HC Deb 24 May 1933 vol 278 cc1103-37

3.29 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 2, line 28, at the end, to insert the words: (5) Where the aggregate amount of the excise duty charged under this section on the several constituents of beer which has been prepared by a process of mixing by a brewer for sale exceeds the amount of the excise duty which would have been chargeable under this section on the mixture the Commissioners may, subject to such conditions as they may prescribe, remit or repay the excess. The conditions prescribed under this sub-section may, notwithstanding anything in any enactment, include conditions as to the method of computing the last-mentioned amount and the method of ascertaining any matter by reference to which that amount is to be computed. This Amendment is a technical one arising out of the change in the method of assessing the Beer Duty laid down in the Budget, and I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see his way to accept it. It can fairly be described as one of the adjustments which are so frequently found to be necessary when new machinery is put into motion. Some brewery companies prepare the beer which they offer to their customers by special methods, for example by brewing two different beers and mixing them. Owing to the operation of the new scale of Beer Duty, some breweries which adopt special methods of catering for their customers' tastes are liable, as the scale stands, to pay more duty than the scale contemplates for beer of the original gravity which their customers actually get. I am sure that the Chancellor never intended that the new duty should have this effect, and my Amendment is designed to rectify the position by enabling the duty in these cases to be charged according to the original gravity of the beverage after it has undergone the kind of preparation that I have described.


I beg to second the Amendment.

3.31 p.m.

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)

I have examined the Amendment of my hon. Friend, and I must admit at once to the Committee that the practice which he has described was unknown to the Customs when the original Clause was framed. We were not familiar with the various methods of brewing, and, when our attention was called to this particular method, it was at once seen that the Clause as it was drawn would place an additional burden upon brewers who were following this sort of practice, as compared with other brewers. That was not what we intended, and, as we framed our estimates of revenue, not upon this practice, but upon the original gravity of the beef as it was supplied to the customer, we shall not lose any revenue by accepting my hon. Friend's Amendment;. In the circumstances, therefore, I have pleasure in accepting the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

3.33 p.m.


Whatever may be said about the party to which I belong, it has never been said of them that they were anxious to sea a penny off the pint of beer, and, therefore, I begin what I have to say with a delightful sense of freedom. I should like to take as a text for my remarks a sentence from the leading article of this month's Bulletin of the Fellowship of Freedom and Reform, which, as the Committee knows, is one of the aliases of the drink trade. They said this: As Mr. Chamberlain said again and again with transparent earnestness, his one reason for reducing the Beer Duty was not to enrich the brewers or to propitiate beer drinkers, but simply to prevent the steady decline of a great revenue. I have no quarrel with that; it in no way misrepresents the Chancellor's Budget speech; that was the impression that he gave. He took the line of the righteous Chancellor of the Exchequer, primarily concerned with revenue, and only secondarily concerned with any social or moral questions; and I think that, without saying so in so many words, he gave us the impression that he was seeking, by this change, an optimum figure of taxation which would bring him in as much revenue as possible. That, I think, was what the ordinary man in the street has gathered—that we must put the tax lower in order to get more revenue. Indeed, that was made quite definite by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in his excellent speech winding up the Debate on the Second Reading of the Finance Bill—a speech which, I learn from the "Western Morning News," enormously impressed the Cabinet. I wonder where they got that from. The Financial Secretary put the point quite clearly. He said: The literal solemn reason for the reduction of duty was that the unemployed and all salaried officials might continue to receive their pay. It seems to me to be putting it rather high to say that the unemployed and all our salaried officials depend on the figure of the Beer Duty, but it makes it quite clear that the idea is that by putting the duty lower more revenue will be obtained. I hold that that argument, on the figures actually given in the Budget speech, is completely untenable. In his Budget statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer named the amount that he would lose if he kept the Beer Duty as it then was. He said that, whereas it had brought in £74,000,000, if he left it where it was it would probably bring in only £68,000,000; that is to say, there would be a fall of £6,000,000. But, by the reduction of the tax by 1d. a pint, the estimated fall is increased from £6,000,000 to £14,000,000, an increased fall of revenue of £8,000,000. It does not look as though there was much search for an optimum figure there, and it does not seem to hold out any special hope of the unemployed and the civil servants continuing to get what they receive.

The only argument which can be sustained to the effect that this decrease of duty is going to increase the revenue is on the idea that the change will not show itself in one year, that the habits of the people change slowly, and that it will take people some years to learn that beer is 1d. a pint cheaper and to adapt their habits to this new dispensation, so that, although we are demonstrably going to lose an extra £8,000,000 this year by the change, we may make it up, and even more, perhaps, in time. I cannot accept that at all. Social habits do change, and sometimes change slowly. People who -some years ago, when having a house built for themselves, saw to providing a nursery, now prefer to put their money into a garage; they prefer a baby Austin to the real baby, very often. Similarly, you may get a development of the bridge habit, or the cocktail habit, or something of that kind, gradually growing over several years. But, surely, when 1d. a pint is taken off beer, people who are going to resume the fine old patriotic habit of beer drinking, on which the unemployed and the civil servants depend so much, will do it pretty well at once if they are going to do it at all. Nobody takes three or four years to decide whether he prefers to spend a spare shilling on beer or on the cinema.

My point is, and I think that the House, whatever 1ts views may be on the main question, is bound to agree, that, if we are going to lose an extra £8,000,000 by this alteration in the present year, we shall, other things Being equal, continue to lose it next year and the year after. Of course, if there is an all-round increase of purchasing power, more will be spent on beer, but that is another matter. I do not believe that the change has been made in order to reach an optimum figure of taxation; I believe that one of the parties in one of those historic alliances between a trade and a party has got restive and "cut up rusty," and that the National Government has yielded to the pressure.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot, on his own figures, be seeking to prevent, as the organ which I have quoted says, a steady decline in a great revenue; he is deliberately planning a decline of revenue, which, of course, has to be met in this Budget and in subsequent Budgets by extra taxes elsewhere if the Budget is to be made to balance. Is it justifiable to give a considerable relief to one class of taxpayers without giving any consideration at all to the cuts in expenditure which were made at the time of the financial crisis? I am not going to quote assurances and pledges, because that only tends to bring the House into disrepute, but we all know what was said at the time the cuts were made. Thousands said it all over the country on the authority of the Government. I said it as chairman of the Devon Education Committee when I had to put through the cuts in teachers' salaries. One said, on the authority of leading Ministers, that, when it became possible to relieve taxation in any important particular, those who were now cut would have, at any rate, prior consideration—not a pledge of restitution or anything of that kind but, at any rate, prior consideration. That applied to the police, to the teachers, and to the unemployed, particularly to the cuts in the children's allowances which a lot of us felt were really rather hard. How does the Chancellor deal with that? He does not. He has not, I think, ever referred to the definite expectation held out at the time the cuts were made. He does not even say he acknowledges the commitments implied that the children's allowances shall be reconsidered as soon as possible. [Interruption.] There was a cut in the general rate of unemployment pay for adults and children. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not for children!"] If I am wrong, I withdraw that point, but the general allowance for the family was reduced.

The argument that it is really more important nowadays that the nation should drink more and stronger beer than that things of this kind should be reconsidered if they press very hardly on a great many people might have been difficult to sustain, though I doubt if any argument would have been impossible to representatives of the Government considering some of the points that they have been able to argue in the House lately. What I object to is that all these anticipations of early revision of cuts were deliberately ignored or forgotten. I have no doubt that to some of the Government supporters this decrease in the taxation of beer is very good popularity and so on. It gives them an excellent slogan. I can imagine at the end of their speeches: "We have suppressed the Sinking Fund in order to increase the drinking fund." "We have decreased the cost of living by 1d. a pint." All that will sound very well, but, in the long run, there are more important things than being able to please that section of our people. One of them, I think, is to keep faith, and certainly those who suffered the cuts at the time of the crisis feel that faith has not been kept with them when, without any consideration being given to the matter, as soon as any considerable relief can be given at all it is given to people who form another class on the whole to themselves. I do not think it is sufficient to say that the cost of living has gone down Since the cuts were made, though, of course, that is so. If trade improves, it may go up again. The sort of thing that they want to know is where they stand with regard to these expectations that were held out to them that as soon as circumstances improved their case should be reconsidered.

I say deliberately, looking at the matter from a broad social standpoint, a time of very great hardship for the masses of the people is not the time to reduce the Beer Duty. More beer means less bread and fewer boots.




That is rather un-parliamentary, if not rude. I think I know the conditions in the industrial areas through the work that I have tried to do in connection with allotments for the unemployed quite as well as some of those who interrupt me, and I say deliberately that more spent on beer generally means less spent on food, clothing, coal, and things of that kind. That is a serious thing, because for every shilling spent on beer, owing to the high taxation upon it, a very small proportion goes in wages, and of every shilling spent on boots, bread or coal a very large proportion goes in wages. It is a perfectly arguable and a good point that at a time like this we should try to keep our expenditure in the trades where expenditure gives the greatest amount of employment. It is wrong at a time like this to try deliberately to divert expenditure from things which maintain the stamina, the physique and the health of the people to something which, to put it mildly, has not that effect. It is said that the Roman Empire fell because the later Emperors adopted a policy of bread and circuses. There was some method in their madness. It was bread that they gave and not wine. It is rather a remarkable thing that the consumption of bread has very considerably gone down in the last few years. I know, as chairman of an education committee, that hundreds of thousands of children are underfed already in bread and other necessities. This change will certainly make that worse. I intend, therefore, to vote against the Clause, however many or however few vote with me.

3.48 p.m.

Viscount WOLMER

The right hon. Gentleman's logic is difficult to follow. He has told the Committee that the more spent on beer the less money there will be to spend on bread and on boots. But the effect of this Clause is to make beer cheaper and, therefore, a person who is accustomed and desires to drink a certain number of pints of beer in a week will, as the result of the Clause, be saved a corresponding number of pennies which, according to the right hon. Gentleman's logic, he will be able to spend on boots and bread.


The Chancellor of the Exchequer made it clear that he hoped that this would lead to more beer being consumed.

Viscount WOLMER

I do, too, but I was merely pointing out that the logic of the right hon. Gentleman's argument led to a conclusion exactly opposite to that which he wished to draw. But the argument that we have just heard is the type of argument that we have heard from the Liberal party for the last 20 years and more, although during the interval the taxation of beer has increased to 12 times what it was before the War. The argument that I should like to address for his consideration is that any attempt to drive this or any country into a higher state of morality or temperance by putting penal taxation on beer or any other drink is bound to end in disaster and is in itself most unjust and, indeed, in my opinion immoral. You will not and cannot achieve sobriety by this means. The taxation of beer, as it was left by Lord Snowden's Budget and as it will be left after this Bill has been passed, amounts to an attempt to bring about prohibition by high taxation. I should have thought that the failure of prohibtion in America ought to have warned all temperance reformers of the futility of trying to bring about sobriety by legislation. It is true that there is a great deal more sobriety in this country than there was 20 or even 50 years ago, but I do not think that the higher taxation is the root cause of it. You will find greater sobriety in all ranks of life and among all conditions of persons. It used to be a common expression to say that someone was "as drunk as a lord." That expression is not, I am glad to think, commonly used nowadays.


It is "as drunk as an M.P." now.

Viscount WOLMER

Yes, perhaps it is another instance of how prerogatives have passed from one House to the other. At any rate, it goes to show that sobriety has nothing to do with the length of one's purse. I submit to my hon. Friends of the Liberal party that it is fundamentally wrong and unjust to put such a terrific burden upon the section of the community who are not teetotallers. Man is not naturally a teetotaller. You will find that alcohol has been drunk by the human race throughout all ages, and it is fair and right to say that beer is part of the food of ordinary mankind. Beer is the wine of England. It is utterly unjust to select a certain section of the community and put this terrific taxation upon the non-teetotallers and upon the smokers. By far and away the greater portion of the contribution which the wage-earning class make to the national Exchequer comes from the beer drinkers and the smokers.

Justice demands that the Beer Duty should be brought down considerably lower than the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been able to bring it down in the Budget, and taxation ought to be reapportioned more fairly so that all sections of the community, whatever their individual habits, may make their fair contribution to the national Exchequer according to the means of their purse. Not only would that remove injustice, but it would also tend towards removing what has always seemed to me to be a very legitimate cause of social discontent. Take those large sections of the wage earners like the railway men, and the civil servants, postal employés, for instance, whose wages depend by agreement on the cost of living. During the last few years their wages have been steadily falling according to the official table of the cost of living, but in the official table the cost of beer and tobacco is not taken into account at all. Whereas the incomes of total abstainers may have fallen in proportion to the cost of living, the man who throughout his life has been accustomed to drink so many glasses of beer a week has had his wages reduced, although the price of beer has actually been raised. That is a real attack upon the standard of life, and if I were a wage earner in that position I should feel that I was being very unjustly treated and that it was, unfair as between me and the rest of the community.

While thanking the Chancellor of the Exchequer for this concession, I venture to say that justice has not yet been done to the beer drinkers of the country. They should bear their fair share of taxation, but ever Since the War they have been asked and compelled to bear a great deal more than their fair share of taxation. One result has been that you have had the beer drinkers and the brewers organised as a political force perhaps in a way in which they have never before been organised. There has been much legitimate resentment caused by the unholy alliance between the Exchequer and the teetotallers which has brought about this high taxation. Therefore, I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in future years, when he has more money to spare, will be able to address his attention to the question of whether the beer drinkers cannot have a further remission in taxation, and whether a greater part of the burden of national taxation ought not to be put upon those who do not smoke and who do not drink beer. In regard to the point made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) about the teachers' and the other cuts, I should have thought that it was possibly a little outside the scope of this Clause and more suited to a Second Reading Debate, but I would remind him that even teachers and policemen and the unemployed will, as a result of this Clause, get their beer cheaper.

3.57 p.m.


The noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) has taken us away from the essential point in this Debate. We are not concerned with the question of whether there ought to be high and penal taxation upon beer, nor are we in this House responsible for what was done in September, 1931, by the then National Government. I remember that the action which was then taken was taken in the midst of high scenes of enthusiasm, and that when the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then Mr. Snowden, introduced his proposals, including this tax, Members upon the several benches, with some exceptions on the other side, rose and cheered the impositions which were made. So that all that has been said by the Noble Lord about the danger of high and penal taxation is undoubtedly beside the mark in to-day's Debate. That imposition was made in a time of national crisis and desperate need. It was the contribution which one section of the community was called upon to make. That was not very long ago. The issue to-day is not what has been done by the Liberal party for the last 20 years, or the immaculate fecord of the party to which the noble Lord belongs. The whole question is whether, when the impositions which were made at a time of national need, come to be reduced, beer drinkers have the first claim to the exclusion of the other suffering parts of the community. That is the whole issue, and it is upon that issue I should like to say a few words.

Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT

Surely, the issue is that the tax has completely failed and that the revenue was not forthcoming, and that if the tax had been pursued under the present law, the revenue would have declined more and more each year.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to put that point as he did last year, when, very shortly after joining in the cheers of September, 1931, he voted with the others to bring down the National Government because they were not prepared to take off that part of the burden within a few months of the imposition.


That is not so. I did not vote.


I beg the hon. and gallant Gentleman's pardon. I apologise at once to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I know that at that time he was extremely interested in the Amendment, as he would at once admit, and there were, I think, 31 Members pledged to support the National Government who went into the Lobby in the early part of the last year because of their resentment against this tax. I have no wish to include the hon. and gallant Member, although I know that he was very active in the matter at that time. Before the general issue is discussed, I want to put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or to whoever may be answering on this matter.


I would call the hon. Member's attention to the fact that we are now talking on the Clause.


On the general Clause. Taking the general Clause, I want to see its effect. I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he introduced his Budget, use these words: It is very difficult to predict with any confidence what the cost of these changes in the Beer Duty will he…I am advised that I cannot expect any great increase in consumption to follow immediately on this change, although it is very possible that the decline may be arrested. I put the loss at £14,000,000."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April, 1933; col. 57, Vol. 277.] On the same day that that statement was made by the right hon. Gentleman, there was published the Financial Statement in the name of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and some figures were given in relation to the Beer Duty upon page 23 of that Statement, according to which the Budget estimate for 1932–33 was £80,000,000. The receipts in respect of the Beer Duty were approximately £73,725,000. The estimated receipts in respect of the duty for 1933–34 were £54,000,000. According to those figures, therefore, there was a difference of £19,725,000. The figure given by the right hon. Gentleman as his estimate of loss was £14,000,000. Between the £14,000,000 and the £19,725,000 there is a difference of £5,725,000, and I would like some explanation of the difference between those two figures. Is the right hon. Gentleman expecting that there will be an increase in the consumption of beer which will make up the difference between the £14,000,000, which he gave in his Budget Statement as the approximate figure, and the £19,725,000 which was given as the figure in the Financial Statement? According to present calculations, the difference would represent an increase in consumption equal to 2,290,000 barrels, so far as I have been able to calculate. That increase is one upon which, perhaps, we can be advised by those who are able to give the Treasury information.

Regarding the whole issue as to why this relief should be given to this one industry, I want briefly to make my protest against what has been done. I think that this is a cynical betrayal of those interests upon which the National Government relied at the time they made their first appeal. I think that this concession is now being made, not for purely economic reasons, but because of very heavy pressure brought to bear particularly in recent months. We saw something of that pressure last year. Within a few months of the imposition, at a time when all parts of the community were asked to take their share of an unconscionable burden, that protest was raised in this House, although at that time there was very great need throughout the country, and the desperate position was being felt by everyone in the community. Lord Snowden, it will be remembered, made his appeal in the House at that time, and quoted the lines of Swinburne. I wonder what would have been the result if, after quoting the words of Swinburne, and talking to us about Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth and the rest, it had been said from those benches, "We are asking you to take these heavy burdens upon yourselves. We are asking the poorest of the community to accept cuts that will go right into their day-to-day life, making very much heavier their burden, but, as soon as we are able to give some relief, we propose that that relief shall be given to beer, that it shall be given to the one industry in all the country that has suffered least in the midst of this national distress." If that had been the appeal made from those benches at that time, I do not think the National Government, when they went to the country in the next few weeks, would have had the response they did have.

It is the betrayal of those interests against which I make my protest. During the Debate upon this Bill, it is evident from the Amendments now on the Paper, a great many concessions will be asked for—concessions for the poorest people going to places of entertainment, concessions for this class and for that class. Every one of those claims, probably, will now have to be denied, not because there is a continuance of the national stringency which makes any relief impossible, but because all the relief has practically gone in one direction, and the other dogs will be treated like the dog of Mother Hubbard. They will get as much as Mother Hubbard's dog when they come round for their bone. They will be denied their bone, not because there is no bone, but because the biggest dog has gone off with the whole joint, and that has been given, not because he is the hungriest dog, but because he has the fiercest snarl and the sharpest teeth.

4.6 p.m.


After listening to many discussions in this House about the Beer Duty, I find it very difficult to become indignant about beer. I cannot sympathise with those people who look upon beer as such a dreadful sin that it is quite impossible to speak dispassionately on the subject. At the same time, I cannot look with patience upon those who regard drinking beer as such an excessively pleasant pastime that they defend it with as much religious zeal as some people attack it. It seems to me that we ought to look upon this discussion from the point of view of social justice and political equity, and not from the point of view of the sacrosanctity of the glass of beer. The Noble Lord, who has just left, used a most remarkable argument in asking us to believe that the reason why it is sought to reduce the price of beer is that, in consequence of the high price of beer, the brewing industry is now declining, and a considerable revenue is being lost to the State. I would like to ask Conservative Members kindly to tell the Committee where they stand in the matter. In the course of the last few years every Minister of the Crown has been engaged in the task of raising the prices of commodities. We have been told by the Prime Minister and by the Minister of Agriculture that this nation, and even the world at the moment, are suffering from the fact that prices are too low, and that if it be only possible to raise the prices of goods, prosperity will return.


It is a question of primary products—not secondary.


We have heard the arguments about primary products over and over again. Everyone knows that if the prices of primary products are raised, the cost of production in various industries will necessarily be raised, and that cost ultimately will be transferred to the cost of the retail products and the byproducts. I would like Conservative Members to be consistent. In one direction their policy has succeeded. It has succeeded in raising the price of beer, and one would have thought, therefore, that if their economics were sound, prosperity ought to come to the brewing industry. Tariffs are being put on, artificial shortages are being conspired for, the Minister of Agriculture is deliberately engaged in a policy of restricting agricultural production to raise prices, and I should have thought that they would be delighted that at last the price of beer was being raised and that they had succeeded in one part of their policy. Now we are told that the price of beer must be reduced in order to increase the consumption of beer. Does not the same logic apply to every other product? Is it not true that if you reduce the price of beer, of bread and of fruit, there will be an additional consumption of those products? Is it not, therefore, reasonable to ask that the Government should be engaged in a policy of general cheapness?

If that were their policy, I would agree with them in attempting to reduce the price of beer in order that men who want to have more of it may be able to obtain more. But, at the same time that those people are engaged in reducing the price of beer, they are conspiring to increase the price of bread, which must result in a decreased consumption of bread, and ultimately in a decreased consumption of beer. Therefore, I would submit that if anybody is a real defender of the workman's right to drink beer, it is the party seeking to bring about such a general cheapness of commodities as will leave more purchasing power in his hands to buy more beer. It is all cant for the Conservative party to say that they are engaged in any other task this evening than a conspiracy to put more profits into the pockets of the brewers. They are not engaged at all in the task of enabling the workman to drink more beer. That is simply political camouflage. They are seeking to put more profits into the pockets of the brewing industry which, I am told, makes generous contributions to the headquarters of the Conservative party.

Lieut.-Commander BOWER

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what possible interest the Majority of our party have in the brewers? So far as I understand, the vast Majority of our party have no interest in the brewers at all, but in the interests of tens of thousands of working men in our constituencies.


I was about to come to that aspect of the argument. I was pointing out that if the Conservative party had a genuine interest in the working classes, and desired to make their lives more comfortable and to extend their amenities, they would be engaged in a policy of general cheapness, instead of which, they are engaged in a conspiracy of creating artificial shortages and making many primary products consumed by them dearer, and therefore adding to the burdens of the poor. The hon. and gallant Member has no right to sentimentalise about the working class. What he is sentimentalising about is the brewer, and not the working man at all.

Lieut.-Coltimander BOWER

Will the hon. Member say that in the working men's clubs in his constituency?


I have no doubt at all that if the League of Freedom and Re-form, or whatever it may call itself, attaches sufficient importance to what I say in the House, it will see to it that the clubs in my constituency will know what I am saying. If the working man wants more beer, make him more prosperous and he will have more money to buy more beer. The Conservative party have raised the price of an article which we are told by medical science ought to be consumed in much larger quantities by working-class people. They raised the price of tomatoes. Hon. Members may say that that is a subject for merriment. Why is it a subject for merriment? They are engaged in this House in raising the price of milk, tomatoes, potatoes, bread and of every article of working-class diet, and then they have the humbug to come to the House of Commons and say, "On behalf or the working-class, we are trying to reduce the price of the pint of beer." It is too bad that we should have to listen to this sort of thing. The Conservative party have regarded themselves as the traditional upholders of the working man's pint of beer. In my constituency a very large percentage of the population like a glass of beer. I desire that my constituents should be able to enjoy the pleasure of that amenity without detriment to other amenities which they desire to enjoy, but what you are attempting to do is to secure for the brewing industry a favoured position, because at the same time that you are attempting to reduce the price of beer you are attempting to increase the price of primary products.

Hon. Members must be consistent in their politics. I do not mind them subscribing to the point of view which is held by many reputable economists, that you ought to raise the price of goods, because by doing so you will be able to accomplish all sorts of desirable things. That is a conceivable line of argument, but it is not conceivable in logic that you should come forward at another stage and say that cheapness is what you want, cheapness of the product of one particular industry which, if it does not contribute to the individual expenses of members of the Conservative party, does subscribe very generously to Conservative propaganda throughout Great Britain. I do not accuse individual members of the Conservative party, but I do suggest that I am well within my rights in saying that a traditional supporter of the Conservative party in Great Britain has been the brewing interest, and that when hon. Members come forward in the House of Commons and generously give £14,000,000 away to the brewing industry, if it is not personal nepotism it is political nepotism, because you are paying for past favours received.

The Noble Lord said that as a consequence of the raising of the price of beer there has been acute social discontent, that the masses are stirred up because of this iniquitous burden which has been put upon them in past Budgets. I have received numerous postcards from my own constituency urging me to support the reduction in the Beer Duty. It is remarkable that those postcards are all written in the same language and the same words. I do not object to that form of pressure, because I am not susceptible to it. Perhaps other hon. Members resent it because they feel that they may succumb to such pressure. To argue that individual members of my constituency are up in arms about the high price of beer when standard communications are sent out from every public house asking as many working men as possible to sign, is bunkum. I will go to any working man's club with any hon. Member of this House, and argue this proposition, that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the circumstances facing Great Britain to-day has £14,000,000 to dispose of, the working men in that club will say that that. sum of £14,000,000 should have been given to the children and the wives of unemployed men before it was given to the beer industry. I will go to any working man's club in Great Britain and put that proposition.

I say to the Government that they are insulting decent Britishers when they say that they would prefer to starve unemployed men and their dependents in order that they may have cheaper beer. I make hon. Members that challenge, and I put it fairly. The proposition is this: The Chancellor of the Exchequer says: "I have £14,000,000 to dispose of. To whom shall I give it? Shall I give the £14,000,000 to the men from whom you have taken £32,000,000?"Conservative Members come here and weep crocodile tears over the working man's glass of beer, and yet they are taking £10,000,000 a year more from the working people than they contracted to take, and they suggest that they are supporting the working man by the proposition to cheapen beer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has £14,000,000 to dispose of. To whom shall it be given? He is giving it to the beer interest. Have I put the proposition fairly? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Will hon. Members tell me where the unfairness is? They will say they desire to maintain the source of taxation in this way.

If the brewing industry declines as a consequence of decreased consumption, what happens to the purchasing power that the brewing industry enjoys? Is it lost? Has it vanished into thin air? It is the same sort of argument that we heard about the co-operative tax. If the co-operative society abolishes the distributing industry, what happens to the profits formerly earned by the private trader? Are they lost? No. It means an adjustment of the system of taxation. The same taxable resources are available in the community. We heard the argument the other day that it is an ex- cellent thing, that it means a prosperous society to have as many Super-tax payers as possible, in order to milk them. It was argued that if you had more Super-tax payers you would have a more prosperous community, because you could get more money. If you distributed the receipts of the Super-tax payer over the community you would have democratised the income, and all you need to do to adjust it is to democratise the taxation, and you have got your money back. [Interruption.] I am coming to the point. Hon. Members will say that my argument is in favour of increasing the taxation on low incomes.


May I ask whether on this Amendment it is open to us to debate the whole question of the theory of taxation? There are a good many forms of reply, which I am afraid would be out of order.


The hon. Member is travelling rather wide from the question of beer.


I was attempting to answer the arguments addressed to the House by the Noble Lord, and I maintain that I have not gone one single inch outside the speech that he addressed to the Committee. We are, I understand, debating the Clause in its entirety, and surely I am entitled to put the points that I have made. What is affecting Great Britain is not the decline in the brewing industry, thereby contracting the resources of taxation, so that you can remedy it by democratising taxation, but what has happened is the failure on the part of industry to produce the same sum of wealth. This has no reference to the brewing industry. It is an illustration of the failure on the part of people who defend the existing social order to make the taxable wealth of the community. You may democratise taxation if you will, provided that you democratise the production of wealth.


The hon. Member says that this has nothing to do with beer. It is beer we are discussing, and I must ask him not to go into the general question of the democratisation of taxation.


I was about to leave the point, but I was compelled to safeguard myself against the charge that I was asking the Committee to increase the taxation upon low incomes, because I had already argued that if the brewing industry had ceased to be as prosperous as it was formerly, if everything remained equal the same sum of wealth would be available in the community. If hon. Members are Sincere in their desire that working class people should have made available to them the same amenities that are enjoyed by the rich, they should seek to bring about greater equality in the distribution of income. They should seek to make working class people more prosperous, but they are engaged politically and industrially in lowering the standards of life of the working class as a whole. They are making it more difficult to buy food, clothing, and housing. It is not Sincere politics, whilst you are doing that, to argue that you are defending the working man by seeking to make his pint of beer cheaper.

If the argument was presented to decent working-class citizens up and down the country in the terms in which it should be presented, they would say to the Conservative party and the British House of Commons that a decent nation should dispose of its income as would a decent father of a household. It would provide for the weakest members of the family first. It would see to it that all the members of the family had food, boots and clothing before some members of the family had luxuries. The Conservative party have gone a very long way from the patriachial attitude adopted towards the citizens of this country that was characteristic of the early years of the Conservative party. They have simply become defenders of vested interests, and exploiters of the passions of the community. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] You do exploit the passions of the community in regard to the beer industry more than anything else. You exploit their passions far more successfully than we do. You have been cleverer in that respect than we are. You did it at the last election, and you would probably do it again next time. Ite is a monstrous injustice that, with all the poverty that exists in Great Britain at the present time, with all the mainutrition of children that exists to-day, the House of Commons should be cynically throwing away £14,000,000 to the brewing industry.

4.30 p.m.


The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), in his speech which rambled over many subjects, started by informing the House that it was wrong for anyone to speak about raising the price of beer. I should not be at liberty to discuss the question of raising prices with the hon. Member, but probably he will remember the words used by a member of the Socialist party, that the first duty of the Socialist party when it was returned to power would be to raise wholesale prices all round. I will leave the matter there.


Will the hon. and gallant Member give the name of the member?


Mr. Lees-Smith, who I understand is the economic instructor of the Socialist party.


Will the hon. and gallant Member mind producing the document from which he quotes?


I shall be pleased to do so, but I thought everybody knew it, especially those Members of the Socialist party who are his pupils. From the speeches we have heard this afternoon one would imagine that a great boon is being given to the British working-man, and to a special industry. The fact is that in September, 1931, Mr. Snowden, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, looked around to see where he could raise revenue. Everyone wanted to assist him at that time. Instinctively every Member in the House, on whatever side he sat, desired to support the then Chancellor of the Exchequer in every part of his Budget. I said on that occasion that I would support and vote for the increased tax on beer because we ought not to interfere with any part of the general Budget conception, but I warned the Chancellor of the Exchequer on that occasion that the very instrument he was using would defeat his object. Mr. Snowden hoped that by increasing the duty he would raise an extra £10,000,000; but he did not get more than £2,000,000. The sole effect was that a grave additional burden was inflicted on the people of this country who consume beer with-out achieving the results which everyone desired to see. Only a few months later anyone who was examining this matter could see that the revenue was going to fail, and it would have been wise to reconsider the question. If the then Chancellor of the Exchequer had thought it wise to introduce a special Finance Bill in the autumn the national Exchequer would have been better off, but—


There were 35 Members of the National Government who were prepared to bring the Government down upon this one issue, in spite of the appeal made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


I understand also that 33 gentlemen sitting opposite again and again on the question of tariffs were prepared to bring the Government down. I suggest that stones should not be thrown quite so quickly against my 35 friends, whoever they were on that occasion. The broad fact is that from the point of view of the consumer there is a violation of the principle of equality of sacrifice, when one particular section of the working-classes find that their taxation has increased by 1,200 per cent. Since 1914. That is a staggering rise. Revenue has always been obtained from this source, but there came, of course, a time when taxation killed the goose which lays the golden eggs—no more eggs came into the basket. The British working man is not an excessive drinker. It is difficult for any magistrate to say that after a glass or two of beer a man is ripe for crime. No one will advance that proposition. It is not from such men that you get crime.

The British working-man who consumes two pints of beer a day throughout the year, not an excessive amount, one in the middle of the day and a pint of beer at night, if he is buying the ordinary cheap beer pays in taxation alone £7 11s. per annum, apart from the actual cost of the article. Surely that is beyond the bounds of reason, and hon. Members will realise that taxation has reached a height which is no longer fair. If you consider equality of sacrifice, then the working-man, the agricultural labourer, the steel worker, the blast furnace worker, any of these men are not being asked to make an equal sacrifice when the tax on their beer is raised to such a percentage. The right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) said that the industry provides little employment compared with others. He is wrong. It is one of the greatest employing industries in the country.


I said in proportion to the amount spent.


The right hon. Gentleman omitted to tell the Committee that of the amount spent an enormous proportion is taxation.


I said so.


If you allow for that, and for all the ramifications of the industry, the large number of other industries which provide the raw materials for the brewing industry, you will find that it is a large employment giving industry. As a result of the present taxation many thousands of persons have lost their employment. This is not a gift of £14,000,000 to the brewing industry. It is merely a return to the position in which it was before the Budget of 1931, and, undoubtedly, the country would have lost that amount of money in two or three years time if the present level of taxation had continued. The number of people who will not now lose their employment will more than compensate the State for any financial loss. If my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not taken this step the effect of the present taxation would have been most disastrous upon all the barley-growing areas of the country. Men who have been facing the gravest difficulties would undoubtedly have been involved in bankruptcy and ruin, whilst thousands of acres of land would have gone back into prairie land. Most people who do not want to be vindictive will congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer on doing something to stop the rot in all these various industries which are dependent on the brewing industry.

4.39 p.m.


I could not help but admire the agility of the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) in the way in which he gave no one a chance of taking up his arguments, not that they were unanswerable, but because the points he was trying to make were not quite clear. The only one that I was able to grasp was that he places beer and its price to-day in the same category as primary products. It is the glut in primary products to-day that has caused the drop in prices and, therefore, the essential difference between beer and primary products is that there is no question of the production of beer being excessive. The brewing industry is suffering from taxation which is out of all proportion to that borne by any other commodity.

I desire to associate myself with the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), when he pointed out that this particular industry has been singled out for taxation, and my object in rising is to say that an even stronger anomaly exists in Scotland and bears hardly on particular producers and on particular classes of consumers. I do not think this point is likely to be raised again, and therefore I take this opportunity of begging the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if this reduction in taxation does result in a more satisfactory revenue, if it does result in a more satisfactory demand for barley and primary products, to consider the case of a similar industry North of the Tweed, which has suffered far more severely than beer—namely, whisky. I hope that in any future reduction of taxation which he may have in mind he will not leave this Scottish industry out of his reckoning.

4.43 p.m.

Captain A. EVANS

During the course of the eloquent speech the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) invited a Member of this House to debate with him the question as to whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer was wise or not in devoting a surplus of £14,000,000 to a reduction of the Beer Duty in this country, and I think it is fitting that a Member from the Principality, representing the opposite party, should take up that challenge. I shall be happy to discuss with the hon. Member any arrangements which might suit our mutual convenience. I rise to apologise to the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) for interjecting "rot" during the course of his able address. I am afraid that I was so astonished at the arguments he introduced that I committed the unpardonable sin of thinking aloud. On various grounds the right hon. Member invited the Committee to reject this Clause, thereby putting the price of beer back to the figure at which it stood before the Budget was introduced.

His first argument was to suggest that the modern tendency of society was to finance baby Austins instead of real babies, and he blamed that to the low price of beer. How he arrived at that rather remarkable deduction I cannot understand. He did say that if any Chancellor of the Exchequer at this particular time and in this particular financial year had such a large surplus at his disposal he would have been better advised to devote that sum of money to restoring the cuts in pay in certain ranks of the Civil Service, or to other causes which in his judgment he considered better than a reduction in the price of beer.

My point is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not singling out any particular class when he makes a reduction in the price of beer. Let us start with the unemployed. Is it suggested that the unemployed will be deprived entirely of the benefits which will be enjoyed by other classes of the community through a reduction in this taxation? Not for one moment would I suggest that the unemployed men have large funds at their disposal to spend on beer drinking, because I know full well that the means at the disposal of the unemployed are small enough. Nevertheless if it is possible for any member of the unemployed to enjoy a pint or two of beer per week the last person on earth, I should think, to say that the unemployed man has no right to enjoy that facility for cheaper beer would be my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.

That is the real question which the Committee has to consider to-day. We are not being invited to consider whether any special class has an additional right to consideration above any other class. The only question in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and certainly in the minds of the Majority of Members, is what is the best way to raise the necessary revenue with the least inconvenience and unfairness to the Majority of people. We have to realise, whether we like it or not, that this sum of money has to be raised. We should not exercise our minds or allow our imagination to run away with us in selecting ways and means for a reduction of taxation. We should with better pur- pose address our minds to the problem how it is possible to raise the necessary sum of money without undue unfairness to any section of the community. The real problem we have to consider is the decrease in revenue; whether it comes from Super-tax or Income Tax or from the taxation of beer, that is the problem to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to address himself.

I do not think it is disputed by anyone that owing solely to the excessive taxation of beer the revenue has not come up to the expectations of Lord Snowden. Therefore I hope the Committee will allow this Clause to pass. I persoNaily feel that it would be most unwise for the Committee now, having regard to the many unemployed and the very severe conditions which obtain in our industrial cities, to try to throttle any avenues of enjoyment which the Majority of the working classes are permitted to share to-day. I have no sympathy with the point of view which raises beer to prohibitive prices, which says that you must not go to cinemas on Sundays and that you shall not enjoy dog racing under proper facilities and arrangements. It behoves the Government of the day to do everything in its power to afford reasonable facilities, enjoyment and amenities for the vast Majority of our people.

4.51 p.m.


I think it is fairly clear that the right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken against this Clause made their speeches merely as a protest against a proposal which they dislike. All the same, I always endeavour to try to answer arguments which are addressed to the Committee, whether they are addressed with any hope of convincing the Committee or not. But I must admit that in this instance I have found it difficult to appreciate exactly the ground on which the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate wished to take his stand. He began by challenging the suggestion that the effect of the change in the duty would be to arrest the decline in revenue. He stated that there were changes going on in the social habits of the people which could not be withstood or diverted by alterations in taxation, and he therefore expressed complete scepticism as to the calculation I have made. But his second argument was that the effect of the proposal would be to divert to beer money which would be spent otherwise on clothes, boots and bread. If this money is not diverted in accordance with the second argument, obviously the right hon. Gentleman's first argument falls to the ground. I am not one of those who, like the right hon. Gentleman, think that it is desirable to try to dictate to the working man through the medium of taxation exactly how he shall order his life. I think that the working man, to-day at any rate, can safely be trusted not to abuse whatever income he has, and that the idea that he does not know what is good for him, but that the right hon. Gentleman can tell him better how much he shall spend on bread or clothes or beer, is one which is not in accordance with the feelings of the mass of the people to-day.

Another argument that the right hon. Gentleman used was that this proposal was inconsistent with pledges which he alleged had been given by Members of the Government, that they would, whenever taxation decreased, give priority to those who had been the subject of cuts. The right hon. Gentleman did not bring up any quotations; he did not tell us the letter of the pledges on which he relied. I do not myself remember that any pledges were given of priority in regard to the various cuts. But certainly the proposal in the first Clause of this Bill is one which is entirely unaffected by any pledges of that kind, because it is not based upon a proposal to relieve the burden which falls on a particular section of the community; it is based, as I have over and over again stated, 'solely upon considerations of revenue. It may be that you cannot alter a tax and that you cannot affect the revenue one way or other without to some extent altering the burdens on people who would otherwise be subject to the particular tax. But that has not been the motive, and therefore the question as to whether money should be devoted to the restoration of this or that particular cut or to the relief of this or that particular tax, does not arise here at all.

The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) sought to accuse me of some inconsistency or inaccuracy in my figures. I can easily explain to his satisfaction what was the difference between the figures which he gave and those which I gave in my Budget speech. The figures which he compared were the estimated yield of the tax as altered by this Clause this year with the actual receipts from the tax last year. The difference between those two is £19,725,000. But the figure that I quoted in my Budget speech, and which has been quoted Since, is the difference between the estimated yield of the Beer Duty if it were left as it was, and what its yield would be if it were altered as proposed in this Clause. The estimated yield of the duty if it were left as it was I stated to be £68,000,000. I stated that the estimated yield of the tax as amended would be £54,000,000, and the difference is £14,000,000 as the expected loss by reason of this change.

Let me once again remind the Committee what the position is with regard to the effect upon the revenue of the repeated increases of taxation which have taken place. What has been the increase in the taxation? In November, 1914, the Beer Duty was £1 3s. per standard barrel. In September, 1931, it had grown to £6 14s. per standard barrel, less a rebate of 20s. per bulk gallon. That is a gigantic increase. What has happened to the consumption? I shall not go back as far as 1914. In 1929–30 the consumption was 20,700,000 standard barrels; in 1930–31 it was 19.6 millions; in 1931–32 it was 16.9 millions; and in 1932–33 it was 13.8 millions. In the Becond half of 1931–32, that is after this vast increase had taken place, there was a fall of no less than 18 per cent. in the consumption as compared with the first half; and if we take last year there was a fall of no less than 25 per cent. as compared with the first half before the extra duty was imposed. With regard to revenue the figures are: 1929–30, £77,200,000; in 1930–31, £75,700,000; and last year £73,700,000.

I have never maintained that the drop in the revenue was solely attributable to the increase in taxation. Some of it must be ascribed to a change in the habits of the mass of the people. But there can be no shadow of doubt that this crushing taxation which has been imposed upon this particular article has accentuated very severely indeed the drop in consumption which was taking place before. A prudent man has to look not merely to what is happening in a particular year under consideration, but has to take a rather longer view and consider what is going to be the probable effect upon the revenue as a whole of this continual drop in this very large source of revenue. It really was not fair to my successors that I should leave matters as they were. I might very justly be reproached by future Houses of Commons with having whittled away and diminished one of the principal sources of revenue to such an extent that further taxes had to be put on in other directions. For that reason, and that reason alone, I have advocated a reduction of the duty, and while I cannot expect that there is going to be a very considerable increase in the consumption of beer, I am confident that this will do something at any rate to arrest the decline, and will to that extent safeguard the revenue of the future.

5.0 p.m.


I should be very unhappy if this discussion closed without a further expression of opinion from this side concerning the merits of this proposal. I wish, at the outset, to make quite clear that there are Members on this side who would, perhaps, take a different view on this subject from mine, and, in speaking as I propose to do on this subject, I am speaking for myself and possibly for some of my hon. Friends as well, but not generally for those with whom I am associated. It seems to me that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not quite faced the objections which are felt to this proposal. The right hon. Gentleman's first point, which was not unfamiliar to those who have listened to previous beer discussions in the House of Commons, was that he had no right to dictate to people how they should live their lives. Is not the right hon. Gentleman a little late in discovering that principle? As a Member of this Government last year he with his colleagues imposed a cut upon the allowances to the unemployed, thereby dictating in some degree how the unemployed should live their lives. That decision had the effect of dictating the conditions under which the unemployed were to live and the area within which they could undertake expenditure either on their own behalf or on behalf of their families.

Then, we are told by the right hon. Gentleman that his- first interest is revenue. Naturally that would be the point of view of a Chancellor of the Exchequer in connection with the Finance Bill and one can understand it. But the question which the Chancellor has to answer is whether, in looking for revenue, this method is the best and the most desirable from a financial point of view and from a social point of view. A Finance Bill certainly has its revenue implications but it has its social implications as well, and the right hon. Gentleman must face the objections to this proposal which some of my hon. Friends have advanced. To what do we take the strongest objection in connection with this proposal? I think I may claim in this respect to express the view of everyone in this part of the Committee, regardless of their opinions on the temperance question as such. Our strongest objection is this: Eighteen months ago we were told that the nation was in a great financial crisis and everyone was called upon to share in a common sacrifice. [HON. MEMBERS: "A fair sacrifice."] A common sacrifice—I shall discuss its fairness afterwards. A sacrifice was imposed upon certain sections of the community and, as the question has been raised, may I say that it has yet to be proved that the sacrifice imposed on the unemployed was fair as compared with the sacrifices of other sections of the community. That sacrifice was made, willingly or unwillingly, and the question now arises: Has such a change come over the situation as to justify a remission of taxation to the tune of £14,000,000 for somebody? The answer of the Chancellor is that there has been an amelioration of the position to such a degree that he has £14,000,000 that he can sacrifice.


I said exactly the opposite.


Surely I am entitled to argue that the right hon. Gentleman is now doing without £14,000,000 and he would not do without it unless he could afford to do without it. Am I right or wrong?


I have no objection to the hon. Gentleman giving his own interpretation but he must not say that I said the exact opposite of what I did say.


If I have seemed to put words into the right hon. Gentleman's mouth, I beg his pardon. I have no desire to do so; I am giving my own interpretation. My view is that the right hon. Gentleman is making a remission to the extent of £14,000,000, and I gather from that fact that he is of opinion that he can do without this £14,000,000 in some way or other. The question then arises, Since there is a change in the situation who has the first claim to benefit? Ordinarily, even in times of prosperity there might be very big differences of opinion as to the right of the beer trade to consideration, but here we have an extraordinary situation. Millions of our people are being called upon to make grievous sacrifices and yet we are told that, as compared with the claim to relief of people so grievously situated as the unemployed are to-day, the beer trade has a prior claim. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) offered a challenge explicitly to hon. Members to debate this question with him in any part of the country. If such a debate were to take place, you could fill the hall if you liked with unemployed people or with heavy drinkers or with both, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale would be found to be well within the truth in his statement that the vote of any working-class meeting would be in favour of the unemployed and their dependants having the first claim. The hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans), I gather accepts the challenge and I promise him that I shall be there to see his case torn to pieces. The hon. and gallant Member claims, I dare say honestly, to express the views of South Cardiff. I know Cardiff as well as he does—perhaps better—and I say to him that in expressing the view which he expressed this afternoon he has no more right to speak in the name of South Cardiff than the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself if he made that statement on their behalf.

Hon. Members who are supporting this Clause speak as though there were some merit in the argument that the decline in the consumption of beer is due merely to overtaxation. We ought to be perfectly frank with ourselves and face this fact. There is a tremendous change in the social outlook on the question of beer-drinking. I do not deny that the heavy taxation im- posed last year assisted in some degree the decline in consumption but a comparison of the figures of beer consumption in pre-War days with those in postwar days reveals an enormous drop in beer consumption generally. This striking fact indicates a change in the attitude of the people towards the habit of beer drinking. What I object to about this proposal is that not merely does the Chancellor propose to reduce the price so as to stimulate consumption, which is a bad thing socially, but he is also increasing the strength of the beer. He is adding to the potency of a drink which is already responsible for a great deal of social distress. The right hon. Gentleman frankly says that he hopes to stimulate the consumption of beer and thus reverse a tendency which every social reformer in recent years has been glad to welcome. I ask the Committee not to forget that last year's consumption of drink in this country represented a figure round about £230,000,000. That, look at it as you like, is a colossal and a challenging figure.


But is it not a fact that that vast figure is nearly all tax?


It is the money spent by the people upon drink. Whether the larger proportion of it is returned in taxation is another point which I am not arguing now. The simple proposition is that it is a terrible thing, in days of social and financial distress, that the nation should be spending £230,000,000 upon drink. We are not entitled to take any comfort to ourselves from the fact that it gives a certain amount of employment. It does, but there is no comparison between the effect upon employment of £1,000,000 spent on the production and manufacture of beer and £1,000,000 spent say in the iron and steel trade or in the textile trade. This proposal is socially bad and, I think, financially unjustified, but the main objection to it is that in times like these it is bad and wrong for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to stimulate a trade of this sort.

Captain A. EVANS

On a point of Order. May I ask, Sir Dennis, whether an hon. Member is entitled to challenge the right of another hon. Member to express a view on behalf of his constituents? In view of the fact that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones) knows my constituency perhaps as well as I do, having done me the honour to speak there frequently, may I say that if I had not the right to speak on behalf of my constituency, I would not have been elected by it to this Chamber on three occasions.


Perhaps you will allow me to say, Sir Dennis, that I would not dream of challenging the hon. and gallant Member's right to speak for his constituency. All I intended to convey was that I challenged the proposition that in speaking as he spoke this afternoon he correctly interpreted the mind of his constituency.

Captain EVANS

That is quite different from what the hon. Member said in the first instance.

5.14 p.m.


I rise to speak in favour of the Clause standing part of the Bill and I should not have done so had not two of my colleagues spoken with great eloquence against that proposition. I happen to be a lifelong total abstainer, and I have done all I could on behalf of total abstainance, but I do not think that the question at issue this afternoon is whether taxation is the best means to secure a lower consumption of beer. My hon. Friends who are, I know, very anxious to see the whole of Great Britain filled with total abstainers, sometimes think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is helping to increase the consumption of beer by this proposal. It may be the Chancellor's intention to do so. The tax on beer has brought about a much lower consumption, and consequently less revenue, and he is compelled to take steps to prevent a further reduction of revenue. I shall never support the taxation of beer as a means of lowering its consumption. I do not think it is sound or the best way to deal with the beer question. Prohibition by means of taxation is wrong in regard to any article, including beer.

I shall be told by my hon. Friends, "You are afraid of the clubs in your division." If there is any hon. Member of this House who need not be afraid of his clubs, I can claim to be that Member. If the clubs in my division know where I stand on this question of beer, and they do, I need not worry about them. I can afford to say to my clubs, "I think this is a good proposal," if I do think so, or "I think it is a bad proposal," if I think it is bad. I am convinced that the beer drinkers, many of whom are among my friends, are making too large a contribution to the revenue of this country. Why should a poor unemployed miner, a personal friend of mine, because he happens to like a glass of beer, be asked to pay revenue in excess of what I pay? I do not think beer drinking is a good thing, and that is why I abstain from it. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pursued on this occasion a very wise policy.

If I were asked personally, if I would prefer to see the £14,000,000 involved in this proposal handed over to the wives and children of the unemployed rather than used to reduce the taxation on beer, I should say, "Yes," but that is not the question before us. The right hon.

Gentleman has given us no choice of that sort, and if we rejected this Clause, it does not mean that the £14,000,000 thus saved would go to the unemployed. As a total abstainer and as one who is very anxious to see the consumption of beer lessened, I still think this proposal is a wise one, and I shall vote for it. Two of my colleagues, the only two who have spoken from these benches, have given the impression that this party is against this proposal, and that is why I have risen. I thought that if I gave a silent vote, I might be misunderstood. I know that by speaking one can be misunderstood, but I prefer to be misunderstood by uttering my sentiments to being misunderstood by sitting quietly in my seat.

Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 326; Noes, 20.

Division No. 191.] AYES. [5.20 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut-Colonel Cape, Thomas Emrys-Evans, P. V.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Caporn, Arthur Cecil Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Carver, Major William H. Erskine-Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)
Albery, Irving James Castlereagh, viscount Essenhigh, Reginald Clare
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.) Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Cayzer, Ma). Sir H. R (Prtsmth., S.) Falle, Sir Bertram G.
Anstruther-Gray, w. J. Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Fermoy, Lord
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Fieldan, Edward Brockiehurst
Astor, Ma). Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh Forestier-Walker, Sir Leolin
Atholl, Duchess of Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Fox, Sir Gifford
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring) Fraser, Captain Ian
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Charlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Fremantie, Sir Francis
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Christie, James Archibald Fuller, Captain A. G.
Balniel, Lord Clarke, Frank Galbraith, James Francis Wallace
Banfield, John William Clarry, Reginald George Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Clayton, Dr. George C. Gillett, Sir George Masterman
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Cobb, Sir Cyril Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Glossop, C. W. H.
Batey, Joseph Cocks, Frederick Seymour Gluckstein, Louis Halle
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.) Conant, R. J. E. Goff, Sir Park
Beit, Sir Alfred L. Cook, Thomas A. Goldie, Noel B.
Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Cooke, Douglas Goodman, Colonel Albert W.
Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel Copeland, Ida Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Courtauid, Major John Sewell Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)
Blaker, Sir Reginald Crooke, J. Smedley Grimston, R. V.
Blindell, James Crossley, A. C. Groves, Thomas E.
Boothby, Robert John Graham Culverwell, Cyril Tom Grundy, Thomas W.
Bossom, A. C. Daggar, George Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.
Boulton, W. W. Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Davison, Sir William Henry Gunston, Captain D. W.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Dawson, Sir Philip Hales, Harold K.
Bracken, Brendan Denman, Hon. R. D. Hail, Capt. W. O' Arcy (Brecon)
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Denville, Alfred Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)
Brass, Captain Sir William Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Hammersley, Samuel S.
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Dickie, John P. Hanley, Dennis A.
Broadbent, Colonel John Donner, P. W. Harris, Sir Percy
Broekiebank, C. E. R. Doran, Edward Hartland, George A.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'i'd., Hexham) Drewe, Cedric Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Duckworth, George A. V. Haslam, Henry (Horncastie)
Brown,Brig.-Gen.H. C.(Berks., Newb'y) Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Duggan, Hubert John Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington,N.) Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)
Burnett, John George Dunglass, Lord Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
Burton, Colonel Henry Walter Edwards, Charles Hepworth, Joseph
Cadogan, Hon, Edward Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Elmley, Viscount Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley) Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Hirst, George Henry
Hope, Sydney (Chester, Staiybridge) Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Hore-Belisha, Leslie Meller, Richard James Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Hornby, Frank Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Savory, Samuel Servington
Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Scone, Lord
Horobin, Ian M. Milne, Charles Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Horsbrugh, Florence Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chlaw'k) Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Howard, Tom Forrest Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney,N.) Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Hudson, Robert Spear (Souihport) Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Slater, John
Hume, Sir George Hopwood Moreing, Adrian C. Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.
Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.) Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hailam)
Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Hard, Sir Percy Moss, Captain H. J. Somervell, Donald Bradley
Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Munro, Patrick Soper, Richard
Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romt'd) Nail-Cain, Hon. Ronald Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Southby, Commander Archibald R. J
Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe) Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Jesson, Major Thomas E. Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld) Spens, William Patrick
Joel, Dudley J. Barnato North, Edward T. Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
John, William Nunn, William Stanley, Hon, O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Palmer, Francis Noel Stevenson, James
Ker, J. Campbell Parkinson, John Allen Stones, James
Kimball, Lawrence Patrick, Colin M. Storey, Samuel
Knight, Holford Peake, Captain Osbert Strauss, Edward A.
Knox, Sir Alfred Pearson, William G. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Peat, Charles U. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Peters, Dr. Sidney John Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Law, Sir Alfred Peto,Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Sutcliffe, Harold
Lawson, John James Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n.Bliston) Tate, Mavis Constance
Lees-Jones, John Pike, Cecil F. Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Potter, John Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Levy, Thomas Poweil, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Thorne, William James
Liddall, Walter S. PowNail, Sir Assheton Tinker, John Joseph
Lindsay, Noel Ker Price, Gabriel Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunlifle- Procter, Major Henry Adam Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Liewellin, Major John J. Pybus, Percy John Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Lloyd, Geoffrey Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Tryon, Rt. Hon, George Clement
Loeker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd.Gr'n) Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich) Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, CJ Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Wallace, John (DunferMilne)
Loder, Captain J. de Vers Ramsden, Sir Eugene Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Logan, David Gilbert Ratcliffe, Arthur Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Rawson, Sir Cooper Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Lunn, William Reid, James S. C. (Stirling) Wayland, Sir William'A.
MacAndrew, Lieut. Col. C. G.(Partick) Reid, William Allan (Derby) Wells, Sydney Richard
MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Rentoul, sir Gervals S. Whyte, Jardine Bell
McConnell, Sir Joseph Renwick, Major Gustav A. Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
McCorquodale, M. S. Roberts, Aled (Wrexham) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
macacdonald, Gordon (Ince) Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall) Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (1. of W.) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel Goorge
McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Robinson, John Roland Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
McKie, John Hamilton Ropner, Colonel L. Wise, Alfred R.
Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Rosbotham, Sir Samuel Withers, Sir John James
McLean, Major Sir Alan Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Wolmer, Rt. Hon. viscount
McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Range, Norah Cecil Womersley, Walter James
Macauisten, Frederick Alexander Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley
Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Russell, Alexander west (Tynemouth) Wragg, Herbert
Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Rutherford, John (Edmonton) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'V'noaka)
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Marsden, Commander Arthur Salmon, Sir Isidore TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Martin, Thomas B. Salt, Edward W. Sir George Penny and Major George
Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.) Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham) Davits.
Attlee, Clement Richard Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Sevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Buchanan, George Kirkwood, David Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Cowan, D. M. McGovern, John Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Davies, Rhys John (Weithoughton) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Maxton, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) Owen, Major Goronwy Sir Francis Acland and Mr. Isaac
Jenkins, Sir William Rathbone, Eleanor Foot.

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.