HC Deb 06 August 1834 vol 25 cc1003-6

The Order of the Day was read, and the Customs Bill was read a third time.

Mr. Crawford

brought up a clause for the purpose of giving effect to the benevolent intentions of the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) towards the lower classes of the community, by redu- cing the duty on congou and twankay tea from 2s. 2d. to 2s. per lb. The hon. Gentleman contended that the result of the classification adopted by the noble Lord, instead of reducing the duty on tea to the lower class of consumers, had materially enhanced it, and that the inferior quality of tea sold for more money than the higher quality, because the duties were disproportionately placed. It was not his intention to go into the very extensive subject of' the tea-duties, because the report of the Committee which had been investigating that subject had not yet been laid upon the Table; but unless the noble Lord reconsidered the matter, and introduced early next Session some proper enactment with regard to it, the continuance of the present system would produce incalculable evils.

The Clause was read.

Lord Althorp

said, it would be for the House to consider whether, under the present circumstances of the case, tea was one of those articles on which a reduction of duty should take place in preference to others where more substantial relief could be afforded. The hon. Gentleman proposed to reduce the duty on two classes of tea from 2s. 2d. to 2s. per lb., and the question was, whether it was now expedient to sacrifice the revenue of the country pro tanto. They ought to ascertain what, under a free trade with India, would be the price of tea to the consumer, which could not yet be done, before any proposition was entertained to lower the duties. He sincerely believed, that the breaking up of the monopoly of the East India Company would materially reduce the price of tea; and if so, the consumer would receive adequate relief without the remission of any part of the duty. With these views, in the present state of the Session and of the country, after the regular financial statement had been made, and not having, as the House was aware, a very ample surplus revenue in his hands, he could not consent to reduce the duty on tea, or on any other article, and therefore he must oppose the Clause.

The Clause was negatived.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

brought up a Clause to authorize the East-India Company to receive, warehouse, and manage East-India goods, the property of other persons, until the complete close of their commercial character.

Mr. Crawford

objected to the word "manage" contained the clause, because he feared it would vest a power in the Company most detrimental to the trade, and enable them to make sales as they had heretofore done. Some definite assurance ought to be had that such an interpretation would not be put on the clause. He complained, that due notice had not been given of the intention of Government to bring forward this proviso: he believed it was introduced in opposition to the Court of Directors, who had in the strongest terms deprecated their being any longer mixed up with the commercial concerns of London. The only object he could see in it, was to render the East-India Company warehousemen to the profit of the Crown, which he sincerely hoped they never would become.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

could not consent to the omission of the word to which exception had been taken, for he contended, that its retention was necessary to the object which Ministers had in view. He confessed it filled his mind with astonishment to hear it said, that the trade did not wish for the present clause: some of the dock companies might not desire it, but he was sure that the trade desired it most earnestly. As evidence of the fact, that so far from being considered prejudicial by the trade, it was much wished for by them, he would just mention, that a memorial had been forwarded to him, signed by no fewer than seventy persons, in support of the plan which the present clause was intended to carry into effect. The deputation which he received on the subject assured him, that if a clause of that nature were proposed by Government, and adopted by Parliament, it would give satisfaction, and be productive of the best effects upon trade. In the last year a clause was introduced to enable the East-India Company to receive in their warehouses, to manage, and to sell the property of private individuals till their assets could be wound up. It had been suggested to continue this system by permitting the warehouses of the Company to remain as dépôts for bonded goods, allowing that privilege to attach to the premises into whatever hands they might pass by sale or otherwise. It was urged by the memorialists, of whom he had just been speaking, that it would be an object of great importance to the trade to enjoy the temporary use of those buildings, for amongst many of them there existed a strong prejudice against waterside houses; and even supposing that prejudice ill-founded, he did not apprehend that evil could ensue from yielding to it. On the other band, should it prove well founded, the Government that refused to listen to the representations of the trade would incur the responsibility of placing a large amount of property in considerable danger. By adopting the course which he recommended, the advisers of the Crown and the Parliament would shift the responsibility from themselves.

Sir John Rae Reid

approved of the clause, declared it in his opinion to be of great consequence to the trade, and affirmed that many Members of the commercial body felt exceedingly thankful to the right hon. Gentleman opposite for having proposed the clause.

Mr. Alderman Thompson

desired to know why his Majesty's Government did not at once sell those warehouses; they were anything but profitable to the Government, and he must be allowed to add, that individual owners of warehouses could not compete with the Executive of the country in a speculation of that nature, the more especially when those by whom it was carried on were content to lose. Upon the whole, therefore, it was both unfair and unwise in the Crown to have had anything to do with those warehouses.

The Clause was agreed to, and die Bill passed.