HC Deb 16 February 1821 vol 4 cc720-3
Mr. Curwen

presented a petition from Keswick in Westmoreland, praying the House to consider the propriety of repealing the act of last session, for continuing the Irish Union Duties. The hon. member contended that the abolition of these protecting duties, as they were called, would be equally advantageous to the English and to the Irish manufacturer.

Sir H. Parnell

supported the petition, which he conceived to involve a question of great importance. Numerous petitions were in progress, to the same effect, and he sincerely wished for some investigation into the subject. A greater mistake had never been committed than by the Irish parliament when they conceived that by these duties manufactures could be established in Ireland. Their effect was neither more nor less than to shut the Irish manufacturer out of the English market; and this was proved by the tact^ that Ireland had at the present moment no manufactures except where the market was free.

Mr. Hutchinson

opposed the prayer of the petition, the object of which, if he understood it aright, was, to make the chancellor of the exchequer revise the act of last session, by which the protecting duties had been continued for a spe- cified time. He deprecated that object as injurious to the interests of Ireland; and said, he could state, from his own knowledge, that if accomplished, it would throw a great number of persons out of bread.

Mr. Littleton

supported the petition, on the general principle, that there should be no tax on the interchange of the commodities of the two countries. He admitted that those concerned in manufactures which existed before the union had a right to expect that these duties, if not continued, should at least be gradually removed: but there was not the same reason for continuing duties on manufactures which did not exist at all in Ireland, such as pottery and hardware, which were almost exclusively the manufactures of Staffordshire.

Lord Althorp

was in favour of the prayer of the petition, because be conceived that no manufactory in Ireland would be injured by the removal of these protecting duties.

Sir J. Newport

was convinced that these duties operated as a heavy tax, and threw a great impediment in the way of British manufacture. With respect to pottery, that manufacture never did exist in Ireland, and never could, because coal could not be had but at a heavy price. His opinion was, that all articles which were duty free should be put on the same footing. Though no duties existed, yet the port charges were the same with respect to the manufactures of Ireland as they were with regard to foreign countries. This operated as an injury to both countries. He hoped the chancellor of the exchequer would take the matter under his consideration. These discouragements tended greatly to the injury of the tillage of Ireland, and broke through a principle which was held in that House; namely, that of binding the two countries together by mutual interest, and doing away all cause of irritation and unpleasant feeling. It was with this view that in 1806 he had brought in the Grain intercourse, bill and experience had proved that that was a beneficial measure.

Mr. Peel

earnestly hoped, that the chancellor of the exchequer would give his earliest consideration to this important subject. He was most anxious to see this kind of commercial distinction speedily abolished. These duties, instead of being a protection for a certain portion of the Irish trade, were merely a tax upon her commercial industry, and an evil which it never could have been the intention of the Union to have inflicted upon her. They went to compel the people of Ireland to deal with England at a much higher rate than they would do if no such protecting duties existed. There could be but a few individuals engaged in some particular trades who felt at all interested in the continuance of restrictions upon fair and equal intercourse, which were invidious and severe. He was satisfied that it would be for the interests both of Great Britain and Ireland that these heavy restrictions should be removed.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, it had been made a matter of complaint by hon. gentlemen, that the measure for continuing those protecting duties had been brought in at the close of the last session, and passed with so much rapidity as not to allow of the necessary attention being paid to the subject. So far from that being the case, it was well known that as far back as the session previous to that, petitions had been presented in great numbers, praying for the renewal of the duties, and a deputation had been sent from Ireland, with the express intention of endeavouring to procure that object. It had been continually represented to him, that there would be great inconvenience in allowing the Irish manufacturer to be taken by surprise. Under these circumstances, he had introduced a measure which would provide for a gradual extinction of the duties. Whether the period fixed was too long or too short, or whether all the details of the measure he had recommended were best adapted to the case or not, he could not determine. But he certainly doubted whether the sudden withdrawing of the protection duties would not be productive of greater evils than those now complained of. It was certainly his desire to conciliate the different interests, and to decide upon this question in the way that would best contribute to the prosperity of each.

Mr. M. Fitzgerald

said, that the temper in which this subject was-discussed was with him a subject of congratulation. These duties had been enacted at the Union for twenty years, with a view that at the end of that time they might be revised and possibly extinguished. He did not complain that the chancellor of the exchequer had acted unfairly in continuing them, but that he had acted with- out inquiry, and without laying any grounds for his measure. The great part of these duties were an injury to the English manufacturer who sold, and to the Irish consumer who bought them, without affording the least possible protection to the Irish manufacturer; for there were many duties on articles, no manufacture of which existed in Ireland. Some of these duties too were on articles of prime necessity. A general inquiry into the regulations respecting the intercourse between the two countries would be highly expedient. He had himself discovered that there was a regulation respecting the coasting trade in Ireland, by which duties were levied by port charges amounting to 20 per cent on the freight.

Ordered to lie on the table.