HC Deb 18 March 1818 vol 37 cc1179-80

The Report on the Customs Consolidation act being brought up,

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

stated, that it was intended in this bill to consolidate all the various duties imposed since 1809, which was the period when a consolidation last took place. The duties would remain nearly as they were, with a few exceptions. There were a few general principles to which, on this occasion, he wished to call the attention of the House. With respect to the Irish duties, which must soon undergo a revision, it was intended they should remain for the present unchanged. No alteration would take place in the duty on timber. With respect to ad valorem duties, at present a duty of 30 per cent was laid on unmanufactured goods, and a duty of 70 per cent on manufactured goods. The duty on the manufactured goods was to be reduced to 50per cent, and the duty on the unmanufactured goods was to be reduced from 30 to 20 per cent. It would perhaps be advisable, that the varied duties on sugar should be reduced to one fixed rate; but this would be a subject for future consideration. The duties on goods carried coastwise would continue in their present state, except the duties on stone and slates, which would be rendered more simple. The duties on tonnage would not be altered. The present duties on East India goods would be assimilated to the duties on light articles imported from other parts of the British dominions. The thrown silk would be imported from India in the same manner as from ports of Europe. He congratulated the House on the great growth of the trade to India since the free intercourse with that country. The private trade exceeded not only what the evidence at the bar gave reason to expect, but the most sanguine hopes of the adventurers. It would be proper to give every fair encouragement to this trade which might be consistent with justice to our own, manufacturers. It was proposed that raw silk, manufactured here into thrown silk, should, when exported, receive a drawback equal to the duty on raw silk imported. East India sugar would be subject to the same regulations as West India sugar, if the proposed fixed duty was established. In the linen trade there would be no alteration; nor would it be fair to make any, without allowing the Irish manufacturers to be heard on the subject.

Mr. Alderman Atkins

contended, that there was considerable impolicy in laying duties upon articles of commerce generally, without a due regard and reference to their quality; an average had, therefore, been hitherto wisely adopted. Nothing could be more prejudicial, for instance, than to rate the duty on sugar grown at 50s. as high as on that at 90s. The consequence would be that the growth of that at 50s. would be altogether discouraged. Much danger might result to our trade generally, from forcing the merchant, or shipper, to seek out other depots for their cargoes, as had occurred with respect to some vessels, which had lately been forced to turn about in the river, and seek some other depot. If the right hon. gentleman would apply himself to perfect the ports of this country, the inevitable result would be, that England would become the carrier of all the world.

Mr. Forbes

said, that the trade to our East India establishment was hourly increasing in importance, and ought to have a proportionate share of the attention of his majesty's ministers and of the legislature.

Mr. Bulterworth

admitted, that it was most desirable that England should become the carrier of the greater part of the world. There were some staple articles in which other countries had decided advantages over this country; for instance, it was not possible for this country to compete with France in the silk manufacture. He was of opinion, that the most sale way to effect the purpose of the right hon. gentleman would be, by allowing in all cases drawbacks on exportation equivalent to the duties paid on import.

The report was agreed to.