HC Deb 08 March 1830 vol 22 cc1345-9
Sir E. Kerrison

presented a Petition from the borough of Eye, complaining of agricultural distress, and praying for relief. He was aware of the great distress which that class suffered, and he did earnestly hope that some measure would be adopted for their relief.

The Petition to be on the Table.

Lord Clive

presented two Petitions from the county of Salop, praying for a reduc- tion of the duties on malt.—Ordered to be printed.

Mr. Dickinson

presented a Petition from Taunton, most numerously and respectably signed, complaining, not as the petition presented by the hon. Baronet (Sir E. Kerrison) below him, of agricultural distress alone, but of the distressed state of the country generally, which pressed, the petition justly stated, on all classes. The petitioners said, that Ministers could not have paid serious attention to the subject, or they could not be so unacquainted, as the petitioners feared they were, with the distressed state of the country. They stated, in proof of the kind of distress which existed in the county of Somerset, that in a parish containing 1,900 inhabitants, 1,000 were depending on the poor-rates for support. He would not dwell upon agricultural distress alone, though he was certain that its extent was greatly underrated, for the value of farms and cattle had fallen fifty per cent below what they were at this time last year. Other interests were also suffering to an equal, and all were suffering to a dreadful extent. It was indeed impossible that one class or one interest could suffer without bringing suffering on the other. Burke had correctly remarked, that those who gave employment to the poor were their bankers, and whatever deprived the opulent of the means of employing the poor, must cause intense distress among the latter. For the existing distress there was one remedy; and though it might not go to the full length of the relief desired, yet it was essential, and, whether by Ministers or the House, it must be done; the people must, be untaxed to a considerable extent. He hoped, therefore, that many days would not elapse before the House was informed that relief to a considerable extent had been afforded.

Sir C. Burrell

was glad that his hon. friend had stated his opinion on this subject, for it was absolutely necessary that Ministers should be fully informed as to the actual state of the country, on which they seemed not to possess any accurate knowledge. He was borne out in this assertion by what had gone forth to the public, as having been said by the noble Duke at the head of the Government. That noble Duke was represented to have stated (hat as a fact, which was no fact at all; namely, that timber, which the noble Duke classed as an agricultural produce, had not fallen in value. Now he (Sir C. Burrell) could state, on the authority of a person perfectly acquainted with the subject, that timber, which a twelvemonth ago produced from 11l. to 13l. per load, would at present not brine: more than from 7l. to 7l. 10s. Bark, also, which was an important article to landowners, had fallen from 42l. the thatched load (two tons and a half) to 20l. and 21l. Ministers ought to get their information on the change which had taken place in the value of the produce of the land from those who were well acquainted with the subject.

Sir T. Lethbridge

rose to corroborate what had fallen from his hon. colleague as to the state of the country generally, and the severe distress which affected the county of Somerset in particular. There was no class exempt from distress; it pressed alike on all. Within the memory no person living, was such distress felt in of the country. The only thing he regretted was, that the petitioners (for whom he had the highest respect) had not waited till after the 15th, when, no doubt, they would have heard of some measure of relief in the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Except in that point, he fully concurred with them, and he hoped that. Ministers would look not merely to the distress which affected agriculture, though that was severe, but also at that which preyed on all other classes, commercial and manufacturing. He agreed in what was said about the fall in the value of landed produce, which, with the exception of wheat, did not afford a remunerating price. He thought that the state of the other articles called for a revision of the laws for the protection of the British grower and unless that were done, he was of opinion that the country would suffer even more severe distress than at present. The landowner was left without any protection in the home-market as to the articles of wool, hemp, tallow, and others, in all of which he was undersold by the foreigner. He was not prepared to propose any remedy for the general distress; that was the business of Ministers, and he looked for that at their hands. He should wish, however, for a revision of the Banking system. A change in that, would give the country great relief. He did not mean that we should give up our present metallic currency, for whatever opinions he might formerly have entertained on the point, he was convinced now, that it was too late to retrace our steps; there was at present a great want of confidence in the country. A man who had produce could obtain no credit; he was obliged to sell it on any terms. He did hope, therefore, that Ministers, or some Member, would introduce a plan to place our Banking system on an improved footing and they should have his warmest support. Such a revision of our Banking system was wanted as would produce greater confidence, and give greater accommodation than could now be obtained.

Colonel Sibthorp

did not know what might be the condition of the county of Somerset, as to the price of Wheat; but in other counties, particularly in Lincoln, he could state that it did not afford a remunerating price. The value of all other articles had fallen considerably below that price.

Sir M. W. Ridley

regretted that the hon. Baronet (Sir T. Lethbridge) had not stated the specific alteration which he would wish to have in the Banking system. If there was any difficulty felt from the operation of that system, the House had to blame itself for it, by the hasty and inconsiderate measure they had passed respecting the small-note circulation. He would not, however, bring back the state of the currency to what it was before that change took place—that would do more harm than good; but he was prepared to show, that the withdrawal of the small notes from circulation had been productive of much distress. Though he admitted that great distress prevailed, and the price of cattle was low, particularly in the northern counties, owing to the depressed state of the manufacturing towns in Yorkshire and the neighbouring counties; he was not prepared to concur with those who drew such a desponding picture of the state of the country. It was his consolation, to believe that the distress was partial, temporary, and passing. In that part of the country where he dwelt, there was not that want of confidence the hon. Baronet had mentioned between the bankers and their customers, but if there were he did not see how the Government could remedy it, and certainly the hon. Baronet had not proposed any plan for the purpose.

Mr. Portman

bore testimony to the great distress which existed in the county of Somerset. A great deal of that felt by the agriculturists there was the result of two bad seasons: not only the sheep and cattle, but young horses turned upon the moorlands, had been destroyed, and there was not enough cattle left to stock the land.

Mr. Beaumont

observed, that his experience induced him to believe that the distress was not so extensive in the districts which were exclusively agricultural, as in those where agriculture and manufactures jointly prevailed. The overwhelming taxation was in truth the real cause of the present sufferings of the people, and a considerable reduction of that heavy burthen he had no doubt would be the only effectual means of administering relief.

Mr. Dickinson

concurred with the last speaker, in thinking that the House must look to reduction of taxation for relief.

On the Question that the Petition be read,

Sir Thomas Lethbridge

said, he found it necessary to state, that what he meant as of our Banking system was, that it admitted of improvement, which he inferred from the bankers who had traded in one-pound notes having now given up the business of banking altogether. He was one of those, however, who did not wish again to see a paper circulation. As to the distress, some business might yet be carried on to a considerable extent, but he did not believe any business obtained large profits. It was not for him to propose plans to improve our banking system; he would only say, therefore, that joint-stock banking-companies would fill up the vacuum now felt; and he thought country banking would not be on a safe footing, till the banks of England were established on principles similar to those of Scotland.

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