HC Deb 18 March 1825 vol 12 cc1078-81

On the resolution, "That 19,938l be granted to defray the expense of the Linen Board of Ireland for the year 1825,"

Mr. Hume

protested against the continuance of this grant. If there had not been the clumsiest mismanagement of the affairs of the linen trade in Ireland, machinery such as this board would never have been continued in the present advanced and enlightened age of science. He called upon ministers, who were abolishing shackles upon the freedom of trade, to do away with this. Why should the linen be more protected than the woollen, the cutlery, or any other trade in Ireland. These establishments might have been necessary in the infancy of the trade, but were not necessary now. Upon general principles, therefore, he objected to this board.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that if the question were now raised for the first time, whether or not, under the present circumstances of the linen trade of Ireland, a board ought to be appointed, he should be slow in voting for it. But, there was a great difference between originating a public body of this nature, and not continuing one which had been a considerable time in existence, and which had worked the greatest benefits for that most important trade in Ireland. It had been the object with the Irish government to foster the linen trade, and their labours had been greatly assisted by the linen board. Many frauds in the trade were prevented by it. It was, in fact, essential to the prosperity of Ireland.

Mr. T. Wilson

did not entirely agree in what had been said of the necessity of this board by the Irish Secretary, but still it was difficult to interfere with a body from whose labours considerable benefit was said to have accrued to Ireland. As a general principle, he was decidedly opposed to all shackles upon trade; and he thought that ministers were bound, by their own professions, to be of the same opinion. It was, however, important to consider, whether this general rule ought to be applied in every particular case.

Mr. Trant

denounced the linen board as utterly incompetent to the task which it had undertaken. He had himself conversed with some of what were called Inspectors, who knew nothing whatever of linen. He agreed with those who were for removing all restrictions upon trade. At the same time he admitted, that it might not be safe, suddenly to withdraw the apparatus by which the linen trade had been hitherto carried on.

Sir G. Hill

defended the linen board, on account of its utility to the staple trade of Ireland.

Lord Althorp

was hostile to the vote, upon general principles.

Mr. Hume moved, that the grant be reduced to 9,938l.

Colonel Bagwell

bore testimony to the services of the board, in promoting the linen trade in the south of Ireland. It was but latterly that this manufacture had been there introduced; but since its introduction, it had given employment to a great number of poor persons, who would otherwise be reduced to a state of destitution

Mr. Peel

said, that the grant had been made to Ireland, partly in consideration of the discouragement of her woollen manufactures. It was therefore connected with feelings existing in that country, and ought not to be considered as an abstract question. He hoped that this short discussion would be taken as a notice in Ireland, that parliament had turned its attention to the subject.

Mr. Grattan

opposed the vote, and contended, that the situations were given away upon a system of favouritism.

Dr. Lushington

argued, that the effect of the vote would rather be to retard the improvement of the trade than to accelerate it. It would create a factitious trade, and finally leave many hands out of employment. At the same time, he did not wish the vote to be withheld without notice; and if he did not press a division, it would be on the understanding that next year a clear and distinct case should be made out, by the supply of due information.

Mr. Goulburn

was in favour of the grant, because it employed the poor of Ireland; at the present moment, an object of the highest importance.

Mr. R. Gordon

resisted the resolution, and complained that a large part of the money voted for the linen board went to retainers of ministers.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

adverted to the report of the committee two years ago, recommending a variety of alterations in the linen trade, which had been carried into effect, especially regarding the bounties, which changes had not been accomplished without difficulty. Ministers had, therefore, not been asleep on their posts. Ireland was in such a state, that it was not possible yet to apply to her the ordinary doctrines of political economy. It might have been wrong to grant the assistance to Ireland in the first instance, but it would be most injurious to plunge at once into an entire new system.

Sir G. Hill

stated the particular reasons for continuing the grant for the board. The linen trade was not one requiring a large capital. Hence it was necessary to have a board to protect the interests of the small manufacturers. The linen board had already produced the greatest advantages, by augmenting the trade from a few hundred thousand pounds to five millions annually.

Mr. Hume

was convinced, that the linen trade would have been six millions a-year, instead of five, if this board had never existed. Out of 72 individuals connected with the board, there was not a single Catholic. It was, therefore, an insult to the feelings of the people of Ireland to continue it. They were not all paid, but possessed extensive influence; which they always exerted in favour of ministers.

Mr. J. Smith

agreed, that the true principles of political economy could not be applied to Ireland in her present unsettled condition. By means of the grants to Ireland, many thousands had been employed in productive and reproductive labour. Though, in some respects, it might not be well managed, he should be very sorry to see this grant withheld.

The House divided: For the Amendment 17. Against it 76. Majority 59.