HC Deb 26 February 1841 vol 56 cc1144-8

On the motion of Mr. Labouchere, the House went into Committee on the East-India Rum Duties' Bill.

Dr. Lushington

said, that it was not his intention to offer any remarks upon the bill in its present stage. He would reserve what he had to say until he had seen all the papers upon the subject.

Mr. Labouchere

wished the House to understand that although it was intended to put rum, the produce of the sugarcane in the East Indies, upon the same footing as that produced in the West Indies, it was not intended to apply the principle to spirits generally. Upon clause 3, he proposed to add words, giving to the Governor-general the power of making regulations for the purpose of preventing frauds. He had considered the matter very attentively, and found it impossible to undertake to constitute a machinery for that purpose, at least until they had seen what regulations were adopted by the Governor-general, and how far they were successful.

Mr. Hume

quite agreed with the hon. Gentleman on that subject. He thought that every colony should be left to make its own regulations on these subjects. But he could not help regretting that the Government were higgling about the spirits to which the proposed equalization should be extended. Why not admit all spirits? He had hoped that a more liberal policy would be pursued, and that they would be prepared to take from India every article which they required for home consumption. It appeared to him a very insane restriction. The people of India were as much the subjects of her Majesty as we were, or those in the West Indies, and there ought to be no restriction on the intercourse or the free interchange of produce between all. The talk of East-India interests and West-India interests had been the bane of this country. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would introduce a clause opening the trade to all spirits made in India.

Mr. Labouchere

hoped the House would confine itself to the question then before the House. He had introduced the bill as one affecting rum only, and he would think he was committing a breach of faith were he to agree to the suggestion of the hon. Member. He had the question of free intercourse as much at heart as the hon. Gentleman, but he thought the present was not the time to go into the large questions that would be opened up were he to consider the question of India spirits generally.

Mr. Goulburn

suggested that some clause ought to be introduced, in order to secure that no turn but that the produce of the sugar cane was introduced under this bill. He had prepared clauses for that purpose, and if the bill should go through Committee, he would communicate them to the right hon. Gentleman, and move them at a future stage.

Mr. Labouchere

did not think there was any necessity for the introduction of such provisions. The Customs were of that opinion, and he thought it would be better to leave all the regulations on the subject to the Indian Government. Everybody knew that rum was exported from England to the Continent, and that three-fourths of that was British spirit. Now, all he desired was, that that superintendence should be exercised over the manufacture of rum, which would effectually guard against those abuses which they professed to guard against.

Mr. Hawes

protested against the whole line of argument adopted in the present discussion. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) looked to his own especial interest, and not to that of the public. Because, if it was the interest of the public to, have the right hon. Gentleman's rum, it was also their interest to have it cheap. He considered that what was now proposed was a most useful step. The excise regulations were more stringent in the East Indies than in the West, and he quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, that they should be put on an equal footing. He was told the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the Tower Hamlets, meant to bring a motion before the House with respect to the subject of slavery; when that motion was brought forward it would be seen, that free labour was a far greater source of profit than slave labour. He found in the clause the words "British protection." Now, were not all those places to which the bill referred to be considered as dependencies of the British empire? Were they not all governed by officers of the British Crown, and why should the people there not have the benefit of their protection.

Mr. Goulburn

denied his advocating the interest of the West Indies further than it coincided with the interest of the public generally.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

thought they might meet all the objects proposed to be gained by the clause without adopt ing the very words of it. He certainly had some objection to the right hon. Gentleman's clause being adopted in its present state. He thought, that whatever should be done agreeably to what was suggested in the clause should be done in India. He was satisfied that a discretionary power should be vested in the Privy Council in this country, which could occasionally be brought into action. He could not consent to any words limiting the mode in which their objects were to be carried into effect, and consequently to the words proposed, he had a strong objection.

Mr. Warburton

hoped no words would be introduced into the bill, subjecting the produce of the sugar cane to any other restrictions than those on West India produce. He thought that any prescription as to the mode in which the Governor-general of India should carry these objects into effect would be injurious to the East India interests; and he thought this would be the effect of the words proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. All be (Mr. Warburton) wished was, that the restrictions on the produce of both countries should be precisely the same.

Mr. Palmer

thought, that if this equalization of duty took place, the West-Indies were in justice entitled to the removal of certain restrictions under which, they laboured, such as the prohibitory duties on timber and provisions.

Mr. Sheil

said, their object was to introduce East India rum at the same duty as the rum of the West-Indies, but to have security that it should be the produce of the sugar cane. The question was, how could they obtain that object? It appeared to him that the means must be left with those who were most conversant with the country.

Mr. Hogg

agreed in all that had been said respecting the understanding that the duty on sugar being equalised, the duty should be also equalised on rum, being the produce of the sugar cane.

Mr. Labouchere

said, that he would endeavour to meet the views of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Clause agreed to with amendments.

Bill reported, with amendments. House resumed.

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