HC Deb 13 May 1814 vol 27 cc875-9

The House, on the motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, resumed the further consideration of the report respecting the Corn Laws.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

was of opinion, that some of the Resolutions would require further deliberation; and he should wish the subject, so far as related to them, postponed; but so convinced was he of the propriety of the first Resolution, for allowing unrestrained export, that he should be unwilling, to postpone it for a single day. He did not believe there ever was a country in which agriculture flourished without export. It was not probable, that any inconvenience could be ever incurred from allowing a free export; as the great probability was, that the seller would find a higher price in this country than in any other. Other countries differed very materially from this with respect to the consumption of corn. In other countries, when corn was high, there was a much less consumption; but here the price of labour rose generally in proportion to the price of bread; and the poor laws also enabled the poor to consume the same quantity, whatever the price was; as, if they were unable to purchase, the parish was obliged to provide for them. Agriculture, he contended, ought to be encouraged; and the unrestrained privilege of export was one of the most likely means for this purpose. The other Resolutions, which were more doubtful, and required more mature consideration, he would defer till a future day.

Mr. Foster

expressed his satisfaction at the right hon. gentleman's approbation of the first part of the measure. To the second Resolution he would himself object, as not being sufficiently simple. The Irish he considered as superior to the English system; and therefore Ireland had become a corn country, and was an exporting, when England was an importing country.

Sir H. Parnell

was also glad of the support of the right hon. gentleman; and hoped that another right hon. gentleman (Mr. Rose) would now see that the measure was neither rash nor unfounded. The export was certainly the more important branch of the measure, as we might by that, instead of an importing, become an exporting country. He had no objection to postpone the other Resolutions, provided the first was adopted. Sir Henry thanked the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for corroborating the measure by his authority. He hoped it would be allowed, that the Resolution had not been proposed on his (sir H. Parnell's) sole authority. If the time was proper, he believed that he had very lately learned some new facts, which would enable him to maintain the accuracy of the report of last year, to the satisfaction of the House.

Mr. Rose

was perfectly prepared to meet the hon. baronet on the subject of the Report. It was not his intention to object to the Resolution; but he would state, that his opinion was unchanged as to the mischief to which it would lead, if passed in a law. He would not press his individual opinion against the opinion of the House; but when the Bill was brought in he should have an opportunity, on the second reading of it, to take the sense of the House on the measure.

Sir John Newport

supported the measure. It was foretold in 1806, when the door was thrown open for export in Ireland, that it would be against that country. On the contrary, however, the agriculture of Ireland had increased every day since; and what had been found beneficial in one part of the United Kingdom could not be prejudicial to the other.

Mr. Western

was of opinion, that the country should adhere to that system which had been so long followed with advantage. It was a question of the greatest importance, and required the maturest deliberation.

Mr. J. P. Grant

agreed to the Resolution, as far as it went; but thought it did not go far enough. His opinion went the length of establishing that system which, by the experience of two half centuries, had made the country an exporting one; and the benefits of which were opposed to the experience of the last half century; by which it appeared, that the contrary system had made this country an importing one in the corn trade. He would not now take the sense of the House on the propriety of extending the measure, but he implored the House to turn its attention to the principle of the Resolution.

Mr. Marryatt

was in favour of allowing the exportation of corn.

Mr. Horner

thought, that when the House came to consider the other Resolutions, it would see the propriety of pausing, at least for some time, before it went to a decision on so very important a measure. He wished that, once for all, the House would now decide on the interest by which those were actuated who opposed the Resolutions. The real interests of the consumer and of the landlord were one and the same. But what did the committee profess to do? Why, to raise the price to the consumer.—(A Member called out No! no!)—He would ask, whether the hon. member for the Queen's county (sir H. Parnell) had not acknowledged this on a former occasion; and if the hon. member who favoured him with the interruption took pains to enquire, he would find it was so. The necessary effect of the measure was, permanently to increase the price of corn. He approved of some parts of the view which his right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken of the question.

Mr. W. Smith

agreed with his hon. friend (Mr. Horner), that the interests of the landlord and consumer were the same; and he hoped that no imputations of interests views would be cast on any members, as many ill-disposed persons without doors were inclined to be sufficiently liberal in such calumnies. There was a paper which had been circulated at Norwich, containing a most violent petition to parliament, which had been agreed on at New Castle upon-Tyne, and which had been presented to the House of Lords by earl Grey, and to the House of Commons by the member for Newcastle. The Petition characterized the Report of the committee as a proposition which had for its object the raising the import price of corn, and compromising the commercial interests of the country for the temporary interests of the landlords; and as "an unhallowed attempt to bring ruin and devastation on the country, to annihilate the manufactures, and force our artizans to emigrate to countries where the means of subsistence were more easily obtained." From this paper, which would be circulated throughout the country, the House would see the necessity of abstaining from all inflammatory language. The consideration of the subject should be postponed, he thought, to a time when the politics of the country, internal and external, were more settled, especially until the time when the gold circulation was restored.

Mr. Ellison

said, that, though the House ought never to encourage such sentiments as those contained in the petition alluded to by the hon. member for Norwich, yet, when their constituents called upon them to present petitions, it was their duty to do so. But, while they gave those petitions full weight and consideration, they ought not to permit them to bias their independent judgment. If once they allowed them to have such an effect, there was an end to calm and deliberate investigation.

Mr. Harvey

observed, that he perfectly agreed in every syllable that had fallen from his hon. Colleague (Mr. W. Smith), with respect to the tendency of the paper which he had read; but he felt it his duty to exculpate the respectable inhabitants of Norwich from participating in the sentiments expressed in that production.

Mr. W. Smith

, in explanation, said he was far from meaning to insinuate, that the paper in question was approved of by the people of Norwich; he was well acquainted with their feelings, and he knew they were opposed to such illiberal sentiments. That paper he considered as the production of some malignant spirits, who wished to raise a clamour against the proposed measure.

Mr. Lascelles

recommended the greatest caution and deliberation in legislating upon this important subject. It was but last year that it was asked, could any person expect to live to see corn so low as 10s. 6d. a bushel. Gentlemen had only to look to the present price, and the change that took place would sufficiently prove the necessity of proceeding with all possible care. There was one error in respect to the fluctuation of price, which he was desirous of removing. Supposing corn to sell at twelve shillings at one time, and at eight shillings subsequently, the difference of price in that case was supposed to be the difference between eight and twelve. But this was not correct, because the excess in point of quantity sold at the lower price was to be taken into consideration, and subtracted from the excess of the one price above the other. He was hostile to the principle of legislating on prices, and wished them to be left to rise or fall by their own operation.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

observed, that when reference was made to former times, it was to times when the population was not half what it now is. Now, the question was involved in the complication of our intercourse and interests with all the world. The first Resolution was distinctly by itself: the others would require much consideration; and the principles of them should be made known throughout the country, and examined well before they came to legislation.

The first Resolution was agreed to, and a Bill ordered to be brought in. The farther consideration of the Report was postponed till Monday next.