The Chancellor of the Exchequer
stated, that it was his intention to obviate some of the objections which had been made to the Bill, by introducing a clause on the report, putting the Irish Distillers on the same footing in exporting as the English distillers, and containing several other amendments.
§ Mr. W. Smith
lamented that the right hon. gentleman had not expressed his intention at a more early period, as the counsel who were about to be called in could scarcely be expected to accommodate the argument which they had pre-pared, to so sudden an alteration. Still, however, he bespoke the earnest attention of the House to the subject, which was one of vital importance both to the British distiller and to the general revenue.
627 Mr. Dauncey and Mr. Warren were then called to the bar, and heard at considerable length; the former as counsel for the English distillers, the latter as counsel for the Scotch distillers.
The counsel having concluded and with-drawn, the amendments in the Report were agreed to.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
then said, that he had some clauses to propose which he presumed to think would meet the whole of the objections to the Bill. He had no doubt that the great danger of frauds being committed in consequence of the intercourse, must arise in Ireland, where a duty being imposed on 100 gallons of spirits, without regard to its strength, those 100 gallons might be converted into 130 gallons, and the 100 gallons being exported to England, the 30 gallons would become a clear bonus to the exporter. When the English distillers, however, said that they would go on without any regulation rather than have the Bill now before the House, that he was aware, could only be regarded as an expression of anger, which was not to be attended to. This was a diminished evil, and it must be better to have it than an aggravated weight. He must say, in praise of the British distillers, that greater candour, greater liberality, or a greater desire to afford information, he had never found in any body of men. They, surely, however, had a great interest in suspending, as long as possible, the intercourse between the countries, and in driving parliament for some time longer to continue the prohibition. Till the introduction of these clauses, which he had now to propose, he agreed the Bill was open to objection, as it allowed the distiller of Ireland to export spirits without payment of any excise duty, or subject to any drawback except what might be supposed to be produced by the duty on malt. This, too, it was to be observed, was only an experiment, and if it should not be found to answer, it would not be carried farther, the duration of the present Bill being only for such a period after the commencement of the next session of parliament, as would allow time for reconsidering the measure. To prevent any interference between the English, Scotch, and Irish distillers, which might lead to frauds or to unjust advantages on either side, he should propose that no spirits be exported from either of the countries but through warehouses to be established in each. This was no new 628 machinery which he wished to create. He found it in existence, and wished to apply it to the particular case under consideration. He agreed that it was wrong that the trade in Ireland should go on for home consumption, and for warehousing for exportation at the same time. This, he was aware, could not long be suffered. The permit he should propose should specify not only the quantity, but the strength of the spirit, and if any fraud should be committed in mixing any such spirits, that then it should be forfeited. He then moved three several clauses, declaring, first, that no spirits should be warehoused in Ireland for exportation, unless where the strength was specified; second, that no spirits should be delivered for exportation, unless where the strength was specified: and thirdly, that distiller" of spirits in England for exportation to Ireland, do distil their spirits under the same regulations as are provided by the acts of the 28th and 45th of the King.
The two first clauses were brought up and agreed to. On the third clause being put,
§ Mr. W. Smith
could not conceive oft what principle the House were to agree to such a clause as the present. He could not attribute it to any wish on the part of the right hon. gent. to encourage injustice, but must lay it to the account merely of inadvertency. The right hon. gent. he had no doubt had adopted it as a shadow of reciprocity of rights between this country and Ireland, founded on the act of the 45th of the king, chap. 100. He wished the House only to attend to this one fact. The Bill in question was to expire three months after the meeting of the next session of parliament, and, by the way in which the clause in question was framed the English distiller could not avail him-self of the privilege allowed him till October in the next year after the passing of the act, and by which time, of course, the act must have expired. By what name was he to call this! Was it a nullity? Was it an insult? Or was it merely an inadvertency on the part of the right hon. gent.? If he did not agree that it was an inadvertency, then could it be nothing but an insult. The clear import of the clause was this, either that the party intending; to avail himself of the benefit of the clause must erect new warehouses for the reception of the spirits to be exported, or he could not commence warehousing in his present premises for twelve months. A 629 clause had been proposed to the right hon. gent. which would have removed great part of the objection, namely, to prevent the distillers of Ireland from working for the home trade of Ireland, while they worked for the foreign market, which it was impossible they could do fairly at the same time. In this way it would have been incumbent on the Irish distiller, if he were on a Tuesday working for home consumption, then to stop, and to give notice that on the second day after he should commence working for exportation. This was at present the law in Scotland, and why not so in Ireland, where frauds were more likely to be committed? That the greatest frauds were at present committed in the distilleries of Ireland, appeared from the statement of the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer himself. The right hon. gent. has been pleased to talk highly of the candour and liberality of the English distillers. They would rather, he could assure his right hon. friend, have a little solid pudding than so much empty praise. The clause proposed was an absolute nullity, as far as concerned the Bill.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, if the meaning of the clause was as it had appeared to his hon. friend, the clause was defectively worded. He surely meant that the same premises used by a distiller at the time of passing the act, might be used for the purposes of this clause. He believed the measure would be found more advantageous for all parties than when there was no intercourse. Could it be expected, then, that Ireland would give op her home market for the chance of exporting? And if the House had no absolute right to prevent this, would not the introduction of such a clause be an indirect mode of preventing that which openly and directly they had no right to prevent?
§ Mr. P. Moore
alluded to the boons which had lately been conferred on Scotland, in grants for her roads, bridges, and canals; and to the grants to our colonies on the ceast of Africa, &c.; and argued, that as the distillery was the only branch in which it was alledged that Ireland had at all been favoured at the Union, it would be unjust and ungenerous totally to deprive her of that the only boon she had received.
contended that the Union was founded on principles of reciprocity, and that whatever was unprovided for in this respect, ought to be done away with. What was this measure, but that the Irish distillers should pay no duties and 630 no drawbacks? The right hon. gent. had said, that he would not recommend this as a permanent measure. He would ask, how-ever, why it ought not to be kept as perfect, as if it were a permanent measure? Two years ago the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland had trusted to a great increase in the revenue from the consumption of spirits; but in this he had failed. Then the duty was again lowered, that the consumption might be increased. What the country had gained, however, in revenue, she had lost in morals, as the hospitals of Dublin could tell. Morals and industry were the strength and riches of the country; and, as going to under-mine both, the present seemed to him one of the worst measures that could be adopt-ed. Rather than agree to such a Bill he would have the intercourse suspended till next session.
§ The clause was then put and agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill. On the question that the Bill be engrossed,
§ Mr. W. Smith
again protested against the principle of the Bill, and also against its details. He did not wish to require that the Irish distiller should have two places for carrying on his business, but only that he should give two days notice before proceeding to convert his operations from distilling for home consumption to distillation for exportation, and that in the mean time his work should be suspended. What he complained of was that every thing in those regulations was given to Ireland. Gentlemen said that suspending the intercourse was infringing the Union. Would they say, however, that the imposing of drawbacks did not infringe the Union? If this was not so, then was his argument gone. If it was, then was there a fallacy in saying that he was guilty of a breach of the Union who recommended that out of which a solid and substantial benefit arose, and that he was not guilty of such breach who was for giving an unfair and undue advantage. The right hon. gent. said that the distillers in Scotland would be able to avail themselves of the privilege of warehousing which he pro-posed. There were only two persons in Scotland, however, who would be able to do so; and for that reciprocity all Ireland was to be enabled to send spirits into England. He had heard of Irish reciprocity; if this was not it, he could not conceive in what it consisted. The English distillers had gone on, trusting to the assurances of the right hon. gent. that things should con- 631 tinue formerly, and one of those understood agreements was, that the non-inter-course with Ireland should continue for three months after the conclusion of the session of Parliament. The question was, whether parties who complained were not the best judges of the grievances they suffered? They said to the right hon. gent. "If we cannot have things as we wish them to be, let them stand as they are. The right hon. gent. said, "No; you must have what we are willing to give you." This was not what the English distillers had a right to expect from him. The 'rights of the country were thus sacrificed; and if the corn distillery of England was to be stripped for the convenience of Ire-land, then had the landed interest of Eng-land more reason to complain than they would have had in the case of the distillation from sugar. In the one only a fair advantage was given to the importers of sugar; in the other, an unfair advantage was given to the corn grower of Ireland. All that the English distillers asked was, that in the article of notice previous to proceeding to the distilling for exportation, the three countries should be put on a footing. The right hon. gent., on the other hand, did not make this reciprocal, but imposed on Ireland only as much of the burden as he thought proper. What the English distillers here demanded was only suspension of intercourse, or justice, no more.
argued in support of the Bill. The countervailing duties imposed by the act of the Union, were equal to the internal duties on the imports of spirits from Great Britain into Ireland, and from Ireland into Great Britain—imposing, how-ever, a drawback on the export equal to the countervailing duty. At the Union, the countervailing duty in Ireland was fixed at 3s.7d. per quarter—the drawback was, of course, the same. By the 48th of the king, the duty was raised to 5s. 8d. and the countervailing duty was declared to be also 5s. 8d. The 50th of the king repealed the 48th, and lowered the duty to 3s. 4d. without imposing my countervailing duty. The intercourse being now "pen, the drawback was 3s. 7d. and of course excessive, the duty being only 3s. 4d. A countervailing duty of 3s. 4d. was then introduced. But this drawback, thus reduced to 3s. 4d, the British distiller contended to be still excessive, and demanded a suspension of the spirit trade between the two countries, which would 632 deprive the Irish distiller of his undoubted right of coming into the British market, upon his paying the countervailing duty as existing in Great Britain; and this too, while the British distiller affected to com-plain of his being shutout of a market, not only open to him on fair terms, but which he had never been disposed to resort to. The Irish distiller had, indeed, a strong ground of complaint against the Scots distiller, who went into the Irish market, receiving as a drawback the British and not the Scots duty, two shillings more than he paid, while the Irish spirits came into the Scots market paying the British instead of the Scots duty. When in 1804, the British distiller complained of certain internal advantages under which the Irish distiller came into the British market, the Irish distiller was quickly dispossessed of what it was scarce worth the trouble to deprive him, by the warehousing Bill. This alarm attempted to be excited against the Irish distiller was quite in conformity with the old spirit of monopoly which had so strongly characterised Great Britain in her commercial dealings with all the world, to which Ireland had been for centuries exposed, and under which she had suffered the most cruel persecution. The smallest extension of trade was at all periods with the utmost difficulty, and after the severest struggles, obtained for Ireland. Her internal manufactures were studiously discouraged, a direct trade to any of the colonies or the rest of the world interdicted under the heaviest penalties. It was about 113 years since king William declared to the English House of Commons "I shall do all that lies in me to discourage the woollen manufactures of Ireland." Nay, so late as 1778 the table of the House of Commons was covered with petitions against a miserabe indulgence to Ireland of a direct trade in glass and hardware with the coast of Africa; and at this period, the cities of Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester carried their magnanimity and patriotism to such a length, as even to threaten rebellion should these indulgences he allowed to Ireland. Even now Great Britain would thankfully receive in her necessity the raw material, the corn from Ireland—while she would illiberally at-tempt to exclude spirit, the manufacture from that raw material! A free trade upon no duties, or equal duties, was the principle of the Union. This principle had been effected with a vengeance as against Ireland; but when she required 633 the same principle to be acted upon as against Scotland, her trade was interdicted, and the Union violated. Admitting, how-ever, that the Irish distiller did reap some advantages from the spirit trade of Ireland with this country, was he therefore to be deprived of the trade itself? If so, would they restore to his country all that she had lost by the degrading and abominable measure of Union? [Here the hon. gent. was interrupted by cries of—Order, order! Chair, chair!]
§ The Speaker
. The hon. member will do well to recollect, that such is not the language which it becomes this House to hear, or him to use, in speaking of a grave and solemn act of Parliament.
Sir, I trust I am incapable of using language unworthy this place or myself. In saying what I have said, I have obeyed the dictate of feelings of which I am not ashamed; and while I know them to be just, I know not why I am to suffer the expression of them to be dictated to me. [Here the cries of—Order, order! Chair, chair! became louder and more general.]
§ The Speaker
. The hon. member will be pleased to see the necessity of conforming to the usages of this House, in the expression of his opinions.
. To conform to the "sages of this House I am in every way disposed; but my first right as a member of it is, what I shall never willingly re-sign—(Order, order!)—If privilege of speech be not the right of every member of this House, I know not what is—I have always thought it to be the right of every member of this House, what he feels honestly, to declare boldly—my feelings with respect to that measure of Union, have been strong and uniform. When it was first proposed, I foresaw in it danger to this country, in the danger, the degradation, and the ruin of my own—and as a common friend to both, I resisted it by every means within my power; and am I now to be denied the melancholy privilege of deploring the humiliating state to which that measure has reduced my country, by making her a party in effecting her national extinction? Am I to be denied the right of complaining that she has been tricked out of her independence by promises which have been all violated, and hopes which have been all blasted? It, however, after all this it be the secret determination to rob her gradually of the very few advantages, and those too of par- 634 tial operation, to which under even such an act she may be entitled, why then let but gentlemen avow this, and let the Union be dissolved.
§ The House then divided: