HC Deb 02 April 1811 vol 19 cc687-90

On the order of the day being read for reading the Distillery Bill a second time,

Mr. Curwen

said, his view of the measure was, that it would have the effect of causing less animal food to be produced than was raised at present, while we had no prospect of receiving a foreign supply. He hoped the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would be cautious how he took any step which might, by possibility, tend to injure the agricultural interest. He thought he had not the best information on the subject; and was of opinion the House-ought to. go into a committee on the question, to see if they could not devise some plan more likely to be beneficial and less dangerous than that which had been proposed. He concluded with moving, That the second reading should be postponed to that day six weeks, in order to give an opportunity for further consideration.

Mr. Rose

said, that the effect of the measure would be to give the West India planters an advantage over the growers of foreign barley. The question was, whether 33s a quarter was a fair protecting price for the agriculturist or not. The English-distillers, it was true, were apprehensive that spirits would be brought from Scotland; but he had reason to believe, that such, improvements had taken place in the revenue of that part of the United Kingdom, as would prevent any irregular or illegal proceedings.

Sir John Anstruther

thought the Bill should go no further until enquiry had taken place. It had been said, that the measure was only temporary; but that part of it was permanent which went to introduce sugar in competition with grain in the distillery; and it was to that he had objected. The principle upon which government used to act was to give the corn grower a monopoly, with only one exception; the exception was, when a scarcity was dreaded. The evidence before the House' was altogether against the measure, for every one of the three committees appointed had expressed themselves unfavourable to it, and all persons connected with distilleries had remonstrated against its adoption. For these reasons he wished it should undergo the consideration of six weeks, before the scale was arranged, which was likely to produce so great an effect upon the whole agriculture of the country.

Mr. Barham

did not know what new evidence could be called before the Committee, and therefore could not accede to the proposition of delay. As to the measure, itself, he wished that no reference whatever had been made to the price of sugar, for there should be no such thing as balancing the colonial and agricultural interests. The agricultural interests should be maintained and preferred; but if it was necessary to get a supply from some other quarter, he thought it not unreasonable that we should take from our colonies rather than our enemies. It had been said that they were now departing from the ancient policy of the country, which was to prevent sugar from coming into competition with grain; but he would deny that that was the policy. There was nothing to prevent them from coming into competition before. He therefore should vote for the original motion.

Mr. Marryatt

said, that if the agriculturists should possess the monopoly, they were bound, in consequence, to show that they were capable of completing the supply. So far, however, were they from manifesting that ability, that to the amount of 4,000,000 had been imported since 1772, and of 7,000,000 in the course of the last year. The stock of the manufacturers was well known at present, and it could scarcely be said to afford a proper opportunity for adopting any step which would have the effect of making bread dear, as the rejection of the present measure inevitably would. It had been said that the measure would make meat dear. How that could be, he was unable to discover; for it would make the food of cattle cheaper. The West India planters contributed much to support the expences of the country, and, if they were reduced to a situation, in which they could do so no longer, the expence must fall on the landholders. He therefore cautioned the landed interest how they resisted such measures as the present, and recommended that they might bear their fair share of the burdens of the country without shewing such an invincible repugnance to sacrifice their interest to the public good.

Mr. Shaw

objected to the bill as injurious to the interests of Ireland.

Mr. Coke

contended that the measure would be injurious to the interests of the country, and quoted the report of the committee in support of his assertion. The question was, whether encouragement should or should not be given to the growth of grain? If the agriculturalist did not get a fair remunerating price, barley would not be cultivated, cattle would not be fed, and the market of London would feel the effects. He regretted, that after a long experience in that House, he bad never known a minister who had encouraged agriculture. He concluded with a quotation from Mr. Burke, which represented all experiments upon the former as perilous, and decried the principle of meddling in any way whatever with the subsistence of the people.

Mr. Ellis

said, he wished well to the landed interests; but he could not, however, help feeling for the West India planters. In 1808, when the subject was first canvassed, it was said that the country produced barley sufficient for all the purposes of the distillery. In. 1809 and 10, however, there was more imported than in the former year, which shewed that it did not produce barley enough to answer its own purposes, even without the distilleries. The competition was not between the West India and agricultural interests, but between the colonial and the foreign grower.

Mr. Western

supported the amendment.

Lord Binning

denied that the distress of the farmer proceeded from the measure now before the House.

Mr. Adam

wished that time should be given to investigate the subject more minutely; and contended that they ought to place no limitation to the price of grain, in order that its growth might be encouraged. He insisted strongly upon the policy of encouraging agriculture, as the best means of supporting the strength and independence of the country.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

wished it to be recollected that he had originally proposed that the measure should continue but for the space of one year; but even then, should it be necessary, he intended that its continuance should be for a longer period. At present, however, he should propose in the Committee a clause, limiting its duration for four months only, after the passing of the Bill, a similar period having been adopted for Ireland, in order to enable the manufacturer to get rid of his grain if he should deem it expedient. Under that arrangement, which was thought beneficial for the interests of Ireland he did not suppose those who objected would be inclined to press their ob- jections. The right hon. gent. denied that in proposing the measure he had any intention of injuring the agricultural interests; on the contrary, it would have the effect of increasing their prosperity, particularly in Norfolk; for it was well known that the produce of the island for many years had not been equal to its consumption, and this was clearly made manifest from the imports of grain during those periods. The price at which it was proposed to distil from sugar, would leave a fair competition between the two interests. Adverting to what had fallen from his hon. friend, as to the state of agriculture in Norfolk, he wished to observe, that so far from any depreciation having taken place, it was evident, that within the last two years, while the prohibition was going on, agriculture had materially increased. In proof of his assertion he need only state, that last year not less than 153 Inclosure Bills were passed, which of course, would improve the state of agriculture. In the present year 163 Bills of the same nature were passed for England alone, of which number 24 were for the county which gentlemen opposite wished the House to believe as the most depressed, namely, Norfolk. In Wales nineteen also were passed. To talk of danger, therefore, to the agricultural interests, was a mere phantom, for no danger was to be apprehended. Notwithstanding the passing of the bill, it was a fact that barley rose in price in the market.

Sir J. Newport

deprecated the idea that the Bill was called for in consequence of the scarcity of grain, and condemned the right hon. gent. for having introduced it originally as a permanent measure, which the hon. baronet contended he had done.

Mr. Tighe

considered this as one of the blessed effects of the Union, which to Ireland would be a disunion. The promoters of that measure had held out promises which were not fulfilled. They had promised a land flowing with milk and honey, but that promise was not to be found in the British constitution for Ireland. The House then divided:—

For the second reading 74
Against it 49

The Bill was then read a second time, and committed for Thursday.