HC Deb 17 July 1833 vol 19 cc791-3
Mr. Clay

presented a Petition from the Tradesmen and others interested in the trade of Sugar Refining, in the Tower Hamlets. It was signed by 19,000 persons. The hon. Member read the petition at length. It stated:—'That the water side district of the Tower Hamlets is entirely dependent on commerce, and more especially on the numerous estab- lishments for sugar-refining, through which, in labour alone, a sum of nearly 600,000l. was annually circulated in this district; but which has been reduced to about 195,000l., owing to many kinds of sugar having been recently prohibited—a loss which is attended by unspeakable misery to the industrious inhabitants, who have, in addition, the desolating prospect of the whole trade being speedily, and for ever, removed to foreign parts, where a more liberal policy is pursued. That, upon these great establishments, most of the tradesmen and artificers totally depend, and the cutting off the means of their support will be followed by ruin to the shopkeepers and others of the district, while the rates for the relief of the poor, now becoming unbearable, cannot, by any possibility, be levied; so that the loss of this once flourishing trade will be followed by the most ruinous effects, to the destruction of a great portion of the industrious trading inhabitants. That if relief were extended to this important branch of British manufacture by the admission of foreign sugars, it would afford immediate succour to our suffering population, would revive the shipping and commercial interests on which we so entirely depend, and, by the proud pre-eminence of British capital, machinery, and industry, secure to this country the supplying of refined sugar to the whole world; but, by the continued prohibition for a few months longer, will establish the trade in foreign parts, so that it will be for ever lost to this country.' He could not persuade himself that the prayer of the petition of 19,000 persons, grounded on justice, and entitled to relief, should be refused. The petition was signed by the Lord Mayor, and by the most respectable commercial men in the city. It originated at a large meeting, and had been numerously signed, without having recourse to any of the arts by which signatures were usually obtained for petitions. It was necessary, he believed, to comply with the prayer of the petition; but he would not say more, till he brought forward his Motion on the subject.

Dr. Lushington

bore his testimony to the correctness of the statements of his hon. Colleague. He was satisfied that the Government and the House would find it necessary to concede the prayer of the petition. The district was suffering much by an expenditure of upwards of 400,000l. having been withdrawn from it. No Government, having at heart the good of that district, and dreading the loss of that trade, with the increase of the burthens that would be thrown on the district, could do otherwise than grant relief. The Reformed House of Commons would never venture to part, without giving these petitioners that relief which they prayed for.

Mr. Patrick Stewart

said, the Sugar Refining Act contained a clause which gave vast fortunes to a few individuals at the expense of the Revenue. It was impossible for the English colonists to compete with the labourers of Brazil and Cuba. It would cause ruin to our colonies, should a Bill be passed to allow the sugar of those foreign colonies to be refined here, with all the advantages of British capital.

Mr. Robinson

said, that no law could prevent the refining of the sugar produced by slaves; and the West Indians, therefore, were inflicting, by opposing this measure, an injury on a body of British subjects without obtaining any benefit for themselves.

Mr. Ewart

said, that any Minister who should continue to impose such fetters on our commerce as were here complained of would deserve impeachment.

Mr. Grote

supported the prayer of the Petition, It was necessary to pass the Bill during this Session, or otherwise the trade would be destroyed, and ruin fall upon the district in question. The petitioners sought nothing which would be injurious to the West Indians. He could have wished to see more conciliation on the part of the West-Indian body.

Petition laid on the Table.