HC Deb 15 December 1831 vol 9 cc253-5
Colonel Davies

presented a Petition from the Operatives engaged in the Glove Trade in the city of Worcester. The Petition stated, that the Glove Trade of Worcester was never in so distressed a state as at present. Upon the face of the Returns the importation of French gloves appeared to have been diminished since 1828; but he should be prepared to contend, that in reality the quantity imported had increased, but not in a legitimate way. In fact the mischief was occasioned by the operations of the smugglers. There was no less than 40,000 persons employed in this trade, and they comprehended a large number of industrious and honest people. It was his intention to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the whole of the subject. Some apprehended that nothing short of prohibition would protect the home manufacture, and should that be found to be the case, he would vote for prohibition rather than see the present melancholy distress. While the trade was permitted, any quantity of gloves could be disposed of, however obtained. The petitioners prayed for relief, and attributed their distress to the importation of French gloves.

Mr. Sanford

said, he had a similar Petition to present from Yeovil. If, after the recess, his hon. and gallant friend moved for inquiry, that motion should have his cordial support.

Mr. Robinson

assured the House, that the petitioners had not appealed to it for relief until they had tried every means within their reach to assist themselves. He was ready to declare, that if some means were not devised to sustain the glove trade, the country would have to support by charity a large proportion of the persons hitherto usefully engaged in that trade. When his hon. and gallant friend (Colonel Davies) brought forward the subject regularly, he should be prepared to prove, that the principles of free trade, as applied to the glove trade, had not been wisely applied, and ought to be reconsidered. The principles of free trade might have been wisely applied, if, when they were embraced by this country, they had been followed by other governments; but, as other countries had rejected these principles, he greatly doubted whether they could be persevered in by this country without great and increasing injury to the labouring classes. He had no wish to see prohibitions, but he was prepared to consent to that extreme measure, if nothing short of it could be devised, so as to give a just and fair protection to the home manufacturer.

Mr. Gore Langton

thought it was too much the fashion to prefer the manufactures of other countries to our own.

Colonel Torrens

observed, that measures of prohibition, would infallibly throw more people out of employment than the present system. Those who now exported goods would find no sale for their commodities, and ruin would ensue to them.

Mr. Sadler

said, that the abstract principles of political economy would never satisfy the starving people. The situation of the working classes was gradually deteriorating since the introduction of the system of free trade. He gave his warmest support to the prayer of the petition.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

should be prepared to state the views of his Majesty's Government on this subject when it was brought forward by the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Davies) after the recess. He should simply confine himself now to stating, that the petition just presented should receive the most anxious attention.

Sir Richard Vyvyan

thought it was impossible to make such extensive alterations as had been made in different branches of our trade, without producing great distress. He supported the prayer of the petition.

Mr. John Weyland

felt it necessary to say a few words in favour of the petitioners. He must contend, that the arguments in favour of free trade in general, did not apply to particular trades in detail: there were exceptions to these doctrines, and the manufacture of gloves was one.

Mr. Warburton

said, the arrangements which had been made were the best that circumstances permitted; except that the duties were rather too high, and this permitted smugglers to run contraband goods, while, under the old system, they had full opportunity to carry on an illicit trade with impunity.

Mr. Hunt

said, there ought to be a free trade in corn, if there was to be one in silks. It was idle to talk of stopping smuggling with a duty of thirty per cent. He knew and the Secretary for the Treasury must know, that the smugglers could insure the delivery of French goods into any warehouse in London, at a charge of nine per cent above the market prices without duty. The distress of the poor must be relieved. In Huddersfield there were 13,000 persons who did not receive more than 1s. per week.

Mr. Wynn Ellis

observed, that the distress was not confined to the glove trade. If the present system was to be persevered in, it was utterly impossible that the silk manufacturer could much longer exist in this country. He believed a similar statement would apply to the glove trade.

Petition to be printed.