HC Deb 09 April 1811 vol 19 cc752-4

The Chancellor of the Exchequer having moved that the Report on the Distillery Bill be recommitted.

Sir John Sinclair

stated his objections to the measure. He estimated the whole amount of grain used in Distilleries at 800,000 quarters in the year, which could not amount to less than a million and a half of money. To interfere with this was a serious matter; and would be at-tended by the most pernicious consequences to society at large.

Mr. W. Smith

quoted the opinions of the corn distillers themselves, who represented the measure as a death blow to their trade, if carried into execution. Within the last forty years there were only three prohibitions, a circumstance which formed a kind of prescription in, favour of corn distilleries. He went into a minute calculation to prove, that by encouraging the practice of distillation from sugar, one million of money would be taken from the national stock without any kind of benefit; but confining the operation of the measure to England alone, the Joss would amount to 3,00,000l. If it were right to tax this country for the West Indies, this was not the way to tax it: and the whole of the evil of which those colonies complained, required a different policy. He did not wish that the agriculturists of the West Indies should be injured; but he was unwilling that they should be encouraged to produce any article to an extent for which there was no demand, and then to call upon those of England to submit to taxation on account of it.

Mr. Hibbert

observed, that on the average of the last eleven years, a sum of four millions yearly had been paid to the enemy for corn. Last year the sum was seven millions; one year it was ten millions; but on the whole it was forty millions and upwards. All that the West India proprietors asked was, to be let into one fifth of this sum, and the remaining four fifths would, he contended, be sufficient to encourage agriculture. There was no measure likely to be more effectual than this against the enemy; who never impeded the export of grain, nor had any objection to receive our coin and bullion, but vigorously excluded all colonial produce.

Mr. W. Taylor

considered the corn laws and the distillery laws as parts of one system of laws. Ever since the Revolution, they had been considered in that light. In various periods of scarcity, viz. 1699, 1757, 1705, and 1800, the export of corn was prohibited, as well as the distillation from spirit. He did not wish this country to fee dependent on the enemy; and was of opinion, that instead of interfering with the interests of agriculture, as they would by such a measure as this, they ought to encourage the cultivation of corn.

Mr. Fuller

said that the mere principle was to put commodities upon a fair footing. Gentlemen should not affect to think so lightly of our West India colonics; they had given more than their one share of support in carrying on the war, as affording a market for our manufactures, and a nursery for our marine. They all saw how Buonaparté valued a West India colony, while he had one, never sparing a ship or a man to retain it, well knowing that without colonies, France, after all, was nothing, and yet gentlemen on the opposite side could be blind to advantages so obvious to that great and wise man—not that he meant to compliment Buonaparté, whom he believed to be the greatest villain on the face of the earth, but if one who was known to keep so good a look-out to his own interests, thought so highly of those colonies, what-could those persons mean who made so much noise about their corn-growers, and potatoe-growers, and what not? This talk about the landed interests would be attributed to country "Gentleism," but it looked more like country Jewism, dissatisfied with any thing less than "shent per shent for their money." (Laughter.)

Lord Binning

observed, that notwithstanding all the gloomy predictions of the opposers of this Bill, at the time the measure of 1808 was brought forward, the enterprise of farmers had not declined; and therefore he was of opinion, that the fears of these honourable false prophets were to be received with considerable caution. This measure, as well as that, was founded on the fact of a large importation of corn. No man felt more strongly than he did the claims of the West India proprietor" on the justice of that House. He was persuaded they ought to be let into a competition with the foreign corn-importer. An average of 30s. was a considerable price for barley; but 38s. was much more favourable to the farmer than 70s. to the sugar-planter. He did not think that the barley-growers had much reason to complain; and was of opinion that the measure ought to have a trial.

Sir John Newport

deprecated the spirit of intermeddling with the agriculture of the country.

Mr. Rose

said, that the objections of the distillers arose from the fear of illicit distilleries, and the introduction of spirits from Scotland; but those were matters for the revenue to guard against. The legislature had for centuries past been in the habit of intermeddling with the agriculture, and the propriety of doing so upon the present occasion rested upon a strong ground, that of preferring our own colonies to foreigners.

Mr. Western

contended, that if the waste land in this country were cultivated, it would be as productive as could be desired, and consequently supersede the necessity of having recourse to foreign markets for a supply. He was against the measure, as injurious to the agricultural interests, as being calculated to force the consumption of sugar, and therefore he conceived that the principles of it induced the strongest objections on the part of the landed interest.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

wished to make a few observations upon one or two points which had been adverted to in the course of the debate. He denied that the measure would have the effect of forcing the consumption of sugar, but even supposing that was the ultimate object, it could only apply when the price of barley was above 38s. in no other respect could it have that effect. With respect to the apprehensions entertained by some gentlemen as to its producing importations of foreign spirits and of illicit trade, those were apprehensions which the test of experience would very shortly determine. The right hon. gent, then combated the arguments of the hon. gent, (Mr. Smith), contending that they were erroneously founded upon the presumption that distillation would be produced from the cheapest commodity. He was as anxious for the use of grain as any one, but for the reasons before stated, he thought it the true policy to permit distillation from sugar.

Mr. Marryatt

supported the measure, convinced that the complaints of the landed interest were in a great measure groundless, and the claims of the West India proprietors well founded.

The House then divided, for the recommittal, Ayes, 66. Noes 31. Majority 35. The House then went into a Committee on the clause for limiting the duration of the Act for three months to Ireland. After a short discussion, in which sir J. Newport, Mr. Grattan, Mr. Curwen, Mr. Rose, and Mr. Fuller participated, the clause was agreed to, and the House having resumed, the Report was ordered to be received to-morrow.