HC Deb 22 June 1939 vol 348 cc2513-31

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Barnes

I oppose the Motion that Clause 2 be embodied in the Finance Bill, on the ground that it imposes additional duties upon sugar. I trust that on this occasion the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will not use the rather worn-out argument that the Government cannot afford to drop this proposal. We are becoming rather familiar with that argument from the Government when it affects any proposal which we bring forward to ease the burden on the poorer sections of the community. But in the case of cinematograph films, for instance, the Government have already found it possible to make a concession. It is a concession with which, I, personally, agree. Nevertheless, it destroys the argument that the Government cannot accommodate themselves to any change in the finances of the Budget.

My opposition to the additional burden on sugar which this Clause proposes, is based on several grounds. There is, first, the ground that this is an important, indeed an essential item in the diet of the people. It cannot be argued that sugar is a luxury as it is used in household economy to-day. My second point against the proposed increase of taxation is that sugar is an important ingredient in foods such as jams, preserves, cakes and confectionery. It finds its way into almost every branch of cookery. When we examine the practice of the trade in the sale of sugar we find that it is one of the few commodities in regard to which the trade does not aim at making the usual margin of profit. Sugar is generally sold in the grocer's shop with a narrower margin of profit than almost any other article. This means that there is no margin to be shared between the trader and the public, and any increase in duty passes automatically to the customer, because of that practice of the trade. My third point is that this is an inopportune moment at which to increase the Sugar Duty. General market conditions throughout the world have tended to increase the price of sugar in the course of normal trade, for some months past. When normal trading conditions tend to raise the price of a food commodity, that is not the time for the Government to accelerate the process by an addition to the duty.

My fourth point is that this article has been unfairly selected for taxation. The tendency has been to increase the duty on sugar at a higher ratio than that which generally prevails in relation to food commodities. In the Debates on the Budget Resolutions, reference was made to the fact that the burden of taxation on sugar now is eight times more than it was before the War. References to conditions which existed before the War are apt to arouse some hilarity on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In this case I am not even appealing to the status quo, but an increase of eight times in the burden of taxation on this commodity, is out of proportion to the general level of taxation and to the increase in that level during the same period. This commodity, I contend, is bearing more than its fair average share of taxation. Another point on which I oppose this additional duty, is its relation to the general legislative tendency which has developed in recent years covering the whole field of food taxation. Not only has there been a tremendous increase in the percentage of taxation on foodstuffs, but we have had a wide range of foodstuffs brought within the area of taxation. On top of that, the trend of Government policy has been to place added burdens on foodstuffs by levies, subsidies, quotas, import duties and marketing schemes. We hear a great deal in the realm of foreign affairs about encirclement. Here is a policy of encircling, by all kinds of duties and penalties, the food of the mass of our people. All aspects of this policy which is developing, seem to converge on the one point of extracting sums from the consumer by a variety of devices, to add to the revenue of the country, apart from the increased taxation burden.

The general defence of the Treasury on this occasion appears to be that even in the exceptional budgetary conditions prevailing, indirect taxation contributes only 37.5 per cent. of the national income raised from taxation, whereas direct taxation is responsible for 62.5 per cent. of it. This argument leaves me cold. No one can argue that the difference between the relative positions of the wage-earner and the well-to-do person in this country is represented by a difference of two to one in these percentages in the favour of the well-to-do. It appears to me that if we were to proceed upon the correct ratio we could justifiably plead for a much lower percentage of indirect taxation. In support of my contention that this additional imposition on sugar should be repealed, I emphasise again the general tendency of the Government to impose unnecessary burdens on foodstuffs by a variety of policies. For instance, under the Ottawa Agreements taxes were imposed on wheat, butter, cheese, eggs, condensed milk, fruit and other articles —a range of commodities all of which are essential in the working-class household. Apart from the Ottawa Agreements, there are import duties on potatoes, tomatoes, fruit, poultry and vegetables. Leaving out poultry this is another range of foodstuffs all of which are essential in the working-class home.

I should say that approximately £50,000,000 will be raised this year by indirect taxation on foodstuffs. Yet when were late this method of taxation to the general health, the physical standard and the happiness of our people, what do we find? Medical experts, among whom Sir John Orr is an outstanding example, who have specialised on nutrition in relation to food values and supplies, state that to bring our food consumption up to a good nutrition standard, we should increase our consumption of milk by 80 per cent., butter by 41 per cent., eggs by 55 per cent., vegetables by 87 per cent. and meat by 29 per cent. Yet in face of that situation the Government propose a further imposition of duty on an article like sugar which, as I have pointed out, apart from its own importance as an article of diet enters into the preparation of many other commodities. This is being done at a time when 50 per cent. of our population are below the standard which I have indicated and 20 per cent. are even to-day below the British Medical Association's minimum standard of nutrition.

On these broad grounds I oppose this Clause, both on the merits of the proposal itself and on the question of the manner in which it fits into the general scheme of food taxation. I trust that on this occasion the Committee will develop the same kind of interest in and opposition to the Government's proposal that we have sometimes seen engendered in political life, in regard to other specific duties. It is interesting to note the general situation with regard to this Finance Bill. The Government are imposing additional burdens on the great mass of the community. They are also calling for additional contributions from special sections of the community. We see that sectional interests in the community are developing a greater capacity for political pressure, both on Members of Parliament and on the Government, than is possessed by the great mass of the citizens of this country, on whose votes we depend and with whose rights we are entrusted. Politics in this country are reaching a rather deplorable state when the great citizen interests for the protection of which Parliament is supposed to exist, are increasingly ignored and the pressure of sectional interests in the community is increasingly effective in influencing the policy of the Government. I trust that on this occasion the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has hitherto made very little response to any appeal which I have ever made in this House, will show a more reasonable attitude.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Graham White

On behalf of my hon. Friends— [Hon. Members: "Where are they?"]—that does not make our opposition any less strong—I wish to associate myself with the opposition which has been put forward to this Clause, and for the reasons, among others, which have been stated by my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes). He started out in the traditional method of a sound discourse, with a firstly, secondly and thirdly, and even reached a fourthly, but his stock of points was not exhausted when he reached the traditional termination, because he went on to enumerate some seven or eight reasons, all of them valid and of substance, why the Committee should support the rejection of the Clause. Sugar is an article of universal consumption by people of all kinds and at all times of their lives, and it is a matter of concern that a further burden should be placed upon a substance of which they consume so much directly and which also enters into the preparation of innumerable articles of consumption My hon. Friend was concerned to show the relationship of the direct and indirect taxation which it is proposed to raise under this Finance Bill. He said that 37.5 per cent. of the revenue to be raised

was from indirect taxation and 62.5 per cent, from direct taxation, but these figures, for a reason which he gave, have very little relevance at the present time. In recent years we have had a whole series of imposts placed upon the indirect taxpayers. In the case of sugar there is an immense levy upon the consumer, and we have a varying tax upon every sack of flour. On coal and, indeed, a whole host of other products, we have indirect taxation which makes these figures which are quoted from year to year of very little value.

My hon. Friend quoted the figure of £50,000,000 as representing the amount of these indirect imposts. As a matter of fact, the House has never been given any official estimate of what these indirect imposts of a direct kind may come to, and I think it is time we had such an estimate, for our comparative figures are of little value until we do know exactly where the indirect taxpayer stands in relation to the direct taxpayer. The only estimate I have seen, and it is a responsible one prepared for the "Banker" by a responsible writer and appeared about two months ago, was of the order of £100,000,000, and not £50,000,000. If that is so it is a matter of great consequence in considering the general scheme of taxation in this country. We might get—perhaps it might be arrived at by question and answer—some estimate of what these indirect imposts, and the imposts arising from the activities of the marketing boards, amount to, because they inevitably raise prices and also limit the choice of the consumer as to the sources from which he draws his supplies. It is unnecessary that I should repeat the varied reasons which my hon. Friend submitted for the rejection of this Clause, and for those reasons, and for the others which I have mentioned in some greater detail than he did, I hope the Committee will reject it.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. Tomlinson

I should like to voice a protest against this Clause on the ground that of all the commodities consumed in a working class home, sugar is probably the most widely used. On more than one occasion when opposition to certain taxes has been put forward it has been pointed out that if an individual did not wish to pay the tax he could limit his use of the commodity which was taxed, and in the case of tobacco, for example, that is perfectly true, but sugar enters into almost every article of food that is used, particularly in working class homes. I venture to say that never is a meal eaten in the home of a worker without sugar being consumed. It is not simply a question of putting ¼d. per lb. on sugar and of reckoning up the additional charge on the 4 lb. of sugar which is used for sweetening the tea as showing the extent of a worker's contribution in respect of sugar. I had hoped that when I made my small contribution to this Debate the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) would have been present, in order that I might have her support when I put in a word for the drink of the teetotaller. The price of mineral waters has been commented upon on more than one occasion, when I have been sitting with people who have been drinking what is looked upon as a more substantial beverage, because the price is out of all proportion to that of beer. I hope I may now have the support of the Noble Lady for the rejection of this Clause, in the interests of those who find it more convenient to drink mineral waters than beer. The Clause increases the taxation on sugar, and saccharine is also included. That affects the price of mineral waters, and although it is suggested that beer is the national drink of the workers I want to suggest, quite sincerely, that mineral water manufacturers are far more dependent upon the working classes than are the brewers, and that the duty which we are discussing now is the one thing that makes mineral waters dear in the real sense of the word. When we compare the cost of a glass of mineral waters with the cost of a glass of beer there is no one who can defend the price of mineral water, except upon the ground, as to which perhaps the Chancellor will tell us something, that it is impossible to consume quite so many bottles of mineral water as glasses of beer.

Viscountess Astor

The Chancellor will not know.

Mr. Tomlinson

At any rate, the Chancellor is expected to know. The point I am making is that time and time again the reason for the cost of mineral waters is the taxation upon sugar and saccharine. Saccharine is used very largely in the sweetening of mineral waters, and it must be so used in order to prevent them becoming an excisable drink. This added tax of ¼d. per lb. on sugar means something in the nature of shillings a pound in the case of saccharine, and the mineral water manufacturer is compelled to put up his prices. I am pointing this out in order to show that it is not only at breakfast, when the working man drinks tea, that he is called upon to pay this increase in taxation. When he provides sweets for his kiddies when they go to school he is again called upon to pay, and when he buys jam, which is probably the only luxury going into the house, and which he buys in order to make bread and butter palatable, and finally when he "goes on the spree" at night and drinks ginger beer he is once more called upon to pay the increase. This is a simple method of raising a great deal of money, and it has not been realised by the Chancellor, nor is it realised by Members of the House as it ought to be, what an imposition is placed upon the worker by taxes of this kind. It is the simplest of methods of bookkeeping for the Chancellor, it is the best method of obtaining the money he wants, but it does not take into account the equaliy of sacrifice which ought to be observed in obtaining the money which the country needs.

6.25 p.m.

Mr. Tinker

I want to support those who are objecting to the Clause. The duty on sugar is an unfair one and ought to be repealed to-night. It is true that one can hardly expect, as things have gone so far, that it will be repealed, but that does not prevent us on these benches from once more advancing our objections. There are two reasons why we object. One was put by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. G. White) and that is that it is another example of indirect taxation, to which every democrat ought to be opposed. If taxation has to be imposed it ought to be direct taxation, so that everybody would know exactly what he has to pay. That method ought to be adopted as soon as possible, and then, when taxation was levied, whatever for, whether for armaments or anything else, everybody would know what proportion he was paying. Indirect taxation makes the position obscure, because people do not realise why the price of foodstuffs goes up, and the blame often falls on the wrong shoulders. Many times it is the shopkeeper who gets the blame if there is an increase of price. The person who is called upon to pay wonders why there has been an increase, but the cost of the tax has to be met by somebody, although the consumer takes a long time to find that out.

I venture to say that had consumers been aware of what is happening in this matter there would have been protests on a scale which would have caused the Chancellor to do something like his re mission of the film tax. It is rather surprising how influential bodies of people can get the ear of the Chancellor. He finds out that he has made a mistake and is willing to repeal a tax for them, but the sugar tax goes on to so many shoulders that nobody seems to think it is his job to raise a protest against it, and so the Chancellor gets away with it, and there is no reason why he should take any steps towards repeal. The Chancellor may say that everybody bears a share of this tax and that is true. Sugar goes into every household, the rich as well as the poor, but can anybody say that the consumption of sugar in the Noble Lady's family bears the same pro portion to the income as it does in the case of a poor family? I do not wish to say that she and her children use more than two or three lumps of sugar like an ordinary person —

Viscountess Astor

Much more.

Mr. Tinker

I was thinking that the Noble Lady would probably use sugar like everybody else. It may be said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Noble Lady herself that taxation is paid upon that sugar, but I want to point out that what they pay in taxation does not bear the same proportion to the income of the home as it does in the case of a working-class home. A poor person who buys a pound of sugar pays a farthing out of his poor income, and the burden is much greater, proportionately, than in the case of a rich person. If we could raise the incomes of these poor people, there would not be the same objection to the tax, but every time we try to get an increase in the incomes of this section of the community we are met with rebuffs. When we try to get old age pensions raised, we are told that it cannot be done, yet these poor people who use sugar, as most households do, have to pay out of their miserable in- come this extra taxation. There is no justification for it, and I hope that the volume of opinion in all quarters of the House will be such, even now, as to cause the Chancellor to say that something must be done to find this money in other directions.

He may ask where he is to get the money from. He may say that he has fixed his balance sheet, and it would be very difficult to alter it. But there are plenty of ways that I could find for him. For instance, the profits tax could be increase, Income Tax, if necessary, could be increased, and certainly I would have the Death Duties much more than they are at present. When people have a certain income, they do not require any more in order to buy the ordinary things of life, and it would be much better for those who hold all this wealth to pass it on to the State in order that the State may make better use of it. I suggest that the Chancellor should repeal this tax, and, if he does, we will help him to find the money in some other way. I hope that this Committee will so rally round our appeal that he will reconsider the matter, as he has done when pressure brought to bear upon him has caused him to review and repeal some taxes. Therefore, once again I raise my voice in protest, and join with my colleagues in asking the Chancellor to consider this tax once more and see if he cannot cut it away and get the money somewhere else.

6.33 p.m.

Viscountess Astor

I am not going into the question of the respective taxation on rich and poor, but I know that no people in the world are taxed higher than is the case in this country. I have never contended against taxing the rich; if you do not tax the rich, whom are you to tax? Everyone knows that the taxation in this country is fairer than anywhere else in the world as far as rich and poor go. Although the tax on sugar may, in a way, be necessary, I think it is lamentable, because, as has been said, it does hit the ordinary person, who is tremendously dependent on sugar. We talk a great deal about keeping fit, and in that regard sugar is a vital necessity. I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it would be possible for the Government to consider taking off some of the millions that they are giving to the sugar beet industry as a subsidy,

which even the Labour Government had not sufficient courage to take off when they found it, so that it has now become a vested interest. If that subsidy to the sugar beet industry were reduced, it would be possible to reduce the taxation on sugar. The subsidy is most unsound. Everyone knows that it is a ramp, and it was a mistake from the first —

The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)

I am afraid we must not discuss the subsidy on sugar beet.

Viscountess Astor

I thought I should be in order in suggesting that the Government should take it off.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

On a point of Order. Seeing that a part of the Sugar Beet Subsidy consists of the remission of Excise duty, is it not bound up with the question of the taxation of sugar, which we are now discussing?

Viscountess Astor

I think the subsidy on sugar beet is far too great. It is one of the scandals with which all quarters of the House have had something to do, and it is about time they faced up to it. If we have to raise money, we ought to face these subsidies fearlessly, and I wish the Government would look into the Sugar Beet Subsidy again, so as to be able to do without taxation on sugar.

6.36 p.m.

Captain Crookshank

The Noble Lady is always very suggestive in her remarks on the subject of sugar beet, but, as I do not want in any way to transgress your Ruling, I will reserve the discussion of that subject for some more suitable occasion. The hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of his speech that he was getting very familiar with the argument that we cannot afford any remission of taxation, but I hope that in this case familiarity will not breed contempt, for me at any rate, although, familiar as the argument is, I must use it again on this occasion. We have had many discussions on the Sugar Duty, and there is nothing very novel that anyone could say about its effects. As we all know, sugar is an important constituent in the diet of everyone in this country. It is an ingredient in many forms of foodstuffs. We have heard from the hon. Member for Farn-worth (Mr. Tomlinson) the complaint that is made with regard to temperance drinks, and we have also heard the wail of those who are interested in that much better beverage, beer; but, on the other hand, I must remind hon. Members that the sugar used as an ingredient of manufactured articles like jams, cakes, chocolates, pastries, temperance drinks, beer and the rest is only about half the total quantity consumed and I very much doubt whether this extra ¼d. a lb. is going to have anything but a completely negligible effect upon them and their prices.

Mr. George Griffiths

May I point out to the Financial Secretary, who represents a Lincolnshire constituency, that in the North they do not sell sugar at prices like 2¼d. a lb.? It is always the nearest halfpenny or penny, so that the increase will not be ¼d., but ½d., in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Captain Crookshank

The hon. Member is raising a different point. I was saying that the extra duty is ¼d. a lb., and something just under 50 per cent. of the total amount of sugar consumed goes into manufacture; and that amount, in the large range of commodities in which it is used, is not really going to have any appreciable effect on the price of these commodities. That was all that I was saying, in answer to a point that was made.

Mr. Burke

Does the Financial Secretary realise that the 2 lb. pot of jam that goes into the ordinary household— possibly two of them in a week—is going to cost Id. extra as the result of the duty?

Captain Crookshank

I should have to look up a great many cases in order to make sure that what the hon. Gentleman says is universal, or whether it happens to be a special case. I was merely answering a point that was made that an increase in the Sugar Duty on this occasion was inopportune. Any increase in taxation at any time is normally considered to be inopportune by the people on whom it falls, but let us, if I may say-so with respect, get this matter back into the right perspective. We all agree that there may be some difficulty as the result of any particular increase in taxation which is dealt with in this Finance Bill, but, for all that, if we look back to the time when the Budget was opened by my right hon. Friend. the general opinion expressed in the House and throughout the country was that it was a reasonable and fair lay-out that he put before us in order to raise the money required, not only for the increased burden of armaments, but for all the other great services with which we are all so intimately concerned. Therefore, it having been acknowledged that the general picture was a fair and reasonable and proper one, and that there should be a certain amount of taxation from this source and a certain amount from that, I say that, looking at the matter in its widest perspective, this was one of the ingredients, and for that reason it cannot be taken away without not only upsetting considerably the calculations of my right hon. Friend, but also distorting the picture, the general reasonableness of which everyone admitted, which he put before us. Finally, the short answer is that to accept this Amendment would mean a loss which we estimate at £4,000,000 this year and £4,500,000 in a full year. That is a loss of a nature which my right hon. Friend cannot recommend the Committee to accept.

6.43 p.m.

Mr. G. Griffiths

I think we have had what we really expected from the Treasury Bench. Last year the same argument was put across the Table by the then Financial Secretary with regard to the Tea Duty. Then it was a question of 2d. on the old age pensioner's tea; this year it is ¼d. on the old age pensioner's sugar. The Financial Secretary said that this Amendment would cost £4,000,000, which the Government cannot find, but they could find it elsewhere if they had the will to find it. As far as I am concerned, the tax does not hit me. If I may be permitted to relate a personal experience, a few years ago I went one Sunday morning to a service at Leeds Infirmary, when the parson said, "We all need sugar." Went I went back, I said to the sister in charge of my ward. "Sister, the parson has told me this morning that we all need sugar. I want some." She said, "George, you have too much of it." That was because I was suffering from diabetes. Therefore, the sugar tax does not hit me very much. but it hits my people—the workers and the old age pensioners. As I have already pointed out, in the North it is not merely ¼d. a lb. They do not put on ¼d. a lb., but ½d.

Viscountess Astor


Mr. Griffiths

It is a shame, but it is done, and this ½d. which is put on to sugar means, to an old age pensioner and his wife, an increase of at least 2d. a week. At present, the tax on sugar, although it may appear small, is something like I¼d. a pound; so the old age pensioner and his wife are paying about 5d. a week on sugar alone. The tax on tea is about 6d. a pound, and the old age pensioner and his wife would use a pound of tea a week. There is 11d. gone out of the I0s., apart from other indirect taxation. Consider also the man who is receiving unemployment assistance. I was addressing a meeting the other night in South Wales, and the chairman said to me, "Some of these men have been but of work for 15 years, and still cannot get work." Those people are taxed 6d. a pound on tea and I¼d. a pound on sugar. We contend that this is a far heavier burden for them to pay out of their income than what a Member of Parliament or the middle class person has to pay. If the Government are still obstinate about this, we shall have to march into the Lobby again, as we did before we went to see the King.

6.46 p.m.

Mr. Assheton

Nobody likes to see any tax increased, but hon. Members should bear in mind that the price of sugar is lower here than in almost any other country. In France the price is 4d. a pound, in Germany it is 7d. a pound; and I believe that almost the only country where it is cheaper than it is here is Palestine. We ought to be very grateful that it is not higher than it is.

6.47 p.m.

Mr. John Wilmot

As the Chancellor has said, this subject of the sugar tax has been debated over and over again, but there are one or two aspects which, because of the familiarity of the subject, may have escaped the attention of hon. Members. On top of a very substantial tax on sugar there is this further impost, which now brings it to so high a figure that it is almost half the retail price. We are looking to the sugar consumers, in the main the poorest sections of the community, to provide increased revenue as great as the extra revenue to be taken this year by way of Surtax or Estate Duty. It seems to me that, looked at in that perspective, this extra Sugar Duty is entirely indefensible. Might I make an appeal to the Chancellor? He will be aware that there is a feeling among some sections of the community that the present Government are susceptible to very powerful and wealthy interests. Whether that be true or not, it is not in the national interest at this time—or, indeed, at any time—that the public should have the impression that the Government are serving, not the whole nation but the richer and more powerful sections. I feel sure that if the Government realised the full effects on public opinion of this Sugar Duty they would seriously consider its repeal, particularly in view of the effect of the concession which the right hon. Gentleman has made to the powerful representations of the film industry—a concession which I welcome, but which will tend to give the impression that, provided a wealthy and well-organised section can bring pressure on the Government, the Government will yield.

I suggest that that is a most undesirable state of affairs, and this duty is of such a magnitude that—faced with the necessity, I admit, of producing further revenue —the Chancellor of the Exchequer is actually taking in this way as much as from Surtax or Estate Duty. I appeal to him to give some further consideration to' the matter. The effect upon public opinion! and upon the integrity of the nation of a growing belief that the Government is a Government for the benefit of the well-to-do is very serious. Nothing will more easily and readily support that view than this enormous duty, particularly in view of the effect of the concessions which have been made elsewhere. Finally, may I say this, especially to the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor)? A tax on necessities, such as bread or sugar, is the worst kind of taxation, because it presses most hardly on the poorest. That is a very old doctrine, but it remains true, and it is necessary to repeat it every time these increases are proposed. The poorer the family, the smaller the family income, the larger the proportion of that income that is spent on the necessities of life, and the-larger the proportion of taxation. This. is a system of taxation which varies in inverse degree with the size of the income. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider repealing this Sugar Duty.

6.52 p.m.

Mr. Alexander

I would not like this to go to a Division without winding up from this bench, because we do not want the Chancellor to think that we are not opposed to this tax, as a party. I wish to join especially with my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) in expressing very great regret that the Chancellor should have seen fit to raise this tax on sugar at a time when there was a very strong tendency for the price of the commodity itself to rise. The various meetings of the International Sugar Commission in the last few years have been such as to leave a very uneasy feeling among those who deal in the market that, unless the British Government, who are interested from the point of view of their Colonial administration, are willing to do something, it is going to be a lean time. The hon. Member who compared the price in this country with prices in other countries might remember that in nearly all cases of a high price there is in being a fiscal system—a very wrong system from my point of view—of close protection and Government monopoly, whereas outside Europe an almost unlimited supply of sugar can be produced by conditions of light, air and heat which cannot be got in Europe.

Mr. Assheton

I was only pointing out the advantages we had in this country.

Mr. Alexander

We have ourselves engaged in that foolish type of artificial protection, because we are remitting large sums to producers in the sugar beet factories—although, of course, that makes no difference to the consumer, because he has to pay at the rate which is charged on foreign imports. The fact is, of course, that we could be much nearer to the pre-war price of sugar than we are but for the artificial means used by the Government, on the one hand for extracting undue taxation from the consumer, and, on the other hand, for assisting the various schemes of the International Sugar Commission and the like for restricting output and creating, whenever it suits them, an artificial temporary shortage. There was a tendency to create such an artificial shortage early this year. I pointed out to the Chancellor at the time that that was happening. Certainly, the market stocks have been in a comparatively difficult position compared to the previous year, and I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, in replying to the Debate, said that he would have to look that up. Surely, when he is proposing an increased duty of £4,500,000 a year on the Budget he ought to examine all the conditions.

Captain Crookshank

On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) quoted the instance of a particular pot of jam.

Mr. Alexander

I have not the slightest doubt that the competent officials at the Treasury, who in 1918, 1919, 1920 and 1921 were receiving deputation after deputation asking for reductions in the Sugar Duty because of the reduced consumption, as a result of the high price of the secondary products manufactured with sugar, could have given the right hon. Gentleman the whole of that information before he came down to the House, and they could, I believe, have given him the latest quotations from "The Times." I want the Chancellor, although I do not hope to move him from his £4,500,000— [An Hon. Member: "Do not say that."] Well, I hope we shall move him; but, whether we move him or not, he ought to give an undertaking that the appropriate Department of the Government will examine what is happening in the sugar market and what is to be the Government's attitude, because it has, in the long run, a profound effect both on the consumer of sugar and on the user of sugar as a raw material in manufactured goods. I entirely agree with the arguments put forward so eloquently by my colleagues on the social principles involved, and I hope that if the Chancellor remains adamant we shall vote solidly against this tax.

6.59 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Samuel

We have heard that the price of sugar in this country is lower than in any country except Palestine. Is that not accounted for by the fact that we have a much higher Income Tax and Super-tax and other high taxes which enable sugar to be sold at a lower price to the public? Will the right hon. Member deny that?

Mr. Alexander

Certainly. I should say that the higher prices for sugar to the consumer are in countries where practically all imports are excluded. We have a higher duty paid by our people here than is paid in those countries. It is not a question merely of taxation; it is a question of rigidly building up an import barrier round a country in order to boost home industries.

Captain Heilgers

I want to ask only one question of the right hon. Gentleman. Are we to take it from his speech that he is in favour of the abolition of the remission of Excise Duty in favour of home grown beet sugar?

Mr. Alexander

I do not think the hon. and gallant Member needs to ask me that, because in the course of the last 14 years I have opposed the sugar beet subsidy so often that my views are pretty well known.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes, 209; Noes , 130.

Division No. 190.] AYES. [7.2 p.m.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Furness, S. N. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Albery, Sir Irving Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Gower, Sir R. V. Moreing, A. C.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)
Assheton R. Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J. Morris-Jones, Sir Henry
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Gridley, Sir A. B. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Grimston, R, V. Munro, P.
Baxter, A. Beverley Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Nall, Sir J.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Hambro, A. V. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Hammersley, S. S. O'Connor, Sir Terence J.
Beechman, N. A. Hannah, I. C. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Blair, Sir R. Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Peake, O.
Boulton, W. W. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Perkins, W. R. D.
Boyce, H. Leslie Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose) Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Pilkington, R.
Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness) Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Brass, Sir W. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Hepburn, P. G. T, Buchan- Radford, E. A.
Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.) Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Bresklebank, Sir Edmund Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Monmouth) Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.) Higgs, W. F. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Hogg, Hon. Q. McG. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Brown, Brig.-Gun. H. C. (Newbury) Holmes, J. S. Rosbotham, Sir T.
Bull, B. B. Hopkinson, A. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Burton, Col. H. W. Horsbrugh, Florence Royds, Admiral Sir P, M. R.
Butcher, H. W. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Russell, Sir Alexander
Campbell, Sir E. T. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Salmon, Sir l.
Carver, Major W. H. Hulbert, Squadron-Leader N. J. Salt, E. W.
Cary, R. A. Hume, Sir G. H. Samuel, M. R. A.
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Hunloke, H. P. Sandeman, Sir N. S.
Chorlton, A. E. L. Hunter, T. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Hutchinson, G. C. Sandys, E. D.
Clarry, Sir Reginald Jarvis, Sir J. J Schuster, Sir G. E.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Jennings, R. Selley, H. R.
Colville, Rt. Hon. John Joel, D. J. B. Shakespeare, G. H.
Conant, Captain R. J. E. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n) Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Keeling, E. H. Simmonds, O. E.
Crooke, Sir J. Smedley Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
Cross, R. H. Kimball, L. Smithers, Sir W.
Crowder, J. F. E. Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F. Snadden, W. McN.
Culverwell, C. T. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald
De Chair, S. S. Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.) Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)
De la B[...]e, R. Leech, Sir J. W. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Denville, Alfred Levy, T. Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.
Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Lewis, O. Spens. W. P.
Doland, G. F. Liddall, W. S. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)
Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H. Lindsay, K. M. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Drewe, C. Lipson, D. L. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Dugdale, Captain T. L. Llewellin, Colonel J. J. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Dunglass, Lord Loftus, P. C. Sutcliffe, H.
Eastwood, J. F. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Tasker, Sir R.
Eckersley, P. T. McCorquodale, M. S. Tate, Mavis C.
Edmondson, Major Sir J. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Ellis, Sir G. Maclay. Hon. J. P. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Elliston, Capt. G. S. Macquisten, F. A. Titchfield, Marquess of
Emery, J. F. Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest Train. Sir J.
Entwistle, Sir C. F. Manningham-Buller, Sir M Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Turton, R. H.
Everard, Sir William Lindsay Markham, S. F. Wakefield W. W.
Fildes, Sir H. Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Fleming, E. L. Maxwell, Hon. S. A. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Fox, Sir G. W. G. Medllcott, F. Ward. Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Fremantle, Sir F, E. Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham) Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Wells, Sir Sydney Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colenel G. York, C.
Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.) Wise, A. R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES. —
Willoughby de Eresby, Lord Womersley, Sir W. J. Mr. James Stuart and Lieut.-Colonel Harvie Watt.
Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin) Wragg, H.
Acland, Sir R. T. D. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Naylor, T. E.
Adams, D. (Consett) Grenfell, O. R. Noel-Baker, P. J.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Oliver, G. H.
Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Paling, W.
Adamson, W. M. Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.) Parker, J.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Parkinson, J. A.
Ammon, C. G. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Hardie, Agnes Quibell, O. J. K.
Banfield, J. W. Harris, Sir P. A. Ridley, G.
Barnes, A. J. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Ritson, J.
Barr, J. Hayday, A. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Bartlett, C. V. O. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helen*)
Batey, J. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Seely, Sir H. M.
Bellenger, F. J. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Sexton, T. M.
Bonn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Hopkin, D. Shinwell, E.
Benson, G. Isaacs, G. A. Silkin, L.
Bevan, A. Jagger, J. Silverman, S. S.
Bromfield, W. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Simpson, F. B.
Buchanan, G. Jonas, A. C. (Shipley) Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Burke, W. A. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cape, T. Kirby, B. V. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Charleton, H. C. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Chater, O. Lathan, G. Sorensen, R. W.
Cluse, W. S, Lawson, J. J. Stephen, C.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Leach, W. Stewart, W. J. (H'ghfn-le-Sp'ng)
Cocks, F. S. Lee, F. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Collindridge, F. Leonard, W. Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Cove, W. G. Leslie, J. R. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Daggar, G. Lunn, W. Thurtle, E.
Dalton, H. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Tinker, J. J.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) McEntee, V. La T. Tomlinson, G.
Dobbie, W. McGhee, H. G. Viant, S. P.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) MacLaren, A. Watkins, F. C.
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Maclean, N. Watson, W. McL.
Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales) Mainwaring, W. H. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C
Frankel, D. Mander, G. le M. Welsh, J. C.
Gallacher, W. Mathers, G. Westwood, J.
Gardner, B. W. Maxtor), J. White, H. Graham
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n) Messer, F. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Milner, Major J. Wilmot, John
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Montague, F. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Gibson, R. (Greenock) Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S) TELLERS FOR THE NOES. —
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Muff, G. Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Groves.

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