HC Deb 01 April 1828 vol 18 cc1428-30
Sir Henry Parnell

rose for the purpose of moving for several accounts respecting the Foreign Trade of the United Kingdom. The first account was similar to an account that was laid on the table of the House in the last session, on a motion that he had made: it was an account of the importation of a great number of articles of foreign manufactures, and raw materials, in the years 1824 and 1826. These years were taken, because it was in the year 1825 that the customs duties were altered with the professed design of establishing a free trade—and therefore, a comparison of the importations of 1824 with those of 1826, would show the practical effect of the alteration of the duties, and of what is called the Free-trade System. The account he now proposed to move for was of the importations of'1824, 1826, and 1827, for the purpose of showing what the effect of the alteration of the duties had been in 1827. The account which was presented last year proved that the prediction which he had made in 1825, of the effect of the new system, was well founded; namely that no considerable increased importation of foreign manufactures would take place, because the new duties had been fixed so high as to be prohibitory duties. In point of fact there was no other progress made in introducing free trade, except the changing a system of absolute prohibition into a system of prohibitory duties. The country, therefore, still suffers all the injury that belongs to a system of restriction and protection. The immediate evil of this system is the raising of the prices of all goods on which the protecting duties are imposed. Another evil is, that, in proportion as these duties exclude foreign goods, the homemade goods are of inferior quality; but the greatest evil of all is the diminution of foreign trade, which is the result of preventing several millions worth of foreign goods from being imported, and a corresponding quantity of British goods from being exported to pay for them.

It was no doubt true that there were great difficulties in the way of removing the system of protection. The right hon. gentleman, the Secretary of the Colonies accomplished a great deal in 1825, and probably all that was then practicable to be done. But, as we now had three years experience of the effects of a more liberal system, and full proof that, in every instance, it had been completely successful, it was now time to make some further progress, and to afford to the industry and capital of the nation new sources for employment. The complete failure of all the anticipations of ruin which were so loudly set forth in 1825 by the silk manufacturers, and glove manufacturers, and other manufacturers ought to serve as an encouragement to ministers to take a decided course, and to act by the public in the way that the true interests of the public required. The supposed partial interests of this or that set of manufacturers ought not to be upheld, by inflicting upon, the great body of consumers a heavy system of taxation by the high prices which the system of protection gave rise to. With respect to France nothing could be more unnatural than the actual state of our trade with that country. There were no two countries so well calculated to deal largely together as these countries were, each had many productions which were peculiar, respectively, to each other. So that a great interchange of commodities might take place without the possibility of any injury to either party, but with the certainty of the greatest benefit. But in place of this the whole imports from France do not amount to two millions, and the whole of the British productions, which are exported to France, is only about 400,000l. Our high duties on French wines were in every respect most impolitic. They certainly produced less revenue than lower rates of duty would produce.—In the last session the chancellor of the Exchequer (lord Goderich) told the House that measures were on foot for having the treaty with Portugal revived, and held out hopes that the duties on French wines would be lowered; but nothing more has been heard on the subject. It was unquestionably a most absurd thing, that this country should be at this day levying a rate of duty on French wines, which was established at a period when national wealth was supposed to consist wholly in gold bullion; and when it was imagined that the best way of attaining it was by levying a lower duty on Portuguese wines than on those of France.—The hon. baronet concluded by moving" For accounts of all foreign goods imported in the years 1824, 1826, and 1827; and also for accounts of the principal articles of raw materials, and of general consumption, imported from abroad in each quarter during the last four years." He stated that his object in moving for the last account was to show what the state of the home trade was in each of these years.

Mr. Robinson

said, he was friendly to free trade, but should like to see foreign countries give us advantages corresponding; with those we yielded them. France and the United States had given us nothing in return for the liberal policy we had exercised towards them.

Mr. Hume

urged the expediency, if we wanted France to be liberal to us, of not giving such an unfair advantage to the wines of Portugal.

The motion was agreed to.