§ On the motion that this Bill be read a third time;
said, he wished to propose a clause by way of ride, which would go to state the Price at which corn should be when allowed to be exported. On this occasion, he would merely ask the hon. baronet opposite, whether this were a fit time to force so important a measure on the consideration of the House, when his right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was too indisposed to attend?
§ Sir H. Parnell
interrupted the right hon. gentleman to say, that he certainly should force on the question; conceiving that the presence or the absence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have no particular influence on the Bill in its present stage.
declared, he would make his solemn protest against it, as one of the most mischievous measures that had ever been brought before that House. We were now about to allow the export of corn, at all times, and under all circumstances; and he was sure that neither the hon. baronet, nor hardly a member of that House, was aware of what they were going to do. He would risk his life, that if the Bill had been postponed, and a committee appointed, such proofs would have been adduced, as would have made them pause instead of hurrying so vital a measure. Were gentlemen aware that on some occasions foreign corn had been imported, and afterwards exported at 15s. a quarter higher than its importation price; and were they aware to what this might lead? He would incur the imputation of faction, or any other imputation, rather than see a measure of this injurious tendency thus precipitately carried. What he would ask, would be the feelings of the country, on seeing quantities of corn going out of the island in times of scarcity, and going, too, at high prices? The right hon. gentleman then read a paper which he had sent to the Custom-house; we believe in 1805, in proof that it was necessary to stop the export of corn at that period. He then resumed his objections to the Bill, and contended that we were going to do away a system that had existed for 400 years. Precautions had always been deemed necessary to prevent quantities of corn from going out of the country; and now we were breaking into the system at once, at the moment when the king has 1011 the power to stop the exportation; and this innovation we were making on such evidence as no parliament had ever yet acted upon since the beginning of time. The right hon. gentleman, after many similar observations, concluded with saying, that his rider was intended to give the king a power, with the advice of his privy council, to stop the exportation whenever the exigencies of the country might require it. He was satisfied with having done his duty in opposing the Bill; and if it were suffered to pass, all he hoped was, that it might not be productive of serious injury to the country.
§ Sir John Newport
observed, that the same objections had been made, and the same precaution proposed, when the Corn Exportation Bill had been introduced in Ireland. But he had then suggested (what he thought would apply equally in the present instance), that the best course would be for the executive government to interfere to stop the exportation of corn, in any case of extreme necessity, and afterwards to come to parliament for indemnity. Before this method was adopted, and while it was left at the discretion of the privy council to suspend the operation of the law, a prohibition was issued every two or three years. As to what the last speaker had said of the purity of his motives in the side of the question which he espoused, he thought it was, to say the least, invidious. The motives of every gentleman were to be supposed to be public, and their views equally directed to the general good.
§ Mr. Davies Giddy
was for restricting the exportation of corn within certain limits. In a time of impending famine, he thought it ought not to be allowed; and if the right hon. gentleman had proposed to fix a price above which it ought not to be exported, his amendment would have had his support.
§ General Porter
spoke in favour of a further protraction of the measure; as many members had then left the House, under an understanding that the Bill would not be discussed that evening. He should therefore propose as an amendment, that the third reading of the Bill be postponed ill Thursday next.
expressed his readiness, between that day and Wednesday or Thursday, to consider a proper price at which exportation should cease. It would, he conceived, be a most lamentable thing, if a system which had been acted on for 400 years were put an end to without inquiry 1012 —without, be would say, many gentlemen in that House, who supported the measure, being exactly aware of what they were doing.
§ Sir H. Parnell
was surprised that the right hon. gentleman had not stated his intention of moving this clause at an earlier stage of the Bill. It was most extraordinary, that he had permitted it to go through the committee, without making known his intention; and now, on the third reading, he came forward with his opposition. As to the observation of the hon. general who had moved the amendment, it did not apply to the Bill then before the House, which had been frequently discussed—but to the Bill for regulating the importation of grain, which had gone through a committee, pro forma, and would be debated in another stage.
said, that, on two different occasions, he had expressed his intention of proposing the clause alluded to; but his right hon. friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had advised him to defer it. He had done so, under the impression that his right hon. friend was favourable to the clause; but it appeared he had changed his mind, and was hostile to it.
§ Mr. Lushington
said, that, on the general question, much misapprehension had taken place. He was sure that it was the great wish of those who supported the measure, to have an abundance of grain in the country, at the cheapest possible price. Now, unless agriculture were protected, this could not permanently be the situation of our markets. If they were perfectly sure that the country would always enjoy peace, then he would leave grain open, like any other article. But what would be the consequence if the state of agriculture were disturbed by admitting grain into our markets at 60s. or perhaps 55s. which would occasion great quantities of arable land to be converted into pasture—what, he would ask, would be the effect, if, in this state of things war broke out? We should be deprived of every resource. Under this impression, he conceived due encouragement should be given to the farmer. That encouragement, in his opinion, was amply provided for in the schedule of the hon. gentleman below him. (Mr. Huskisson), and he should be happy to see it adopted.
disapproved of a proposition which gave to the executive the 1013 power of preventing importation when they thought proper. In his opinion, the executive ought to be left to act upon their own responsibility whenever the occasion called for their intervention. They could afterwards apply to parliament for an indemnity.
§ Mr. Brand
said, if the right hon. gentleman would propose a positive sum, at which exportation should cease, instead of giving a discretionary power to the executive to interfere when they thought proper, he would vote for it. If the right hon. gentleman were not prepared with such a clause at that moment, he should be sorry that those who supported the Bill should not agree to a postponement of the motion, till he had considered the subject. It would be most satisfactory to the country to see that they were thus proceeding with all the gravity and deliberation that should characterise a British senate.
was perfectly satisfied with the Bill as it stood. If, however, it were determined to introduce a clause, prohibiting the exportation of grain when it arrived at a certain price, the only proper way in which that purpose could be effected was, to withdraw the existing Bill altogether, and to introduce a new one. When it arrived in the committee, this new question, as to the price at which exportation should cease, could be properly debated. With respect to the specific proposition of the right hon. gentleman, he would oppose it in every stage. It was much better to leave it to the responsibility of the executive to act, than, by such a provision, to call on them imperatively to interfere.
§ The Speaker
wished to remind the House, that the question before them was, merely, whether the Bill should be then read the third time?
was aware of this.—He had no objection to the third reading—but he thought it right to state his opinion, lest, after what had passed, he might be supposed to be favourable to the clause.
§ The House divided—For the third reading 107; Against 27;—Majority 80. The Bill was then read a third time. During our absence from the gallery, Mr. Rose proposed his clause, as a rider to the Bill.
said, that the right hon. gentleman had all along stated himself to be an enemy to the free export of corn; and, however he might attempt to dis- 1014 guise his intention, it appeared evident that the object of his clause was to curb and fetter a free exportation. The clause was not introduced to prevent scarcity—but, as he had failed in shaking the principle of the Bill, he hoped he should be able, by the introduction of this provision, to destroy its effect. The right hon. gentleman said, if they went into a committee, they would, perhaps, change their opinions, from the information that would be placed before them; but on this subject the House had already decided. An hon. gentleman (Mr. Bankes) had already moved for a committee; and the majority against the proposition was so great, that the right hon. gentleman must entertain very slender hopes of succeeding in carrying such a motion. He objected to the clause, first, because it would clog and retard the free exportation for which the Bill provides; and next, because it exposed those who exercised the powers of the government to perpetual solicitations from private individuals in the corn trade. They all knew how easy it was for great capitalists to unite on a subject like this, and to perplex, and even intimidate, a weak administration. If a particular price were fixed at which exportation should cease, he thought it would be even more mischievous than the proposition then submitted to them; for no man could say, under the various circumstances in which, the country might be placed, at what price the export of corn ought to terminate. The only remedy for the evil which the right hon. gentleman seemed desirous to cure was, the wisdom and firmness of government. The ministers of the crown should act, when it was necessary, on their own responsibility, and then call upon parliament to indemnify them. When placed in that situation, they would be freed from that importunity, to which, if the right hon. gentleman's clause were agreed to they would be exposed; and, knowing that they were responsible for their conduct, there was the less apprehension that they would use their power improperly.
§ Alderman Atkins
would not agree to a free export, with a prohibited import; of grain. Gentlemen might tell him that the latter measure was not before the House; but he contended that it was not possible to divide them. The fact was, that the two Bills ought to go hand in hand together. With respect to the clause then before the House, he was, friendly to it. 1015 It was not when an article had arrived at such a price that could not be profitably exported, that they wanted the intervention of government. No; the wisdom, the foresight, the judgment of the executive ought to be actively employed, before that period arrived.
§ Sir H. Parnell
said, the arguments of those who opposed the Bill went to prove, that this country could not compete with the foreign markets in the article of grain. If this were the case, no mischief could ensue from it, as none would be exported. But, looking to Ireland, it was of very great importance; since, from that country, he had no doubt, very large exports would be made, to the infinite benefit of her agriculture.
§ Sir C. Monck
thought the belt security against excess of exportation, would be found in the comparative lowness of price in the foreign market.
observed, that at Amsterdam wheat was 10s. a quarter dearer than in our own market; and that if they would grant him a committee, he would produce a hundred similar instances.
§ Sir C. Monck
replied, that, admitting the statement of the right hon. gentleman to be correct, it did not invalidate his argument. It would cost 10 or 15s. per quarter freightage, which, with some port duties and insurance, would still render British corn dearer than foreign in the foreign market.
§ Mr. Lushington
stated, that in France wheat was sold for 38s.; the quarter; and at Riga, Courland wheat at 47s.
observed, that though he considered the clause perfectly unnecessary, because it professed to bestow a power which already existed, yet, if the adopting it without any amendment would be any consolation to the right hon. gentleman, or any relief to the alarm that had been excited out of doors, he should have no objection to its incorporation with the Bill.
§ Mr. J. P. Grant
said, that one powerful reason with him for not agreeing with the clause, was precisely that which induced the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Canning) to support it, because it was perfectly unnecessary. He had another objection also. The clause would not only produce no good effect, but it would produce a very bad effect. It would create fears in the agriculturist, while the object of this measure was to give him confidence; and it would, so far, do away the beneficial tendency of 1016 it altogether. It was bounden duty of the executive government, and it was always in its power, to stop the exportation of corn when occasion should call for it, and look with perfect confidence to that House for indemnity. The fears entertained could be only the result of ignorance, and he hoped they had been excited too by ignorance; but he was sure they had been provoked by very improper means.
Mr. Western and Mr. D. Giddy opposed the clause.
§ The gallery was then cleared, but no division took place; the clause was rejected and the Bill was passed.
|List of the Minority on the third reading.|
|Allan, A.||Northey, W.|
|Babington, T.||Porter, gen. G.|
|Calvert, C.||Protheroe, E.|
|Davis, R. H.||Rancliffe, lord|
|Dowdeswell, J. E.||Rose, G.|
|Foulkes, E.||Scott, Sam.|
|Harvey, C.||Shaw, sir James|
|Langton, w. G.||Stephen, J.|
|Leader, W.||Ward, —|
|Lefevre, C. S.||White, M.|
|Lockhart, W. E.||Wilberforce, W.|
|Maitland, E. F.||Wilkins, W.|
|Mellish, W.||Atkins, J|
|Moore, P.||Combe, H. C.|