(1798) 4 Paton 39
CASES DECIDED IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS, UPON APPEAL FROM THE COURTS OF SCOTLAND, FROM 1753 TO 1813.
Writ of Error.
House of Lords,
Subject_Distillery Laws — Drawback — Working on Sundays Illegal. —
In a claim made by distillers in Scotland for a drawback on duty allowed for spirits distilled for exportation to England. Held, that by the words of the acts allowing the abatement “for every day” the still should work, did not include Sunday, though the distillers worked the stills on Sabbaths, it being a profanation of the laws with regard to the Sabbath, which hold it illegal to work on that day, and therefore that they could not claim a drawback on the duty for spirits made and distilled on that day.
This was a claim made by the plaintiffs in the Court of Exchequer for certain drawbacks under the distillery acts,
On trial before a jury, the jurors returned a special verdict, finding, that if the Court shall be of opinion that the plaintiffs were entitled to a drawback for working their still for every day, including Sundays, then they find the plaintiffs entitled to their demand; but if the Court shall be of opinion that they are not entitled to charge for every day including Sundays, then the jurors find for the defendants.
Dec. 1, 1795.
The cause came on to be argued on the special verdict; and the Court of Exchequer unanimously gave judgment for the defendants.
Against this judgment the present writ of error was brought.
Pleaded for the Plaintiffs.—1. When the words of a statute are clear and unambiguous, there is no room for inquiring into the meaning or intention of the legislature in framing the statute. By the 33d Geo. III. c. 61, it is enacted, that for every day during which any licensed still shall be used in making spirits from British materials, the owner thereof shall receive an allowance of two-tenths on every gallon of the cubical contents of each still so used. The term “every day” can admit of but one meaning, and includes Sundays as well as any other day of the week. If the legislature intended not to give any abatement of the license duty for the Sundays on which the stills were used, that clause of the statute would have been differently worded. The legislature knew, that in all great distilleries at least, the stills were worked on Sundays as well as any other day of the week, and officers of Excise attended the works on Sunday, opened the sealed locks, the keys of which were in their
Pleaded for the Defendants.—1. The intention of the legislature, by the distillery laws referred to, was to place the duty on the manufacture of spirits both in England and Scotland on the same footing; and the abatements given to Scotch distillers for spirits made for the English market was solely allowed on this principle of reciprocity, and hence called the equalizing system. But here the plaintiffs make a most extravagant demand. The words of the act of Parliament are “abatement or allowance.” These words evidently mean a sura subtracted from a greater sum, leaving a balance still due; but the abatement or allowance claimed by the plaintiffs far exceeds the duty they have paid. If a person owes £25,000 of duty, it is perfectly intelligible to say, that he is entitled to £20,000; but if a man owes £20,000 only, and asks to be allowed an abatement of £25,000, this is plainly absurd. This is exactly the case here. 2. Though the acts of Parliament only give the “abatement or allowance for every day which the stills shall work,” they can be only understood to mean every lawful day which the stills shall work. In Scotland particularly, there are many strict and anxious laws with regard to the violation of the Sabbath. These have never been repealed, and not by the statutes in question; nor is it agreeable to the just construction of laws, to hold that one law repeals another merely by implication, unless the existence of the one is absolutely inconsistent with the existence of the other; but that is not the case in the present instance, because the acts in question may be justly interpreted in exact conformity with the other existing laws of the country against the profanation of the Sabbath, and that merely by supposing
After hearing counsel, it was
Ordered and adjudged, that the judgment given in the Court of Exchequer in Scotland be, and the same is hereby affirmed. And that the record be remitted, to the end, that such proceeding may be had thereupon as if no such Writ of Error had been brought into this House.
Counsel: For the Plaintiffs,
For the Defendants, Sir J. Scott, R. Dundas, John Mitford, Charles Hope.
Note.—This case does not appear to be reported in any collection. The statutes against the profanation of the Sabbath are:—1503, c. 83; 1579, c. 70 1592, c. 124; 1593, c. 163; 1594, c. 201; 1661, c. 18; 1663, c. 19; 1672, c. 22; 1695, c. 13; 1696, c. 31; and 1701, c. 11.