HC Deb 03 February 1831 vol 2 cc124-6
Mr. Kennedy

presented a Petition from certain Candle Manufacturers in Edinburgh, praying for the Repeal of the Duty on Candles.

Mr. Hunt

supported the prayer of the petition. The Repeal of the Duty on Candles was a subject of very great importance to the labouring poor. He heartily concurred in the prayer of the petition, particularly as it was well known that a large commercial house in the City had monopolized all the Tallow in the country. The reason why he rose was, to state, that it was his intention to bring before the House, in a short time, the subject of that great monopoly. The House would think that proper, when the House was told, that the monopoly had raised the price of soap and candles to the poor man very considerably; it had almost deprived him of light by night, and almost deprived him of soap to cleanse himself, and had almost deprived him of all the benefits he derived from the use of these articles. He was sure that the House would see that nothing was more urgent than to take measures to protect the poor man. The hon. member for Westbury said, last Session, that great evils were caused by the accumulation of property in the hands of individuals. Here was an instance of it. He could assure the House, that one firm had employed 600,000l. in purchasing tallow, and it had caused the greatest possible evil. The price of tallow now was 48s., and there were 50,000 hogsheads in the country; last year there were only 30,000, and then the price was not above 36s. It was not, therefore, from any want of tallow that the price had risen, but solely from the monopoly.

Mr. Warburton

did not at first think it necessary for him to make any observations, but after what had fallen from the hon. member for Preston, he could not remain silent. Although, as an individual, he might regret, that advantage was taken by a commercial house to raise the price of an article of necessity, it would have become him to have remained silent, did he not know that the price had not been raised to the extent the hon. Member said by the monopoly. There were other causes for the rise of price, and the principal of them was, he believed, not the monopoly, but the anticipation of scarcity. It was a general custom for merchants to buy largely when they anticipated a scarcity; and it was the anticipation of the scarcity, not the monopoly, which caused the rise. This was the case now, and there were many obvious causes for apprehending a scarcity. The war in Poland was an obvious cause for a rise in the price, not only of tallow, but of all the produce of that country, whether monopolised or not. There was also the prevalence of a terrible disease in these parts of Russia from which the chief supply of tallow was derived. Again, the whale fishery had been a complete failure. The house in question had probably made the purchases from anticipating the scarcity, and therefore their purchases had not caused the rise. He did not think it proper for the House to interfere with the private bargains of individuals. In the article of corn, only let the hon. Member recollect the obloquy which had formerly been cast on those who dealt in corn, though writers had now made it quite clear, that the corn-dealers, by this proceeding, however they might have enhanced the price to individuals for a short time, were, in reality, a sort of safety-valve against famine. They equalized the consumption through a whole season, and over large districts, and prevented an extreme rise of price before the next supply could be procured.

Petition laid on the Table.