HL Deb 08 July 1909 vol 2 cc214-27


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the Bill which I have the honour to ask your Lordships to read a second time to-day is a small agricultural Bill, but at the same time it has a certain amount of local importance. It is a Bill that has been very much asked for, and I trust that your Lordships will give it your favourable consideration. It will be within the recollection of the House that last year the subject of the hop industry was brought before your Lordships' notice, and a very strong Committee was appointed to inquire into the question. I need not go into that. The Report has been before your Lordships' House on several occasions. The chairman of the Committee was Sir William Collins, and the members represented the various interests concerned.

The Committee came to the conclusion that there were two legitimate grievances in this branch of the agricultural industry. First, the Committee thought that hop-growers had a grievance owing to the use of what are called "hop substitutes," and, secondly, they considered, and I think justly, that there was a grievance owing to the importation of foreign hops in unmarked bags or pockets as they are called. On December 8 last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought in a Bill to try and remedy in some way these grievances, but on December 17 it was withdrawn as there was no hope of passing it owing to its being opposed from both sides of the House, chiefly, I think, because the Bill itself was not properly understood. But in February of this year I happened to receive an invitation to address a large meeting at Canterbury, and there I was empowered by the Government to announce that we were prepared to reintroduce the Bill, and, if possible, to bring it into line with the general opinion on the subject and with what would be acceptable to both parties.

The chief provisions of this Bill—it is a very short one—are contained in two clauses. Clause 1 contains a prohibition of the use of hop substitutes in brewing, and Clause 2 contains a prohibition of the importation of hops except in bags properly marked. Clause 1 is intended to deal with the prohibition of hop substitutes at any stage of the brewing or preparation or preservation of beer. I have been told that that is not sufficiently clear in the wording of the Bill. If that is so, I shall be quite prepared to submit an Amendment or Amendments to effect the purpose. I have had several informal discussions on the subject, and some people interested in this trade are anxious to prohibit the use of preservatives altogether. They make no secret of it. They wish to prohibit the use of preservatives altogether; but, of course, I need hardly say that to that the Government cannot agree. Our intention is to prohibit the use of preservatives when the necessary preservation can be obtained by the use of hops. That is the intention of the Bill.

I need hardly say that I hold no brief for the brewers, but I am informed that doing away with preservatives altogether would really mean the destruction of a great trade in certain classes of beer intended for export to hot countries, owing to the fact that hops alone cannot be used in these cases for preservative purposes. I think I ought here to remind the House that the Bill I have the honour to submit is one to prohibit the use of hop substitutes and in no way a Pure Beer Bill. If preservatives prejudicial to health are used, that naturally is very objectionable and very dangerous; but, as regards that, I would remind the House that the provisions of the Public Health Act already apply to protect the public in this way, and, therefore, no amendment of the law in that direction is necessary. With regard to the provision in Clause 2 prohibiting the importation of hops except in bags properly marked, the intention of the Government—I think it is a perfectly legitimate intention—is to place foreign and home hop-growers on an equal footing, and not to give any preference or advantage to either side. Therefore, the marking clauses in my Bill have been drawn as far as possible on the same lines as the Hops Act of 1866.

In Clause 2, subsection (1), paragraph (a), we say that the name of the owner, planter, or brewer who packs the hops into the bag or pocket should be placed in legible letters on the bag or pocket. This follows precisely the English Act. Secondly, we say that the name of the country and district in which the hops were grown should be marked. In the English Act the parish and county are required to be stated, but as we do not know whether there are parishes in the foreign countries where hops are grown we use the words "country and district." Further, we insist on the year in which the hops were grown being placed on the pocket. That exactly follows the English Act. We also require the net weight of the hops in the bag or pocket to be stated. In the English Act the gross weight is placed on the bag, but it is supposed to be more convenient, and the Customs authorities have no objection, that the net weight should be placed on the bag in this case. I have to express my obligation to my noble friend below me (Lord Eversley) for bringing in the first definition, and I gladly adopt it. I think I can safely say that this puts the foreign hop-grower in practically the same position as the English hop-grower. I think that is fair and right, and I hope there will be no objection at any rate to that part of the Bill. I do not think I need detain the House further. I shall be perfectly ready, if your Lordships give the Bill a Second Reading, to answer any questions concerning its provisions when we go into Committee. I may say, in conclusion, that in my opinion this Bill is an honest attempt to assist an honourable, resolute, hardworking class of men and a body of farmers who have for some time been passing through a very critical period.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl Carrington.)


My Lords, I rise to enter briefly my objection, as I did when a similar Bill was last before the House, to proposals which I can only describe as simply protectionist. When the other Bill was before us the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, while giving general approval to the Bill, expressed a doubt as to the inclusion of preservatives. In spite of the explanation which has just been given of the Bill, nobody can read subsection (3) of Clause 1 without seeing that the operation of this provision is simply protectionist. The object of this clause is to compel the brewer to use hops instead of something else which he might use equally well. The noble Earl who brought in this Bill drew a sort of distinction. He suggested that the Bill was not as bad as it might seem because he prohibited using hop substitutes as substitutes for hops. He seemed to suggest that there might be beer brewed for consumption in hot climates in which a preservative other than hops would not be a substitute but an independent preservative. But I do not see that we have anything to do with that. I can well imagine that, if five shillings worth of hops are used, as good a preservative may be got as if half-a-crown's worth of something else were used. This Bill will compel the brewer to spend twice as much as he otherwise would. It is not said that the substitutes now used are in any way injurious to health. Indeed, if they were the noble Earl has explained that the offence could be dealt with under an existing Act of Parliament. Therefore we must take it that the other preservatives are used by the brewer as a matter of economy in his trade. The object of this Bill is to do a good turn to an industry which the noble Earl described pathetically as a suffering industry. I think it is a very dangerous thing that a Government which calls itself a Free Trade Government and is fighting resolutely to maintain the advantage of the consumer against the advantage of the producer, should bring in a Bill of which every line is based upon protectionist principles. Therefore if any noble Lord will join with me I shall certainly divide against the Second Reading.


My Lords, in the first place may I be permitted to congratulate the noble Earl the Minister for Agriculture on having at last, though somewhat tardily, introduced the Government's Hops Bill. My only regret is that, in the interests of agriculture, he did not do so months ago. In saying this, however, I trust that I am right in assuming that His Majesty's Government now fully recognise the extreme and sad plight of this great industry, which, as your Lordships are aware, is allied to many hundreds of other trades throughout the country, and that it is the noble Earl's firm intention to do all he possibly can to resuscitate it and thereby check the widespread ruin which is now devastating and fast depopulating the hop-growing districts in six counties in England.

In thus congratulating the noble Earl I do so upon what I hope is the object of his Bill. I am basing my belief on the good intentions that have been so often expressed, not only by the noble Earl as Minister for Agriculture, but by other members of His Majesty's Government rather than upon the actual wording of the Bill. Personally I welcome the Bill, and I do not wish to cavil or to quarrel with the noble Earl as to whom belongs the credit for having introduced a Hops Bill, for I can assure him that I am fully prepared, as also are many noble Lords on both sides of the House, to do all that is possible to assist in passing this Bill rapidly into law, provided that certain Amendments are agreed to in Committee in order to make the provisions of the Bill clearer than they are at the present time, and to check abuses which have been so frequently demonstrated and which His Majesty's Government have so continually proclaimed that it is their wish to remove.

In the course of the debate on the Hops Bill I had the honour of introducing in your Lordships' House a short time ago I was accused—I think somewhat unfairly—of having arrayed myself in the feathers of His Majesty's Government, and at the same time of having stolen the clothes of the noble Earl while he was bathing. My Lords, I plead not guilty to both charges. The feathers of His Majesty's Government and the clothes of the noble Earl have now been produced to your Lordships, and although they are very much alike in appearance to those which I have been accused of having purloined, I venture to think that when your Lordships scrutinise them in Committee you will discover that there is a great deal of difference between the clothes which the noble Earl now claims as his own and those which I am supposed to have stolen from him. In appearance, I admit, they are very ranch alike; but on closer inspection your Lordships will, I think, consider that mine are the better fit. In fact, I think you will have very little difficulty in discovering that my Bill is my own and a good fit, whilst the Bill of the noble Earl now before the House is not quite the same thing, and is, if I may say so, somewhat of a misfit.

I believe I am right in asserting that the primary purpose for which both of these Bills were designed was to prohibit the use of hop substitutes in the brewing and preservation of beer, and, at the same time, to secure that all foreign hops marketed in the United Kingdom should be liable to the same restrictions, no more or no less, as English hops are rightly subjected to according to the laws of this country. Such being the case, I am bold enough to think that my Bill, which has already passed through the Committee stage in your Lordships' House, would carry out that purpose in both instances, and, with due respect to the Minister for Agriculture, I do not think his Bill is quite so clear. I do not, however, wish at this stage to take up the time of your Lordships by entering into any minute criticism with regard to the details of this Bill.

But I would like to point out that Clause 1, which deals with hop substitutes, appears to me to be somewhat vague. I submit that, with the present wording, the Bill would undoubtedly effectively prohibit the use of hop substitutes, whether preservative or flavouring, in the brewing of beer, but it would leave the brewer or the publican a free hand to use either of these substitutes subsequently in beer. If such is the case, the Bill would be absolutely useless to the farmer or hop-grower for whose benefit it has been professedly designed. I trust, therefore, that the noble Earl will allow us to so amend the Bill when we go into Committee as to insure that all hop substitutes, whether chemical, preservative, or flavouring, are as effectually prohibited in beer as in brewing.

I would also like to point out one other weakness in this clause as regards the term "hop substitute." In my opinion the expression "hop substitute" should be clearly defined as "any bitter article or substitute or preservative other than hops capable of being used in the brewing or preservation of beer." In the Government Bill the term "hop substitute" means "any article capable of being used in the brewing of beer as a substitute for hops either for flavouring or for preservative purposes." Only last month I read an article in a brewers' trade journal which showed the weakness of this phrase, and which pointed out that if this section were passed without any alteration those who used these preservative substitutes might still be able to do so by claiming that the preservatives were not substitutes for hops. I suggest this alteration in the Bill, for I feel sure that the noble Earl is desirous of preventing misapprehension and expensive litigation in the future.

I submit that Clause 2, which deals with the marking of bags or pockets of hops, also requires alteration so that all foreign hops dealt with in England shall be subject to the same restrictions as English hops. Under the present wording, the Bill would undoubtedly favour the foreigner by allowing the substitution of the name of the "owner" on the packets of hops for the name of the actual "grower." This, in my opinion, would be a gross and unfair preference to the foreign dealer who competes with the English grower. Although these alterations are small ones, they are, in my opinion, vital, and absolutely necessary in the interests of the English hop industry and in fulfilment of the promise given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade to the hop deputation which waited upon them in July last. With these reservations as regards future action in Committee, I shall support the Second Reading of the Bill; and I wish to assure the noble Earl that I will give him all the assistance I can to make this Bill, what I believe he desires it to be, an act of justice to a long-suffering and down-trodden English industry.


My Lords, I do not rise to speak against this Bill. It was most interesting to notice the Free Trade shot which was fired just now from the Back-benches opposite at the noble Earl who proposed the Second Reading of this Bill. Clause 1, subsection (2), provides that if any brewer for sale uses any hop substitute in the brewing of beer, or receives or has in his custody or possession any article in contravention of the section, he shall incur an Excise penalty. The clause then goes on to define the expression "hop substitute" as meaning any article capable of being used in the brewing of beer as a substitute for hops either for flavouring or for preservative purposes. Now, I daresay the noble Earl in charge of the Bill has received a copy of the paper which I hold in my hand from the Brewers' Society, containing reasons against those particular words in the section. It seems to me that there is a great deal of common-sense in the statements contained in this paper. If the definition in the Bill of a "hop substitute" is allowed to include a substitute used for preservative purposes, the brewers in this county will have to change their method of brewing.

I have read the debates which took place earlier in the session upon Lord Hardinge's Bill, and I find that Lord Hardinge stated that German brewers used no preservatives whatever. The truth is that German brewers preserve their beer for home consumption by fermenting it at a very low temperature; but when the beer is exported certain preservatives have to be added, and the preservatives used are more deleterious than those employed by brewers in this country. As the noble Earl has invited us to bring forward Amendments in Committee, I hope he will consider this question when it is raised. Brewers would much rather have a schedule of things which could or could not be used. If the particular words now in the Bill remain they will have the effect of compelling brewers to alter the whole system of brewing as now carried on in this country. If the preservative substances are harmful, the Excise authorities have power to deal with the matter most efficiently. Then the noble Earl mentioned that the necessary preservative could be obtained by hops and hops alone, but he went on to say that doing away with preservatives altogether would ruin the foreign trade. Then the foreigners are to have English beer with preservatives in it but English brewers are to alter their system of brewing altogether and only to use hops. That is hardly a consistent statement. I say that with all respect to the noble Earl, and I hope that when the Bill goes into Committee he will either define it more clearly himself or give those interested a chance of moving Amendments for that purpose. The beer leaves the brewer in a fit state to be consumed, but when it gets to the public-house the publican can put what he likes in it, and nothing will prevent him from putting in all sorts of substances which are harmful to the human system. I think the Bill a most excellent one, and I must congratulate the noble Earl upon bringing in a measure which is decidedly for the protection of a very important industry in this country—I say an important industry because I have always read that Englishmen fought and conquered on beef and beer.


My Lords, I am unwilling that the debate should close without another protest being entered from this side against the entire conception of this Bill. The two noble Lords on the other side of the House who have spoken have referred to it as a Bill to protect the farmer and the hop-grower, and the noble Earl who has just sat down emphatically spoke of it as a Bill entirely designed for the protection of the farmer. That is the character of this measure. I do not think my noble friend will receive any congratulation upon this Bill from anyone who has at heart or understands the principles of Free Trade.

What is the scope of this Bill? It is a Bill to prevent a manufacturer of beer using one article instead of another in the process of its manufacture, no suggestion being made that the substitution is in any way injurious to the health of the consumer. It is, therefore, a direct infraction of the liberty of production on the one side and the liberty of consumption on the other. Every step in the industrial development of mankind is a step associated with some change which throws hardship on particular persons who up to the introduction of that step had been engaged in some particular method of satisfying the process which is then simplified or improved. No step is made without somebody suffering, and one sympathises with those who have to undergo suffering as the result of change. Is there any suggestion that the measure now before your Lordships' House differs in principle from any measure to prohibit the introduction of foreign wheat, or foreign barley, or foreign oats, or foreign vegetables, or foreign butter? There used to be an advertisement years ago of orange marmalade as a substitute for butter. You might as well introduce a Bill to prevent the use of orange marmalade, inasmuch as its use as a substitute for butter injures the dairy farmer.

Every step, as I have said, has involved some hardship, some penalty, some painful experience on particular classes of producers who up to that time had been engaged in satisfying the wants of the community in that respect; but the community has benefited by the simpler and easier method of satisfying its wants. Now we are deliberately asked by the Government to support a Bill the principle of which is entirely opposed to the principle on which the Government was founded. If there was one thing more than another on which the last General Election was taken, it was on the issue of Free Trade, and it is upon the maintenance of that issue that the continuance of the Government in power depends. In those circumstances, the Government are absolutely violating all the conditions under which they came into office in proposing a Bill of simple, un- adulterated, naked Protection. I cannot, permit the Bill to pass without a protest, and I join with my noble friend in opposing the Second Reading.


My Lords, the noble Earl who has introduced this Bill must, no doubt, have expected to be good-humouredly rallied by my noble friend behind me on the facility with which he has assimilated principles commonly accepted on these Benches but not so popular on the Benches opposite. It is really an interesting illustration of the manner in which public opinion is moving to find the noble Earl opposite recommending a Bill to the House on the ground that it is intended to place foreign and home hop-growers on an equal footing. That is a sentiment which within our recollection would have been regarded as a most heretical sentiment by members of the Party opposite, but we now find that it is a sentiment entirely acceptable to His Majesty's Government. It was really touching to see the two noble Lords on the Back Bench opposite—my noble friends Lord Stanley of Alderley and Lord Courtney—lonely and pathetic figures, alone protesting against this labefaction of principle on the part of their friends.

I agree that this Bill should be read a second time, and it seems to me that the points which have been raised, very interesting and important points, are points probably better suited for discussion in Committee than in a Second Reading debate. But they are points of considerable moment. I notice two in particular. There is the question of the conditions under which preservatives are to be used. Lord Stanley of Alderley was quite correct in saying that upon a former occasion I raised a note of warning as to the kind of provisions that might be inserted in this Bill with regard to the use of preservatives, because it does seem to me conceivable that there may be perfectly innocent and indispensable preservatives without which certain classes of beer cannot be properly brewed. That is, however, a point which we may well discuss on a subsequent occasion.

The other point raised by Lord Hardinge seems to me more important still. Lord Hardinge took exception to the wording of the clause with regard to the marking of packages containing hops. Lord Carrington said that the packages were to be properly marked. That was his expression. Now, what do we mean when we talk of a package of hops being properly marked? I take it that the object is that the mark should be of a kind to afford evidence as to the origin of the particular parcel of hops, and, therefore, my noble friend Lord Hardinge in his Bill desired that the package should be marked in such a way as to show who had grown the hops. That is a very substantial point, and it is an entirely different thing to say that the mark shall reveal, not who grew the hops, but the owner of the hops, because it is quite clear that a dealer may become possessed of hops of all kinds of qualities and different origins, mix them together, and put them into one package so that the public may be misled. The point has been raised before, and we were certainly under the impression that His Majesty's Ministers agreed with my noble friend Lord Hardinge. I find, in the report of the proceedings when the hop deputation waited upon Mr. Lloyd George, that in addressing the deputation Mr. Lloyd-George said— I have no fear of the principle which has been impressed upon me by Mr. Bannister—that you should compel these gentlemen to mark their hops with the country of origin and the date of origin. There is nothing unfair in that. Then he was interrupted by a member of the deputation. The report proceeds— Mr. BANNISTER (emphatically): 'And the name of the grower, sir; exactly the same as we have to do in all particulars.' Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE: 'Quite right. Whatever conditions you impose on the British grower should be imposed on the foreigner. That is not a departure from Free Trade.' A very welcome admission. I mention that because I have no doubt that the noble Earl will be prepared to deal with it when we come to Committee. Meanwhile I can only congratulate my noble friend Lord Hardinge that his Bill, with these few alterations, has been appropriated by His Majesty's Government and has apparently a very good prospect of becoming law.


My Lords, if my noble friend the President of the Board of Agriculture adopted the recommendation of the noble Viscount opposite and excluded the word "owner" he would make a distinction between the law now prevailing in England as regards the marking of hops and the law under this Bill for foreign hops. The noble Earl has followed the wording of the Hop Marking Act of 1866. Under that Act the name of the owner in substitution for that of the grower may be marked on the bag. Of course, as a general rule the name of the grower only is marked on the bag, but in the rare cases where the grower sells to any person who dries the hops in his own kiln then the name of the person to whom the hops are sold—namely, the owner—can be marked on the bag instead of that of the grower. If my noble friend representing the Government were to adopt the recommendation of the noble Viscount and exclude the word "owner," insisting that in every case the name of the grower should be on the bags, the effect would be to exclude a very large quantity of hops from the Continent. Hop-growing on the Continent is a very different industry from what it is in England, because Continental hops are grown by small cultivators who cannot possibly have their own kilns. As a rule, they dry the hops partially on hurdles, and they are sold in that state to brewers for immediate use. But when the hops are sold for the purpose of export to England they are purchased ĩn small quantities by merchants, who sort and send them to central establishments where they are kiln-dried and exported to this country. Therefore if the noble Viscount's suggestion were adopted the result would be to exclude hops from a very large part of the Continent, and that, in effect, would be a prohibition in the nature of Protection, and it would be far more serious, in my opinion, than even a duty on hops. I think, therefore, that the noble Earl behind me has done wisely in inserting the word "owner" as well as the word "grower." I believe that if the clause in the noble Earl's Bill were assimilated to that in the measure of the noble Viscount the Bill would not have the remotest

chance of passing the other House, because it would be regarded as a purely Protectionist Bill.


My Lords, I have no reason to complain of the reception that my Bill has received, nor of the very good-natured banter in which the noble Lords opposite have indulged. I deny the statement made by my two noble friends behind me that this is a protectionist measure. It is a matter of opinion. If I had thought it a protectionist measure, or that it constituted any serious interference with the doctrines of Free Trade, I would never have taken the liberty of introducing it in your Lordships' House. The object of noble Lords in insisting upon the word "grower" is to do all they can to hamper the introduction of foreign hops likely in any way to affect the hop industry. I do not quarrel with them on that account, because they are open Protectionists, but the effect of putting the word "grower" on the pockets would be to keep out all German hops. These hops are grown on very small plots of land, and it is really impossible to put all the names of the growers on the pockets. Not only would such a provision hinder the possibility of German and Bavarian hops being brought here, but it would prevent a great firm like Bass and Co. from pursuing their somewhat unpatriotic course of using fifty per cent. of Bavarian hops instead of English hops in the production of their beer, after having educated John Bull's palate to the use of Bavarian hops. That is all I have to say in reply, and I trust that your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading.

On Question?—

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 62; Not-contents, 5.

Canterbury, L. Abp. Camperdown, E. Morley, E.
Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor) Carrington, E. Northbrook, E.
Wolverhampton, V.(L. President.) Cawdor, E. Plymouth, E.
Cranbrook, E. Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)
Craven, E. Vane, E. (M. Londonderry,)
Northumberland, D. Cromer, E. Waldegrave, E.
Darnley, E.
Ailesbury, M. Dartrey, E. Cross, V.
Bath, M. Ducie, E. Falkland, V.
Camden, M. Halsbury, E. Falmouth, V.
Lansdowne, M. Mayo, E. Halifax, V.
Hardinge, V. Clonbrock, L. James, L.
Hill, V. Coebrooke, L. [Teller.] Killanin, L.
Denman, L. [Teller.] Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)
St. David's, L. Bp. Digby, L. Lawrence, L.
Dunboyne, L. Lucas, L.
Alverstone, L. Ellenborough, L. Muskerry, L.
Ashbourne, L. Eversley, L. Newlands, L.
Barrymore, L. Granard, L. [E. Granard.] Newton, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Hamilton of Dalzell, L. Nunburnholme, L.
Bowes, L. (E. Strathmore and Kinghorn.) Haversham, L. Pentland, L.
Herschell, L. Sanderson, L.
Clinton, L. Hindlip, L. Saye and Sele, L.
Selby, V. Courtney of Penwith, L. [Teller.] Stanley of Alderley, L. [Teller.]
Armitstead, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.

Resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday, the 20th instant.