HC Deb 24 June 1834 vol 24 cc832-5
Mr. Ewart

rose to bring forward his Motion, relative to the duties on East-India produce. This was the second time he presented himself to the House for the purpose of pressing on them the justice and the necessity of removing that inequality of duties which now affected their fellow-subjects in the East Indies. If the Motion should not be assented to now, he would bring it forward Session after Session, until justice should be done to the natives of India, and to the manufacturers and consumers of Great Britain. Several inhabitants of Calcutta presented a Petition to that House, praying that the duties on sugar and rum should be equalized; and this petition was supported subsequently by a petition from the East-India Company itself, and recommended by the Committee of their own House which sat two years back on trade and commerce. The Report of that Committee recommended five things; first, the opening of the China trade; secondly, that the East-India Company should cease to act as a trading Company; thirdly, that the transit duties should be repealed; but their principal recommendation was, that the duties on sugar, rum, tobacco, and coffee, the produce of the East Indies, should be equalized. The first duty, that on sugar, was, however, by far the most important. It amounted to 32s. a-hundred, while the duty on West-India sugar was only 24s. This article might be successfully cultivated throughout the immense territory of Hindostan, but was comparatively neglected in consequence of so onerous a duty. The capacity of the country to produce this article had been abundantly proved before Committees of that House, and the inhabitants only wanted encouragement and civilization to produce it to any extent. Their machinery for pressing the cane was at present, from want of encouragement, of the worst description. This boon could not be much longer refused, now that Englishmen were at liberty to settle in India. The cultivation of sugar there was stationary since 1810; while in the Mauritius, in consequence of the equalization of the duties with those on West- India produce, it had increased five-fold within the same period. The amount of sugar now produced all over the East-India possessions was not more than four times the quantity of beet-root sugar produced in France alone. The West-India sugar was decreasing in quantity. They could not send sufficient to this country. These duties operated most mischievously on the sugar-refining business. The sufferings of the sugar manufacturers were great, and the sugar-refining trade was migrating to other countries, where it met with no restrictions, but, on the contrary, received protection. Many sugar manufacturers had stopped their work during the last year, and the number of pans employed in sugar-refining had considerably diminished even since Christmas last. Our machines were going to the United States of America. where they would be employed for the benefit of that country, and to the disadvantage of this country. He really did not know how long the Government meant to refuse to intercede in favour of the sugar-refiners. The next article on which there was a restrictive duty was the important article of coffee. The duty on East-India coffee was fifty per cent higher than that produced in the West-India colonies. The duty on West-India coffee was only 6d. per pound, while a duty of 9d. per pound was levied on coffee the product of the East-Indies. In fact, for fifty years East-India coffee had to pay a duty of 2s. He trusted, that the time was fast approaching when such a system of injustice would be done away with. Coffee the produce of Jamaica, which was consumed by the rich only, paid a duty of seventy per cent, while on Ceylon coffee, which would be consumed by the poor, a duty of no less than 260 per cent was levied. Was that right or just? What was worse, the West-India colonies did not produce sufficient coffee for the consumption of this country, as was admitted last year by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Board of Trade. When such was the fact, why should those restrictive duties be continued so long? In the countries where such duties did not exist, the consumption of coffee had materially increased. In the United States it had doubled within the last five years, and it might be said, that an inhabitant of America drank four times as much coffee as an inhabitant of Great Britain. This was to be attributed to the different scale of duties. East-Indian coffee was of inferior quality to West-Indian, and yet it was loaded with a heavier duty; so that the tax was greatly prejudicial to the poor, who, but for it, might be able to purchase the cheaper article. He would suggest, that the duty on the low-priced East-India coffee should not be higher than that placed on the superior coffee of the West-India colonies. It was difficult to discriminate the different kinds of tea, yet he saw with surprise that an attempt was made in the late Act to discriminate them, in order to apply a graduated ad valorem duty to each different kind. It would be much easier to discriminate the different sorts of sugar and coffee, and common justice called for such a distinction being made. The next article on which there was a discriminating duty was tobacco. On East-India tobacco there was a duty of 3s. per pound, whilst on that imported from the North American colonies the duty was only 2s. 9d. a pound. He could not see the necessity of this difference in duty, since tobacco came exclusively from the United States, so that there were no colonies to protect by this duty. The same might be nearly said of East-India cigars, since the duty they paid was the same as that imposed on Havannah cigars, and this when cheroots were of an inferior quality to Cubas. He would now come to the articles of pepper and pimento. The latter was a West-India production, the former came from the East Indies. The same duty ought to be placed upon both articles, yet the duty on pepper was ls., while that on pimento was 5d. A reduction had taken place lately in the duties on both articles, the consequence of which was, that the consumption of them had increased. The same thing had taken place with respect to rice since the duty on it had been reduced. If the duty on coffee were reduced, the consumption of it would likewise increase. The next article on which there was a discriminating duty was rum. The duty on West-India rum was 9s. per gallon, whilst East-India rum was subject to a duty of 15s. per gallon. That was one of the articles referred to in the petition from Calcutta to which he had alluded in the beginning of his speech. If the people of those countries were encouraged to produce such commodities, why in the name of justice was not a market afforded to them? He thought that the West-Indians would have been a little more grateful for the generosity of this country in granting them 20,000,000l., and that they would have ceased their complaints, and been willing to abandon their monopoly. He hoped that this would be the last time he would have to appeal on this subject to the House; that Government between the present and next Session would take the subject into their consideration, and sweep away all those discriminating duties. The hon. Member concluded by moving—"That the rates of duty imposed on articles the produce of our Eastern possessions ought, with the least possible delay, to be reduced to an equality with the rates levied on articles the produce of the other possessions of Great Britain."

Mr. O'Connell moved, that the House be counted, and the House was counted out.