12 JUNE 1880, Page 1


ON Thursday, Mr. Gladstone introduced his Supplementary Budget, by which he proposes to abolish the malt-tax, and impose in its place a duty on beer, which would hardly interfere at all with the process of manufacture, and would, of course, set malting entirely free, so that the farmer may in future grow any kind of barley he chooses for malting purposes, and feed his cattle upon it, if he will. The Standard, which, oddly enough, though studiously fair to the Liberals when they were in Opposition, appears very unfair to them now they are in power, says, with strange disregard to the express statements of Mr. Gladstone's speech, that according to the Prime Minister, "should England be involved in a costly war, the malt-tax might be revived." On the contrary, Mr. Gladstone said that in that case the beer-tax might be increased, without any of the evils necessarily involved in the increase of the malt-tax he had proposed to abolish. "If in time of war or emergency, it becomes necessary to ask the House for a great increase in the taxes of the country, the Finance Minister will no longer be perplexed by the unfortunate connection that has always subsisted between the malt-tax and the cultivation of the soil. The beer-duty will stand exactly as the spirit-duty stands. When we have raised the spirit-duty, we have been met by no objection on the part of the supposed interests of agriculture. It has been looked upon as that which it is, a consumers' tax. In the case of the malt- tax, it has always been disputed whether it was a producers' or a consumers' tax. That dispute will entirely disappear, and though I do not contemplate in the slightest degree any measure of the kind, yet, with a view to possible future contingencies, I hold it to be a great advantage that this powerful arm of the Revenue can be operated upon for the purpose of augmentation independent of all except fiscal considerations." The Standard could not have made a greater blunder, or given currency to 'a more serious misrepresentation. This is a Free-trade measure, and there is no return from Free-trade to Protection.