HC Deb 19 July 1839 vol 49 cc521-7

The order of the day for going into committee on the Inland Warehousing Bill having been read,

Mr. P. Thomson,

on rising to propose that the House resolve itself into a Committee, said that the principle on which the bill was framed was very simple. At present the Treasury had power, upon the recommendation of the commissioners of customs, to constitute any port a port for warehousing goods. That power was confined by law to towns which were ports. But it was often difficult to determine what was a port, and what was not. A place having a river running up to it, which could scarcely be called navigable, might make application, and the authorities would have great difficulty in determining upon the legality of its claim. Frequent instances of this kind bad occurred. The object of the present bill was to extend to the Treasury the same power with respect to towns which it at present exercised with respect to ports. Thus the difficulties of which he had spoken would be removed, and considerable advantage would also be gained by the extension of the bonding system to inland towns. He felt sure that he need not press on the House the advantages of the bonding system to the trade of this country. They were so obvious, and had been so amply proved by experience, that the only question, probably which he would have to argue was this—that by extending the system to inland towns the revenue would suffer no damage whatever. He believed that the revenue would stiffer no injury from the change. Every security for the revenue which existed in the case of ports would be continued in towns under the bill. The same security would be continued which existed with respect to goods carried coastwise and goods carried from one warehouse to another—namely, a bond taken in double the amount of the duty to which the goods were liable. He would mention to the House one of the anomalies that existed in the present state of the law. If a man wished to convey goods from the port of Leith to Liverpool, he had under the present law full power to do so, in any way be pleased, by land, sea, or canal, and the revenue suffered no injury whatever in consequence of the bond. That system was found to work well. But if the same party wished to convey his goods from Leith to Birmingham or Leeds, he was deprived of the advantage, in consequence of those towns not being bonding places. He (Mr. P. Thomson) was at a loss to conceive what argument could be urged—when the Government, from the experience of the present system, were satisfied that no injury could arise to the revenue—against the introduction to inland towns of the same system. Looking abroad, they would find that other countries had adopted it long ago. France had adopted it to the fullest extent; Germany had also adopted it to the fullest extent. England alone had not yet adopted the system of permitting inland towns, as well as towns on the coasts, to enjoy the advantages of bonding. He might be told that the ports were opposed to the measure, and that if it were carried their exclusive advantages would be somewhat diminished. He hoped, however, that in that House such a motive would not be allowed to prevail. It was the duty of that House not to protect the interest of one class against the interest another. He knew of no vested interest which the inhabitants of the ports could pretend to set up as a reason for depriving their fellow-subjects of advantages to which they were justly entitled. But with a view to the security of the revenue, and also to the avoidance of expense, he felt it his duty in offering these privileges to inland towns to give them with considerable restrictions. He did not mean to propose that parties transferring their goods from a port to an inland town should have the opportunity of bonding them in those towns, subject o all the allowances which are made in the best kind of warehouses at ports. But he proposed that the weights and measures taken at the ports, and the duties paid according to those weights and measures, should remain fixed when the goods were taken out of bond in the inland towns. The bond provided against any insecurity to the revenue, and there would be little or no increase of expense in the Customs' department, because the letter passing out the goods would be so simple as to require the presence of only one or two officers. If the appointment of those officers caused a slight increase of expense it was expense which was justified and called for, and one which the House had no right to refuse, if it was necessary to give fair and proper facilities to the trade of the country. He must here observe that he understood that the going into committee on this bill had been made a matter of considerable canvass. He knew that one had been going on in land had not. Besides, the amount of the place which he had the honour of re-presenting. Perhaps he differed a little with his constituents upon it, for he believed—he said it openly—that they would hardly receive any particular advantage from the bill. The proximity of Manchester to Liverpool, and the facilities which existed for the transmission of goods between the two places, would prevent Manchester from deriving any great benefit from the change which he proposed. But with respect to the more inland towns Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Halifax, and others—the advantage would be very great indeed. He hoped that the bill would be discussed on its merits; he trusted that it would not be opposed on the ground of any supposed injury to exclusive interests; or that any such motives would be allowed to prevail with the House. The right hon. Gentleman then moved that the House should resolve itself into a committee on the bill.

Viscount Sandon

said, the view which he wished to express upon this subject would be more properly conveyed by a motion for a select committee (if the present period of the session did not preclude him from taking such a course) than by the motion with which it was his intention to conclude. Before they proceeded to admit the principle of this measure, they would do well to consider what the consequence would be of disturbing the value of the immense amount of property invested in warehouses upon the faith of a long system of legislation. He did not profess to have a knowledge of other ports than the one which he had the honour to represent, but of that he believed it no exaggeration to say, that the amount of property invested in warehouses was 4,000,000l., a good and sufficient ground, in his estimation, to induce the House to pause and consider well whether those great advantages which the right hon. Gentleman anticipated were likely to be derived from this bill. His right hon. Friend had asked why the inland towns of England should not enjoy the advantages of bonding warehouses as well as those of other countries? His answer was, that in foreign countries there was a security for the transfer of goods which England did not, and would not, he was certain, wish to possess. The system of passports, the fortified towns, and the examination at the gate, which he believed this country would never submit to, gave to foreign countries a security which Eng- land had not. Besides, the amount of duty in foreign countries was not as high as we were obliged, for the sake of the revenue, to impose; they had not, like us, an amount of duty in proportion to the value of the article. Take, for example, the article of tobacco, the duty upon which in this country offered so great an inducement to fraud. Neither was the strong presumption of security to the revenue provided for in the passing of goods to inland towns, and he would tell the House why. The right hon. Gentleman's reliance was upon the bond. Now, if the right hon. Gentleman meant to rely solely on that, if he knew anything of mercantile transactions, he must be aware that the bond was no security whatever—that it was admitted constantly in the way of business without any investigation. That was notoriously the fact. Besides, it would be quite impossible to transact business in this country, if there was not some looseness in their mode of proceeding. If the Custom House were to inquire, in each case, whether the person giving the bond had his property otherwise encumbered, business would meet with such an obstruction as to prevent its being carried on. If the bond was regarded as a security, why did they interpose the Queen's lock, and other means of guarding against fraud. Another ground of objection to the bill was, that it was highly undesirable to aggregate in great manufacturing towns exposed to insurrection and tumult, a large amount of bonded goods of a very tempting nature. If they looked on this bill as a final measure, he did not think it likely to have any great effect upon the revenue or the interests of seaports, it was so guarded and restricted. Compelling the bonder to pay the full amount of duty, according as he took out his goods, and depriving him of the full allowance made to seaports, destroyed all inducement to bond inland, or any advantage to be derived from doing so; but there was very little doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be tormented, day after day, to remove those restrictions, to facilitate the operations of the bonders by a little increased expenditure, and to extend their privileges to town after town at an amount of expense which he was sure that House would never sanction. A memorial had been presented from Liverpool to the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon this subject, who promised it should be fully considered; but no answer had since been received from the right hon. Gentleman, and he knew not whether it was under technical consideration or not. Now, they had a right to be made acquainted not only with the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the subject, but also of the revenue board. It had been stated in that House, and never denied, that the revenue board were decidedly opposed to this bill, and he should like to know whether that was the fact or not. The noble Lord concluded by moving that the bill be committed that day three months.

Mr. Brotherton

said, that the only ground of opposition to this bill could arise from a desire to preserve the present monopoly to seaport towns. This bill would be of great advantages to his constituents, inasmuch as the effect of it must be to lower the present enormously high expenses of warehouseing at Liverpool and other seaport towns, and to diminish the rate of insurance in those warehouses.

Sir F. Trench

denied that this measure could be adopted without great danger to the revenue. Hon. Members might talk of a monopoly, but he did not think that seaport towns ought to be deprived of a right which they had long enjoyed, and which they had exercised for the benefit of the country.

Mr. Lascelles

said, that the whole question depended upon the effect it would have upon the revenue; and after the statement of the President of the Board of Trade he thought that the House ought to feel perfectly satisfied on that head. If they were to sanction the principle that they were to do nothing if it interfered with individual interests, there would be a stop to legislation altogether. He should support the bill.

Mr. A. Chapman

objected to the bill on the ground of the immense patronage which it would give to Government in the shape of the appointment of officers.

The Attorney-General

begged, in the name of his constituents, to return his warmest thanks to his right hon. Friend for bringing in this bill. As the law stood at present, the city of Edinburgh, which for all purposes ought to be considered a seaport, because it had no river running into the heart of it, was excluded from the benefits which seaports enjoyed. All towns should be placed upon an equal footing, whether they were one or fifty miles inland. He hoped, that this bill was the beginning of a system forgiving free trade to every part of the country. 'He felt confident, that all impartial Members would support this bill.

Mr. M. Philips

said, that his measure had been introduced in 1834, so that no Member could justly complain, that there had not been sufficient time for its consideration. The noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool stated, that the warehouses of Liverpool cost four millions. The duty on the goods warehoused in Liverpool was four millions annually, of which the town of Manchester and its environs paid onehalf—paying, in fact, every year, half the value of the warehouses of Liverpool. He was convinced, that this measure would confer great general advantages, and he cordially supported it.

Mr. Hutt

said, that all must agree, that this was a subject which involved very large property, and the ruin or welfare of a great number of individuals. It ought, therefore, to be approached with caution and consideration. He hoped, the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, would consent to withdraw the bill for the present Session, and that it would be introduced at an early part of the next Session, and referred to a committee up stairs, where there would be a full opportunity of considering all the circumstances of the case.

Mr. Warburton

said, the necessity of legislating on this subject arose from the present high duties. By removing those duties the seaports would enjoy a large share of the trade, as from their situation they were entitled to do; whilst the inland towns would derive from the change the benefits to which they were fairly entitled. He thought nothing more unfounded than the outcry which was raised against this bill by the seaport towns. He thought the House was bound to see that the inland towns received some compensation for the loss which they suffered in being shut out by the high duties from a participation in the general trade and warehousing of the country.

Sir E. Knatchbull

said, that it was unfair in the Government, and unjust to the parties interested, to introduce this bill at the present late period of the Session.

Mr. P. Thompson

said, that the right hon. Baronet had alone introduced party politics into a discussion which ought to be totally free from such topics. He knew not whether the experience of the right hon. Gentleman in office led him to look with suspicion on every measure introduced under such circumstances as the present, but he thought his objections to this bill perfectly groundless, As to its being in- troduced at a late period of the Session, it was, totidem verbis, the same bill as he had brought forward four years ago.

The House divided on the question of going into committee:—Ayes 102; Noes 39: Majority 63.

List of the AYES.
Adam, Admiral Maule, hon. F.
Aglionby, H. A. Morpeth, Viscount
Attwood, T. Morris, D.
Baines, E. Muskett, G. A.
Baring, F. T. Nagle, Sir R.
Barnard, E. G. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Bernal, R. O'Connell, M. J.
Bridgeman, H. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Brocklehurst, J. Packe, C. W
Brodie, W. B. Palmer, C. F.
Brotherton, J. Parker, R. T.
Brownrigg, S. Parnell, rt. hn. Sir H.
Bryan, G. Pendarves, E. W. W.
Buller, C. Philips, M.
Callaghan, D. Pigot, D. R.
Cayley, E. S. Pinney, W.
Codrington, Admiral Price, Sir R.
Craig, W. G. Protheroe, E.
Dalmeny, Lord Rice, E. R.
Dennistoun, J. Rutherford, rt. hn. A.
D'Eyncourt, rt. hon. C. T. Salwey, Colonel
Scholefield, J.
Donkin, Sir R. S. Seymour, Lord
Egerton, W. T. Smith, B.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Smith, R. V.
Ellis, W. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Evans, W. Steuart, R.
Ewart, W. Stewart, J.
Fenton, J. Strutt, E.
Finch, F. Talbot, C. R. M.
Fleetwood, Sir P. H. Teignmouth, Lord
Gisborne, T. Thomson, rt. hn. C. P.
Greenaway, C. Thornely, T.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir C. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Grey, rt. hn. Sir G. Turner, E.
Grimsditch, T. Turner, W.
Harcourt, G. G. Vigors, N. A.
Hawkins, J. H. Villiers, hon. C. P.
Hector, C. J. Walker, R.
Hill, Lord A. M. C. Warburton, H.
Hindley, C. Ward, H. G.
Hodges, T. L. Williams, W.
Hoskins, K. Williams, W. A.
Howard, P. H. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Howick, Viscount Wodehouse, E.
Hume, J. Wood, C.
Hutton, R. Wood, G. W.
Jervis, S. Worsley, Lord
Langdale, hon. C. Yates, J. A.
Lascelles, hn. W. S.
Lowther, J. H.
Lygon, hon. General Stanley, hon. E. J.
Macleod, R. Parker, J.
List of the NOES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Berkeley, hon. H.
Attwood, W, Blackstone, W. S.
Blennerhassett, A. Kemble, H.
Bowes, J. Knatchbull, r. h. Sir E.
Broadley, H. Liddell, hon. H. T.
Bruges, W. H. L. Lockhart, A. M.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Ossulston, Lord
Burdett, Sir F. Palmer, G.
Canning, rt. hn. Sir S. Plumptre, J. P.
Chapman, A. Praed, W. T.
Colquhoun, J. C. Pryme, G.
Darby, G. Richards, R.
Ellis, J. Rumbold, C. E.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Seale, Sir J. H.
Hawkes, T. Shepherd, T.
Henniker, Lord Trench, Sir F.
Hodgson, R. Wilshere, W.
Hope, H. T. Wood, Colonel T.
Irton, S. Sandon, Viscount
James, Sir W. C. Hodgson, H.

Bill went through a committee.