HC Deb 05 February 1838 vol 40 cc810-5
Mr. Labouchere

, on bringing forward the motion of which he had given notice, for the House resolving itself a Committee on the Coal Trade Act said, that, although the subject was of considerable importance, yet it would not be necessary for him to trespass at any length on the attention of the House. The object which he had in view was the continuance of the Bill which Mr. Frankland Lewis brought in a few years ago for regulating the coal trade, as respected this metropolis and certain parts of the adjoining counties. That Bill, as the House must recollect, made an alteration, by which instead of being sold by measure coals should be only sold by weight, the dues being regulated by the same principle. The operation of Mr. Frankland Lewis's Bill was limited to seven years, and as that time had nearly expired it became necessary to continue its provisions. If it were allowed to expire the consequence would be a return to the old system. The whole of the arrangements with respect to coal metres would be done away with, and the vexatious imposts and dues of the city of London would all be revived. There could, he thought, be no difference of opinion as to the impropriety of allowing this Bill to expire, but at the same time he begged to say, that it was not his intention to propose its renewal without allowing the House a full opportunity of looking into it, and closely and accurately investigating every one of its provisions, in order to see whether any fresh alterations were necessary, and if the duties and regulations of the trade could be rendered less onerous to the inhabitants of the metropolis than they now were. It appeared to him, that the proper course would be to refer the Bill on the second reading to a Select Committee up stairs. Its provisions would by this means be best examined and considered, and, with this impression on his mind, that was the course he meant to take. He had communicated with the parties interested in the subject, both in the North and in London, and they all expressed themselves perfectly satisfied with what he proposed to do. This circumstance relieved him of the necessity of going into the details of the measure. There was one point, however, which he was bound to mention, and it was one which he was sure would give satisfaction to the House, and that was, that when the corporation of the city of London applied to him to move for the renewal of this Bill, they stated, that they would consent to have the duty now levied by them on each ton of coals reduced one-half The sum thus to be given up to the public would be about 6,000l. a year, and showed the disposition of the city of London to do everything in their power to contribute to the comfort and welfare of the inhabitants of the metropolis. He should propose, that the Select Committee should have power to inquire whether the duty of 12d. the chaldron, at present paid, could not be still further reduced, and also to investigate generally the manner in which the coal trade was conducted in the port of London. It was not his intention that they should carry their inquiry further, or go into the coal trade as it existed in the North; and in order that they should confine themselves to this branch of the subject merely, he should propose that their investigation should be limited to the regulations of the coal trade in London, and the amount of duties chargeable on coals brought into market in the metropolis. In these inquiries they would find considerable assistance in the Report of the Committee of 1826. Though they did not want to make any material alterations with respect either to the amount of the duties or the way in which the coal trade was carried on, he was anxious that the matter should be fully examined into, in the hope that a satisfactory result to all parties would be arrived at. The hon. Member then moved, that the House should resolve itself into Committee.

Lord G. Somerset

said, he concurred in much of what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman, but in considering the question he hoped the interests of the coalowners of the north were not the only interests which would be regarded. He disapproved of invidious distinctions, and as the system of combination in this trade existed as much now as ever, he thought that the whole subject, without reference to any part of the country, should be inquired into.

The House resolved itself into a Committee.

Mr. Labouchere

then proposed a resolution, to the effect that a Bill should be brought in for continuing the law now in operation with respect to the coal trade of the metropolis.

Mr. Goulburn

feared, that the object which the hon. Gentleman had in view would not be attained by his resolution, as it went merely to the continuance of the present Act, and not to the inquiry proposed.

Mr. Labouchere

said, that he meant to effect the inquiry by means of an instruction to the Committee. With respect to what had fallen from the noble Lord, (Lord G. Somerset), he had merely to explain, that his reason for mentioning the coal-owners of the north was, because it was on them the metropolis depended for a supply of that article. He was sorry to say, that little or no coals reached the port of London from any other quarter.

Resolution agreed to, and the House resumed. Bill brought in and read a first time.