HC Deb 03 September 1835 vol 30 cc1318-21
Mr. Robinson

presented Petitions from Montreal, and from persons in the City of London engaged in the Timber Trade, against any alteration of the Timber Duties. He said that the Timber Trade was almost the only trade enjoyed by Canada with the mother country, and that, therefore, the petitioners in Montreal and elsewhere had viewed with alarm propositions founded on the views of political economists to alter duties. They were also in favour of a measure that would check emigration—a check which he deemed by no means desirable. As to the alterations in the duties, the prospects in many cases with which they had been made had not been realised. Here, as upon the wine duties, the liberal system had failed. When Lord Althorpe proposed the alteration of the wine duties, he declared that they would not produce the calculated benefits; the result justified his observation, for from that period France had not taken the slightest notice of our reduction of duties. Therefore had there been not only decided loss to the revenue, but grievous injury to individuals who had embarked their capital in the particular trade. The same would be found to be the case as regarded the changes of the timber duties. He would not enter upon the remarks that he might otherwise have made, had the President of the Board of Trade been present; but as the change on the timber duties had been founded on the recommendations of a Committee, he trusted that before anything were done on the timber duties, the evidence might be allowed to be in the hands of Members. Not that he placed much value in the evidence received. Indeed, he could not but think that Committees on trade, commerce, &c, were mere farces, because they were always appointed by the Government of the day, and re-echoed their sentiments. He was sure that if any Member would examine the evidence given on this Question, he would see that it was in favour of the present scale of duties. He hoped that the House would not be led away by the vague theories of political economists on this important subject.

Mr. Villiers

said, that the people would set down the observations just made as mere vague declamation. Not one proof had been adduced. The petitioners and the hon. Member sought to perpetuate what he must deem a most mischievous system, and a most unjust tax. From the way in which the hon. Gentleman constantly talked about free trade and reciprocity, it was evident, that he knew not what he spoke about. He was not aware of the principles on which free trade and reciprocity duties were defended. It was a defensive principle that the people should be allowed to get, and ought to get, the products of their own and other countries as cheap as possible. As to other countries not following our example, if the duites were put on a proper footing of reciprocity, he apprehended that other countries would soon find it to their interest to follow our example.

Dr. Bowring

defended the principle of free trade and reciprocity duties, contending that the people ought to be allowed to find the best articles on the cheapest terms; and the application of that principle would be best calculated to effect the development of the greatest freedom of and improvement in trade.

Sir Frederick Trench

rose to request that his Majesty's Ministers would not take advantage of the interval between this and the meeting of Parliament, to begin, or to lay the foundation of any proceeding founded upon the resolutions of the Committee upon the timber duties, until that House should have had an opportunity of fully discussing them. He was obliged, by the desire of his constituents, to take this course, although he feared it might be interpreted into a suspicion of unfairness, which personally he did not entertain.

Mr. Warburton

said, the protection at present given to the ship-owners and others in that class of the community, was to an outrageous extent, and it was too much that those parties should still wish it to be perpetuated. What was really the proposition? In 1823, when the former Committee sat, the proposition was this—that whatever difference there was in freight between bringing timber from the Baltic and from Canada, to that extent they should give the Canadas protection. More than that, they said they would not only give protection to the extent of the difference of freight, but to the extent of fifty per cent. on the prime cost. The persons connected with the trade, however, were not satisfied with that, nor would they be quiet till they had complete exclusion.

Mr. Patrick M. Stewart

thought there was nothing in the evidence justifying the conclusion to which the Committee on the timber duties had arrived. He did not mean to advocate the old-fashioned doctrines of exclusive trade, but he hoped the House would be cautious in meddling with subjects without the clearest demonstrations for the necessity of doing so. If hon. Members would only prove that the interests of the consumer would be consulted by the proposition of the Committee, it should have his warmest support. But in his opinion, there was no case made out to justify the proposition of the Committee.

Mr. Hume

said, if the hon. Member claimed the right of going to the cheapest butcher and baker, why should he deny the privilege of going to the cheapest timber merchant. The hon. Member for Worcester said, that no man could accuse him of ignorance. He would accuse that hon. Member of ignorance. The hon. Member warned the House against the visionary theories of political economists, such as himself. He would warn the House against the hon. Member as not being a political economist, or, at least, as being altogether ignorant of the subject. The hon. Member's arguments were as contrary to all rules of true political economy as they were to common sense. According to the hon. Member they must send ships to the Baltic, and from thence to Canada, so that instead of having that timber home in two months, the vessel would have to go all round the world, in order that the timber might be improved by doubling Cape Horn. Before the hon. Member accused him of being a visionary, let him be satisfied that he was quite correct himself. The trade of the country would not benefit by any of the extravagant propositions of the hon. Member. The way to promote the best interests of the country was to facilitate the exchange of commodities. The hon. Member relied upon the opinion of Mr. Huskisson; but the hon. Member should recollect that a protest was entered against that opinion, and what had then been foretold had since actually taken place. On these grounds, he had no hesitation in charging the hon. Member with being himself a theorist, and entirely ignorant of the true principles of political economy.

Petitions laid on the Table.

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