§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.1600
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, that the noble Marquess had stated, the other day, that the House of Lords had no practical power to deal either with the formation of Government or with the Revenue; and although we had an undoubted right to discuss and to vote on such matters, the noble Marquess was right as to our practical power; he, therefore, did not desire to raise any debate upon the facts of the case; but he might remark that he had observed a telegram in the newspapers stating that the French Ambassador, M. Waddington, had been instructed to make representations to Her Majesty's Government on the subject of their proposal in regard to bottled wines, and had informed his Government that the negotiations were proceeding favourably; and he, therefore, now wished to know whether, in the negotiations which had taken place, any satisfactory result had been arrived at through the modification made by Mr. Goschen in his proposals in the House of Commons as to the Wine Duties.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
said, that undoubtedly there was a recognized and a very real grievance in the anomaly pointed out by the noble Earl—namely, that in deciding such a question as was debated with so much animation in "another place" lately as to whether realty or personal property was unjustly treated in the present balance of taxation, all their Lordships put together had less direct influence than the humblest ratepayer in the country. It was certainly a very strange and curious anomaly; and the only thing which could be said in its favour was that it dated from the time of Richard II. Therefore the noble Lord would not expect him to defend it. As to the particular matter in the Bill to which the noble Earl had referred, he could only say that he did not recognize in the newspaper telegram—to which he presumed the noble Earl alluded—any resemblance to any facts with which he was acquainted. No doubt there had been discussions on that subject between the French and the British Governments. Her Majesty's Government had recognized that on one point the object of the 1601 French Government was the same as their own. Her Majesty's Government desired by that impost to touch rather the well-to-do than the poorer class. In fact, the tax, to use an ordinary phrase, was one upon luxury. The French Government pointed out that it would affect, and very severely, a class of wines which could hardly be called luxurious—namely, the lower class of sparkling wines. Mr. Goschen had undertaken to consider the question, and to see whether any provisions could be proposed which would have the effect of relieving that class of wines from a burden which it was desired to put upon them. Undoubtedly the question was a difficult one; and he did not like to use any language which might make it quite certain that the difficulty could be satisfactorily overcome, but the subject was engaging Mr. Goschen's best attention; and his right hon. Friend would make every endeavour to meet it. It had been thought better in the House of Commons that any arrangement which might be made should take the form of another Bill rather than that they should reserve a discretionary power of altering it by this Bill—a course which might be thought inconsistent with precedent. He hoped, therefore, that the matter might be arranged. He could not say that he considered the tax itself one to which any objection could reasonably be offered; but, of course, it was always a matter of regret to the Government if any tax affected the feelings and interests of any of their allies.
Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly: Committee negatived; and Bill to be read 3a on Friday next.