The following provision shall be substituted for the provision in section six, subsection (1), of The Finance Act, 1919:—
Provided that where the brewer is the occupier of a house of an annual value of twelve pounds or less, he may in any year obtain without payment of duty a licence to brew a quantity not exceeding four bushels of malt, or the equivalent thereof, for his own use.—[Mr. Pretymon.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move. "That the Clause be read a Second time."I hope the, Chancellor of the Exchequer may regard this suggestion favourably. The point is that in the agricultural districts—particularly in East Anglia—agricultural labourers have been in the habit. of brewing a small quantity of home-brewed beer. Their right to do so is at present restricted to a certain season of the year, and they may brew only from two bushels of malt. Their present position is rather unfortunate, because through the fall in the price of barley they have had to submit to a reduction of wages. The price of barley in the past year has fallen from 72s. to 44s., and that has been a powerful factor in the decline of the agricultural labourers wages, and although the price of barley has thus fallen, there has been no redueion in the price of the beer which they buy at the public-houses. Therefore I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer may sec his way to make this small concession, the cost of which would be quite negligible, although the concession itself would he very highly appreciated in the rural areas, especially in East Anglia. We ask that the assessable value of the occupier's house should be raised to £12, and that the brewing should be allowed at any time of the year.
I will accept the Clause if my right hon. Friend will agree to substitute £8 for £12 as the assessable value of the house.
If the right hon. Gentleman cannot go beyond £8, although in late years assessments have been raised considerably, I will gratefully accept that concession, and thank them very much for it.
Before we decide this matter I should like some information in regard to it. Do the labourers make anything out of it? I should have thought there are very few householders who do not pay more than £8 a year. How much is the Chancellor of the Exchequer going to lose by this? I understand that in the United States every householder now runs his own private still or vat. If this concession be granted, shall we not have householders wanting to distil spirits as well as brew beer without paying any duty? I cannot see the justice of this. Because the right hon. Gentleman has a number of agricultural voters in his constituency, who are in the habit of brewing their own beer, I do not see why they should he granted this privilege. What about the poor fellows unemployed in our towns who are paying through the nose for their beer?
Surely the hon. and gallant Member understands that this is not a new thing. It is only the amount of malt which is allowed to be used that is altered.
That may be so, but who knows what will come next? The right hon. Gentleman next year, if he is successful now, may come along with another demand to double the quantity of malt to be brewed from.
I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will also agree to a small reduction in the taxation on cider, which would be greatly to the advantages of the agricultural labourers in the West Country.
What is this concession going to cost? We are entitled to be told that.
Yes, I want to ask that as well. It is a perfectly legitimate question. The Chancellor of the Exchequer appears always to have something in his pocket for certain applicants for relief, and what will this particular application cost the revenue?
I really cannot say, but my hon. and gallant Friend may take it that the cost will be infinitesimal.
Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time.
Amendment made: Leave out the word "twelve" ["twelve pounds or less"], and insert instead thereof the word "eight."—[ Mr. Pretyman.]
Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.