I understand the Clause is accepted by the Government, but I am only too ready to explain it. This proposal is really intended to get the House to affirm what was decided by Parliament in the Finance Act of 1915. Under the Finance Act of 1910 an hotel or restaurant is entitled to an abatement of the Excess Profits Duty if the receipts from liquor are less in the case of a restaurant than two-fifths, and in the case of an hotel one-third of the total receipts. Four years after that, in 1914, a substantial increase was made in the duty on beer. The result of this was that the amount of receipts from liquor would increase automatically. The Finance Act of 1915 provided that when the receipts exceeded the proportion laid down on account of the additions of the Duty on beer imposed the year before, then the Finance Act of 1915 should have effect as if three-fifths were substituted for two-fifths and one-half for one-third. In this Finance Bill the provision of the Act of 1915 is not repeated, and I move it, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that he is willing to accept it, simply so that Parliament may confirm what it has already laid down.
Various appeals from various quarters have been made to the right hon. Gentleman, and he has made concessions in one or two special directions. All the other appeals he has rejected. I should like to know if this is another appeal involving a concession in another special direction, and also the extent of it.
I think I can make the thing clear almost in a sentence. When the increased Licence Duty, which has relation to the value of the licensed premises and not to the sales, was imposed, it would have pressed very harshly upon expensive hotels and large restaurants where the liquor bears only a small proportion to the total business done. Accordingly, an abatement was allowed in their case, and obviously it was not merely just but in the public interest that it should be allowed. We have again and again increased the tax on beer, the tax on spirits, and now I have increased the tax on wines. Therefore, without the hotel people or the restaurant people being able to put one penny more into their own pockets, their charges as collectors of revenue for the State have risen, and the proportion of the sales of alcohol to the other sales on the same quantities sold has become higher. They are therefore deprived of the relief which Parliament intended them to have, not because they sell more liquor in proportion to the rest of their business, but because the Exchequer takes more revenue out of the liquor which they sell. This new Clause is moved purely to prevent them being robbed by the increased duties which they are charged of the relief which was given to them. I should like to say that since I accepted the Clause I find that it is not quite in the form in which it ought to be, and, if my Noble Friend will be good enough to allow it to be withdrawn, I will either supply him with the right form of words or bring the matter up myself on Report. This is not a new relief to the innkeeper, and it is not giving away money which he has hitherto had to pay. It is preserving him in his old position and preventing him from being deprived of the relief which Parliament has already afforded to him merely because we have increased the taxes on the liquor which he sells.
I cannot put everything into the Bill. My attention was drawn to the matter by the Amendment of my Noble Friend. I told him I thought he had a good case and that I was prepared to meet him.
The original concession was on the right lines. We should seek to give advantage to the house which sells a small amount of liquor in proportion to other things, but I do not follow the reasoning of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the necessity of an alteration, because, although the price of liquor has gone up very much, it is equally true that the prices of other articles have risen greatly. If they have gone up in exactly the same proportion no change is necessary. It may be the price of liquor has gone up more than that of other things, but I do hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in framing his new Clause will bear in mind it is not to be assumed that the price of liquor alone has gone up.
It is not merely a question of taxation. It is a question of selling prices, and I doubt whether the selling price of beer has gone up much more than the selling price of food.