§ WAYS AND MEANS—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That there shall be granted and paid to Her Majesty, her heirs, and successors, upon every half-pound weight of any article or substance called by any name of Coffee or Chicory, or prepared or manufactured for the purpose of being in imitation of, or in any respect to resemble or to serve as a substitute for Coffee or Chicory, which is sold or kept for sale in the United Kingdom, and also upon every half-pound weight of any mixture of such article or substance as aforesaid with Coffee or Chicory, which is sold or kept for sale in the United Kingdon, the Duty of Excise of one penny."—(Mr. Courtney.)
§ MR. MAGNIAC
said, as far as he was concerned, this question had taken him entirely by surprise by the manner in which it had been proposed that evening. He had had an interview with the hon. Gentleman who moved this Resolution, some time ago, in company with his hon. Friend the Member for Bristol (Mr. S. Morley), representing as they did a very large number of persons interested, and himself representing the London Chamber of Commerce. The object was to obtain a promise from the hon. Gentleman that this matter would not be taken without due Notice, and they were assured that ample Notice would be given. The hon. Gentleman said that there would be every opportunity for discussing the matter thereafter; but everyone must know that the first step 1728 that was taken afforded the only opportunity to Members of getting their views with regard to the course they desired to adopt considered and supported. If this had been a subject which ought not to have been discussed, such, for instance, as the imposition of the duty on tea or spirits, he could have understood that it was in the interest of the Revenue to take the course which was now being followed; but this matter had been under the consideration of the Government for some time, and a distinct promise had been given to a large section of the trade who waited on the authorities that this measure should be duly announced. A different course, however, had been followed by the Treasury. It would be impossible to conceive a more contemptible mode of adding to the Revenue than by providing that it should be derived from one article sold in the name of another. Coffee was very much appreciated in this country; but it was rather dear, having to be brought from foreign countries, and it had occurred to the minds of ingenious individuals who were in the habit of making cheap substitutes that if they could make an imitation of coffee it would be to their advantage. A number of substitutes for coffee were now sold in the shops, the principal among them being what was called Date coffee. This Date coffee he had analyzed, and he was prepared to say that its contents bore the barest possible trace of the essential principles of coffee. It contained a large percentage of glucose, and, in effect, it was a precious compound consisting of dates mashed up and burnt, with just enough trace of coffee to enable it to be called coffee. If it were called dates, it would not find purchasers; if it were called dates and a little coffee, it would not sell; but being called Date coffee, it was generally purchased. Then there was another, a French coffee, composed of sweet acorns found in the Forest of Auvergne, which were ground up and sold here as French coffee without containing a particle of coffee. At one time a great deal was heard about wooden nutmegs; but it appeared to him that the morality of that manufacture was no worse than that of selling Date coffee and French coffee for real coffee. Then there was another compound called Malt coffee. It 1729 was said to have a strong infusion of coffee; but what it was made of nobody could tell. There was another article composed of rye and figs, and a little coffee, and if the manufacturer of that could sell it at 8d. or 1s. per lb., he would be very happy to pay this duty. As the hon. Member below him had said, makers of these compounds would be very willing to pay 2d. on the pound, while they were allowed to sell these compounds as coffee. Patent medicines were imposed on people by the Government stamp; and now these precious compounds were to be stamped with the imprimatur. That was as immoral a proposal as could be conceived. It was a deceit upon people upon whom these articles were passed off as coffee. None of these compounds contained more than 20 per cent of coffee, and most of them contained only 5 or 10 per cent. Then it was said that the Revenue would receive more from these articles than from pure coffee; but he did not think that argument was creditable to the Government. The right hon. Gentleman had said that taste and habit had grown up for these things. Taste and habit had grown up with the sellers, and was likely to continue to grow if people were permitted to sell these compounds. By this Resolution, manufacturers would be led to commit fraud upon the people going into shops, in order that the Government might receive a duty of 2d. on the pound. He hoped the House would not allow this to be done, and that, at all events, it would defer the matter until those who were interested in the matter had an opportunity of representing their case to the Government. Those people were at present preparing a Memorial to the Government, and he hoped the Government would give an assurance that no further steps should be taken without further Notice.
said, the speech of his hon. Friend reminded him of many and great afflictions that he had endured in former times, the cause of which had been exactly the same as that now brought up—namely, that the Revenue Department, whose whole and simple task was to meet the necessities of the country by providing sufficient funds from the Revenue with as little trouble as possible—they having their sins to answer for—were likewise to be 1730 dragged into a controversy as to adulteration. He assured his hon. Friend that he was mistaken in supposing that there was anything in this proposal which could surprise the trade. The usual proceeding was to allow a preliminary duty to be taken in a preliminary Committee of the House, because it could not be inserted in the Bill without that preliminary Committee. All the Government wanted was that this proposal should appear in the Bill, and hon. Members should have plenty of Notice, and an opportunity of discussing the matter, and should not have the least ground for charging the Government with taking them by surprise. Under these circumstances, he hoped his hon. Friend would allow the preliminary step.
MR. GEORGE RUSSELL
said, he hoped the Committee would allow the duty to be taken. He could not think the hon. Member for Bedford had reason to complain, because he had overwhelmed the Committee with the intricacies of adulteration. He himself had had as little opportunity of preparing a case for defence as the hon. Member had had for making his attack. He had amongst his constituents three classes of adulterators. In the first place, there was a Company trading in a mixture of coffee, cocoa, and milk; then there were others who were involved in Companies who manufactured Date coffee; and then he would recommend an individual who made a Dandelion coffee. All these occupations had been a great deal agitated by the danger which threatened them. He was told these products were not dangerous to health, and further, that they were palatable, which was more surprising, and some people had even described them as actually beneficial to health. Many persons said that after using Dandelion coffee they had experienced a beneficial invigoration of their physical power never before enjoyed; and, further, the compounds were admitted to be political handmaids to that cause with which the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was so identified. As to the question of the necessity for adulteration, upon which the hon. Member had spoken with so much moral fervour, there was no suspicion in the matter, because the manufacturers were willing 1731 to drop the name of Coffee and to call their mixtures Datine, or by any other word which would satisfy the philological instincts of the Committee. He hoped the Committee would follow the steps of the right hon. Gentleman, and secure to the peaceful and industrious inhabitants of Aylesbury their time-won freedom of adulteration.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he doubted whether the speech of the hon. Member was a genuine speech in favour of adulteration, or whether the hon. Member was not ridiculing adulterators, whom he professed to protect. With regard to the question generally, everybody knew that the Premier was highly respected for his moral principles; but he never before heard the right hon. Gentleman sink to an immoral level. He protested, in the name of common morality, against this proposal. There was great danger in bringing forward these principles, especially as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) had long laid it down that adulteration was only a form of Free Trade. It was said that the adulterators of coffee were willing to change the name of the compound they were supplying; but that was not according to the terms of the Resolution, which contained these words—Any article or substance called by any name of coffee or chicory, or prepared or manufactured for the purpose of being in imitation of, or in any respect to resemble or to serve as a substitute for, coffee or chicory, which is Bold or kept for sale in the United Kingdom.This he might characterize as a most impudent Motion—it allowed anything to be called coffee or chicory. With regard to Date coffee, everyone knew that the very best dates in the grocers' shops were not more than 8d. per lb., whereas the best coffee was worth more than twice as much. He thought the Resolution now proposed by the Government was really a pandering to commercial immorality.
§ MR. MAGNIAC
said, that Dandelion coffee had no coffee in it at all. It had been carefully analyzed, and found to be totally devoid of coffee. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. G. Russell) said his friends would be perfectly willing to drop the name "coffee" altogether in regard to the substance they sold. That, to his (Mr. Magniac's) mind, would be 1732 the proper course to pursue. Let the adulterators call the substance they manufactured or dealt in by another name than coffee, then the present Resolution would be perfectly unnecessary.
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon, I cannot do without the Resolution; I cannot stir a step without it. This is a new duty, and I must have the Resolution.
§ MR. MAGNIAC
said, the Resolution stated "any article or substance called by any name of coffee or chicory." If, therefore, the name was changed, the article mentioned in the Motion would not exist, and the Resolution would be unnecessary. He was perfectly satisfied with what had fallen from the hon. Member for Aylesbury, and if the hon. Gentleman and his friends would drop the name "coffee" in regard to the article in which they dealt, it would answer all purposes. If they did not drop the name his (Mr. Magniac's) objection would remain, because he considered it in the highest degree immoral that the State should allow an article to be sold as that which it was not.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said, there was considerable misconception on the part of some hon. Members with regard to this matter. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that the Resolution would affect the Adulteration Acts; but that was not the case. Those Acts would still touch a person who sold under the name of "coffee" an article that was manufactured, say, from malt. Malt coffee was warmly recommended by medical men and had a large consumption, but those who dealt in it complained of the hardship of being compelled to pay this extra duty. They paid the Coffee Duty, and now they would have to pay the extra duty on the mixture. The compound was well advertised, its character was not disguised, and the public knew very well what it was, and it was in such general use that its manufacturers would even prefer to pay duty twice over rather than that the sale should be stopped under the present conditions.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow, at Two of the clock;
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.