HC Deb 16 February 1841 vol 56 cc670-92
Mr. Mark Philips

having presented a petition, signed by 1,960 inhabitants, manufacturers, &c., of Manchester and Salford, for the free exportation of machinery, said, I rise in pursuance of the notice in your hand, Sir, to move the appointment of a select committee, for the purpose of inquiring into the operation of the existing laws affecting the exportation of machinery. The machine-makers of this country have for many years considered these laws decidedly injurious to their interests, restraining them from the full exercise of their talents and mechanical ingenuity, circumscribing the advantageous employment of their capital, and restricting the enterprise of one of the most important branches of our national industry. They have petitioned the House in great numbers—I may say almost to a man—praying that the existing laws which oppose these obstacles may be revised or repealed; and the petitions are not confined to the master machine-makers, but they have been drawn up and signed by large bodies of the operative mechanics also, who feel that they share a common interest with their employers, in every thing which concerns the prosperity and extension of that branch of trade in which they are engaged. Before I proceed to state in detail the arguments which are advanced by these parties in favour of a repeal of the laws which prevent the free exportation of machinery, it is perhaps desirable that I should recall to the recollection of the House the proceedings of its select committee appointed in the year 1824, to inquire into the then state of the law respecting the emigration of artizans, the exportation of machinery, and the effects of the combination laws. That committee, after a long and laborious examination of witnesses, reported to the House, on the 21st of May, 1824, their decided conviction of the impolicy of the laws relating to the combinations of workmen and the emigration of artizans. The House of Commons, guided by justice and sound policy, proceeded almost immediately to legislate in conformity with the recommendation of the committee. Bills were introduced by my hon. and indefatigable Friend the Member for Kilkenny, which passed this House almost without opposition, and the laws relating to artizans and combinations were consequently repealed. With reference to the question of the export of machinery, however, the committee reported at that time in favour of further inquiry in the ensuing Session of Parliament. In the Session of 1825 this committee re-assembled to "inquire into the state of the law and its consequences respecting the exportation of tools and machinery." Their report, made on the 30th of June, 1825, is the document which I hold in my hand, occupying seventeen pages of very interesting matter, the perusal of which will very amply repay any hon. Member desirous of making himself acquainted with its contents, and which, if I obtain the consent of the House to the appointment of a select committee this evening, it is my intention to move shall be supplied to each of the Members of that committee who may not be already in possession of the document. I cannot, of course, on this occasion, attempt to give anything like a full outline of the report itself, without occupying more time than the House would be willing to accord me. I will only say, that I know of no more valuable treatise upon the subject of the exportation of machinery, or which contains a record of more important matter, than this report. Prescribing to myself, what will not, I trust, be considered undue limits in bringing this question before the House, I beg leave, at all events, to read the recommendation with which that committee concluded its report, on the day to which I have already referred:— Although your committee are impressed with the opinion, that tools and machinery should be regulated on the same principles as other articles of manufacture, yet, inasmuch as there exist objections in the minds of many of our manufacturers on this subject, which deserve the attention of the Legislature, and as it is possible that circumstances may exist which may render a prohibition to export certain tools and machines, used in some particular manufacture, expedient, your committee beg to recommend, that until an alteration can be made in the laws on this subject, his Majesty's Privy Council should continue to exercise their discretion in permitting the exportation of all such tools and machines, now prohibited, as may appear to them not likely to be prejudicial to the trade or manufactures of the United Kingdom. I am well aware, that on previous occasions when this subject has been brought under discussion in this House, there have been opinions expressed by parties entitled to the highest respect at the time they spoke, and which having been placed on record, are, as regards some of those individuals now no more, become matter of history; and, with the permission of the House, I beg to refer to some expressions which fell from the late Mr. Huskisson, during the period that the committee to which I have just alluded was carrying on its inquiry. In the year 1825, on the occasion of Mr. Littleton presenting a petition from Nottingham, against the repeal of the laws prohibiting the exportation of machinery, Mr. Huskisson said:— He had listened with great attention to the statements of his hon. Friend on a subject which was certainly of great importance, that was with regard to the exportation of machinery, for himself, he was certainly inclined to think, that such a repeal would be very advantageous; but he well knew, that a strong persuasion existed among a large body of the manufacturers, that it would be attended with the greatest injury to their interests. He had no doubt that the expected report of the committee would throw great light upon the subject; and enable it to be more distinctly seen how far the superiority of our manufactures was attributable to machinery, and how far to other causes. It ought to be recollected, that we had already permitted the free exportation of labour. Our mechanics might go whither they chose, and why the exportation of machinery should be placed on a different footing he was at a loss to conceive. He was, however, disposed, in the present state of alarm on the part of the manufacturers, on this subject, to treat the matter with as much delicacy as possible, and he was by no means disposed to propose the repeal of the existing prohibition without further enquiry. He could not help adverting to his hon. Friend's (Mr. Littleton's) observation, that he should not object to the repeal of the prohibition, provided the Board of Trade were empowered to use their discretion with respect to the articles of machinery to be exported. He felt very considerable doubt with respect to the expediency of such a course. It would throw on the Board of Trade a most invidious task, and would inundate them with applications, on the merits of many of which they would find it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to decide. He could also assure his hon. Friend, that as the Board of Trade was at present constituted, it had as many duties to discharge as it could well get through. I have hitherto spoken in the language of the petitioners, when making use of the word laws, in reference to the exportation of machinery. The term law is, perhaps, scarcely correct—the fact being, that certain descriptions of machinery are prohibited export, whilst a discretionary permissive power as regards other descriptions of machinery is vested in her Majesty's Privy Council, I believe in the Board of Trade. There is something, the machine-makers contend, extremely anomalous in this state of things, and that the rules which operate as law should remain in the condition stated by Mr. Huskisson. The only direct legislative enactment which I find as having passed this House with reference to the exportation of machinery, since the year 1825., it contained in certain clauses of the Act of 3rd and 4th of Wm. 4th, cap. 52, p. 205, being an act introduced by Mr. Poulett Thomson, on the 26th August, 1833, for the general regulation of the customs, and which states in a sort of schedule a description of certain "tools and utensils," which are prohibited exportation. I think it incumbent upon me to state the actual position in which we are placed at present. Our position, then, I conceive to be legally this—our artizans are at perfect liberty to emigrate to any part of the world they may desire, carrying their talents and skill to the best market, if better than that of their native country can be found. We can export an immense variety of tools without any restriction whatever, excepting those enumerated in the clause of the Act of 1833, to which I have just referred. We may export steam-engines, and any portions of steam-engines, and mill-work of all sorts, without any restrictions, and without any necessity existing for an application to the Board of Trade; and we can export, with the permission of the Board of Trade, all those elementary parts of the machinery—if I may be allowed such an expression, which is not perhaps a mechanical one, by which I mean all those preparatory parts of machinery—employed in the early processes of manufacture, or the "preparation" as it is called, in the spinning and throwing of the four great staple articles, cotton, silk, flax, and wool. The hon. Member proceeded as follows: In order to show what a vast accession of demand there has been lately for those articles, and to what extent the exportation of machinery destined for these branches of trade has been carried on, I think it right to refer to a return moved for in the last Session of Parliament (6th of May, 1840), by the hon. Member for Belfast, whom I am glad to see opposite to me at this moment. There is in that return a statement well worthy the consideration of the House. It shows, that in the year 1831 the total amount of machinery exported to all parts of the world was 60,028l., official value, whilst in the year 1840 the amount had increased to 387,096l In this return, however, I should observe, in order to prevent any confusion, that in the statement of export to Europe there is included all machinery shipped to Malta, the Ionian Islands, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands of Guernsey, Jersey, and Alderney, which although very small in amount, I strike out as being British possessions, as I wish to be quite correct, and the actual return as regards Europe will then stand thus:—

Machinery exported to Europe in 1831 £19,255
Machinery exported to Europe in 1840 253,177
In 1831 the value of machinery exported to North and South America, exclusive of British possessions, was 7,690
In 1840 it had increased to 54,000
I will now return to the object of my motion, viz., the very natural desire of the machine-makers of England to be permitted to export those articles which are at present prohibited, and here let me say that I wish to be understood, in moving for the appointment of a Select Committee, as being myself anxious for inquiry, and not, as at the present moment, entertaining a decided conviction of the propriety, in a national point of view, of removing all restrictions whatever from the supply of English machinery to foreign nations. I will frankly confess that I have, heretofore, participated very much in the feelings of English manufacturers, that it was undesirable to hasten, or actively promote, the successful manufacturing rivalry of foreign competitors, by supplying the continent with English machinery of the best description, without any restriction whatever, because I have felt with them that they are placed in a disadvantageous position as regards the cheaper labour of the continent under those impolitic laws which regulate the importation of food, and which has induced the belief that it may be dangerous and inexpedient to place within the reach of foreign competitors those mechanical contrivances of which the English manufacturer has possession. Should any one ask why I am anxious to promote an inquiry at the pre- sent moment, I answer in perfect sincerity, that I think the machine-makers, who have approached the House through so unworthy a medium as myself, are on every principle of policy and justice entitled to be heard, when complaining of the restrictions at present imposed upon them; they are men eminently distinguished for their talents, and the opinions of men of talent and integrity should always command our attention and respect. There is no Member of this House to whose constituents this question is of so much importance as to those whom I have the honour to represent; for on the one side I believe I number a larger body of machine-makers amongst my constituents than are to be found in any other borough in the kingdom; and there can be no doubt on the other, that Manchester, as the great centre of the cotton trade, is most deeply interested in sound practical legislation upon any question which affects those who are the great owners of machinery, and in no other place is so much property invested in machinery. I am anxious to approach the consideration of this subject without bias. It is now fifteen years since the machine makers of this country have had any opportunity of parliamentary inquiry afforded them; and fifteen years of commercial and manufacturing existence in this country present, perhaps, as many aspects of change as whole centuries in former times; in that interval none but those who are conversant with the fact can by possibility be aware of the vast improvements which have taken place in the machinery and tools of this country, nor of the rapid strides which have been taken in mechanical skill and enterprise. If I wanted an illustration, suffice it to say, that, since the sitting of the committee in 1825, almost every railway in the kingdom has been constructed, and the locomotive principle has been successfully developed. I denominate this a mechanical era in itself, which will always be looked back upon as one of the most extraordinary in the history of this country; and whilst we have been making such progress ourselves, we must recollect that our inventions and improvements have been likewise secured by our continental rivals. As regards the arguments of the machine-makers, relative to the restrictions upon the exportation of machinery, they contend, and with great force as it appears to me, that at the present moment the law being such, or the regulations such as I have described, they are placed in a very anomalous position. If ama- chine-maker in England discovers some new mechanical combination or invents a new machine our laws place him in a most embarrassing position, for it must be recollected, that he has as full a right to secure a protection for his invention upon the continent as in this country, and in the event of his patent attaching to a machine which is prohibited exportation from this country, what are the consequences? Naturally seeking to derive the full advantages of his own ingenuity, he is obliged either to establish a manufactory on the continent, which must always expose him to great injury if he is not continually there upon the spot to superintend it either himself or through a partner, or he must throw himself into the hands of foreigners, and thus derive only a portion of that return which he would do if his invention remained entirely in his own hands He has to supply the foreign agent or purchaser of his patent with all the knowledge requisite for the construction of the machine—he furnishes him with drawings, and in all probability must accompany his specifications with a model machine, which being made in this country, can only be sent to the continent in a surreptitious manner. Thus, instead of calling into activity the works connected with our mines of coal and tin, and the labour and industry of a large body of our industrious English artizans, he is compelled under our present system to call all those advantages into operation on the part of the foreigner. This is independent likewise of the loss of employment at home, which I have just stated. Moreover, there cannot be any more satisfactory or profitable result to himself from parting with the possession of his patent, and Selling his right to other parties abroad, for, by so doing, he receives, in all probability, a mere percentage of the advantage he would derive, if he was permitted to keep the whole under his own guidance and control at home. I have stated, that by the existing regulations all the preparatory machinery for the spinning of cotton, flax, silk, and wool, is allowed to be exported, under a licence of transit from the Board of Trade, and the machine-makers contend, that when those parts of the machinery, used in these four great staple commodities are once sent abroad, it is clear, that they are intended, in their ultimate place of destination, to be brought into immediate co-operation with those other portions of the machinery which are required for the production of the finished article. There are only two ways by which the finished machinery, employed in these latter operations of spinning, can be supplied. If from England, it is a smuggling trade if it is supplied by foreigners, then there is the loss of that which would ha extremely valuable in putting into operation British skill, capital, and industry. In regard to this part of the subject, I will quote the words of the machine-makers themselves who state the position in which they are placed by the restrictions imposed upon the exportation of the articles of their manufacture. In a pamphlet which I hold in my hand just published by the committee of machine-makers, and addressed to the President of the Board of Trade, they say that The obvious evil arising from the present law has been, to encourage the exportation of machinery by all the illegal and deceptive measures which the chicanery and cupidity of man can devise. It is a monstrous fact that all our machinery is diffused over other countries almost as readily as over our own, and that every improvement is transferred as soon as it is discovered, either by the aid of the smuggler or the draftsman. Bulky machinery is regularly smuggled out at a premium of 40 to 50 per cent., and small machinery at a premium of 10 to 25 per cent. The average premium for smuggling out the whole of the machinery for a cotton mill is 25 per cent. It is a fact well known at the Board of Trade that articles are constantly shipped under a false description. There is one instance which has lately come to my knowledge, which I am betraying no confidence in mentioning, of an individual having actually exported a quantity of what are termed "Spiral Cutters," a part I believe of the machinery which, since the application of power to the manufacture of woollen cloths, is used to shear or reduce the surface or nap to the smooth appearance which those conversant with fine woollen cloths know how to appreciate. It is, in fact, a sort of endless screw, but acting as a knife, and called a "Spiral Cutter." An individual, I wish to state, actually exported five hundred of these articles, and boasted without any disguise of his having so done under the denomination of "Chaff Cutters." Another individual applied not long since to the Board of Trade for a licence to permit the exportation of certain machinery; he was told it could not be granted, that it was a machine coming strictly within the line of prohibition, and that no licence could consequently be issued. What said this individual in reply? His answer was, that it was a matter of perfect indifference to him whether the licence was granted or not, although he might in consideration for his own character and feelings, desire not to have the imputation cast upon him of sending out the machine surreptitiously. The order had been given him for this machine; it had been faithfully executed by him; and he should subject the party for whom it was made to great inconvenience if it was not immediately shipped. It was wanted immediately, and go it must to the continent; and whether the licence was granted or withheld, it would certainly be sent out of the country in less than twenty-four hours from the moment that he was then in conversation with the gentleman connected with the licence-department at the Board of Trade. The machine-makers state, that there has been a great improvement in that branch of the trade which comprises the manufacture of tools; and perhaps there is nothing in mechanical invention more interesting to look at and examine than the operations of what are apparently machines, but which are bonâ fide tools. There have been combined in the space of one single machine the operations of a vast number of tools, and these are exported under the general term of "tools," without any reduction whatever. The foreigner is thus enabled to compete with the English machine-maker in a manner little contemplated by either party a very few years since. A vast amount of manual labour it is evident is thus saved, for it should be borne in mind that whenever we meet with manual labour in a high degree of perfection, a long previous apprenticeship must have been gone through by the artizan. All this is, however, passed over. All this time is gained in the training of mechanics by the introduction of these inventions. The quantity of tools, I understand from the authority of a most respectable machine-maker, exported the last few years, has been equal in each year to nearly the same quantity as would be required for regular use in eight or ten of the largest machine-making establishments to be met with in any part of this country. It is quite clear, therefore, that our foreign competitors are now in possession of means far more extensive than has ever been the case before for the manufacture of similar machines to those produced by the machine-makers of this country; and, it is a striking fact, that at the present moment the English machine-makers declare their inability any longer, with ad- vantage, to export many parts of machines, because such is the improvement which has taken place in their construction abroad, and such is the expense of the arrangements necessarily connected with the smuggling of articles, that the machine-makers upon the continent are now able to make machinery for the cotton or other manufactures of their own countries, and supply them on cheaper terms than by purchasing them from England through the present round-about mode. Whether this state of things is likely to undergo any change or not, I will not take upon myself to predict. As regards steam-engines, however, I read a few days ago, in one of the French journals, that, at a recent sitting of the Chamber of Deputies, an application was made to the Chamber to abolish the 30 per cent. tax upon British machinery, allowing a drawback of 32 per cent. upon that manufactured in France. The motion was opposed by M. Powells, himself a manufacturer of steam-engines, who wanted a large drawback, I think of 30 per cent., but his proposition was rejected. Now, when I first read the paragraph, the term machinery led me to think that the French Chamber had been seized with a sudden fit of free trade principles; but such is not the case—the matter under discussion, as I understand it, referred only to the duty payable upon the importation of steam-engines into France, which duty is 50 per cent., whilst the general duty upon machinery imported into France, is, I believe, 15 per cent., and the same duty of 15 per cent., is paid on the importation of machinery into France, across the Belgian frontier. The House must remember, that since the committee sat in 1825, the position of this country is greatly altered. Large machine manufacturing establishments have sprung up in France, in Belgium, in Switzerland, Saxony, Prussia, and Russia; and, if we go across the Atlantic, the United States exhibit a striking example of mechanical rivalry, and inventive genius. From that country have been derived some of the most important improvements in the machinery adapted for cotton spinning, patents for which have been taken out in England, and likewise upon the continent, and have then brought into active operation, and at the same time into active competition, many thousands of spindles, against those employed in the same manufacture in this country. These are some of the leading facts which the machine-makers have laid before me, and which I regret that I should so imperfectly have, myself, endeavoured to bring under the consideration of the House, facts, which exhibit, I admit, with considerable force, the inconsistencies with which the machine-makers are surrounded. I have already stated, that heretofore my opinions had been on the side of the manufacturers of this country, not hastily to throw away the advantages they possessed. They have, up to this time, I believe, rather retained an opinion in favour of restricting the exportation of machinery, if that restriction could be bonâ fide maintained; but I think the statements of the machine-makers are well worthy the consideration of the manufacturers as well as of this House. I will not take upon myself to say what change of opinion may have taken place in the minds of the manufacturers since the last Parliamentary inquiry, but before I sit down, perhaps the House will allow me to say, that should it grant this Committee of Inquiry, it will undoubtedly become part of the duty of that committee to consider well the objections urged by the manufacturers before the committees of 1824 and 1825, and to investigate and fully inquire into the claims of the two parties. The manufacturers formerly opposed the exportation of tools on the ground, that they apprehended a foreign demand for them, would greatly enhance the price at home. We have lived, however, I think to see, that this exportation has proved altogether fallacious, and keeping this fact in view, it may not be an unfair assumption, at all events, it is matter for consideration, whether the ultimate result of the exportation of machinery may not correspond with the result I have named in connexion with tools. I will here state some of the arguments which were put forward by the manufacturers in 1824. It was stated, on their behalf, before the committee, as the general opinion of commercial bodies, that a repeal of the laws, prohibiting the exportation of machinery, would be injurious to their interest, especially as regarded the cotton trade. They expected that a great demand for cotton machinery would immediately arise for exportation, and that the cost of similar machinery would be thereby enhanced to their detriment. I must, in candour, however, draw the attention of the House to the period when the objection was made: it was in the year 1824 and 1825; and, as every hon. Member will remember, that was a period when the currency was in a very extraordinary and inflated state—when every article of manufacture had risen greatly in price—when, as stated by the manufacturers, and repeated in Parliament by Mr. Huskisson, a fact of which there is no doubt, that new mills were built standing in want of machinery to fill them, the demand being equal to the average supply of eighteen months. What I would say, therefore, with reference to the objection on the part of the manufacturers is this. On looking at a question of this kind, do not limit your opinions to the result of a particular year, when such extraordinary circumstances may, as in the instance named, attach themselves to it, but look rather and examine whether the accuracy of your opinion will not be more fairly tested by the result of an average of years. I know that the manufacturers have laid considerable stress upon this argument, namely, that in former times, Scotland, when cotton-spinning was first established there, had derived the whole of her machinery from the Manchester and Lancashire workshops, but that very soon the Scotch became such good and expert machine-makers that they supplied themselves. From this fact, therefore, they drew the inference, that as Scotland, after possessing herself of models, had been able to supply her own rapidly increasing' wants without again resorting to the Lancashire districts, the same results would follow on the continent if the restrictions on the exportation of machinery were removed. I do not mean to say that their fears are by any means groundless. But I think this committee, for which I now move, will enable all parties to state their views more fully and more correctly probably than was the case in 1824 and 1825; for both parties have gained great experience since that time, and the relative condition and position of the continent and this country has undergone so great a change in that interval, that I conceive it to be a matter no less desirable for the manufacturer that the inquiry should be gone into, than it is for those who have petitioned the House in such strong terms, pointing out the inconsistencies resulting from the existing state of the law. This important investigation will take place, if the House will permit a committee of Inquiry to be appointed upon this subject; and I will now conclude by moving, in the words of the notice which I have given, for permission to appoint a select committee for the purpose of inquiring into the existing laws which affect the exportation of machinery.

Mr. Emerson Tennent

said, that although he was by no means decided as to many of the points which had been made by his hon. Friend who had just sat down, yet he thought that the inquiry which he sought was one of the highest importance; and he had great pleasure in seconding his motion. Me would do so, because he believed it to be precisely one of those questions of difficulty, in which the assistance of a committee was essentially required, in order to discover the safe course to be pusued. The subject of inquiry was one beset with doubt and difficulty, one point only being absolutely certain, namely, that the administration of the existing law had utterly failed in realising its own object. The machinery which we wished to retain had neither been kept in the country, nor had our rivals on the continent been excluded, as we had hoped, from attaining the power and skill for producing it for themselves. The law, in fact, had become utterly inoperative, and the Legislature must speedily decide whether they would abandon the principle of prohibition altogether, or so amend and alter the law as to enable them to do that which they were now unable to do—to enforce it. The result of this inquiry must lead to one or other of these consequences, for it was quite clear the matter could not longer remain as it was; the prohibition under its present regulation, being a mere legislative delusion, so far as regarded any effectual protection to our own manufacturers, and a powerful incentive to machine-making on the continent, without being any advantage to our own machine-makers at home. He could not look back to the legislation upon this subject in 1824 and 1825, without believing it to have been either imperfect or mistaken. Indeed Mr. Huskisson himself seemed to feel its imperfection, and admitted the necessity of doing something more to simplify and strengthen the law upon the subject; but, in 1826, he justified himself to the House for declining to take any further steps then, on the ground of the alarm which might be created in the then depressed state of every branch of trade and manufacture were the question to be again mooted. That temporary impediment had long sine passed away, but, notwithstanding, no steps had ever since been taken to remedy the inconvenience admitted by Mr. Huskisson. Mr. Huskisson himself predicted, in 1824, that the alteration of the law which legalized the emigration of skilled artisans would one day or other lead to the further concession of the export of machinery, which it would then become more difficult than ever to prevent. But with all admiration and respect for the genius and acquirements of that statesman in every thing pertaining to the finance and commerce of this country, he must say, that the necessity for further legislation, which had at length arrived, when this subject had been mainly caused by the crude and clumsy arrangements which were made by Mr. Huskisson himself, for the administration of the law in 1826. A discretionary power was vested in the Board of Trade to permit the free export of certain machinery, whilst others were to remain under prohibition, and for the guidance of that discretion Mr. Huskisson, who was then at the head of the Board of Trade, stated in the House of Commons, that he had laid down the following principle, the wisdom of which it was difficult to discern:— That when machinery was of great bulk, and contained a great quantity of raw material, then no objection should be made to exportation, as he considered that no injury could be done to the country by it. But where the machinery was of modern improvement, and depended mainly upon the ingenuity and excellence of the mechanism, and where the raw material used was trifling, he felt that he owed it to the manufacturer to restrain as far as he could, the exportation of such machinery. Thus the Board of Trade, with, of course, but an imperfect knowledge of the construction of machinery, were to dispense with all considerations of rarity, ingenuity, and performance, and to look mainly to weight of metal; and he had understood, that the standard practically taken was to allow such machinery to pass as was driven by a screw of one inch-and-a-half in diameter. The most ingenious pieces of mechanism thus found their way through the Custom-house, if they were only heavy enough; and amongst other formidable errors which were committed in accordance with this theory, was the unlimited export of tools. Hon. Members were not probably aware of the vast importance which attached to this latter permission; and when they hear that machinery is prohibited, but that "tools" may be exported freely, they naturally conclude, that it is only files and hammers, and such implements, that are meant by that phrase. But the im- portance of the concession would be perceived when it came to be known that, under the name of "tools," the most complex and wonderful machines were permitted to be exported, because they were to be used for the production of other machinery, and not of any articles of commerce. These tools are in fact machines—not only so, but they are the most valuable of all machinery, because they not only produce it, but confer upon it its precision, its finish, and its excellence. Some of these tools are of enormous size; planing machines of twenty to thirty feet in length, drills of corresponding dimensions, and lathes that grasp a beam of iron, that it would have taken weeks to polish by hand labour, and turn it out in a few hours as smooth and as delicately finished as an ivory toy. Operations, in short, which were once achieved, after long labour with the file and the hammer, in the hand of the workman, and liable to all his inaccuracies and defects, are now performed by tools that act like automatons, combining, with gigantic power, a precision that is faultless, and an ingenuity that approaches to instinct. Can anything be more inconsistent in legislation than to permit the unrestricted export of tools such as these, which are in fact pregnant with machinery itself, and in the same breath to say to continental machine-makers, "These you may have, but we cannot permit you to import our machines." Is it any thing more or less than saying, you shall have the tree with pleasure, but we cannot think of sending you the fruit? Now, to give an example of the operation of this permission, he would just mention the case of one machine, which for the purposes of exportation might be classed under the head of a "tool." One of the most important articles in the preparation of cotton yarn, and indeed yarns of all kinds, was the card by which the fibres were spread and arranged preparatory to twisting, and which was a kind of brush formed of bent wires, stuck through leather. The making of these cards was formerly a matter of infinite labour and minuteness, each piece of wire being bent by the fingers, and placed one by one in holes previously pierced, which was likewise done by hand, in the leather; a very small quantity, in fact, could be made in a day. Now, the entire of this operation is performed by a single tool, called Dyer's card-making machine, so independent, that one boy can attend two or three of them, and (if he might use the phrase) so intelligent, that it requires only to be supplied with a strip of leather, and a coil of wire, and in a few minutes it produces of itself the given quantity required of the finished material for clothing the carding frame. It lays hold of the wire, cuts it in pieces of equal length, bends each piece twice at a right angle, pierces the holes in the leather to admit its two points, thrusts it through and bends it on the other side, repeating each one of these five or six operations three hundred times in a minute, till it completes a little web of this complex and intricate texture, almost entirely without any human assistance. Now, he had been informed, that in legal construction this wonderful machine is a "tool" for making cards; as such, could be exported, if required; and the only obstacle which he saw to it, would arise on the question, whether it was driven by a screw of the requisite diameter. Such is the anomalous condition of the law at present it prohibited the export only of light machines, all preparatory machinery was permitted to be exported liberally; finishing machines alone were restricted; tools might go, artisans might go, and we had recently permitted the export of fuel. Now, look to the results of this legislation. There is not a country of Europe, that is not rapidly advancing in the manufacture of machinery for itself. Model machines are smuggled constantly out of England to each and to all of them. They have, then, our artizans, our tools, our iron, if necessary, and even our coals; and whilst they are envious of our manufacturing superiority, they are making rapid advances in constructing machinery for themselves wherewith to rival us in our productions. France, Switzerland, Belgium, Prussia, Saxony, Austria, and Russia, have each their factories of machinery, and have each made vast progress in its production. The smuggling of machinery from this country goes on as a regular trade. In a committee, of which he was chairman, last year, one witness stated, it to be his profession to smuggle it, and detailed the terms on which it was done. At Berlin, last year, he had been shown spacious rooms in the Gewerbe Institute, containing models or originals of every complex machine in use in England for the spinning of silk, wool, flax, or cotton, and was assured that they had all the newest improvements immediately on their appearance in Great Britain; nay, further, that they had some machinery superior to any in England, inasmuch as they could combine two or more English patents in one construction, a practice which the law rendered impossible in this country. He (Mr. E. Tennent) had found in all their workshops, English tools and English mechanics; and already, so far were they advanced, that they were beginning to dispense with the services of the latter, and to make the former for themselves, and the machinery produced by their own tools, and their native artisans, though inferior in finish and in precision to that obtained from England, was still eagerly sought after as a substitute for it, whilst they confidently hoped to shortly equal us in the manufacture itself. Now, these statements, he submitted, all tended to raise a serious question as to the prudence of the principle of prohibition, as it was abundantly clear, that the refusal of England to permit the exportation had given an impulse to the manufacturers abroad, which, but for it, might never have been communicated—it was mainly this prohibition that had spurred them on to cope with us, whilst our own lax administration of the law, by permitting the export of the most rare and costly tools, had equipped them for the contest. But this was only one side of the question. He had already stated the case to be surrounded with difficulties and doubts requiring the investigation of a committee. The inquiry did not end here—it was not sufficient to ascertain what had been the consequence of the prohibition. It was necessary likewise to inquire what might be the results of removing it now upon our manufactures at home, and upon their competitors abroad. The manifest superiority which our manufacturers still possess in the use of our own machinery is abundantly attested by the anxiety of their continental rivals to obtain it, even at a premium of from 50 to 75 per cent. upon the first cost in this country. If it did not produce better and more plentifully, it could never warrant such an outlay. Again, not only is their own home-made machinery inferior to ours in every respect, but the cost is considerably higher. For example, a mill for spinning linen yarn has recently been erected at Ghent, the buildings of which could cover 15,000 spindles, but 10,000 only have been erected, at a cost of 80,000l.; that is, about 8l. per spindle, the cost at Ghent; and better machinery could be erected in Belfast for from 4l. 10s. to 5l. a spindle, and in England for even less. An alteration of the law, therefore, which would give to the Belgian spinner the superior machinery of England, at a diminished cost, would be a manifest advantage acquired by him in his competition with the English spinner. Again, it is very true, that the machine makers of Belgium, France, and Prussia, are making rapid advances in their rivalry with those of Great Britain, but it must not be overlooked that they are mainly indebted to Great Britain herself for the very means of doing so—for the tools with which they work; and though they are beginning in some places to make these for themselves, they candidly admit, that they do so at a greater cost, and for an inferior article, to that which they could obtain from Sharp, Roberts, and Co., of Manchester. They have their own iron, but it costs more, and is less valuable than ours; they have coals, too, but they are twice the price; and they have skilled artisans, but at higher wages. In fact, so obvious is their inferiority in all these particulars, that a manufactory of machinery lately commenced at Hamburgh, had, when he visited it in October last, an English director, English workmen, English tools, English models, English iron, and even English coals, all procured at an immensely increased expence above that for which they could all have been had native. The manufacturers, therefore, buy machinery smuggled from England at 75 per cent., premium; or those who purchase machinery made by Englishmen on the continent, at greatly in creased prices, clearly admit their inability, without it, to cope with the manufacturers of England; and to give them, therefore, its unrestricted use, and un prohibited importation, even supposing the certainty, that their own machinery in time will equal ours, is to surrender in the mean time the temporary advantage which we possess, and to yield to the foreigner that start which our own producers have for the moment got of him in the market. Mr. Huskisson, in 1826, would have proceeded to deal further with this law, were it not for the alarm of the British manufacturers; that alarm, he believed, was not now so strong as it had been some years ago. They either felt, that the success of their competition with the continent, depended upon other elements than the mere excellence of machinery, or else they had become indifferent in some degree, from perceiving that their rivals had already got possession of the greater portion of that machinery, and were likely to obtain the whole; but certainly, in the year 1839 and 1840, when it was proposed by France to impose an import duty upon linen yarns, and that impost, it was conceived, might be averted by repealing our prohibition upon the export of machinery, the linen yarn spinners of the whole kingdom, had signified to the Board of Trade their acquiescence in the proposal. How far other branches of manufacture might be similarly affected towards it, would be for the inquiry of the committee; and he hoped, that their sentiments and opinions would certainly form a main feature in the inquiry, and that the question would not be prejudged upon any partial information as to what was doing in Belgium, or in France, or in Prussia, or in any one section of Europe; but what might be expected generally from every quarter of the globe, which possessed manufactures, or affected to compete with England. Till the House was in possession of that information, any hasty decision upon the matter would be ex parte and premature. Of one thing he felt already perfectly assured, that the law could not remain as it was, and whichever principle ultimately prevailed, whether that of prohibition or free export, the law must be altered in order to enforce it. If the prohibition were to be continued, it was idle to think of maintaining it under the present system, which afforded scarcely the shadow of an impediment to smuggling and contraband trade. The law must not only be simplified, but the articles to which it applied defined, and no longer left to the guesses of a custom-house officer, or the embarrassing discretion of the Board of Trade. Again, if the prohibition were to continue, it was madness to permit the export of the tools, as at present, which was no more than taking the trade out of our own hands to place it in those of our competitors. The House must be prepared either to permit the export of everything in the shape of machinery, or to recall the licence which has already been given for the export of that part; and he did not hesitate to say, that he thought the latter course impracticable, without exciting great exasperation on the continent against English manufactures. If the entire trade were legalized, it would secure its profits to our own manufacturers of machinery, instead of operating as a premium to their continental rivals. But he could only repeat, that the whole question was so vitally important, and yet so complicated, owing to the existing imperfections of the law, that fresh legislation was inevitable, and a committee of inquiry indispensable, in order previously to decide upon the most safe and prudent course to be adopted. He would support the motion of his hon. Friend.

Mr. Sheil

had great pleasure, on behalf of the Board of Trade, in acceding to the motion. He had also very great pleasure in finding that the subject was in the hands of gentlemen of such experience, and who so thoroughly understood it.

Mr. Hume

defended the policy of Mr. Huskisson, as regarded the repeal of the combination laws, and allowing mechanics to go abroad. Mr. Huskisson, though anxious to see the laws repealed which related to the exportation of machinery, had felt himself obliged to recommend that the laws should not be repealed, in consequence of the opposition of the manufacturers of machinery in this country. Had those laws been repealed, the manufacturers of machinery in this country would have been in possession of the whole continental trade for tools as well as machinery—the most lucrative trade, perhaps, in the world. Everything that had since occurred on the subject had proved the correctness of the views of Mr. Huskisson, who was deterred from advising repeal, not from any unwillingness, but from a knowledge of the extent of the prejudice of the manufacturers, with which he had to deal. He had always been convinced that the manufacturers would ultimately see their interest, and now the time was come. If the restrictions were taken off, our manufacturers would supply the greater part of the world with machinery. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Philips), who would no doubt be chairman of the committee, would endeavour so to expedite the report as that a bill could pass the House this Session.

Mr. Brotherton

entirely concurred in the object of the motion, because, although his own mind was made up as to the necessity of repealing these laws, he thought that inquiry was necessary to remove any prejudice existing in the public mind. He thought that there should be no medium between an entire prohibition and free exportation.

Mr. Villiers

thought that the removal of these restrictions had now become matter of necessity, and that it would be highly advantageous to the manufacturers. It was admitted on all hands that in several foreign countries there was an alarming rivalry with many of our most important manufactures. The inquiry, therefore, should not be confined to the present state of the question, but also extend to the causes which produced this rivalry. He hoped that the House would be induced to admit the justice of the present claim, and that they would be induced to allow that what so deeply affected the commerce and manufactures of this country, also affected the very foundation of the prosperity of the country. The laws to permit the importation of machinery were, at the present time, totally inoperative. As a proof of this, he would state, that there was a company at Cambray which undertook to supply any machinery from this country, to be delivered on the Continent, at an additional charge of 25 per cent.

Mr. Walker

wished to impress upon the attention of the House the gross inconsistency of the present state of the law, for while it admitted the exportation of models of machinery of all kinds, and the materials for machinery, the manufactured article was prohibited: was it, then, not an absurdity to continue the present system? He rejoiced that the question had met with such a favourable reception in the House, and he trusted that ere long they should attain a satisfactory result.

Mr. Hindley

should not have the slightest hesitation in assenting to the motion, if he was satisfied that the foreign manufacturers would, as was stated, be induced to take all our old machinery, and leave the improved machinery to the home market. He did not believe that that ever could be the case. They, at the present time, paid 25 per cent. more for their machinery than the manufacturers of this country. Would it, then, be an advantage to our producers to remove the restrictions, and give this premium to foreign manufacturers? The question, in point of fact, was, whether they should allow the exportation of machinery to an amount equivavalent to the sum annually expended in the employment of it, and in the profits derived from its use. For instance, suppose in a cotton-mill the machinery cost 60,000l., the expenditure in the shape of wages, together with the profits, might be taken at about the same sum. He feared, that if at present they allowed the free and unrestricted exportation of machinery, they would give a key to foreigners of several most important branches of manufactures which were not carried on on the continent. He hoped that the committee would be impartially selected, and not composed only of those who took a one-sided view of the subject, but that it should be open to free inquiry. His own predisposition was in favour of free trade, and if it were not for the corn-laws and the national debt, he should not object to the removal of every restriction.

Mr. Muntz,

as a manufacturer and merchant, was anxious to state his opinion, which he should do as shortly as possible. He was for the entire removal of all restraint on the exportation of machinery. He did not, however, altogether agree with the hon. Mover and Seconder of the motion, as he thought that the appointment of a committee was altogether uncalled for, and would only be attended with a waste of time, and an unnecessary expenditure. He would venture to assert, that there was not a tool or machine made in this country which could not readily be exported, in spite of all the exertions of the Government to prevent it. The impediments at present thrown in the way of this exportation were nothing more nor less than a bonus to the manufacture of foreign machinery, and therefore so far injurious to the manufacturers of machinery in this country. He thought that the better course would have been, for the hon. Member for Manchester to have at once asked for leave to bring in a bill to allow the free exportation of machinery.

Mr. Ewart

was satisfied that the prohibiting the exportation of machinery was only driving the foreigner to manufacture his own machines. It would have been of the greatest advantage to this country if a measure for the removal of this restriction had been passed when it was proposed in 1824. It was the opinion of all the authorities of the Board of Customs, that it was impossible to prevent the exportation of machinery, and that the laws that existed on the subject only operated as an impediment, and tended to enhance the price to the foreigner. The amount, then, of this difference of price operated as a premium to the manufacturer of machinery on the continent. Until 1750 there were no restrictions on the exportation of tools or machinery, and no evil was found to have arisen from the then state of things. When the subject was before the House in 1824, Mr. Huskisson observed, that as long as they allowed artisans to go out of the country, it was of no use to endeavour to prevent the exportation of machinery.

Mr. Morrison

thought that great injury bad been inflicted upon our manufactures by not agreeing to the measure on this subject introduced in 1824. The effect had been to deprive us of some most important branches of trade, and above all, of the manufacture of machinery for the world. In consequence of the natural and peculiar advantages which existed in this country, this latter was a species of manufacture of which no country could deprive us. If they had allowed the exportation of machinery when it was formerly proposed, at the present time it would be one of the most important articles of our exports. The result of not doing so had been, that the restriction had operated as a bounty to the foreign manufacturer of machinery, until he was able to compete with us. A few years ago he knew that there was an extensive smuggling of machinery into France, but he doubted very much whether this was the case now. He would suggest to his hon. Friend to extend his motion into an inquiry into the extent and nature of the duties on machinery imported into foreign countries. He also thought that it was a question for consideration, whether they should not impose a moderate tax on the exportation of machinery. If this had been done a few years ago, he had no doubt but that it would have proved highly beneficial to the revenue. He was rejoiced to find that there was no objection to the motion, and he trusted that the inquiry would be of an ample nature.

Mr. Thornley

did not agree in the propriety of the suggestion just made by his hon. Friend, as to the levying a tax on the exportation of machinery, as the tax would only operate as a bonus to the smuggler, or a premium to the foreign manufacturer of machinery. It would prove highly injurious to have any impediment in the way of exportation.

Motion agreed to.