HC Deb 10 June 1822 vol 7 cc874-7
The Marquis of Londonderry,

upon the report being brought up said, that as there was so strong an opinion against the clause for grinding foreign wheat, introduced by his right hon. friend (Mr. Canning), he should feel it his duty to oppose that clause, and proceed in the bill without it. It would be in the power of his right hon. friend to bring that clause afterwards before the House in the shape of a separate bill.

Mr. Canning

could not accept, at that period of the session, the compromise offered by his noble friend. He should, therefore, take the sense of the House on the clause. All parties were friendly to its principle, but some were apprehensive of abuse in the operation. His constituents were ready to acquiesce in any security or restrictions the Treasury might think proper to impose.

Sir J. Sebright

considered the clause fatal to the agricultural interest.

On the question being put, for agreeing to the clause, "That wheat may be taken out of warehouse and exported when ground into flour,"

Mr. Curwen

said, that the clause could not promote the interest of the agriculturists, and might very seriously injure them, as it afforded no security against an unlimited quantity of corn finding its way into the home market.

Mr. Bright

supported the clause, the provision of which he thought due in equity to the commercial interest. Had a similar advantage been proposed in 1815, the period of the last corn-bill, it would not, according to the then mode of taking averages, have been refused. The landed interest were under a most ill-founded alarm, when they apprehended that the existing Custom-house regulations could not suffice to prevent the illicit importation of foreign flour.

General Gascoyne

said, that when the corn was warehoused it was entered for exportation; and it could make no difference in what form it went out. The petitioners did not ask for liberality, but equity and justice.

Sir J. Sebright

said, the millers had assured him, that if the corn came into their mills, they would defy the Excise to prevent them from taking it out again as they thought fit.

Sir T. Lethbridge

said, that the bill would be an inducement to the merchant to deal with the foreign grower instead of the British farmer. He looked on the bill as one of horror and abhorrence, and an insult to the landed interest.

Mr. F. Lewis

contended, that the clause would be essentially serviceable to the landed interest.

Mr. Denis Browne

said that the clause would have the effect of encouraging the speculator in foreign corn, and of depreciating the price of our home produce.

Mr. D. Gilbert

said, that if the clause were adopted, it would be impossible to prevent foreign flour from being smuggled into home consumption.

Mr. Ricardo

said, that unless the agriculturists could show that injury would arise to them from the adoption of the clause, parliament should not hesitate to give to the foreign importer the proposed relief.

Mr. Benett

was indifferent as to the fate of the clause; for if it were agreed to, it would probably endanger the whole measure, which was one of the most ruinous that had ever been devised.

Mr. T. Wilson

thought there was something more in this clause than met the eye.

Mr. Canning

said, he would not have brought this clause forward if he thought it would prejudice the agriculturist. He had introduced it with the same view which the country gentlemen had in supporting the general principles of the bill. They conceived the bill necessary to prevent a greater accumulation of agricultural distress. He conceived that his clause went to remove an evil which parliament were called upon to remedy. Still, however, much as he thought the clause necessary, he would not press it if he believed it could defeat the main objects of the bill; and whether it was agreed to or not, he should still vote for the bill. But he begged of the House to consider the situation in which the importers of foreign corn were placed. The House had already granted them a boon by which they would be enabled to send their corn from the warehouses at 10s. less than the price at which other foreign corn could be imported. This, which might be in some degree detrimental to the interests of the home grower, fully established the case of the foreign importer. How, then, under such circumstances, could that be withheld from them which would not be detrimental to the British agriculturists? It would be more fair to prohibit the importation of foreign corn altogether, than to deprive the importer of his advantage, whenever God's providence should render the corn so imported unnecessary to our national wants. If this principle was that upon which the country gentlemen meant to act, let them avow it plainly; but if they did not mean to go thus far, then he would maintain, that it would be unwise, unjust, and unfair, to turn that importation, which was at first calculated for the national advantage, to the ruin of the importers.

The Marquis of Londonderry

agreed that the importers of foreign corn were entitled to some boon, but thought that by this bill they obtained no inconsiderable advantage—that of being enabled to bring their corn into the home market 10s. under the price at which it could be now imported. In opposing the clause, it was a consolation, that its rejection would not be attended with the ruin of those parties to whom his right hon. friend had alluded; because, if they wished to send out the corn ground into flour to the West Indies, they had only to cross the channel, and with a very little additional expense they could have it there ground and sent forward. At the first mention of this clause, he was disposed to support it; but when he found that it excited so great an anxiety in the minds of the agricultural class, and that its adoption would hazard the whole measure, he felt himself bound to oppose it. The general measure he looked upon as a boon, not so much for the immediate relief of the agriculturists, as for their future protection.

The House divided: For the clause, 21; Against it, 116.

List of the Minority.
Bennet, hon. G. Irving, J.
Barrett, S. B. M. Lewis, T. F.
Blair, W. Monck, J. B.
Courtenay, J. H. Money, W. T.
Canning, right hon. G. Martin J.
Cust, hon. W. Ricardo, D.
Douglas, hon. K. Stuart, sir J.
Ellis, C. R. Thomson, ald.
Forbes, C. Whitmore, W. W.
Gladstone, J. TELLERS.
Hobhouse, J. C. Bright, H.
Hume, J. Gascoyne, gen.