HC Deb 05 June 1806 vol 7 cc520-2

The house, on the motion of sir J. Newport, resolved itself into a committee, to take into consideration the propriety of a motion for leave to bring in a bill to establish a free intercourse between Great Britain and Ireland, in the mutual export and import of certain species of grain between the two countries. The house accordingly resolved into a committee.

Mr. Foster

rose and observed, that there were some difficulties in the way of such a bill, which, unless satisfactorily obviated, would present insurmountable objections to its being passed into a law. At present, the corn trades of both countries were regulated under acts of parliament, respectively, which established, in each country, an average rate of price for the different species of grain; which average being attained in the home market, the ports were closed against exportation, and opened for importation; and below which price exportation was permitted, and importation precluded. This regulation was made with a view to prevent an excessive price of the necessary of life to the home consumer; and, at the same time, to allow every reasonable advantage to the agricultural interests in each kingdom. Now, by the proposed bill, as far as he was enabled to conjecture, although the price of corn in England should be above the average which admitted of exportation, yet the price in Ireland might be so much cheaper, as to admit the continuance of exports from thence; and, therefore, by the proposed bill, which, he understood, was to allow the free interchange of corn between both countries, without bounty or duty, the English merchant who wished to elude the law, and export British corn to foreign countries, would have nothing to do but consign it through the medium of Ireland; and, vice versâ, so might the Irish merchant elude the law of that country, by exporting through England. The only mode by which, in his contemplation, such mischievous consequences could be avoided, would be to restrain and regulate the corn trade of both countries by one general average from the mass of prices in both. The average in England was taken from a comparison of twelve districts; the Scotch trade was regulated by the British standard; and the Irish, by an average of the prices in every part of the kingdom. Now, by regulating the general export rate in all the ports of the .united kingdom, from an average of the whole mass of prices, collectively, the evil would be obviated, which would, otherwise, be unavoidable, under the proposed bill.

Mr. Weston

expressed his readiness to give to Ireland every boon and advantage, not actually inconsistent with the fair interests of Great Britain; and observed that, although so much had not been granted as was sought about two years since, yet he believed, that what had then been granted had been of considerable advantage to Ireland. He did not, at present, see any objection to the proposed measure, particularly if under the regulations and restrictions suggested by the right hon. gent. who had just sat down; but he hoped it would be considered as a boon to Ireland.

Sir John Newport

was ready to admit, that what had been already done for Ireland, on this head, had been of mutual advantage to both countries, and of as much to this as to Ireland: the great exporting grain from this country to Ireland was barley; of which, in the last year, the quantity was 110,000 quarters; and the principal grain exported from Ireland to England and Scotland, was oats; of which the quantity was very great indeed, beyond the supply afforded by their own produce for their necessary consumption; and, therefore, the interchange of these grains, alone, would be a considerable accommodation to the agriculture and consumption of both nations. He was very willing thankfully to acknowledge, on the part of Ireland, any boon conferred by this country; but, at the same time, it must not be forgotten, that every such boon, so conferred upon the agriculture of Ireland, was given to the best customer this country had in Europe for her manufactures.

Mr. Foster

begged leave to add a few words, in order to ascertain, beyond misconception, the object he had in view. In the way of the suggestion he had proposed, and which, he understood, was admitted, there were certainly difficulties, but not insurmountable ones. The average prices of corn in Ireland, by which its export and import were to be regulated, could be communicated to every outport in the kingdom in five days after quarter-day. Nearly the same expedition could be obtained, in a similar communication, to the outports of Great Britain, with respect to the average prices here: but, in placing both countries mutually under the same regulations, a longer delay must necessarily occur. Much of the difficulty, however, would be removed, by consulting the aid of experienced and practical men; which might be done during the progress of the bill.—Lord Archibald Hamilton said a few words in approbation of the measure; after which sir John Newport moved, that the chairman be instructed to move the house for leave to bring in the bill; which was agreed to.