§ Further proceedings on Third Reading resumed.
§ MR. BOWYER
said, he objected to the unequal operation of the 17th and 28th clauses. When the Bill was introduced, he asked the right hon. Gentleman the; Chancellor of the Exchequer why the same allowance was not made for Irish and Scotch spirits in bond as was made in regard to foreign spirits. He asked now that the same principle should be applied to the 675 17th clause as was applied to the 28th clause. The 17th clause related to the waste of spirits during the process of distillation; but the 28th clause was much more important, because it regarded the waste of spirits in bond. From a statement furnished to him by the Distillers' Association of Dublin, it appeared that the allowance per cent for five years, by the new Bill, would be 8¼ per cent, while the actual loss would be 14½. The real question, therefore, was, whether spirit dealers should be required to pay duty upon spirits for which they got no profit, which had evaporated into thin air, and which were not in existence at the time when the duty was paid?
Clause—That from and after the passing of this Act the Duties of Excise payable on all British Spirits, when taken from warehouse for Home Consumption, shall be charged on the quantity, ascertained by the Measure and Strength of the same, actually delivered; save and except, that when such Spirits are not in a warehouse of special security, no greater abatement on account of the quantity or strength, as ascertained at the time the said Spirits were warehoused, shall be made, than shall he after the several rates of allowance following, that is to say—For every one hundred gallons hydrometer proof:—For any time not exceeding three months, two gallons;For any time exceeding three months and not exceeding six months, three gallons;For any time exceeding six and not exceeding twelve months, four gallons;And for every additional six months, one gallon.
§ Brought up, and read 1o.
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUEY
said, the allowances in the Bill had been framed with great care, and in conjunction with the distillers of spirits, whose representatives in London had gone through them, and declared that they were such as the distillers were satisfied with. They were founded on a principle of a rate of allowances which it was thought would contribute to the advantage of the trade, and would also greatly simplify the operations of the revenue officer.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, he did not think that the difference which was to be allowed in reference to the wasteage of spirits was properly carried out by this Bill. The statement which had been made by the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer) was not got up for the purposes of this discussion, but had been printed, and under the attention of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue for some time. He did 676 not see any reason why home spirits should not be placed in the same condition as foreign spirits, on which duty only was paid according to the amount which went into consumption. The difference at present existing amounted, in fact, to an actual export duty upon home spirits, if ever they were sent abroad. He also thought that an undue preference was shown to foreign spirits over Scotch and Irish spirits, in reference to their introduction into the Navy.
§ MR. GROGAN
said, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman was fully sensible of the injustice under which the Irish dealers laboured, or he would not persevere with this part of his Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the said Clause be now read a Second Time," put, and negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill do pass."
§ MR. CONOLLY
said, that when on a former evening he had opposed the further progress of this Bill, he had been charged with factious motives; but he had been actuated solely by a feeling of what was due to the constituents whom he represented, and to the country to which he belonged. It was absolutely impossible for him to allow this Bill to pass its final stage without entering his most decided protest against it. He was not opposed to any particular clause of the Bill merely, but he objected to the measure in its entirety; and in saying that he begged to rebut the taunts thrown out against him by the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), who had charged him with not being in his place to discuss the details of the Bill, although he knew that he was opposed to its whole spirit and principle. He (Mr. Conolly) could say that he had never preferred his personal ease to his public duty, and he did not deserve at the hands of Her Majesty's Government the obloquy that had gone forth among his constituents, to the effect that he neglected their interests. With regard to his coming down to the House at a late hour, and under particular circumstances, that was an insinuation which was unworthy of the right Gentleman; and he must say that when Irish business was taken at a late hour of the night, Irish Members who were anxious to protect the interests of their constituents ought not to be met with frivolous and vexatious taunts of that sort, which partook of an offensive familiarity of which he did not approve. But putting aside all 677 these minor questions, which he was sure did not touch him at all, he would go to the merits of this question. This question, as he ventured to say the other night (when he was subjected to these animadversions), was one of the deepest interest to Ireland, and especially to the northern and north-western districts of that country. In every instance, from 1800 to the present day, when attempts similar to the present had been made to increase the spirit duties, the evils had been found to be so great and awful that it had always been deemed politic to recede from such intentions. Whenever the spirit duties had been increased, the revenue had not been increased in proportion; but, on the other hand, illicit distillation had received an impulse, and demoralisation had spread among the lower classes. It was almost impossible to carry out the law of the land where illicit distillation prevailed to a great extent. If an additional duty could be made to accrue to the revenue without an enormous increase of illicit distillation, the present measure would be a boon to the country; but he predicted that the consumption of spirits would not be checked, and that illicit spirits, so far from becoming dearer, would be had for absolutely nothing. [Laughter.] Yes, he maintained that that would be the result. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted the whole case against this Bill, when he said that it would be necessary to employ the civil police in the odious duties of still-hunting and informing. This mea-sure he believed to be impolitic in principle, and he feared would be most injurious in practice; he begged, therefore, to meet the present Motion with a direct negative.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, he wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer adhered to his determination of employing the police in carrying out the provisions of this Bill? The law as it stood at present prevented the use of the police in levying the Customs and Excise Duties.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the Government had certainly not changed their intention of making use of the services of the constabulary in the collection of the revenue; but as he had stated on a former evening, the Government did not require to be reminded of the other services which that body had to perform in Ireland, and with which their new duties would not be allowed in any degree to interfere. They would only be made available so far as might be found compat- 678 able with the due discharge of their other functions. It was not certain whether it would be necessary to propose any change in the law for the purpose of effecting the desired object, for the provision quoted on a former evening only prohibited the action of the constabulary in reference to the collection of revenue under the authority of justices of the peace; but at that moment he was not in a condition to say whether the law would permit everything to be done which the Government might think it desirable to have done by the constabulary. He might mention that there was no intention of employing the constabulary in performing that which was the primary duty of the Excise officers—namely, still-hunting; but there were many other useful services, such as escorting prisoners to the county gaol, or stopping illicit spirits in transitu, in which they might be engaged, and which would be performed by them more economically and with greater facility than by the revenue police.
§ MR. M'CANN
said, he would rather see the police directly and openly engaged in still-hunting, than employed privately to assist others. He hoped the Government would not destroy that admirable body of police, which they certainly would, if they employed them in the manner proposed.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, that if increased duties were to be thrown on the police force, their number must be increased, else their efficiency would be impaired; and if the number were increased, half of the additional expense must, according to law, be thrown on the county in which that increase took place. Would the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduce a proviso in his Bill, or in any other measure concurrent with it, to secure the counties from being saddled with any excess of expense which might be occasioned by the additional duty imposed upon the police? It was certainly quite a new thing to employ officers out of the county cess.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: —Ayes 121; Noes 41: Majority 80.