HC Deb 16 May 1814 vol 27 cc891-5
The Chancellor of the Exchequer

presented a Bill to permit the exportation of corn, grain, meal, malt, and flour, from any part of the United Kingdom, without payment of duty or receiving of bounty; and moved, that it be read a first time.

Mr. Western

asked whether this measure was merely founded on a division of the Report of the Committee into separate measures?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, it was a Bill framed in pursuance of the first Resolution; the further consideration of the other Resolutions having been postponed.

Mr. Rose

said, he was so satisfied of the monstrous mischief with which this Bill was likely to be attended, that if he stood alone he should divide the House upon it.

Mr. Coke

of Norfolk said, he considered the speech delivered by the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Rose) on a former night—a pamphlet, purporting to be a copy of which, he held in his hand—as rather malicious, if not seditious. (A laugh.) He sincerely lamented that the right hon. gentleman had lent himself to the dissemination of such principles as that speech contained. Among other assertions included in it, was one, that Mr. Pitt in 1804 had been most reluctantly induced to give his assent to the Corn Bill which was then passed. Although he (Mr. Coke) had invariably been the opponent of that great statesman, he felt it his duty to state, that this assertion was not correct, and the right hon. gentleman must have been aware of that fact.—(Cries of Order! Order!) If the right hon. gentleman was not aware that that which he stated was inconsistent with Mr. Pitt's sentiments, he ought to have been aware of it, from the nature of his situation. For his own part, he thought the best mode of encouraging the growth of corn, and a consequent reduction of its price, would be, to promote the agriculture of this country; and this, he was persuaded, could only be done by granting to the farmer long leases; as encouragement would then be given to enrich the land, whereby double the quantity of corn which was how produced would be grown. It was to be regretted, that a greater degree of confidence did not subsist between the land-owner and the farmer, than was at present observable as he was convinced that such a confidence would not alone tend to their mutual interests, but to the interests of the states at large. He could not help again repeating, that he considered the speech of the right hon. gentleman as holding out ideas to the public inconsistent with truth, and at variance with the true principles or sound national policy.

Mr. Rose

was as little inclined, as the hon. gentleman himself to make assertions inconsistent with truth, and he would now throw that observation in his teeth. With respect to what he had stated of the opinion of Mr. Pitt respecting the measure of 1804, he repeated, that his statement was correct; and upon a comparison of his political life with that of the hon. gentleman, he had no hesitation, in saying, that he should be found as little capable of a mis-statement as that hon. gentleman, or any other member in that House. As to the imputation of a factious or seditious feeling, he denied that any such conclusion could be drawn from any thing which he had said. He had opposed the progress of the measure then before, the House, because he conceived it was improper, and because it was adopted without due consideration, The only authority which the House had to guide them was the Report of the committee of the last year; and this he was prepared to contend was no authority at all. Only three Irish gentlemen had been examined before the committee, who knew nothing of the agriculture of Great Britain; and he did not think that such data were sufficient to warrant the fundamental alterations which were proposed in the corn laws of the country. He had no wish to adopt any measure by which the interest of the grower would not be completely protected; but he thought the importer was equally deserving of consideration; and with that feeling it was he should give every opposition in his power to the Bill which had just been introduced.

Mr. Western

was surprised at the doctrines laid down in the pamphlet or speech of the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Rose), which he held in his hand. It had been said that it was seditious; but for his own part he did hot think it was so creditable as fair, honest, and open sedition. In fact, there was nothing open and candid in it; and what he complained of was, that the right hon. gentleman had drawn unfair deductions from existing facts, and had, by an artful but unjust mode of reasoning, endeavoured to excite a popular feeling of dissatisfaction to a measure in which the true interests of the country were involved. With respect to the opinion attributed by the right hon. gentleman to Mr. Pitt, he could not help thinking, as far as his memory would serve him, that he had not fairly quoted that great statesman's sentiments on the subject; as, so far from opposing the measure of 1804, he considered that he had been its warmest friend.

Mr. Davies Giddy

wished to submit a few observations to the House upon this important topic. It was a maxim which he believed no man would attempt to confute, that the true policy of a country was to devote its capital in that way in which the greatest return was likely to be produced, and with the surplus of that return to obtain from other countries commodities which, by the same rule, they might have, to dispose of. It appeared to him, from a view of the state of this country at present, that the promotion of agricultural pursuits was of considerable moment; and perhaps there was no object more desirable, than that of rendering Great Britain independent of foreign produce in that most essential article of consumption, corn. It might be said, that other countries were better calculated, from the thinness of their population, to grow corn, and to compete with us in the sale of that commodity. This was true; and when it was known that those countries had no tithes to pay, or heavy taxes to meet, it was natural that they should possess those advantages. It did not follow, however, because they could sell cheaper, that we should abandon our own agricultural interests; on the contrary, it behoved us to take steps to, preserve those interests: and when we considered the advantages which we enjoyed over other countries in a political point of view, he apprehended little hesitation would be felt in contributing by a small additional expence to preserve those advantages from infringement. This feeling it was which induced him to think that the prohibitory duty which had, been proposed was not sufficient to protect our agricultural pursuits from that shock which an indiscriminate permission to import grain would produce; and upon that part of the subject he could not help hoping that some amendment would be offered to the House. He did not think the measure would have the effect of ultimately reducing the price of corn; but one benefit would be derived from it; namely, it would keep the price more even and stationary than it used formerly to be; and, by that means, prevent those scarcities which sometimes bore hard on the working classes of society—while it would, on the other side, operate against a return of that extreme cheapness, the effect of which must be to put an end to agricultural enterprise.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

wished to remind the House, that the Bill then before them did not at all relate to the prices of grain. The Bill turned on a clear and plain principle, though much difference of opinion existed on it. To that principle (merely the propriety or impropriety of a free export), gentlemen ought to confine themselves.

Sir M. W. Ridley

said, he did not intend to offer any observations on the measure before the House; nor would he have at all solicited their attention, if it had not been for some observations made on a former evening by the hon. gentleman below him (Mr. W. Smith), relative to a petition which he had presented from certain inhabitants of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. When that petition was originally brought to him, he objected to the words which the hon. member had read to the House; but, from the explanation he had received, and from the respectability of the persons connected with the petition, he was convinced that no improper allusion was meant; and, therefore, he considered, it a duly which he owed his constituents, to lay it before parliament. As it was ever his opinion, that nothing should be alleged, in any petition, against the motives by which the members of that House were influenced, he had written to the committee by whom the petition was drawn up, for an explanation on the subject—and, in answer, he had received a complete denial of any such intention. This, he hoped, would be sufficient to exculpate his clients from the accusation of wilfully intending to impute false motives to those gentlemen who supported the alteration in the corn laws; for which, he readily admitted, there was some ground at first.

Mr. Ellison

hoped that from henceforth the House would enter into the discussion of this subject with calmness and deliberation; giving each other credit for those motives alone which ought to influence members of parliament.

The Bill was then read the first, and ordered to be read the second time on the 18th, and to be printed.

Forward to