HC Deb 14 April 1930 vol 237 cc2672-3

In my search for additional revenue, I look first to beer, on which alone among alcoholic liquors the duty has been reduced since the War. The existing duty on beer is £5 per standard barrel, that is to say, 36 gallons at the standard gravity of 1,055, less the rebate which was granted in 1923 of £1 per bulk barrel, that is to say, 36 gallons, whatever the gravity. To put back the taxa- tion to the figure at which it stood before the reduction in 1923 would give me £15,000,000 a year. I shall disappoint the unanimous expectations of Press forecasts if I do not impose also an additional 2d. a gallon on petrol. I may say that I do not propose to do either of these things. With regard to beer, though personally I would much like to see the vast sums that are now spent on alcoholic liquors diverted to more useful purposes, I recognise that those who spend these sums, often from very inadequate means, contribute to the national revenue, in the main, out of all proportion to their means, and I do not think it would be fair to tax their misapplied expenditure still more.

Viscountess ASTOR



Perhaps the Noble Lady might reserve her enthusiasm until later stages of my speech. I must be content, therefore, with something more moderate. I propose to raise, as from to-morrow, the Beer Duty by 3s. per standard barrel, leaving the rebate unaltered. That is an increase of ld. per gallon, which is, of course, too small to justify any alteration in retail prices; but, even so, it would prove ineffective as a revenue instrument if it led to a drop in gravities, that is to say, in the strength of the beer as now supplied. On this point, I may inform the Committee that I have received assurances from the brewers, whose attitude in the matter I desire to acknowledge, which make it unnecessary for me to anticipate any such result. The yield of the additional duty is estimated at £3,100,000 in a full year, and £2,750,000 in the current year.