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coffee; and all the order did was, not to sanction a fraud upon the public, but to exempt dealers from Excise penalties. He did not think it was the duty of the Government in all cases to interfere between the public and sellers: caveat emptor; purchasers must take care of themselves. In nine cases out of ten, however, no fraud wan really perpetrated, the parties knowing that what they bought was not pure coffee. Every one of the numerous complaints which had been made to him had come from the sellers of coffee. Parties could easily protect themselves against the adulteration of coffee—the bean could not be imitated. The mere revocation of the order would be insufficient, and he was not prepared to undertake a crusade against all adulterations, and a vexatious interference by the Excise, which would provoke general complaint.
Mr. E. Stanley observed that the Government did interfere, in the case of other articles, and all that was sought was, not the introduction of any new principle, but that the principle adopted in respect to tobacco should be applied to coffee, the consumption of which had gradually fallen off, and no cause could be assigned for this diminution but adulteration. Assuming that chicory was harmless—which was a disputed question—thnt was no reason why a person should pay for chicory the price of pure coffee. But chicory itself was adulterated with vile and noxious ingredients
Colonel Thompson and Sir J. Tvrell opposed the motion, which was supported by
Mr. Wakley. who complained of the wrongheadt'dni'ss of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; he had taken the fraudulent dealers under
his patronage, and had no feeling for the honest trader, who was entitled to his protection.
Mr Hume, on the other band. complained of the inconsistency of Mr. Wakley, who was advocating the extension of the Excise. He thought the Government perfectly right in refusing to do so, and he wished they would abolish the Excise altogether.
After a few remarks from Sir W. Jolliffe and Mr. Bass, the House divided, when the motion was negatived by five votes only, 89 voting for, and 04 against Mr. Baring's proposition. On a subsequent day Mr. Baring made a second attempt, with the same object, moving that it be an instruction to the Committee to make provision for preventing the mixture of chicory with coffee by the vendors of that article. His motion was again opposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir John Trollope. Sir Francis Baring, and Mr. Hume; and was advocated by Mr. Crawford, Mr. Hemes. Mr. Wakley. and Mr. Cay ley. The result of a division was, however, more adverse to the motion than on the former occasion, the numbers against the motion being 198, and the supporters K2.
Among the financial measure* proposed during the present session by independent Members, one of the most important was the motion of Mr. Cayley, which came ou for discussion on the Mh of May. for the repeal of the Malt Tax. la his opinion, said the hon. Member, there was no measure, short of a return to the system of commercial legislation we had unhappily abandoned, which would give so much relief to the agricultural interest. Neither the commutation of the Window Tax for the
House Tax, nor the reduction of the duties upon timber and coffee, diminished the special burdens upon the land; whereas the Malt Tax was so oppressive, obstructive, and obnoxious, that the late Sir R. Peel declared that that tax must be repealed if the Corn Laws were removed, and other advocates of free trade had echoed the declaration. He might be accused of counselling a breach of public faith; but no friend to public credit would allow the revenue from which the dividends of the public creditor were mainly derived to sink into depression. Other means might and must be devised to sustain public credit; the land could not much longer bear the weight of taxation cast upon it. No portion of the 5,000,000l. of taxes repealed had lightened the peculiar burdens upon agriculture. f there was to be no corn-law legislation. there should be no comlaw taxation; and it was in order to remedy this injustice, and to bring the burdens of the agriculturalists within the compass of their means, that he proposed to repeal a tax amounting to 70 or 100 per cent. upon one of their principal commodities. The maltster was, moreover, shackled by revenue restrictions. contrary to the principle of free trade, to which no other productive interest was subjected, and the effect of which was to establish a monopoly in the hands of large capitalists. Free trade professed to sacrifice every other interest to that of the consumer; the effect of this tax was, to enhance the price of the poor man`s beer 500 per cent., and to drive him from his own hearth to the gin-palace and the beer-shop. lf the tax upon this national beverage were re
pealed, the consumption would be
ditional Income Tax, or any tax, so that this tax was taken off the labourer.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer appealed to evidence showing 11 mt the Malt Tax, which yielded last year 6,400,000/., was collected more economically than any other tax of equal amount, and that the Excise regulations interfered less with the manufacturer. If this large sum was obtained in a manner so little oppressive to the consumer and the producer, a strong case was made out in favour of the tax. He admitted that the consumption of malt had not increased in proportion to the population; but the habits of the people had changed. The consumption of intoxicating liquors was diminishing, and that of non-intoxicating liquors increasing. According to the evidence of Mr. Barclay, the repeal of the malt duty would reduce the price of beer only a halfpenny per quart; was it worth while to sacrifice so large a revenue for so small an advantage to the consumer? The repeal of this tax, Sir Charles observed, would encourage illicit distillation; and Mr. Cayley had made a strange proposition, that the hop-growers, who paid only 400.(100/., should be pacified by the sacrifice of 5,000,000/. If the House consented to give up this amount of revenue there would be no possibility of getting rid of the Income Tax, or of carrying out the system of policy for which that tax was continued.
Mr. Disraeli admitted that, after the vote upon the Income Tax, this question occupied a different position from what it did in the last session. He could not consider it as a mere question of fiscal regulation, or of interest to the labourer: he looked at this tax with reference.
to the influence it exerted upon the capital of the most suffering class, which was acknowledged to be in a dilapidated state; and what was the remedy offered by the Government? To give up the cultivation of wheat, at the same time keeping up a heavy duty upon another crop, to which the British farmer had recourse for some compensation. It was impracticable to maintain the Malt Tax, or levy a large local revenue separate from the general revenue, if that was not done for agriculture, which the first lights of political economy had sanctioned, and if the cultivators, owners, and occupiers of the soil were not placed upon the same level as other classes. Protection had nothing to do with this question, inasmuch as the Malt Tax was a burden peculiar to the land, and a large revenue was raised by local taxation from the soil for the purposes of the community, to which the community did not contribute. If Parliament was of opinion that this unequal burden should remain, it was for Parliament to offer terms. He should vote for the motion as a protest against the course it was pursuing, which was both unjust and injurious.
Mr. Fuller was understood to support the motion, as did
Mr. Hume, who expressed his astonishment at the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He had made no answer to the motion. He professed to carry out the principles of free trade, yet turned round and refused to give cheap drink to the working classes.
Mr. Bass, who had given notice of a motion to reduce the tax onehalf, likewise supported the motion.
Mr. Brotherton protested against the delusion that the repeal of this a consumer and a producer; for every h. the farmer would gain in one capacity, he would lose 20». in the other. The importation of malt was now prohibited, and Mr. Cayley had failed in showing that, if the tax were repealed, malt would not be imported from abroad. His (Mr. Packets) conviction, on the contrary, was, that if the tax were repealed, there would not only be a large importation of malt, but an increased importation of foreign wheat, and for this reason he opposed the motion.
Mr. Aglionby likewise opposed the repeal of any part of the tax, because the finances of the country could not at present bear such a sacrifice of revenue.
Mr. Floyer supported the motion, mainly on the ground that the maintenance of this tax was at complete variance with the financial policy of the Government, namely, that on all articles of prime necessity taxation should be as much as possible reduced. If barley were not an article of prime necessity, why was it relieved of duty when the Corn Laws were repealed? If it were such an article, as he contended it was, how could such a tax tenfold greater than the amount repealed be justified? Mr. Floyer expatiated at some length upon what ho regarded as sure symptoms of agricultural distress.
Mr. Seymour bore testimony to the diminution of pauperism in Dorsetshire.
Mr. Bennet considered this to be a question of justice to the agricultural interest, and that, upon the principle of free trade, our beverages should be as free from tax as our corn.
Mr. Trelawny denied that the repeal of a tax, which was ulti
mately paid by the consumer, could benefit the agricultural classes, who must be taxed to supply the deficiency.
Mr. Wodehouse should vote against the motion. His main objection to it was, that at present there was an absolute prohibition of the importation of malt, and that, if the duty were removed, though large quantities of foreign malt might not immediately come in, the finer qualities of barley would be immediately affected.
Mr. Frewen supported the motion for the repeal of a tax which operated as a strong inducement to country brewers to drug their beer, the vast quantity of liquor sold as beer being not pure malt and hops. A further reason was, that malt might be most advantageously used in fattening cattle, which would bring many thousand acres into cultivation.
Mr. J. Sanders said that Mr. Cayley had given no sufficient reason for concluding that the repeal of this tax would increase the consumption of barley threefold. The stationary consumption of malt, compared with tea and coffee, was owing to the habits of the people having changed; to their being less addicted than formerly to fermented liquors. Mr. Sanders showed that Mr. Cayley had exaggerated the obstacles to the importation of foreign malt, as well as many of the evils incident to the tax, the amount of which was too large to be relinquished.
Mr. H. Drummond, on the part of a class not represented in that House, claimed relief from this tax, because it pressed almost exclusively upon the agricultural labourer. The deficiency might be supplied by a House Tax, an ad