HC Deb 14 February 1840 vol 52 cc273-99

Mr. Labouchere moved the second reading of the Importation of Flour (Ireland) bill.

Mr. E. Tennent

had stated, on a former stage of the bill, his determination to oppose it, and not, as had been suggested, merely on the narrow ground that it was a measure affecting the interests of the millers only, but on the broader principle, and the more important one, that it would materially interrupt the career of agricultural improvement in Ireland; and so far from benefitting either of those classes for whose advantage it purported to be introduced—the manufacturers and the poor—that it would be a direct and serious injury to both. And when hon. Members spoke of the propriety of assimilating the laws of England and of Ireland in this respect, he would remind them that it was out of the very dissimilar circumstances of the two countries that the present dissimilarity in the law had arisen. This was not an act of a recent date, or a measure of the British Parliament, which they were about to annul and to repeal; it was an Act passed by the Parliament of Ireland long before the Union took place, which had been recognized by the Act of Union, and which had been continued and perpetuated by every Corn Act passed by the Imperial Parliament since. The House was aware that down to a very recent period, Ireland was almost entirely destitute of a home manufacture of flour, but was totally dependent upon England, and that even within the last thirty years her wheat and oats, even for her own consumption, were sent to Bristol, to Liverpool, and to Glasgow, to be ground, and were thence returned to her in the shape of flour and oatmeal. It was to remedy this serious want that the present law was enacted. To show the peculiar circumstances of Ireland which led to this enactment, so far back as 1757, an Act of the Irish Parliament "for supplying Dublin with flour," recites in its preamble, that the inhabitants "had frequently been reduced to great distress," from the difficulty in procuring flour; and in order to encourage a steady supply at home, the Act affixes a bounty to every hundred- weight of Irish flour grown and manufactured in the country and brought inland to Dublin. In 1763, this bounty was increased by another Act of the Irish Parliament, and in 1777 it was extended to sea-borne flour, the produce of the country. Between this period and the Union various other advantages and inducements were held out to capitalists to incline them to invest their property in mills, and powers were granted to bishops, corporations, and incapacited persons, to enable them to demise lands, on long leases for the building of flour mills. Public money was advanced to erect mills in districts where private capital could not be found, and at length, in an Act passed in the year 1783, entitled, "An Act for regulating the Corn Trade, Promoting Agriculture, and providing a regular supply of Corn," the present law, prohibiting the importation of foreign flour, was, for the first time introduced. It would seem as if the previous policy, and its encouragement to the millers had been found successful, and that the trade was so increasing as to hold out a prospect of its being adequate to the entire supply of the home market, and in consequence of the 18th clause, prohibiting foreign flour, was inserted in these words:— And be it enacted, for the further encouragement of corn mills in this country (Ireland), that no corn or grain ground into meal or flour, or made into bread or biscuit, shall at any time be imported into this kingdom, except from Great Britain, and of British growth and manufacture, under penalty of the forfeiture of all such meal, flour, &c, and a sum of 5l. for every hundred-weight thereof. In 1792, the penalty was still further increased by the forfeiture of the vessel; and such continued to be the law till the period of the Union, in 1800. In every Act and proceeding of the Legislature, since, the same policy has been recommended and continued. In 1801 and 1802, a committee of the House of Commons, which sat upon the question of the corn intercourse with Ireland, especially reported the existence of this enactment, and recommended its continuance; and in the corn law passed in that year, as well as in those of 1804, 1806, 1815, 1822, and 1828, the prohibition was recognized and perpetuated; and in the discussion upon the latter bill, in the House of Commons, the right of Ireland to this protection was strenuously insisted upon by Sir John Newport and Mr. Spring Rice; and in the House of Lords, a motion of Earl Stanhope, by way of amendment, to exclude Foreign meal and flour, even from England, also was supported by Lord Ellenborough, the Marquess of Salisbury, and others, on the specific grounds of the duty incumbent on the Legislature to protect and encourage the agriculture of Ireland through the promotion of its milling trade.—The natural effect of the confidence thus inspired into the Irish capitalist, by the assurance given him of steady protection, was the building of a vast number of mills, and so striking is the contrast exhibited in this particular now, as compared with the condition of Ireland at the Union, when there was scarcely such a thing as a flour mill to be found, that by a return of 1835 it appears that there were no less a number than 1,882 corn and flour mills then registered in that country (that return was imperfect even then, and the number has been since increased), and that Ireland, which at the lime of the union was an importing country, exported to England, in 1825, 599,124 cwt. of flour and meal, and, in 1835, 1,984,480 cwt., being an increase of 1,390,356 cwt. within ten years, and within the same period an increase in the tonnage of shipping employed in that trade alone of no less than 69,267 tons, being the difference between 29,956 tons in 1825, and 99,224 tons in 1835. Subsequent returns, to which he would presently allude, show the present import to be upwards of 2,000,000l. He did hope that the House would weigh well the consequences, not only to the miller, but to the country in general, before they proceeded to unsettle and weaken a branch of trade so new and so prolific, and the ramifications of which extended equally to the merchant, the manufacturer, and the agriculturist. But then he was to be told that this was a groundless alarm created on the part of the miller—that this was a measure, the effects of which would only be felt, if at all, in seasons of great scarcity, and that he would be so protected by the existing duties of England, which it was proposed to apply to the new trade in Ireland, and the difference and cost of freight, that the Irish flour would still have a preference in ordinary seasons. Why, if this were really the case, and that the whole matter was such a bagatelle, he would concur that a sufficient ground had been established against the bill of the right hon. Gentleman. Why would the House, for such a temporary trifle, such an abstract and comfortless theory, overthrow the existing law, and strip the property embarked in mills in Ireland of that permanent security and protection which it had enjoyed for years before the union, and which gave it its present value? But the fact was not so, and he was prepared to show that the existing duties would not be a protection against the American miller, and that, so far from the freight being a security, the balance of the freight between a cargo of flour and one of unwrought wheat was considerably in favour of the former; so that the practical result would be this, that in years of scarcity or of crops of inferior quality, such as the present, in which (as he would presently show) the Irish miller imported foreign wheat to make up the deficiency or improve the quality of his own, the American farmer and the Dantzic miller would send us their meal and flour instead of their corn and wheat, thus depriving the Irish miller of the profits of manufacture, and the Irish poor of the supply of cheap food for the coarser produce of the mill. And first, the object proposed by the bill before the House was to permit the importation of foreign flour into Ireland at the same duties as were now paid on its introduction into England; that is to say, on every 196 lbs. of flour, a duty equivalent to five bushels of wheat. Now, experience had shown that this would be just no protection at all, as this duty was calculated on the extreme quantity of flour which five bushels of wheat might produce, thus giving the whole profit of manufacture, not to the native, but to the foreign miller. This result would be readily exhibited thus. The produce of five bushels of good Irish wheat at 60 lbs. the bushel, would be as nearly as possible as follows:—

Of Fine Flour 180
Seconds 30
Third 15
Bran 45
Waste 30
And as the duty on 196 lbs. of ready-ground flour when imported into Ireland would be the same as on 300 lbs. of unground wheat, it followed that the direct advantage to the foreign miller would amount to 16 lbs. of fine flour in every 196 lbs., in addition to the value of the bran and the quantity of flour too coarse to be worth exporting, but consumable by the artisan, when it was retained at home. But the official evidence, in the words of the House, went to show that even this was a calculation much too favourable for the miller, and that, in order to afford him a fair protection, 196 lbs. of flour, instead of paying a duty equivalent to five bushels of wheat, should be chargeable with at least one third more. In the report of Mr. Jacob, on the corn trade of the Baltic, he states that one last of Dantzic wheat (a measure equal to 10¾ quarters), produced twelve barrels of flour fit for exportation, of 196 lbs. a barrel. In other figures, that 5,160 lbs. of Dantzic wheat would yield 2,808 lbs. of fine flour, the proportion of which, instead of being 196 lbs., produceable from five bushels of wheat, would make that quantity to return but 136 or 137 lbs. So that to protect the Irish miller at all, the duty should be calculated on seven bushels of wheat instead of five, as was proposed. It was clear, therefore, that it would be a complete delusion to rely upon the present scale of duty as any adequate protection to the Irish miller against the continental one. But then the difference of freight, it is argued, will still give the Irish miller an adequate protection. Certainly not in seasons like the present, when he is obliged to import foreign wheat for his own grinding, on which a freight will still be chargeable. And in addition to this, so marked is the difference of freight and charges between a cargo of raw wheat and one of manufactured flour, that the advantage will be manifestly on the side of the latter. A vessel of 300 tons burden will carry 1,500 quarters of wheat, and about 2,800 to 3,000 barrels of flour, and taking the relative freight of the latter at 8s. a quarter, and of the former at 4s. a barrel—the difference of freight always in favour of the flour would, in most instances, be so great as to ensure it an instant preference. But the disproportion does not end there. The case of the charges on the two articles respectively was widely different. The flour being ready for consumption would pass at once into the hands of the merchant or the baker; it would go from the ship to the consumer direct, whilst the wheat, to await the process necessary to fit it for consumption, must be stored for a longer or shorter period, and must be turned in store to keep it fresh and sound, and, in addition to this deduction for warehousing, must be sold to the miller at such a price as to bear the cost of carriage to and from the mill to be ground, exclusive of broker's commission on the sale, and of the loss to which wheat was always more liable than flour, from shrinkage and loss of weight. All these circumstances gave a decided preference to the importation of flour over that of wheat; and, besides, the Americans who manufactured the flour in the western states could much more readily transport it to the coast for shipment in that compact form than in the more bulky condition of unground wheat, and it frequently happened that the ship-owner who would decline a cargo of wheat, always a troublesome freight across the Atlantic, would be glad to accept of 400 or 500 barrels of flour, which he could readily stow, in order to complete his lading. Every incident in fact concurred to give the preference to the flour which would now come into direct and powerful competition in the same markets with the Irish miller. He was perfectly apprised of the answer with which this argument would be met. He was perfectly prepared to be asked how it came that if it was so manifestly advantageous to import flour instead of importing wheat, that England imported every year so many quarters of foreign corn, and barely any quantity of foreign flour in comparison? It was true that England did import but a trifling quantity of foreign flour, but why? Because she drew her supply of that article from the very source which it was now proposed by the bill to destroy—from the mills of Ireland. The entire import of foreign flour into England during the last twelve years had amounted only to 2,215,037 cwt., or about 100,000 cwt. per annum, whilst from Ireland her supply during a great part of the same period of manufactured corn amounted to upwards of 1,000,000 cwt. per annum, as would appear by the following calculation of the quantities of wheat, meal, or flour, and of oatmeal, brought into consumption in Great Britain from Ireland;—
In the Years Wheat meal or Flour. Oatmeal. Total
cwt. qr. lb. cwt. qr. lb cwt. qr. lb.
1857 341,630 0 8 224,510 0 6 566,140 0 14
1838 621,568 3 22 424,748 3 12 1,046,317 3 6
1829 626,268 0 14 402,127 1 12 1,028,395 1 27
1830 672,264 3 7 400,347 0 24 1,072,840 1 7
1831 524,242 1 26 581,371 1 0 1,105,613 2 26
1832 831,434 0 16 611,412 1 22 1,442,846 2 10
1833 1,059,587 2 16 642,692 3 8 1,702,280 1 24
1834 1,110,463 3 25 772,991 0 0 1,883,457 3 24
1835 1,124,343 1 16 566,006 3 20 1,690,350 1 9
1836 1,236,498 0 0 808,522 0 0 2,045,020 0 0
1837 983,733 0 0 910,475 0 0 1,894,208 0 0
1838 1,260,253 0 0 1,119,087 0 0 3,379,340 0 0
The importation from Ireland in 1815 was but 139,230 cwt.; and this amazing increase shows at once the beneficial operation of the law which it is now proposed to repeal, and accounts for Great Britain drawing so small a supply from the mills of foreigners, whilst she had so abundant a resource within her own dominions. But before dismissing the case as confined peculiarly to the miller, there is another point of extreme hardship in the present proposition. Let the House turn its attention to its ruinous effects upon the stocks of wheat at present in the hands of the Irish millers. The design of the bill professes to be to make amends for the bad quality of home-grown wheat in seasons like the present, by permitting the import of foreign flour, with which to mix or supersede our own. But admitting fully the necessity for some such importation, the Irish miller has hitherto met the emergency by importing, not the manufactured article, but the raw material, by importing not the flour, but the wheat, with which to mix and amend the quality of his own grain. And it is a matter well known to practical men, that the quality of flour can most effectually be improved, not by attempting to mix the two flours, which it is almost impracticable to incorporate, but by mixing the two wheats in the hopper, or by dressing them off together in the final process of grinding. With a view to this process the millers of Ireland are at the present moment large holders of foreign wheat. One gentleman in his neighbourhood had this year imported 6,500 quarters, others in Belfast are similarly situated, and he had heard of one miller in the south of Ireland who held not less than 100,000l. worth of unground corn. By this means, even in defective harvests, the supply maintained in Ireland is not only abundant, but of superior quality. He had been given to understand that in a memorial forwarded to the board of trade from one baking establishment in Belfast, this measure, now under consideration, had been pressed upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) on the ground that flour of good quality could not now be procured in Belfast. A petition from the same town had likewise been presented to the House, but it, with more caution, abstained from making so absurd an assertion. As to that memorial from the one baking house, in order to meet it, he held in his hand a memorial signed by twenty of the first bakers in Belfast, all of whom state, that having learned that such an allegation bad been made as that a supply of sound flour could not be had in Belfast, they felt it their duty to give it an instant and direct contradiction, as not only in this season, but in others of similarly defective harvests, they had an abundant supply of the best flour, ground from foreign wheat, imported specially by the millers around them. The argument for the bill, therefore, from the necessity of importing flour to amend the quality of Irish wheat fails entirely, inasmuch as it cannot be advantageously mixed when ground, whilst wheat can most readily be imported for that purpose, and all the profit of the manufacture into flour retained at home, instead of given to foreigners. The import has been large in the present year. But in the event of the admission of foreign flour, what is to compensate the miller for his inevitable loss upon the stock of wheat so laid up for the season's demand? And observe, too, that the stock must to a great extent be provided before hand in almost every year, whatsoever be the harvest, inasmuch as Ireland being an exporting country, the stock of home-grown grain in the hands of the farmer is generally exhausted about February in each year, or earlier; and the miller cannot, in Ireland, as he could in England, which thus becomes the great depository of grain, purchase from week to week the quantities required for temporary demand, without incurring the risk of keeping a heavy stock on hand. An evil which had been imputed to the corn laws was the amount of speculation which it necessarily entailed upon the dealers in grain by the present system. But if the trade were now to be compelled to speculate in stocks of flour instead of stocks of wheat, the evil would be multi- plied an hundred fold, because wheat was an article which, with proper care, would keep sound for years, whilst flour was liable to heat, to sour, and to encounter numerous capricious changes which it was impossible to guard against, and on the least symptom of which the entire stock must be forced into the market, at any sacrifice, to ensure immediate sale, and thus an inevitable deterioration in prices must result even to the sound stocks in the hands of other holders. And is it any answer to a statement of facts such as these to say, that the opposition to the bill is altogether a miller's question, and that they alone are interested in resisting it. This might be a sufficient retort were the trade assailed a comparatively insignificant one, and were its petty protection pleaded in opposition to higher and more important national interests. But let the House remember, that the trade in flour was now the staple manufacture of Ireland, of equal, if not greater value than the linen trade, and even if the influence of the bill before the House was to extend no further than to the millers themselves, surely a trade which exported annually to this country close upon 2,000,000 cwt. of the chief article of food was well entitled to consideration and protection. But it was incorrect to say that the millers alone were interested; the farmer and the landowner were equally assailed through this measure. The cultivation and the growth of wheat had been found in every instance to be promoted by the establishment of mills. Lands, which before were in pasture or potatoes, are immediately prepared for wheat wherever the establishment of a flour mill holds out the inducement of a ready market. This has been eminently the case in the counties of Tyrone and Armagh, in the midst of which the mills erected on the estates of Lord Caledon have given a powerful impulse to the cultivation of wheat; and a remarkable instance had occurred on the estate of his hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Donegal, where a flour mill had recently been built, in a district in which not a blade of wheat had been grown before; and such was the instant change, that in one week in this year no less a sum than 1,500l. had been paid at the mill for wheat grown in the district immediately surrounding it. It was quite clear that any discouragement given to the prosperity or the increase of mills, such as was threatened by this bill, must put an immediate check to all such instances of agricultural advancement. Such was the opinion of Mr. Spring Rice, who in the debate on the Corn Bill of 1827, declared that— The establishment of mills in Ireland had been a great means of promoting the culture of wheat; and the substitution of that grain for the potato, as a general article of food, was considered, on all hands, to be a great step towards raising the moral character of the Irish peasantry. But by any encouragement given to foreign flour, in his opinion, the milling interest of Ireland would be wholly ruined. Fortified by such an authority as this, he was quite prepared to meet any assertion from the opposite side of the House, that this was not an agricultural but a miller's question. But there is another and most important class whom this measure ostensibly professed to serve, but on whom he was prepared to show that it would inflict a serious injury—namely, the operatives and the labouring classes in Ireland. The great outcry against the Corn-laws in England was based upon the assumption that they tended to render the food of the artisans of that country more expensive than that of the operatives of foreign countries with whom they had to compete. Now, he was prepared to show that such would be precisely the effect of this measure upon the operatives of Ireland. The mere cost of converting wheat into flour, the miller's profits, in short, in Ireland, and in the countries from whom Ireland, would be likely to import flour, would, so far as he could ascertain, be pretty nearly equal; but the country in which the corn was ground for export would always have this advantage, that, whilst the fine sorts alone were worth exporting, the coarse and the secondary flour went to increase the quantity, and consequently to diminish the cost of the food of the operatives and middle classes. In addition to which, the employment afforded by the mills themselves supplied great numbers, perhaps from 40,000 to 50,000 persons in Ireland, with a ready means to purchase them, so that the native mills always combined these three recommendations—steady wages, and increased quantity of food at lower prices. In any country the fair proportion of value between fine and coarse flour can only be maintained where the entire produce of the wheat is taken into consumption. But there being but one scale of duty on all flour proposed to be imported, it follows that the first and finest only will become a matter of import in this country, thereby augmenting the quantity, and of course diminishing the cost of the food of the rich, whilst the foreigner, producing beyond his own consumption, and exporting only the finest qualities, reduces the value of the coarse kinds, which he retains at home. In exact proportion as he increases their relative quantity, and thereby gives a direct advantage to his own operatives over ours. At the same time the import into Great Britain producing an excess of fine flour over coarse, destroys the relative quantity of the latter, and augments its cost to the British operative. Besides, it follows from that, that every pound of fine flour imported into Ireland will prevent the growth of a corresponding quantity of wheat in that country, and of course exclude a proportionate amount of coarse flour from entering the market. The effectual method to release the operative and the poor is to diminish the price by increasing the quantity of the food they consume, and by far the most obvious expedient is the encouragement of the native mills, which afford not only the food to be bought, but the wages wherewith to buy it. If from any adverse circumstances of defective harvests, or of unsound native grain, it becomes necessary to import at all, that import should be the raw material, and not the manufactured article. We should import not the flour but the wheat, the grinding of which secures the profits of the process to our own capitalists instead of foreigners; gives employment to our own operatives in stead of theirs, and augments the quantity whilst it diminishes the cost of the food of the middle classes, whilst every barrel of foreign ground flour we import takes away not only a proportion of food, but a proportion of employment from our own mechanics. Such were the views of this question taken in 1827, by Sir John Newport. If we must be driven to import at all, let it be grain and not flour:— If grain were imported," he said, "the worst and the middlings went to support the poor; but where flour was imported it was the best sort, and was consumed exclusively by the rich. In the first instance, our own poor derived the benefit; in the latter it went to the poor of other countries; and he was convinced the House would not consent to give away that benefit to foreigners. But he had already shown that the scale of duties and of freights upon wheat and flour respectively exhibited the balance so strongly in favour of the importation of the latter that it could not fail to be preferred, and he would beg the attention of the House for a very few minutes to permit him to point out the injury which would result not only to the operative in the cost of provisions, but to the agriculturist and the farmer by the loss of the pollard and bran for feeding cattle, a resource which in towns also was a matter of the utmost importance. According to the calculation he had already read to the House it appeared, that from every five bushels of wheat manufactured in the country the poor derived forty pounds of coarse flour, and the farmer fifty pounds of bran, exclusive of less valuable offal for fodder, both which items must, as a matter of course, be lost, if the flour were imported in place of the wheat. And if such be the loss upon five bushels, apply the same scale, and look at the loss upon an entire cargo. A ship of 300 tons burden would carry as he had stated, about 2,800 barrels of flour, or 1,500 quarters of wheat, and, in the event of the owner preferring to freight her with the latter, the produce, as consumed in England, would be as follows:—
1,500 qrs. at 480 lbs. the qrs. amount to 720,000 lbs. or 6,428 cwt. 2 lbs. 8 oz. will produce—
lbs. c. qrs. lbs.
Fine flour fit for export 432,000 being 3,857 6 16
Second flour fit for export 72,000 being 642 3 12
Coarse flour fit for export 36,000 being 221 1 20
Bran and Pollard 108,000 being 946 1 4
Waste 72,000 being 642 3 12
720,000 6,428 2 8
He had shown, that on the balance of freight and costs, it would always be more profitable for a speculator, should this law pass, to import flour than unground corn; and, in that event, the positive loss even on a single cargo would be no less than forty-eight tons of food for the operative, and forty-seven tons of bran to the farmer—a loss which would be avoided by allowing the law to remain as it is, and thus securing the manufacture to ourselves. He did feel that the more fully the question was investigated and scrutinized, of the more extensive importance would it prove, and the more clearly would it be discovered to be not only a miller's, but a manufacturer's and an agriculturist's question. He bad to apologise to the House for the length at which he had ventured to address them upon this question, but the importance which he attached to it, would, he hoped, plead his best excuse. He saw in it, not merely the immediate injury of the miller, by the depreciation of his heavy stock on hand, but the permanent depreciation of his property, embarked and invested in buildings and machinery. He saw in it double injury to the operative, by at once augmenting the value of his food, and diminishing the amount of his employment; and, above all, he saw in it, an inevitable blow inflicted upon the agricultural advancement of Ireland. The principle of assimilation between the laws of England and Ireland failed as an argument in this case. The measure might be a good one as regarded England, which was already an importing country in the article of flour, but it was preposterous as regarded Ireland. It was carrying coals to Newcastle, to provide for importing flour into a country, which already exported nearly 2,000,000 cwt. of it every year, unless it was meant to supplant that export. But, if not in intention, it would, at least, prove in operation a heavy blow and a great discouragement to the agriculture, which was the sole reliance and support of that country. It was on this ground that he relied on the assistance of those who represented the English Agriculturists in that House to resist it. Their security in this country lay in making common cause with the agriculturists of Ireland. So long as England had Ireland at her back, as her granary, as a second Sicily, to supply all her wants, she had an unanswerable argument in reply to those who sought to supply her with food from the continent; that she could draw that supply from home, and from an integral part of her own empire. This answer she could have so long as Ireland was in a situation to meet her demands, but if England allowed the agriculturist prohibition of Ireland to be invaded or weakened in the least degree. Every step by which Ireland was incapacitated from supplying her, was an approach towards a dependency on other countries for her food. The present measure was an attack upon the security hitherto enjoyed by the Irish agriculturist. It was so in Ireland, and he did firmly hope that he would have the co-operation of the English agriculturists in resisting it. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the bill (Mr. Labouchere), seemed to consider it a measure of limited practical importance, and operative only in peculiar seasons. He had laboured to show that the contrary was the fact, and that it would prove instantly and actively detrimental. He had endeavoured to show that it would be a violation of public faith, relying upon acts of Parliament unrepealed for nearly half a century—that it would cause the immediate destruction of the miller's stock in Ireland, and the ultimate deterioration of his vested property—that neither the duty proposed, nor the ordinary checks of freight and costs, would be any protection to him—and that both to the operative in the price of provisions, and to the agriculturist in the growth of wheat, it would be a serious and instant injury. And if in any one of these points he had succeeded in establishing his case, he had just grounds for calling on the House to support the motion that the bill be read a second time this day six months.

Colonel Conolly

, in seconding the motion, begged to impress on the House, as had been stated by some Gentlemen, that this was merely a miller's question. In Ireland the position of the miller was totally different from that of the same person in England. In Ireland the increase of mills had most materially advanced the interests of agriculture, because it had substituted the cultivation of wheat for that of oats and barley, and had thus greatly diminished the temptation to illicit distillation. The miller would certainly be the first person who would be injured by this law, because he had considerable capital invested in his mill, and also in his stock of British and foreign corn. There was now enough of foreign corn in Ireland to supply the momentary deficiency, and, he trusted that advantage would not be taken of the momentary scarcity which had existed, to effect a permanent injury on the country. If the House passed this act, they would be breaking faith with those parties who had built eighteen hundred mills on the security of the present law. In the next place they would be injuring all the millers who had lately embarked their capital in foreign corn to mix with the damaged corn of the last harvest. On the whole, he could see nothing but injury in introducing foreign flour into an exporting country, injury to the millers as capitalists, who had been stimulating agriculture by finding a market for surplus produce, and injury to the poor, in fact to the entire interests of Ireland. He was satisfied that nothing was wanting but to let this matter be known in Ireland, to have it universally condemned. He said this from his own positive knowledge, and he felt that the bill, by introducing foreign flour, would destroy the agricultural interests of Ireland. He could not think that Government would persist in the measure, seeing that the applications in its favour had been very few, and that it was calculated to effect such general injury. The only argument which had been urged in its favour was, that it would assimilate the law in Ireland to the English law. His highest wish had always been, to assimilate everything in Ireland to English manners and habits, but in this particular point the assimilation could only be injurious. He would merely further remind the House, that the introduction of mills into Ireland, had materially improved the diet of the lower orders, as it had been the means of substituting very generally, the use of seconds and thirds flour for the inferior food of oatmeal and potatoes. In conclusion, he would beg the right hon. Gentleman the president of the Board of Trade, to pause before he insisted on a measure which must greatly depress a country now making great exertions to raise itself.

Mr. Labouchere

said, that he gave the gallant Gentleman most entire credit for the sincerity of the alarm and apprehension he had expressed for the consequence of the bill, at the same time he must say, that he believed never was so much alarm and apprehension expressed on such very slender grounds. He never did, in his intercourse with the Irish landlords, attempt to exaggerate the importance of the measure; but this he said, that believing it to be founded on just and fair principles—utterly denying it would prove injurious to any of those great interests in Ireland, which he should be as sorry to inflict a wound upon as any Member of the House—having received memorials from Ireland from parties complaining of the state of the law—believing the law to be absurd in principle—that whatever practical effect it might have, must be impolitic and iniurious—under these cir- cumstances, he felt it his duty to bring forward the measure himself. At that time he did not expect to encounter so strong and determined an opposition on the part of the Irish Members; but, although that was the case, he could not say that he repented of having undertaken the task. On the contrary, he was glad of the opportunity of discussing this question. He was prepared to rest his support of this bill on two principles. In the first place, he said, that the alteration of the law could not possibly have any practical effect whatever under ordinary circumstances, and he also said, that so far from this doing harm to any interest in Ireland, it, in reality, would have no operation at all. The idea that Ireland was to be deluged with foreign corn was an absurdity. If there was a disposition lo send foreign flour into this country, it would, of course, flow to that port which received flour from the others. Ireland being the granary of this country, and exporting flour, foreign flour would not go there, and therefore the bill would be totally inoperative. But if circumstances should arise under which foreign flour would go there, paying the same duty as it would pay in England, then it ought to be allowed to go. Allusion had been made to Ireland being an exporting country, and he wished to direct the attention of the House to a return of the quantity of the grain, meal, oats, &c, brought into Great Britain from Ireland, in each year, from 1818 to 1839. The right hon. Gentleman read the following return:—

Years. Quarters. Years. Quarters.
1819 967,680 1830 2,215,521
1820 1,415,723 1831 2,429,182
1821 1,822,816 1832 2,990,767
1822 1,063,089 1833 2,737,441
1823 1,528,153 1834 2,792,658
1824 1,634,000 1835 2,679,438
1825 2,203,962 1836 2,958,272
1826 1,693,392 1837 3,030,293
1827 1,828,460 1838 3,474,302
1828 2,826,590 1839 2,240,250
1829 2,307,244
Now a country the right hon. Gentleman continued, which could export its produce on so large a scale, might rest assured, that not only its agricultural but its commercial prosperity did not rest on such flimsy and fallacious grounds, as the hon. Gentleman who preceded him had endeavoured to represent. It rested on the general fact, of Ireland being a great grain-growing country, and having the markets of England to bring that flour and grain to. The hon. Member for Belfast had said, that the bill was like a bill to permit coals to be carried to Newcastle, and certainly he (Mr. Labouchere) should have thought it just as reasonable for the hon. Member for Newcastle to rise to oppose such a bill, as it was for the hon. Member for Belfast to oppose this bill. Except under special circumstances, the bill would not only produce no bad effects, but it would produce no effects at all. He could not help calling the attention of the House, to the circumstance how little foreign wheat was directly imported into Ireland—he meant directly from foreign countries. In 1835, not a single quarter of foreign wheat was imported into Ireland. There were imported
In l836 551
1837 2,587
1838 7,980
1839 37,559
the demand being of course great in the latter year. There was nothing at present to prevent the English miller at Liverpool from grinding flour and importing it into Ireland. He had heard it stated, that serious apprehensions were entertained, that a smuggling trade in corn would be organized from Liverpool to Ireland, and that foreign corn warehoused in Liverpool, would be thus transported into Ireland. There was, therefore, a positive call for the present bill under the circumstances of the corn trade. It was generally known, that a short crop of Irish corn had been gathered in the last and in the preceding harvest. The quality of the corn of last harvest, was extremely inferior, and it was required, therefore, that in order to render the bread proper and wholesome for use, that there should be obtained a supply of other than Irish flour; namely, flour of a finer description to mix with the Irish flour. So far it was a question of convenience, and the consuming population had a right to have the staple commodity of life of a wholesome quality, and also to have it supplied in the manner most convenient for use. If the public did not require the foreign flour, it would not go there. And it was unreasonable to answer the demand of the miller in Ireland, that he ought to be content with having the same protection for his trade, that the English miller possessed. The question was not one of very extensive enactment, and its operation was but circumscribed. Still it was one so grounded and supported in justice, that he could not doubt the House would see the necessity of giving the support which it merited.

Mr. Shaw

remarked, that although the speech of the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade, might be an answer to the statement made by his hon. Friend, that right hon. Gentleman had, strange to say, made out no case for his own bill. Since the right hon. Gentleman sought to effect a change in the Corn-law of that country, he ought to show the necessity that existed for the change, and that it was sought by some influential parties. The landed interest, the landlords and the millers, were all alarmed, yet the right hon. Gentleman had not condescended to say, at whose suggestion or solicitation the bill had been brought into Parliament, and only one petition had been presented in favour of the measure. It was acknowledged, that the production of the bill had created an immense panic in Ireland, in consequence of the large capital that had been embarked in bonded foreign corn, for the purpose of admixture, relying upon the faith of the existing protection.

Sir D. Norreys

supported the measure. He heard no reason alleged against it, except that the millers were alarmed, a class of men who greatly overrated their own importance. They substituted cause for effect. It was not the building of mills that had made agriculture prosperous, but the prosperity of agriculture that had caused the increase of mills.

Mr. Hutton

supported the bill, because he believed that it would be a great advantage to the community to remove the prohibitory law which created a difference between England and Ireland in respect of the subject of that measure. He supported it likewise because he was convinced that, whilst it would not in the slightest degree injure the agricultural interests of Ireland, it would very much tend to benefit that country.

Mr. O'Connell

said, his constituents were anxious to have the bill, and that was his answer to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Dublin. It was, he considered, a great advantage to abolish all restriction as between England and Ireland; and he, for one, was for putting the Corn-law in the One country on the same footing as in the other. For the last three years, the corn crop in Ireland had been not alone deficient in quantity, but also inferior in quality; and it was an established fact, that not one-third of the usual amount of corn in the years preceding had been exported from that country in 1839. One of the advantages proposed by the bill in question would be to secure a quantity of good dry flour to mix with the bad damp flour, now the only kind to be had in Ireland. It was quite idle to say that this measure would injure the agricultural interest of that country. Year after year the exportation of corn and flour had gone on increasing, and it would still go on in the same manner when the temporary circumstances of the present season was over. In fact the great ground of the bill was its necessity, and never had he heard such unfounded opposition as had been made to it—that fact being left altogether out of the question by its opponents. The importation of flour into Ireland, then, could never become a permanent thing, and consequently no injury could accrue to any interest at present connected with the trade in that commodity. Wheat was allowed into Ireland from abroad, why deny flour? But the cause was obvious; it was that millers should make a profit. That was the real ground for opposition to the bill, and that was only a robbery of Peter to pay Paul, after all. The question was solely a miller's question. The Irish millers wanted to grind the middle classes of that country as the landlords ground the poorer classes. They wanted to reap double profit. Would the House abet them in that design? But there was another ground of support, not less powerful for the bill. Bad flour, as all men knew, generated a disease in the consumer, or at all events, predisposed the body for its reception. At the present moment typhus fever raged to a fearful extent in Ireland—in Belfast, it was as severe as it could be. Did the hon. Gentleman who opposed the bill mean to poison the middle and upper classes with bad flour, and thereby either produce or predispose to that dreadful disease among them? That would be the inevitable consequence of rejecting that bill, for, after all, the question was one of life and death for Ireland. It might be a subject of merriment to hon. Gentlemen, but it would be otherwise were they compelled to consume that damaged flour, and risk the loss of their health and lives by means of typhus fever. Under these circumstances, he should support the bill.

Mr. Litton

said, that, if ever there was a bill to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor, it was the bill in question. No one in Ireland could gain anything by it except the upper classes, who alone, of all the population, used fine flour, and the bakers. The bill besides would do a positive injury to the labouring classes; for it would tend to the direct destruction of the only manufacture now left in that country—the manufacture of flour. There was no reason for the bill—there were no petitions in its favour; there were many against it. The millers had sunk a large capital in the manufacture of flour, on the faith of the restriction sought to be repealed, and he considered that they were fully and fairly entitled to protection. On those grounds, he would oppose the bill.

Mr. O. Gore

said, that it was only right that some hon. Member connected with the agriculture of England should express an opinion on the subject, as it was not wholly an Irish question, but in some wise connected with the English Corn-laws; and deprecating, as he did, the slightest infraction of those laws—he could not let the subject pass over in silence on account of the agricultural interest of this country. Would not the facility of importing foreign flour into Ireland increase the facility of importing it into England also? Yet that was the object of the bill. The right hon. President of the Board of Trade had adduced no arguments in support of the bill, he had only replied to the objections to it. It was in his (Mr. O. Gore's) opinion going far too fast for the Government to bring in a bill to repeal a law which had worked well from 1783, which had been passed in an Irish Parliament, which had been discussed in committees from 1774 to the period of its passing, and which had been found in no way to injure the interests of the country. He saw no reason for the change, and on that ground, if there existed no other, he would set his face against it. But there were other grounds. What benefit would it be to the poor of Ireland? It was not a poor man's question, but a rich man's question. The bakers of Dublin and some others were interested in it. Besides which, as had been already alleged, it would bear hard upon the only manufacture Ireland now possessed. In his opinion, the House should leave well alone; and unless the right hon. Gentleman consented to postpone it, he would give it his opposition.

Lord J. Russell

The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Shaw) has said, that my right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, has done no more than remove the objections to the bill; and the hon. Gentleman who succeeded him almost admitted in terms that my right hon. Friend had silenced the alarms felt on its introduction. Now I maintain that, if the objections are removed, the reasons given in support of the measure are quite sufficient. It is proposed by the bill to remove a restriction—a restriction, be it remembered, which there exists no ground of danger, of policy, or otherwise, to continue any longer. Now I contend, that such a restriction in itself is a positive evil; and the objection to its removal being satisfied, I contend that its removal is a positive good. The objections once removed, afford a sufficient reason for the removal of the restriction. If the people of Ireland wish to import foreign flour under the conditions of the bill, I think that they should be permitted to import it. It is a question of self-interest, which each man must be left to decide for himself. You cannot teach people upon that point by legislation. As to any danger in respect to the bill, the hon. Member for Belfast has completely proved its impossibility, from the statistical documents that he read to the House. The interest of the people of England and Ireland coincide in this case, as the hon. Member clearly showed too. The reasons he alleged against it were two-fold—the duty on foreign flour, and the near neighbourhood of Ireland. Now neither of these are affected by the bill; for my right hon. Friend does not propose to increase the duty on flour coming into England; and I know that it is not his intention to remove Ireland any further off than it now is from this country. The bill, however, rests for its support on the general principle that there should be no restriction or prohibition without strong reasons. Mere restriction or prohibition for its own sake, either imposed or kept up is wanton, useless, and mischievous in legislation, and it is nothing to me in its favour whether it is legislation of a year since or of sixty. I feel that the Irish millers have nothing to fear from this measure, and I cannot, on any side, see any sufficient grounds why the House should not support it.

Mr. F. B. Beamish

said, that as a person interested in milling, and having a large capital invested in that trade, he considered the existing prohibition against the importation of foreign flour wholly unavailing. He thought the Irish millers were frightened by an imaginary evil into opposition of the bill before the House; for in all the petitions presented against it, he saw nothing like a substantial argument. He admitted that there were not sufficient grounds to bring forward the measure at the present moment; but he held that a restrictive law on trade was better repealed at any time than permitted to remain on the statute-books. He hoped, however, that the right hon. Gentleman would so modify his bill as to postpone its operation to a later period than he intended.

Mr. Sergeant

Jackson was happy to bear testimony to the kindness and consideration exhibited by the hon. the President of the Board of Trade yesterday in the reception of the deputation. He had received many communications from various parts of Ireland, and one petition to present from sixty millers in the county of Cork, deprecating the hasty enactment of this bill—a bill which he believed was not called for by any class of men in Ireland. He thought that they ought not to pass a bill in such a shape as to have an ex post facto effect on vested property in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman opposite, who had advocated the repeal upon principle, had nevertheless candidly admitted, that its operation ought not to be suffered to have a deteriorating effect on the large stock of flour already on hand. He quite agreed with that hon. Gentleman, that the millers of Ireland ought to be allowed time to work off that stock, and also that they should be permitted time to collect and express their opinions on the effects of the measure.

Mr. W. Roche

said, that the milling interest of Ireland had been taken unexpectedly and abruptly by this proposition. He had always advocated such a change in the Corn-laws towards Ireland, but he considered this question only a fragment of the subject, and one which might justifiably be postponed in the present posture of affairs.

Mr. Callaghan

said, that he also had been requested to support the prayer of the petition of the sixty millers. The hon. Member for Belfast had urged three reasons against the proposed measure; first, that it was not called for by the petitions of any large portion of the community: that might be a good reason in a doubtful matter, but none in one of practical enlightened state policy like the present; second, that the duty on foreign flour was calculated on too favourable a scale for foreigners compared with our wheat, but that was a point settled and regulated long ago; third, that a great injury would be done to the millers, who had laid in a stock and had it on hand. He was not a miller himself, but he owned several mills, and he was not afraid of the effects of this measure. He recollected when Irish flour had been rejected in the North of England, but the wants of Cheshire and Lancashire had caused it to be sought after, and thus it would, if freely permitted, work its way according to its value and the growing wants of the country. He was hot afraid that any importation of foreign flour into Ireland could injure the Irish millers. The foreigner would not send it to the country where it brought a low price, but to that where it would bring a high price. There was a great general call for this permission to import from the merchants of Belfast and other ports in the North of Ireland. At present, they could not get back flour in exchange for their manufactured goods from America without sending it into an English warehouse at great inconvenience. The House might feel assured, that the merchant would not attempt to send this return flour into Ireland in ordinary years, for he could get no remunerating price for it. There was a growing degree of intelligence in Ireland springing out of the absence of political distinctions that led men to look comprehensively at national questions like the present. For his part, he was satisfied with the laws that were found good for England—but he agreed with his hon. Colleague that, as there were sixty millers who declared that this measure would injure them, it would be only fair to postpone it to give them the time they asked for. He thought that the millers ought to have the power of grind- ing foreign corn in Ireland for export to the colonies, as foreigners notoriously did at present by mills expressly built on the continent for grinding corn to be introduced there by smuggling or otherwise.

Mr. Brotherton

said, he was against any postponement of the measure. This was the time to pass it with any advantage to the people of Ireland. It was a miller's question, and they obviously intended to grind the face of the poor, but he would stand up for the consumer. He was reminded of the fact of the existence of a mill in Manchester, some eighty or ninety years ago, by which a couple of millers monopolised the grinding of corn for all the town at such extravagant prices that an epigram was made to keep the fact in remembrance:— Bone and Skin, Two millers thin, Would starve us all, or near it; But be it known To Skin and Bone, That flesh and blood can't bear it!

Mr. Labouchere

said, that he felt rather disinclined to agree to a long postponement. If the Irish Members were to agree to the second reading of the bill as it stood, he would not press any further proceedings till after Easter.

Mr. Wakley

rose among cries of "Question." He said, he had never manifested any impatience at all to the nonsense and twaddle uttered by others, and they must show a little similar patience towards him, otherwise he would give them cause to exhibit a great deal of impatience. He asked if it were true that the bill was necessary for the health of the people of Ireland? Was it true that the quality of the wheat was so bad as it was represented? Was it calculated to produce disease there? Every Member who had risen from thence, had stated, or admitted, that it was. Therefore, this bill ought to be passed as early as possible, and it would be better that the two Irish gentlemen, who complained of its probable effects on their property in flour, should be compensated, than that any delay should be caused on that account. The hon. Gentlemen on the other side were afraid that this measure would introduce more food into this country. The conduct of the landlords was creating daily more indignation and disgust. It was impossible that the Corn-laws could stand, the national feeling was so strong against it, He agreed to this measure only that it might be passed quickly. If the effect of the opposition to this measure would be the creation of disease in Ireland by limiting the population to the use of bad corn, then every Member who joined in the opposition would be auxiliary to the infliction of typhus fever on that unfortunate country.

The House divided on the original motion:—Ayesl54; Noesl02: Majority for the bill 52.

List of the AYES.
Abercromby, hn. G.R. Grey, rt. hn. Sir G.
Adam, Admiral Guest, Sir J.
Aglionby, H. A. Harcourt, G. G.
Aglionby, Major Hastie, A.
Anson, hon. Colonel Hawes, B.
Bailey, J. Hawkins, J. H.
Baines, E. Hayter, W. G.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Hector, C. J.
Barnard, E. G. Hobhouse, right hn. Sir. J.
Beamish, F. B.
Berkeley, hon. C. Hothouse, T. B.
Bernal, R. Hodges, T. L.
Bewes, T. Horsman, E.
Blake, W. J. Howard, F. J.
Briscoe, J. I. Howard, P. H.
Brocklehurst, J. Howick, Viscount
Brodie, W. B. Humphrey, J.
Brotherton, J. Hutton, R.
Browne, R. D. James, W.
Buller, E. Jervis, J.
Busfeild, W. Labouchere, rt. hn. H.
Callaghan, D. Lambton, H.
Campbell, Sir J. Langdale, hon. C.
Chapman, Sir M.L.C. Lemon, Sir C.
Clayton, Sir W. R. Lennox, Lord G.
Clive, E. B. Loch, J.
Collier, J. Lushington, C.
Corbally, M. E. Lushington, right hn. S.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Macaulay, right hon. T.B.
Craig, W. G.
Dalmeny, Lord Mackenzie, T.
D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. M'Leod, R.
Divett, E. Marshall, W.
Donkin, Sir R. S. Martin, J.
Duff, J. Maule, hon. F.
Duncombe, T. Melgund, Viscount
Dundas, F. Morpeth, Viscount
Elliot, hon. J. E. Muntz, G F.
Ellis, W. Murray, A.
Evans, W. Muskett, G. A.
Ewart, W. Nagle, Sir R.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Noel, hon. C. G.
Fitzalan, Lord Norreys, Sir D. J.
Fitzroy, Lord G. O'Brien, W. S.
Fleetwood, Sir P. H. O'Connell, D.
Fort, J. O'Connell, J.
Gordon, R. O'Connell, M. J.
Greene, T. O'Connell, M.
Greg, R. H. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Greig, D. Oswald, J.
Grey, rt. hn. Sir C. Paget, Lord A.
Palmerston, Lord Tancred, H. W.
Parker, J. Teignmouth, Lord
Parnell, right hon. Sir H. Thompson, Alderman
Thornley, T.
Pendarves, E. W. W. Tollemache, F. J.
Pigot, D. R. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Pinney, W. Tufnell, H.
Pryme, G. Verney, Sir H.
Ramsbottom, J. Vigors, N. A.
Reid, Sir J. R. Villiers, hon. C. P.
Roche, E. B. Vivian, J. H.
Russell, Lord J. Vivian, rt. hn. Sir R.
Rutherfurd, rt. hn. A. Wakley, T.
Salwey, Colonel Wallace, R.
Sanford, E. A. Warburton, H.
Scholefield, J. White, A.
Seymour, Lord Williams, W.
Sheil, rt. hon. R. L. Williams, W. A.
Shelburne, Earl of Winnington, Sir T. E.
Smith, B. Winnington, H. J.
Smith, R. V. Wood, C.
Somerville, Sir W.M. Wood, Sir M.
Standish, C. Wood, B.
Stansfield, W. R. C. Wyse, T.
Staunton, Sir G. T. Yates, J. A.
Stuart, Lord J.
Stuart, W. V. TELLERS.
Strickland, Sir G. Stanley, E. J.
Strutt, E. Steuart, R.
Talfourd, Sergeant
List of the NOES.
Alston, R. Eaton, R. J.
Archbold, R. Ellis, J.
Archdall, M. Fellowes, E.
Attwood, M. Filmer, Sir E.
Bagge, W. Fitzroy, hon. H.
Barrington, Viscount Follett, Sir W.
Barry, G. S. French, F.
Bentinck, Lord G. Gladstone, W. E.
Blackburne, I. Gore, O. J. R.
Blackstone, W. S. Gore, O. W.
Blair, J. Grimsditch, T.
Blake, M. J. Halford, H.
Blennerhassett, A. Holmes, W.
Bodkin, J. J. Hope, G. W.
Boldero, H. G. Hope, hon. C.
Brabason, Sir W. Jackson, Sergeant
Bramston, T. W. Johnstone, H.
Bridgeman, H. Jones, Captain
Broadly, H. Kelly, F.
Butler, hon. Colonel Kemble, H.
Cantilupe, Viscount Kirk, P.
Cochrane, Sir T. J. Knatchbull, right hon. Sir C.
Cole, Lord
Cooper, E. J. Knightley, Sir C.
Corry, hon. H. Knox, hon. T.
Courtenay, P. Litton, E.
Cresswell, C. Lowther, J. H.
Darby, G. Lygon, hon. General
Dick, Q. Lynch, A. H.
D'Israeli, B. Mahon, Viscount
Dowdeswell, W. Meynell, Captain
Dunbar, G. Miles, P. W. S.
Duncombe, hon. W. Neeld, J.
Duncombe, hon. A. Norreys, Lord
Du Pre, G. Ossuhton, Lord
Packe, C. W. Shirley, E. J.
Pakington, J. S. Sibthorp, Colonel
Palmer, R. Smyth, Sir G. H.
Parker, R. T. Somers, J. P.
Perceval, Colonel Somerset, Lord G.
Perceval hon. G. J. Spry, Sir S. T.
Pigot, R. Stanley, E.
Polhill, F. Sutton, hon. J. T. M.
Praed, W. T. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Redington, T. N. Vere, Sir C. B.
Richards, R. Verner, Colonel
Roche, W. Waddington, H. S.
Rolleston, L. Welby, G. E.
Round, J. Westenra, hon. J, C.
Rushbrooke, Colonel Young, Sir W.
Rushout, G. TELLERS.
Sandon, Viscount Conolly, Colonel
Shaw, rt. hon. F. Tennent, J. E.