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importers of sugar from the West Indies in maintaining the distinction between 12s. were not indifferent as to whether they and 16s., while the colonial interest were should pay 11s. or 12s. per cwt. As a gratified with the new distinction that had matter of compromise, the West India been taken. boly, to get over the difficulty, were ready to try the measure as some approximation to the state of things they desired, in the hope that, if it should lead to inconveniences, the question should again come under the consideration of the House.
MR. MILNER GIBSON: Baronet seemed to him to depend upon a supposed assurance of the Secretary of the Treasury, which had not been given. le doubted, indeed, whether the hon. Gentleman either could or ought to give MR. J. L. RICARDO could not sepa- these assurances. If there was one thing rate the two questions of the 11s. duty more important than another, it was this and the 12s. duty; and the Amend--that the trade should be dealt with imnient proposed aimed at the assimilation partially, and that one person should not pay of the two. The opposition was not a higher duty than another on nearly the directed to the classification of sugar, same description of sugar, in consequence but that a new class had been intro- of the matter being left too much to the duced. It would be impossible for any discretion of Custom-House officers. Custom House officer to distinguish between was not desirable to introduce new classes the different classes to the extent proposed: so slightly distinguished from others that and the vexation and annoyance which had the officers in different ports would differ already been experienced in this respect on the subject of the quality. The disought to be a warning to the Government tinction ought to be sufficiently broad to not to introduce new elements of discussion prevent injustice being done. Sir Robert between the importer and the Custom- Peel fixed three classes, and it was now House officer. It had been said that the proposed to break in upon that important 12s. duty was now under consideration, principle. and that the 11s. duty and the 12s. duty ought not to be mixed up in the discussion. Now, he objected to the differential duty between 11s. and 16s., which was a larger differential duty than that which existed under the old scale; and he did not think the hon. Gentleman justified in taking the yellow muscovado sugar as his datum line in calculating the differential duty. The differential duty had always been calculated hitherto as between the worst and the best descriptions of sugar, and he thought it was unfair to take an intermediate description and tell the importers that the differential duty was to be between that class and the refined sugar. A fourth class of sugars should not be introduced. but the old classification should be continued; and if this was a war tax, and it was wished to raise a revenue, let the 16s. duty be taken as the point on which to go, or have a lower charge, but let the difference between the worst and best sugars be the same as heretofore.
SIR W. CLAY understood the intention of the Government to be this-that te standard of sugar which was to pay the 12s. duty should be identically the same as that which now paid the 10s. duty. If that were so, the relation between the 12s. and 16s. duties would be the same as between the present duties of 10s. and 13s. 4d. The Government seemed to him justified
Mr. T. Hankey
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCIEQUER said, it appeared that two objections were taken to the plan of the Government. One of them was the difficulty with respect to the enforcement of the lower classification by the Custom-House officers, inasmuch as it rested almost on their discretion. The other was the objection to classification upon principle. The right hon. Gentleman said it was difficult to distinguish classes of sugar, and objected to any discretion being placed in the hands of the officers— [Mr. M. GIBSON: Too much discretion.] Then it was only a question of degree. What, then, was the simplest mode of dealing with a question which was so full of difficulties, and which was, in fact, only a choice of difficulties? What was the inequality proposed to be got rid of? An inequality which charged at the same rate two samples of sugar not precisely the same, one of them yielding 45lbs. of refined out of 112 lbs. of raw, and the other yielding 80lbs. The question was not whether the CustomHouse officer might be a trifle wrong, and err about 6d. or 1s. per cwt., but whether a system should be adopted which would charge the same duty upon two articles, one of which was double the value of the other. They were now dealing with a commodity which entered this country as a raw material, and which had to undergo an important manufacturing process before it
duty in favour of the British sugar pro-
could get into consumption; and the question affected not only the home consumption, but the export trade, which was conducted under a drawback. If it were admitted that the refiner ought to pay upon the raw material a duty proportionate to the amount of refined sugar yielded by the raw material, and that he ought to receive such a drawback as would enable him to meet a rival in a third market, then | the Government ought to see whether there was any insuperable difficulty in a proper classification. Now, what were the diff culties of classification? No doubt, formerly these difficulties were very serious, and now they were not inconsiderable. As to the discretion" of the Custom-IIouse officer, the word might be used in two different senses-judgment and caprice. They must trust to his judgment, but not to his caprice. His duty was to verify the conformity of certain sugars to a certain standard given to him. These were difficulties that must be encountered; but they were as nothing compared to the enormous MR. J. L. RICARDO said, the right inequality and injustice that would be done hon. Gentleman had stated the difference by refusing to admit classification. The between two samples of sugar as varying hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. from 45 lbs. to 80 lbs. Now, when the Ricardo) had said that the Government right hon. Gentleman alluded to the 80 lbs., were now introducing a new principle, and he must be verging hard upon the white departing from that laid down by Sir clayed sugar. The right hon. Gentleman Robert Peel, and by the Act of 1848. had taken two extremes, between which Now, that was a mistake, for the Act of there were from twenty-five to thirty differ1848 established exactly this classification.ent grades to be left to the discretion of the But then the Committee were told that the difference between 11s. and 16s. was too much, and was unfair. But let the hon. Member turn to the Act of 1848, and examine the duties that were levied upon refined sugar imported from abroad, as compared with foreign sugar imported raw. By the Act of 1848, it would be found that muscovado, or any other sugar not equal in quality to brown clayed sugar, was liable to pay a duty of 12s, whilst the refined article was liable to pay 17s. 4d. This principle had been in operation ever since sugar had been introduced into the market upon a large scale, and was a greater difference, both positively and relatively, than was now sought to be established. It was true that that applied to foreign sugar only, and not to British sugars, and that this kind of classification had never been applied to British sugars, but that was the very grievance with which the Government and Parliament had had to deal every year since the passing of the Act of 1848. The refiner had not felt the grievance, because there was a protective
Custom-louse officers. The right hon. Gentleman had not answered his objection that the Government were now establishing a larger differential duty than before. The Government were about to propose an additional protective duty of 1s., which, he maintained, was a retrograde step in the legislation of this country.
Question put. That the words 'Yellow Muscovado 'stand part of the clause."
The Committee divided:-Ayes 69; Noes 12: Majority 57.
On the Question being put, that the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill,
MR. HUME rose, to recommend that those who were employed to decide on the quality of these sugars should be persons of good education, that they should have some chemical knowledge, for the fact was, much must be left to their discretion, and men should, therefore, be selected who were qualified to discriminate between the different classes. As this could not be done with mathematical accuracy, there must be irregularities which it was desirable to restrict as much as possible.
MR. GOULBURN urged the same consideration. Persons with chemical knowledge were appointed in the higher departments of the Excise, but they were still more necessary in the Custom House. Clause agreed to. Clause 2.
MR. J. WILSON stated, in reply to a question from Mr. MOFFATT, that as soon as this Bill was passed, standard samples of sugar would be put into the possession of the officers of the Customs, and the trade would be allowed every facility for inspecting them.
MR. THOMSON HANKEY said, it was not enough for the trade to know the standard sample, but it was also desirable that they should understand the mode in which the Customs officers compared the various sugars with the standards. Hitherto, different modes had been adopted at different ports, which was not of so much consequence under the old arrangements; but now that more stringent rules were to be adopted, it came to be matter of great importance that the same duties should be levied on the same samples in every port in England, and therefore it would be necessary that there should be one description of samples at the various ports.
MR. J. WILSON explained, that some misapprehension had gone abroad, as if colour alone were to decide the duty without regard to the qualities of the sugar. That was not the intention of the Government, and he had introduced some words into the clause to make it clear that the duties were to be levied according to the general qualities of the sugars.
Clause agreed to, as were the remaining clauses.
New clauses brought up. Clause being read, abolishing the practice of refining in bond,
MR. MOFFATT wanted to know why that system of refining in bond was to be abolished? It was done with scarcely any expense to the Government, and he believed it was the desire of many persons in the trade to carry it on,
MR. J. WILSON said, it was the unanimous desire of all whom he had met that this system should be abolished. It was adopted at a time when foreign sugars were not allowed to be entered for home consumption; but these restrictions were now at an end, and it was desirable that all refining should be on one uniform system. MR. HUME expressed his great satis faction with the arrangement of the Go
vernment. He hoped to see the day when every restriction on trade-stamps, Excise, and all-would be removed. He thought Government deserved great credit for this arrangement.
Clauses agreed to; House resumed; Bill reported; as amended, to be considered on Thursday next.
EXCISE DUTIES BILL.
Order for Third Reading read: Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third Time.
MR. J. O'CONNELL said, he had given notice of a Motion respecting certain drawbacks which had been incorrectly set down on the paper, and he was therefore obliged to bring forward the matter in another way. He now asked for the postponement of the Order of the Day for the third reading of this Bill until after the Whitsuntide recess. By adopting that course, the House would be doing an act of great justice to a large and important class of Irish distillers. The subject would have been brought forward at an earlier period, had it not been thought that the drawback of which the Irish distillers complained would not be persevered in by the Govern ment, and they now asked for a postpone ment of the third reading of the Bill in order to enable them to make such representations as would induce the Government to reconsider their determination. The ob-. jection of the Irish distillers was to the increased drawback allowed to Scotch malt distillers; but he must add that they not only objected to the increase of that drawback, but to the existence of any drawback at all. He considered that the system of drawbacks was inconsistent with the principles of free trade; they had been abandoned with regard to the soap duty, although it was true the duty had also been taken off, but, he believed, had it been continued, the drawback would have been given up. In consequence of the existence of the drawback on soap, the manufacturers in England had been enabled to undersell those in Ireland. It certainly seemed a strange principle to adopt, first to make a man pay money, and then hand it back to him, and, in his opinion, the more simple and rational course would be, to take that only which they meant to keep. The system had been condemned by the House before, a Committee which sat in 1831 having declared that the allowance of a drawback on malt spirits afforded facilities for fraud. On that occasion it
had been reduced to 8d. per gallon on Scotch, and taken altogether from Irish whisky. He had no doubt it could be done away with altogether without injury to the revenue, and it ought to be discontinued, as it was a grievance which was much felt in Ireland, where, in consequence of its existence, the Scotch distillers were enabled to sell malt whisky at a cheaper rate. He therefore hoped that the Government would consent to postpone further proceeding with the Bill, in order to allow the Irish distillers an opportunity of representing their case to the Secretary to the Treasury. He begged to move, as an Amendment, that the order of the Day for the third reading of the Bill be postponed to that day fortnight.
MR. BEAMISH seconded the Amend
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the question to add the words "upon this day fortnight."
MR. J. WILSON said, he hoped the hon. Member for Clonmel would not press his Amendment. The propositions contained in this Bill had been before the House and the country since the 8th of May. The increased duties were at present being collected under a mere Resolution of the House; and, although that was a practice which had been recognised by the custom of Parliament and by the constitution of the country for many years, it was one which ought not to be pursued for a day longer than was absolutely necessary. He did not think it could be maintained that the House and the country had not had full notice of the nature of the Bill; and, although he had seen a great number of distillers and persons whose interests would be affected by the measure, it was only now, at the very last moment, he found that the slightest objection continued to be entertained to the Bill. He had only last week seen a deputation from persons interested in the malt trade between Ireland and Scotland, and he made arrangements which he had reason to believe were perfectly satisfactory to the Irish maltsters. If any ground were shown for supposing that the Bill would operate unjustly, either with regard to the Irish or Scotch distillers, he would readily postpone for the present its further progress, at whatever inconvenience. The Scotch distillers received a drawback of Sd. per gallon upon the exportation of malt spirits to England or to Ireland; but the very same privilege VOL. CXXXIII. [THIRD SERIES.]
was given to the Irish distillers, who received a drawback of 8d. per gallon upon Irish malt spirits exported to Scotland or to England. The question really lay between the malt and the grain distillers: as, however, the grain distillers in Scotland had finally acquiesced in this drawback being allowed on malt spirits, he thought the grain distillers of Ireland should also acquiesce. The distillers of the two countries therefore stood upon the same footing, with this exception, in favour of the Irish distillers-that the Scotch distillers had to pay freight upon the spirits they sent into Ireland-a charge from which the Irish distillers were, of course, exempt. He thought, under the circumstances, that it was unreasonable to ask for the postponement of so important a
COLONEL DUNNE: I think that there would be something in the objection of the hon. Secretary to the Treasury if the proposed drawback had been included in the original Resolutions, but that is not the case. The Bill, as the hon. Gentleman correctly stated, has been some time before the public and the Irish distillers, and they did not at first make any objections. Upon its first reading I stated that I did not object to it, because I had received no instructions to that effect from the distillers of Ireland; but the proposed drawback for Scotland has subsequently been increased, and therefore I think that my hon. Friend is perfectly right in objecting to the measure even in its present stage. The hon. Gentleman says that this is a question between the grain distiller and the malt distiller. He is perfectly right, but I do not see why the Government is entitled to support the malt distillers against the grain distillers. Let each distiller consult the taste of the consumer and take his own chance of success in obtaining a sale. The only reason that can be imagined why the Government should favour the one kind of distillation more than the other would be if they collected revenue only from one; but they collected revenue from both. This proposition is in fact giving to Scotland about 2,000,000l. a year, because it is perfectly clear that the exportation from Ireland to Scotland is very small compared with that which takes place from Scotland into Ireland, because the trade of Scotland is favoured; and I do not think it right that the Government should favour any one particular kind of spirits, whether it is made from malt or
from grain. I do think, as I said when I last had the honour of addressing the House, that you are pressing duties upon Ireland much too severely. I think that spirits are a very fair and proper subject for taxation, but you may even press that taxation so far as to lose more than you gain, and this I think you will do in Ireland. The Secretary to the Treasury and I had a little difference of opinion the other evening upon some returns which have been laid upon the table-as to the amount and diminution of the quantity of spirits consumed in Ireland-and he quoted from returns to which I had no access at the time. According to all the returns to which we have access he was totally and entirely wrong; and I can show him from his own returns of last year, that while in England, where there was no additional duty laid on the consumption of spirits, it had increased, it had decreased both in Scotland and Ireland to the amount of something over 700,000 gallons. I have moved for returns upon this subject for the last two or three years, and I am perfectly certain that when they shall be laid upon the table they will bear me out. I was not aware, when I last spoke, nor could the Secretary to the Treasury inform me, why it was that there had been-which he asserted to have occurred an increase in the consumption of Irish spirits within the last quarter ending in April while in the former quarters of other years there was a decrease: but I have since learned the cause. However secretly the intentions of the Ministry are kept with respect to the laying on of taxes, they were in this instance suspected in Ireland, and there have been large sales of spirits during the last quarter in anticipation of the very step which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken, and of this duty being raised. That is the reason why the increase in the last quarter has occurred. I do not think that it has taken place to the extent which the right hon. Gentleman imagines; but, whatever the extent, that is the reason of it. The distillers in Ireland, in fact, anticipated what the Chancellor of the Exchequer was going to do, and sales to a very large amount occurred in the last quarter for that very reason. I believe there can be no doubt of that; and I think I could produce proofs of it if necessary. Taking the year, however, in opposition to the quarter, it will be found from the returns, to which every Member has access, that both in Ireland Colonel Dunne
and in Scotland the consumption has decreased, because you laid on a heavy duty, whilst in England it has increased, because you put on no additional duty. I think for the reason that these new drawbacks have not been before the country and the public, and cannot therefore have been considered by them, that my hon. Friend the Member for Clonmel is quite right in the proposition which he has submitted to the House.
MR. VINCENT SCULLY considered it was a most moderate and modest request that the third reading of the Bill should be postponed for one fortnight, in order to afford time for the case of the Irish distillers to receive its due consideration. He made no doubt his hon. Friend the Member for Clonmel, would not object to limit his request to even one week, which short respite could not occasion any delay whatever to the ultimate passing of the measure, the House being about to adjourn for the Whitsun recess. He could not conceive that any Government would refuse to accede to so reasonable a demand on the part of the Irish Members. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. Wilson) had just mentioned that he had recently seen many distillers in reference to the present Bill, but did not go on to say that amongst them there was a single distiller from Ireland. He concluded that those private conferences were held exclusively with Scotch distillers, who were sometimes suspected to possess peculiar facilities for obtaining early information from official departments, and had evidently in this instance stolen a march upon their less vigilant brethren in Ireland. Secretary of the Treasury had stated that the Excise resolutions were proposed in the House upon the 8th of May, about three weeks since; but it should be remembered that alterations were afterwards made, that several days had passed by before the Bill itself was introduced, and that an additional interval necessarily elapsed before its provisions could be accurately known in the most distant portion of the United Kingdom. The same hon. Gentleman had also asserted that the drawback upon malt was allowed in Ireland as well as in Scotland, and that, therefore, Irish distillers had no just ground for complaint of being placed under any disadvantage in regard to the sale of their own home-made spirits. He did not himself profess to be very full of the subject, but he was in a position to state emphatically that the malt drawback was abolished in