HC Deb 01 April 1828 vol 18 cc1422-4
Mr. C. N. Pallmer

said, he had to present a petition to the House, and his great respect for the body who had intrusted it to his care, induced him to entreat their patient attention to its important contents. It proceeded from a great national interest—an interest at one time, and he hoped still, a cherished object of the country's favour—one of the principal sources of her maritime strength and commercial prosperity. It was from the West-India planters and merchants of London, and it prayed for a reduction of the tax upon their sugar. He presented the petition to the House, divested of any political expression or feeling, as a plain, argumentative appeal to their impartiality and their justice, founded upon figures which could not err, and facts which could not be denied. The petition described the rise and progress of the sugar duties from 3s. 5d. per cwt to the present high rate of 27s., and it particularly adverted to the great addition which was made to the duties during the late war, under the express provision of the act of parliament, that the same were for the purposes of the war alone. Twelve years had since elapsed; every other war duty had been removed; many other taxes had been taken of altogether; but the duty on sugar remained the same. Upon representations having been made on the subject to former ministers, it had been answered, that the West Indies derived certain advantages from bounty upon the export of refined goods—that bounty had been since taken away, and the tax still continued. At the close of the war a large accession was made to our colonial possessions, and these, with the addition of the Mauritius, added materially to an oppressed and overloaded market; and yet, from the heavy tax which it had to sustain, not only had the consumption of sugar failed to keep pace with that of other articles, but the poorer classes had been entirely debarred from it; and even with those classes which had been accustomed to its use, its consumption had not increased, in proportion to the increased population of the country; and it was proved by the most authentic documents, that the consumption had been sensibly augmented or diminished, as the average price of the article had risen or fallen— that, independent of the general rule, that a diminution of price necessarily produced an increased consumption, that result had been practically illustrated in the article of coffee, in respect to which, as the petition shewed, a reduction of two-thirds of the duty, produced in the year a revenue of more than double the amount; and a partial restoration of the duty produced a proportionate diminution of revenue'—that the article of sugar, if placed within their reach, would be consumed by the very lowest classes, and in such case the consumers would be scarcely less numerous than the consumers of bread; and that to the inhabitants of the sister kingdom, if it could be supplied at an attainable price, it would not fail to afford not only comfort, but great moral benefits—that the West-India planters were essentially British land-owners, cultivating articles in amount from eight to nine millions sterling value, creating a revenue of nearly six millions, being upon the whole produce about seventy-five per cent, and upon sugar upwards of one hundred per cent— that sugar and coffee were to the colonial, what grain was to the British agricultural interest, and the export of British goods to the West-India colonies, diminished as it was, by their necessities and other causes still amounted to nearly five millions; their commerce employed four million ton of British shipping, and from twenty to twenty-five thousand men—that the average price of sugar during the last year, which was higher by many shillings than the five preceding years, was 63s. per cwt. of which 27s. was paid to the government, 8s. to the British ship-owner and merchant, 18s. to the expenses of cultivation, leaving about 10s. to the grower, or somewhere about one penny per lb., the government receiving a tax of three hundred per cent on the profit of the grower. The petition concluded by praying such an ample reduction of duty as would ensure to the grower and consumer a participation in the relief, give encouragement to British shipping, and the consumption of British manufactures, and increase in a very material degree the comforts of the labouring poor of the whole empire. Such was the petition. He trusted that it would, at least, have the effect of laying before a misinformed public the real merits of the case, and the remarkable fact, that the tax to the government, and not the profit of the grower of West-India sugar, was the real cause of its high price to the community. He implored the House to bestow upon it a more than ordinary attention, whether they regarded it with reference to colonial interests, the interests of the manufactures and shipping of the country, the national revenue, or the more important consideration of the comforts of the labouring classes in the colonies, and in this country.

Mr. C. Grant

declined at that moment to enter upon the important subject referred to in the petition. He was not insensible to its importance; but another and more fitting opportunity would arrive for discussing it.

Ordered to lie on the table.