consumers.

There is one smaller point to which I should like to direct attention. No doubt the Financial Secretary has studied, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Budget of the Irish Free State. In that Budget this tax and the other taxes which depend so much upon it have been entirely abolished. We have noticed lately on these benches that the Chancellor has been filled with tender solicitude for Northern Ireland. He has, for example, introduced a supplementary Estimate, and got it through the House, making them a grant which we regarded as a political grant, which my right hon. Friend refused last year. I wonder whether the Chancellor's solicitude for Ulster is not going to extend beyond such matters as the special constabulary to the traders and consumers in Ulster. I do not know what his advice is from his own Customs officials, but I imagine that there will be large quantities of non-dutiable tea in the Free State and a pretty good proportion of it may find its way over the border into Ulster. Is he going to lose any money in the Customs in that direction, and is he going to do anything to help the traders of Ulster to meet the competition which will arise? Does he know that a great part of the tea trade in the Free State, especially on the West Coast, has for years been in the hands of Ulster houses, and that now they will be in the position of having to compete with the non-dutiable tea of the Irish Free State? I should like to be clear on the point. I think thereis great substance in it. Is he not going, following the line of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the special constabulary, to help them by putting us here on the same basis as the Free State and see that they get equal treatment in regard to the tax upon tea? Another question I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman is whether he has inquired what will be the effect upon the London Tea Market of the total remission of the duty on tea in the Irish Free State. Does it mean that in effect a good deal of the Irish Free State purchases will be diverted from the London market? Surely that is not a thing he desires. Having regard to the close proximity of the Free State and the way in which our trade has been bound up, I suggest that there is ground for looking into the matter and seeing if he cannot bring us into line with the decision and practice of the Free State in this matter.

We should judge the retention of this duty by what is the standard of a good tax. Such a tax, we think, should be equitable, it should be economic, it should be productive, and it should not fall upon the necessities of life. The duty upon tea, which we are asking the House to reduce, does not comply with any one of these conditions. It is certainly not equitable. That has been demonstrated by the mover and seconder of the Amendment. It is not upon an ad valorem basis and therefore it presses most hardly upon the poorest people, who use the cheapest kind of tea. It certainly is not economic for it is quite certain that the consumer does not only pay the duty but pays a good deal more—the financing of the duty and the profit added from stage to stage. The process of collection makes that, I think, absolutely inevitable. It is not now really very productive. The right hon. Gentleman says he will only lose in a full year £4,250,000. He will only lose this year £3,000,000. He suggests—it is an old device of Chancellors and Secretaries to the Treasury—that when we come to debate in detail an Amendment like this we must consider the Budget as a whole and must not be led off by an Amendment here and an Amendment there. I thought it was usual for Chancellors, in framing a Budget, to allow themselves a margin here and there so that they might meet the best claims, or perhaps sometimes the most, insistent claims, for varying the Budget provisions. I think the Financial Secretary ought to advise the Chancellor that here is one of the special claims of the mass of consumers in which, out of that margin which he no doubt set himself in framing his Budget, he might give some concession. I hope before we go to a division the Financial Secretary or the Chancellor will give us his real view—I do not think the Financial Secretary has inquired very closely into it—of price movements in relation to the duty last year, and will also tell us as to the position in relation to the Free State.

5.0. P.M


The last speaker has expressed anxiety about what was to happen in the Irish Free State, where tea is going to be free of duty. As I understand the habits of the people of the Irish Free State, there is very little tea consumed. They prefer to live on Dublin porter. The Seconder of the Amendment gave figures of the profits of tea companies. I know that to earn a profit is a very serious offence to hon. Members opposite. Universal bankruptcy is their motto. If there is one way likely to increase the profits of the tea manufacturers, it would be to raise the Duty. The more the Duty is raised the bigger the profits and the larger the dividends. The way to bring about a moderate state of earning would be to abolish the Duty altogether, and then things would find an economic level. The Proposer of the Amendment supplied the true reason for not supporting his own Amendment. He was very honest. He said that tea was a stimulant. I expected that the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) under those circumstances would propose that tea should not be permitted to be sold. I agree that tea is a stimulant, and it is a dangerous stimulant if taken in excessive quantities. I do not think there is anything more likely to cause dyspepsia than tea taken in large quantities. That was admitted by the Proposer of the Amendment, because he said that in order to keep the men awake on the railway engines it was the practice to give them tea. That means that they were kept awake by indigestion. That is the true explanation.

Nothing has done more to produce chronic dyspepsia than the habit of drinking unlimited quantities of tea. The devastation caused by the excessive drinking of tea, by the keeping of the teapot standing on the hob and drinking tea excessively under those circumstances, has done more harm than all the alcohol that has been consumed. It would he well that people should be taught the dangers of this particular commodity of tea. When one analyses the taxation upon this particular commodity, I should like to know where the hardship comes in. It is infinitesimal. I am medically advised that the amount of tea that any person can safely take in one day is a couple of breakfast cups. Any more than that is liable to be injurious to health.


What takes its place?


I could recommend it to some of the hon. Member's friends. I am advised by persons engaged in the distributing of tea that you can get 120 cups out of one pound of tea. The Proposer and Seconder of the Amendment, like the last speaker, are wrong when they say that the working classes buy the cheapest tea. The working classes buy the very best tea. Nobody pays more for tea than the British working woman. It is when you go to the houses of the wealthy and the great that you get the cheap stuff. If you get 120 cups of tea from one pound of tea, three pounds of tea will supply you with 360 cups of tea. Six pounds of tea per year is enough to supply each person in the community. The total duty that person would pay on the six pounds of tea would. be 2s., which is a great deal less than is extracted from the working classes per head by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite for the specific purpose of supporting their own political ambitions.

I cannot, understand the attitude of hon. Members opposite, many of whose constituents do not approve of their views. The hon. Member for Dundee is the only consistent Prohibitionist in this country. He told the people of Dundee that he would not go into partnership with anything so infamous as the drink trade, and therefore he would remove all the duties on exciseable liquors and prohibit them altogether. Thereupon the people of Dundee said, "This is the manfor us. He will take off the duties; therefore we shall then be able to buy the liquors cheap." The bootleggers also saw their opportunity and joined in and said "Amen." That is why we have the benefit of the hon. Member's presence here to-day. The man who drinks a pint of beer pays as much tax as the person who drinks 120 cups of tea. The man who drinks one glass of whisky pays as much tax as the man who drinks 250 cups of tea. The discrepancy and injustice is so great that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is proposing to make any modification, he should direct his attention to something else than this very small Duty on tea. With these expressions of opinion, with which I am sure the vast mass of the people cordially agree. I express my disapproval of the Amendment.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

We know now from the hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) what is the cause of the evils that afflict this country. Oscar Wilde said that drink was the curse of the working classes, but we are now told by the hon. Member that it is tea that is the curse of the people. Every crime that is committed by a man is committed under the influence of tea I What a large number of men there are who have murdered their best friends and their wives under the influence of more than two breakfast cups of tea per day! If the hon. Member seriously believes that all these terrible evils come from tea, why does not he protest against the lowness of the tax? We taxed tea at the rate of 1s. per pound when the War ended. Why was not that kept on? Why does not the hon. Member try to prevent the use of tea altogether? Why does not he regulate it as we regulate opium?


Tea lost us America.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

The hon. Member says that tea lost us America. It was the taxation on tea that lost us America. We want to remove that taxation. There is a great campaign going on to convert America to tea drinking, for the benefit of the British Empire and the British tea merchants. We may see very great events arising if 110,000,000 of people who are, fortunately, prohibited from drinking the awful concoctions that go out from Glasgow and other parts of Scotland, and who, owing to the beneficent efforts of the anti-bootlegging brigade, are turning to drinking large quantities of tea. In that event, our tea trade will benefit extraordinarily. I hope that the remarks of the hon. Member insulting this beverage, which has been such a comfort to mankind, will not find their way across the Atlantic and stop the growth of tea drinking, a habit which will be very valuable to British trade.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury twitted the hon. Member who moved the Amendment for drawing attention to railwaymen, and the necessity of tea for the railwaymen. He referred to the railwaymen's wages. What has the railwayman to pay for tea today? It is doubtful whether the railwaymen are much better off as regards the household budget than they were before. The keenest buyers amongst the wives of the railwaymen dispute the index figures provided by the Government Department. I am not speaking for my party on this subject, but for a few of my friends who intend to vote for this reduction. This is the sixth time that I have had the honour of speaking in this House in favour of the reduction on the Tea Duty. I spoke on the last Budget on this subject, but I was asked by the Whips, and by my distinguished leaders, not to press the matter to a Division, because we got so many benefits from the Budget last year that it was a pity to try to upset it. That does not apply to-day. We consider that we do not get any real benefit from the present Budget. Therefore, there is no argument for not trying to lop a little bit off by reducing the Tea Duty.

The indirect taxpayers have no benefits from this Budget. It was said of the last Budget that the breakfast table taxes were reduced, and that the indirect taxpayer had benefited tremendously; therefore the proposal in this Budget is to redress the balance and to reduce Income Tax and Super-tax. Of course, the Super-tax payer and the Income Tax payer is an indirect taxpayer as a consumer of tea. It would be a very bad thing if successive Governments tried to weight taxes in favour of one class of the community. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear! "] I am glad I have approval from the other side of the House. It is much better to try to keep the scale even. It must be admitted, however, that in this Budget an attempt has been made to redress the effect of last year's Budget. No attempt is made to relieve taxation by a reduction of the duties on tea, tobacco and the exciseable commodities which are consumed. It would be much better and more just to consider whether something could not be done for the indirect taxpayer in this way.

The argument was frequently used in the old days, but not perhaps so much in recent years, that tea is a luxury and, therefore, a fit subject for taxation. It is very doubtful whether tea can be considered a luxury. I think it is a necessity for very many people. Large classes of brain workers need tea. People who have to work at night, including sailors and people who work on engines, certainly require it. It is no luxury to them. It cannot be called a luxury to the old age pensioners and people of that sort. If the Government want to tax a luxury, why do not they put a tax upon things of great value that are imported, and are pure luxuries? I asked a question yesterday about the value of furs imported. Last year we imported furs and fur clothing to the value of £13,500,000. We also imported last year from South Africa diamonds to the value of £6,500,000, and other precious stones to the value of £300,000. Feathers and plumage were imported last year to the value of just under £1,000,000. Diamonds and other precious stones, feathers and plumage are all luxuries, and not necessary to anyone except, perhaps, the bookmaking fraternity, who want diamonds in order to impress the mugs. They may require diamonds, but nobody else needs them. All these luxury articles were imported to the value of £20,000,000 last year. A tax of 33⅓ per cent on these commodities would bring in between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000, and that would enable us to take off the Tea Duties altogether.

Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT

Is the hon. and gallant Member speaking for his party or for himself?

Captain BENN

For what party is the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) speaking?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

My hon. and gallant Friend knows that sometimes I am a little ahead of my party. I speak for some of them, at any rate. The price of tea is very high to-day, and it is economically unsound to put a tax on it. The non-passing on to the consumer of the remission of last year has been dealt with already. What the Government are going to do, though it does not appear in the Budget, is to put a very serious direct tax on wage earners of 4d. a week under the new insurance proposals. Suppose the average working-class family of six persons consume half a pound of tea a week, the tax which they pay is about 2d. per week, but if a man is in employment he has to pay 4d. a week under the proposed insurance scheme. This would be a very good way of meeting the charge, which is very much resented by the industrial workers, by trade unionists, working men and women, and employers. They are all equally united in opposition. But for this purpose I think that it would be a very good set-off against the new impost on the wage earners if this Amendment were accepted. I am sorry that I could not have heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the question of Preference. I live for the day to hear him standing at that box and defending Imperial Preference. It does not seem to have done much good to the tea producers of the Empire. The consumption of China tea is remarkably steady. It has not decreased, whereas the imports of tea from Java and other countries, whose tea is cheaper than Empire tea, are actually increasing, so that Preference has not worked to benefit the Empire, but merely to swell the heavy profits of these other tea-producing countries. For all these reasons I hope that my hon. Friend will support me in the Lobby.


My position is that we are doing a gross injustice to the body of the people, to the toilers of the country, by imposing taxation on that which they consider to be a legitimate requirement. According to the view of the hon. and learned Member for Argyle (Mr. Macquisten) the tax upon beer is a tax upon a requisite and so is the tax on whisky, and all the other alcoholic stimulants. If these articles are essential it is not right to impose taxation upon them, and they ought to remain perfectly free to be sold in the same way as any other commodity. But if we turn to the question of tea, which we are specially considering this afternoon, we are considering an article which, without any jocularity, is a growing factor among the requirements of the general body of the public. It is a very gratifying fact, notwithstanding the jocular references of the hon. Member, that many of the community who formerly would not do without what the Financial Secretary to the Treasury described as more fortifying liquor, business men and thinking men, are going to-day to the tea shops, those despicable institutions into which, it is appalling to think, it is possible to take children, while it is impossible to take children into the respectable institutions so closely identified with the hon. Member for Argyll. The hon. and learned Member sheds tears because the children are left at the doors of these institutions in which the more fortifying liquors are sold, because that handicaps the parents in supporting the business which he so much appreciates.

With regard to tea these business men are finding out that for clear thinking and the carrying on of business with aptitude, skill and effective results, they can do much better by taking that which unquestionably is a stimulant, but which is a stimulating food. It is an article which gives the requisite incentive for carrying on the duties of everyday life, and it has been recognised as an essential for helping the people to carry on. Coming to the particular point dealt with by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, it is an unfortunate fact that, owing to the requirements of industrial life, many workers are obliged to resort unduly to the use of tea. When they should have the opportunity of partaking of foodstuffs of a more effective building up character they do not find facilities for that. They have to hurry home and get the kettle boiling and take some tea, and something along with it, and it is a sort of shove-off as we put it colloquially. Then we have the extraordinary appeals, made by those engaged in the liquor trade, that the workers cannot obtain sufficient supplies of those more fortifying liquors which are necessary, and they call upon the Government to reduce the taxation, and they introduce the idea that it is hardly possible now for an ordinary publican to make a living. Of course the publican never makes a living. He is dying in the business. He dies off more rapidly than the man engaged in any other business in the country. That is shown by the statistics of insurance organisations. Even though the man behind the bar be an abstainer he has not such a good chance of longevity, and is not considered so good from the point of view of insurance as men in other occupations.


May I ask, Sir, what Resolution we are now discussing?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER(Captain Fitzroy)

We are dealing with the Tea Duty.


I quite realise the difficulty, but the hon. and learned Member for Argyll got some latitude, or, if I may say so, some licence. I do not want to take up time unduly. I only want to give the hon. Member something to keep him going, and the next time I will give him more.


I should not like the House to believe that the speech delivered by the hon. and learned Member for Argyll was typical of his record. What he fired off this evening was a portion of one of his celebrated "No-licence" orations with which he toured Scotland during the past two or three years, though he left out, it is true, the part about the men who eat meat digging their graves with their own teeth, and other perorations which are used for the people in Scotland. But when he went on to say that the injury to the human body due to tea drinking was far greater than the injury to the human body due to the consumption of alcohol, I think that he was stretching even his well-known reputation for exaggeration on the platform. An hon. Member on my left apparently treated the hon. and learned Member for Argyll, with regard to the injury caused by tea drinking, quite seriously. I have not heard of tea drinking sending men to the poor house. I have most of the statistics which the hon. Member has got, and I do not know of any statistics which show that tea drinking leads to a breach of the peace.

I know of no statistics which show that when men are engaging motor drivers they insist that they shall not be tea drinkers; but I do know that there are innumerable instances of men, engaged as motor drivers or chaffeurs, whose employers stipulate that they shall not drink the commodity, which is so largely produced in Argyllshire, of which the hon. and learned Member is a supporter. Further, regarding the injury to the human frame. It is true, I believe, that the hon. and learned Member is correct in saying that continual overdoses of tea will tan the stomach. Over-indulgence in anything is bad, but I have never heard of tea discolouring the nasal organs of people, at least to the same extent as whisky or other alcohol discolours those of so many supporters of the hon. and learned Member for Argyll. I do not quite follow the argument of the hon. and learned Member. He said that a high duty meant high profits. He supports a high duty. Therefore, we may take it that when he next goes to Argyllshire we are quite in order in telling the electors that the hon. and learned Member is in favour of high profits on tea.


High profits for everybody.


The hon. and learned Member did not say that; that is an addendum. In his speech this afternoon the hon. and learned Member argued in favour of high profits for those who were engaged in the tea industry.


I pointed out that if you had high taxation in any commodity those who were engaged made big profits.


I do not think that I have misrepresented the hon. and learned Gentleman. He said that a high duty meant high profits. He is in favour of the high duty, and, therefore, he is in favour of the high profit. I trust that when he goes amongst the poor men and women of Argyllshire he will explain why it is that he made a speech here in favour of high profits upon tea. At any rate, some of us will be at considerable pains to remind his electors of the point. The hon. and learned Member also said that the cheap teas were consumed at the ducal mansions.


I said the mansions of the wealthy.


I withdraw the word "ducal." It is only the exceedingly rich with whom the hon. and learned Member is acquainted; he does not know anything about dukes. He says it is the very rich who drink the cheap teas. They go in for the sweepings. The poor in the slums we can see coming out from the slums to buy China tea at 5s. and 6s. a pound. I can only say that if that is his experience of the poorest of the poor and of the very rich, it differs considerably from the experience of every other observer of the social habits of the people. The hon. and learned Member also stated that the Mover of the Amendment, a railwayman, had said that engine drivers took some tea in order to keep them awake, and this was regarded evidently as a matter for hostile comment. The commodities, a larger consumption of which the hon. and learned Member urges, do not keep you awake; they are soporific drugs; and I am certain that, whatever be the opinion of hon. Members regarding the comparative merits of alcohol and tea, there is no one who travels on the railways who would, like the hon. and learned Member for Argyll, urge that engine drivers should be encouraged to consume alcohol, at least when they are in charge of the lives of the people.


I did not make that remark. That is an invention of the hon. Member.


I did not state that the hon. and learned Member had said so. I said that, whatever might be the differences of opinion in this House regarding the relative merits of the alcohol, a large consumption of which he urges, and tea, which we would prefer to see consumed, at any rate there would be no difference of opinion in this House on this point—that we ought not to encourage engine drivers to drink alcohol, and there would be a general consensus of opinion that it would be better for them to drink tea.


I concur. I prefer that the driver should drink tea and have indigestion.


This Socratic dialogue has its advantages. In future discussions of this subject in Scotland, we shall be able to quote the hon. and learned Member as a distinguished though somewhat belated convert to the idea that it is far better for those who are in charge of the lives of the people to drink tea instead of alcohol.


We have had only one spokesman so far from these benches, and I submit that in a matter of this importance it is only natural that Liberals should support this Amendment, following the best traditions of Gladstonian finance—the tradition of a free breakfast table for the people. I wish with others to enter my protest against the fact that this Budget does nothing for the indirect taxpayer. I think I am correct in saying that this is the first time for many years that the indirect taxpayer has not benefited from the Budget. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury contrasted the percentage of taxation paid by the indirect taxpayer before the War with what he pays now. Before the War it was 42 per cent.; to-day it is 34 per cent., or, as the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) suggested, nearly 37 per cent. Though there might have been this slight fall, we cannot get away from the fact that before the War the indirect taxpayer was bearing more than his share of the burden of the finances of the country. When you realise that in the great majority of cases the wages of our people are worth less to-day in purchasing power than they were before the War, you realise also that the burden of indirect taxation is heavier now than it was at that time. In many of the large industries, especially the depressed industries, iron and steel and coal, the percentage rise in wages is between 30 per cent. and 40 per cent. as compared with wages before the War, but the cost of food has increased by something like 70 per cent. Therefore, there is a just claim that the indirect taxpayer should have some relief.

Reference has been made to the added burden thrown upon the industrial worker by the pension scheme adumbrated by the Chancellor of Exchequer. In addition to that, since the War the Unemployment Insurance contributions have been increased by 4d. per week, adding a very considerable burden to the industrial worker. The worker's weekly budget is heavily handicapped by this indirect taxa- tion. We must try to realise what it means in the budget of the ordinary worker who gets from 30s. to 40s. a week. I submit that we have a right to claim that when the Chancellor of Exchequer is giving largesse to Super-tax and Income Tax payers, the industrial worker should have some consideration. At a time when unemployment is so rife and wages are so low, it is not fair that the Super-tax payer should enjoy the benefit of the millions which the Chancellor of Exchequer is distributing, and that the industrial worker should not receive any relief. Alternative methods of taxation have been suggested. There are luxuries which could be taxed, such as diamonds and furs, so as to give relief to the industrial worker. It is wishing against hope, no doubt, and but for that fact I would say that I trust that the Chancellor of Exchequer may even yet see his way to give some relief to the workers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide! "]

Captain BENN

Hon. Members opposite would do well to restrain their impatience, because there are some Members of the House who intend to fight this Budget, and to fight it at every stage. I propose to draw attention to the very heavy charge not only of this duty but of much of the indirect taxation upon articles of food, which is, in fact, imposed upon the working-class household. I should have thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is such a new-found friend of Imperial Preference, could have seen, in reference to a commodity which comes mostly from Empire sources, another opportunity of remitting taxation. But he has not done that. He reserves that for other things, and insists on maintaining the Tea Duty at 4d., the same as last year, upon what is an essential food. Tea is a necessary food. Everybody, who knows anything about the way in which people in humble circumstances live, knows that a teapot is on the hob all day long. It provides the man with a cup of tea before he goes to work in the morning, and all day long it is there to provide tea for the mother and the children. It is not, perhaps, as good as it might be, but it is one of the chief articles of consumption. What hon. Members sometimes overlook is the fact that you must not consider the burden of these indirect taxes in relation to the total income or wage of a worker. You have to consider the margin that he has to spare for taxation. Looked at in that way, the burden of these taxes—.


How was it that the party of the hon. and gallant Gentleman resisted all the reductions on Empire products when we discussed them last year?

Captain BENN

The hon. and gallant Member is the head and sole membership of a party, and he always resents any taunts about the condition of that party. He asks me to embark on a Debate which the Deputy-Speaker would prevent at once, if I started it. We shall discuss the question of Empire Preference when it arises on the Finance Bill. In the meantime this burden of indirect taxation must be regarded in relation to the taxable margin which is available in a working-class budget. What is that margin? Take an engineer earning 47s. a week. First of all, he must have a house to live in. Often he has to pay an excessive price for it. He must have food for himself, his wife and his children; he must have clothes, he must pay his club subscription if he belongs to a friendly society and he must pay his insurance contributions. He must have some margin for the pictures. [Laughter.] I see nothing humorous about that statement. One of the hon. Gentleman opposite who is laughing is an entertainer himself, and he should not seek to deprive the working class of the harmless joys of the silent stage. These charges absorb a very large proportion, if not the whole, and sometimes perhaps more, than the whole of the very slender wage earned by these people. What has such a man to pay in indirect taxation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has money for the Super-tax payer and for the Income Tax payer and for the fighting Services?


And who has put on higher Death Duties.

Captain BENN

The hon. Member speaks feelingly. Such a man as I

describe has to pay a tax on tea. If he consumes spirits or beer he has to pay heavy taxation on those commodities; he has to pay a very heavy tax on tobacco which is also a necessary; he has to pay a tax on sugar, and now there will be the new insurance stamps. His daughters have to pay a tax on such harmless and cheap luxuries or adornments as they care to purchase in the nature of artificial silk. When these sums are added together it will be found that the tax on such a man is more like 10s. or 12s. Income Tax than the sort of light tax which hon. Gentlemen opposite would represent it to be. [HON. MEMBERS: "No ! "] I do not knew if hon. Gentlemen opposite have really seized my point. The point is that we must regard indirect taxation in comparison with the margin which a man has available to meet taxation after providing himself with the necessaries of existence. We find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is imposing an 8s., 10s., and even a 12s. tax on the incomes of such people as I have described. As we know, there is plenty of money. There are the Death Duties to which the hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Erskine) has just referred which are going to be increased, and the Estimates could be reduced. Last year I hesitated to vote for this Amendment, because the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was snaking great remissions, and he had not the opportunity of the present Chancellor to find the money. Therefore, on the ground of responsibility I did not then vote for this Amendment. At the same time, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer this year has failed to reduce taxation, has found new sources of taxation and is letting off rich people all the way round, I think the least this House can do is to vote for this simple reduction on an article of universal working-class consumption.

Question put, "That the word ' four-pence ' stand part of the Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 306; Noes, 151.

Division No. 82.] AYES. [5.50 p.m.
Acland Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Ashmead Bartlett, E. Beamish, Captain T.P.H.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Astbury, Lieut. Commander F. W. Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)
Ainsworth, Major Charles Atholl, Duchess of Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.
Albery, Irving James Atkinson, C. Benn, Sir A.S. (Plymouth, Drake)
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby) Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Bennett, A.J.
Applin, Colonel R.V.K. Barclay Harvey, C. M. Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish
Ashley, Lt. Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Barnett, Major Richard W. Berry, Sir George
Bethell, A. Frece, Sir Walter de Marriott, Sir J. A. R.
Betterton, Henry B. Fremantle, Lieut. Colonel Francis E. Mason, Lieut. Col. Glyn K.
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Galbraith, J. F. W. Meller, R. J.
Blades, Sir George Rowland Ganzoni, Sir John Merriman, F. B.
Blundell, F. N. Gates, Percy Meyer, Sir Frank
Boothby, R. J. G. Gauit, Lieut. Col. Andrew Hamilton Milne, J. S. Wardlaw
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Gee, Captain R. Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)
Brass, Captain W. Gilmour, Lt. Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)
Brassey, Sir Leonard Glyn, Major R. G. C. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Goff, Sir Park Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon B. M.
Briggs, J. Harold Grace, John Moore, Sir Newton J.
Briscoe, Richard George Greene, W. P. Crawford Morden, Col. W. Grant
Brittain, Sir Harry Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. Morrison, H. (Wilts. Salisbury)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Grotrian, H. Brent Morrison Bell, Sir Arthur Clive
Brooke, Brigadler General C. R. I. Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Nelson, Sir Frank
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Gunston, Captain D. W. Neville, R. J.
Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd, Hexham) Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Brown, Brig. Gen. H. C.(Berks,Newb'y) Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Buckingham, Sir H. Hammersley, S. S. Nicholson, O. (Westminster)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Hanbury, C. Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Bullock, Captain M. Harland, A. Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert
Burton, Colonel H. W. Harrison, G. J. C. Oakley, T.
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Ormsby Gore, Hon. William
Cassels, J. D. Haslam, Henry C. Pennefather, Sir John
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Hawke, John Anthony Penny, Frederick George
Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth.S.) Headlam, Lieut. Colonel C. M. Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Perring, William George
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Henderson, Lieut. Col. V. L. (Bootle) Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Heneage, Lieut. Colonel Arthur P. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Ladywood) Henn, Sir Sydney H. Pilcher, G.
Chapman, Sir S. Henniker Hughan, Vice Adm. Sir A. Pilditch, Sir Philip
Charteris, Brigadier General J. Herbert, S.(York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by) Pownall, Lieut. Colonel Assheton
Christie, J. A. Hilton, Cecil Preston, William
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Hoare, Lt. Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Radford, E. A.
Churchman, Sir Arthur C Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Raine W
Clarry, Reginald George Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Ramsden, E.
Clayton, G. C. Holt, Captain H. P. Rawson, Alfred Cooper
Cobb, Sir Cyril Homan, C. W. J. Reid, Capt. A. S. C.(Warrington)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Hope, Capt. A. 0. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Reid, D. D. (County Down)
Cockerill, Brigadier General G. K. Hopkins, J. W. W. Remnant, Sir James
Cohen, Major J. Brunel Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Rentoul, G. S.
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Howard, Capt. Hon. D. (Cumb., N.) Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Conway, Sir W. Martin Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Rice, Sir Frederick
Cooper, A. Duff Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'and, Whiteh'n) Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Cope, Major William Hume, Sir G. H. Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)
Couper, J. B. Hunter Weston, Lt. Gen. Sir Aylmer Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Courtauld, Major J. S. Huntingfield, Lord Ropner, Major L.
Courthope, Lieut. Col. George L. Hurd, Percy A. Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn. N.) Hurst, Gerald B. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim) Hutchison, G. A. Clark(Mldl'n & P'bl's) Rye, F. G.
Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Salmon, Major I.
Croft, Brigadier General Sir H. Jackson, Lieut. Colonsi Hon. F. S. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Crook, C. W. Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Sanderson, Sir Frank
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Jacob, A. E. Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro) Kennedy, A. R. (Preston) Savery, S. S.
Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert Kidd, J. (Linilthgow) Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)
Curzon, Captain Viscount King, Captain Henry Douglas Shaw, Lt. Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)
Dalkeith, Earl of Kinlcch Cooke, Sir Clement Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)
Dalziel,Sir Davison Knox, Sir Alfred Sheffield,Sir Krkeley
Davidson,J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd) Lamb, J. Q. Shepperson, E. W.
Davidson, Major General Sir J. H. Lane Fox, Colonel George R. Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton) Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Skelton, A. N.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil) Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Smith, R.W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Locker Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Smith Carington, Neville W.
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Loder, J. de V. Smithers, Waldron
Dawson, Sir Philin Lougher, L. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Doyle, Sir N. Grattan Lucas Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Spender Clay, Colonel H.
Drewe, C. Luce, Major Gen. Sir Richard Harman Stanley, Col. Hon.G.F. (Will'sden, E.)
Eden, Captain Anthony Lumley, L. R. Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Edmondson, Major A. J. MacAndrew, Charles Glen Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
Elliot, Captain Walter E. Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart) steel, Major Samuel Strang
Ellis, R. G. McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus Stott, Lieut. Colonel W. H.
Elveden, Viscount Maclntyre, Ian Strickland, Sir Gerald
Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth McLean, Major A. Stuart, Crichton, Lord C.
Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South) Macmillan, Captain H. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Everard, W. Lindsay Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Styles, Captain H. Walter
Fairfax, Captain J. G. McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Sueter, Rear Admiral Murray Fraser
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Macquisten, F. A. Tasker, Major R. Inigo
Falls, Sir Charles F. MacRobert, Alexander M. Templeton, W. P.
Fanshawe, Commander G. D. Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Flelden, E. B. Makins, Brigadier General E. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)
Fleming, D. P. Malone, Major P. B. Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Croydon,S.)
Forestier-Walker, L. Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Tichfield, Major the Marquess of
Fraser,Captain lai Margesson, Capt. D. Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Wallace, Captain D. E. Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern) Wood, Rt. Hon. E.(York, W. R., Ripon)
Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston on Hull) Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay) Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Warner, Brigadier General W. W. Williams, Herbert G. (Reading) Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)
Warrender, Sir Victor Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central) Wood, Sir S. Hill (High Peak)
Waterhouse, Captain Charles Winby, Colonel L. P. Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley) Wlndsor Clive, Lieut. Colonel George Worthington Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl Wragg, Herbert
Watts, Dr. T. Wise, Sir Fredric Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Wells, S. R. Wolmer, Viscount
Wheler, Major Granville C. H. Womersley, W. J. TELLERS FOR THE AYES —
White, Lieut. Colonel G. Dalrymple Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater) Colonel Gibbs and Major Hennessy.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Hastings, Sir Patrick Scurr, John
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hayday, Arthur Sexton, James
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hayes, John Henry Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Ammon, Charles George Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hirst, G. H. Sitch, Charles H.
Barnes, A. Hore-Belisha, Leslie Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Barr, J. Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfieldl Smillie, Robert
Batey, Joseph Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhlthe)
Beckett, John (Gateshead) John, William (Rhondda, West) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Snell, Harry
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Briant, Frank Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
Bromfield, William Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles
Bromley, J. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Stamford, T. W.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Kelly, W. T. Stephen, Campbell
Buchanan, G. Kenworthy, Lt. Com. Hon. Joseph M. Sutton, J. E.
Cape, Thomas Kenyon, Barnet Taylor, R. A.
Charleton, H. C. Kirkwood, D. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Clowes, S. Lansbury, George Thomas, Sir Robort John (Anglesey)
Cluse, W. S. Lawson, John James Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Lee, F. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock) Lowth, T. Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)
Crawfurd H. E. Lunn, William Thurtle, E.
Dalton, Hugh Mackinder, W. Tinker, John Joseph
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) MacLaren, Andrew Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Varley, Frank B.
Day, Colonel Harry March, S. Vlant, S. P.
Dennison, R. Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley) Wallhead, Richard C.
Duckworth, John Montague, Frederick Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Dunnico, H. Morris, R. H. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Edwards, John H.(Accrington) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Watts Morgan, Lt. Col. D. (Rhondda)
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.) Murnln, H. Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Fenby, T. D. Naylor, T. E. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Forrest, W. O'Connor, Thomas P. Welsh, J. C.
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Oliver, George Harold Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Gillett, George M. Owen, Major G. Whiteley, W.
Gosling, Harry Paling, W. Wignall, James
Graham, D. M. (Lanark,Hamilton) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edln., Cent.) Pethick Lawrence, F. W. Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Greenall, T. Ponsonby, Arthur Williams, David (Swansea, E.)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Potts, John S. Williams, Dr. J. H.(Lianelly)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Rees, Sir Beddoe Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Grigg, Lieut. Col. Sir Edward W. M. Richardson, R. (Houghton le Spring) Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Groves, T. Riley, Ben Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Grundy, T. W. Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W.Bromwich) Windsor, Walter
Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell) Wright, W.
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Robinson,W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland) Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Hardie, George D. Rose, Frank H.
Harney, E. A. Salter, Dr. Alfred TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Harris, Percy A. Scrymgeour, E. Mr. T. Kennedy and Mr. Warne.

Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.