§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
We now proceed from port wine to beer. I suppose it is rather the wrong way round. It should be port wine after beer; but I hope the House will forgive that order of precedence.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
This Bill is one of the many Bills of a temporary character 2486 which have had to be introduced to deal with the special circumstances created by the War. They are all objectionable, and none of them are economic. They all inflict injury upon somebody. The only excuse for that is that they are absolutely necessary in the national interest; that we have to put national interest first; and that in passing Bills of this kind we should do as little injury as we possibly can to any individual trader or interest. That is the point of view from which this Bill is introduced. I can only say that any suggestions that are made to amend or to improve it will be welcome. I am sure, however, the House will understand that no Bill of this kind, for the reasons I have given, can be regarded as economically watertight, nor can it be subjected to the same kind of criticism as may fairly be directed against ordinary legislation of a permanent character. There is no ulterior object whatever in the Bill. For instance, it has nothing to do with temperance legislation or with revenue, for, as a matter of fact, there will be a loss to the revenue nor has it any connection with any fiscal purpose. The Bill has one object only, and that object is the same kind of restriction as has been applied to many other articles. The sole object is to reduce the calls upon the reduced amount of tonnage available for bringing articles of consumption to this country.
A considerable portion of the imports of this country consists of materials used in the manufacture of beer. I suppose I shall be told, naturally, that the simplest way to deal with that would be simply to restrict the importation of these materials, and thereby to leave trade to adjust itself. I need hardly say that, quite obviously, this was the method which first presented itself to us, as it naturally would to anyone taking up this matter. But we found it was impracticable to deal with it in that way, for this reason, that the materials which, are used in brewing are—except, perhaps, for certain classes of sugar—not exclusively used for that purpose. Barley, maize, and rice, all of which are used in brewing, are articles which are also used both for foodstuffs and feeding-stuffs— that is to say, both for food for man and food for animals. These articles are all used for these purposes. It is impossible to differentiate between a particular cargo-of barley, maize, and rice which has been brought to this country. You cannot say as to whether it may be used for brewing, or food stuffs or feeding stuffs. If you 2487 attempt to differentiate and restrict the importation of barley, maize, or rice to the extent of that used for brewing, the necessary effect would be that you would reduce the quantity coming into this country, and so effect your direct object, But you would not in any way reduce the competition for the articles when they had. arrived here.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to deal with the matter in the way I am proceeding. It is quite obvious that, however much you might by the reduction of the quantity effect your direct object, the competition at home would not be reduced. Everybody who wanted to use any of these articles for any of the three purposes I have named would equally want them, and the consequence would be that with the reduced supply and the maintenance of the full demand there would be an unnatural inflation of prices. Prices are already quite high enough, and we do not want to drive them any higher by artificial means. It is, therefore, quite clear that this consideration precludes us adopting the method of direct prohibition of imported brewing materials. The further suggestion was made that we might arrive at our object by restricting the amount of the materials which a brewer should use in his mash tub. That really would give us no advantage at all, because it would involve a great deal of interference and considerable administrative expenditure. We therefore, after a good deal of consideration and much conference with the brewers, came to the conclusion that the only satisfactory method, and the only practical method, of dealing with the problem was to limit the output of beer to a certain quantity; and there by you would deal with the trouble at the source. By limiting the output of beer you limit the amount of the materials used, and you maintain the same proportion of competition that there is now for all these various articles.
There are three matters arising out of this Bill which, I think, naturally will be raised. There is the question of import and export, because, naturally, imports and exports have exactly the same effect. They take up tonnage space. When we introduce a Bill to limit the importation of brewing materials, my hon. Friend opposite naturally asks, "Well, what about hops? "which are imported in large quantities into this country, and which 2488 are very bulky articles, in, I believe, something like a proportion of three to one to grain. They occupy tonnage space several times over that occupied by grain. Therefore, I need hardly say we could not possibly introduce a Bill of this kind without prohibiting the import of hops. It is, therefore, proposed immediately to prohibit the importation of foreign hops into this country as being part of the principle of reducing tonnage which is carried out by this Bill. There is a further import which is similarly affected. I think several of my hon. Friends have asked, "Are you going to restrict the British brewer, and at the same time allow foreign beer to be imported into this country?" I immediately reply to that, "We propose to at once prohibit the import of foreign beers." There is the further question of export. Some of my hon. Friends will say, "Are you going to restrict the importation of barley by the brewer and to allow malt made in this country to be exported?" We feel there is great strength in that argument as to the export of malt. I have no doubt everyone in the House knows that the export of malt is already restricted. It is on Prohibited List B, and can only be exported with a licence. The export, I say, has been already very largely restricted. That restriction will be so tightened up as practically to prohibit the export altogether. We must send a little to Italy for the present. But the export will be, as far as possible, reduced to a negligible quantity, or stopped altogether.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
It is not intended that there should be a licence. Supposing there was a very bad hop crop in this country, and it became absolutely necessary to have hops, and we had not enough hops in this country to satisfy requirements, we should have to issue a licence.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
That remains to be seen. Of course, there is power to issue licences, but those licences can only be issued when it becomes necessary to do so. I have stated the object of the Bill, and, further, the restrictions on imports and exports that are proposed in connection with the same subject. It is obvious that, having decided to adopt this principle of restricting the output, it was necessary to 2489 find a basis for that restriction, and it was originally proposed to take the basis of the year ending 30th September, 1914. The trading year ends on 30th September, which is the date up to which all traders' returns are made, and up to which all statistics are calculated for the year. Therefore it is almost necessary, from the point of view of accountancy, to take a complete brewing year as our standard of comparison, and it was originally proposed, at the suggestion of one of the brewers' organisations, to take the year 1914, and when I say the year 1914, I mean the year ended 30th September, 1914, and when I say the year 1915, I mean the year ending 30th September, 1915. But we found that, taking the basis of 1914, it would put us in very great difficulties with the consumer, and representations were made by the Army Council that they would find it practically impossible to get the beer supplied to the military centres, where the troops are now congregated, under that system. I think the House will probably support the view which the Board of Trade took in approaching this, that we must take three considerations, or three interests, in order — the national interest first, that is the ground on which the Bill is proposed; secondly, the interest of the consumers at large; and thirdly, the interest of the trade, and we must take them in that order.
It was originally proposed, in the interest of the trade, to take the year 1914, and in the interest of the trade there was something to be said for that, because there were many brewers who, owing to the movement of the beer-drinking class from the peace distribution to the war distribution, have lost a great deal of that trade, and they naturally would have been glad to have a basis taken which would have given them an opportunity of getting some of it back again, because some brewers had lost from 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. of that trade between 1914 and 1915, and taking, as we should have had to take, a 28 per cent. reduction on 1914, those brewers would be able to increase their production, whereas brewers in other parts of the country, where there are munition or military centres, would have had their production enormously cut down, and the result would have been that the railways would have been congested with the beer sent from one end of the country to the other. The Army Council made strong representations on the subject, and we came to the conclusion that, 2490 in the interest of the consumers, it was absolutely necessary to take the most recent date we could, and, as far as possible, follow the new distribution of the population, rather than the pre-war distribution, and, therefore, we must take the 1915 basis rather than the 1914 basis. Taking the 1915 basis, as the consumption was considerably less in that year, instead of having to take off 28 per cent., as we should in 1914, we only had to take off 14 per cent. Then it was represented that to certain small brewers, who have lost anything up to 40 per cent. or 50 per cent., or even more, of their trade, the taking off of a further 14 per cent. might be a great hardship, and might in some cases practically amount to their ruin. In order to meet that hardship, we introduced an. alternative, which will be found in Clause 2 of the Bill, allowing any brewer in that position—probably it would only cover a few cases of comparatively small brewers —to take 30 per cent. off the year 1914, instead of 15 per cent. off 1915. and the 14 per cent. was increased to 15 per cent. to allow the small advantage that would be given to the 1914 brewers on that account, so that we penalise the main trade by 1 per cent. as between 1914 and 1915, in order to afford some relief in regard to the special hardship which was inflicted upon small brewers, particularly in rural districts and in Ireland, because large numbers of men from rural districts and small towns, and Ireland, are now congregated at munition and military centres, and it is necessary, in order to save transport as much as possible, that the beer should be brewed as near as possible where it is now required.
The other important Clause which I must mention is Clause 5. It was feared that, when the restriction upon output was imposed upon the brewer, there would be a tendency on his part to give a full supply to the tied house with which he was bound by contract, and that the free house would find itself, not only with the reduction of 15 per cent., but possibly a very much larger reduction indeed, and we were asked by the representatives of the free houses, and also, I may say, by the representatives of the canteen—that is, by the Central Board of Control—to give them the right to a supply of beer equal in amount, less the 15 per cent., to that which they had previously had. Clause 5 is drawn for that purpose. Since that Clause was drawn representations have been made that off-licence holders are in exactly the 2491 same position as some on-licence holders in being tied, and that the off-licence holder who is not tied would be placed in an invidious position if not given the same right as the on-licence holder. There is another class of off-licence holders known, I think, as beer dealers, or bottlers, and they are, of course, included among the off-licence holders. I propose in Committee, if the Committee assents to that course, and the House gives the Bill a Second Reading, to introduce words into Sub-section (3) of Clause 5 which will give the same right. I do not know whether the House would like me to read the words now. Perhaps it is hardly necessary, as the words will be on the Paper for the Committee stage; but I may say the proposal gives the widest effect to the principle of giving all off-licences, whether grocers' licences, bottlers, or beer dealers, the same rights as given under this Clause to on-licence holders.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I have not introduced any words about clubs in the Bill. I am prepared to consider the matter if it is brought forward in Committee. The words I have drawn would not include clubs, and it is rather a question of whether clubs come in the same category as private consumers, or whether they come in the same category as licences. The feeling, I think, in the House, and certainly our opinion, is that clubs come under the same category as private consumers. But if it is the wish of the House that clubs should be included, I should be perfectly prepared in Committee to consider suggestions.
§ Mr PRETYMAN
My hon. Friend is one of those who are most anxious to get legislation for war purposes, and it is not as if this is a Bill of a permanent character. We are at war. The Bill, of course, is entirely in the hands of the House, but war legislation has to be rapid, and, fortunately, this kind of legislation is not permanent, and leaves no permanent mark of any kind on the Statute Book. What we have to do now is to try to put ourselves in the best possible position from day to day as circumstances arise, and to get this quickly through will give us a certain advantage. We can say no more, but leave 2492 it in the hands of the House whether they will give this advantage or not. Clause 5 has been redrafted in regard to a few words, because the Clause as it stands in the Bill says:,
Where a licence holder who is not bound by any covenant, agreement, or undertaking, and is not otherwise under any direct or indirect obligation of any kind to obtain a supply of beer from any particular brewer, was, on the thirtieth day of September, nineteen hundred and fifteen, obtaining a supply of beer from any brewer—
That is a little vague as to whether he was obtaining a supply from any brewer, and it would make it very difficult to determine what his rights were, and what they were not, and it is proposed to amend it so as to read, after the words "particular brewer,"
"has at any time during the year ending on the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and sixteen, been supplied with beer by any brewer, he shall be entitled to obtain from that brewer under reasonable conditions a similar supply at the same annual rate, but reduced by fifteen per cent."
The effect of that will be that, wherever any free licence holder, on or off, has at any time during the year ending 31st March, 1916, obtained a supply of beer for a week, a fortnight, a month, or twelve months, from any brewer, he will have the right to go to that brewer and get that quantity, but reduced by 15 per cent. That makes the Clause quite definite and we have brought it up to date. The period does not coincide with the previous period of the Bill, and it is not necessary that it should. The great difficulty about Clause 5 is where a brewer and his customer have ceased trading one with the other. Then it is very invidious and very unpleasant to have to come to the Board of Trade and be transferred. That cannot be entirely avoided, but what we can do is to bring it as near up to date as possible, so that there shall be much less likelihood of the brewer and customer differing one from the other. That is the object, and we are indebted to the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley who is administering the Act that was passed for restricting paper, and the same difficulties crop up there. On his advice we have taken the latest date we possibly can to 2493 avoid those difficulties. With regard to Sub-section (2) of Clause (2), it has been pointed out by the Brewers' Society that it is a mistake to provide for the change "taking place after the 30th day of September, 1915, and before the 15th day of May, 1916." Of course, it should be 1914. Obviously any change that has taken place during the standard year must be taken into account, and we intend to alter the words to read "taking place after the 30th day of September, 1914, and before the date of the passing of this Act." I think those words will be satisfactory.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
We will consider that suggestion. In proviso (c) it is provided that a brewer must give notice to the Commissioners before the 1st day of June, and we shall have to put that date back to the 1st day of July. In Clause 1 it is provided that "a brewer shall not brew at his brewery during the first two quarters to which this Act applies." Each quarter is to be dealt with separately, and it is necessary to have a period of adjustment, and therefore the two quarters are put together. It has been represented to the Government that two quarters is not long enough. We desire to meet the wishes of the trade in that respect, and I propose to accept an Amendment in Committee to alter the two quarters to three quarters. The Clause will be dealt with on that basis. I think I have now dealt with all the points, and I hope it will be possible to get this Bill through all its stages tomorrow in order that it may become law before the Recess, otherwise several weeks will pass before it becomes law, and that will be inconvenient both to the trade and to the country.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
This is one of the most remarkable small Bills that has yet been brought before the House. It deals with a restriction on the output of the trade. It is a measure of some six Clauses extending over four and a half pages, and even the Bill which is now printed, and to which we are being asked to give a Second Reading, does not accurately or entirely contain the proposals of the Government. The Bill which has been outlined as the one which the Government accept in Committee is in many respects a very different one from 2494 that which has been printed. With the object of the Bill no one in the licensed trade objects. No one will make the slightest objection to restrictions upon the import of brewing materials to the extent provided in this Bill, or even more if it is necessary in the national interests; but there arises the question as to which is the best way to achieve this object. The hon. Gentleman to some extent led the House to believe that this was in the nature of an agreed Bill, but I do hot think that is altogether the case. I am sure he did not wish to misrepresent anybody. When the representatives of the brewing trade sent a deputation to the Board of Trade on this subject they were met by the statement that the principle of this was the only method to which the President would agree, and therefore they were obliged to have this Bill or nothing, and any other way of carrying out restrictions on the imports was put out of the question. There are other ways of doing it, and the hon. Member who proposed the Second Reading has adopted one of the other ways in the case of hops. I may say that nothing in regard to that matter has been mentioned to the members of the brewing trade who have been interviewing the President, and the announcement he has made will come as a very great surprise, because it will be entirely unexpected by those gentlemen who have been negotiating these Amendments. I do not think the Board of Trade have been quite candid or straightforward in that matter in dealing with these Amendments.
There are other ways of dealing with, the question. Why did the Government not restrict the use of imported materials in the breweries themselves? The question was simply pushed on one side, not because there was any difficulty, but because the Government and their officials were wedded to this proposal to restrict the percentage as outlined in this Bill. As a matter of fact, the Government have all the machinery for dealing with the materials which are used. All those materials have to be entered in the brewing books, and they know exactly what has been used. Foreign barley has been taken for the purpose of arriving at what percentage has been taken. They have all the information and the stock and everything on the spot, and yet they have adopted this proposal for some reason which has never been explained, although what I have suggested would have 2495 been much less injurious to the licensed trade and much less irksome to the public. I find in looking through the latest returns over a period of years that the quantities of barley grown in this country average somewhere about 8,000,000 quarters, and of that only 3,000,000 quarters on an average are brought to market, the rest being presumably consumed or else dealt with by private contract. It is obvious in dealing with quantities like that everything must depend upon the season. The difference between a good and a bad season is quite 500,000. The Government for some reason or other wish to restrict the output of beer to 26,000,000 barrels, and they have determined to do it by one means or another.
There is a suspicion that the object of this Bill is to limit the consumption of beer through the action of the Board of Trade in order to help the Board of Control and to support the views on this question held by some members of the Cabinet. As a matter of fact the production of beer in this country is very largely decreasing. A very large number of beer drinkers have joined the Army and have gone abroad. There was a reduction of 350,000 barrels shown in the returns for April, very largely due to the increase of the price of beer, and the price of beer must go up because of the increased cost of malt which some years ago could be purchased at 32s. or 35s. and it now costs 75s., representing an increase of 8s. a barrel in malt alone, without taking into account the largely increased cost entailed by war conditions. Nearly all the breweries have had to put up the price of beer and the consumption has been considerably less. The Under-Secretary for the Board of Trade said that the public was the only consideration, but in my opinion the only persons who are not considered by this Bill are the public. The Bill deals with the licensed victuallers, the bottler, the hop grower, and the Army canteens, and the only people who are not dealt with are the public.
There has been a great fear that the Army will not get the beer which it requires and that the Government are taking strenuous measures to see that the Army will not have to go without its beer. They have expressed themselves satisfied with the provisions of the Bill so far as the supply to the Army is concerned, and they have issued a circular letter to brewers saying that the supply to the Army must be kept up. They ask the brewers on 2496 patriotic grounds to see that the supply does not fall short, and they say further that if it should they will have to take measures to ensure that the Army has its beer. I quite agree that the British soldier ought to have his beer, and they evidently look upon these restrictions, even as they stand in the Bill, as in danger of depriving the British soldier at home of the beer he wants. There is no provision in the Bill for the munition worker or for the British public at large, although the munition worker is doing work essential to the country for the prosecution of the War. This Bill carries out a preconceived policy and is ill-considered That is proved by the number of Amendments which the hon. Member has announced his intention of introducing. There is no certainty that it will reduce the importation of brewing materials, except in the case of hops, which they intend to prohibit altogether or to allow to be imported later only by licence. I should have thought that they had had enough of prohibition by licence. It has landed them in various forms into endless trouble, and every time the Government issue a licence to import a prohibited article they break some fifty-four commercial treaties with other countries whom the licence outrages, because it gives a favour to one nation and leaves out of account all the other treaties. It is landing them into numerous difficulties.
I do not want to go into Committee points, but they are numerous, and, so far as I am concerned, I am afraid that with these very large and sweeping alterations which the hon. Gentleman has proposed in the Bill he must not expect to get his Bill to-morrow night. He may not get it at all—I am not a prophet—but at any rate he must not expect to get it to-morrow night. The Bill will want looking at again. It will probably be found that some of these Amendments bring in other Amendments, because the Government by the course they are taking are involving themselves into an endless series of difficulties. The licence trade is one of the most complicated, restricted, and over-legislated trades in the whole Kingdom, and the structure is now so complex and over-regulated that when you touch one thing in it you upset the whole structure and lead to a whole series of Clauses and Regulations and laws in order to deal with a very simple problem. I contend that the Government have taken the most clumsy and the most futile way of dealing with this matter. They want to restrict imports, 2497 but there is nothing in the Bill to restrict imports, though they assume that it will do so. They have no guarantee that it will restrict imports except in the case of hops. With regard to restricting the output of beer I have every reason to believe that the natural increase in price, and the departure of a large proportion of the beer-drinking public, will bring about a considerable reduction in the consumption of beer, probably 7,000,000 barrels, or nearly the amount which the Government desires. If they do wish to restrict imports, let them adopt the same policy as they do in regard to all other trades, and prohibit the imports and issue licences. If that is not satisfactory for any reason, and I do not think it is, then let them deal with the whole problem in the breweries themselves, with the least measure of inconvenience, both to the trade and the public. For these reasons, I contend that this Bill should not be given a Second Reading today.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I beg to second the Amendment.
The hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill in so clear and conciliatory a speech, and announced such important concessions in regard to off-licence holders, that I suffer from some slight infirmity of purpose in seconding my hon. Friend's Amendment. At the same time, the very fact that the hon. Gentleman has had to make these extremely important alterations shows that the matter has not been properly thought out, and I must join my hon. Friend in protesting that it really will not be fair to endeavour to rush this through without giving the important interests concerned an opportunity of thinking the matter out and putting down Amendments which they may desire. They will only know to-morrow morning how the Bill will have passed the Second Reading. How are they to prepare Amendments which they may wish to put forward? How are they to consult the different organisations, and so on? Where is the very great urgency? My hon. Friend rightly said that any well-conducted Member would be prepared to help forward any legislation necessary for the conduct of the War, but I do not see the immediate necessity, from the point of view of tonnage for pressing on with this Bill. Could not the hon. Gentleman, while this matter is being considered, arrange for the importation of barley and other brewing materials upon licence given by the Board of Trade? It is done in regard to other 2498 things, and why not in regard to this matter? I submit that it would be a satisfactory solution of the whole problem for all time. Certainly such a temporary arrangement might be made which would prevent the rushing through of a Bill of the very greatest importance, which hits hard an industry already the object of so many severe blows. My hon. Friend is now prohibiting the importation of foreign beer, and I am glad he is, although it is very good stuff, and I hope we may drink it again. At the same time that no more foreign beer is to be imported, the production of British beer is also to be reduced Where is the beer coming from for the people to drink? My hon. Friend the Mover said, and said rightly, that the public were not considered. Are these reductions to be pressed and continued? My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary expressed a preference for port wine, and it is the last thing that I should wish to deprecate, but beer, after all, is a more important drink. Some poet has said:Wine is but a single broth,But beer is meat, and drink and cloth.It is a good liquor; it is required by the public of this country, and, if the Board of Trade has to make special arrangements in order to ensure that the supply to the troops does not fall short, why does it not also consider the public? I will not say the animosity shown to beer, but the preference shown to temperance, has already resulted in the wholesome, excellent drink of beer being replaced by spirits. Now comes another severe blow. I like to acknowledge to the full the excellent speech of the hon. Gentleman, and the conciliatory tone of it, but I do protest against the Bill being proceeded with in this manner and in this new form without those concerned having time to put down their Amendments and having them fairly considered. The hon. Gentleman says that the Bill entails a small loss of revenue. That is all the more reason for putting off its operation, so as to give an opportunity to those concerned to make their representations. It would not be right now to put forward Committee points, but it is not everybody who is able to attend here every day and sit right on. It is not fair to Members of the House, as well as to the trade interests, to press the Bill through to-morrow at the end of the day's business. After what the hon. Gentleman has said, I do not feel inclined to deal with the different points of objection which I had meant to submit. But this point of putting 2499 off the Committee stage appears to me to be absolutely all important. I do not know whether, under the concession as regards Clause 5 which the hon. Gentleman has announced, beer dealers and their customers come within the operation of the Clause.
§ Sir J. D. REES
There are those who have communicated with me who would like to have time in order to see whether they are satisfied with the important alterations in the Bill that have been announced to-day. My hon. Friend who moved that the Bill be read a second time this day six months spoke with an authority which nobody can surpass and which few can equal for brewing firms and large interests. But all of us are more or less interested, some personally it may be, but mostly as representing large numbers of off-licensed holders; and perhaps I may be allowed—speaking more particularly for those off-licensed holders, although I believe their interests are now going to receive that attention which was going to be denied to them when the Bill was brought in—to say I am dissatisfied that the matter should be disposed of to-morrow. I am not clear about the supply of beer. Will there be enough for those who are in the habit of getting certain quantities and who are not to be able to get more without a certificate from the Board of Trade? That in itself is a very serious interference with the liberties of the subject, and it is a point upon which one would like further information.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Perhaps I may correct the hon. Member upon that point of fact. There is no question of getting a certificate unless there is a disagreement. Any licensed holder has a right to ask the brewer for the same quantity, less 15 per cent., as he had in the comparative period, and it is only if there is a dispute between the two as to the quantity the licensed holder ought to have, that the matter is referred to the Board of Trade for the grant of a certificate.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Brewers disagree, and so do beer drinkers, and my hon. Friend's explanation does not altogether relieve me of the difficulty I feel in the matter. I again urge that the hon. Gentleman should not attempt to rush this Bill through to- 2500 morrow, but that he should give the great interests concerned a proper opportunity of considering the position.
§ Sir T. WHITTAKER
The only reason why I wish to say a word on this Bill is because I have had some practical experience in another direction—in dealing with the restriction of imports of paper—and I do suggest that when an attempt is made to deal with a trade through the restrictions of imports very great difficulties are likely to arise. There is difficulty, for instance, in following up the imports to the various people who have to deal with them, and very great practical difficulties were met with in connection with paper in that respect. That may possibly be the reason why the Board of Trade has adopted the method it has done. With regard to the liability to restriction, having been engaged in restricting the import of paper and knowing the inconvenience that that caused, knowing also that the import of many articles is being restricted, I feel public opinion would require that there should be restrictions in this direction. It is essential for the well-being of this country that more shipping tonnage should be set at liberty. It is essential, too, that we should restrict the importation of those articles which are bulky and heavy, and when one looks through the list it is impossible not to come to the conclusion that among those articles are those used in making beer.
My hon. Friend referred to a suggestion as to dates which I had made to him as a result of my practical experience in dealing with paper. If you fix a standard year, ending on 30th September, 1915, and say that people now are to go back to their supplier in that standard year, you may have cases—and in the paper trade there were a good many—I am not acquainted with the details of the trade in beer to say if they would be as numerous there—but you may have cases where men are now obtaining their supply from a different brewer to the one from whom they obtained them in the year ending 30th September, 1915. They may be under a contract with a brewer now, and if they are to go back to the supplier during the standard year, it may require them to break their present contracts, or, if they are able to continue their present contracts, they may place the brewer who is under contract to supply them in a difficulty, because his 1915 customer may come down on him for a supply. 2501 It does not seem to be quite clear whether the Clause which deals with contracts gives power to cancel contracts altogether. If a brewer is under a contract to supply a customer now, and another customer whom he previously supplied can come down on him also for a supply, then he is between the devil and the deep sea, and the matter will require a good deal of aljustment unless the Clause really cancels contracts. The hon. Gentleman has done a good deal to limit that difficulty by altering the date from 30th September to 31st March, and I would suggest he would do better to bring it down to 31st May, because the nearer he brings it down to the present time the less conflict will there be between existing contracts and the rights given under this Bill. I can assure the House that, as a result of the experience we have had in connection with paper, if the changes in supply in the beer trade are Anything like as numerous as in the paper trade, the difficulties will be considerable. I recognise that the hon. Gentleman has made a great step in advance in dealing with these difficulties, but I suggest he would remove stilll more difficulties if he would fix the date two months later.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
The hon. Gentleman in his speech certainly disarmed me of much that I desire to say. I most gratefully thank him for having at last, on behalf of the Board of Trade, admitted that the importation of foreign hops should be put an end to in connection with this special legislation. I have had to bring the subject before the House on more than one occasion, and I regret that the Board of Trade did not take this course earlier. The hon. Gentleman now allows the extremely bulky nature of the import. Something like 70,000 tons of hops have been imported since the War began, and it would have been just as well if hops had been picked out for treatment before ivory, upon which the Board of Trade have had to go back. I am very glad the hon. Gentleman speaks of the prohibition of hop imports, and as that is not dependent upon legislation, I hope it will be carried out at an early date. The hon. Gentleman spoke of licences. I hope this question may be treated very carefully.
§ Mr. HARDY
There are plenty here, at all events, still in storage. A great amount of hops is being exported from enemy countries into America at the present time, 2502 and in connection with the question of licences it is very desirable that great care should be exercised in taking hops from there, because it may be that they are only sending their hops to us in order to supply enemy countries, which is practically trading with the enemy. An hon. Friend of mine said it was unnecessary to legislate because it could be dealt with quite easily, and was actually being dealt with at the present time. I heartily agree with him in that, because we all know that whereas the consumption of beer has been decreasing very largely during the last few months it is not a fact that the importation of hops has decreased? In fact, during the first three months of the past year there was a very considerable increase in the importation of hops, and therefore of the taking up of tonnage. Taking the first three months in each year we find that in 1914, 29,000 cwts. were imported; in 1915, 50,000, and in 1916, 66,000. That alone, although there are many other things I could adduce, shows that some other steps were necessary. The hon. Gentleman has met the view I have had chiefly at heart, and I would conclude by thanking him and asking him to make the prohibition from as early a date as possible.
§ Sir EDWIN CORNWALL
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. L. Hardy) in his discussion of the question of hops. Looking at the Bill as it is now before the House I recognise that we must have emergency legislation. I sympathise very much with the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill and the Government Departments in charge of other Bills dealing with special circumstances arising out of the War, and I agree that we must not be too critical with regard to the framing of these measures. In ordinary times, of course, they would not pass. If it can be shown at a time like this that it would be in the national interest and would help the country through this crisis, it is the duty and the desire of the House and the country to support any Bill proposed. While recognising that the aim and object of the Board of Trade in regard to this Bill is to promote the national interests in every way, yet the measure does seem to be a very cumbersome piece of machinery and a very difficult Bill to work. The speech of the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill rather went to prove that. It was a very able, clear and conciliatory 2503 speech, but it went to show what difficulties the Board of Trade would have to deal with and which they are almost creating by this Bill. The reduction in the consumption of beer by 15 per cent. would hurt nobody. If that were the only sacrifice we had to make it would not matter whether it were a reduction of 15 or 20 per cent., because everybody would say "aye" at once to any proposal of the Government to reduce consumption of anything which would help the country. Everybody will agree that it would be a good thing to save tonnage when we are so scarce of ships. When, however, we ask ourselves what this saving of tonnage amounts to, I think an hon. Member opposite mentioned 160,000 tons. That is equal to 500,000 quarters of barley.
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
I do not claim to have any special knowledge, but so far as my information goes it is in the neighbourhood of 150,000 tons of barley in a year. That is the extent to which tonnage space will be saved. What does that represent? Supposing we were on the Terrace and we saw one barge come up on Monday and another on Thursday, and asked ourselves what those barges represented, we should say: "Oh! that is the quantity of tonnage space which the Output of Beer (Restriction) Act, 1916, prevents coming into this country.'
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
I am thinking of two good big bargeloads a week. That is the tonnage space which this Bill saves. I am not against saving even that space. If the only way the Government can do that is to have this Bill, so far as I am concerned I shall vote for the Bill. It seems to me, however, that they are creating many more difficulties than they need create in order to arrive at the same object. That is my general criticism on the machinery. I quite recognise that when the hon. Gentleman and his advisers have to consider what is best to be done, the best machinery to provide for it, they are up against many difficulties and they have my complete sympathy in that respect. I rise mainly to deal with the provision made in Clause 5, namely, giving tied houses, off licence holders and beer dealers the power to claim 85 per cent. of 2504 delivery. It is well for the House to remember that, although we are dealing with beer, it is not a temperance measure, because one might call it tea, sugar, or any other article. It is not restricted because it is beer. If you limit the output of the article to 85 per cent., it is only fair that those who are trading in the article should have the right to the 85 per cent. of their previous supplies. Clause 5 is put into the Bill to meet the point of the tied houses, but there is no provision here to safeguard the position of the clubs. There is a large number of clubs up and down the country, and they are entitled to the 85 per cent. of their requirements on the basis of what they purchased before the proper date fixed in the Act, and I only wish to impress upon the hon. Gentleman the point that he partially agreed to, that he would consider the matter on Committee stage. I and other Members have been approached by organisers, pointing out the serious position which many clubs would be in if there was not some safeguard in the Bill for them, because in some cases they might be prevented from getting the article they had been in the habit of buying at all, and I think the House would not wish to put them in a different or a wrong position. I had a letter the other day stating that the position is that the amount of beer allowed to be brewed being reduced, the brewers propose to supply their tied houses only, and will not supply free houses and free purchasers. That is being met in the Bill. The letter goes on:Several brewers have already intimated that they will not supply their old club customers.That has been intimated to some of the clubs already. I think we all agree that it is not desirable to leave clubs under the influence and power of brewers. We want to leave them as free as the free houses, and those who might be in a little greater difficulty than others might find themselves in a very difficult position if they did not have the same safeguard in Clause 5 as is given to other purchasers. I hope my hon. Friend will concede that point and settle the matter as far as the clubs are concerned. Whether a Bill of this magnitude, so far as machinery is concerned—it is not a Bill of any magnitude so far as what is attainable is concerned—can go through in the short time which can be given to-morrow, is a matter for the House to decide, but whenever it does go through I hope the question of clubs will be conceded.
§ Mr. BOWERMAN
I desire to associate myself with what the hon. Gentleman has said with regard to clubs. I asked a question of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pretyman) with regard to whether clubs were to be given the same protection as the free houses and no definite reply was given, neither was an encouraging reply given. There are over 9,000 clubs in the United Kingdom with over 2,000,000 members, and it appears to those who are interested in the club side of our life that many of those members will run a great risk under the Bill on the ground that the brewers will prefer to sell their commodities to their own people rather than to clubs. I think there is a great deal of strength in that suggestion too. I think in London the brewers own something like 95 per cent. of the houses, that is, they have the control, and if that be so it shows at what a great disadvantage the clubs might be placed unless there is some provision inserted in the Bill. There is not, so far as I know, a very agreeable feeling between publicans and the clubs as a rule. I cannot tell what the feeling is between the brewers. It may not affect them to the same extent, as all they want is to sell their commodity. But there is a very strong feeling on the part of the clubs that protection has been purposely omitted from this Bill. In the case of the restriction of paper imports there has been very great difficulty. In that case the Board of Trade set up a special Committee for the purpose of seeing that justice was done as between the various printers, large and small, in other words, to see that no man was deprived of that which was necessary for his trade on the ground of a larger supply being given to another in the same trade. It is on that ground that I appeal to the Board of Trade on behalf of the clubs. I suppose they drink a great quantity of beer, as distinct from the wine which was referred to in a previous Bill, but it is certainly essential that the clubs should have the same proportion as they have been having up to the present time. It is only fair and just that they should be protected, and I hope an Amendment will be put down to give the clubs the necessary protection and that the hon. Gentleman on behalf of the Board of Trade will give the matter his favourable consideration.
One other point. I do not know about the price of beer. Hon Gentlemen opposite with great interests are able to bring 2506 pressure upon the Board of Trade or any other Department when their particular interests are concerned. There is to be a restriction. Foreign beer is to be kept out of the country by the restriction so far as the importation of hops is concerned. It may give those gentlemen an opportunity of increasing the price of the commodity to the consumer. There is nothing in this Bill to protect the consumer against that, and I take it that is one of the matters which must be left to those who provide this particular commodity, and we must expect them to be as reasonable as they can. It seems to me that the Bill may give them that opportunity. If it does, I hope they will not take advantage of it. I hope the hon. Gentleman will give the clubs some encouragement and embody in the Bill a few words which will place the clubs on precisely the same footing as the tied houses are placed under Clause 5.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I desire to emphasise that there has never been the smallest question between the Board of Trade and the traders concerned with regard to their immediate acquiescence in the policy of the Board of Trade in restricting the tonnage of materials used in the manufacture of beer. The only question that has arisen at all is as to the method in which that ought to be enforced. There are many points in the Bill which will require very careful consideration. There are some new points which rather surprised me, coming from the hon. Gentleman, in particular the fact that he proposes to stop entirely the import of foreign hops. That would be perfectly sound policy, no doubt, if a sufficient quantity of hops was grown in this country to produce the restricted quantity of beer which the Board of Trade has now specified. But there are not enough hops, and if the hon. Gentleman that the military' as they ought to do' should get their beer he will have to give some kind of licence for the import of Californian hops, otherwise it cannot be produced. There is no other known method of producing sound beer except by the use of malt, hops, and sugar. I should be sorry to think that brewers would be driven to using quassia, which long ago we heard they did. I never saw it, but I should be very sorry to think its use might be necessitated now. I think the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir T. Whittaker) was a very valuable one—it goes even a little further than that of the hon. Member—to restrict the trade till 31st March. The right hon. 2507 Gentleman suggested 31st October. I dare say the nearer we get to dealing with the regular customers of the brewer the better.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I dare say it does. It is certainly an improvement on the Bill as it stands. It brings in the regular customer. There is one thing in this Bill which is not protected at all, and that is the contract made with a new customer before this restriction was proposed. I mean a contract for supplying a new customer before this Bill was heard of, and which the brewer, now that he has to restrict his output, will not be able to carry out.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I do not think so. I do not think that protects the brewer under those circumstances.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
Take the case of a man who in February made a contract for a new supply of 10,000 barrels.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
If he is protected, I do not need to press my argument; but I do not think he is protected. If he is not protected, he will be bound to carry out his contract, although the Bill will prevent him from producing the quantity of beer to enable him to carry out that contract.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
If that is so, I need say nothing more about it. I do not intend to go into the question of method to-night. I do not think any Amendments are going to be moved upon the method of the Government in granting 30 per cent. or 15 per cent. option on 1914–15, but I am bound to say that I do not think that this is the most desirable way of meeting the case. The real difficulty arises in connection with the supply of military beer. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pretyman) has explained how the difficulty arose. The suggestion I made to him and to the Board of Trade is one which, I think, would be the best way of dealing with it, namely, to make the military supply the first charge upon the limited quantity, and then put a higher percentage 2508 upon the 1914 figure than is proposed in the Bill, leaving the military in a position to get their beer from any brewer they like, and not leaving them tied as they are in this Bill to the brewers who have supplied them. Nobody can supply them except the man who has supplied them, and you take 50 per cent. off his output. Nobody who has not supplied them can come in, therefore you may have difficulties arising such as those which the hon. Member suggested, of the difficulty of having to go to a brewer at some distance from the new camp, for the soldiers are constantly changing camp, though that beer could be got quite easily in the neighbourhood. In this connection there is also the chance of risk and congestion on the railways. I know that the object of the Government is to prevent that, and if they had made the military supply of beer as the first charge it would have prevented that possibility. The transfers of troops have been very considerable. Take the case of the Scottish troops who have been sent to Ripon. They number about one hundred thousand, and were scattered all over Scotland. These troops have to get their beer somehow. Are they going to go to Edinburgh for it? They ought to be able to get it at some place near the camp. I think the Government's proposal in this connection is a mistake, but I do not intend to oppose the Clause, although I think there will be difficulties arising from it which they do not anticipate.
I do trust that, in view of the changes the hon. Member has made in the Bill, he will not press the Committee stage to-morrow. There is no intention to obstruct the Bill and there is really no objection in pushing it unduly. Nobody knows that better than the hon. Gentleman. He is not going to save a pound of tonnage by this Bill for the next six or eight months.
Every quarter of barley, every pound of sugar, and every pound of hops that the brewers are going to use during the next six, ten, or it may be twelve months, in some cases, are either in this country now or are floating on the high seas at the moment. There will be no saving of tonnage in pushing this Bill through tomorrow. This restriction will not really come into effect for at least nine or ten months. What is the good of saying that a few days is going to make all the difference. The brewers are now working on 2509 restricted quantities. They know that the House will pass this Bill, and they are restricting their quantities accordingly. If the Bill is not pressed forward it would give us an opportunity of considering the new points and seeing what Amendments, if any, are necessary, and in particular of seeing that the drafting of some of these very difficult Clauses, such as Clause 5 and Clause 4, is such as to protect every interest. While I quite agree with hon. Members who are very anxious to protect the interests of the consumer and the dealer, the interests of those who are producing the article must also be protected, and we must see that we are not imposing upon them an obligation which is not just.
§ Mr. E. STRAUSS
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will not proceed with the Committee stage of this Bill to-morrow. I think it is very desirable that those connected with the industry should have an opportunity of seeing in print the new proposals of the Government. The hon. Member has assured us that the only object of this Bill is to secure tonnage which is at present used for the importation of barley and other brewing materials. I have no hesitation in associating myself with what has been said by the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Younger) that this restriction will not affect the tonnage for the next six or nine months. Anyone who has any experience of the barley market, and I have some slight knowledge of it, knows that the brewers cover their supplies many months ahead. Contracts have been made as much as twelve months ahead. These supplies are on the high seas in transit to this country and may not be here for another four or five months. Barley comes from all parts of the world, Oregon, California, Chile, India, and other places, and it takes many months for it to reach this country owing to the state of war. Therefore, this Bill will not affect tonnage to the slightest extent for months ahead. I think this Bill is not very necessary. Judging by the figures that the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave to the hon. and learned Member for Rutland (Mr. Gretton), I see that there is a great decrease in the number of barrels brewed in the month of April, compared with April of last year. I think the decrease is some-think like 351,000 barrels. If this decrease continues, as I understand it is continuing—because I have some figures 2510 from a very large London brewer showing that during the first three weeks of this month the falling off has been over 8,000 barrels — the Government could get their tonnage without any legislation, and without throwing the industry out of gear or doing injustice to anyone. Whether they will secure the extra tonnage which they think they will secure by means of this Bill I cannot say, but I am sure that they will not get it until the turn of the year. The brewing materials are now en route to this country, and whatever we do in the way of restricting output it will not affect the tonnage during the next six or nine months. If the trade is falling off, as the figures show, surely there will be falling off in tonnage after the turn of the year, but not until then. Therefore, there is no hurry to press forward the Committee stage. In the Committee stage various Amendments will have to be inserted, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give us time to consider them.
§ Mr. NIELD
From the speeches already delivered we have seen that all experts have joined in recognising that time should be afforded before this Bill goes into Committee. I join in that appeal, because it has been conveyed to me, though I am utterly ignorant of the technical side of these matters, that it is absolutely necessary that reasonable time should be given for the Amendments to appear upon the Order Paper, in order that they may have full consideration by those who are interested. Very often these Amendments have proved, since I have been a Member of this House during the last ten years, of very material assistance to the Government, and not infrequently Bills have been turned inside out by suggestions which have appeared on the Order Paper for Amendments in Committee. For those reasons I hope that the appeal will be acceded to. No one desires a lame Bill, especially after what has fallen from the last two speakers. I was surprised to hear the Parliamentary Secretary, in his concluding remarks, remind the House that we were at war. I thought that it was the Back Benches generally which had to remind the Front Bench of this fact, and to supply what is now popularly known as a considerable amount of ginger. It is we who desire, no less than the hon. Gentleman, to take every possible step we can to incommode our enemy, and to preserve our own tonnage and our own mercantile marine, as far as possible, 2511 and, therefore, it was not necessary to remind us of so patent a fact, which we are always insisting upon, that we are at present engaged in warfare of a very desperate description.
I desire to call attention to some hardship which will be inflicted, unless an Amendment is made which would include the clubs, upon those clubs which are free and not tied. Clubs get tied in the same way as licensed houses. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Sir E. Cornwall) and the hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Bowerman) could probably tell us a great deal about it. It is very undesirable to have legislation that does not give equal facility to the free club, which has managed to put itself on a firm basis and is independent of its profits, and can say, "We will buy our beer from the man who serves us best." It is very undesirable that a Bill of this sort, which in its working may materially affect these places, should at any rate give the opportunity of distinguishing between those which are free and those which are tied, or which, for many reasons, have got used to a particular firm. It is desirable to give an absolute meed of justice so that clubs should be on the same footing as the licensed holder, and should be given the same facilities. I had wondered whether or not the ingredients which are forbidden, or limited, by this Bill are found in the liquor which is reputed to be put on the market by the Board of Control. I shall be glad to have information on that point, because I may hear that that liquor has also to some extent been handicapped in this way. My hon. Friends tell me that that liquor is free from the ingredients which are imported into this country. I have not tried it, I have not considered it desirable to try it, and I hope that if that new liquor, supplying the place of what has hitherto been known as a good old English drink, is to come into use by the recommendation of the Government, it will suffer the same disadvantage as the ordinary drink of the nation.
§ Mr. ROWLANDS
We have had a very striking example to-night of the great difficulty of legislation when it interferes with a particular industry. We had a statement by the Parliamentary Secretary that this Bill was brought in with one object only, the liberation of some of the tonnage now used for bringing the 2512 products of brewing into this country. In common with nearly every other speaker, I endorse the object that the Board of Trade have in introducing this Bill. We want to liberate tonnage, as far as we possibly can, for purposes of the utmost utility in connection with the War; but judging from some of the speeches which we have heard, like those of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir G. Younger) and the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Strauss), there is no chance of having the benefit of this Bill for some considerable time. I think, therefore, that the Parliamentary Secretary might give those persons who are interested in the trade a fair opportunity of considering what will virtually be a new Bill when it comes to be on the Paper to-morrow, on account of the Amendments to the various Clauses which, as he has already enumerated to the House, he intends to put down.
With respect to the liberation of tonnage, it seems to me that there is only one practical step in this Bill, and it is the only way to liberate your tonnage. That is by prohibition, as the Parliamentary Secretary has said the Department intend to do, in connection with hops. I do not think, as far as I could get any information, that there need be any fear that there will be a shortage of hops. I speak with some temerity, but, so far as I have been informed by some of those interested in the industry, there will be no shortage of hops for some considerable time, but as the figures quoted show you have had a continual increase in the quantity of hops imported into this country during the last three years. If that was to go on in the same ratio you would have had a still large quantity of tonnage taken up. Therefore, so far as the liberation of tonnage is concerned, by the direct action of the Board of Trade in prohibiting the importation of hops, I would ask the hon. Gentleman whether it is necessary to introduce a Bill for this purpose, or whether under one of the existing Acts of Parliament the Department have the power to prohibit the importation?
One other question. I am glad, personally, that this action has been taken by the Board of Trade, because I think it is the only real solution in any direction. In our part of the country, where they are interested in fruit as well as in hops, they view with a great deal of disapproval the reduction of the importation of sugar 2513 while hops are being brought in. There is all the evidence of a good season, and the fruit of this country may possibly be wasted because of the want of sugar, which is much more important than hops, as it is used for the making of jam and the preservation of fruit, which is of such benefit to the community. In conclusion, I want the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to consider the question of clubs. In his opening speech the hon. Gentleman said that the question arose in the minds of some of them—I take it he meant the Board—whether clubs did not come within the same position as the private consumer. I think a little consideration will show him that clubs cannot be regarded as occupying the same position as the ordinary private consumer, who goes to the off-licensed house or sends to the local public-house. The clubs have to purchase direct from the brewery, and unless they come within this Act, where their position would be the same as that of the off-licence holder, they would be put in a very invidious position. I hope the hon. Gentleman will give the Amendment which is to be proposed his consideration, or probably he may himself put down an Amendment to meet the case. I would like him to give an answer to the question which I have already asked, whether legislation is required for the purpose of prohibiting the importation of hops, or whether action can be taken under existing Acts of Parliament.
Everybody who has spoken in this Debate has agreed that it is very desirable that tonnage should be released, and, if I followed the hon. Member who is in charge of the Bill correctly, the whole basis of the measure rests upon that point. It is alleged that this is not an attempt of some portion of the trade to take advantage of some other portion. It is also not an attempt on the part of the teetotalers, or fanatical section, to try and damage the trade. The object is, I gather—as I think we ought to endeavour—to look at the matter wholly from the point of view of releasing tonnage, now that we are so short of tonnage, and using that tonnage for absolutely essential purposes. I can see one or two grave objections to this proposed method of dealing with the question. I have read through this Bill, and I see a lot of complications in it. In the first place, it seems to me that, if you are going to take a sort of standard year, and say that everybody is going to be as far as possible 2514 placed in the same position as to the standard year in regard to the amount you are entitled to buy, there is simply to be 15 per cent. taken off in order to apportion it. When you do that you ignore all kinds of different circumstances that have arisen, and will arise in future, as compared with last year. You entirely ignore the fact that vast bodies of men who are stationed in one part of the country have now moved to another. You entirely ignore the fact that businesses, both as regards the manufacture and consumption of the article, have changed hands, and that interests have arisen that are inconsistent with the same thing being done in future exactly as it was done in the past. I confess I see every complication that is likely to arise out of the enforcement of this restriction upon trade, which is made in order to make it equitable with regard to all kinds of special circumstances which may very easily arise.
For instance, a member of the trade, the other day, brought to my attention the fact that a brewer who owns licensed houses had been in the habit of giving a long pull—that is to say that in his licensed houses a person was served with considerably more than the pint measure would be able to give out. This would give him solid advantage in the future, because by restricting the amount to the exact measurement he will be receiving money for considerably less beer. If we are going to pass an Act of Parliament to give that particular individual a solid advantage in the future over his more scrupulous and exact competitor, then I do not think you have picked up exactly the best way to do it. Then attention has been called to the difficulties arising in regard to clubs. It is assumed in this Bill that every customer of a brewer is a licence holder. Hon. Members stand up and say, "Oh, but you have forgotten the clubs, which are not licence holders but merely registered." May I very respectfully suggest that they have also forgotten the consumers? Why should not every bottle customer who has been on the books of the brewery be entitled to his 85 per cent. next year or some standard year? I cannot see why you should pick out the licence holder or the club, and it seems to me that if we were discussing this matter in Committee four or five lines of complication might be left out of the Clause of the Bill and simply say "every customer."
My next objection is that it seems to me that if we are really honest in trying to 2515 carry out the admittedly real reason for this measure, there are two ways of doing it which would be better than the one adopted in the Bill. One is that it would be perfectly simple—in spite of the speech of the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir T. Whittaker)—to prohibit, for a certain period, the import of these foreign materials. I cannot see why it would not be infinitely more likely to get you the tonage that you want, if you stop the ships from bringing these materials for a certain period altogether. If that period is not going to arrive until four or five months after the present date, at all events, if the War goes on, it will arrive, and will give the only corresponding amount of advantage which you could possibly get. That is one way to carry out the object of the Bill. Another way would be for a certain period to prohibit the use of imported materials in the breweries. These are two obvious ways of carrying out the admitted object that we have in view. Both of these are ignored.
This Bill is left to interfere with the conduct of a business which has been made more and more difficult during the past eight or nine years than any other business—a business which I am free to say is one in which I have no interest whatever of any kind or description, a business which is admittedly required to-day in the interests of the country to be well conducted; in fact, it is the only business in the world which Acts of Parliament say nobody shall engage in unless he is of good character. And we are to set to work now to carry out the object that we all want to see carried out, but we set to work to do it in a manner which is provided in this Clause, a Clause which I have read through several times, and am still uttery incapable of understanding what it can possibly mean. That is the sort of way in which we are going to interfere with an important trade already harassed and taxed almost out of possibility of being respectably carried on. I do not think it is a right thing to do, and I am very sorry to see this Bill in this shape. I am exceedingly anxious about this question of tonnage, and I think there are two simple ways of carrying it out, and I regret that the Board of Trade have ignored both those simple ways and have adopted one which causes so much difficulty and which is bound to cause infinitely more difficulty before it is finished. I, for one, join with all those who have 2516 spoken in saying that we must have, under the circumstances, ample time to thoroughly study and see that the very minimum of injustice and unfairness is done in the way in which this Bill is going to be worked.
§ Mr. WING
I have sat throughout this Debate and listened with very great interest. With regard to what the hon. Member has just said, I may point out that the simplest way of all would be the prohibition of the manufacture of intoxicating liquors altogether during the War. This discussion has shown the difficulties you at once enter upon by arranging or endeavouring to arrange in the manner in which the Bill prescribes. The hon. Member has said quite truthfully that it is not a Bill in which the fanatical section of teetotalers have had any hand whatever. The Bill is an arrangement between the brewers and the Board of Trade, and I very much regret that the brewing interest should to-night have taken exception to provisions to which they themselves have been a party. There is a growing feeling in the country, as the Parliamentary Secretary so ably stated to-night, that there is great shortage in tonnage. There is also a growing feeling that when we are passing through a time of war and through a great national crisis, and conscripting the lives of the people, that we should not jib at conscripting the appetites of the people in the interests of the country and the Empire. Hon. Members in various parts of the House no doubt have heard with some satisfaction of the growing spirit of prohibition in our Colonies. The greater portion of Canada is under prohibition, and there is prohibition of the camps. In America at the present time 45,000,000 of people are living under prohibition. If we are to have that efficiency and that sobriety and that supply of tonnage which everyone agrees is necessary, there does not seem to be any solution so good as calling upon the people to sacrifice their appetites in the interests of the welfare of the country. By the operation of the Bill, according to a reply given by the President of the Board of Trade, 200,000 tons would be affected, and the figure has been put at 150,000 to-night. That has been stated to be a third, which would mean that prohibition would release 600,000 tons of tonnage. In other words, it would release the use of shipping every week to-the amount of 30,000 tons. It would release, according to the advocates in connection with the trade, 500,000 men and 2517 women. It would release 5,000 miners who are busy getting coal by which the breweries can be kept going. It would release judges and juries and policemen and reduce distress, and relieve a very large amount of poverty, misery and un-happiness. The prohibition of the drink traffic would carry a message of hope to the thousands in the trenches who under the present temptations feel exceedingly uncomfortable at the front as to what is happening at home. While I shall support this Bill as it is towards that aim and has a reducing principle in view, I would rather, for simplicity purposes, that prohibition had been adopted. I believe this country would not under those circumstances have dealt meanly or ungenerously with the brewing interest or with the publican and his family. I believe if we had risen to the full height of our responsibility that the brewer and the publican and all connected would not have suffered, and that we ourselves should have risen higher in the estimation of the world, and that our efficiency would have been largely increased, and we should have stood a stronger nation to-day under prohibition than under the rule of the public-house.
§ Mr. PETO
I do not desire to follow the hon. Member (Mr. Wing) in his argument that this Bill should have been the exact opposite of what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has told us it is. I do think that the figures which the hon. Member quoted are not at all the figures which were given by the Parliamentary Secretary on 13th April, when he introduced this Bill. He then said that the object of the Bill was to reduce the importation of foreign barley, which was estimated at 1,500,000 quarters, by about one-third. That being so, apparently the Bill is going to do all that the hon. Member hoped from prohibition in the flights of his fancy. The hon. Member for the Everton Division (Mr. Rutherford) advocated another method of restricting the importation of barley with which I find myself equally in disagreement. In spite of the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, he advocated the prohibition of the import of foreign material. I cannot see how it is possible, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, to distinguish the ultimate destination of foreign barley, which is absolutely essential for the production of meat in this country, from the importation of barley which is consumed in breweries, and I do not believe it is possible. The 2518 other method which has been suggested and which amounted to confining the brewers to the consumption of homegrown barley would, I think, absolutely upset the whole course of the brewing trade, because there is practically none available now, and there will be very little until the next harvest. It would be equally disastrous to the agricultural industry in the production of meat.
I do not find myself either in complete agreement with the speech in which the Bill was introduced. I have never since I have had the honour of coming here heard a Bill introduced with such faint praise. The Parliamentary Secretary said that all these emergency Bills were bound to injure somebody, and the only object he had in view, or could hope to accomplish, was to do as little injury as possible. He also said that they were all objectionable, particularly this Bill, and none were economic. I think that that is a very fair description of the Bill. The question we have to consider is whether it is so designed as to do as little injury as possible. I do not think it is. What has been the actual operation of the rules made by the Central Control Board as far as the agricultural districts are concerned? They have practically destroyed the business of one section only of the brewing trade, namely, that of the brewer who collects orders for his own goods which are delivered direct to the home and not to the public-house at all. What happens under this Bill? The hon. Gentleman said that it had been found necessary to introduce the provision giving to the brewer whose business had not increased but decreased owing to the movement of the population towards the military centre an option as to the period to be taken as the standard period. It may be that I am unusually dense, but I cannot see how, if a country brewer, say, in Somerset, far removed from any camps, finds the population from which his customers were drawn greatly reduced because they have removed to the great military centres, how he is materially helped by being told that he may take the year ending September,. 1914, when his business was more or less normal, and reduce it by 30 per cent., while another brewer, in a district to which the population happens to have moved, and whose business has enormously increased, takes as the basis of the year ending September, 1915, including a whole year during which he was doing a roaring trade such as he had never done before, and he is 2519 asked to reduce it by only 15 per cent. That is not doing equal justice or anything approaching it. If a man's business has very largely gone away from him, the object of the Bill has already been accomplished, and I do not see why there should be any further reduction at all. In many cases the business has been already diminished by more than the total diminution hoped for under the Bill.
With regard to hops, I was glad to hear that by a side-wind we have at last got something promised which ought to have been promised in the early days of the War, namely, that the prohibition of something that we can perfectly well do without, which occupies a gigantic amount of shipping space, and in respect of which there is a very strong argument, even in peace time, against allowing importations absolutely duty free. The Board of Trade now see that, as a necessary corollary of this Bill, they must prohibit that. But I rather gather from an interruption of the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs, that the Board of Trade have not calculated exactly what will be the result of the complete and sudden prohibition of the importation of hops, and how it will fit in with the 15 per cent. reduction that they want to make in the total output of beer. That ought to have been one of the very first things decided upon. I hope it will be gone into a little more closely, because I am certain that, whether tariffs are the right way to regulate imports or not, if you are going to enter on the prohibition of the importation of something, it ought to be prohibition or as near prohibition as you can get it. A prohibition in name, with endless licences granted, means a most unsatisfactory state of affairs from the point of view of the manufacturing industry, and must involve the maximum amount of labour to the Board of Trade and other Departments concerned.
With regard to another incidental benefit to agriculture, of the proposals that are to accompany this Bill, the Parliamentary Secretary said that it would not be reasonable to allow the export of malt as it had been allowed in the past; but he mentioned that they ware still going to allow a certain amount to be exported to Italy, I suppose, in order not to introduce too sudden a revolution in the beer-drinking habits of that part of Europe. What I am interested in is the enormous export of malt which, in spite of the pro- 2520 hibition, has been allowed to Denmark and Holland, at a time when our farmers cannot get barley enough to feed their pigs, and other animals, at anything approaching reasonable prices. While we have seen the price of meat going up, because of the shipping difficulty and the great cost of bringing feeding-stuffs to this country, we have allowed our barley to be turned into malt and exported, and the only excuse I have been able to get from the Board of Agriculture is that we get some bacon in return. If we want bacon, let us feed it here, and not send out our barley in the form of malt to neighbouring countries. Why should we subsist by preference on Dutch and Danish bacon rather than upon Irish bacon, in regard to which there is a shorter and safer sea-passage to this country? I hope we shall hear that the prohibition of the export of malt is to be a reality and not the sham that it has been so far during the War.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that the best argument he could make in favour of this Bill was that it was not going to make any permanent mark on the Statute Book. He evidently thought that legislation of this kind would make a very undesirable mark if it made any at all. I am sure the House would be in general agreement on that point. As the Bill is drafted, if it makes no mark on the Statute Book, it will make a mark, and a very unfair one, upon the bank books of individual brewers. Some will get fat under this Bill, while others will have their already diminished trade diminished still further. I hope the hon. Gentleman will allow time for the consideration of the Bill and not attempt to rush it through, as I am sure that, even in emergency legislation the object of the Board of Trade is to do approximate justice all round, and not to do the greater injury which the hon. Member opposite would do to the trade as a whole. That would be intolerable; but it is even more intolerable that while some brewers who have been farsighted enough to take huge Government contracts for the supply of canteens are allowed to keep the bulk of their trade you should take away from smaller and poorer brewers who have already lost much of their trade a large proportion of that which remains.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
Although I am in agreement with a great deal of what has been said on both sides of the House in respect of this Bill, I wish to point out to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of it that the 2521 Amendments he proposes to make involve considerations which make some prolonged Committee stage almost essential. If one follows the Bill as it stands, Clause 5, which proposes to investigate the agreement of the licence holder and the brewer contains a period—I think it is 31st March, 1916. If that period is given, it must be remembered that you have to some extent to see what was the amount of beer required and which was being delivered between the licensee and the brewer down to that period, 31st March, 1916. For that purpose you will not be much assisted if you take into account the standard which is fixed by Clause (2), which is a standard carried down to a a period in 1915. The answer to that is that in paragraph (c) there is power of taking into account, by the Commissioners, of the transference of a brewing business or any other change of circumstances taking place after 30th September, 1915, and before the 15th of May, 1916. The result is you have two standards, the one standard or relation between the brewer and the owner of the house, which is down to March, 1916, and the other standard that of the output of the brewery, which is a standard in 1915. It is quite obvious that there ought to be a co-relation and balancing between these two portions of the Bill. It seems to be very necessary, and for this reason: While you are dealing with a direct sale of liquor it must not be forgotten that a great deal of distress can be caused by persons having their property interfered with. The property of licensees by no means concerns only the brewer and the licensee. There are a large number of mortgages upon these licensed houses, out of which quite honest and respectable people live and receive their annual payments. You must not overlook the rights of those persons. While you are dealing with the brewer and the tied houses, do not overlook the individual interests of particular houses—of free houses, and other houses which have to be dealt with, and in respect of which you are measuring both the limits of the restriction you put upon the brewers and the rights which belong to those persons who are licensees, and other persons who are interested in the house. In order that the question of the difference of these two periods and the co-relation of them should be considered, I have put the point before the House.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I can only speak again by leave of the House. Dealing with the point raised by my hon. Friend, I can 2522 quite understand his raising it, and I think he was quite right so to do. I did not, as I ought to have done, explain it in my original explanation. Paragraph (c) of Clause (2) does not, as he points out, really deal with the point at all. If it so happened that there was any difference in the gross output of the beer between the two standard periods taken, his criticism would be perfectly justified. I ought to have explained to the House that the output is practically the same. Therefore we took this standard period of the Bill. We must take a full given year. Therefore, the least difference you can take is the year up to the 20th September, 1915. The other period taken under Clause 5 is merely taken for the purpose of comparison between the brewer and his customer. It is natural that we have to consider that, as without you might not get the balance between these two. It happened that the output is almost identical—just over 30,000,000 gallons in the period ended 30th September, 1915, the same as for the twelve months ending 1st March, 1916. Therefore, that difference and result does not arise, and the matter adjusts itself, though my hon. Friend was just justified in pointing it out. The House will see that the Bill, as I should have explained, really begins operation on the first quarter in which it can—that is, the quarter beginning 1st April, 1916. Therefore the latest date we possibly can take is 31st March. My right hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley suggested that we might take 31st May. We might have done so if the first quarter had begun on 1st June, but we cannot take a later date than 31st March. We have taken it at the very latest that we can.
Other points have been raised on the Bill. There is that of the question of alternative methods. It has been pressed upon us. The hon. Member for Devizes and other speakers have suggested that we should have adopted either direct prohibition or a restriction of the use by brewers of imported materials. I tried to make it quite clear in my former speech that we could not do that for reasons which I gave. If we reduced the quantity of importation without reducing the output of beer, which is the product of those materials, we should leave the full proportionate competition between the brewers. Everyone would desire to brew the same quantity as before, and the competition would force up the prices. Those who wanted barley, maize, and rice 2523 for foodstuffs or feeding-stuffs would suffer. Prices would go up, and the whole thing would produce far greater injury than we should do ourselves good by the restriction of the tonnage space. It is quite obvious that this alternative is no alternative at all. If you simply restrict the amount of foreign material which the brewer uses, you simply send him to buy the home material, and you leave the consumer of food and feeding-stuffs to go and buy the foreign material, and you do not reduce your competition by one iota. I am sure the House will see that before deciding upon this particular method of reducing import that these alternatives were naturally first considered. They are, however, not alternatives to the primary object of the Bill, which is to reduce all these imports. It would not have been done without practically inflicting greater injury upon the public than in any other way. If my hon. Friends had considered the matter as closely as we have done, they would have come to exactly the same conclusion as we have done. There was another point put forward, and that was that the Bill was not necessary. Hon. Members pointed out the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in an answer he gave the other day said that the output of beer for the month of April had been less by about 350,000 barrels. Neither of those hon. Members, curiously enough, could, I am sure, have read the whole answer given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which showed that the output of beer for the first three months of the year had been greater by something like 750,000 barrels than in the corresponding quarter of 1915. It is quite obvious that the real reason of the reduction in the month of April was this Bill. It was announced about that time, and it is as a matter of fact working now. Excise is being worked with this Bill in the quarter beginning the 1st of April. Matters are adjusting themselves to the procedure which will have to be adopted under the Bill, and by the regulations of the Bill, and, of course, actually it is this Bill which has caused the reduction. I think if any justification is required for the Bill, those are the figures which provide it, instead of being the figures which show there is no necessity for it. I must congratulate my hon. Friend (Sir E. Cornwall) on the capacity of his barges, because he told us the reduction we should obtain by 150,000 tons represented two of his barges, one going up the river on 2524 Monday and the other on Thursday, and those two barges doing that once a week would represent that reduction of tonnage. I have worked out the sum, and I find my hon. Friend's barges between them must contain no less than 30,000 tons of material. I do not think that any barges I have seen from the Terrace when I have been there carry as much as 15,000 tons. It is a very simple calculation—150,000 tons represent about 30,000 tons a week, and therefore those two barges would each carry about 15,000 tons.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I am sorry my arithmetic is so bad. I should have said 1,500 tons, but the barges I have usually seen carry about 150 tons at the most. As to hops, my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) suggested that hops may be necessary, and we have to give licences. I said that, but we are prohibiting hops, and we do not desire to give licences for their importation unless it is really necessary. My hon. Friend suggested that the whole licensing system is objectionable. It is. We do not like it; but no other system is possible under our present conditions.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Not as war legislation. I am afraid that is not a point we can debate on this Bill, but, whatever may be the merits of tariffs under ordinary legislation, I am afraid that to arrive at exactly what we desire for the restriction of imports in war, a tariff would prove rather an insufficient restriction.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
We have to have definite quantities that we can allow, and definite quantities we must stop, and a tariff would never give definite quantities. There is one more point raised by the hon. Member for Devizes. He considered that what I may call the small 1914 brewer was grievously hit, but I do not think he realised that that 1914 small rural brewer, of whom he very properly spoke, and for 2525 whose benefit the alternative has been inserted, has already lost more than 30 per cent. of trade by the movement of population, and therefore, by allowing him that alternative, we do not get anything more from him at all, but even allow him to increase his trade. If some small rural brewers have lost 40 per cent., as I am told they have, between 1914 and 1915, because of the movement of people to military or munition centres, then we give him this alternative, and we only take off 30 per cent. of his 1914 output, and, as he has already lost 40 per cent., it allows him to increase the output by 10 per cent.
§ Mr. PETO
Forty per cent. loss is a very extreme case; but take the case of a man whose business has gone down, say, 15 per cent. There you would certainly take more off, because you take 30 per cent. off on that standard, although the more prosperous brewer in the vicinity of large canteens may have increased his business by 15 per cent.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
If he has lost 15 per cent. of his trade, then he can take the 1915 basis, and he will be left exactly where he was. He has the alternative. It is only those who have suffered very severely through the change of population who require the benefit of this alternative, and the more they have suffered the better the alternative will be for them, and they need only take it if they gain an advantage from it. They are not obliged to take the 30 per cent. off the 1914 basis, but they can take 15 per cent. off the 1915 basis, and the difference is not to give advantage to the big brewer or the military brewer over the little brewer. It is to obtain the reduction to 26,000,000 gallons that we are only obliged to take off 15 per cent. of the total production of 1915, whereas we should be obliged to take off 28 per cent. or 30 per cent. from 1914. That is the sole reason. It is to bring us back to that figure.
Of the two final points touched upon, the more important is the question of clubs, and every hon. Member, I think, who has spoken has asked that clubs should be included. I came down, as I said, with an open mind on that question, prepared to see what views were put forward and with a desire to defer the points until the Committee stage. But as every hon. Member who has spoken has pressed for clubs to be included, and nobody has opposed it, I am perfectly willing to say we will include clubs in the provision of 2526 Clause 5. The final point is as to the Committee stage. I did ask that we might take the Committee stage to-morrow and the remaining stages of the Bill because I thought it was the kind of legislation that should be carried as rapidly as possible. Hon. Members, particularly those who are interested in the trade, will realise that the Bill operates from the 1st April, that is to say the first quarter begins on the 1st April, and, as it is already being set to work largely without any legislative compulsion, it does seem in the interest of the trade itself very desirable indeed that the clear provisions of the Bill should be upon the Statute Book and everybody should know exactly how he stands. There are questions of doubt and alterations, and I believe both the trade and its customers will suffer more from delay than they will from the carrying of the Bill in its remaining stages to-morrow.
It has been suggested that the fact of my mentioning so many changes in the Bill shows that the Bill was not properly considered. I would rather say that I have endeavoured to anticipate the Committee stage as much as possible after consultation with many concerned, and it shows that we have considered these points beforehand. I have tried to use, as far as I could, the Second Reading for announcing these changes in Committee so that for the convenience of all concerned we might take the remaining stages of the Bill to-morrow; but as every hon. Member who has spoken on this point has considered that the Committee stage should be deferred, I am bound to assent to the wishes of the House. I do, however, point out to those hon. Members representing the trade who have pressed that view that the responsibility lies with them and not with me. I hope there will not be any inconvenience. We will do our very best to minimise it. The Committee stage will not, therefore, be taken to-morrow, but as early as possible after the Recess. We cannot take it on Wednesday because it is a Supply day, and on Thursday there is the Motion for the Adjournment. I must thank the House for the indulgence they have shown in their criticism of a very difficult Bill, and I hope when we do get to the Committee stage we may find some means of alleviating any difficulties. I can only assure the House that the spirit in which we shall approach it will be to do the least injury possible.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for consenting to postpone the Committee stage. I hope, however, that the Government Amendments will be put down to-morrow, because this is now to a very large extent a new Bill.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The hon. Gentleman has consented to include clubs. We did not get up and protest at the time because I understood he was going to refer the matter to the Committee. I hope that that Amendment will be left in such a position that we shall know exactly where we are. With regard to the question of price there must be a tremendous increase. Prohibition of the import of hops will send up the price of hops, and we know certain people who will be pleased at that. That is another great feature of this Bill. Then you have the brewers who have to supply their people under contract, and you now propose to add clubs, which are very large consumers. I believe it has been stated that there are 2,000 clubs and 2,000,000 members. They are very large consumers of spirits as well, and this question will make a tremendous difference to the Bill. How is the question of price to be dealt with between the clubs and the breweries? Those are all points which require most careful consideration, because the brewer is bound to supply any club which he has been supplying before as well as the tied houses. The Member for Spen Valley did not say anything about temperance, but the hon. Member for Durham threw off the mask entirely and gave his real reason for supporting this Bill, and that was not reassuring.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.—[Mr. Rea.]