HC Deb 12 July 1820 vol 2 cc417-9

The House went into a committee on this bill.

Mr. M. Fitzgerald

complained of the regulation respecting the importation of Irish spirits as being most injurious to the Irish distillers, and a palpable infraction of the Articles of Union.

Mr. D. Brown

agreed with his right hon. friend, that the act of Union was in this instance violated. He complained of the conduct of the chancellor of the exchequer as amounting to a breach of national faith: the clause which he had first introduced carried the appearance of benefit to Ireland, but the hope that had been raised for a moment was about to be extinguished.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

maintained, that in the whole of this question he had acted for the public at large, and without regard to any particular interests. He held it to be material to prevent, as far as possible, the consumption of spirits of an extraordinary strength, and such was his object in this bill. In Ire- land, from long habit, strong spirits might be more agreeable to the palate than healthful to the constitution or improving to the intellect; but happily in England that habit had not yet been acquired. The practice in England always had been that spirits should pass through the stills of rectifiers, and he wished it to be applied, to the Irish spirits imported. In the clause he should propose the importer would be allowed to reduce the strength himself, in the presence of an excise officer.

Sir J. Newport,

after stating the claims of the Irish distillers, maintained that the law, as it existed in 1817, ought to be preserved, and as Ireland must submit to the disadvantages arising out of the act of union, she was entitled to its benefits also. He expressed a full conviction that justice would be done to Ireland, though the members of that country did not exceed one hundred.

Mr. C. Hutchinson

concurred with his right hon. friend in thinking that justice would be done to Ireland, but was of opinion that the chancellor of the exchequer did not understand the question. Ireland had, according to the act of Union, a right to import the spirit without any alteration or reduction into the English market, and therefore he could not see the necessity for any investigation by a committee.

Lord Castlereagh

concurred with the opinion expressed by the hon. gentleman. There ought to be but one feeling, to do what was right and just, and he hoped his countrymen would never form themselves into a body, in opposition to the interests of Great Britain. No arrangement could be expected to be permanent which was contrary to the rights of either party. It appeared to him that his right hon. friend's clause was either nugatory, or worse than nugatory; and he submitted to him, that it would be more advantageous to confine-the measure at present to what the law confessedly was, and to let that law take its course till their meeting after the adjournment.

Mr. Shaw

spoke against the clause, and insisted on the right of Ireland to the benefit of the clause adopted in 1817.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

consented that the bill should pass without this proviso.

Mr. W. Smith

thought that the letter of the act of Union might operate against its spirit in this instance, and quoted the authority of Mr. Pitt in support of the con- struction given by the chancellor of the exchequer. He conceived that too unqualified a concession had been made to the Irish interest, to the injury of the English distiller.

Mr. Huskisson

contended, that the footing on which the matter would now rest was very fair, viz.—that the act of 1817 should expire, and that no further regulation should be made till the meaning of the act of Union had been decided on by a judicial sentence.

Mr. M. Fitzgerald

said, the discussion on this question had not originated with the people of Ireland, who had only come, after a long period, to claim a remedy against an infraction of the act of Union. If a measure equivalent to this clause, violating in spirit, though not in letter, the article of Union to which he alluded, should be brought forward at any future time, he should feel himself perfectly at liberty to protest against it. He hoped the explanation of the noble lord was distinctly understood; and that the chancellor of the Exchequer would not introduce any measure to contravene the concession that had been made.

Mr. V. Fitzgerald

expressed himself perfectly satisfied with the fair and candid statement of the chancellor of the Exchequer.

The clause was negatived, and the House resumed.