HC Deb 18 March 1831 vol 3 cc535-9
Mr. Poulett Thomson

moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on this Bill. On the Order being read, the right hon. Gentleman explained, that the Resolutions of the Committee on which the Bill was founded, had been correctly stated in the Journals of the House, but that in the report from the Committee presented to the House, a mistake had been committed, making the report at variance with the Resolutions. After a brief conversation, in which the Speaker stated, that the difficulty arose from the fact that the House could know nothing of the Resolutions of the Committee, but through the report, it was agreed that the clerical error in the report should be corrected, and the House be supposed to have known only the correct report.

The House then resolved itself into a Committee.

Mr. George Robinson

stated, that he had an objection to make to the Bill, but he did not wish to oppose it at that stage, provided the discussion of his objection might be taken at a future period.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

said, the Bill had already been discussed, and he wished that the Bill should then be proceeded with; the hon. Member might then state his objections.

Mr. G. Robinson

did not then mean to discuss the propriety of the duties, but he objected to the word "temporary," and to the duties being imposed only for a certain period. He wished that word should be struck out, not meaning to say that the duties should be permanent, but leaving it quite at the discretion of the House to decide unfettered concerning them. He did not wish those duties to be permanent, but he did wish that the House should be unpledged. The right hon. Gentleman declared that they should be reduced in 1834— he wished the Parliament of 1834 to do what it liked. That would be a better means of keeping the Americans in check than by pledging the House at that time to a particular line of conduct in 1834. He wished to propose as an amendment, that the word "temporary" be left out, for he held it to be dangerous to say to the Americans, these duties shall be reduced at any particular period.

Sir John Newport

thought the conduct of the hon. Member exceedingly strange. The hon. Member wished the duties not to be permanent, and yet he proposed to strike out the word which made them temporary. If the word temporary was left out they would be made permanent. He dissented altogether from the hon. Members views.

Mr. Hume

hardly understood the hon. member for Worcester, but as far as he did understand him, he could not agree with him. For his own part he wished that the duties on flour and timber should cease at an earlier period than that provided by the Bill.

Mr. Keith Douglas

objected to the Bill as a most inconsistent piece of legislation, and as striving, contrary to the principles professed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, to build up a new interest in the Canadas. He should certainly support the amendment.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

stated, that the object of the Bill was, not to build up any new interest, but to give protection for a certain period to interests which had grown up in Canada in consequence of the Non-Intercourse Act, which interests, unless they were protected, now that the intercourse with the West Indies and the United States was to be renewed, would be endangered. Those interests, however, were only to be protected for a certain time; and the Bill went on a principle which he had often heard praised in that House, and, if he were not mistaken, praised by his hon. friend, the member for Dumfries; and that principle was, of at once saying to any class of persons to whom protection had been granted which was found impolitic, that it should cease at a certain period. The Bill fixed a definite time at which the protection would be withdrawn, and that would enable the parties concerned to withdraw their capital. It was not building up, it was letting down an interest, and in a manner which had been frequently adopted, and generally recommended. He was surprised at the quarter whence the opposition to the Bill came.

Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald

agreed with the hon. member for Worcester, that it was not a constitutional practice to settle beforehand at what period duties should cease. He did not agree with the hon. member for Middlesex, and was certain that nothing was more injurious than to have commercial duties and regulations uncertain and fluctuating. He wished to preserve our colonies, and was an advocate for the whole and entire protection which their interests had hitherto received. The noble Lord might sneer, but he could not defend the treatment the colonies now received. He repeated, that he was the advocate for entire protection, and he was prepared to defend that doctrine. He was not to be put down by sneers— he would treat them with contempt, as well as the coxcombry and conceit which prevailed in the measures he opposed. He was not ashamed nor afraid to meet the noble Lord on that ground. He would not say more than declare that he was opposed to the measure.

Mr. Spring Rice

was surprised at the warmth of his right hon. friend, and was sure he must recollect measures of very great importance to which he had agreed, that were founded on the very principle of those measures which he stigmatized as dictated by coxcombry and conceit. The principle of the measure was to give a temporary protection to interests which had been forced into undue importance by the pressure of circumstances, and to fix a definite period when that protection should cease. He meant to give the Bill, as it stood, his warmest support.

Mr. Goulburn

thought it was infinitely better to avoid casting any shackles on a future Parliament, or binding it down to adopt any decided course, when circumstances might hereafter show it to be im- politic and inexpedient. He, therefore, supported the proposition of the hon. member for Worcester.

Lord Althorp

said, if the Parliament did not show that it intended to do away with these duties at a certain period, capital would still continue to be embarked in the Lumber-trade, and the object of the delay in reducing the duties would be wholly defeated.

Mr. Hume

said, that the House was now plainly legislating against the West-India interests, and compelling them to pay a higher price for their Lumber, in order to maintain the colony of the Canadas. He thought the whole measure so unjust and impolitic, that he should certainly move as an amendment, that the duty should be 15s. now, and that it should wholly cease and determine on the 5th January, 1834.

Mr. Herries

thought it would be better to leave it to Parliament from time to time to deal with the question as it thought fit; and that the House should not be pledged to give any particular time for the removal of the protecting duty.

Mr. Warburton

considered, that the duty, as it would stand, would be a tax on the West-India interest for the sole advantage of the Canada trade, and he, therefore, was against making it permanent. He opposed the Amendment.

Sir E. H. East

begged to ask the Vice-president of the Board of Trade, why it was, that the duty on American produce had been raised, in the present instance to 24s.?

Mr. P. Thomson

said, that calculations had been made, and that 24s. would give a protection of about 9s. a ton, which was found to be the lowest duty that would give a protection to British shipping.

Mr. George Robinson

begged it to be understood, in the event, of his being compelled to divide the Committee on his amendment, that his objection was not to the rate of protecting duty, but to the period of its continuance, which he thought should not then be peremptorily defined. If another opportunity should be afforded him for taking the sense of the House on this proposition, he would let it stand over for that evening; if not, he should feel himself obliged to then press it to a division.

On the question being put,

Sir A. Grant

informed the hon. Mover of the Amendment (Mr. Robinson), that his object would be defeated by the omission of the word "temporary," because the effect of omitting it would be, as there was a second and lower duty, to make the first and higher duty a permanent duty.

Mr. George Robinson, under such an explanation, could not press his motion to a division; but as he had allowed the original Resolution to pass pro formâ, under the expectation of taking the sense of the House in Committee on this question, he should certainly avail himself of some other mode to effect his object.

The first Amendment, to leave out the word "temporary" was then negatived.

Mr. Hume

thought, that although there was a formal objection to the Amendment of his hon. friend, there could not be any objection to his, and he therefore moved that the word "additional" should be omitted.

This Amendment, as well as a succeeding one, that the existing Duties should cease in 1834, were negatived without a division and the House resumed.

Mr. Robinson

wished to know the Speaker's opinion with respect to a point of order. The hon. Member stated the nature of the Amendment which he had made, and the decision of the Chairman of the Committee (Sir A. Grant) on the question. He wished to know from the Speaker, whether or not he was properly precluded from making such an Amendment?

The Speaker

informed the hon. Member, that his proposition went to increase the rate of duty mentioned in the Bill, and could not, therefore, be adopted in the Committee.

Mr. Robinson

did not see that his proposition would have had the effect stated by the Speaker. All he proposed to do was to omit the word "temporary" (duty), and leave it to Parliament to lower the duty at any time that might be thought proper.

The Speaker

stated, that the hon. Member's Amendment, if adopted, would make the Bill a permanent measure; and that the duties, being fixed permanently, would on that account be higher than if they were only of a temporary nature.