HC Deb 20 September 1841 vol 59 cc634-40
Mr. S. Crawford

felt it absolutely necessary to make another appeal to the right hon. Baronet, with reference to the condition of the working classes and the great urgency of some measures for their relief, because since Friday last he had received a statement from Rochdale exhibiting an amount of pressure and distress which it was perfectly frightful to contemplate. It appeared that in that town, which he had the honour of representing, there were 136 persons living on 6d. per week, 290 on 10d., 508 on 1s., 855 on 1s. 6d. and 1,500 on 1s. 10d. per week. Of these five-sixths had scarcely a blanket among them; eighty-five families had no blanket, and forty-six families had only chaff beds, without any covering at all. When such a statement had been placed in his hands, he could not in duty to his constituents remain silent at his post. He was compelled to plead in their behalf for some measure of immediate relief. The right hon. Baronet called for lime to consider how these evils could be remedied, but surely five months were too long. If the right hon. Baronet could not propose measures effectually to relieve the people, some temporary act should at least be passed to cheapen the price of food by removing the tax on the importation of foreign corn The right hon. Baronet also proposed a renewal of the New Poor-law Bill and of the commission, which had had the effect, and was intended to have the effect of reducing the means by which the poor were to be relieved. The report recently published by the commissioners showed that they had zealously endeavoured to limit the means of out-door relief. If it should be the pleasure of the House to renew the Poor-law, he should move a clause by which the commissioners should be precluded from extending its operations to districts not already under its provisions, and also from restricting or forbidding out-door relief in any case without the consent of the guardians. He earnestly hoped the right hon. Baronet would seriously apply himself to this important subject. Hp must not rely only on the largeness of the majorities by which he might be supported; if his measures were not in accordance with the feelings of the nation, the greater his majority now, the greater would be his weakness by-and-by. Public opinion would recoil on him, and the effect would be as in the case of the Reform Bill. He did not object to the grant of a supply upon any party grounds; he did so in order that he might have the opportunity pf eliciting an assurance from the right hon. Baronet that inquiry into the condition of the labouring classes should not be postponed till next Session. Unless the right hon. Gentleman gave some intimation to that effect, he should decidedly record his dissent to the present motion.

Sir R. Peel

assured the hon. Gentle- man that he heard with the deepest regret any account of the sufferings of any portion of the people of this country; at the same time he had a very strong impression that it was very difficult by any act of legislation suddenly to provide a remedy. He thought he should only be countenancing a fatal delusion if he encouraged the belief that it was possible for Parliament to adopt any act by which immediate relief might be obtained. There must be an universal impression on each side of the House, however differently Members might feel on other matters, that the only hope with respect to the effect of legislation was to lay the foundation for improvement, and work a gradual amelioration in the state of society. Any sudden intervention on the part of the Legislature could afford but little hope of supplying an immediate remedy for evils which all must deplore. He was sorry that he could not purchase the acquiescence of the hon. Gentleman in this motion by holding any language different from that which he expressed on Friday; but in repeating that determination, he begged to assure him that he regarded the statements he had made with feelings as poignant as those the hon. Gentleman had himself evinced.

Mr. Thornely

had no statistical statements to lay before the House, but he could assure them that there was not a single branch of manufacturing industry which was not in a state of depression. He, for one, should have infinitely greater pleasure in remaining there until next February, than in meeting at that period. He had looked that morning at a statement which was given of the state of our cotton trade. He found, that in 1840, the quantity of cotton taken out of the Liverpool market for the weekly consumption was 23,288 bales, while in 1841 it was 19,304 bales, showing a reduction of one-sixth. This was accounted for by the closing of so many mills, and the working of short time in others, causing, of course, great distress among the labouring classes. He had conversed with men, during the late recess, engaged in commerce; and he must say, that without regard to political opinions, every practical man concurred in the opinion that had there been a duty of 8s. imposed in last May, and the reduction which had been proposed had taken place in the sugar duties, a great improvement must have ensued in the commerce and manufactures pf the coun- try. Let them look at the duly which might have been derived from corn. There were not less than 1,600,000 quarters in bond at the present time, which, at 8s. duty, would yield 640,000l. At the duty of 1s., these would give but 80,000l. showing a difference of 560,000l. Thus would the revenue be benefitted by 500,000l. while 1s. more would not be charged to the consumer. He was persuaded more had been paid to the foreigner on the Continent than the 500,000l. that would have gone to the Treasury, if corn had been purchased according to the usages of commercial prudence. In common cases, orders were sent to foreign countries to purchase when goods could be had at certain limited prices, and to be shipped when the freight could be contracted for at low terms; but it being ascertained early in August, that from the working of the averages, the duty would be at the lowest in the week commencing either 9th or 16th of September, orders were sent to the rear ports of the Continent to purchase at high rates, and to give almost any rate of freight in order to get to market so as to reach the low duty.

He was persuaded that the public would pay a great deal more to the foreigner on the continent in the purchase of corn at an advanced price, than the 500,000l. which would have been levied as duty, and would have gone into the Treasury, if the trade were conducted according to the common usages of commercial prudence. It was usual to fix the duty according to the value of the article, but let them look at the present rate of the duty on corn.

Average price. Duty. Per cent. Ad Valorem.
Wheat 73 2 1 0 equal to
Barley 37 8 6 4 equal to 17
Oats 24 9 10 9 equal to 43
Rye 38 3 12 6 equal to 30
Beans 43 5 5 0 equal to 11
Peas 45 5 2 0 equal to 5⅓
Let the House look to the operation of the Corn-law as regarded its effects upon the United States of America, our best customers. Though, as the law stood, it had proved possible to bring corn into this country from the near ports of Europe, it was impossible that America could send in a quarter of wheat, so as to obtain the advantage of the low rate of duty. Before the Americans could be aware of the reduction in the rate of duty they were shut out from all participation in it. He submitted these considerations to hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Congress of the United States were to meet in December, and the manufacturers of America were already at work to prevent the introduction of British commodities there, except at advanced duties; and unless in the interval the Government of this country would put the commodities of the United States on a fair and equal footing, it was certain that this country would lose the opportunity, perhaps the only opportunity she would ever have, of gaining such an access to that market as she ought to have. He was not surprised that the report of the committee on the Import duties should have produced such an effect. The justice of the views set forth in it was universally admitted, be knew that it was read extensively in America, but he begged the House would consider what the Americans said of it:— When you act on the same principles you have so beautifully enunciated, and admit our produce into your markets, then you may lay claim in turn to the sympathy and liberality of other countries. With respect to the sugar duties, it was the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool who, some time ago, had carried an amendment against the reduction of the sugar duty, grounded, he (Mr. Thornely) believed, upon the principle of encouraging the sale of sugar, the growth of free labour, in preference to sugar, the growth of slave labour. But it appeared that the inhabitants of Liverpool were of a different opinion to the noble Lord; for it was a curious fact that every sugar refinery in Liverpool had ceased working sugars of British growth, and were exclusively engaged in refining foreign sugars in bond. In one week 1,100 boxes of Havannah sugars were sold to be so refined. The fact appeared from the prices current of Liverpool, to which he referred the noble Lord. The sugar so refined was sent all over the world. It was sent to Jamaica, Demerara, British America, and even to the Isle of Man. Everything had been done to mystify the price of sugar. The price of raw sugar in bond might be called 2d. per pound; refined sugar 4d. per pound. All above these prices paid by the consumer, was either duty paid to the revenue, or the price paid for the sugar monopoly. He was of opinion, that if her Majesty's late Government had carried the 12s. duty they proposed to lay upon foreign sugar, there would not have been a single week in which the grocers and refiners would not have selected largely from that sugar, by which means the country would have been greatly benefited by the reduction in price, and the revenue largely benefited by the duty. In conclusion, he would say, that he had passed a long commercial life; he was now out of business; and he had never entertained any other opinions than those in favour of free-trade principles, of the soundness of which he was perfectly convinced. He had been long an observer of the working of the monopoly system; and he was not surprised at the impression the report of the import duties committee had had upon the country. He was in the habit of being early in his attendance at the House, and he had remarked, that among the prayers read at the Table previous to the commencement of business, there was one, "that we may lay aside all private interests, prejudices, and partial affections." Happy, indeed, would be that day, when Members, upon entering that House, would leave at the door all private and personal interest, whether it be that of the landowner, the manufacturer, of the merchant. True, they had a duty to perform to their constituents, but they had likewise a higher duty to perform to the country and to the world. He deeply regretted that the measures of commercial reform proposed by the late Ministers, had not been carried, as he was sure they would have been productive of immense national benefit. He would urge upon the right hon. Baronet opposite, that if he would set himself in defiance to those who came there for the furtherance of private and partial interests, he would have the opportunity of doing an immeasurable good to the country—a good for which that country would be for ever indebted to him.

Mr. H. R. Yorke

said, though immediate relief was much wanted by the people under their distresses, he thought the position of the right hon. Baronet, as a public man, with his immense responsibilities, ought also to be considered. It must not be forgotten, that the misery now spoken of was increasing in the spring of the year, and with the misery there was increasing an excess of expenditure over income. The right hon. Baronet, however, having objected to the specific mea- sures of relief proposed by the late Government, was bound to bring forward others in their place. It was, therefore, with intolerable pain that he heard the right hon. Baronet say he intended only to propose a certain sum to be voted for the ventilation of the House—a thing excellent in its way; another sum for the centralisation of royal vegetables, also a thing excellent in its way—and other sums for the public service. The right hon. Baronet also meant to bring in a bill to continue the Poor-law, by the affected detestation of which, and the denunciation of its obnoxious clauses, many hon. Members had gained their seats, and, having done this, the right hon. Baronet would most kindly send the country Gentlemen back to their accustomed avocations.

The House divided on the question that the Speaker do leave the Chair:—Ayes 136; Noes 22: Majority 114.

List of the AYES.
A'Court, Captain Ferrand, W. B.
Acton, Colonel Fleming, J. W.
Allix, J. P. Forbes, W.
Antrobus, E. Forman, T. S.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Fuller, A. E.
Attwood, M. Gaskell, J. Milnes
Baillie, Colonel Gill, T.
Baird, W. Gladstone,rt. hn. W.E.
Baldwin, C. B. Gore, M.
Baring, hon. W. B. Goring, C.
Baskerville, T. B. M. Goulburn, rt. hon. H.
Beckett, W. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Berkeley, hon. C. Grant, Sir A. C.
Blackstone, W. S. Greenall, P.
Bodkin, W. H. Greene, T.
Boldero, H. G. Grimsditch, T.
Borthwicke, P. Grogan, E.
Boscawen, Lord Hale, R. B.
Botfield, B. Hamilton, W. J.
Bramston, T. W. Hamilton, Lord C.
Broadley, H. Harcourt, G. G.
Brooke, Sir A. B. Hardinge, rt.hn.Sir H.
Browne, hon. W. Hayes, Sir E.
Bruce, Lord Henley, J. W.
Buck, L. W. Henniker, Lord
Campbell, A. Herbert, hon. S.
Canning, rt. hn. Sir S. Hogg, J.W.
Carnegie, hn. Captain Hope, hon. C.
Chelsea, Viscount Hope, G. W.
Chetwode, Sir J. Hornby, J.
Clerk, Sir G. Howard, hn. C. W. G.
Clive, hon. R. H. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Cochrane, A. Irton, S.
Collett, W. R. Irving, J.
Cripps, W. Johnson, W. G.
Dalrymple, Captain Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Darby, G. Kerrison, Sir E.
Dawnay, hon. W. H. Knightley, Sir C.
Divett, E. Langston, J. H.
Douglas, Sir C, E. Leicester, Earl of
Egerton, W. T. Litton, E.
Lockhart, W. Sibthorp, Colonel
Mackenzie, W. F. Smythe, hon. G.
Manners, Lord G. Sutton, hon. H. M.
March, Earl of Taylor, J. A.
Marsham, Viscount Tennent, J. E.
Masterman, J. Tollemache, hn. F. J.
Milnes, R. W. Trench, Sir F. W.
Morgan, O. Tufnell, H.
Nicholl, rt. hon. J. Vane, Lord H.
O'Brien, A. S. Vere, Sir C. B.
Owen, Sir J. Veiner, Colonel
Pakington, J. S. Vivian, J. E.
Peel, rt. hon. Sir It. Vyvyan, Sir R. R.
Peel, J. Waddington, H. S.
Pollock, Sir F. Wakley, T.
Ramsbottom, J. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Reade, W. M. Welby, G. E.
Rice, E. R. Wigram, J.
Rolleston, Colonel Wilde, Sir T.
Rose, rt. hon. Sir G. Wood, Colonel
Rushbrooke, Colonel Wood, Colonel T.
Russell, Lord J. Worsley, Lord
Russell, C. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Sanderson, R. Wyndham, Colonel
Sandon, Viscount
Scott, R. TELLERS.
Scott, hon. F. Baring, H.
Seymour, Lord Fremantle, Sir T.
List of the NOES.
Bowring, Dr. Napier, Sir C.
Brother ton, J. Ogle, S. C. H.
Bryan, G. Philips, M.
Cobden, R. Plumridge, Captain
Collins, W. Protheroe, E.
Dennistoun, J. Rennie, G.
Elphinstone, H. Thornely, T.
Ferguson, Colonel Walker, R.
Fielden, J. Yorke, H. R.
Gibson, T. M.
Granger, T. C. TELLERS.
Harford, S. Williams, W.
Hawes. B. Crawford. W. S.

House in committee.

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