HC Deb 04 March 1824 vol 10 cc719-21
Mr. Ellice

presented a petition from the silk weavers of Coventry: against the importation of Foreign Silks. The hon. gentleman stated, that the petitioners alleged, that so long as the prohibition on the importation of foreign corn, and the consequent increase of the price of provisions continued, with the great pressure of taxation, it was out of the question to expect that the English manufacturers of silk could run the race of competition with the French artisans. The principal outlay in the manufacture of this article was, to a great extent in meeting the price of labour; now, that price was double as much in this country as it was in France. Such a difference prevented the chance of a successful competition. And it was an extraordinary fact, that at the very moment the master manufacturers of Coventry were assembled to consider of the propositions of the chancellor of the Exchequer, a representation was actually made to them by the magistrates of that city, that it was impossible for the labourers employed by them to go on, without an increase of wages, under the advancing price of provisions. At all events, he besought the chancellor of the Exchequer not to permit any great interval of time to elapse before he put these manufacturers in possession of his determination. Under existing circumstances, and the consequent state of uncertainty, the whole trade was suspended. It was impossible that such a state of things could long go on without disagreeable results.

Mr. Robertson

contended, that the petitioners did not view the proposition of the chancellor of the Exchequer in the true light. The object was, not to increase the domestic consumption of the articles manufactured of silk, but to extend the foreign commerce of the country, by enabling foreigners to have that assortment in this country which allowed them to complete their investments. The question for removing the prohibition on the exportation of long wool was a more delicate one, the article being the exclusive growth of this country; but still he thought viewing the other great interests of the state, that, by the reduction of the tax, more general benefit would arise than partial evil to any particular class.

Mr. P. Moore

rose for the purpose of giving his decided support to the petition. The House would recollect, that the city of Coventry contained a population of nearly 50,000 persons, the greater proportion of whom depended for actual subsistence on the prosperity of the ribbon trade. When that trade flourished, the whole of Coventry smiled; when it drooped its whole population were reduced to a distress, so general, as to throw upwards of ten thousand persons upon the poor's rate. He had, therefore, to express his most anxious hopes, that the chancellor of the Exchequer would take the case of such a body of industrious persons into his consideration, and not persevere in a measure that must destroy their trade and subsistence.

Ordered to lie on the table.