HC Deb 07 April 1812 vol 22 cc213-6

Mr. Marryatt presented a Petition from several ship-builders in the port of London, setting forth,

"That an attempt having been made, in the year 1795, to legalize Indian built ships, the jealousy and fears of the various classes dependant on ship-building in that port were so much excited and alarmed, that they petitioned the legislature against the Bill which had been brought into parliament for that purpose; and that the Petitioners were at that time informed the measure was to be limited and temporary, and accordingly an Act, the 35 Geo. 3, c. 115, was passed, authorizing, during the last war, and for eighteen months after its conclusion, ships not British built, arriving from the East Indies on account of the East India Company, to enter inwards and outwards if such ships were actually built within the Company's territories; and that similar attempts having been subsequently made, some of the Petitioners applied, in 1797, to his Majesty's then government on the subject, when they received the most positive assurances that the regular and China trade of the East India Company should be confined to British built ships; and that under this persuasion, and convinced of the sincerity of the assurances so given to them, the Petitioners were enabled to quiet the alarms of the industrious persons before-mentioned, who had at that time formed meetings, and had entered into resolutions expressive of their fears and dissatisfaction of the measure; indeed, the impression which it appeared to have made on their minds was such as if their existence depended on its total relinquishment and suppression; but on a pledge being given to them by the Petitioners, in conformity with the explanation they had received from his Majesty's then government, that the measure was partial and temporary, and that the Company's regular trade would be continued in British built ships, these artificers and others were pacified and prevailed on to return to their respective employments; and that, in perfect confidence and reliance on the solemn assurances so given to the Petitioners, they did not entertain any apprehension that further encouragement or extension would be given to the employment of Indian built ships by the East India Company beyond the partial and limited admission of them under the statute before-mentioned in their irregular trade, which is the first instance of the legislature recognizing, as the Petitioners believe, of Indian built ships; they therefore observed, with astonishment and dismay, the recent extension of India built ships in the Company's general service; and that the Petitioners beg leave to state, that they understand the East India Company have formed a systematic plan of building and equipping ships in the East Indies for their regular trade, and that, under some specious pretext or other, they have already taken up several Indian built ships for that service, besides giving encouragement for the building there of ships of lesser tonnage for sale in Great Britain; and the Petitioners have reason to believe, that in furtherance of this system, many sets of workmen, particularly rope-makers, taking with them the machinery now used in that manufacture, have quitted this country for India, where, in a few years, they will disseminate the knowledge they possess, to the manifest injury of the trade of this country; and that the fears of the Petitioners were increased from having found, in the course of 1809, that, by a clause introduced into an act of parliament, embracing other objects, which was passed in 1802, namely, 42 Geo. 3, c. 20, sec. 6, the admission of Indian built ships to entry in Great Britain, as before stated, has been extended, to continue in force during the Company's monopoly; and that it is under this Act the directors have taken up the Indian built ships before-mentioned for their regular trade, notwithstanding the reasons alleged by them in their third report of the 25th of March 1802 on the private trade, of the impolicy of employing ships of that description, and the Petitioners beg leave most respectfully to refer to the serious facts therein stated in favour of the employment of British built ships in the Company's service; and that the Petitioners were not aware of any intention to extend the provisions of the Act, first before-mentioned, otherwise they would have appealed to the legislature, on the latter occasion, for that protection which they now most humbly solicit of the House; and that, under these circumstances, the Petitioners, with the greatest deference and respect, venture to appeal to the House, as the crisis appears to them to have arrived when it is to be considered, whether the extensive establishments which have been formed within the port of London for ship-building, mast-making, rope-making, sail-making, and the various and numerous branches of trade and manufacture connected with them, in which are employed so many thousand individuals of the most estimable classes in a maritime country, are to be sacrificed to the interests of the settlers in India, and to a mistaken notion of economy which will ultimately prove as prejudicial to the Company as ruinous to the state; and that the Petitioners humbly presume it will be admitted that these establishments are not the production of a few years, but that they have gradually risen with the trade and naval power of the country; and that on them, in a great measure, must depend their continuance, as the private yards, especially those in the port of London, are the great nurseries for the King's yards, yielding on the commencement, and affording in the progress of a war, a continual supply of able-bodied men for the public service, and, on the return of peace, an asylum for them when discharged from it; and that the Petitioners refrain from further observation on the impolicy of the introduction of Indian built ships into the Company's regular service, and into the general trade of the country, and of having extensive marine establishments in the East, which must inevitably conduce to that species of colonization which has already proved so disastrous to Great Britain, it being evident, that the building equipment and employment of such ships will reverse the natural order of the Indian trade, estrange the affections of the persons engaged in it from the mother country, make India the commencement and termination of their voyages, and lay the foundation of a system which will render more equivocal and precarious the continuance of British influence and British power in that quarter, of the globe; and that the Petitioners humbly hope that the legislature will, in future, confine, by statute, the regular and China trade of the East India Company to British built shipping, and that the permission granted to the East India Company by 42 Geo. 3, c. 20, sec. 6, may not be renewed or continued after the expiration of the period limited by that Act."

Ordered to lie on the table.