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The New Sugar Duty

Volume 92: debated on Tuesday 23 April 1901

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I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will state how his new taxation would apply in the case of a merchant who has sold to a brewer sugar for delivery weekly during 1901, and can he state who will have to pay the duty; and how will his proposed new duty apply in the case of a merchant who has sold to a brewers' sugar maker raw sugar for forward delivery; will the brewers' sugar maker be obliged to accept delivery notwithstanding the fact that raw sugar will no longer be available for brewers' use, owing to the duty which puts it at a disadvantage in comparison with malt and flaked maize.

In the case referred to in paragraph one the merchant who imports the sugar will pay the duty, but will be entitled to increase his contract price with the brewer by the amount of the duty. The imposition of the duty will not entitle the brewers' sugar maker to break his contract. I cannot admit the assumption that the result of the duty will be to render raw sugar no longer available for brewing.

I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether with a view to avoid the further dislocation of many trades now occasioned by the Customs delaying delivery of consignments pending analysis for duty purposes, he will consider the possibility of accepting declarations by the producers in the country of origin as to the amount of added sugar, subject to occasional checking by the Customs Laboratory. I beg also to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether be is aware that the Customs are assessing and collecting duty on condensed milk upon the assumption that the full bulk weight comprises sugar, whereas the quantity contained is far less than half the amount charged, and whether he will take immediate action to prevent the continuance of this action.

So far as the Customs is concerned, no delay is taking place in the delivery of imported articles subject to the new sugar duties. In regard to the sugar not cleared at the highest rate, the foreign certificate of polarisation is accepted, subject to no question arising as to authenticity. In regard to articles partly composed of sugar, I do not think such declarations could be accepted; duty is at present being charged, in accordance with the law, on their full weight—among them is condensed milk. But samples of such articles are being taken in order that the amount of duty on them may in such a case be ultimately adjusted as far as may be possible with reference to the amount of sugar, under powers which will be inserted in the Finance Bill.

We have to act under the Customs Tariff Act, 1876. We cannot fix the duty until the amount of sugar in the articles has been ascertained. Samples are now being taken, and we shall soon be in a position to come to a decision.

Am I to understand that every article which comes into the country will be charged the full sugar duty on its total bulk?

When the matter has been properly adjusted, any over duty will be returned. We are obliged, in accordance with the law, to charge articles on their full weight.

Is it in accordance with the law? Does the Act of 1876 not prescribe that as to an article containing spirit the duty shall be levied on the spirit? Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the schedule of the Act?

On this point I think I know as much as the hon. Member. The schedule of the Act of 1876 has two provisions—one relating to spirit and one relating to all other articles. The duty with regard to spirit is charged on the amount of spirit, and the duty on all other articles is charged on the weight. I assure the hon. Member that the delay will not be as great as he imagines.

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Order, order! This matter cannot be discussed in the form of questions across the floor of the House.