HC Deb 16 February 1830 vol 22 cc532-4
Mr. Marshall

presented a petition from Bankers, Merchants, Manufacturers, and others of Leeds, against the renewal of the East India Company's Charter. He must support, the prayer of the petition. From the limited removal of restrictions on the trade that had already taken place, he augured that the most favourable results would ensue from a further extension of that principle of relief.

Mr. W. Whitmore

said, that seeing the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place, he would ask a question; he wished to know if it were the intention of his Majesty's Ministers to give notice to the Court of Directors what would be done with their Charter at the expiration of the three years? For his part, notwithstanding the professions of Government, he could not believe in the neutrality they professed, and be thought it apparent that they had a disposition to compromise this question. It would be difficult to show a case which could justify Ministers in withholding a full investigation of the question. If the people of the country were apathetic on the subject, their right would not be conceded. He was prompted also to express a hope that Ministers would not make up their minds upon the political state of India, without the most full and perfect information that could be procured of what was the actual condition of India at the present moment. He must say that the removal of the monopoly was, in his opinion, absolutely necessary; and it was the duty of Ministers, by its removal, to place the people of that country in a condition to reap some benefit from their connexion with this country. A free trade with India and China would be of the greatest advantage to our people and to the countless multitudes under our sway in India. He hoped that Government would not make up their minds on the still larger branch of the question, the political part of it, without taking into account the working of the present system, and to the existing condition of things in India. He took that opportunity to request the right hon. Gentleman opposite to state whether it was the intention of Ministers to give notice to the Board of East India Directors, in the month of April next (as according to the terms of the Charter they were empowered to do) of their possible intention to propose a cessation of the present Charter in the year 1833?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he did not know upon what ground the hon. Member assumed that Government would not act with good faith, in reference to the East India Question; and could only repeat what had been stated by his right hon. friend the Secretary for the Home Department, on the occasion of moving for a select committee, that Ministers went into the inquiry without any pre-engagement as to the particular course which they should adopt, and that, so far from that being the case, they would be free to adopt whatever might appear best for the general interest, after a fair investigation. With respect to the hon. Member's question, it had evidently been asked under misapprehension as to the terms of the Company's Charter, and the nature of the notice required. The hon. Member would find, on reference to the subject, that no notice was necessary till the month of April, 1831; and he would perceive that circumstances might occur before that time to guide the Government as to the course which it ought to adopt, and the decision to be taken in reference to the matter.

Sir George Philips

said, he regretted that his hon. friend by whom the petition had been presented was not upon the East India Committee, as he had a great deal of practical knowledge. His hon. friend had paid particular attention to the subject, and there ought to be some representatives of the manufacturing interests upon the Committee. He did not mean to reflect on the Members of the Committee, who, he trusted, would do their duty; but it was difficult to suppose that Gentlemen connected with the East India Company in particular could divest themselves entirely of all prejudice and prepossession on the subject. As to the distress of the country, and which affected the manufacturing districts, he would take the opportunity of observing, as the Currency Measure had been spoken of, that he believed the Members of the manufacturing interests in Lancashire would consider a return to a paper currency as one of the greatest evils which could be inflicted upon them: for his part, he thought it extraordinary that any hon. Gentleman should think that the labouring classes would be benefitted by such a change. The petitioners felt that the greatest relief would be afforded by an extinction of a part of our taxation and an extension of commerce; they were anxious that the monopoly of the East India Company should be done away with, and a free trade permitted with India and China.

Mr. Astell

begged to refer to two cases in which the East India Company had been of the utmost service in relieving the distress that existed in the manufacturing districts. An application was made to Mr. Loch, the Chairman of the Company, a few days ago, by Mr. Heald, vicar of Birstal, who represented the distress that existed in that neighbourhood, and solicited orders for cloth in order to mitigate it. The Company, although not in immediate want of the article, made a considerable purchase, to the great relief of the suffering manufacturers. In Norwich, much suffering prevailed among the working classes in December last, and acts of violence were perpetrated by some of the weavers, but extensive orders from the Company had produced the happiest effects in tranquillizing and affording employment to the people. Facts such as these were the best answer to any imputations cast upon the Company, as to having stood in the way of giving relief to the manufacturers, or impeding their interests.

Petition ordered to be printed.