HC Deb 31 May 1836 vol 33 cc1209-10
Mr. Hutt

rose to move for a Return of the number of Ships' Reports that required amendment during the two years ending 5th January, 1836, the date of each ship's arrival, and the date at which the amended Report was completed; stating the nature of the error in each case. He felt it to be his duty, while representing a large commercial constituency, to direct the attention of the Government and the House to some great evils which the present Custom House system presented. He had had occasion to see a great deal of public offices; but there was not one which caused greater inconveniences to those who had to do with it, than the Custom House. In a country which drew 20,000,000l. from her imports, this could not but be productive of very great injury to her commerce; and unless a wiser system were pursued, that injury would become incalculable. The evil to which he now particularly adverted was this. "A ship comes into one of the out ports. A slight discrepancy is discovered between the cargo, the discharges, and the bill of lading in the Custom House. What takes place? A Report is sent to the Commissioners in London; the ship is de- tained, perhaps, for two or three days, and then an answer comes down, telling the Collector of the Customs at that port, that the discrepancy is immaterial, and that the ship may depart." It was easy to see what immense injury the commerce of the country must sustain from such a state of things. What he (Mr. Hutt) desired was, that the power of the Commissioners of Customs should be more localized, or that the Col lectors of the Customs should be enabled when satisfied that the discrepancy was the result of mere oversight, and not intended to defraud the revenue, to discharge the ship without subjecting her to this delay.

Mr. Francis Baring

said, he should offer no opposition to the Return. At the same time he must observe, that while the law remained as it did, the Commissioners of Customs had a duty to perform for which they could not be blamed.

Mr. Ewart

said, he could bear out what had been stated by his hon. Friend, the Member for Hull, that great evils arose from the want of localization in the power of the Commissioners of Customs; and he hoped some remedy would be applied.

Mr. Hume

observed, that what had fallen from the hon. Secretary (Mr. Baring) proved the necessity of an alteration in the existing system. At all events, he thought it was a fit subject for inquiry.

Mr. Robinson

bore testimony to the general disposition on the part of all public officers connected with the collection of the revenue, to afford every convenience in. their power. At the same time he must say, he fully agreed in what had been stated by the hon. Member who made this motion, as to the great injury sustained by commerce from the delay occasioned by the most trifling amendment required in Ships' Reports. He imputed no blame to any one; he hoped, however, the subject would gain the attention of Government.

Return granted.