§ Mr. RILEY
I beg to move, in page 1, line 18, at the beginning, to insert the words "In lieu of."
The purpose of the Amendment is, of course, to try and induce the Committee to make a reduction of the Tea Duty from 4d. to 1d. per lb. I have no hesitation in saying that we desire to challenge the whole policy of the taxation of commodities for household use as being not only inequitable, but entirely unnecessary as a policy of national taxation. I also make no apology for detaining the Committee on this Amendment, although by general agreement this subject is regarded as being threadbare. As far as I am concerned, and, I feel sure, as far as my colleagues are concerned, so long as there is a vestige of taxation remaining upon articles such as tea we shall always, I hope, offer the most uncompromising opposition. I notice that on this occasion, as on other occasions, certain Members of the party below the Gangway are also showing by the Amendments which they have placed upon the Order Paper a lively interest in the attempt to bring about a reduction in duties of this kind. Those of us who have always stood for the policy of relieving foodstuffs of all burdens of taxation welcome the support either of the party below the Gangway or of any other section of the Committee.
It is worth while at the outset, in view of the enthusiasm which has been shown by some Members of the party below the Gangway with regard to this policy, to recall that if the Liberal party in those favourable days of 1906 to 1914 had not been weak and insincere with regard to their professions in favour of this policy we need not have been debating this question in this Committee this afternoon. I will not use harsher words regarding them than that they lacked sincerity and courage. It is, I think, worth while to temper the support that is given to us this afternoon by our friends below the Gangway by recalling 62 that from 1906 to 1914 they as a party continuously had a majority in this House and for the larger part of the time a majority bigger than the present Government enjoy. Yet when the War broke out in 1914 the Tea Duty stood, I think, at 5d. per pound, which is 1d. more than it is at the present time, and this notwithstanding the long and loud professions made by the Liberal party of a free breakfast table. We welcome the repentance although it is somewhat tardy, and we hope that they will carry as many of their friends with them on this occasion in support of this Amendment as their professions on the subject indicate that they would do.
What are the main features of this duty? In the first place, the duty weighs heaviest upon the largest family and upon the poorest family. The larger the family and the poorer the family the heavier is the tax, because the poorer and the larger the family the move they are driven to the use of tea as a common beverage. Thus the consumption of tea is increased as the size and poverty of the family increases. Obviously, from that point of view, the duty presses most heavily upon the people who are least able to bear it. It outrageously violates the accepted principle that taxation should be imposed according to the ability to bear it.
It may be argued, and no doubt will be argued this afternoon, that the amount of the duty is not a very substantial burden, oven upon the poorest household. What are the facts? The facts are that on an average the burden per household is from 14s. to 17s. per annum. A tax of 4d. a pound works out, roughly, in an average household, at from 14s. to 17s. per annum. It may be argued that that is not a very substantial burden. It may not be a substantial burden from the point of view of the households with which most of us may personally be acquainted, and especially from the point of view of the households with which hon. Members opposite are usually in contact; but I need not remind my hon. Friends on these benches that in thousands of households in the mining areas, where not a single person is being employed, [...]4s. becomes a very serious burden, and its remission would therefore be a very substantial relief. The argument that it is not a serious burden is one which will not hold water to-day.
63 4.0. p.m.
Another feature of this particular duty on tea is that the people least able to bear taxation in actual practice have to pay the largest proportion of the duty. Hon. Members are aware that this duty is not an ad valorem duty; it is a duty per pound. Whether a pound of tea is 1s. 6d. or is 3s. 6d. the duty is the same. Therefore, this means that thousands and thousands of the poorest people, the unemployed, widows and others, are taxed to the extent of something like 28 per cent. of the price of the article that they require. A tax of 4d. a pound on the cheapest tea works out at something like 28 per cent., whereas, if you take tea at 3s. 6d. a pound, which, after all, is not an expensive kind of tea, the duty will be only 10 per cent. From that point of view, hon. Members will realise the unfairness and inequality of the incidence of the duty. I know that we shall be told this afternoon, either by the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Financial Secretary that that argument does not apply, and we shall be reminded of the statement of a Chancellor of the Exchequer that the working classes do not buy cheap tea. What are the facts? I contend that the argument is an entire misrepresentation. It may be quite true, and no doubt it is true, that the majority of the comfortable working classes have the good sense, if circumstances permit, to buy tea of a good quality and pay a decent price, but there are hundreds of thousands of casual workers who have to buy their tea, not by the pound or half-pound, but a quarter of a pound and even twopennyworth at a time, and to those people the price is three or four shillings a pound, although they buy tea of the lowest price.
There is another point to which I want to refer. I submit that this tax is thoroughly unsound from an economic point of view. We have recently had many speeches upon the Budget as to the burdens upon production. There is provision made for relieving production by something like £29,000,000. I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he does not regard the ratio of cost of living, its rise and fall, as just as much a burden upon production as rates upon local premises? I need not say that if the cost of living went up substantially 64 or Income Tax or other taxes, they would affect the cost of production. On that ground, the whole community subject to this burden of the Tea Duty is entitled to the same consideration, and to more, than is given to rich people who do not need relief at all. As far as I can find out, there are only two arguments which on the many occasions this duty has been debated, have been put forward in defence of it. The first, as I understand it, is that it would be unfair and impolitic to relieve the mass of the people of the country of all taxation, the inference being that the millions of people who do not pay direct taxes must pay taxation in some other way, indirectly upon tea, sugar and so on.
That is the first argument which, I understand, is used against the remission of this duty. I do not accept that argument, and, as long as there is a single pound of unearned income or of super-income which is above a decent, necessary standard of life, I am opposed to indirect taxation of any kind at all. On that ground, I say that the argument does not hold water and, what is more, it violates the principles which have been embodied in legislation in this House over and over again. What is the basis of the Income Tax? Time after time it has been affirmed that you have no right to call upon any member of the State to contribute to Income Tax until he has a minimum income which gives him a decent standard of life. Can anyone contend that you have not to-day tens of thousands of people in the mining areas below a decent standard of life? Can it be contended that a wage to-day of £2 a week can provide a decent living? Yet this tax is imposed upon those people. On that ground, therefore, the argument that these people ought to pay this tax if they do not pay Income Tax is also unsound.
The other argument, the main argument, put forward, is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not possibly afford to remit the duty, which, everyone agrees, is not an ideal or even an equitable method of raising money. If the Amendment be accepted, it means about £4,500,000 per annum, and yet in this very Budget a new policy is put forward which is to raise £29,000,000 for another purpose, and that £29,000,000 is to go largely to one section—the landed interest.
§ The CHAIRMAN
We cannot have a general discussion on other forms of taxation. It is quite true that upon the Resolution for the Tea Duty it has been the custom to allow discussion about direct and indirect taxation, but not on a Clause of the Finance Bill.
§ Mr. RILEY
Of course, I shall respect your ruling, but I submit, at the same time, that I am perfectly entitled to produce arguments which have been used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to refer to what is being done in another direction, in support of my claim that if the State can afford one thing it can afford the other. I submit that that is a perfectly fair argument to use.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
On the point of Order. Are we to understand that in this Debate on the Tea Duty we are not to refer, as my hon. Friend referred, to the incidence of relief which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is proposing, and other taxes?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have been refreshing my memory on the subject, and I find that, on the Resolution for the Tea Duty when first brought in, a general discussion upon the question of indirect taxation has been allowed by custom, but that is not so when the Clauses of the Finance Bill have been reached. Then the arguments must be confined to the Tea Duty itself. Of course a passing reference to other forms of taxation would be in order, but the hon. Gentleman seems to me to be going into the whole question of how the Petrol Duty is to be distributed, and, that being so, I think I ought to stop this discussion from the very first.
§ Mr. RILEY
I was not intending to discuss that. I was only mentioning an example of what was being done, to rebut the chief argument used on these occasions against the remission of this duty, namely, that the country cannot afford it. I submit that if the argument is again put forward against this Amendment that the country cannot afford it, we are entitled to point out that in this particular Budget large sums of money are being found for other purposes, and, in one case, money is being wasted upon those who do not need it.
§ Mr. GILLETT
I always feel inclined to offer a word of congratulation to an hon. Member who moves an Amendment 66 on the Tea Duty, and finds anything at all new to say on the subject, and my hon. Friend, it seems to me, has found many things entirely fresh to say on this occasion I cannot help thinking that if there should come a time when my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) should abolish the Tea Duty a together, a large number of Members in the House would feel that they were bereft of something that had become almost a part of their lives when they open the Committee stage of the Finance Bill. It may be that these are the reasons which induced the Liberal party not to carry out their promise of a free breakfast table.
I want to say a word or two about the tea trade, because the proposals we are making this afternoon to impose a duty on tea, and, at the same time, to give, as the Clause does, Imperial preference, entitles us to pay a little attention to what is happening in the tea trade itself. I was rather interested, in looking at the figures in regard to the imports of tea into this country, published in the last Report on Customs and Excise, to find that, although the total figure in lbs. is given at 415,000,000, an increase of 9,000,000 over the previous year, there is one very interesting fact in connection with it, and one certainly which I should imagine, would be of interest to hon. Members opposite, namely, that while there was a decrease in the amount of tea that came from the British Colonies; there was a very large increase in the amount of tea that came from other quarters—China, the Dutch East Indies, and other foreign countries, so much so, that the latter figure rose about 14,000,000, while there was a fall of 5,000,000 in regard to the British Colonies. This seems to me all the more extraordinary in view of the fact that we are giving a preference to British Possessions, and the Report itself points out in its introduction that about 84 per cent. of the tea cleared during that year was of Empire origin, as compared with 87 per cent. for the year 1925–26, and 84 per cent. for the year 1924–25. In other words, we have gone back to the proportion of the year before last in comparison with the figures I am now discussing.
There is also another factor which seems to me worthy of the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We 67 find that the more expensive tea is that which comes from our own Possessions. The tea from other countries is decidedly cheaper. The average figure for Empire tea works out at 18.53d., while, for the tea from other countries, it is 15.34d. At first I wondered whether this drift, if I may so call it, in the direction of a decrease in the supply of tea coming from the Empire was only shown in the figures up to March, 1927, but when we look at the latest figures, for May, 1928, we find that there has been a total decrease in the imports for tea for the first five months of this year as compared with 1927, and that the foreign tea has held its own, almost the whole amount of the decrease having taken place in Empire tea.
I turn to see whether there is any likely explanation to be found in this country. Perhaps those who have some technical knowledge of the subject may be able to offer an explanation. I presume that the tea coming from the Empire is of better quality than the tea we are receiving from China and Java and other sources. On the other hand, it has occurred to me that the movement in the tea market a few years ago to control output might have had a prejudicial effect on the amount of tea coming to this country from the British Empire. Perhaps we are repeating the mistake that was brought before our minds so strongly when the House recently considered the question of rubber. I know the restriction placed on tea was not at all comparable to the restriction on rubber, but I notice in the "Times" to-day a small paragraph dealing with the position regarding tea, in which reference is made to the very large amount of tea held in the warehouses in this country.
There is one other factor to which I would draw attention. I take a list of dividends announced by tea companies, which appears, I suppose by chance, in "The Economist" for this week. I find one company paying 15 per cent. and another 25 per cent., while a third announces 60 per cent., compared with 50 per cent. in the previous year. Still another announces 40 per cent., instead of 25 per cent. in the previous year. Then we come to a company which has paid 68 no dividend either this year or last year, but that is followed by a company which is paying 45 per cent. this year instead of nothing; and in the further list of companies we find the following percentages: 45, 15, 7, 25, 30 (free of tax), and 15, and there is one company which has paid, for two years, a 75 per cent. dividend. These very high figures are rather extraordinary, and I wonder if the tea companies have been successful in the effort which they made some two or three years ago to limit the amount of production. At the same time it seems to me that the question which confronts the Chancellor of the Exchequer is that cheaper tea is coming from other countries and is being very largely bought in this country. The explanation may be that it is being bought by the poorer people because they cannot afford the higher-priced tea.
While hon. Members opposite may be in favour of an Imperial preference, it seems very doubtful whether such a preference is justified, if the companies concerned are keeping their prices high and penalising the poorer people and even making the cheaper tea which comes from other countries more expensive than it would otherwise be. No doubt it has been found possible to put the duty upon the consumer of the cheaper tea without bringing it up to the figure charged by the English companies, and, to me, that is a question which seriously affects the whole incidence of the tax which we are now considering. The Mover of the Amendment has referred to the other aspects of the subject. The question as to direct and indirect taxation does not arise on this occasion but, as an old standing principle, I entirely agree with the Mover of the Amendment in opposing the imposition of any taxation upon tea which is such a necessity in the lives of practically all the people of this country. Among the poorer class of people, and especially among the older women, tea is almost a necessity of life, and if this duty is increasing the price, as we know it must be, I am opposed to it. I am equally opposed to the preference if it means that, while allowing the larger duty to go through, we are also putting a further burden upon an article which is so essential to the poorest of our people.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Arthur Michael Samuel)
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Gillett) for raising this point as to the relative quantities of Empire and foreign tea which are being imported. The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pilcher) drew my attention to this matter when we last debated the Tea Duty, and I promised to look into the facts. I think it is an important matter, and those who are competent to examine and analyse the position in this respect will do so. I think we shall be able to have some explanation of the reason in due course. It may interest the Committee to know that the percentage of Empire tea, in relation to the whole imports, has shown a falling off and that there has been an increase in the amount of foreign tea imported.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I have the figures here for 1911–1913 compared with 1927–1928, but I must point out to hon. Members that the figures of 1911–1913 are for the United Kingdom, including Southern Ireland, whereas those for 1927–1928 include Northern Ireland only. Perhaps I can best explain matters to the Committee by reading the figures. In 1911–1913, out of a total 268,000,000 lbs., 87 per cent. was Empire, and in 1927–1928, out of a total of 402,000,000 lbs., 81 per cent. was Empire. The Chinese importation has fallen considerably—from 4 per cent. in 1911–1913 to 2.7 per cent. in 1927–1928, and other foreign imports have fallen from 6 in 1911–1913 to 3 in 1927–1928; but the importation from Java and Sumatra has risen from 8.0 per cent. in 1911–1913 to 15.1 per cent. in 1927–1928. That is an interesting economic question and will have to be looked into carefully.
I shall endeavour to be as brief as possible in reply to the speeches made on behalf of this Amendment. We went into this matter exhaustively last month and I have no desire to weary the Committee by dealing further with the points which were dealt with by me in the Debate on that occasion. The fact of the matter is that if this series of Amendments were accepted, it would mean a loss to the Exchequer in the whole year of between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 because, of course, it would include coffee, 70 chicory and cocoa. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said on more than one occasion that if he had £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 to spare he would like to see a free breakfast table of Empire foods as much as anyone, though there are other necessities, the cost of which bears heavily upon the poorer section of our fellow-citizens and to the relief of which he would rather devote that money. [HON. MEMBERS: "What are they?"] There is sugar to begin with; and, while it is all very well for people to say that tobacco is not a necessity, yet it is a harmless and innocent and necessary comfort for a large portion of the population of this country.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
In regard to tea, to what does the duty amount? The Colwyn Committee has pointed out that the total burden per head, per annum, in respect of Tea Duty is 2s. 7d. I am quite ready to agree that every farthing on the shoulders of a poor man is a burden, but can anyone say that 2s. 7d. per year is a heavy burden?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
It is all relative, and 2s. 7d. par year, per person, although a burden, could not, I think, be described by any hon. Member opposite, even by the widest imagination, as a heavy burden. For that reason and for those which have already been stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, these Amendments are not such as we can ask the Committee to accept.
§ Mr. VIANT
I listened very attentively to the Financial Secretary's reply—or his attempt to reply—to the points made by the previous speakers, and for the life of me I cannot understand his statement. We are everlastingly being told about the need for improving trade and, even though the duty on tea is said to amount only to 2s. 7d. per head of the population per annum, the removal of that imposition would mean a vast improvement in the purchasing power of the mass of the people in this country. We are told that the revenue from it amounts to £6,000,000 per annum, and I suggest that if that £6,000,000 were spread over the mass of the people, they would spend it in 71 purchasing other necessaries of life. We take the view which is shared by a large number of people in the country, that the device of indirect taxation is resorted to solely for the purpose of keeping the mass of the people in general ignorance as to the amount of taxation which they are paying. There can be no other reason for it, and we stand firmly by the principle that the people of the country are entitled to know precisely the amount of taxation which they are called upon to pay.
No argument has yet been produced to justify indirect taxation on moral or ethical grounds. It cannot be defended on moral or ethical grounds and it is exceedingly difficult to defend it on economic grounds. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Gillett) and the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) have proved conclusively that there is no economic justification for this duty and we feel that we are entitled to a fuller reply than that made by the Financial Secretary. We can appreciate his difficulty in replying to the speeches which were made against this duty, but I had hoped that some sort of justification would have been offered for its continuance. The burden of this tax upon old age pensioners is worthy of consideration by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They only get their 10s. a week, and draw it from the Post Office which is invariably situated in a grocer's shop. Having drawn their pension, too small, from one counter, they turn to the other counter in order to purchase tea and sugar, and immediately they do so the tax gatherer is upon them and they are called upon to pay what in my opinion is an inhuman and unjust tax. This question, I agree, is raised annually, but that is no reason why it should he dismissed lightly, and I hope we shall continue to raise it every year until we have aroused public opinion, driven the present Chancellor of the Exchequer from office and put in his place a man who is prepared to deal out justice to these poor people.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
The Financial Secretary did not make a long speech in reply to the Amendment, but he said something to which I think the Committee should give immediate attention. He replied to the point made 72 by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Gillett) and the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pilcher) in the previous Debate with regard to the ratio between Empire and foreign imported tea, and I understand that as a result of the Debate on the Budget Resolution that the Financial Secretary is to make some special inquiries into the matter. I should like to know the purpose of that inquiry; whether it is to provide for some future change in the amount of preference to be given to Empire tea, or whether it is simply to satisfy the curiosity of the hon. Member for Falmouth and Penryn? If the inquiry is intended to propose some scheme for increasing the taxation upon foreign imported tea as compared with Empire tea, then I think the Committee should be told about it now.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I have the assurance from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there is no intention of increasing the amount of preference——
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The correction of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is significant, and that is why I am asking the Financial Secretary to tell us the purpose of the inquiry that is to be set up; whether it is a move in the direction of increasing the preference in regard to Empire tea?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
When the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pilcher) raised this question on May 1st, 1928, I said this:I will look into the facts when the Budget discussions are over."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1928; col. 1566, Vol. 216.]
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
When I read in cold type what the Financial Secretary has said I shall feel satisfied that I have done right in raising this point this afternoon. The figures which have been quoted in the Debate are very misleading. They are taken for different periods and they are not always trade periods, and it is very important when you are dealing with the question of the total imports at any time from any part of the world of a commodity like tea that 73 you should take the trade year. Perhaps the Financial Secretary will oblige me by taking into consideration with the figures in the Trade and Navigation Accounts, figures given by Messrs. McMeekin & Co. in their trade report—(I have the figures here)—which show quite conclusively that although there has been an increase in imports from sources like Java and Sumatra, there has also been an increase from British East. Indies and Ceylon. The total figures of imports are, in 1922, 255,000,000 lbs.; in 1924, 294,000,000 lbs., and in 1927, 304,000,000 lbs. The increase in tea imported from Ceylon between 1922 and 1927 is from 111,000,000 lbs. to 142,000,000 lbs., and in the case of Java and Sumatra the increase is from 38,000,000 to 75,000,000 lbs. There is nothing to be alarmed about in that, and it is only natural when you have a serious decrease in the purchasing power of a large number of the population that if there is a cheaper tea to be obtained for sale as a separate commodity or for blending that the community should have access to it. I hope the Financial Secretary, therefore, will not be led into a false position by the inquiry he is making.
It has been mentioned that the imports for the first few months of this year have gone down, but if hon. Members will read "The Times Trade Supplement" for 23rd June, they will see that the stocks of tea in the bonded warehouses at the end of May amounted to 195,000,000 lbs., as compared with 157,000,000 this time last year. Apparently, we are considerably up in stocks of tea in the bonded warehouses. There is also the remark later on in the Trade Supplement of the "Times" that "consumption lags." For the last five years there has been a steady increase in the consumption of tea, even taking the basis of the consumption per head of population. Five years ago, it was 8.6 lbs. per head of population, whereas to-day it is rather more than 9 lbs. per head. But at the present time it looks as if consumption is lagging a little. This may arise from two causes. One undoubtedly is the accumulation of cheap tea. Poor people do not always want to buy a cheap class of tea, although they want to buy tea cheap. They want tea which will be most economical in its use. The other reason is the actual decrease in the purchasing power 74 of the people, and, having regard to trade figures and the general position of the population, there is a strong case to be made out this year for a reduction in the amount of the Tea Duty.
There is another point to which I should like to draw attention; not the consumer's side of this question, but the benefit it would be to trade generally if this duty could be actually removed. It is not only the burden of the tax which keeps up the price of tea, but it is the cost to the trade in maintaining machinery to deal with the bonded warehouses and the Customs. Anyone who knows anything about the tea trade will understand that you have to keep a whole staff of people running about here and there dealing with samples before and after sales, and the leading members of the trade have been agitating for years that this position should be done away with entirely. The easiest way to do that is to get rid of the duty. The operation of a duty of this kind interferes with the ordinary flow of trade and commerce, and I ask the Financial Secretary to pay some attention to this point. The tea trade, also, has reason to complain of the treatment it often gets from the Customs officials. I have here a catalogue containing a note of one parcel of tea which was condemned by the Customs authorities on its arrival in this country as not being a proper type of tea for consumption. When inquiry was made as to why the tea was condemned no reply was given. The only answer was, "Take it away." No technical advice is given, nor is any report made, but the next stage is that the tea is exported and then re-imported and accepted by the very people who had refused it on the previous occasion. Restrictions and interferences of this kind increase the cost of tea, which has to be passed on to the consumer.
When you consider that the total revenue which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets from this duty is between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 surely the right hon. Gentleman will not say that it is so absolutely essential to the financial structure of this country that he cannot give partial or complete relief to the taxpayer who has to bear this burden. When we remember the way in which he has a special "down" on the housewife one is still more inclined to press for a reduction in the amount of the Tea Duty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer not only 75 refuses to reduce the Tea Duty, but he puts a tax on breakfast cups and saucers, on cutlery, and now on enamel hollow-ware——
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I submit I am not transgressing at all. I am only supporting my case for a reduction of a specific tax on the housewife in the matter of the Tea Duty by citing other instances of new and aggressive taxation which has been placed on the housewife. When you add these three taxes to the taxes placed on buttons and cottons and laces, which the housewife has to use when making her home made dress and also the tax on stockings——
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
We did not ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to repeat his offence by taxing the housewife in all these matters. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to multiply the taxes on the housewife, surely we are entitled to cite them in support of our case for a reduction of the specific duty on tea. The Financial Secretary in his speech carefully avoided answering the real burden of the case put by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) and I expect therefore a heavy vote against the Government on this issue.
§ Mr. TOWNEND
I should not have risen but for the observations of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, which illustrate the fact that the Department speaks with two voices. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) urged that the six millions or seven million pounds which is raised by the duty on tea should be used for the purpose of relieving the heavy burdens now placed upon the housewife, and in his reply the Financial Secretary said that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had these millions to spare he could do something rather better with it, put it to a more deserving cause, than relieve the housewife in relation to this particular commodity. But, surely, the Financial Secretary has forgotten the reply which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made to the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. J. Hudson) when he moved this same Amendment 12 months 76 ago? On that occasion the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the desire of the hon. Member for Huddersfield found an echo in his heart, and that the hon. Member could rest assured that the heavy burden which the duty on tea imposed would receive a very high place in the order of priority when ultimately relief was to be given. How does the Financial Secretary reconcile that statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with his own statement this afternoon, that there is very little chance of any such relief even if the money were available?
A further statement made by the Financial Secretary implied that he has not yet appreciated the seriousness of the burden which this duty imposes on the family. He said that, after all, the figures were purely relative. He said that the duty amounted to only 2s. 7d. per head per annum, and that that was a very small amount for the ordinary consumer of tea. But averages do not present the whole picture. The 2s. 7d. average includes a fairly large and influential section of the community who as a rule do not take anything like the average amount of tea or anything like as much as is consumed by the working classes of the community. The Financial Secretary's reference reminds me of a previous Chancellor of the Exchequer who now holds a very important position as head of a banking concern. That Chancellor was taking a hypothetical case, and said, "We will take the case of a man who earns 35s. per week." "No, 45s. a week," said an interrupter. "Ah," said the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, "there is very little difference indeed between 35s. and 45s. per week." Of course, those were pre-War figures.
The point I want to emphasise is this: Just as in that day the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not appreciate the importance of these very small sums as between worker and worker, so to-day there is a refusal by the Financial Secretary to appreciate the relative and serious importance of being compelled to pay 2s. 7d. per head because of the Tea Duty. Most of the workers have tea for breakfast, for dinner and for tea, and inasmuch as most of them find that tea is cheaper than beer, they have tea for supper too. Other sections of the community may drink tea only once a day. You have 77 only to enter the yard of a factory or workshop in the North and see the procession of jugs for hot water at breakfast, dinner and tea time, in order to appreciate that it is not an average of 2s. 7d. with which you are faced. Although I have not much hope than the Chancellor of the Exchequer will meet us on this particular request, yet I ask him to appreciate the fact that this burden of 17s. per family per annum would buy a good pair of boots and is therefore of importance. When once again the Chancellor is reviewing the whole question I hope that he will approach it as generously and as tenderly as in the present Budget he is approaching far less deserving sections of the community.
§ Mr. R. MORRISON
It is fairly obvious, as the Financial Secretary has spoken, that no concession is likely. The Financial Secretary in a few sentences brushed the whole question aside as if he could not be bothered with consideration of the arguments put forward, and as if the matter was hardly worth troubling about. The Chancellor of the Exchequer sits there and does not seem sufficiently interested to contribute a single word to the Debate. It occurred to me that probably this is the last occasion upon which anybody in any Government will treat this question in the offhand way in which it has been treated this afternoon, because after this year the greater voting power in this country will be in the hands of women, and this is a very important question from the woman's point of view. If the present Financial Secretary is fortunate enough to occupy the same position next year, he will probably find that he will have to give some better reasons for refusing the request than he has given to-day. He brushed the claim aside by saying that it would cost from £6,000,000 to £7,000,000. Our point is that this £7,000,000 is a direct burden on the poor. As the income of a person falls so the percentage of that income that is spent on tea arises.
Speaking from memory, I believe that the increase in the consumption of tea last year was something like 7,000,000 lbs. and of that 7,000,000 lbs. about 6,000,000 lbs. was represented by increased sales of co-operative societies, which almost entirely serve working-class people. That shows that the increased 78 consumption was in an article mainly used by the working classes. The Financial Secretary said that the £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 could be used in many better ways. When asked what were those ways, he did not reply. He was directly contradicting what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said a year ago. Last year, on a similar Amendment, the Chancellor said that a reduction of the Tea Duty was an excellent purpose, that he was very sympathetic to it, and that as soon as he could afford it a reduction might take place in the duty. The Financial Secretary to-day mentioned sugar and talked a little vaguely about tobacco. I think that from now onwards, in the political life of this country, questions such as this, of a direct tax on the housewife and on working people, will require much more attention than the Government have seen fit to give it this afternoon.
§ Mr. GROVES
We treat this Amendment lightly because it appears to be an annual event. Any tax on the poor is something which should call for protests from these benches and the benches below the Gangway. I was interested in what was said by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) about the political record of hon. Members below the Gangway when they had an opportunity of relieving the country of this duty. It was a phasing feature of the Budget in 1924 that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer without any hesitation reduced the Tea Duty by 4d. I suggest to the Chancellor that if he wants to get the genuine gratitude of the poor he should take some interest at once in this matter. Anyone who listened to the light-hearted speech of the Financial Secretary—who said that it was only £6,000,000 or £7,000,000—might have reached the conclusion that £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 did not matter The area that I represent is mainly inhabited by very poor people. The families for the most part average more than three children and two adults. It is all very well for the Government to deal with the population from the point of view of averages, but averages do not apply in an area where the families comprise, in addition to the parents, five, six, and possibly seven or eight, children. It is true, I believe, that the average family in this country consumes about 40 lbs. of tea per year. But the poorer the 79 family the more tea is needed and bought, and the larger the number of children in a family the more tea is bought. Therefore, the greater the family the greater the incidence of the tax upon the family. I suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he should consider the question from that point of view.
Where there are areas of poor people with large families the Tea Duty bears unduly upon these people, as compared with the general incidence of taxes in the country. I would remind the Committee that in West Ham a large section of the people are unemployed and some of them are in receipt of Poor Law relief. Single men get no relief and married people are only getting about 1s. per day. I use this fact as an illustration to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he realises how in these areas which are necessitous, where a very large section of the people are very poor and have been out of work a long time, and who have no relief from the Poor Law guardians, or only relief on an inadequate scale, these people are to purchase the necessities of life, unless he comes to their assistance and removes some of the taxation upon them. A reduction of the Tea Duty gives an opportunity for hon. Members on the Government side to satisfy their consciences when they meet their constituents. Every hon. Member associated with the Government, when he was seeking the suffrage of his electorate, said that he would work for the relief of indirect taxation and to procure a free breakfast table, and no doubt those same hon. Members will make the same promises when next they seek the support of their electors.
It is because I believe that many hon. Members opposite are as sincere on this question as I am that I appeal to them to give us their support. In a little while the Division bells will be ringing and I am afraid that hon. Members opposite, instead of keeping their promises to the electors, will vote against us. I would, however, appeal to them to assist us in the Lobby, and by so doing they would be making a sincere endeavour to take the taxation off the poorest classes of the community. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury told us that this remis- 80 sion of taxation would include also cocoa, coffee and chicory. We are extremely pleased to hear that statement; it gives additional weight to our plea that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should take immediate steps to reduce the taxation upon tea, cocoa, coffee and chicory, because it bears unduly upon the working people of this country.
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
In the last Parliament, when the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) was dissatisfied with the reduction in the Tea Duty made by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) to 4d. in the lb. and he desired to make the reduction 6d., the hon. Member for St. George's, Westminster (Mr. Erskine) said nothing then about the halfpenny a week, but went into the Lobby and voted for the further reduction believing, as we all do, that the Tea Duty, being a flat-rate duty, and tea being consumed throughout the whole community, falls with special heaviness upon the poor people. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for St. George's can make his speech if and when he catches the eye of the Chairman, and we shall be glad to hear him. Of course, we all know that he is an expert on cooking, and I expect he can make a very good cup of tea, so that he can speak with authority as to the comparative incidence of the tax. It is interesting to notice that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer is able to give away something of the duty on tea he refers to tea as a necessity, but when he is unable to give away anything he refers to tea as a comfort. He called tea a comfort two years ago. The right hon. Member for Colne Valley called it a necessity.
If the Chancellor of the Exchequer could have met us in this matter and give a reduction of the Tea Duty, he would not have left it to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to-day to defend the duty; he would have stood before the brass-bound Treasury Box and would have explained with eloquence, vim and fire the great benefit that he was conferring upon the community as a whole, and especially upon the poor people in the community. There is a special case for the reduction of the Tea Duty at the present time, because the trend of wages has been downward in recent years. While there has been much 81 talk about the incidence of direct and indirect taxation, the question is whether that section of the community which has to bear the bulk of the burden of indirect taxation is able to pay or not. We believe that in regard to taxation the Chancellor of the Exchequer, being a stalwart upholder of the British Navy, ought to take the motto of the British Navy as his motto, "Women and Children First." If he agrees to the Amendment and reduces the Tea Duty, he will be putting women and children first. Therefore, we support the Amendment.
§ Mr. KELLY
We were told by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that the Tea Duty represents 2s. 7d. per head per annum of the total population. I do not know how that conclusion is arrived at. I do not know whether the Financial Secretary thinks that in the homes of the people who are in receipt of low wages in the engineering trade—the 35s. a week man, which is all in, with no bonus attached—that this Tea Duty is not a serious item in the household. It is also a serious item in the case of the Government employé who receives 14s. or 17s. a week, with a bonus which probably brings the amount up to nearly £1, in some cases. At the present time when the Government talk so much about relieving industry and helping industry forward, they are maintaining this imposition on the low-paid workers. One has great doubt as to their good faith. I hope that we shall hear from the Financial Secretary how the average of 2s. 7d. per head per annum is arrived at. Probably the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself is not quite sure, but I suppose it is the kind of statement that is good enough to go out from the Conservatives that this 2s. 7d. is a mere nothing compared to the relief which is being given in other directions, and that one need not trouble much about it. It cames rather badly to the low-paid workers who have to fall back upon tea and to use it for most meals. If the Government would ask some of the women in the employment of their various Departments what their view is upon this matter they would find that instead of the Tea Duty being a charge of 2s. 7d. per head per annum, it is a great deal more than that in its effect upon their own families.
82 One would expect that a Government who stage that they have a desire to relieve the position of the people would not come forward with a determination to keep a burden upon the poor and the suffering in order to lessen the burden upon the better-to-do. That has been the position in the Budgets of the Conservative Party for some years. As the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) pointed out, in every Conservative Budget we have had for some years the domestic side of life has been taxed more heavily. If there has been any easement at all, it has been easement for those who can well afford to continue to pay the amount of taxation that they were formerly asked to pay, and even a greater amount. I hope that there may be some hon. Members still to be found in the Conservative party who think enough about their constituents and the home life of their constituents to join us in the Lobby in support of this proposed easement of the burden of the people. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may be able to satisfy his conscience that he can afford this year to continue the imposition of this burden on tea, but is speaks very badly for him that when he is talking about relieving industry he still burdens the poor workers and the low-paid workers by this Tea Duty.
Dr. VERNON DAVIES
I have listened very carefully to the Debate and I have been struck by the fact that the idea that tea is a food has, at last, been dropped. We have heard tea referred to to-day as a comfort and as a stimulant, but I do not think that it has been referred to as a food, and that this iniquitous Government is determined to keep a tax on the food of the people. Practically, every speech which has been made by Members of the Labour party has expressed a desire to reduce the amount of the duty with a view to encouraging the consumption of tea amongst the working classes. There can be no doubt that at the present time the working classes of this country drink by far too much tea and that that tea is not properly made. The working classes instead of using tea in the proper manner as an infusion once or twice a day make a decoction of it, and the blacker it is the better the tea from their point of view. The longer the tea is stewed and the more bitter it tastes, the 83 better they think the tea is. The speeches this afternoon from hon. Members of the Labour party have been in the direction of encouraging women and children to drink more tea. That would be the effect of the lowering of the Duty. If the Tea Duty is reduced, naturally tea will be cheaper and more tea will be drunk.
We have been told of families who have tea three or four times a day. That, from the health point of view, is bad for the community. Such people simply become nervous dyspeptics. What the future of this race is going to be if the people of this country are to be brought up on stewed tea, drunk four times a day, I cannot think. Members of the Socialist party would be acting more as friends of the workers of this country if they would discourage the working classes from drinking so much tea. If they would encourage them to drink cocoa it would be far better, because they would be doing something to encourage the use of milk, which would be all to the good for the health of the community. I am anxious that less tea should be drunk in this country by the working classes and that such tea as is drunk should be properly made. If that course were adopted, I have not the slightest doubt that it would result in a great improvement in the health of the workers.
§ Mr. PALING
We have had two arguments put forward by Members of the party opposite, one of which is that they want this money, but that it is not much. The other argument is that the duty is a good duty, because people drink too much tea. We ought to make the tax prohibitive, I suppose, and if next year the Chancellor wants more money, he will probably thank the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. Davies) for suggesting this source of income. I was interested in the very short statement of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who talked about the decrease in the percentage of British Empire tea consumed, and who said that we are going to have an inquiry into that question. To the first hon. Member who asked what that inquiry meant, he said he did not mean an inquiry, and he promptly tried to get out of what he had said. I would like to know what is behind all this. I noticed that when he was talking his own Front Bench, including the Chancellor of the 84 Exchequer, were very much disturbed. They were very anxious to get the Financial Secretary down, and I imagined there was another crisis arising, such as arose on the question of mechanical lighters. I want to know what the Financial Secretary meant by an inquiry and if it is possible that we are to have some preferential treatment. There is something hehind what he said, but I suppose it is not wise to make it known; perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer is hiding it for his next Budget.
The Financial Secretary also said that this Tea Duty amounted to only about 2s. 7d. per head per annum for the people of this country, that that is a very small amount, but that as, in the aggregate, it makes some £6,000,000 or £7,000,000, the Government cannot afford to drop it. That is a typically Tory argument. Here is an hon. Member who gets as many thousands a year as a working man gets pounds or scores of pounds, and to whom a tax on tea of 20s. would not make any difference, and looking at it from that point of view the hon. Member argues in the same strain about the working class people, that it is only a small amount, that they can well afford it, and that to talk about it being a hardship is nonsense. That was the tone of his argument. At a meeting in Yorkshire last week I heard a statement by an official of the. Yorkshire Miners' Association to the effect that the average wage of thousands of Yorkshire miners this year has been 29s. a week. There are lots of those families, with six in family, and to them, at 2s. 7d. a head, it makes about 15s. or 16s. per year.
That may not sound much, but it is over 1 per cent. of the total income. It is about half a week's wages on tea alone, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary, who both have better incomes than the average working man's income, had to pay a tax on tea or any other commodity which was equal on the average to half a week's income. I wonder what they would say. The Chancellor would not sit quiet then; he would be thumping the Treasury Box hard. I suggest that 15s. to 16s. a year in the present circumstances of scores and thousands of working class families is a very considerable amount. An hon. Member has said that it would buy a 85 pair of boots. It has to buy more than one pair of boots, and when the Financial Secretary gets up the next time, if they allow him, I hope he will not argue on those lines, that 16s. a year does not matter. It matters so much that we want to get this duty reduced, knowing that it will be a real contribution and a real help in the difficult circumstances in which so many working class people find themselves at the present time.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I should like to join in the very strong protests that have been made concerning this very important tax. I consider that the Labour movement would be failing very seriously in its duty if it were not strongly to protest every time on this important issue. The hon. Member for Royton (Dr. Davies) referred to an omission of any reference to tea as a food. No one has said that it is an actual food, but what we do say is that it is unfortunately passing, and has to pass, as a food with a great body of working people whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer represented in the City of Dundee for many years. Those Members of his own party who claim, and correctly claim, that they represent working class constituencies, if there was a genuine anxiety concerning the working class struggle on their part, would be up from their benches on this question every time, urging it most strenuously, because it is a deplorable fact that so many of the workers of this country have to confine their diet to this particular commodity.
No one will say that it is all that is requisite for their physical vitality and the strenuous labours which they have to undergo in earning a living, but it is a fact that the Government resolutely persist in imposing this tax when such appalling conditions are prevalent. Especially with the present conditions in the mining industry, it would have been a very gracious thing for the Government on this occasion to have emphasised their appreciation of that struggle and to have shown their practical sympathy with the workers by relieving them of this taxation. Some hon. Members have referred to the Government as if they were connoisseurs of tea. I would not guarantee that any of them were particular connoisseurs in that direction, but, in another 86 direction, I might say they were specialists. When you try to conjure up a picture of a working-class family gathered round the table, it is a question of tea morning, noon, afternoon, and evening. Why? Because they have a job to make both ends meet, because they have to try and find an economical way of getting an existence, if not a livelihood. The reduction of this duty would be paltry in the sense of meeting the crucial conditions under which these people are suffering, but it would be to some extent a practical recognition of their struggles; and I join most heartily in protesting against the imposition of this tax.
§ Mr. PILCHER
I am not concerned to defend a duty on tea as such. It is, I suppose, a necessary evil, but I would draw attention to this fact, that it is very remarkable indeed that, with a Budget of £800,000,000 and a dead weight of post-War charges of nearly £400,000,000, we should have a Tea Duty-lower than we had in 1914, when we had a Budget of £200,000,000. I suggest that a Tea Duty of 4d. with an £800,000,000 Budget under a Conservative Government, as compared with a Tea Duty of 5d. in 1914 under a Liberal Government, is suggestive of the superiority of Conservative practice over Liberal promises as to a free breakfast table. But it is not on that point that I really want to address the Committee.
References have been made to some remarks which fell from me during the Committee stage of the Tea Resolution a few weeks ago. As my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has said, I then attempted to draw attention to the really remarkable increase which has been going on since the War in the consumption of non-British tea, and this, in spite of the preference it was first given in 1919. In giving those figures again, I will answer a point which I could not answer then, and say that these figures include the exports from this country to the Irish Free State In 1919 the consumption—not the importation, including subsequent exportation, but the consumption—in the United Kingdom was 259,000,000 lbs. of Indian tea, and in 1927 the consumption was 249,000,000 lbs., a decrease of 10,000,000 lbs., although there was a 1s. 6d. preference operative for the first time during that period of eight years. With 87 regard to Ceylon tea, there is a slight increase. In 1919 the consumption was 107,000,000 lbs., and in 1927 it was 111,000,000 lbs., but that is a very small increase considering how long-standing that great industry is and what an important factor it is in the prosperity of our Eastern Dominions.
Now I will take the figures for the importation of tea from Java. In 1919 it was 19,000,000 lbs., and in 1927, 64,000,000 lbs. That is very striking, and I suggest that it is a subject which should attract attention at the present time, when we are doing everything in our power, where we can, and when no hardship is involved for the consuming public, to increase Imperial trade. Most of this Java tea is undoubtedly used for blending, and that was a point that I put to the Financial Secretary. I think that the consumers of tea in this country, knowing that there is a preference given to tea from Imperial sources, suppose that they are drinking, generally speaking, tea from India or Ceylon, and I make the suggestion, and have sent it in writing to the Financial Secretary, that some encouragement should be given to people who put up tea which is entirely British and who proclaim the fact on their packets.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have followed the hon. Member with some doubt. If he were proposing some fresh tax, it would be out of order.
§ Mr. PILCHER
I was not proposing any fresh tax. We are discussing a Clause of the Finance Bill of this year which refers to a Section of the Finance Act, 1919, which provided this preference. This Section continues the preference as well as the duty, and I am suggesting that the preference is inoperative, and that we should do all that we can to make it really effective, either through the Empire Marketing Board or by some other means. The tea trade and the Departments concerned should consider, before it is too late, the remarkable expansion in the consumption, probably unknown to the consumers, of this non-Empire tea.
§ Mr. JAMES HUDSON
While I do not want to underrate the importance of the question which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pilcher), I should like to refer to something which I consider of greater importance, namely, the burden of this duty upon the working classes. The hon. Member made too big a claim for his party when he endeavoured to compare the doings of the Liberal party in pre-War days with the doings of the Conservative party of to-day. I would remind him that the reduction of the duty on tea to 4d. was not due to the activities of the Conservative party; it was a benefit conferred on the country by the Labour party. Although the claim has been made by the hon. Gentleman regarding the weightiness of the Budget—which I think was an excuse for a Chancellor of the Exchequer in difficulties to enable him at some later date to go back on that 4d.—I want to insist again that we are really at a time when this duty ought to be entirely taken off. Several of my hon. Friends have drawn attention to the fact that there has been a general increase in the burdens of taxation upon working-class budgets during the last two or three years, and that in itself ought to give special force to a reconsideration of this matter. Three years ago, when I spoke on this matter, the Chancellor classified the Tea Duty as a tax upon a basic comfort. That is an unfortunate expression, which was invented by a Chancellor of the Exchequer in difficulties when he did not want to admit that this is for all practical purposes a tax upon the necessities of the people.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Royton (Dr. Vernon Davies) has said that the drinking of tea by the working classes is going a great deal too far, that they have tea three or four times a day, and that it is always on the hob getting black and full of poison. Why is it allowed to get into that condition? Because the general diet of a considerable part of the working class in this country is so monotonous that tea being one of the cheaper beverages, is absolutely necessary for them in order to make their diet palatable. If the hon. Gentleman was having his bread and butter or bread and jam day after day, and meal after meal, as many children of the working 89 class, and many mothers in his own district of Lancashire, have it, he would be very glad to have tea regarded as a necessity. I suggest to him that the continuance of this duty on tea is one of the reasons why the working class leave the tea on the hob from breakfast until dinner time, and from dinner time until tea time, using up the dregs of a former meal in order to make the tea go further. The Conservative party is responsible for that bad habit. If the tea were made cheaper and if the duty were removed, it is very probable that the housewife would make tea which would do no harm, and from which the tannin could be kept entirely away. If the Conservative doctors in this House were really keen about the health of the working classes they would support us in the demand that we now make for the entire removal of this duty.
It is not entirely right to suggest, as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury suggested, that this burden is, on an average, 2s. 7d. per head on working class budgets. Among the type of workers to whom I have been referring, where tea is required so frequently to make their diet palatable, the amount paid is much above 2s. 7d. per head; and, when you multiply that by the family index of five or six persons, it makes an average burden of from 15s. to 25s. a year per family. If the Conservative party take into account the increased burdens that they have put on the workers in recent years and they really want to do their duty by these people, then they must realise that a very special case has been made out; and I ask the Chancellor again whether he cannot reconsider that phrase, "the basic comforts of the people," and see that for a considerable number of people tea is more than a comfort—it is a necessity. I hope that even yet it will be found possible to remove this burden from the workers.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I have been brought to my feet by the remarks of the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. Davies). He has been talking about the dangers of tea drinking, but, being illogical, he forgets his other speeches. It is not so long ago that he was telling us about the poisonous system of vaccination which means getting the pus from a calf and pumping it into the body. Then he tells us about the poison in tea and what takes place. The 90 hon. Member also told us that calves could be sold for eating after the pus had been taken. There is more danger from that kind of poisoning than from the tannin in tea. The relation between a vaccinated calf and tea with tannin in it——
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would remind the hon. Member that we are not on the Vote on the Ministry of Health for Medical Education.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
If the hon. Member is arguing from the medical point of view, surely he is entitled to make a comparison.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member was making a comment as to a medical man's views on vaccination and comparing them with his views on tea poisoning. That is hardly a relevant argument.
§ Mr. HARDIE
There is a medical expert sitting on the other side of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the person of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and he would be the first to correct me were I mistaken in my statement regarding these poisons, for he, being trained in the Glasgow University, knows what I am talking about. With regard to what has been said about the tannin in tea, it is very bad, but it has not had the horrible effects that we have had from vaccination. If tea be such a poison as it is represented to be, there should be such a duty on it that people could not buy it. That would be the real logic of the situation. Tea is like medicine; it is good for other people but not good for the doctors. I do not suppose that my hon. Friend has had a glass of water for many years. I cannot speak about the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is, I think, a water drinker. We notice that when the Budget is introduced the Chancellor of the Exchequer always drinks water; it may be coloured, but that perhaps is due to the water-pipes being rusty. On the question of tea and its relation to the working class, it is very strange for a medical man to take the position which is taken up by the hon. Member for Royton, but I suppose it does not really matter how much poison there is in tea, so long as you get a tax from the people. Evidently, if the population is too great, the way to get rid of them is to do the tannin trick.
91 It is a strange thing that tea should become the subject of taxation; if we wanted to get a real basis for a tax, we should not tax something that was for the good of the people; but should tax what injured the people. I would never drink black tea, but the reason has not been given by the medical men why black tea is so often found in working-class homes. The proper way of making tea is to pour boiling water over the tea leaves, and then pour away the leaves, but working-class homes with a small income cannot afford to make tea as it ought to be made, without tannin. This is a poverty question in which we see the poison of poverty compelling the taking of another poison in order to spread out a teaspoonful of tea. There are hundreds of thousands of homes where, when the stewing of the tea does not make it black enough, they put in bicarbonate of soda to make it stronger, so that it will go a little further. Why do not medical men come along with knowledge that will protect these people, and why did not the hon. Gentleman, with his skill in medicine, tell us about these practices and why they were used? It looks as if he is not really interested in the health of the people. It is to the interest of the medical profession if you have people ill——
§ Mr. HARDIE
In conclusion, let me say that if I could be sure that the Chancellor could be confined to nothing but black tannin tea for a fortnight, then, instead of seeing him sitting there as we often see him, we should see the effects of this black tannin poison—how it brings all the joints into prominence, how the jaws begin to take in, and how the hair——but of course that——
§ Mr. HARDIE
I was trying to point out the effects of tannin poison, a question which has been introduced in connection with the Tea Duty. I wish to show that if the Chancellor had that experience for a fortnight we might get a remission of the duty.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I remember an old saying of my mother's when I was a boy, that it was a little which suited the poor, and that it was a little which they got. I wish to remind the Chancellor of the. Exchequer that there are a great many people to whom a saving of 2s. 7d. a year in taxation would be of importance. Only recently I had a statement put into my hands giving particulars of a family comprising father, mother and eight children who had to subsist on 14s. for a whole week. I am wondering how much tea those people could get. A right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway was talking about Empire tea being better than other tea, and remarked that the Preference system was not working. It will not work right until the miners and other workers have something more than they earn at present with which to buy tea. Tea, bread and margarine are the staple food of the people in the county of Durham at the present time, and if 2s. 7d. per head in a family were handed back to those people it would mean three pairs of boots to the man and the woman whose case I have just mentioned to the House. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see that ability to pay is made the basis of taxation. If that were done, then the poor would get a little more of what they are entitled to, and we could bring them some comfort. A very little extra charge makes itself felt in the homes of the workers; it is not felt in the houses of more well-to-do people. I want to have the Tea Duty entirely removed. That will give our people a chance of purchasing Empire tea if it is better than other tea. Cannot the Chancellor of the Exchequer reconsider his decision and accept an Amendment to bring the Tea Duty down to a penny? As the duty is at present levied, the poor people have to pay 4½d. duty on a pound of tea at 1s. 6d., and the rich pay 4d. on tea at 4s. a pound. At least the Chancellor ought to give the very poor the opportunity of having cheap, wholesome food, so that we may get rid of the practice of keeping the teapot stewing on the fireplace from morning till night.
§ Mr. BATEY
I want to support this Amendment, which I regard as one of the most important Amendments which could be moved to this Finance Bill. This Amendment raises a question which 93 affects the whole of the working class. I listened to the speech with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced is first Budget in 1925, and he said at that time that his object was the security of the homes of the wage-earners. I believe he meant that, and this afternoon we are giving him a chance of demonstrating his sympathy with the homes of the wage-earners. During the four years he has been in office the Chancellor has done nothing to carry out that promise. We could give him several instances to show how he has benefited his own class, but we cannot recall one instance in which he has done anything for the homes of the wage-earners. This afternoon he has an opportunity to redeem the promise he made in 1925.
I come from one of the distressed areas, where we have no fewer than 20,000 men who have to maintain their wives and families upon Poor Law relief. In the homes of those 20,000 men the price of tea is an important factor. There are no fewer than 40,000 men who have to maintain their wives and families on unemployment insurance benefit, and the cost of tea is an equally important matter to them. In addition, there are 50,000 or 60,000 men working in the coal mines, whose wages have been reduced. On an average, they are not earning more than 30s. per week. To those men, too, the price of tea is a most important consideration. We have said again and again when wages were coming down—and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is largely responsible for assisting the coalowners to beat down miners' wages—that things would not be so bad if the cost of living had been reduced. But while the Chancellor was willing to lend all his influence towards pulling down wages, he has done nothing towards reducing the cost of living. We ask the Chancellor to take this one step which is now provided for him, and by agreeing to this Amendment show that he is prepared to do something to reduce the cost of living and so make the homes of the wage-earners a little bit happier and brighter than they are at present.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It is not because I have nothing to say that I have not so far intervened in this discussion; it is because I have nothing to give. But I should not like to allow the speeches which have been made to pass without a 94 very few words; and, in particular, the observation which was made by the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) calls for immediate correction. The hon. Member said nothing had been done to bring down the cost of living. When opening the Budget I gave figures, which had been carefully studied before they were made public, showing that, after taking into consideration the changes which have taken place in wages during the last four years, the reduction in the cost of living has added £100,000,000 a year to the purchasing power of the present wage-earners.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) made a statement in parenthesis, and the right hon. Gentleman has replied, but I do not think this point can be pursued.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I want to go no further than to prevent a statement obtaining currency that we are proceeding on the basis of there being no reduction in the cost of living.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
We have given a very substantial reduction, and it is in relation to that substantial reduction that the Tea Duty must be considered. That duty was very largely reduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Val[...]ey (Mr. Snowden). If my memory is right, I think pressure was brought to bear upon him by some of the Liberal Members of that Parliament to make still larger reductions.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
And they were supported by Conservative Members. But the right hon. Gentleman did not feel able to go further, though no doubt he would have liked to make a bigger reduction. I have endorsed his action year by year. I have made the full sacrifice of revenue which was entailed by the remission of duty he made in 1924. I think tea is actually taxed less now than it was before the War. After all the evils which have come upon us from the burden of taxation which is pressing upon so many classes, this old duty, a duty kept on long after the Sugar Duties were removed in bygone days, now stands 95 at a lower level than before the War. Nevertheless, I in no way recede from the view I have expressed on more than one occasion in these discussions, that the Tea Duty is one which anyone in a responsible position would gladly see mitigated or removed from our tariff list. It undoubtedly is a tax which affects the poorest people and on what I may call primary or basic comforts.
It is right and proper that the incidence of this tax should be carefully studied by the House of Commons, and that hon. Members should follow out its ramifications and be acquainted with the actual manner in which particular families are affected by it, and I should be very glad if it were in my power to make some revision of this duty, either total or partial, but I have, as I have had to say on other occasions, heavy expenses to meet. The mere fact that the reduction in the cost of living increases the purchasing power of the pound sterling tends to diminish my revenue as well as to reduce prices in all quarters. In addition to that, I have already in this Budget had to face the loss of the duty upon kerosene, and I have also to face the probability of greater expenditure in regard to the rating relief which we have in view than I originally allowed for. Having all these matters to take into account, I am bound to ask the Committee to excuse me from making any effort to fulfil their wishes this afternoon, although I can say with absolute candour and sincerity that I should be very glad indeed if it fell to my lot to deal with the Tea Duty by giving a substantial mitigation.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BROAD
I am rather surprised at what I may call the audacity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He takes credit to himself for having let us off the thrashing he had promised us when he intended to put on the Kerosene Duty. He takes that to himself as a virtue. He says: "I promised you a thrashing, but I will let you off. You do not deserve it, but I promised it to you. Think how good I am." The Chancellor of the Exchequer has referred to some improvement in the standard of living of the workers, and he claims that as the one bright spot in a black record extending over four Budgets in which there has been abso- 96 lutely no concessions made to the working classes, although a good deal of relief has been given to the Super-tax payers with incomes of £400 per week. On the other hand, not a penny of consideration has been allowed to the working classes whose average wage is 40s. a week. All the economies which have been effected by the Chancellor of the Exchequer have ben done at the expense of the workers, whilst any benefits which the right hon. Gentleman has conferred have been given to the friends of hon. Members sitting behind him. I thought the right hon. Gentleman might at least consent to do something in the direction of retrieving such a black record by accepting this Amendment, but he has denied us even this small concession. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not only refused to reduce the taxation of the working classes but he has actually added to their burdens.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I hope the hon. Member will confine his remarks to the Amendment now before the Committee.
§ Mr. BROAD
I thought that I might be allowed to make a comparison between the present Budget and the Budgets of other years, but I will now confine my remarks to the issue of the Tea Duty. The concession we are asking is a small one which is long overdue. In the last four Budgets introduced by the Tory Government, no consideration whatever has been paid to the working classes. The right hon. Gentleman once described this policy as "the open door at the public-house and the open hand at the Treasury"——
§ The CHAIRMAN
That may be a good argument on the Third Reading, but it is not a good argument in Committee.
§ Mr. BROAD
I am anxious to show the oppressive way in which this kind of taxation affects the workers. Tea is not only a refreshing drink at the breakfast table, the dinner table and the tea table, but there are many industries where the work is very hard in which the workers hour after hour want some kind of drink. At one time in these industries a boy used to go out and fetch in cans of beer on a broom handle, but that has been altered and the boy now brings in cans of tea. The workers in the cotton mills, as well as the workers in the underground warehouses of London, drink tea. 97 Many of these people will consume as much as half a pound of tea in the course of their work, and although our medical Friend below the Gangway (Dr. Davies) may draw attention to the evil done by tannin, I think he will agree with me that infinitely more harm used to be done to the working classes when they used to drink so much beer, although that used to bring profits to hon. Gentlemen opposite.
I think we ought to realise that tea is a necessity of life to the working classes. The poor old ex-service man living with his wife and family finds that tea is the only thing that gives brightness to the family meals. Our old age
§ pensioners find, when they cannot have anything else, they can always have a cup of tea with their "bread and marg." I think this £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 which is raised by the Tea Duty should be taken off in order to balance some of the great concessions which have been made by the Tory Government in the shape of subsidies to their friends. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make the small concession we are asking to this long overdue demand of the working classes for the removal of the duty on tea.
§ Question put, "That the words 'in lieu of' be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 117; Noes, 229.99
|Division No. 179.]||AYES.||[6.8 p.m.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hardie, George D.||Runciman, Hilda (Cornwall, St. Ives)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Harney, E. A.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Baker, Walter||Harris, Percy A.||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Barr, J.||Hayes, John Henry||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Batey, Joseph||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Scurr, John|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hirst, G. H.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hoilins, A.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Broad, F. A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shinwell, E.|
|Bromfield, William||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Bromley, J.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snell, Harry|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kelly, W. T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kennedy, T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Compton, Joseph||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Connolly, M.||Lawrence, Susan||Strauss, E. A.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, F.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Livingstone, A. M.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lowth, T.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Day, Harry||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dennison, R.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Tomlinson, R. P.|
|Dunnico, H.||Mackinder, W.||Townend, A. E.|
|Edge, Sir William||MacLaren, Andrew||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Fenby, T. D.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Viant, S. P.|
|Forrest, W.||March, S.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Gardner, J. P.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Jasiah|
|Gillett, George M.||Naylor, T. E.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Gosling, Harry||Oliver, George Harold||Westwood, J.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Owen, Major G.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Greenall, T.||Palin, John Henry||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Potts, John S.||Wright, W.|
|Groves, T.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Riley, Ben||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Ritson, J.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Paling.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Buchan, John|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Bennett, A. J.||Burman, J. B.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Berry, Sir George||Butler, Sir Geoffrey|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Betterton, Henry B.||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Blundell, F. N.||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Brass, Captain W.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Briscoe, Richard George||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)|
|Balniel, Lord||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Christie, J. A.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Holt, Capt. H.||Preston, William|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Ramsden, E.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'and, Whiteh'n)||Renter, J. R.|
|Cope, Major Sir William||Hume, Sir G. H.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Couper, J. B.||Hurd, Percy A.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Iveagh, Countess of||Ropner, Major L.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Jephcott, A. R.||Rye, F. G.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Sandon, Lord|
|Dixey, A. C.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Loder, J. de V.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W)|
|Drewe, C.||Looker, Herbert William||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Skelton, A. N.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Lumley, L. R.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||MacDonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||MacIntyre, Ian||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||McLean, Major A.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Macquisten, F. A.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Gates, Percy||Malone, Major P. B.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Tinne, J. A.|
|Golf, Sir Park||Margesson, Captain D.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Meyer, Sir Frank||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Watson, Rt. Hon W. (Carlisle)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Gunston, Captain D.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nelson, Sir Frank||Wells, S. R.|
|Hamilton, Sir George||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Oakley, T.||Withers, John James|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Womersley, W. J.|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Penny, Frederick George||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian||Perring, Sir William George||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Pilcher, G.|
|Hilton, Cecil||Pilditch, Sir Philip||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Captain Bowyer and Captain Wallace.|
§ Motion made, and Question, proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
I should like to ask what the position is in regard to the condemnation of parcels of tea by the Customs officials as unfit for consumption. I would cite a case in which a parcel of tea, which had been condemned, was, as the result of the condemnation, re-exported to the Continent, and was then re-imported into this country, 100 accepted by the Customs authorities, and consumed in the ordinary way. That is bad enough, but the vexation and grievance of the trade is not that parcels of tea should be condemned—if tea is unfit for consumption it should be condemned; what they complain of is that, when they ask why a particular parcel has been condemned, and what is the matter with it, they get no answer except "Take it away." I know that in most cases the trade finds the Customs officials civil and obliging, and we are not making 101 any general complaint. The matter is, no doubt, a technical one, but anyone who has had a parcel of tea condemned is, surely, entitled to ask that some report or some reason should be given for the condemnation, and it certainly ought not to be possible, after a parcel has once been condemned, for it to be re-exported, re-imported, and passed by the Customs.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
No one would quarrel at all with the contention of the hon. Gentleman that tea which has been condemned should not subsequently be admitted to this country after having been re-exported. No doubt the hon. Gentleman has some particular case in mind, but I feel sure that it must be an exception to the general manner in which our Customs Duties are administered. If it was due to an administrative error, I have no doubt, now that the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention to it, that steps will be taken to see that such an error shall not occur in the future. As to the question whether reasons should be given by the Customs authorities specifying the grounds on which they reject any particular parcel of tea, I am inclined to think that that would throw too great a burden upon the Customs officials.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in replying to my question, and I quite agree with him on the first point, but the second point is on very different ground. A parcel of tea is sent here quite bonâ fide in the ordinary course of trade, and the importer is simply notified that the Customs authorities refuse to allow it to be passed for consumption. He asks the reason, and the reply simply is, "Take it away; lose it, or de what you like with it"—there is no explanation. The tea may be good or it may be bad; the rejection may be due just to the whim or caprice of a Customs official, or, on the other hand, there may be a bonâ fide reason why the tea is not fit for consumption. Surely, the people who have purchased the tea ought to be given some definite reason, by those who have examined it on behalf of the Customs, showing why it cannot be accepted and must be condemned.
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 229; Noes, 113.103
|Division No. 180.]||AYES.||[6.21 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Christie, J. A.||Fielden, E. B.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Forrest, W.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Foster, Sir Harry S.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Clarry, Reginald George||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. O.||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Galbraith, J. F. W.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Gates, Percy|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cooper, A. Duff||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Balniel, Lord||Cope, Major Sir William||Goff, Sir Park|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Couper, J. B.||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Bennett, A. J.||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Grotrian, H. Brent|
|Berry, Sir George||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeov[...]l)||Hamilton, Sir George|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Brass, Captain W.||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Harney, E. A.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Dixey, A. C.||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Hartington, Marquees of|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Drewe, C.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Eden, Captain Anthony||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Buchan, John||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Burman, J. B.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Ellis, R. G.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Hilton, Cecil|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Everard, W. Lindsay||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Holt, Capt. H. P.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N).||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Hurst, Gerald B.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Oakley, T.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Penny, Frederick George||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Perring, Sir William George||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Kinioch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Pilcher, G.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Power, Sir John Cecil||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Loder, J. de V.||Preston, William||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Looker, Herbert William||Raine, Sir Walter||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Ramsden, E.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Lumley, L. R.||Remer, J. R.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Lynn, Sir R. J.||Rentoul, G. S.||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Wells, S. R.|
|Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|MacIntyre, Ian||Ropner, Major L.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|McLean, Major A.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Rye, F. G.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|MacRobert, Alexander M.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Withers, John James|
|Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel.||Sandeman, N. Stewart||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Sandon, Lord||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Meyer, Sir Frank||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Skelton, A. N.||Captain Bowyer and Sir Victor Warrender.|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hardie, George D.||Runciman, Hilda (Cornwall, St. Ives)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Harris, Percy A.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Baker, Walter||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayes, John Henry||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Scurr, John|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, G. H.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hollins, A.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Shinwell, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Bromfield, William||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Bromley, J.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Snell, Harry|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kelly, W. T.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kennedy, T.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Compton, Joseph||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Connolly, M.||Lawrence, Susan||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, F.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Livingstone, A. M.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lowth, T.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Day, Harry||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Tomlinson, R. P.|
|Dennison, R.||Mackinder, W.||Townend, A. E.|
|Dunnico, H.||MacLaren, Andrew||Varley, Frank B.|
|Edge, Sir William||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Viant, S. P.|
|Fenby, T. D.||March, S.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Gardner, J. P.||Morris, R. H.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Gillett, George M.||Naylor, T. E.||Westwood, J.|
|Gosling, Harry||Oliver, George Harold||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Owen, Major G.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenall, T.||Palin, John Henry||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wright, W.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Potts, John S.|
|Groves, T.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grundy, T. W.||Riley, Ben||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Paling.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Ritson, J.|