HC Deb 07 April 1812 vol 22 cc232-4
Sir John Newport

, after adverting to the scarcity of grain and other provisions which existed in many districts of Ireland, and to the necessity of preventing the distillation from grain in that country, moved for a general return of all the grain, malt, meal, and flour exported from Ireland, from the beginning of the present year to the latest period at which the same could be made out.

Mr. Wellesley Pole

did not rise to oppose the motion, but to state that he had not altered the opinion be had already expressed on this subject. He was convinced that there was no real scarcity of provisions throughout Ireland. The apparent deficiency was merely local, and arose from exports; but, at the same time, he allowed that it was the duty of government to allay the fears, however unfounded, which the people of Ireland entertained. With this view he intended to move, tomorrow, for leave to bring in a Bill to prevent the exportation abroad of Irish made spirits; and be also intended to move in the Committee of Ways and Means, for an additional duty on those spirits imported to any part of the empire. The right hon. gentleman then went over the comparative price of potatoes, and other articles of first necessity, in various counties from the 14th of January to the 8th of March, and concluded with asserting, that the advance in price had been but trifling.

Mr. Latouche

was of opinion, that it would be expedient to take into consideration the policy of putting a temporary stop to the distilleries.

Sir J. Newport

said he had been informed, that the distillers had sent to Mr. Pole exaggerated accounts of their stocks of grain, and in confirmation of which he read part of a letter.

Mr. Shaw

of Dublin said, that the alarming price of provisions in Dublin had excited a strong sensation, so much so, as to induce the magistrates to make representations on the subject to the lord lieutenant, with a view to the adoption of some measure of relief. He agreed that the stopping of the distilleries now would be unjust, but thought they might be prevented from commencing again, as usual, in September, and that they ought to be obliged to suspend their work until the January following. Such a measure would, in his opinion, be sufficient to relieve the apprehension of scarcity.

Mr. Parnell

, from all the information which he had been able to procure, was not of opinion that any sound apprehension could be entertained of a scarcity. It had been stated to him, that in many parts potatoes were still sold at 4d. per stone, which certainly could not be called dear. The fact, he believed, was, that the deficiencies were local, and fully compensated by the abundance of other parts of the kingdom. The evil, he conceived, was one that would naturally remedy itself, unless this effect should be counteracted by the activity of magistrates, or the government.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, the subject was of the highest importance, and if there was really a prospect of scarcity in Ireland, it deserved their immediate consideration. He hoped the House would keep in mind, that the information they were possessed of was at present very defective. It appeared that in many parts there was great abundance, and the mischief chiefly arose from the difficulty of transporting provisions from one part to another. The House would therefore be cautious how they stopt the exportation of provisions from Ireland to England. As to the stoppage of the distilleries in Ireland, it was to be considered, that if we stopt them where they were legal, we gave advantage to those which were illegal; which, while it would be no saving of the quantity of human food, would in a very material degree injure the revenue.

Mr. Pole

, in answer to the observations of Mr. Shaw, stated, that the Irish government had received no information which could lead them to think there was a general scarcity. On the contrary, his opinion was, that there was plenty of grain, and that the increase of price and consequent alarm was owing to certain outrages and speculations which had taken place. If there was any apprehension of a general scarcity, he could assure the hon. gentleman that government would take any step which might be necessary, even were it the total stoppage of the distilleries; but as that was not the case, he thought they should not proceed to do what must injure the revenue, and the agriculture of the country.

The motion was then agreed to.