HC Deb 05 May 1826 vol 15 cc914-7
Lord Stanley

rose to present a Petition from Bury, in Lan- cashire, respecting the Corn-laws. He took that opportunity of saying, that, in his opinion, it would be decidedly of no use to let out the bonded corn without duty, as the only result of that course would be, to give the benefit of the remission to the corn dealers. He would recommend rather, that the full duty should be paid, and the amount afterwards remitted to the Committee for the Relief of the Distressed Manufacturers.

Mr. Huskisson

quite concurred in opinion with the noble lord. The only object of allowing the corn to come out of bond without duty would be, to relieve the sellers of corn from the tax, and enable them to put the difference in their pockets. He availed himself of that opportunity to allude to a circumstance which had taken place on the previous evening, relative to the corn-market at Liverpool. He did so with perfect good humour; but he could not refrain from advising the hon. baronet, who had addressed him on that occasion, to be a little more on his guard as to the information he received. The hon. baronet had stated, that he had his information on the best authority, and that he placed entire reliance upon it. Now, he begged attention to these circumstances. At Liverpool there were two corn-markets weekly, one on Tuesday, and the other on Saturday. He had received a letter on Tuesday, the 25th of April, prior to that Saturday on which the hon. baronet had stated, that extraordinary activity had been manifested in the sale of bonded corn. The letter was to the following effect:—"We take the liberty to suggest, that great advantage might be made by the judicious purchase by government of bonded corn, to be re-sold to the Committees in aid of the distressed mechanics." This letter was signed, "Booth and Walmsley," The wheat in bond at that time was selling at from 4s. to 4s. 6d. a bushel. That was the price quoted in the printed price current. On the following Saturday, the hon. baronet stated, that uncommon activity was manifested among the holders of foreign corn. He (Mr. Huskisson) had deemed it necessary to procure the printed return for that day, and he found that the price quoted for wheat in bond was 4s. to 4s. 3d. So that this Saturday which, according to the hon. baronet, was one of extraordinary activity, had produced a depression of 3 d. a bushel. To this price current there were added some observations on the different descriptions of corn, and he found these words with relation to foreign corn: "the transactions were unimportant, and the prices were unaltered." Yet this was the state of things which had according to the hon. baronet, occasioned extraordinary activity. Now he held in his hand a statement respecting the market of Tuesday, and the only observation he should make upon it was, that the wheat and flour, that is foreign wheat, continued dull at the last quotation. This statement, he trusted, would put the hon. baronet on his guard, as to the authority, whoever it might be, on which he placed so much reliance. He should feel most happy to place in his possession the documents he now held in his hands, in order that he might set his authority right. He trusted this statement would satisfy the House, and that they would be of opinion that he stood fair in this transaction, notwithstanding what had fallen from the hon. member for Surry on a former evening, namely, that the holding the office of President of the Board of Trade was incompatible with the duties of a member for the town of Liverpool, he should feel the utmost satisfaction and pride to be honoured at the next election with the confidence of that most enlightened and intelligent commercial body.

Sir T. Lethbridge

expressed his opinion, that the authority of the right hon. gentleman was more likely to be correct than that on which he had relied. At the same time he must say, that he had the most entire conviction that the authority, from which he had received his information was convinced of its truth.

Mr. Heathcote

presented a petition from certain persons engaged in the Corn-trade at Boston, against the bill now before the House. They stated, that the effect of the present measure would be, to put money into the pockets of the holders of foreign corn. There was another part of the petition which was very important. It proceeded from some of the most considerable corn merchants of Boston, who stated, that on the faith of the decisions of that House, and the statements of the right hon. gentleman opposite, they had embarked a considerable portion of their capital in corn; and the consequence of the intended measure would be, that they must suffer considerably.

Sir J. Wrottesley

said, it appeared to him, that the best course would be, for government to take the duty into their own hands, and apply the amount to the benefit of the distressed manufacturers.

Sir J. Sebright

said, that one of the arguments in favour of this measure was, the moral effect to be produced in consequence of letting loose the quantity of corn now locked up within the very sight of the distressed people. But to his moral sense, it seemed that gentlemen opposite wished to allow the people to suppose they could derive benefit from the violation of the laws. However, be the duty what it might, the effect of this measure would be, at the most, to reduce the bread a penny a loaf. If he could believe that the proposed measure would tend to produce any substantial benefit to the distressed manufacturers, he would give it his support. But, as he had said on a former evening, if this measure should pass now, it would settle the corn question for ever; but he lamented that, for the sake of reducing the price of bread one half-penny, or one penny, this indirect mode should be resorted to of altering the Corn-laws. He was sorry that this course had been resorted to at all, but particularly by ministers, in whom he was move disposed to repose confidence, than in any administration of which he had a recollection.

Mr. T. Wilson

said, that the object of the proposed measure was, not to reduce the price of corn, but to prevent its, rising to a prejudicial degree. The measure would not benefit the foreign corn dealer; for the greater portion of the bonded corn had been imported on British account. And one of the beneficial advantages flowing from the measure would be, to afford an opportunity to have the warehouses replenished when the present quantity should be removed; so that hereafter we might not be compelled to depend for our supply upon foreigners, instead of the stock in our own granaries.

Ordered to lie on the table.