§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I now rise, Sir, for the purpose of moving a Resolution with respect to the wine duties, which stands second on the list of Resolutions that has been placed in the hands of hon. Members. The first Resolution, as far as the Committee is concerned, was voted, in conformity with the usual practice, without discussion, on the night it was originally moved. Of course it is competent to any hon. Member, if he thinks fit, to raise a discussion on the merits of that first Resolution when the House is resumed and the Resolution is reported; I will not, therefore, detain the Committee by any reference to it. I will pass to the second and most important Resolution, on one of the most difficult questions of fiscal and commercial law that, in the course of my Parliamentary life, I have 1843 ever had to deal with. I will not at all conceal from the Committee the sense I have of the extreme difficulty of taking any steps for a reform of the wine duties. The truth is, that a system of very high duties, with its severe pressure, has continued for a long period of time, indeed through many generations, without any considerable variation, with the exception of Mr. Pitt's Commercial Treaty, that ever promised any essential change as to the access to the article of wine by the great body of the people. The effect of this system, combined with the peculiar nature of the commodity, which has a tendency in the finer qualities to increase in value the longer it is kept, is to produce a state of things so artificial and so exceptional that it is impossible to devise any mode of escape from it that will not be attended by very considerable difficulties and open to serious objections during the stage of transition. No doubt, when that stage of transition is accomplished we may arrive at a state of things highly satisfactory to the country, and, I trust, productive to the revenue; but we cannot take the very first step towards effecting a thoroughgoing change in the wine duties without encountering very considerable difficulties in our way. Before I state the method by which Her Majesty's Government purposes to attain the end described in the text of the French Treaty I will answer the question of which notice has been given by the right hon. Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford North-cote), as to the mode to be adopted for ascertaining the ordinary strength of wines, and the manner in which the scale is to be applied to them. I need not say we have no official data, properly so called, of the strength of wines, except at one particular point of the scale, although what is termed the alcoholic test, which many think a simple novelty, is in continual and daily operation, and has been so for a considerable time. The object of that test as now applied is simply to determine, in the sense of the British Customs laws, what is wine, and what is not wine. Any fermented liquor containing a greater amount of alcohol than 40 degrees is not admitted as wine in the ports of this country. We have no official data, then, on which to estimate the ordinary strength of wines, except for those strong sorts that stand on the border line between what is wine and what is not. We have, therefore, instead of referring to the Custom-house books, thought it preferable to collect a great 1844 variety of samples representing the general course of trade and the average strength of wines of different classes. I cannot call these official data, and they may be open to dispute, but gentlemen connected with the wine trade, and others interested in the question, have easy access to information of the same general kind. The operation of the test to which I refer has been founded on actual experiment, and the mode of making that experiment is as follows:—The wine is first of all subjected to distillation in small stills, which have been now brought to such perfection that they perform the operation in less than half an hour. The spirit having by this process been extracted from the wine, it is tested in the usual manner, and with the most perfect accuracy, by means of Sykes's hydrometer. Now I come to the different classes of wine, and the different rates of duty at which they are to be admitted into this country. A portion of the lighter wines of France and of the Rhine will he admitted at a duty of 1s. per gallon. The remainder of the lighter wines of France and of the Rhine will be admitted at a duty of 1s. 6d. A portion of the lighter wines of Portugal, Spain, and the Mediterranean will also be admitted at a duty of 1s. 6d. per gallon; while the greater portion of the Spanish, as well as the great bulk of the Portuguese, and a considerable amount of the Sicilian, together with the wines of the south of France, will have to pay a duty of 2s. I must in passing remind the Committee of the artificial condition into which the wine trade is thrown by the peculiar position of our system of duties. One effect of the present state of things has been that the practice has grown up of administering spirits to wine both before and after it reaches this country and has paid duty. To so great an extent, indeed, has this practice been carried, that it has become extremely difficult, in the case of wines coming from other countries than France, to ascertain the precise state at which the wine suitable to the English market arrives by the process of fermentation apart from the admixture of spirit. What these wines possess in alcoholic strength then must be referred to the strength they possess when they arrive in this country. Now, the reasons which induced the Government in negotiating the Treaty with France to proceed upon the principle which we seek to press upon the attention of the House in this Resolution, were founded on the considerations which 1845 I am about to lay before the Committee. I can only say that they appeared sufficient to induce us to depart from the plan of levying a uniform duty on wine, which, primá, facie, might appear to be the more convenient course, and to adopt that to which we invite your sanction. The grounds, then, upon which the Government were not so much led as driven into the adoption of a system of varying duties on wine are, in the first instance, that wine is a commodity which appears to vary more in its quality, considered as a product of the earth, than almost any other great staple product that can be named. That fact, it is obvious, constitutes a source of difficulty in the operation of a uniform duty, where that duty is extended to such a degree as to constitute a considerable portion of the price of wine; and, because we have instances in which the value of one quality of wine might be represented by a single unit and that of another by 100, it is quite plain that anything more than a merely nominal duty at a uniform rate would be extremely unequal in its operation. Now the Committee will see that we must resort to something more than a mere nominal duty, not only because we cannot afford to spare the amount of revenue which a contrary course would involve, but because the principle on which the duty on wine is levied is one which lies at the very root of half our indirect taxation—the imposition of duties on strong liquors. We cannot, for instance, dispense with the £ 1,700,000 which we receive from bonded wine, but even if we should deem it expedient to introduce wine into this country free of duty we could not propose such a measure, because the duties on brandy, rum, and malt produce £5,000,000, and that on British spirits between £9,000,000 and £10,000,000, all of which sums are raised on the principle involved in maintaining a considerable duty on spirits. We therefore find it impossible to fix a uniform duty on wine at a low rate. Neither could we adopt one at a high rate, unless we were prepared to sacrifice on the one hand that which is the essential aim of our measures, or upon the other to compromise the security of the largest branch of our revenue. We deemed it, therefore, expedient to propose a plan which should hold out the prospect of admitting to the British market the cheaper wines of the wine-growing countries at a rate not exceeding 1s. per gallon, and I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that although 1846 that may appear to be a low rate as compared with the present duty of 5s. 10d. per gallon, yet in reality it is not so with regard to those wines. On the contrary, it may be fairly said that it is a sufficiently high duty to impose on the cheaper yet sound wines of Europe, such, for instance, as those which an English traveller is well contented to get when he sits down to dinner abroad. It is, at all events, the highest rate of duty which we think compatible with the extensive importation of that class of wine into this country, and which it would be desirable to impose consistently with a determination to give fair play to the fiscal experiment which we are about to make. Our wish in making that experiment is, to place access to the article of wine within reach not only of the limited class which now uses it, but within reach of the whole middle classes—of the lowest order of the middle classes, and even of the better portion of the working classes—I do not say as an article of ordinary consumption, but one which they may use on those occasions when they provide themselves with something better than their daily food. I lay it down, therefore, as a fundamental rule that the cheaper and weaker wines of the Continent must be admitted into the British market, if we wish to give fair play to the scheme under the consideration of the Committee, at a rate of duty not exceeding 1s. a gallon. I now come to the question whether we can afford to fix that sum as a uniform rate. I have already suggested that such a rate would, if adopted, entail upon us fiscal sacrifices beyond that which the Government have contemplated. That such sacrifices would have to be made is not, however, the reason why we did not lay before you a proposal to this effect. If it were simply a question of a loss to the revenue of some £300,000, or £400,000, or £500,000, more or less, I must confess, speaking for myself, I should be prepared to face any disadvantages contained within that limit for the sake of giving fairer play to our proposal. There is, however, a much more serious question involved in the matter, and that is the relation between the duties on wine and those which are paid on spirits. We propose that wine which approaches to the strength of 40 degrees proof spirit shall be liable to a duty of 2s. per gallon. The effect of that proposal will be that while we are proposing to tax British spirits 100 degrees proof at something over 8s. a gallon, we are about to tax at the rate of 1847 5s. only the proof spirit contained in wine. In taking this course we are open to objection from opposite quarters. Upon the one hand those who look at the question from the point of view which the distiller is likely to take may, not unnaturally, say that we give undue preference to wine by taxing the proof spirit which it contains at so much lower a rate than in the case of spirits itself. My answer to that objection is, that although the proof spirit which wine contains is one important element in its composition, and one which we take into consideration, yet it is not the only element—that wine, in short, is a commodity which possesses characteristics which recommend it to the consumer entirely apart from this circumstance, and that, although there exists a modified competition between the proof spirit in wine and that which is embodied in the article which is sold under the name of spirits, yet that the competition is indirect in its nature. Now, in order to illustrate more clearly what I mean, I may observe that there is a considerable quantity of spirit contained in beer, and that, taking the percentage of proof spirit which it embodies per gallon, and then calculating the amount of malt duty which we levy on each gallon of beer, and comparing the amount levied on the spirits in beer with that which is levied on spirits net, you would find the alcohol in beer is much more lightly taxed than that which is contained in spirits properly so called. There is thus an indirect competition between the two articles, although practically the consumption of beer does not interfere with that of spirits. The alcohol which beer contains is only one of its characteristics. While, therefore, we have been obliged on the one hand to keep down the duty on the weaker wines to 1s. per gallon, we have, on the other, been compelled, by an imperative regard to fiscal considerations which we cannot overlook, to keep up the duty to 2s. when wine approaches to 40 degrees, for fear we should compromise the immense revenue, amounting to between £11,000,000 and £12,000,000, which we levy on British and foreign spirits. In point of fact, it will be found it placing the duty at 2s. we have placed it as low as we dare. It would be competent to argue that in order to maintain the proportion between the duty on the alcohol in wine and that on the alcohol in spirits the duty should be placed at 2s. 6d. on wine at 40 degrees; but the answer to that is that, after all the best 1848 inquiry we can make, the duty being fixed at 2s., there would be no fear of illicit processes or mixture that might be adopted to give the wine the character of spirits; while if we went above 2s. we should have had the risk of those processes, and therefore we are not prepared to make such a proposal. The Committee will, therefore, see that if we are to have a plan to meet the great exigencies of the case, it is, unfortunately, necessary to adopt a varying scale of duties. I say unfortunately, for no man feels more than myself the extreme desirableness of uniformity in the rates of duty, to avoid all delay, all vexation, all uncertainty in the administration of fiscal law. Well, then, if we are compelled by the force of circumstances to have a varying scale of duty, the next question is, on what principle should it be regulated? I am aware that some gentlemen have thought they could regulate the wine duties on the ad valorem principle. I do not mean to deny if that could be applied it would be the best of all, from the immense variation in the quality of the article, and the necessity of raising a large revenue from it. But the simple answer to any man who urges an ad valorem duty is this, that I do not think any Minister of Finance or head of a revenue department could, on the whole, undertake the responsibility of endeavouring to administer the law under such a principle. If, indeed, we had a very low rate of duty on value, it might be done, but that would be impracticable in our case, as I have shown. On the other hand if we were to maintain a very high rate, of 50 or a 100 per cent, then the temptation to fraud would be so great and constant, and the means of meeting it on the other hand so uncertain, that such a law would become impracticable. Very ingenious and well-informed gentlemen have endeavoured to construct a scale of this kind, and I have myself made it a subject of the most careful inquiries, in the hope of finding that it would be possible, but I am obliged, with others, reluctantly to acquiesce in the almost universal opinion—namely, that a scale of duties on wine levied on value, and upon a high ratio on value, would be found impracticable. The scale we propose has in some degree a reference to value, but at the same time a varying degree; on the whole, it will be true that the higher priced wines will pay the higher duty, and the low priced wines the lower duty; but there will be certain exceptions to that rule, because there are 1849 some wines, very limited, however, in quantity, both of the Rhine and France, which have a very weak alcoholic character, and at the same time, from their high flavour, are of very considerable value. But putting these exceptions out of view, the alcoholic test, as far as it goes, will vary very nearly according to the value of the wine. I do not, however, recommend it on that ground; it has been adopted simply from a sense that it was an absolute duty not to propose to the House any plan with respect to which we could entertain a reasonable fear that it would endanger the enormous revenue which arises from spirits. That is the ground on which this test has been adopted. Now, as respects the test itself, all these tests are open to a certain amount of objection, because they all entail the necessity of some practical operation; but Parliament, notwithstanding, has found it necessary to adopt the system of classification in some other cases in which it was by no means so imperative as in the case of wines. In the case of the very important article of sugar, for instance, the qualities are divided into three or four different classes, and these, not with reference to one single quality, but with reference to several, it is the duty of the Customs to combine together in order to ascertain the duty. It does not depend on one quality, whether sugar be recognized as refined, or white clayed, or the lowest brown muscovado, but on the combination of these qualities, depending on the grain, the strength, and the colour of the sugar. Now, I do nut think the inconvenience here would be so great as in the article of sugar in this important and capital respect—namely, that the test applied to wine is fortunately a certain test, Some, indeed, have said that the test was inapplicable, the quantity of colouring and sweetening matter entirely defeating the action of the hydrometer; but by the process of distillation, which occupies only half an hour, we can ascertain with absolute precision what is the strength of the wine. We have, then, no fear of fraud, no fear of uncertainty, in the operation of the test, while, on the other hand, I have no doubt it will attain its essential object; and I do not believe, nor do the most intelligent gentlemen connected with the trade I have seen desire me to believe, that it will be attended with any inconvenience, except such as may readily be obviated. I have thus explained to the Committee a subject of a rather technical and dry character. 1850 The essential object the Government had in view is the adoption of a scale of duties on wine instead of a uniform rate. There is another important point connected with the operation of the change we propose to the Committee on which it is necessary I should say a few words, and that is the drawback on wines in stock, with respect to which various claims have been preferred. And here I cannot state too strongly my opinion, which I hope is the opinion of the House—I am quite sure it is the only opinion really sustainable on fiscal grounds—that, as a general principle, nothing can be worse than to allow drawbacks on articles subject to Customs' duties, although there may be. I admit, peculiar cases when a very strong equitable claim arises. Supposing, for example, that you are compelled by circumstances to make rapid and frequent changes of duty, incessantly to interfere and disturb the course of trade, sometimes lowering the duties, sometimes raising them—as Mr. Pitt, after lowering the duties on wine in 1787, was obliged to raise them again enormously in 1795. It is not possible for a trade to stand the frequent recurrence of operations of that sort without being relieved from the immediate consequences of such rapid vicissitudes. But the way in which Parliament has dealt of late years has been of quite a different character. I am not speaking of Excise duties, where everything is carried on under survey habitually, I am speaking of Customs' duties. I beg the Committee to recollect what has been the course of our recent legislation. It has tended without exception to the mitigation and removal of duties. The effect of the mitigation and removal of duty, in every case where it is attempted on a scale sufficient to produce its legitimate effect, is to give great extension of trade, and uniformly the result is a profit to the dealers in the article; for you never remove the duty without in the first instance putting a portion, sometimes the whole, but always a portion, of the duty in the pockets of those who carry on the branch of business affected. Do not lot it be supposed we grudge that; on the contrary, it is the legitimate effect of your operations; not only so, but it is the means through which your operation produces its fruits, for the increase of the profits of a trade is the sure foundation of the extension of that trade, and the increased supply to the consumer; but, at the same time, it is obvious that the direct tendency of this is to remove any inconvenience which other- 1851 wise would arise to dealers from alterations of Customs' duties with reference to their stocks in hand. First, because they have in the price of the article, apart from the duty, received at once a portion of the drawback, and in the extension of trade arising from the mitigation of duties generally more than the amount of drawback. The whole of these considerations apply to the article of wine as fully as to any other branch of trade whatever. Therefore, when your legislation has run constantly in this course of mitigation for a long series of years, I hold that nothing can be weaker than the claim for a drawback on the stock of wine in hand, apart from the very serious consideration that this stock not being under survey you have no means of checking the most intolerable frauds. It is perfectly true with respect to wine, more than almost any other article, that you increase its value by long keeping, and, therefore, if you look at that alone the possessors of stock which has paid the high duty would seem to be at a disadvantage when they are placed in competition with the new wine. But the value of the old wine does not depend on the duty. Those who are rich enough to drink the old wine, do not look at the rate of duty at all. That is completely absorbed in the character of the wine. The new wine introduced at the low duty cannot compete with that class of wines on any terms. The gentlemen who have been accustomed to their old port, their old sherry or Madeira, will not take the new wine at any price. I do not believe there ever was a time at which these considerations told more strongly than they do at present. I believe all those houses in the wine trade which send round their circulars to the public endeavour to make their prices attractive by their cheapness. I received one of those circulars myself the other day, and I was curious to look into it on account of the discussions that were likely to take place, I found that the circular came from a cheap house, but that cheap house offered their old port at 210s. a dozen. If their old port is now worth as much as 210s. the dozen it will not be worth a sixpence less, but probably worth much more, through the stimulus that will be given to consumption after the reduction of the duty. I would therefore impress on the Committee that on all these general grounds there is no just reason whatever for allowing drawback on any part of the stocks of wine on band. At the same time there does 1852 happen to be a specific and partial arrangement on which a claim of good faith may be thought to have arisen. In the year 1839 or 1840 there began a negotiation with France for the reduction of the wine duties, which was continued for one or two years. Before that was well over a negotiation, also for a reduction of the wine duties, commenced with Portugal. That was followed by a similar negotiation with Spain. And the consequence of these negotiations, the whole of which were patent to the public, was a paralysis both of trade and of revenue. Under these circumstances the dealers in wine during the Administration of Sir B. Feel made an application to the Treasury of that day, and Mr. Goulburn, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, although entirely objecting to drawbacks on stocks of wine in the event of a reduction of duty as a general principle, yet held that there were grounds, in the common interest of the revenue and of trade, for making a specific arrangement. His arrangement was founded on the belief that although drawbacks ought not to be given in the event of any purely legislative reduction of duty, yet in the event of a reduction which followed upon negotiation for a Commercial Treaty, it would be right to give some drawback, because the effect of promising such drawback would be that it would maintain the trade in a healthy state while the negotiations were pending; whereas he found by stern experience in the year 1842 that there was a great, falling off in the entries of wine, and consequently in the revenue, owing to the expectation of a treaty. Therefore, the Treasury in 1843 passed a Minute, perfectly distinct and definite in its terms, the effect of which was that all persons might claim drawback on certain wines in their possession, upon certain conditions, in the event—not of a reduction of the wine duties, but of a reduction of the wine duties under treaty. The conditions in question are set forth as clearly as possible in the first paragraph of the Minute. The effect of the Minute is as follows:—That in any Act that may be passed on the couclusion of a treaty for reducing the duties on foreign wine provision should be made for allowing dealers in wine a return of duty on all such wine as may be henceforth cleared from the Customs, provided that a stock equal thereto shall be found in the dealers' possession when the duty is reduced; and provided that the wine so found, and in respect of which drawback is 1853 claimed, be wine which has paid duty within two years if imported from Portugal or from Prance, and within six months if imported from any other foreign country. During the year 1843 that Minute attained its object; it restored confidence to the trade, and placed it in a natural condition. So matters went on, till after the lapse of time all idea of a Commercial Treaty was abandoned. It is right, however, to state that in 1843 that Minute was not only maintained but extended; for an order was issued, with the sanction of the Treasury, by the Board of Excise, extending the terms to all the wine which dealers might have in their possession at the time of the reduction of duty, limited only by the quantity on which they had paid duty within the time specified in the Minute. The proof of the identity of the wine was no longer required. This took place in 1843. The whole matter then passed out of view, the negotiations for Commercial Treaties came to an end, and, I believe, hardly any of the wine-merchants or dealers conformed to the necessary conditions as to the taking out of duplicate warrants and other regulations as to their stocks till the year 1852, when this House appointed a Committee to examine into the question of the wine duties. At that period it was suggested that it would be satisfactory to the trade if they were permitted again to commence acting under the Minute of 1843, and accordingly new directions were issued by the Board of Inland Revenue, which allowed the traders to resume operations in conformity with its provisions. But the extension which the Minute had received in 1843 was expressly withdrawn, because the order of the Board of Excise, dated the 24th of July, 1843, under which the Minute had been extended, was expressly cancelled in the order of the Board of Excise, issued in July, 1852, so that when the arrangement revived it was revived on the original footing of the Minute of 1843, which was clear in its terms, and not liable to any ambiguity of construction. Therefore Her Majesty's Government found the Minute of 1843 in existence with terms perfectly definite. It is, indeed, quite true that the dealers in wine have now suffered none of the inconvenience that attended the former negotiation of a treaty. There has been no protracted delay, no publicity, nothing that has for a moment checked the action of the trade; but to avoid the appearance of anything that might partake of the nature 1854 of special pleading, I may state that as the Government find that a considerable portion of the wine trade have acted on the Minute as it stands, and are ready to produce their books, showing that they have so acted, we think it our duty to propose to the Committee to grant drawback to those persons who have conformed to the terms of the Minute, although, as I ventured to tell some of the gentlemen who came as a deputation to me in Downing Street, it appears to me that they enjoy an extremely good fortune, for I have great doubts whether they will lose anything at all by the reduction of the duty; while by the allowance of a drawback I frankly own I think they will in a largo number of cases pocket the same money twice over. This, however, accrues to them under what may be deemed a contract, and therefore I trust the Committee will not grudge or scruple to grant it. As to any attempt to go beyond the terms of the Minute, and to claim on general or vague grounds a right to make demands on the public purse, that is no part of the contract, and is in my opinion justified neither by its spirit nor its letter. I therefore think it the duty of the Government to offer the firmest resistance to any such demands; and I shall call upon the Committee to support us in preventing any endeavour to get public moneys for which there is no just claim. I wish to reserve a separate question which has been raised, and which does not belong to the proposal I am about to make, but to the further proposal contained in the latter part of the Resolution, with regard to the final change in the wine duties that is to take place in future years. Thus far I have spoken in respect to the first portions of this Resolution, the first part being that which resolves that the wine duty shall fall immediately from nearly 5s. 10d. to 3s. a gallon, and the next part that which allows a drawback on the exportation of wine until the 31st of March next, and the third that which gives a drawback to dealers who have acted in conformity with the terms of the Minute of 1843. After that comes the closing portion of the Resolution, which provides for a further fall in the wine duties at a later date. It is proposed that those claimants who will now receive under the Minute of 1843 a drawback equal to the difference between 5s. 9d. and 3s. shall be entitled to receive a further drawback at the period of the further fall in the duty equal to the difference between 3s. and the rate at which their wine shall then be finally taxed. I 1855 do not wish to pledge the Committee on that subject by anything I now say. It appears to me that the proper time for considering that question, if it is to be considered, will be after we shall have voted that portion of the Resolution with which we are now dealing—namely, the part that relates to the fall in the wine duties which it is proposed shall immediately take place. I know not what course will be most for the convenience of the Committee, but what I should suggest, Sir, would be that in reading the Resolution you should have the goodness to stop—if no hon. Gentleman wishes you, as it is perfectly competent for him to propose, to stop at an earlier period—at the words "2s. 9d. per gallon," which are immediately before the scale describing the alcoholic test. The effect of that will be to put at once to the Committee so much of the Resolution as includes the whole of the arrangement that will take effect immediately, and to postpone for further consideration the remaining part of the Resolution, relating to the final fall in the duties. It may be that there is in the Committee an idea like that which has been urged upon the Government by various members of the trade—namely, that it would be expedient that whatever changes are to take place in the wine duties should take place entire, and at once. The Government are well aware that there are various considerations of convenience connected with the course of trade which would be best satisfied by a plan of that kind. But the objections to it are, in our view, of greater weight than its recommendations. The first objection has reference to the revenue, I cannot doubt—and the best authorities concur in my apprehensions—that to make a change as great as from 5s. 9d. a gallon to the lowest scale here mentioned by a single stroke would be to inflict on the public revenue, in the first instance and for a little time, a loss very much more serious than it will have to sustain from the proposal as we have framed it. Besides that, I do not think that we could venture upon so hazardous an experiment with a due regard to the interests of the consumer. We must remember what is the state of the stocks in this country. No notice has been given from hero which would induce the grower or manufacturer of wine abroad to make any preparation whatever for this change. He has never heard of it, he has never had any idea of obtaining access to the English market, or of preparing his commodity for that market 1856 until within the last few weeks; and the stocks in this country, although they may be quite sufficient, are certainly no more than sufficient, to meet the demand which will arise under the change which we propose. They are adapted to supply a demand which is comparatively limited, and although I do not doubt that the Continent will be able to give a considerable extension to the supply even without notice, I think, and I hope the Committee will be of the same opinion, that it would be very hazardous to make the whole of this change in reliance upon markets which have made no preparation whatever to meet so considerable an alteration. It may be a question whether the date which we have fixed for the final fall of the duty is the precise one at which that change ought to take place. That is matter for debate and discussion. At present I confine myself to urging upon the Committee that the entire transition which we intend to make is so great that it ought to be divided into at least two stages, and that a moderate interval ought to be interposed between them. I believe that those who, in former times, have on various occasions endeavoured to induce the House of Commons to sanction changes in the wine duties, have almost always, if not invariably, proposed to make those changes much slower ones than that which is now submitted to the Committee. In fact, our object has been to make it as rapid as we dared, because the inconveniences of a transition state are very great, and we ought to pass to the final or minimum duty as quickly as it is consistent with finding a supply adequate to meet the increased demand. These are the various points on which I have felt it necessary to trouble the Committee, and I therefore now beg to move, as a distinct Motion, so much of the Resolution as enacts the immediate fall of the duty to 3s. a gallon, and provides the amount and conditions of the drawback that shall be payable when that fall takes place.
I. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That in lieu of the Duties and Drawbacks of Customs now charged or allowed on the articles undermentioned the following Duties shall be charged thereon, on importation into the United Kingdom, namely:—
Until the 31st day of March, 1S61, inclusive. Wine of and from Foreign Countries—
|Red the gallon||3||0|
|White the gallon||3||0|
|Lees of such Wine the gallon||3||0|
§ With an allowance for Drawback on Exportation 1857 until the said 31st day of March, 1861, inclusive, of 3s. per gallon on such Wine Exported or used as Ship's Stores, but that no drawback be granted on Lees of Wine; and with an allowance of Drawback to Licensed Dealers in Wine who have complied with the Provisions of the Minute of the Lords of the Treasury, dated the 7th July, 1813, on the Foreign Wine which they had in Stock the 10th February, 1860, on the conditions of the said Minute, at the rate of 2s. 9d. per gallon."
§ MR. H. BAILLIE
said, he trusted that before the Committee agreed to this Resolution, more satisfactory information would be afforded to them of the mode in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to supply the deficiency in the revenue. And in asking the question of the right hon. Gentleman he begged to assure him that hon. Gentlemen, who sat on the Opposition side of the House, had no objection to the reduction of the import and excise duties. They admitted, as readily as the right hon. Gentlemen himself, the great advantages of these reductions to trade and commerce. But they were of opinion that there was "a time for all things," and that this was not the time to reduce the import and excise duties when there was an acknowledged deficit in the Exchequer of no less than £7,000,000, and when the right hon. Gentleman was about to engage us in a costly and expensive war, for which he had not even given the Committee an estimate. The financial statement of the right hon. Gentleman was founded entirely on the assumption that, after the reduction of these duties, there would be a deficiency of between £9,000,000 and £10,000,000 in the Exchequer. He (Mr. Baillie) would be prepared to show that this deficiency must inevitably amount to £3,000,000 more; and, if so, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must do one of two things—he must either withdraw the proposal for reducing the duty, or else come boldly forward and propose £3,000,000 of addition to the income tax. Now, in what did the fallacy of the right hon. Gentleman's statement consist? He had taken an Estimate of only £500,000 for the extraordinary expenses of the China war within the year. It might be regarded as impossible to form a correct estimate of what those expenses would be; but from the experience of the past we could make a very near approach to the amount. The incidents of the Persian expedition agreed very closely with those of the expedition to China. The Persian expedition was fitted out in Bombay; it consisted of 4,000 Euro- 1858 pean troops and 8,000 Native, 12,000 altogether. It left that Presidency in the month of November 1856; from the setting out of the expedition to the ratification of the Treaty of Bagdad on the 2nd May, 1857, the time was five months and a half. The extraordinary expenses of the war, not including the pay of the troops, but including commissariat and transport charges, amounted to £2,195,000, or, in round numbers, £2,200,000. The Chinese expedition, now fitting out in the Presidencies of Bombay, Madras, and Bengal, as the House was informed the other day by the Secretary of State for India, would consist of 7,000 Europeans and 5,000 Natives, together 12,000 troops, the exact number employed in the Persian expedition; but with this difference, that the proportion of European troops being greater the expenses of the commissariat must be higher, and he believed that in the first six months the expense could not be less than the expense for that period of the Persian war—namely, £2,200,000. But inasmuch as the Chinese expedition could not terminate in less than nine months, the cost could not be less than £3,300,000; and indeed he should be much surprised to find it so small an amount. Yet this was a charge which the right hon. Gentleman had altogether omitted from his estimate. He might possibly suppose that there was a prospect of getting an indemnity. If he did, he had better at once dismiss all such anticipations, because the last accounts informed us that the Chinese Government was in the greatest possible distress for money, and had resorted to every possible expedient to raise it. There was, therefore, no chance of its defraying the cost of our expedition. If, therefore, the French Treaty was expected to produce great advantages to that country, let them, as the phrase was, pay for it over the counter. But instead of doing that, it was to be paid for by the creation of a deficit of 3,000.000 sterling, and at the same time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer invited them to undertake an expensive war, for which he had not condescended to propose any estimate whatever. This was not the way in which the finances of this country ought to be conducted; and whatever might be the party feelings of hon. Gentleman opposite, he hoped that in justice to their constituents they would insist on the Chancellor of the Exchequer making a clear and explicit statement of the mode in which the revenue was to be raised.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he must decline to follow the hon. Member for Inverness-shire in his attempt to re-open the general discussion which was closed on Friday night, although he regretted that he hail not had an opportunity of expressing the views of his constituents on the Budget as a whole. He should therefore confine himself to the Resolution before the Committee. After the perspicuous and intelligible statement of the Chancellor, he had no difficulty in understanding the grounds upon which a system of ad valorem duties in the case of wine was sought to be established; but, speaking on behalf of the dealers in wine in the City, he could not express his concurrence in the proposal of his right hon. Friend. The alcoholic test was most objectionable; it would certainly be productive of great inconveniences, and would probably prove an entire failure. It was a very nice scientific process, and not a mere mechanical test, depending to a great extent upon the practical skill of the operator and the accuracy of his instruments. Nothing could be more probable than that, while wine imported into London might be found to contain 15 degrees of proof spirit, and so liable to a duty of 1s. 6d. per gallon, the very same quality of wine imported into Liverpool might, owing to a want of dexterity on the part of the operator, or some defect in his instruments, be declared to contain no more than 14 per cent of spirit, and so subject to a charge of only 1s. per gallon. Such cases, he was afraid, would be of constant occurrence. There was, in fact, the greatest difficulty in establishing a differential duty at all. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the case of sugar, but an ad valorem duty upon tea had been found quite impracticable, and in the case of sugar there was not only no more prolific cause of disputes between consignees and the Custom-house than the proper classification of the article; but he was informed that it interfered with the process of manufacture abroad, because the manufacturers were afraid if they refined their sugar beyond a certain point it would be charged with the higher duty. The question of drawback was also one of considerable importance. All those dealers who had complied with the Treasury Minute of July, 1843, were to be entitled to 2s. 9d. per gallon upon all the wines they might have in stock. So far good, but the dealers complained that early in the present month they were deprived by a Treasury Minute of the ad- 1860 vantage of being allowed to protect themselves until the 1st of January next, by obtaining what was called a duplicate warrant. They complained that when that period should have arrived, and when the new duties should have been brought into operation, they would not be allowed the amount of drawback fairly due to them upon their intermediate payments; and he confessed that the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not altered his opinion that the dealers in wine were entitled to a sum equal to the difference between the existing and the proposed duties.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he was glad to hear it, and he hoped that want of decision was the effect of the representations which had been made to the right hon. Gentleman by the representatives of the trade in the course of the day. He should like to know from the Government whether there were any treaties in existence the stipulations of which gave to certain foreign nations—Spain and Portugal for instance—the right to claim that their wines should be introduced into this country, without reference to quality, at as low a rate as the wines of any other country. These were the objections he had to urge against a system of differential duties. At the same time, he was prepared to admit the objections to a uniform rate of duty, and the difficulty of finding an alternative.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he wished to say a word on the question of drawback. He thought the Committee had better confine itself, in the first instance, to the question of drawback under the first change of duties, leaving the change that was to take place in 1861 to future consideration. He quite agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the unde-sirableness of allowing a drawback, but he was afraid good faith would compel them to do so in this instance. He believed the dealers were prepared to abide by the Minute of 1843 as explained by the order of 1852. The case, as it appeared to him, stood thus. A Treasury Minute was issued in the month of July, 1843. with respect to the terms on which a drawback would be allowed in the event of a reduction of the wine duties. There was, however, some ambiguity in its terms, and an application was made for an explanation. The explanation was given authoritatively from the Board of Excise, which explained the 1861 terms of the first Minute, by extending the privilege of drawback, not merely to the identical wines that had been first pointed to, but to the same quantity of wines "being of like quality." It was true that the Minute of 1852 revoked that order, but it revoked it only to re-enact it, for it had provided that the wines for which drawback was claimed should be of the same description. He thought that faith ought to be kept with those who had acted on the understanding that the terms of the Minute would be adhered to.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had no doubt that his hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) was in error as to the interpretation of his Minute. The Minute of 1852 was intended to revive the regulations for drawback established in 1843, which were all but universally abandoned, and when made it was communicated to every member of the wine trade. As his hon. Friend remarked, it revoked the explanation given by the Board of Excise. But his hon. Friend was in error in supposing that it re-enacted them. It laid down three conditions under which the holders of stock could obtain a drawback. The first was that there should be an equal quantity of wine in stock; the next was, that the identity of the wine should be proved; and the third was, that the quantity found in stock was equal to that which was bonded. The Committee would see that this third condition was merely an accidental and wholly unnecessary repetition of the first, and in no sense whatever removed the necessity for the proof of identity required by the second.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, that much as he admired the clearness of expression and oratorical ability of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, his statement appeared to savour more of assertion than argument. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the mischievous practice of adulteration would be diminished by the measures which the Government proposed; but if he knew anything of the subject, and could trust the opinions which he had received, the result of those measures would be to produce an extensive adulteration of wines on the Continent with a view to their transmission to this country. It had also been alleged that the reduction of the wine duties would enrich the wine dealers; but it was the continental, and not the English wine merchants who would be benefited by the change. There was then but little chance of any advantage under 1862 either of those two heads. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the good faith to be observed with the wine-dealers, but he should also bear in mind the good faith that ought to be kept with those who paid the income tax. His great objection to the Budget was that it reduced the permanent revenue, without showing how the deficiency was to be made good, and he had never heard any answer given by the right hon. Gentleman to the charge, over and over again preferred, that taxes were remitted upon the luxuries of the higher and middle classes without any attempt to deal with those which affected the necessaries of the labouring population. If proof were wanting that the system of free trade—if that could be called a system which was applied without a principle beyond that of favouring the interests of certain classes—proceeded without reference to financial inconvenience or human suffering, it would be found in the figures of the Budget introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the dictation of the hon. Member for Burning bam. The right hon. Gentleman, with surprising candour, had declared that the alteration of the wine duties would benefit the middle, the lower middle, and the better off among the working classes, but the claims and the necessities of the labouring population were altogether ignored. Gentlemen who called themselves "Liberals," or became members of that party in advanced life, were very fond of dwelling on the grievances of the working classes. How did their acts accord with their professions in the present instance? The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had told the House in substance that he had dictated the course taken by Her Majesty's Government, and that if they did not follow it out to the letter be would turn them off the Treasury benches. They were all aware of his power; they knew that he had only to raise his finger, if he wished to see them removed, though he, (Mr. Bentinck) for one, would rather that they remained in office till they drank the very dregs of that cup which they were offering to the people of England; but he should like to ask the Viceroy over Her Majesty's Government how he ever intended to come before the country again as the friend of the working classes, after having given his sanction to one of the most cruel and unjust proposals to the working classes which had ever been made in that House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer never con- 1863 descended to go into detail; he questioned whether he knew enough of the rural population of England to enable him to do so; but, if he thought that it was possible to introduce the lighter class of French wines among the labouring classes as a substitute for their principal beverage beer, he would tell him that it was one of those absurd and visionary ideas which were not worth arguing, for the thing was utterly impossible. In the first place, they would not bear the carriage. The wines themselves were scarcely drinkable in France by any one whose palate could not relish vinegar, and they must of necessity be something less palatable on their arrival in this country, unless they were so adulterated as to be no longer the wholesome pure beverage contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman. Did they expect the people would give up their established habits to drink this poor compound? The right hon. Gentleman had given a description of what he himself had felt upon drinking half a wineglassful of wine, which was evidently of a similar quality to those French wines, when at the bedside of a sick sailor; and that description of the right hon. Gentleman's sufferings had been really sufficient to make one's blood run cold. How, then, could the right hon. Gentleman propose to introduce such stuff to our labouring population? He hoped the labouring population would at last understand who were their real friends. [Mr. BRIGHT, Hear, hear!] The hon. Member for Birmingham cheered; he was the champion of a very wealthy and powerful class of the community; in 1846 they succeeded in passing measures that were most beneficial to themselves. In this Budget the same attempt was repeated; it continued the policy of the changes of 1846. But now the hon. Gentleman and his friends had thrown off all disguise; the great commercial class wished to legislate for their exclusive benefit. He hoped the Budget would be thoroughly discussed, and then, he thought, the hon. Gentleman would never again be able, by the power of his oratory, to make the mass of the people believe that this legislation for a class would be to their advantage. He wished to have an opportunity of discussing fully the Budget, and the causes of the immense deficit. They had heard a series of assertions as to the causes of it, and a series of assertions as to what the effects of the changes of the Budget would be. But they had never yet heard anything to 1864 show what the financial position of the country would be in the year to come. They had heard nothing to show that they might not expect even a greater deficit than that stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was all very well to exclaim, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof; but that was not a safe mode of financial legislation, and he should be glad to know when the Government would give the House an opportunity of discussing the points to which he had referred. It appeared to him that all discussion of them was postponed and staved off. He wished to know, in short, when the Budget itself would really be dealt with.
§ MR. FRANK CROSSLEY
was glad to find that the hon. Gentleman had now become the champion of the working men. There was a time when a proposition was made to take off the duty on the first necessary of life, and the hon. Gentleman, instead of taking the part of the working man, did all he could to shut him up in the little island in which they lived, and confine him to the produce of it. The hon. Member said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by altering the wine duties, showed a preference for the rich class and the better-off portion of the working class; but the right hon. Gentleman did not stop there. He showed them that the alteration in the wine duties would improve the condition of the working class generally, because by importing this wine there would he an extended demand for goods; and that portion of the people who could not partake of the wine would get employment by means of its introduction. He (Mr. Crossley) must say that he had had many communications from his constituents in the wine trade, suggesting that he should support a proposition for a uniform duty on all wines, and his reply was that they were not to consider what would be for their individual advantage, but what would be for the benefit of the country at large.
§ SIR EDWARD GROGAN
said, there were three points in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer which the right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to impress upon the House. One was that a uniform rate upon wine was an impossibility. He should be happy to hear from the right hon. Gentleman why he had departed from his principle of having one uniform duty on all wines, and yet proposed discriminating duties upon those of a stronger and a richer character. The 1865 wine trade were in favour of one uniform duty on wines whatever their quality, and had passed resolutions at their public meetings in favour of that object. He certainly could not understand upon what grounds the right hon. Gentleman had proposed two distinct scales of duties. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke of determining the different classes by a process of distillation, he should recollect that such a system would involve a period of about half-an-hour in its application, and that it would consequently entail an immense expenditure of time upon the officers of Customs and the other parties concerned whenever a vessel arrived with a cargo of wine. Such a process, too, would require an extraordinary delicacy of handling in order to do justice to all persons interested in the trade. It was scarcely to be expected that the present class of officers at the outposts would be equal to this duty. On the subject of the drawback, the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to draw a wide distinction between articles that came under the Excise laws and those that came under the Customs laws. He (Sir B. Grogan) could not see any reason why such a difference should be established. He thought it would be most unjust to withhold the drawback from the wine trade when it was allowed upon paper, especially after the distinct promise held out in the Treasury Minute of 1843 in regard to wines which had complied with the conditions therein laid down. The right hon. Gentleman said, that a copy of that Minute had been sent in 1843 to every person engaged in the wine trade. He could tell the right hon. Gentleman that there was a great number of wine merchants established since that period, who had never received a copy of that Minute, and had not the slightest information of what it contained. Where was the justice of punishing that class of traders for the negligence of the Government officials by withholding from them the drawback which was granted to others? He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would give further consideration to the points he had urged.
§ MR. WOODD
said, the wine trade did not ask for any favour, but merely justice. They only wished the Treasury to abide by the construction which they placed upon their own words in 1843, and with regard to which no doubt had ever been entertained. The present proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer merely held out a premium for fraud, because it was 1866 utterly impossible for the excise to identify wine so as to know whether it had been brought into stock within two years. For that information they must rely upon the statement of wine merchants themselves; and though honest people would make a true statement, those—and there were some in every trade—who were not particularly conscientious would represent their wine as imported within the two years. He trusted the Committee would be of opinion that the words of the Minute could not bear any other meaning than that the trade had a claim for drawbacks upon all wines answering the description in the orders, provided they had an equal quantity in stock at the time.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he would remind the Committee that the question of the revision of the wine duties had been brought forward with great ability and zeal in previous years by Mr. Oliveira, formerly a Member of the House, without exciting the slightest attention on the part of the Government, and even very little on the part of the House itself. Although he had no very special private reasons for alluding to the assiduity and personal labour displayed by Mr. Oliveira, he felt it right to refer to the efforts of that gentleman, and to express his regret that he was not present in the House, because he had on those occasions, though perfectly unconscious of it, been actually sowing the seeds of this great constitutional reform. Though he (Mr. M. Milnes) agreed with the general principle of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's measure, there were many details with respect to which the right hon. Gentleman would find himself deceived. The alcoholic test, for instance, to which he proposed to submit all wines imported, was the very worst which could be selected. The effect would necessarily be to introduce the most acidulent wines, and to keep out those better productions of the Peninsula which would best suit the taste of the British public. He thought that if they were to have a regular wine trade with the Continent, they would be obliged to abandon differential and agree upon fixed duties. His principal object in taking part in the discussion, however, was to direct attention to the great injustice with which the Government proposed to deal with the holders of stocks of wine. There was something almost repulsive in making it a matter of strict legal contract. It would only be fair to treat the wine dealers now as they would have been treated in 1843 if the Commer- 1867 cial Treaty, of which there was then a prospect, had been carried out. The Minute issued on that occasion provided that they should be no losers by the Treaty, and he confessed he did not see how a distinction could be drawn between that and the present case. With regard to the identity of stocks of wine, he thought the Government should adopt a course marked by the greatest liberality. The Minute had died away, and the surveyors themselves had told dealers in wines it was useless to keep the stock-book which that document required. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would do well not to require the production of any formal documents, but to content himself with a passbook, regularly drawn up, accompanied by duplicate certificates supplied to the trade by the Inland Revenue, and by them transmitted to the Excise. He would not be a loser by that plan, while he would do justice to the trade. He spoke principally on behalf of the merchants who held small stocks of wine, the more important merchants having kept their accounts more accurately. The former had not been culpably negligent, but had been actually encouraged not to keep the account specified in the Minute of 1843 by those very officers whose duty it was to see that the Minute was obeyed. He therefore should move as an Amendment, without any desire to press it against the wishes of the Committee, to insert after the words "2s. 9d. per gallop," "or by such other process which may prove satisfactorily to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue that such stock has been acquired before the 1st of February, 1860." He would only add that the right hon, Gentleman would tarnish his scheme if he acted towards any body of men affected by it harshly or unjustly.
At the end of the proposed Resolution, to add the words 'or by such other procees as may prove satisfactorily to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue that such Stock has been acquired before the 10th day of February, 1860.'
§ Question proposed, "That these words be there added."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. CAYLEY
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would do well to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for Pontefract. He wished to draw the attention of the Government to certain articles which they appeared to have lost sight of in those arrangements. In the correspondence that had taken place between the noble Lord 1868 the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Lord Cowley, and Mr. Cobden, he was surprised to see no mention made of an article closely connected with the agricultural interest, namely, beer, ale, and porter, especially as the taste for malt liquor was rapidly increasing among the French, and the consumption had doubled within a very short period; and it had been rumoured that the Emperor of the French had invited the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) to establish a brewery in Paris. He thought the Government might have asked for some quid pro quo in reference to articles which had already engaged the attention of the Emperor at a time when we were asked to admit French wine at so much lower a rate of duty. If any one called for a bottle of Bass's pale ale at a café in Paris he was charged two francs for it. The duty on a thirty-six-gallon cask of ale was about 9s. or 9s. 2d., the douane 5s. 10d., making altogether a duty of 15s. upon an article worth some 30s., the cost of transit to Paris being 6s. 4d. additional. It was therefore clearly a prohibitory duty, and he thought that at a time like this, when we were making concessions as to the wine duties, the Government had been guilty of a very serious omission in not having insisted upon the entrance of beer into France at a cheaper duty. Malt liquor was an article for which the English were as famous as the French were for their wines, and its export, therefore, might be proportionately increased by a diminution of the import duties on it in foreign countries. At a time, too, when our import duties on foreign wines were to be so much diminished, it was only just that the malt tax should be reduced or abolished. A recent return showed that the increased consumption per head of various articles of importation had gone along with the reduction of the duties upon them. There had been, for instance, two reductions [Mr. BRIGHT: Three reductions.]—Well, three reductions in the duty on French wines since 1820, and the result was that the consumption had been doubled. There had been also considerable reductions in the duties on tea, coffee, and sugar, and the consumption of those articles had likewise greatly increased. There bad been, however, only a slight reduction in the duty on malt, and consequently the consumption of that article per head had remained virtually stationary. The manufacture of malt was also cruelly hampered by the vexatious and inquisitorial proceedings 1869 of the Excise at every stage, and the heavy penalties attached to any breach of their regulations. He would like to ask the hon. Member for Birmingham, supposing Lancashire to be a cotton-growing as well as a cotton-manufacturing country, what would be the condition of mind of a man even as pacific as himself if he had to pay a tax of 50 per cent upon cotton twist, and was plagued and harassed at every stage of its manufacture by the exciseman? In his (Mr. Cayley's) belief, were such the case, half the manufacturing body of that country would be in custody for assaults on the Excise, and the other half in Bedlam before three months were expired. In conclusion, he begged to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether any reference had been made to the article of English beer during the negotiation of the Treaty with France? and if so, whether there was any probability of our being-allowed to introduce that article into France at a cheaper rate at a moment when, so far as he could learn, the people of that country were so much disposed to con-sumo it; and when in this country we were to be tempted and invited by a great fall in the duties to be such largely increased consumers of French wine?
§ MR. DODSON
remarked, that the present duty upon French wine in England and the duty upon English beer in France were almost equivalent, being from a fourth to a fifth of the value of the article imported, and that therefore the reduction of the one ought to follow the reduction of the other. He was of opinion also that to make a reduction in the duty upon French wines, without also making a reduction of the duty upon the materials of English beer, was overstepping the principle of free trade. The effect of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposition was to establish a protection in favour of the foreigner as against the home producer. The right hon, Gentleman had exaggerated the prosperity of the agricultural classes in his statement a few evenings previously. He had assumed that landlords were getting increased rents because the produce of schedule A had considerably increased; but this was, in fact, owing to the landlords having invested more capital in the land, and the tendency having been of late years to throw small farms into large ones, a greater area came under the operation of the income tax, and thereby increased the receipts without supposing that the farmers were making greater profits than in former years,
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
remarked that, so far from there not being discussion enough on these matters, as the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) had feared, the discussion was taking almost too wide a range. He must decline to enter into the variety of subjects which the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. H. Baillie) had opened up. Such topics as that of the finances of 1861, and that of the propriety of the Government Estimates for the military expedition to China, might he discussed at some fitter opportunity than in Committee on a particular Vote about the Customs Acts. The last two speakers had introduced a question more germane to the business. It was inquired, first, whether the Government had paid any attention to the case of English beer admitted into France, and it was complained that nothing had been done for this; and also that sufficient consideration was not given to the charges on the production of English beer, in the shape of malt and hop duty. In answer to that he would state that he did not think that in the official correspondence there was any mention of English beer, and no particular instructions were given to include it in the negotiations. They did not stipulate, or stickle, or fight for it. That was not conformable to the nature of the transaction in which they were engaged. Had they endeavoured to weigh matters in opposite scales, according to the old fashion of commercial treaties, they must have broken down altogether, and they would have deserved to break down, and the good they hoped the Treaty would realize would not have taken place. But there were reasons for not insisting on that particular article of beer. If they had founded a demand that France should reduce the duty on English beer, upon the ground of the duty on French wine being reduced by England, France would have naturally demanded what amount of duty are you going to lay on French wine. But France would then have come to a conclusion enormously different from that of the hon. Gentleman who said just now, that we levied the same duty on wine that France did on beer. On certain select qualities of wine, representing perhaps a thousandth part of the vintage of France, on the very finest and choicest, the incidence of our duty might be as the hon. Gentleman had stated; but that had nothing whatever to do with the genera) relation between our duty and the wines of France. Taking the lowest of the French 1871 wines that came in now, the hon. Gentleman was quite in error as to the proportion between the duty and their value. The other day some French wine, very sound and palatable wine, was sent to him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) by a gentleman, who informed him that he had paid 12s. duty on it, and that he was selling it retail in London at 26s. a dozen. Here there was a duty of 100 per cent, but even in this case the article was of a fine quality, and not a fair specimen of the common French wines. The duty on such French wine as that, however, when reduced as much as the Government proposed to reduce it, would still be 20 or 25 per cent on its value. Now, the duty on English beer in France, which he hoped would be reduced, and which the Government would try to reduce if they could, was at this moment considerably less in proportion to the value of the article. When the Government should have carried into effect the whole of their proposed changes with regard to French wines, they would still continue to levy on all except the very finest a duty considerably greater than France levied on our beer. The duty in France on English beer was, according to the best estimate he could make, something less than 2½d. a gallon, or two-fifths of a penny, which was, as nearly as possible, 18 per cent on the value of English beer. That did not make out a very strong case against France on the question of wine and beer. Then the hon. Gentleman raised another question, as to the relation between the malt and hop duty levied in England and the duty which was to be levied on French wine. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) agreed that it would be highly inexpedient and unfair to levy a higher duty on beer, that is, on the malt of our own soil, than we levied on the wine coming from abroad; but this was by no means the case. According to his estimate of the present incidence of the malt duty it could not fairly be stated at more than 15 per cent on the value of the manufactured article, namely, beer. With respect to the wine duty, on the other hand, a fair estimate would make it 40 or 50 per cent, or even 100 per cent, and upwards. He did not mean on the expensive kinds of wine, for he would admit that on those the duty would be light; and even now it was not extraordinarily heavy. It was, however, practically impossible to observe the distinctions between the different kinds so as to tax each kind in exact relation to its value. But with respect to those very 1872 fine kinds of wine, they obviously would not come into the slightest competition with beer, which paid hop and malt duties. The competition which beer would have to sustain with wine, if it really had any such competition to sustain, must be with the lower kinds of wine, and the latter would still be much more heavily taxed, in proportion to their value than beer itself was. The hon. Member for Dublin (Sir E. Grogan)had asked why, if the graduated scale was good, it should not be applied immediately. At present there was an uniform duty, and it was proposed to keep an intermediate duty for so very short a period, that it would not be necessary or practicable to substitute the graduated scale for cheaper wines, instead of the simpler uniform rate, until that short intermediate period was over. The same hon. Member had said he could see no difference between the claims of those who dealt in goods that paid a customs duty and those who dealt in excise-able goods, as to the return of the duty. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was surprised to hear that doctrine, which if it were to be applied to the operations of any year when customs duties were greatly reduced would require a million and a half or a couple of millions to be provided, to repay all those who had introduced goods liable to the customs duty. But he denied the justice of the principle of drawbacks generally in the circumstances under which our legislation had proceeded for a number of years past. If, however, drawbacks were to be allowed in some cases, it must obviously be in cases were a supervision had been kept over the goods until the time when the drawback was paid, and where consequently some means of absolutely identifying the goods existed. Now those means were supplied by the excise surveys, but with customable goods there were no such means whatever. It might be said, indeed, that wine was not an exciseable commodity, and it was not; but wine, by the Treasury Minute, was for a certain purpose set down as an exciseable commodity; and the stocks of the wine merchants were thus made subject to surveys and inspection, on purpose that, if ever a claim to drawback arose, it might be dealt with in the same manner as an article of excise. Now, a variety of propositions had been made, and his hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes) proposed that we should entirely throw overboard all consideration of the distinction between customable and exciseable commo- 1873 dities. He must, however, be aware that the Government had lost sight of the great bulk of the stocks of wine, and knew nothing of them, either as to the time when the duties upon them were paid, or whether they had been paid at all. Yet, his hon. Friend proposed that the Government should deal with all of them alike, and say to every man in the country who had got wine, "We will return you the amount of the duty on your stock." He could not call the proposal of the hon. Member for Pontefract generous; he called it foolish and extravagant. It would be dealing with the public revenue in a way which the House would never dream of sanctioning. The hon. Gentleman did not say whence he proposed to supply the deficiency that his suggestion, if adopted, would entail. The hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) might legitimately address to the hon. Member for Pontefract a pertinent inquiry as to what amount of additional burden he meant to impose on the community in order to give effect to his liberal-minded scheme. There was not the slightest case for the return of a single farthing beyond what was due under the specific terms of the contract. There was no loss to be inflicted on the wine trade. The wine trade were too open and ingenuous to make a secret of this matter. They recognized the enormous benefit of the proposed reduction of the duties, and there could be no doubt that prices would be acted upon by the stimulus which the change would create. The Treasury Minute of 1843, with regard to drawback, to which his hon. Friend had referred, was perfectly clear and explicit. No one who read could put upon it two constructions. True, a supplementary letter was added; but it did not attempt to explain the Minute, which needed no explanation: it altered and enlarged it, and so changed its whole basis. The original Minute was confined to the case of a reduction of duty under treaty; whereas the letter made no reference whatever to treaty, but recognized the claim entirely apart from it. That letter was most carelessly and loosely expressed—a defect very rarely to be found in any document emanating from the Inland Revenue Department. No doubt, if that document had been allowed to remain, the Government would have been bound to stand by the consequence of the negligence displayed in its preparation; but the question was subsequently reconsidered, and the letter was duly cancelled and revoked, notice being given to the trade of 1874 its revocation. The minute then reassumed its original shape, and by its terms the Government proposed to stand. The proposition of the hon. Member for Pontefract was not only unprecedented, but was one which it was totally impossible to carry into effect. It would cost the country half a million or a million, and, if adoptod, the hon. Gentleman should take the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, and meet the deficiency that his own measure would occasion.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he should have submitted to the superior judgment of the right hon. Gentleman if he had proved the proposal he had made to be impracticable. His suggestion was that the money should be returned only when the Commissioners of Inland Revenue had satisfactorily ascertained that the stocks had paid the extra duty. The right hon. Gentleman was entirely mistaken in saying that these wine merchants would not be losers, and it would be unjust to give this favour to those traders who had adhered to the letter of the contract, while it was refused to those who had fulfilled its spirit. Two courses were open to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—namely, either to do summary injustice by refusing the drawback to all, or to do plain and simple justice by acceding to his proposal. He thought the wine dealers had established a very strong case, and if he saw that the feeling of the Committee was with him, he should take the sense of hon. Members on the question.
§ MR. BALL
maintained that the subject of the malt-tax was immediately connected with the question before the Committee. He regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who showed so much courtesy and favour to all the other claimants upon his consideration, invariably resisted every appeal made to him on behalf of the agricultural interest. The right hon. Gentleman had given no answer to his hon. Friend (Mr. Cayley). No classes had been so severely treated as the British farmers and maltsters had been with respect to the duties on malt. The interests of the working classes also were deeply injured by that duty, interfering, as it did, with the demand for their labour. The Excise system, particularly with reference to the taking of security from those who wished to malt, also operated most oppressively. Hon. Gentlemen opposite never failed to taunt the Protectionists with the success of free trade. He had bowed to the decision 1875 of the House on that subject, but he was not afraid to avow that he still held the principles he had professed of old. Free trade had failed to realize three of its greatest promises. It had not given the poor man a cheaper loaf than he had before, and in this respect it had deceived and betrayed him. Then, it was said there would be an end of those fluctuations of prices which had prevailed under protection, whereas, prices had fluctuated more under free trade than under the eight or ten preceding years. The third promise had been just as delusive. The Free-traders said, "Only let us have trade unshackled and we shall never have war again." He believed that this Budget would break many a man's heart who had cheered on the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) in his contest for free trade. There had never been a general trial of free trade before, and many tradesmen and others who never sympathized with the agriculturists would find out whether free trade was a boon or not. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, after they had given free trade to the agriculturists, tried their hands with the shipping interest, and brought down the value of shipping-property not less than 30 per cent. He intended to divide the House to-night, for it was of no use to ask for justice to the agriculturists after the wine resolution had passed. There was no party so oppressed as the agriculturists, and he asked for relief for them in the shape of malt duty. If the cotton manufacturers suffered the same vexatious interference as the maltsters in carrying on their trade, the roof of that House would fly off with the eloquence of the hon. Member for Birmingham. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was going to allow the foreigner for the first time to introduce malt. This would encourage him to cultivate the growth of barley, and thereby damage the barley growers at home. At present the malting trade was almost a monopoly. The London brewers were men of great wealth. They had agents in every market with unlimited capital, and this gave them the pick of the market, so that they bought all the better qualities of the barley. Another class of maltsters were men who bought the second quality of barley with their own capital. A certain time was necessary for making it into malt, and the usage had been to allow the maltsters some weeks' credit for the payment of the duty. The right hon. Gentleman was not aware of the evils that would flow from his proposals in regard to this 1876 branch of trade. Last year there was a good deal of inferior barley grown in Sussex and Norfolk, which the great brewers would not have. The maltsters, who found their own capital, were able to take such barley if the Government gave them a little time, and thereby they benefited the farmer. The fact was that the whole Budget was an abomination—a hodge-podge. The morality of the Budget was this—You rob Peter to pay Paul,You tax the Briton to bribe the Gaul.
§ MR. BASS
observed that he feared that the anticipation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the extended consumption of cheap wine would not be fulfilled. He (Mr. Bass) was prepared to make a great sacrifice in order to enable the Emperor of the French to induce his subjects to adopt free trade principles; he thought it as well to subsidize France by a Treaty of this kind as in any other way, but he did not think, looking at the circumstances of the wine trade for the last two or three years, that France would derive much benefit from this particular article of the Treaty. In 1857, after a very good vintage, the preceding one being a very fair one, France had imported from Spain upwards of 12,000,000 of gallons of wine—nearly twice as much as we consumed in a year. It followed, therefore, that at least Spain would be able to send us 12,000,000 gallons before France could send us an additional gallon to that she now exported. Even if the 30,000,000 or 50,000,000 of gallons which some anticipated were consumed in this country, the duty, being only about 16d. a gallon on the average, would not amount to more than £700,000 or £800,000. The comparison of the Chancellor of the Exchequer between the duties on French wines in this country and the duty on malt liquor in France was hardly fair. He had taken the very lowest class of French wines, which of course showed a high rate of duty; and on the other hand he had taken a high class of English beer, which showed a low rate of duty in proportion to its value. The common run of beer sent to France was sold at from 20s. to 30s. the barrel. Taking it at 25s. the price would be about 8½d. a gallon. The French Customs' duty upon beer was 9s. 2d. a barrel of thirty-six gallons, or about 3d. a gallon. Now, a duty of 3d. upon an article sold at 8½d. was certainly a great deal more than 18 per cent. During last year we imported 700,000 or 800,000 1877 gallons of French wine at a price of 10s. 4d. a gallon for white, and 14s. 9d. a gallon for red. All this wine would come in at the 1s. rate, which would thus amount to a duty of 10 per cent on white and only 7½ per cent on red wine. It was not, however, fair to compare French wines with English beer, because, as M. Chevalier truly said, those wines had no equivalent in England. The duty on malt was fixed by Act of Parliament at 21s. 8½d. per quarter, but it was more, owing to the mode in which it was levied. Last year he had paid 22s. 4d. per quarter on 90,000 quarters, and adding the hop duty, equivalent to 1s. 8d. a quarter more, the whole amount was raised to 24s. The price of British barley during the last forty or fifty years had been below 33s. a quarter, and therefore the entire duty upon that article was one of 70 or 75 per cent. This was the fair comparison between the duties upon French wines and British wine, as beer had been called. If we were to have free trade, why should not malt have the advantage of it as well as anything else? Its consumption showed as much elasticity as that of any other article, rising with a small duty and falling with a high one. In 1854 a large additional duty of 1s. 6d. a bushel was imposed, with no corresponding advance of revenue. In 1856, the 1s. 6d. was taken off, still leaving the duty 2s. 8d. the bushel; and in the very next year there was an increase of 30 per cent in the consumption in England, and of 50 per cent in Ireland. Why should not the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he was for free trade and at the same time fair trade, give them a chance of returning him the revenue by reducing the duty on malt? Were the malt tax reduced one-half, in three years it would yield the same revenue as now. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, was for bringing wines from France, and Spain, and Portugal, and spirits from Holland. He (Mr. Bass) was told that Russia could distil spirits at 8d. a gallon. All these things were to be brought in to compete with our indigenous produce. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had the other day said of certain Gentlemen who had gone to him as deputations that they were all, without exception, Free-traders, but they were not Free-traders without exception. He was a Free-trader without exception, and he should like to see free trade in malt,—a declaration which had not been made in that House by any brewer for the last forty 1878 years. Another way in which beer was about to be placed at a disadvantage was that a new class of houses were to be permitted to sell wine, but the permission was not to extend to beer. It was true it might be introduced by another process, by getting certain names and certificates of character; but not by the easy course which was sufficient in the case of the foreign articles. The hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. B. Osborne) in his speech the other night, spoke of the adulterations of wine that took place in this country, but he (Mr. Bass) could easily show, from the blue-book, that this was not the only country in which adulteration took place, and that France was quite as much in the habit of adulterating wines as our dealers were. It was very pessible, therefore, that we might get a great deal of French wine not quite so pure as some Gentlemen anticipated. For instance Mr. Saville Lumley stated that during the last five or six years Spanish wines, mixed and flavoured with other substances, had been exported to all parts of the world as the finest wines of the South of France. Sir E. Tennent said that in the event of a serious reduction of the wine duties, our entire system of taxation would have to be re-arranged—that it would involve the necessity of a corresponding reduction in the duty on brandy—and that then it would be impossible, consistent with justice, to maintain the duties on British spirits, and on Scotch and Irish whisky—and that the malt-tax must be got rid of. It was most unfair that British spirits, worth 1s. 8d. a gallon, should pay a duty of 8s., while the best kinds of French brandy only paid 8s. 6d. per gallon.
§ MR. VANCE
said, he could not but regret that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had not made his speech the other night; it was one of the most convincing speeches against the whole Budget that he had ever heard. The wine trade in Dublin objected to the duty on wine being fixed at 3s. for the first year, subject to a further reduction. This would tend to restrict trade, if not to bring it to a perfect standstill, as dealers would abstain from increasing their stocks. In some of the small ports it would be impossible to get officers who could test scientifically the strength of the wine. Another objection to the present scheme was that it imposed a smaller proportionate duty on the best Lafitte claret and on sherry than on the coarsest Burgundy. At present a most unjust distinc- 1879 tion was kept up between British and foreign spirits, for the latter was gauged only on leaving the Custom-house, but British spirits were gauged on quite a different principle. The latter were gauged while new and before any of the spirit had evaporated. No proof had been given that the proposed reductions of duty would stimulate the export of our manufactures to France. Irish linens and poplins would derive no benefit, nor did he believe that any of the manufactures of the West Riding could enter France at a duty of 30 per cent.
§ MR. HUMBERSTON
said, he trusted that since the principle of allowing a drawback had been conceded no exception would be made to the disadvantage of those dealers who had simply failed to comply with the technicalities of a Treasury order. He thought the principle of granting the drawback ought to be extended to the whole of the trade, even though some of its members should not have technically complied with the Excise regulations.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, that if they were to re-argue the general question of free trade and to re-open the Budget, their discussion of the Resolutions would occupy the whole of the Session. He would confine his observations to the question under the immediate consideration of the Committee. Believing, as he did, that the Budget was statesmanlike and comprehensive, it was painful to him to have to object to some of its details. He thought, however, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not propose to deal fairly with the dealers in wine. Those traders who had complied with the Treasury Minute of 1843 were to have a drawback of 2s. 9d. per gallon. But that Minute had long since been abandoned; the Government had announced that the intention to exact compliance with its conditions was at an end, and it was too bad that the claims of the great body of wine merchants to drawback upon stocks in hand should be refused on a mere technicality. If drawback was to be allowed to those dealers who had complied with the Minute of 1843, if drawback was to be given to traders in paper, and if a demand was to be made for drawback by timber merchants, common justice required that those dealers in wine who had not acted upon an abandoned Treasury Minute should have their fair claims allowed. He should vote for the Amendment.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, he wished to take the opportunity of reminding the Committee that the probable effect of a reduc- 1880 tion of our wine duties had at one time been discussed in France; and no less a personage than the Emperor of the French had expressed a very remarkable opinion upon that subject. The merchants of Bordeaux had asked His Majesty to endeavour to induce the English Government to reduce our wine duties; and his answer was, that "it was a delusion to suppose that even if the duty were altogether abolished the people of England would be induced to drink the light wines of France." His Majesty added that he had himself lived in this country and knew our tastes; and that the French growers would deceive themselves if they thought the English would largely consume their produce, whatever concession might be made in favour of English manufactures in France. The Chamber of Commerce of Bordeaux had afterwards sent a deputation to Paris, and the Emperor repeated to them in more decided terms his former declaration, stating that his opinion was "founded upon personal experience, and that the Bordeaux merchants would do well to consider what he had said;" but he added that it would be different in the case of brandy, and that if the duty upon that article in England were reduced a great advantage would be gained by the cultivators of the vine in France.
admitted that great benefit would result from a reduction of the tea, malt, sugar, and coffee duties, but, paradoxical as it might appear, he was convinced that the best and easiest way to obtain that benefit and lighten the burdens of the poor was by the middle and upper classes beginning to drink the cheap wines of France. What he meant was that an augmented commerce with France would produce more cordial relations between the two countries, and eventually lead to a large reduction of our extravagant expenditure, thereby enabling us to reduce or abolish the duties levied on articles of general consumption.
§ MR. H. BAILLIE
said, that with reference to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the proper time for discussing the expenses of the Chinese war would be when the Estimates were before the House, he wished to explain that as they were then asked to adopt a proposal which would diminish the national revenue, it was not in his opinion an improper time to ask the Government how they intended to meet the expenses of the Chinese expedition. The Estimates of these expenses 1881 were not now and, practically, never would be submitted to Parliament. The only Estimate which had been produced was one for £850,000 for expenses incurred in this country. But the extraordinary expenses of the Chinese expedition, which would be incurred in India, could not come before the House till the end of the Session. They would, in fact, constitute a deficit next year.
said, he would confine himself to the Question before the Committee, which he understood to be the reduction of the wine duties to a uniform duty of 3s. up to a given period, upon which an Amendment had been moved with respect to drawback. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had argued the case with great ability, but he was not at all satisfied that the having a comparatively high duty on French wine for the first twelve months, and then lowering the duty afterwards, would tend either to the benefit of the consumer or to the relief of the revenue. He could not help thinking that the practical result would be that nobody who had now got any considerable stock of wine would buy a single bottle for the next twelve months. So far from the wine trade being benefited by that proposal, the effect would necessarily be to hang up all the transactions in it for some time to come. It would have been a great advantage to those who traded in wines if the duty could have been fixed once for all. The trade would then be set free and people would buy three years' consumption within the year. The right hon. Gentleman had then said that if the duty were at once reduced to the lowest point it would be of no use before the wines were manufactured for this country. Certainly it would be pleasant for the people to know that they were to wait for cheap wines until they were manufactured—not until the grapes produced them. Again, his mind was not relieved by what had been said as to the necessity of what was called the spirit test. He thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in saying that wine did not come in competition with spirits, almost answered his own argument on that point. When he (Mr. Henley) first read the general proposal as to the wine duties, it struck him as embodying a direct differential duty in favour of France, and nothing that he had since heard in debate had altered his mind on that subject. What the object of the Government could be in 1882 throwing that ounce of gold into the scale of the Gaul—whether it was done the more to induce the French Emperor to abandon his Holiness the Pope, he could not say; but, whatever might have been the intention, the arrangement went in point of fact to establish a differential duty in favour of the wines of France against all the other wine-growing countries in the world; and he did not think that in these times of free trade there was much justice in such a proposition. Nor did he think the general scheme, financially, was over safe; but, the House having determined upon that scheme being carried out, he was not disposed to do anything that might tend to weaken it, for, in his opinion, it was weak enough already. With regard to the drawback the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to think that under the increased consumption of wine which must take place if the duty were diminished the wine merchants would be able to make good any loss that would arise from the diminished value of the wine which they held. But either the public or the wine merchants must pay the amount of the 5s. 9d. duty which had been levied on the stock in hand; and if the charge were to fall on the public no large increase in the trade could for the present be expected. He was bound, however, by the Minute of 1852, and he would not therefore support the Amendment. Notice had been given to the trade in the year 1843, and had been renewed in the year 1852; and he did not think that a case for that concession in their behalf had been made out.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he wished to alter his Amendment, and he hoped the Committee would allow him to substitute the following words for those which he had originally proposed at the end of the clause:—"Or who can prove by any other process which will be satisfactory to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue that such stock of wine had been required and the duty paid upon it within two years of the 10th of February, 1860."
Another Amendment proposed,—
At the end of the proposed Resolution, to add the words 'or who can prove, by any other process which shall be satisfactory to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, that such stock of Wine has been acquired and the Dute paid within two years before the 10th day of February, I860.'
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he must confess that this proposition was one of the loosest he had ever heard. There were certain rules laid down, on the observance of which drawback might be claimed; it was 1883 confessed that those rules had not been observed by certain traders; and an attempt was now made to exempt those persons from the consequences of their own neglect. If such a course as that was to be adopted, how could the Committee expect that any conditions in analogous cases would be observed hereafter? Similar claims, founded on such a precedent, might be preferred in behalf of other interests, and he begged the Committee to reflect on the lavish expenditure to which that might lead. Men would only have to say that, though certain conditions had been imposed on them, they had not observed those conditions, and because they had not observed them they came to Parliament and asked for a drawback. He trusted his hon. Friend would not insist upon so untenable a proposition.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he should feel it his duty to vote against the proposal of the hon. Member for Pontefract. The question was whether the Committee and the Government ought, or ought not, to enforce the conditions which had been distincly laid down, but which had nevertheless not been observed. As those conditions so laid down had not been fulfilled, he thought the parties in whose interest the proposition of the hon. Member for Pontefract was made were entirely out of court and had no claim for a drawback. He did not mean, however, to abandon the ground he took before with regard to the identity between the Order of 1852 and the Minute of 1843; but there was no need of an Amendment to establish that point, for the Resolution provided that all persons who complied with the Order of 1842 were entitled to the drawback. The question was, therefore, narrowed to the proper construction of the Treasury Order, and he thought that might be safely left to the equity of the Government.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
said, it was a comfortable thought that they were now engaged in a discussion on the real business of the country, and that no party spirit or party feeling could be introduced. He meant to confine himself entirely to the question that was now before the Committee. He had listened with the utmost attention to the elaborate and lucid statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he was ready to admit that an argument might be raised on the terms of the different orders. But he said that even where a fair ground of doubt existed that doubt ought, as a simple matter of justice, to be settled in favour of 1884 the merchants rather than of the Government, whose ambiguous terms had given rise to the doubt. There was no merchant, he contended, who could read the Treasury Order without feeling satisfied that he was entitled to a drawback so long as he possessed a stock of wine on hand equal to and of like quality with that on which he had paid duty within the last two years. He hoped the Government would deal with the matter in a spirit of equity and not as special pleaders. In his argument he did not refer to the Treasury Minute of 1842, which had been revoked, but confined himself entirely to the last-issued document—the Treasury Order of 1852. In the construction of that order the whole question turned on the meaning of one word, and that word might just as well, in point of grammar, in point of common sense, and in point of justice, be interpreted in favour of the merchant as in favour of the Government. The words were—In any Act that may be passed upon the conclusion of any treaty for a reduction of the duties upon foreign wines, provision shall be made for allowing to certain dealers a return of duties upon all such"—that was the important word—"wines as may be henceforth cleared from the Customs, provided that a stock of wine equal thereto shall be found in such dealer's possession at the time of the reduction of such duties.If the Minute had stopped there, no doubt could have arisen on the point. The Minute went on, "provided that it be proved that such wine has paid the duty within two years." The whole question was whether "such wine" meant all such wines as might henceforth be cleared, in which case the construction must be in favour of the merchant, or whether it applied to the latter expression, that such stock should have been in the dealer's possession for two years. He really thought no one would doubt that if a dealer had in his possession 10,000 gallons of wine, of which 5,000 had been in his possession for more, and 5,000 for less than two years, he would imagine that if he had the entire quantity of wine in his possession, he would be entitled to a drawback on the entire quantity. He (Sir Fitzroy Kelly) agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the closing words of the Order were mere surplusage; but then the right hon. Gentleman should remember that they were not dealing with special pleaders but with merchants; and it was clear that the last words of the Order would make the greatest impression on their minds. He thought that a Government bringing forth a measure intended to facilitate and 1885 encourage trade ought to deal liberally and equitably with those whose interests were to be affected. With respect to the amount of revenue involved, that was not the point. It was a question of justice, and whether the amount was £600,000 or £1,000,000 he hoped the Government would take a large and liberal view of the matter.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was anxious to assist the Committee in arriving at a satisfactory conclusion. At present they appeared to be discussing two different questions—the Amendment moved by the hon, Member for Pontefract, and the proposition which had been just argued by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir F. Kelly). He must confess he was not able to follow clearly the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument, but that probably was his own fault. He understood him, however, to found his observations simply upon the terms and conditions of the Treasury Minute and of the subsidiary documents as they stood. If that were so, the hon. and learned Gentleman agreed with the Motion as he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) proposed it—namely, that the drawbacks should be given to parties who had complied with the conditions of the said Minute. As to the interpretation of the words, there might be an important difference of opinion upon them, but, the difference being one of construction only, the Committee wore not in a condition to arrive at any conclusion until the papers were before them. They would, therefore, be under no disadvantage in acceding to the Resolution, after which it would remain open to any hon. Member in the Customs' Committee, which would not be finished for some time, to call for a decision on the point of construction. With respect to the Amendment, or rather the addition proposed by his hon. Friend (Mr. M. Milnes), that involved a totally distinct question. His hon. and learned Friend called compliance with the conditions of a 1886 covenant a technicality, and said that the Government ought therefore to dispense with any such compliance. Now, the cost of this generosity, or whatever it might be called, on the part of his hon. Friend [Mr. M. MILNES.—Justice!] would be about £600,000. A covenant had been made with certain parties; they did not pretend to have performed its conditions; and yet justice demanded that the Government should treat them as if they had performed the conditions. That was his hon. Friend's idea of justice. Then it was said, "Let the parties, if they can, prove that they are entitled to the drawback." But there was no process by which they could prove it other than by the Excise survey, to which none of them had submitted. It would be very unfair on the part of the Government to accept a Motion of this kind, and then save themselves from paying by alleging that the dealers had no means of proving the identical quantity entitled to drawback. But the mischief of this proposal did not stop here. His hon. Friend called upon the Committee to declare that wine which had paid Customs' duty within two years should receive a drawback. Now, if this principle were adopted for wine, it would be only just to apply it equally to timber, silk goods, gloves, currants, raisins, figs, and every other article upon which reductions were proposed, until in the pursuit of what his hon. Friend called "justice"—but which he called the grossest and most gratuitous injustice towards the public—they would sacrifice not £600,000, but a sum which would impoverish a much richer Chancellor of the Exchequer than he was.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, the right hon. Gentleman quite misapprehended what had fallen from him. Every one of these persons had submitted to the Excise survey, had received a certificate, and had entered the particulars in his cash-book. The distinction set up was a technicality. It was, whether the trade had complied with the special form called the stock-book process, which the officers of Excise told them was unnecessary. The right hon. Gentleman would not be recommending his Budget to the country if, on the first night of the Committee, he inflicted an injustice which would fall on the weak and the poor, and not on the rich man, who had kept his hooks in the particular form prescribed.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
observed that his hon. Friend had stated that the officers of Excise had 1887 advised persons not to comply with the rules laid down in the Minute. He had heard this alleged before; but he was bound to say that not one case had been certified to him in which that charge had been proved, and therefore he was unable to believe that it had been done. His honourable Friend said that these persons had omitted to keep a stock-book, which he called a technicality; but the truth was that that book constituted the whole of the evidence in the case. It was the beginning and the end of the claim, and afforded the only means of proof that could be adduced upon which the Treasury could rely.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he was anxious that the vote he was about to give was one that should not be misunderstood. In ordinary cases he might not have thought the hon. Member for Pontefract was so high an authority; but he believed that to make an appeal to the present Government on the part of justice, patriotism, or right feeling, was a hopeless undertaking. The Government did not attempt to convince except by a majority. Every man, therefore, holding the opinion he did was, he thought, bound to throw every possible obstruction in the way of this most mischievous measure.
§ SIR EDWARD GROGAN
stated, that he presented a petition the other night from certain wine dealers in Dublin containing the assertion which one of the petitioners stated as being within the personal knowledge of the Secretary of the Treasury, that the officers of Excise whose duty it was to observe and carry into effect the Minute of 1843, not only failed to perform their duty, but in many instances threw obstacles in the way of traders who wished to comply with the Treasury regulations, and actually refused to enter and verify their stock sheets.
§ MR. LAING
said, it was true that a wine merchant told him that the officer of the Excise advised him not to keep a book, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had received a letter from another wine merchant to the same effect, but these were mere cases of misconduct on the part of the officers, and ought to have been reported to the Board of Inland Revenue.
SIR MINTO FARQUHAR
thought, that if it had been done in two cases, it was 1888 very likely that it had been done in other cases, and that a general impression had been made upon the minds of wine merchants, that such a book as that alluded to was not necessary. He thought a good case had been made out for the Amendment, and if pressed to a division he should vote for it.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 72; Noes 183: Majority 111.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he then rose to propose the remainder of the Resolution which fixed the rates of duties to be paid on wines of different strength. In this part, however, the Government had determined to make a certain amount of change, which he thought would be acceptable to the House. He had stated that it was quite necessary that there should be an interval before the final fall in the duties, but, at the same time, they would make that interval as short as possible, and, on consideration, they thought it might be put at the 1st of January next year, instead of the 1st of April. With respect to the degrees of strength of alcohol in wines, the Government proposed that in the lowest class of wines, instead of terminating at 15 per cent, the test should be 18 degrees. The effect of the alteration would be that wine of 18 degrees of strength should be admitted at 1s. per gallon, wines of 26 degrees of alcoholic strength 1s. 6d. per gallon, and wines of 40 degrees of strength 2s. a gallon.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer only increased the objections that ought to be entertained by the Committee to his scheme. One great objection to the proposal was that the differential duty was entirely in favour of French wines alone. As the right hon. Gentleman had first proposed his scheme, it was perfectly clear he was acting on imperfect information, because the lower scale of duties 15 degrees of alcoholic strength would admit only a very small portion of French wines, and those of the lowest and weakest character. He (Mr. S. Fitz Gerald) held in his hand the result of some experiments that had been made by two or three of the principal importing houses in London within the last week, and they showed that sherries of every kind averaged from 32 to 33 per cent of alcoholic strength, so that they 1889 would come in at the very highest rate of duty. Marsala, the Sicilian wine, came at 33 per cent, while port was hound to possess from 33 to 40 degrees. Therefore all wines from Spain and Portugal would come in at the highest rate of duty. The Medoc wine, of what was termed port growth, contained 17 degrees; Chateau Latour was 18 degrees: and indeed the experiments with 200 samples of claret, of various vintages—namely, 1856, 1857, and 1858, and of different kinds—showed that they possessed an average of only 18 degrees of alcoholic strength. There was, however, this further objection, that by establishing this differential duty in favour of French wines alone, in itself a great objection, it seemed as if we were getting rid by an artifice and a trick in the levying of the duty of our covenant with Spain and Portugal, to admit their wines at the same rate of duty as the wines of the most favoured nations. He would only ask the Committee whether this should be permitted? But he wished more particularly to point out, with reference to the alcoholic test proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, the difficulties under which he would find himself from having made this concession to France part of the Treaty, instead of proposing that it should he enacted by the independent legislation of that House. If there was one point upon which the wine trade was perfectly agreed it was that, although the public would derive considerable advantage, and although they them selves would derive considerable advantage from this alteration in the wine duties, still the alcoholic test proposed would be found utterly impracticable, and that if practicable as a test, it would be impossible to carry it into execution; because, first, it required a considerable time to perform the requisite operation. The right hon. Gentleman had said that it could be done in half an hour. Admitting that to he the case, what would be the result? He had been informed by a very large importer that it was not at all an unusual thing for him to clear forty or fifty pipes in a morning; and if it required half an hour to test each pipe, when would the forty or fifty pipes be cleared? No doubt it would be said that this test was in use at the octroi in Paris, but he was informed that it had caused such inconvenience that, except in cases where the octroi officers had received information which induced them to suspect fraud, it was scarcely ever used there. Weeks and months elapsed there without 1890 its ever being put into practice. Then it would require a very different class of officers from those ordinarily employed—men who were practical chemists—to apply the test with any success. The right hon. Gentleman had taken credit in his Budget for a saving of £20,000 on account of the number of persons that his proposed alterations would render unnecessary in the collection of the Customs' duties, but if practical chemists were required, and in such numbers as would be necessary, what would become of that £20,000? A curious case had occurred not long since which would exemplify the necessity for the employment of such persons. Three pipes of port were imported, exactly similar in character, of the same shipping, vintage, and price. One was sent to London, one to Leith, and one to another port, the name of which at that moment he did not recollect. That sent to London was not permitted to pass the Custom-house, because it was said by the officer who tested it to contain above 43 degrees of alcoholic strength, no wine, according to the present law, being permitted to pass that was above that strength. That sent to Leith was allowed to pass because it was below that strength. But that sent to the other port was rejected by one officer, but admitted by a second, who repeated the operation of testing. It was evident, therefore, that not only would considerable delay be occasioned, and that a new class of officers would have to be appointed, but that the proposed test would give rise to constant disputes between the officers and the shippers. In fact, the whole of the wine trade agreed in the opinion that the test was one of a perfectly impracticable character; there was not one dissentient voice upon that point. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman would have an opportunity shortly of expressing his opinion, whether dissentient or otherwise, upon the statements he (Mr. Fitz-Gerald) was making, and it would be more convenient if he would defer until then his energetic "hear, hear!" It was a cheer that rather implied ridicule than anything else, and was certainly scarcely one of a courteous nature. He (Mr. FitzGerald) thought the right hon. Gentleman himself would be compelled to admit sooner or later the impracticability of the test, for it would place him in this position. It was not as if it was to he applied by force of an Act of Parliament, hut it formed part of the Treaty, from which no retreat 1891 could be, and it would be necessary to abide by the stipulations of that Treaty, however inconvenient its application might be found. But if found so inconvenient as to be perfectly impracticable, and therefore discontinued, then the admission of every description of French wine, whatever its actual strength, could be demanded at the lowest rate—namely, 1s. per gallon. If it were discontinued with reference to French wines it must equally be so with respect to the wines of those countries which were to be treated the same as the most favoured nations. But the right hon. Gentleman had told the House earlier in the evening that with regard to the great hulk of wines coming from Spain and Portugal he had come to the conclusion that it would be sheer folly and madness to admit them at a duty one farthing below 2s. per gallon. The right hon. Gentleman would therefore be compelled to submit to a deficit in the revenue such as he never contemplated, and which it would be impossible to supply except by that direct taxation which he himself had deprecated but now practised. It was proved by the evidence taken before the Wine Duties Committee in 1852 that if the duty were reduced to 1s. a gallon, it would require the consumption of wine to be multiplied sixfold to equalize the revenue—that instead of 6,000,000, there must be 36,000,000 gallons of wine consumed to meet the loss of revenue occasioned by the transaction. But another difficulty had been pointed out to him by practical men who had considered this question. They said that there were wines very new and very full-flavoured but very cheap, not exceeding in price 2d. or 3d. a gallon in France, and which, if sufficiently brandied, could be brought over. It was perfectly clear, that if admitted at the rate of 1s. a gallon it would be a good speculation to import those wines brandied up to the fullest strength permitted by law solely for the purpose of re-distilling it and (putting the wine out of consideration) obtaining the brandy. Even paying the full duty the brandy would be thus introduced at a rate not exceeding 5s. per gallon, while if it paid that duty only at which he had shown the right hon. Gentleman might be compelled to admit it, by the discontinuance of his impracticable test—namely, 1s. per gallon, the brandy thus obtained would be introduced at a rate not exceeding 2s. 6d. per gallon. What, then, would become of the duty on brandy? He held in his hand a letter from one of the largest wine im- 1892 porters in London—a gentleman who, if his name were mentioned, the right hon. Gentleman would admit was a reliable authority upon these questions, and that gentleman asserted his ability to prove the impracticability of the alcoholic test, and that if adopted all the wines of Spain and Portugal, as well as those of France would, before long, be introduced at the lowest rate of duty—namely, Is. per gallon. If so, was it not worth consideration by the right hon. Gentleman whether it was not advisable to postpone this portion of his Resolution until he had made further inquiry into the matter?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he wished to express his regret at having given offence to the hon. Gentleman by the cheer which was involuntarily extorted from him by the force of imagination, which induced the declaration that he spoke for the wine trade without a dissentient voice. The hon. Gentleman contended that if a higher rate were laid on strong wine a differential duty would be imposed in favour of the wines of France as against those of the Peninsula; there was some truth in the statement that the wines of the northern vine-producing countries were weaker than those of the south, but it should be borne in mind that the state of our law hitherto had deprived gentlemen in the trade almost entirely of the means of knowing what was the natural state of the juice of the vine after the process of fermentation. The hon. Gentleman's statements had been greatly exaggerated. He stated that no wines but those of France would come in at a low duty. On the contrary, the country that would derive exclusive advantages from those low rates would be Germany, which had nothing whatever to do with the Treaty. So far from deriving an exclusive advantage from the Treaty, a very large portion of the wines of France were not only not weak, but were the very strongest which came in, and all of them would have to pay this 2s. duty. If Franco were to reason in the spirit of the hon. Gentleman, she might say, because we had placed a duty of 2s. on wine in bottle, whatever the strength, and because no wine was imported in bottles from Spain and Portugal, that we were thereby departing from the principle of alcoholic strength, and were establishing differential duties. The only object which the Government could have in endeavouring to discover the proportion of alcohol was to protect the spirit revenue; it might be impos- 1893 sible to deal with it exactly, but any difficulties which might exist had been enormously overstated by the hon. Gentleman. He believed it would be found that a mistake was made by those who, like the late Attorney General for Ireland, still clung to the belief that French wines were unfavourably viewed.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
But why, if he did not believe it himself, had he put the French Emperor into the box—he was his own witness? He would illustrate what he meant by a reference to the sugar trade. The sugars of Cuba were of a much higher quality than those which came from Brazil; and, on that account, Cuban sugars paid a much higher duty, but was it right to say that differential duties were established? The amount of duty payable altogether depended on the quality, and it was precisely at this point that the difficulty was experienced in getting wine in its natural state. The wines of the Peninsula were rarely seen in their natural state, though it was sometimes the case. The other day he heard of two samples of port of the last vintage, the strength of which respectively was 27 and 28, being probably eight or nine degrees under the ordinary average, which was made up by the admixture of brandy. The hon. Gentleman declared that the trade united in condemning the proposed test as impracticable. He did not know whether they had made representations to him in what might be called their corporate capacity, but in those which had been made to him they certainly did not hold the language of the hon. Gentleman. In their resolutions they stated that it would be cumbrous and cause delay.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
So far from that, he might state that within the last six months 1,366 wines had been sampled at the Custom-house in London, And as to the statement that the system would entail enormous expenses by the establishments at the different ports, he would answer it by saying that it was not intended to maintain staffs for the purpose at the smaller trading localities; the wine trade of England was concentrated in a very limited number of ports. The direct importation into any other ports was so insignificant it would be absurd to have an esta- 1894 blishment of officers in them for a purpose like this; and it was inaccurate to say that a higher class of Custom-house officers would be required to conduct this operation. On the contrary, the Chairman of the Board of Customs, after this plan had been adopted by the Government, had assured him that in a short time, under the measures proposed, the department would be able to dispense altogether with the services of a great number of the class of landing-waiters, a costly and highly accomplished class of officers. He would not go into a second explanation of the general grounds for adopting this change. The hon. Gentleman said—and he would admit—that there was a degree of inconvenience in any process of testing, or weighing, or examining that delayed the passing of a commodity for a single moment. But if the hon. Gentleman meant that the process of testing caused a general obstruction to the ordinary course of trade he must join issue with him. The wine trade had not represented to him by their corporate deputations that they would sustain any amount of inconvenience from the process. Wine was not only the article of which the quality was tested on importation. The process was not like the examinations of the octroi of Paris, by which every cart or cask was inspected; these were large operations. Thousands of hogsheads of sugar were imported, hut every single hogshead was not examined. Experience taught the officers what number of hogsheads of sugar or cases of wine it was necessary to take in order to ascertain the ordinary quality of the article. In these things what appeared to be difficulties vanished when they were practically dealt with. The hon. Gentleman had comedown to supply the lack of information on the part of the Government, and had stated that full brandied wines of a low quality might he purchased abroad for 2d. or 3d. a gallon.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
assured the right hon. Gentleman he had said nothing of the kind. He had said that wines of coarse quality could be purchased abroad, and brandy added to it before importation.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
observed he had understood the hon. Gentleman to say now that a full-bodied, strong, but coarse wine could be bought and imported at the rate of 2d. or 3d. a gallon.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, 1895 he must beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. What he had said was that a strong-flavoured wine might be bought at that rate, and brandied so as to make it worth while to import it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought the impression on the House was that the hon. Gentleman had said strong wines. Had it been true that wine of any spirituous strength could be imported at that rate the statement would be important. But he was assured that wines of any strength, however coarse, coming in here, liable to a 2s. duty, as containing 40 degrees of proof spirit, could not be imported at less than 12 times the amount stated by the hon. Gentleman. He did not know what could be done with such wines'; there might be an argument concealed in the statement, but he could not perceive it.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, he must beg leave again to explain. He had stated that a coarse wine might be bought in France at the price he had named, and it would be worth while for the buyers to mix a very large proportion of brandy with it, and import it at the shilling rate of duty, solely for the purpose of redistillation,—for the sake of the brandy it contained.
MR. T. BARING
said, he wished to know why the number of degrees of proof spirit that would make wines liable to the duty of 1s., had been suddenly changed from 15 degrees to 18? It should be re-collected that wine underwent no subsequent process after importation; but sugar was refined, and was valued according to the quantity of saccharine matter it contained. Wine was taken into consumption merely acoording to the taste of the consumer. It was the avowed object of the right hon. Gentleman to increase the consumption of pure wine, but the differential duty would tend to make adulterated wine cheaper than pure. The wines of Portugal and Spain must be diluted before they could be imported at the lower duty; if the taste of the consumer was for strong wines, why not admit it as the same duty as weak? It seemed to him that every inducement was held out to the adulteration of wine before it was imported. If the Government wish to introduce a pure article, he could not understand the principle on which a graduated scale of duty was imposed. As to the process of collecting it, if the right hon. Gentleman was certain it could be done readily and easily, he might be secure. 1896 But he had a very different account; he had heard of wine rejected at one port and admitted at another. If the Government did not need a superior class of Customhouse officers to apply the test—men above all suspicion of being tampered with—it might be perfectly secure as to the machinery for collecting the duty. But a uniform duty was preferable; the consumers should be left to select the wines that suited their own taste. The comparison of the sugar duties was totally inapplicable to wine.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he inferred from his remarks that the hon. Gentleman could not have heard the statement he had made in the early part of the evening, or he would not have asked why the Government did not propose the same duty for weak wines as for strong. The answer was as simple as possible. The higher rate of duty was imposed as a protection to the revenue derived from spirits; but if the same duty were placed on all wines alike it would defeat the main purpose of this great change, which was to promote the introduction of wines of a medium or low quality. And if the 1s. duty were applied to all wines up to the standard of 40 degrees of proof spirit, then those whom he was bound to consult, and without whom he could not move, stated that they could not be responsible for the collection of £11,000,000 from the duty on spirits. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the wine that was rejected at one port and admitted at another. The explanation of that particular case was very simple. It was this:—The Customhouse had not been in the habit, hitherto, of enforcing the test with very great rigour. All they looked to was ascertaining the bonâ fides of the importers; and when they knew that there was no danger to the spirit revenue they did not exercise so much rigour as the strict letter of the law required. The real explanation, however, of the difficulty was, that during the recent vine disease in the Peninsula a change had taken place in the practice of the wine trade. It had been found necessary, in consequence of the oidium, or deemed convenient, to brandy wines more highly than had previously been the case.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he should like to learn from the right hon. Gentleman what effect the acceleration of the lowest scale of duties would have upon the revenue, as well as to ascertain the reason why he had advanced the lowest 1897 degree of proof from 15 to 18, while lie had made no change in the two other scales? The objection to the alcoholic test was that it was cumbrous, and must, if it were to be applied to every separate sample, be productive of great inconvenience to the dealers in wine. He might also observe that it had been pointed out to him that 15 degrees was a very inconvenient point for the lowest scale, touching as it did upon the clarets, and this was the reason, he presumed, which had led the right hon. Gentleman to make the proposed alteration. In his opinion there ought to be only two classes so as to simplify operations as much as possible. It was objectionable, moreover, that under the proposed scheme a preference over Spanish and Portuguese would be given to French wines. That would be more especially so as a consequence of the alteration in the lowest scale which the right hon. Gentleman had made, for nearly all the French wines, except perhaps Rousillon, would be imported under the 18 degree scale, while nearly all the wines of Spain and Portugal would be thrown into the third class. With respect to the question of an ad valorem duty being imposed, he would simply say that in many instances the highest rate of duty would have to be paid upon the least valuable wines—as, for instance, in the case of Cape and Marsala, which, although they were inferior in point of value to the finest French wines, yet would have to pay a higher duty. He should also contend that as a consequence of that state of things, the poorer classes would not enjoy those advantages as consumers of French wines, which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to regard as the main object of his proposal. If the duties in question had been ad valorem duties the case of the sugar duties would have applied, but the scale did not fall with anything like equal force on the different classes of wines. The right hon. Gentleman was, it appeared to him, doing an unwise thing if he desired to see other countries open their markets to us, in reversing the policy of the Methuen Treaty, by admitting nearly all the wines of France under the lowest scale, while the wines of Spain and Portugal were excluded from its operation.
§ LORD ALFRED CHURCHILL
said, that the alcohol in wine having a less specific gravity rose to the top after the cask had been some time in bond. It would not do to shake the cask, because that would spoil the wine. How did the 1898 right hon. Gentleman propose to get over the difficulty of the test showing a different result if applied to the upper than if applied to the lower portion?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the difficulty was easily overcome every day by the Board of Customs drawing partly from the top and partly from the bottom of the cask. As to the expense of this measure to the revenue, they would not lose so much on wine as the spirit duties would give; hut, of course, that was speaking only of the two articles wine and spirit. After the whole of the propositions had been dealt with, he would make a statement of the general result. His hon. Friend was entirely wrong as to this being an inverted ad valorem scale. It was true that Hermitage would pay the lowest duty and Marsala the higher duty, but fine clarets were rare products and would not form a thousandth part of the wines imported. Looking to that exceptional class of wines and not to the 999 other sorts, it might be said to be an inverted ad valorem duty. But generally the strong wines were the dear, and the weak wines the cheap wines. Therefore the scale would fall justly. He frankly owned he did not recommend it as an ad valorem duty.
said, that the proposal to levy a duty of 10 per cent on wines of 15 degrees strength at one moment, and of the same amount on wines of 18 degrees at another, was an arbitrary change, for which no reason had been given.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, his hon. Friend had stated the reason for the alteration quite correctly. The line at 15 was inconvenient, because it would tend to press down the clarets now introduced to bring them under that strength. His hon. Friend had alluded to a very important point, though he seemed not to be aware of the facts. The strength at which British wines were made was a good index of the turn which popular taste would take. British wines had no natural strength, but to suit the taste of the public they were generally made at 24 and 25. His own impression was that there would be a considerable importation of wines at from 22 to 25, although at present none of that kind was imported.
§ MR. BASS
said, that not only the Chateau wines but all the wines of Bordeaux would come under the 15 percent standard. The right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in supposing that class of wine was the excep- 1899 tion. In the south of Franco there was produced a considerable quantity of low quality and low price, and a vast quantity of moderate wines which, like all the wines of Germany, would come under 15 per cent. In point of fact, if the right hon. Gentleman referred to statistical tables of the relative strength of the different wines of Europe, he would find that the highest class would really have to pay the low and the lower class the high duty.
MR. J.B. SMITH
said, it was the brandy which was imported with the wine which made the difference, and therefore the wines of Spain and Portugal would pay higher duty than the wines of France, which were not brandied.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
said, he looked upon the question as important in its bearing on our foreign relations; and, therefore, he wished to hear whether the right hon. Gentleman had really considered how far these Resolutions were consistent with the existing treaties between this and other countries. In levying duties on wine, it was proposed to substitute an entirely new test, and he had not heard any substantial reason why they should depart from a system which had existed for centuries, unless it was to confer an exclusive favour on France. If three merchants imported today 50 pipes of wine from Portugal, Spain, and France respectively, they would pay the same duty; but if they imported the same quantities and qualities after the Resolution was agreed to, perhaps one-third less would be paid on the French wine than would be paid on the wines of Spain and Portugal. We had treaty engagements with Spain and Portugal, and the question was whether, under the most favoured nation clause, it would not be a breach of those treaties. Then, as to the alcoholic tests, it was impossible to deny that, however carefully and skilfully applied, they were open to considerable doubt; and, unless some latitude were allowed, the result would be that when the scheme came into operation the revenue authorities would be beset with petitioners all complaining of the effect of the test as applied to their wines. It was also perfectly clear that the result of the arrangement proposed would be, that the wines of Spain and Portugal would have to pay the highest duty; 1900 and that the French would be the great gainers, as their wines would fall under the low duty.
§ MR. HASSARD
said, he wished to know if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had considered what effect his proposal would have on colonial wines, and especially those which came from the Capo of Good Hope, If they had to pay the high duty the charge would press very severely upon them. The original strength of those wines was about 17 per cent, but they had to be raised to 25 per cent with alcohol in order to prevent fermentation while passing the tropics, and might therefore have to pay the higher duty. He thought that those wines deserved some attention at the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he wished to know whether there were any means by which they might not be placed at a disadvantage by the side of other wines.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he wished to know whether the new duties would take effect, as was the custom, from the next day, and, if so, whether care would be taken not to charge people who came early in the morning the high duty, while those who came in the afternoon paid only the reduced duty.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he believed it was not the intention of the Committee to continue any differential duty in favour of Cape wines after the new scale came into operation. They would pay, like other wines of the same strength, for the protection of the spirit revenue in England. With respect to the question of the hon. Member for the City (Mr. Crawford), the rule adopted of late years was, that the Resolutions of the House for reducing Customs' duties took effect immediately, subject to the condition, that if Parliament did not confirm those Resolutions the parties were bound to pay the difference. He felt it his duty, unless the Committee should be of a different opinion, to take care that the same rule was acted upon in the present case, and that the 3s. duty should be taken the next day.
said, that the Resolutions would take effect as soon as the House had confirmed the Resolutions passed in Committee.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that was also his own impression, though upon making inquiry he had been told otherwise. The usual course, however, would be followed, and the new duty would take effect immediately after 1901 the Resolution had been reported to the House.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he wished, before the Committee proceeded with the Resolution, to present a Petition from some inhabitants of North Warwickshire which reached him after the meeting of the House.
§ 2. Resolved, That on and after the 1st day of January, 1861, the following Duties shall be charged, namely:—
|Containing less than the following Rates of Proof Spirit, verified by Sykes' Hydrometer, namely:—||If Imported in Bottles.|
|18 degrees.||26 degrees.||40 degrees.|
|Wine of and from Foreign Countries—||s.||d.||s.||d.||s.||d.||s.||d.|
|Red the gallon||1||0||1||6||2||0||2||0|
|White the gallon||1||0||1||6||2||0||2||0|
|Lees of such Wine the gallon||1||0||1||6||2||0||2||0|
|Wine, the growth and produce of any British possession, and imported direct from thence—|
|Red the gallon||1||0||1||6||2||0||2||0|
|White the gallon||1||0||1||6||2||0||2||0|
|Lees of such wine the gallon||1||0||1||6||2||0||2||0|
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
, said, he would then move the fourth Resolution, providing that the duties charged upon certain goods, wares, and merchandise imported into the United Kingdom shall cease and determine, a list of forty-three different articles being annexed to the Re solution.
Motion made, and Question proposed,—
That the Duties of Customs chargeable upon the goods, wares, and merchandise hereinafter mentioned imported into Great Britain and Ireland, shall cease and determine, namely:—
Agates or Cornelians set.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
objected to proceed with the Resolution, which embraced no fewer than forty-three articles, and affected the industry of many thousands of their fellow-countrymen. He would move that the Chairman report progress.
§ SIR WILLIAM MILES
said, that as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given notice that he would take all the articles in the French Treaty first, it followed that books and parchment from abroad would gain admission into England before the Excise duty on paper was taken off. As, however, there was a condition attaching to the article in question, that the provision was not to take effect unless the Excise duty in England was remitted, would it not be as well, for the sake of saving time, to postpone the discussion on that provision of the Treaty until after they had settled
§ The prayer of the petition was, that in the case of the House assenting to a reduction | of duty on French products, our own agricultural produce, especially malt, might not be placed at disadvantage, and he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would direct his attention to the prayer of the petition.
§ as to the removal of the Excise duty? He might also remind them that the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller) had an Amendment on the paper respecting the prohibition of the export of rags from France.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, said be would take care that the Resolution should be so drawn as not to commit the House in case the Excise duty on paper was not repealed. He hoped the hon. Member for Warwickshire would waive his objection to proceeding with the Resolution, at any rate until they came to some article that evoked opposition.
§ MR BENTINCK
said, that in that case he should object to the very first item—"agates, or cornelians, set." He did not think that, at so late an hour, they could make satisfactory progress with the Resolution.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, although he feared there was not much that was bonâ fide about the hon. Member's objection, still he should not oppose the Motion to report progress after the wine Resolutions_ were ordered to be reported.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
inquired if the article in the fourth Resolution, though named in the French Treaty, would be received from other parts of the world without an equivalent?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the Resolution did not limit the articles admitted to those coming from France; it took no cognizance of their origin, but left the import open from all the world.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the only deviation that would be made in the natural order of the Resotions was in the case of the spirit duties (Resolution No. 3) And, as stated by him the other day in answer to a question from the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Dun-combe) the Resolution respecting spirits would be postponed until after the other Resolutions had been passed.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, the answer of the right hon. Gentleman to the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Alderman Salomons) was not consistent with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the other day, that the giving of certain facilities to Franco did not imply their being extended to German goods.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the hon. Gentleman had mistaken the purport of his answer. What he had stated was that, under the Treaty, it would be perfectly competent to the House of Commons, if it thought fit, to lay higher duties on German or any other goods than on the French goods; the French Treaty would not forbid it.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he hoped hon. Members having Motions on the paper for to-morrow would have the kindness to waive them and allow the discussion on these Resolutions to proceed. He hoped the hon. Member for Berks would give his consent to this arrangement.
§ CAPTAIN LEICESTER VERNON
said, he was exceedingly l0th to give way on this occasion, because he stood excessively well for bringing on to-morrow the Motion of which he had given notice. He considered it of very great importance in a commercial point of view, because until it was settled commercial men could scarcely know whether they were safe in taking Government contracts or not. At the same time, he would not stand in the way of the Government or the House if it was their wish to proceed with these Resolutions. He hoped, however, the Government would give him facilities for bringing on his Motion on an early day.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, it might 1904 be convenient to the hon. Member for Bridgewater (Mr. Kinglake) to be informed that the Motion of which he had given notice for next day—namely, one for the production of copies and extracts respecting Savoy—would not be objected to by the Government.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he had no objection to the House resuming that the Chairman might report the Resolutions on the wine duties to the House.
§ Whereupon Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report progress," put and agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow. Committee report progress.