§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."706
Sir HILTON YOUNG
Before we pass this Clause, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is always so helpful and so lucid, to tell us briefly what its effect is and why it is necessary. If it were possible for the uninitiated to discover, by any amount of research and hard work, what the effect of it is, I would not venture to trouble the right hon. Gentleman hut, as this Clause stands, it is quite impossible for the uninitiated to discover what its provisions mean, and, under the circumstances, I do not think it will be a waste of time if the right hon. Gentleman tells us what in effect we are voting upon.
This Clause affects a considerable number of people, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will naturally wish to give the House that full and complete information which is, usually given by the Treasury. 707 It will be noted that this Clause deals with methylated spirits. These, I believe, are used by certain people for various causes. Rumour has it that sometimes it is used by teetotalers to enable them to rouse themselves for taking part in debates and so forth. I have no knowledge of that part of the subject, but I would ask if, under this Clause, teetotalers will be prevented in any way from getting this commodity. I do not know if this Clause will help the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to remove his deficit in any way or whether it is merely a part of the machinery of the Bill.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Ronald McNeill)
I would like to express my gratitude to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Torquay (Commander Williams) for enlightening the Committee and for giving me an opportunity to dive into the recesses of my box. I do not know that the question which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Norwich (Sir Hilton Young) really requires very much elucidation, because the Clause does very little. But what it does do is very necessary. Hitherto, the regulation of the manufacture of spirits has been governed by the Spirits Act. That Act was placed on the Statute Book at a time when there was comparatively little use made of spirits for industrial manufacturing purposes. It is quite true, as has been pointed out by a writer in the "Times," that it is not by any means a modern habit to use spirits in industry, but the amount used until comparatively recently was inconsiderable, I think about 4 per cent. of the total consumption. Now things have altered, and a very considerable use is being made of spirits for different forms of manuacture. We have reason to believe that we are on the eve of a very much larger development of its use. If the Spirits Act, which imposes very strict regulations upon the production and the method of production of spirits, remained unmodified, it would be very hampering to the use of spirits for industrial purposes. Consequently, we are asking the Committee to give us much wider powers of discretion in regard to the use for industrial purposes of alcohol in its various forms, while safeguarding the revenue, of course, from any encroachment 708 upon it when spirits are used as a beverage. We are asking the Committee to give us this power in order that different forms of alcohol may be produced and handled, because one of the most difficult and restricted parts of the Act relates to the handling of it. If this Clause, with other Clauses which have been introduced, will relieve industry from that burden I have no doubt the Committee will readily agree to it.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I listened with interest to the explanation of the Financial Secretary, but there is one point on which I am not quite clear. I should like to ask him whether this is going to make any difference to the revenue. I understand that the provisions which have been in operation in past years have been found to be rather limited and, consequently, they are to be extended in order to provide for the greater use of alcohol and spirits in connection with various processes. Are we to understand that there will be no difference to the revenue one way or the other?
§ Clauses 13 (Provisions with respect to certain processes of distillation), 14 (Amendment as to allowances in respect of spirits), 15 (Power to make regulations requiring returns with respect to importation, etc., of certain, alcohols), and 16 (Bottling of spirits in warehouse), ordered to stand part of the Bill.