HC Deb 21 July 1836 vol 35 cc381-98
The Earl of Darlington

was desirous of knowing from the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Howick) whether the Agricultural Committee intended to report this Session? He had heard, with no little regret and astonishment, that the Committee had determined to make no Report. He was confident that if such were the case, the agriculturists throughout the kingdom would feel great dissatisfaction on learning, that after sitting and hearing evidence for five months, the Committee were not prepared to satisfy the nation on a subject of such importance. He wished to know whether any motion was intended in order to bring on a general discussion, or whether any other means would be taken to inform the public why the Committee had made no Report?

Viscount Howick

Perhaps I ought to leave it to the Chairman of the Committee to give a reply, but as the noble Lord has addressed himself to me, I may be permitted to observe, that it was no less a matter of surprise to me than to others when I learned, that the Committee on the State of Agriculture has come to no report, The motion for reporting the evidence only was made by the right hon. Member for Cumberland, and it was seconded by the noble Member for Buckinghamshire; but the Members of Government upon the Committee were perfectly ready to discuss the propositions contained in the Report which had been drawn up by the Chairman, the hon. Member for Hampshire. In deference, however, to those who were immediately connected with the agricultural interest, they agreed that no opinion upon the evidence should be expressed. I did venture to express my surprise, that in a Committee of twenty-five Members, eighteen of whom were county Representatives, no one connected with the agricultural interest brought forward a proposition even for discussion. If, therefore, the noble Lord (Lord Darlington) has been disappointed, from the same disappointment the Members of Government are not exempted.

Sir James Graham

objected to a discussion being raised upon the mere asking of a question, and then proceeded to observe, that he had made a proposal—

Mr. Hume

interrupted the right hon. Baronet, to say, that if any one were allowed to go into the general merits of the question, similar indulgence could not be refused to him.

Sir James Graham

however irregular it might be to enter into the general merits of the question, it would be doubly irregular to deny him an opportunity of answering a statement directed against the course of conduct which he thought it proper to pursue during the proceedings before a Select Committee of that House. He had merely a short statement of facts to make.

Mr. Hawes

presumed, that if there were to be a full and regular renewal of the debate, every Member would be entitled to a hearing. If the right hon. Baronet and his Friends at the other side of the House were allowed to state their views, it was to be hoped that those who entertained different opinions would be allowed to state, explain, and defend theirs.

Sir James Graham

was ready to conclude with a motion, if a technical difficulty were thrown in his way; but he claimed a right, after what had been said, to give an explanation of his conduct in the Committee of Inquiry into the state of the agricultural interest—an inquiry, the magnitude and importance of which he presumed that no one would be disposed to question. He begged, in the first instance, to observe, that the motion for the appointment of that Committee was made by the noble Lord, the Secretary of State. Now, he desired to ask, had Government undertaken the management of the inquiry? On the contrary, they seemed to have avoided any connexion with it beyond nominating a certain portion of the ministers to be members of that Committee. It must be full in the recollection of the House, that when a similar inquiry was instituted during the administration of Lord Grey, a Cabinet Minister presided; but it was well known that the Committee of this Session had not in its chair any Member of the present Government. The chair was filled certainly by an hon. Gentleman who was usually one of the supporters of Ministers, but he held no situation in the Government. It had been said by the noble Lord opposite, that Ministers were at least very constant in their attendance as Members of the Committee, and were remarkable for strict punctuality. Of the attendance at that Committee, as at all others, doubtless a note was taken, and the minutes of the proceedings would show what the attendance had been, and from this, of course, the share that Ministers had taken in the proceedings would be apparent. From the minutes of proceedings of the Committee, it would also appear that Government had acquiesced in no Report being made. He should content himself with these remarks, and proceed to say the few words that were necessary to a vindication of his own conduct, after the severe strictures which the House had just heard. It was said, that he had acquiesced in there being no Report; what were the facts? At the close of the inquiry he came down and found that no plan was prepared; that Government were going about fishing for a Report; that they had gone to sea without a compass, ready to catch at anything that might turn up; that was the literal state of the case, and could it cause surprise, the Government having declined to take that lead in their proceedings which their situation required, that when they were unprepared with any plan, he should have taken the course which he had adopted? Surely the imperfect and undecided state of their views on the question was not to be made matter of censure as respected him. He would move, that the Orders of the Day be read.

The Marquess of Chandos

It is quite true that I seconded the motion of my right hon. Friend, that no Report be made, and I will fairly state why. The Report laid before us for adoption was of such a nature, that if it had gone before the country as the Report of the Committee, it would have done more injury to the farmer, than anything else that can well be imagined. I therefore thought it my duty—and if there be any blame in doing so, I am willing to bear it—to second the rejection of that Report. When the evidence goes forth it will show, among other things, who attended; and I would much rather stand alone in my opinions than be fettered by such as were offered in the Report.

Mr. Shaw Lefevre

Having had the honour to be Chairman of the Committee I may be allowed to say, that I endeavoured to conduct the inquiry as impartially as I could. My object was, that no class of persons connected with agriculture should have it in their power to say that their case had not been considered. It is true, that, after the Report I had drawn up had been read, it was moved that the evidence should be laid before the House without any observations; and it is true also that the Secretary of State for the Home Department supported that motion. He did so very much in deference to the opinion of the noble Member for Buckinghamshire, and my noble Friend expressly said, that until he heard the noble Marquess he was not prepared to agree to the proposition of the right hon. Baronet. [Lord John Russell had said, that he deferred to the authority of the noble Member for Buckinghamshire.] The noble Lord reminds me that the expression he used upon the occasion was, that he deferred to the authority of the noble Member for Buckinghamshire. My Report certainly did not meet the views of the Committee, and all I can say of it is, that it was formed on an honest conviction that it was supported by the evidence, and if the Committee had allowed it, I could have shewn that every paragraph had been established. As to the interests of the farmer, I can assure the House that no one has a greater interest in maintaining them than I have: the great evil has been, that the farmers never have been told what is the true state of the case. They have had too great a dependence upon Corn Laws. Therefore I said, that they ought, in the first instance, to look to their landlords, and that when they had fairly and properly reduced their rents, the farmers must rely on the other sources possessed in common by all agriculturists, by which many are now enjoying a state of comparative prosperity. I am aware that unless the Report obtained the sanction of the great majority of the Committee, it would not have had due weight with the country, and for this reason I do not say that we could have come to any other conclusion than not to give any opinion. At the same lime I am bound to add, that if after such a protracted inquiry, and such a mass of evidence, the Committee was unable to agree upon any distinct measure of relief, it is a very convincing proof that it is not in the power of the Legislature to do anything.

Mr. Hume

Although the Committee consisted of country gentlemen, in the proportion of, I believe, three to one, and although the Committee was appointed at their earnest instance, I am delighted to find, that the investigation has ended as I foretold. I will only make this observation to the noble Marquess. He hopes that the evidence will go forth and show how far his case has been made out; but the portion of the evidence I have seen, destroys his case entirely. I have not seen the latter part of it, but what I have seen establishes, that the labouring man—in whose behalf the country gentlemen were so loud, who never thought of themselves in the preservation of the Corn Laws, but only of the agricultural servants—for the last six months prior to the sitting of the Committee was in a better condition than for many years past. This is a great ground of satisfaction to me, although the noble Marquess may say it makes out his case for a reduction of taxes paid by the farmer. He can make out no case for the reduction of a single tax, excepting the tax upon one horse kept by the farmer, and not employed in the work of his farm. Everything shows, that the landed interest does not pay one quarter of the taxes paid by other classes. I, too, wish the evidence to go forth to the country, for if I can read it aright, it will establish the case I have always maintained.

Mr. Evelyn Denison

said, that the right hon. Baronet opposite, the Member for Cumberland, had made his speech in the present discussion rather a vehicle for an attack upon the Government than any vindication of the proceedings of the Committee; that appeared to him to afford cause for regret. He expressed his regret that the motion for no Report to be made had been adopted, although he admitted that he did not agree in all parts of the Report drawn up by the Chairman. He feared that the country would be disappointed at the separation of the Committee without the expression of any opinion.

Sir Broke Vere

thought the country had a right to look to the Legislature and to the Government for a Report. No such motion as that of the right hon. Baronet would have been made had it been thought likely that the Committee would have come to a satisfactory conclusion.

Mr. Wakley

I rise in consequence of the remark of the hon. Member for Middlesex, who talks of the improved condition of labourers employed in agriculture. I wish to be informed whether any of the labourers were examined, and if they were, from what counties they were selected?

Lord John Russell

I am sorry that I was not in the House when this discussion commenced, but I feel bound to afford such explanation as I can give, relative to the statement of the right hon. Baronet opposite. I do not at all wonder at that statement, although I consider it extremely partial, and likely to lead to erroneous conclusions; and it renders it necessary for me to call the attention of the House to the facts, as they relate to the Agricultural Committee. The noble Member for Buckinghamshire had stated that it was his intention to move for an inquiry into agricultural distress, and the Government was of opinion that, with the many complaints on that subject from the owners, and more particularly from the occupiers of land, it was fit to appoint a Committee. At the same time, in proposing such a Committee, I did not state that there was any great or prominent measure of relief which could, in my opinion be the result of its labours. With respect, however, to certain burdens on the agricultural interest—with respect to county-rates and poor-rates, I thought that such a Committee might be able to ascertain whether measures to be adopted by Parliament might or might not be practically beneficial, and lead to some improvement. In naming the Committee, I placed upon it a great majority of Members for agricultural counties, and I believe it was objected at the time, that out of 30 Members, 23 or 24 represented, almost exclusively, the agricultural interest. The Committee was appointed, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire was made chairman of it. The investigation was prosecuted with great diligence, and when we first came to the question, what should be the matter of inquiry? I think every Member of the Committee will support me in the statement, that I said it would be unwise to put fetters upon it; that no fetters ought to be put upon the inquiry beyond such as were necessary to prevent the evidence extending to subjects quite foreign and unconnected. The consequence was, that the Committee entered into an investigation more extended than that of the Committee of 1833. At the conclusion of their labours, and when a sufficient number of the Committee was in attendance, my hon. Friend, the Chairman, produced his draft of a report. It was communicated to me, as well as to others; but it so happened that I believe I was one of the last to receive it. The Committee was summoned to consider it: no less than twenty-five Members attended, and eighteen of those were Members for counties. And with regard to Members for counties, it is to be observed that of those whom I had named as representing counties connected with manufactures, the noble Lord the Member for Lancashire declined to attend; so that the county Members were chiefly Members for agricultural counties, and represented agricultural interests. I came to the Committee under the expectation that the draft of the report was to be considered point by point, and prepared to give my opinion upon every sentence. It was to me matter of great astonishment to find the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Cumberland, the chairman of the Committee of 1833, propose immediately that the whole Report should be suppressed, that not a word of it should be taken into consideration; but a resolution be passed, declaring that the Committee would only report the evidence. I thought the course extraordinary, but my surprise was lessened, and my opinion a good deal changed, when I heard the noble Marquess, the Member for Buckinghamshire, second the motion. Certainly I had expected, that if the report of my hon. Friend the chairman were not adopted (and I was not disposed to press upon the Committee all the statements it contained), it would be considered fairly, and that Members would state their individual opinions. It did not contain any proposal for the immediate relief of agricultural distress; but I little thought that a motion would be made for its total suppression— suppression too, by those who had been calling upon the House for months, and not only for months but for years, to take into consideration the distress of the agricultural interest. The right hon. Baronet and the noble Marquess had no proposal to make, they had no definite remedy to offer, but merely moved the suppression of the report. I said on the occasion that if I, as a Member of the Government and of the Committee, agreed most reluctantly to that course, it was not that I was not prepared to enter fully into the statements contained in the draft of the report or in any substitute that might be offered; and I added that my wish was that the Committee should give an opinion, in the first place, with respect to the working of the new Poor-law now in operation; next, upon a remedy applicable to tithes affecting agricultural interest; and thirdly, upon the question of the currency, a subject that had occupied much of the attention of the Committee. I declared myself ready to enter into these topics, to debate these points, and to endeavour to cause my opinions to prevail; but if they did not prevail, I was ready that the Committee should agree to a report containing the opinions of the majority. [Sir J. Graham: You proposed nothing]. I said, that these were fit subjects for a report, and I added that my opinions were very much those embodied in his draft by the Chairman. I must also mention, that I gave it to the Committee as my opinion, that a further ground for hesitation and reluctance in agreeing to the resolution of the right hon. Baronet was, that great disappointment would prevail in the country, and that the farmers who had applied to Parliament for some inquiry and for some remedy, if they would have been disappointed at the refusal of investigation, would be still more disappointed at the separation of the Committee without making any report. I have said thus much to show that Government at least is not responsible for the Committee having come to no result. My noble Friend near me (Lord Howick) has observed, that the Committee, by adopting no report, did negative many a statement both with regard to agricultural distress and the remedies applicable to it. I certainly concurred very much in that opinion. For instance, with respect to the currency, it has been said in the present and in former Sessions, that the great remedy for agricultural as well as for all other distress, is the repeal of the Bill introduced by the right hon. Baronet, effecting a change in the circulating medium. That subject was fully investigated by the Committee, and by not coming to any resolution it has confirmed the opinion entertained by the right hon. Baronet and myself, and repeatedly stated in resolutions of this House. It shows that those who have endeavoured to raise the country on that subject are not prepared in a Committee of twenty-five members, eighteen of whom represent agricultural counties, to back their own opinions. I repeat, then, that for the non-adoption of any report Ministers are not responsible; we were quite ready; I came down to the Committee fully prepared to have some three or four days' debate on the report, and those who are responsible are the Members who have over and over again asserted that the agricultural interest is in distress, and that relief could be given by Parliament. The result of the whole is that—admitting, as I must do, that distress has prevailed for some years among the occupiers of the land, a distress which I have always lamented, and which, I hope, is now diminishing—it is not to be relieved by a change in the currency; that it is not to be relieved by a repeal of the malt tax; that it is not to be relieved by any specific measure that Parliament can apply to the evil. I have not been forward in calling myself the advocate of the agricultural interest—I have not been forward in summoning meetings of farmers to demand inquiry by Government or by Parliament—I have not been forward in asserting that justice was denied to the agricultural interest; but I will tell the House what, as a humble Member of the Administration, I have done. I have been forward in co-operating with a former Government, as a Member of that Government, in passing a Bill which I thought would prevent abuses in the administration the Poor-laws, which would prevent large sums of money being laid out improvidently, and which would tend to restore to the labouring classes of England that character of independence which they formerly enjoyed. I have likewise endeavoured to my utmost, and I hope not unsuccessfully, to pass through Parliament some measure which might relieve the agricultural interest from the levy of tithes in kind, one of the most oppressive burdens that could be inflicted. I have also assisted my right hon. Friend near me, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in proposing some alleviation, by some aid from the public, with respect to county-rates. These things I have done because I thought they were practical measures, tending, as they advanced and promoted the interests of agriculture, to advance and promote the interest of the community. I never have, and I never will profess myself to be the sole and exclusive advocate of any one interest, agricultural, commercial, or manufacturing. I consider it the duty of a Member of Parliament, as well as of a Member of the Government, to attend to the interests of all impartially. I never will endeavour to raise a cry upon these subjects, or to promote an imputation on the character of Parliament, or on the character of either of the two great parties who occupy these benches. I think that the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Robert Peel), in his conduct, with respect to the currency, and with respect to the Malt-tax, took a wide and enlarged view of the interests of the country; and I am not disposed to let any party feeling interfere with the discharge of what I consider my duty; but having attended to these three great questions—poor-rates, tithes, and currency—I hope we shall stand as fairly before the country as those who, indulging in perpetual and empty Reclamations on agricultural distress, have endeavoured to increase discontent, without having any measure to propose by which distress could be relieved, or discontent removed.

Mr. Ormsby Gore

contended that although the Committee had thought proper not to make a report, that was not a sufficient ground for asserting that no sufficient case of distress had been made out on the part of the agriculturists. There was scarcely a tax raised in the country which did not bear directly or indirectly upon the farmer; and if any proof of the existence of extreme distress were wanting, he would refer to the state of the rents throughout the farming districts, which had fallen, in many cases, from 1l. to half-a-crown, and even in some cases the farmers refused to take the land rent-free. The noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department had said that no person was prepared to offer any remedy for the existing distress; for his own part he thought that the existence of the evil being proved, as it now indisputably was, it became the duty of those intrusted with the government of the country to devise the remedy. It could not surely be expected that the farmers throughout the country should have to wade through the mass of evidence contained in this report, in order to digest the subject, and take upon themselves to originate some measure before any relief was to be extended to them.

Sir Robert Peel

thought it necessary, as he had been a member of this Committee, to trespass upon the House with a few words on the present occasion. When the Committee was originally appointed, it would be recollected, perhaps, that he had reluctantly given the proposition his assent; and the reason upon which he assented to it at all was, that being perfectly aware that distress did prevail to a very great extent in many of the agricultural districts, he knew with what feelings of bitterness and alleged hardship men who were deeply concerned in these interests, deeply and personally affected by that distress, might view an unconditional refusal on the part of the Government and of the House to inquire into their condition. But well he recollected also that whilst he gave this as his reason for acquiescing in the appointment of this Committee, he at the same time predicted that nothing but disappointment would be the result. He foretold this upon many considerations. In the first place, he recollected the Committee upon this very subject in 1833, which reported its opinion to the House that the agriculturists should seek relief from their own exertions rather than from any extraneous or collateral sources. In that report he had acquiesced, and he remained still unaltered in his opinion, that, let the newly-appointed Committee make whatever report they might, it would come in the end to the same result—and it would be a delusion for them to tell the country, or to hold out a hope, that Parliament had the relief of the agriculturists at all within their power. He certainly could not deny, that the present system of tithes was a very serious burthen upon the land; and, so far as it went, a fundamental cause of the distress which at present prevailed. But this subject was one which could only be dealt with by the House itself; nor did he expect that the House would, on that question, suffer itself to be guided by the opinion of a Select Committee. Then there was the currency. The inquiry before the Committee was certainly a general one; and, therefore, it would have been unwise to have thrown the slightest impediment in the way of their examinations even upon this point. He had interposed, therefore, no impediment in the way of the particular question mooted in the inquiry, fixed as his own opinions were and arc that—(without discussing the expediency of the new system of currency which some years ago was adopted)—great distress must inevitably prevail throughout the country, if any attempt were to be made for returning from the present convertible currency, to the inconvertible paper currency which formerly existed. He thought it would be impossible, now, to return to the old system without materially endangering the stability of the property and interests, not of one, but of every class of persons in this kingdom, and giving rise to doubt and anxiety in the public mind of the most painful character. A metallic standard and a convertible currency had existed during a period of fourteen years; and all the transactions during that period having been engaged in under that currency,—and upon the faith pledged, time after time, by this House that the currency and standard should not be again departed from—it would be, in his opinion, useless and hazardous, in the extreme, to hold out any prospect of a re-opening of the question. It was now agreed upon, on all hands, that Parliament never adopted a measure more likely to secure to industry its reward, and to preserve a fair equality in the prices of labour and of necessaries, than that for a just and unfluctuating currency. The result of the inquiries in the Committee went to prove the beneficial operation of that measure; the condition of the working classes was found to have been gradually improving under the present system of currency, and it was shewn that any alteration in that system could now only act injuriously upon those who depended upon the price of their daily labour for their support. With respect to the course adopted by the Committee in declining to frame a report, he must say that, for his part, he was not surprised at it: and whatever disappointment might have been felt by some parties at the absence of such a report, that disappointment had been small compared to that which would have been experienced, had the Committee merely reported opinions upon which they had all agreed. That any discussion had taken place upon the subject at all, he looked upon as no mean compliment to his noble Friend (Lord Chandos), who, by merely giving a vague notice of an intention to move for an inquiry upon the subject, caused his Majesty's Government to anticipate him by a passage in the King's Speech at the beginning of the ensuing Session, recommending such an inquiry to be made. His noble Friend's influence with the Government must undoubtedly have been very great, when, by a casual intimation of this kind he caused the subject to be taken up in his Majesty's Speech, and subsequently put in course of inquiry by the noble Leader of his Majesty's Government in that House. To show still further the deference which the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) paid to the influence of his noble Friend, when the noble Lord came down to the Committee to state his reasons why he thought no Report should be made, the noble Lord said he came to that conclusion in deference to the opinion of his noble Friend. Really, his noble Friend (Lord Chandos) must wield a potent influence in the State, when he had caused the Government to institute this inquiry, in the first place, merely by having entered a notice on the subject,—and then to make no Report, in deference to him. It had been alleged that he could be but little affected by the state of the agricultural interest. But he could say, that he had a much deeper personal interest in agriculture than in any other interest or branch of industry in the State. He felt the most strongly-rooted attachment to agriculture, and he believed that these were the strongest reasons to justify a feeling of preference;—At the same time, he was so perfectly satisfied that the hopes of the agricultural interest must rest eventually upon their own exertions, that he could not bring himself to encourage the delusive expectations, on their part, that the Legislature, either by an alteration of taxation or any other change in the financial system of the country whatever, could permanently or substantially place them in an improved condition. He should rather tell the agriculturists to look at the farmers of Scotland, and endeavour to work out some plan of amelioration, and consequently of relief for themselves, which, however inadequate, perhaps, to meet the temporary pressure, would eventually be found much more beneficial than any which Parliament could afford. To say the truth, he must own that he did not anticipate that any immediate or striking amelioration could at present be afforded, either by the exertions of Parliament, or of individuals. Such important changes, and such stupendous improvements had been made, of late years, in the mechanical arts, and in the application of them to the wants of society, that every interest in the kingdom must be expected to be affected by them to a considerable extent; and above all others have they wrought mighty changes in the relative situation of the farmer. It must not be concealed from them that steam-navigation was making a great revolution in this country, bringing as it did the produce of distant lands into competition with old and exhausted soils, and that this was the great reason why the stiff and clay lands of this country were subject to the disadvantages under which they at present laboured, and to which they must continue to be exposed till a check was interposed to the progress of human improvement. This, he would repeat, was the principal and strongest reason why the occupiers of stiff and clayey soils could not enter into a successful competition with the farmers of other lands which were more favoured by circumstances. Taking these circumstances into consideration, he acquiesced in the resolution of the Committee not to submit any Report to the House. But, if he might be allowed to say so, his recollection was not exactly the same as the noble Lord's with respect to the course of conduct which the noble Lord had pursued in reference to the proposed Report. He was bound to say, however, in the outset, that in his opinion both the House and the Committee were under great obligations to the Chairman of the Committee for the industry, the ability, and the great impartiality which he had shown throughout the inquiry. But as it seemed that they were at liberty to divulge the secrets of the prison-house, he would venture to state what, as far as his recollection guided him, the noble Lord did when that Report was submitted to the Committee. The noble Lord went through that Report, reading it, like a magician, backwards, and as he went on he struck all the brains out of it. The noble Lord stated, when he objected to parts of the Report, that he would give most satisfactory reasons why they should not be retained. There was this objection to any observation on the subject of the currency, that a distinct Resolution had been passed by the House,—that any alteration in our monetary system, which would have the effect of lowering the standard of value, was highly inexpedient and dangerous to the best interests of the country. Now, when a Select Committee was appointed to consider the subject of the currency—a question of immense importance, and immediately interesting every member of the community,—I cheerfully resigned any advantage I might have derived from the Resolution, and relied on the intrinsic force of truth, and on the weight of the evidence collected in the course of the inquiry. Then we came to the question of the malt-tax and to the question of an increased duty on foreign corn. The noble Lord said, that these were questions for his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of too much importance to be reported on by a Select Committee, and he wished the paragraphs in which those questions were referred to, to be omitted. The noble Lord acted in the same manner with respect to one or two other points, and when he came himself to look at the Report, he found that the noble Lord had, with his sickle, so carefully cut down and gathered up every important Resolution of the Committee, that hardly anything was left to Report upon; and he had nothing to do but to assent to the proposition that the Committee should not present any Report. On the whole, he thought that there would be less disappointment felt from giving the evidence unaccompanied by any Report, than would be the case if the Committee presented a mere mutilated document relating to matters of comparatively little importance. The noble Lord did, indeed, propose a panegyric upon the reduction which had been effected in the county-rates, a reduction amounting altogether to 70,000l., and which was attained by the partial transfer of expenses of criminal prosecutions to the Government. He believed that the farmers were quite aware of the fact, and that in consequence their rates had been reduced a farthing in the pound; the noble Lord's proposed Resolution was at any rate a proof that he thought either that we were not informed of the fact, or were not sufficiently alive to its importance. The noble Lord also recommended that the Report should specify the Tithe Bill as a measure of great importance, and likely to afford great relief to the agricultural interest; but he suggested to the noble Lord that the Tithe Bill had not yet passed into a law—that it was then before the House of Lords; and that although he sincerely hoped it would receive their assent and concurrence, he deemed it to be rather premature to dwell upon a measure as being a great boon to the agricultural interest which had not yet become law. The noble Lord then adverted to the progress which had been made under the new poor law in diminishing the burdens upon agriculture, but he did not think that it was exactly the province of the Committee to enter upon the consideration of the Poor-law; for very little evidence had been taken upon the subject, and although that question would doubtless have formed a useful head of inquiry, yet, as the Committee did not enter upon it—the consequence would be,—if it had ventured to say too much, and to predict great benefits, from the measure, that that Report, although future events might confirm the conjecture on which it had proceeded, would not be founded on any evidence that had been received. There was, however, a paragraph in the Report relating to stiff lands which had been left undrained, and recommending the Scotch method, of an application of the plough and draining the subsoil. We all felt, on reading the Report, that if we omitted every thing relating to the corn-laws, every thing about the malt-tax, and the corresponding duty on foreign corn, the plough, in a Report thus presented, would stand in rather too bold a relief. Then other Gentlemen said, they had heard of harrows, and other mechanical improvements, which they thought deserved mention. He was at first, certainly, disposed in favour of presenting a Report; but when he considered all the circumstances to which he had referred, and the expectations which had been formed, he most willingly acquiesced in the propriety of making no Report at all; and he was very sure that the disappointment which would be felt would not be so great as if the Committee had presented a Report in which all the remedies that had been proposed for the relief of agriculture should have been discussed. He had attempted to state, and he hoped he had succeeded in stating correctly the proceedings before the Committee; and he must say, that if the noble Lord was the original author of the proposal for a Committee, and therefore responsible for what the Committee had done— ["No! No!"] Why, surely the noble Lord, in advising the King to recommend that Committee in his speech from the Throne, was more responsible for the appointment of such a Committee than a county Member who had given a vague notice that such an inquiry would probably be instituted the next session; and therefore, he said again if the noble Lord without a division agreed to let the Committee report the evidence only to the House, it was rather too late for him to endeavour to throw the responsibility of the Committee having agreed to no Report, upon the shoulders of others.

Mr. Ashford Sanford

said, that, as he had understood the matter the discussion in the Committee was, not as to whether the Report prepared by the Chairman should be received, but whether there should be any Report at all. He was of opinion that the landowners would find their interests not improved by the constant agitation of this question, as it would necessarily deter persons from vesting their capitals in land.

Sir Robert Price

said, that at the time the Committee was moved he predicted that no benefit would result from its inquiries. The very circumstance that the Committee had not been able to frame a Report showed that there was no clearly defined views on the part of the agriculturists themselves as to the remedial measures which would afford them relief.

Mr. Hawes

was surprised to hear the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tam-worth, take credit to himself for the assistance rendered by him to the Government in passing the Poor-law Bill. He was in office from 1817 to 1830, and never brought forward any measure for the amendment of the Poor-laws.

Sir R. Peel

I did not at all detract from the merit due to the present Government for the passing of the Poor-law Amendment Bill; nor do I wish to take any credit to myself except for not having made it a party question.

Mr. Hawes

said, the right hon. Baronet had rendered the Government no assistance in carrying that measure. All he wished to observe upon it was, that, when it was said that the present Government had done nothing for the agricultural interests it should be remembered that the credit of passing the Poor-law Bill was entirely theirs. He wished also to make one remark upon an observation that fell from the noble Lord, the Member for Buckinghamshire. The noble Lord said, the evidence taken before the Committee would support his case, now what the noble Lord's case was, he (Mr. Hawes) did not exactly know, but why was it not brought forward in the Committee, if the evidence would support it? He was glad this debate had been originated. It would now go forth to the country, that after the parade about agricultural distress, and the remedies that were to be provided for it, the Committee were not able to agree upon any one mode by which relief could be afforded.

The Report brought up.