§ On the 9th clause, relating to the averages,
§ Mr. Barclay
rose to move an amendment, of which he had given notice, and which he could assure the House he did without the least hostile intention towards the bill of the right hon. Baronet, to the principle of which he was not opposed. In proposing to add 139 new towns to the list of towns from which the average prices of corn were to be returned, he felt persuaded that they were proposing to do what was quite unnecessary as a protection against frauds in the returns, and if not necessary as a protection against fraud, it would certainly be better that no alteration should be made. The right hon. Baronet had stated that he believed the frauds in the averages had been greatly exaggerated. He believed so too; for if even there had been frauds on one side, there had been frauds likewise on the other side, and the result of those antagonist efforts on both sides had been, that the duty had remained nearly where it would have been had nothing been done on either side. There would be no inducement for any one to operate on the averages when the duty would fall only one shilling at a time. It was only in what was called the jumping part of the scale, when the price rose to 69s., and when the duty varied 3s. or 4s. for every shilling that the average rose, that it could be worth the while of any speculator to tamper with the averages. But if the addition of these new towns to the schedule was not necessary for the prevention of fraud, it was a general opinion among men of all parties that it would have the effect of depressing the average prices of corn. Some people 1298 had estimated the depression at five shillings. He did not himself think it would be so much, but he had consulted several practical men, men connected with the corn market, and others, and they all were of opinion that great depression would be effected by the proposed addition to the schedule. They differed as to the amount, but they all thought there would be some depression. Some thought five shillings, some thought three, some estimated it at only one. Now, the right hon. Baronet had assured the House that he did not aim at any depression of the averages, and he had also told them, that there was no necessity to guard against frauds. But if the addition to the schedule was not necessary for the prevention of fraud, a suspicion would be excited that the averages were sought to be depressed. By such a depression the interests of the clergy would clearly suffer very materially. Upon what principle did the right hon. Baronet propose to settle his terms with the clergy? Did he propose to make a new settlement with them, or were their interests to be regulated by the averages as now obtained, without the addition of the 139 new towns? All difficulties of that kind would be prevented, if the right hon. Baronet would remove from his schedule the 139 towns proposed to be added by this bill. He would repeat that he did not bring forward his amendment in any hostility to the bill, though he certainly would not abandon his opinion, that a fixed duty would have been a more satisfactory adjustment than any kind of sliding-scale. As a practical farmer he should prefer a definite protection to one which, at one time gave him more protection than he wanted, and at another time gave him none at all. The hon. Member concluded by moving as an amendment,That it is not expedient to make any addition to the number of towns from which returns are now made for the calculation of the average prices.
§ Mr. Greene,
the chairman of the committee, suggested that the present was not the proper time for moving such all amendment, though it might be a very convenient time to discuss the principle. The amendment, as now proposed, bore the character of a distinct resolution. The proper course would be to reserve the amendment till the schedule was before the House.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ On the question being again put,1299
§ Mr. Childers
rose to move the following clause in substitution of clause 29:—That from the passing of this bill up to the 1st day of May, 1843, the duty to be paid on the importation of foreign corn shall be regulated by the averages of those towns only which have hitherto made returns in accordance with the act of 9 Geo. 4th.; but that from and after the 1st day of May, 1843, the duty shall be regulated by the averages of all the towns named in the schedule attached to the present bill, unless Parliament shall in the meantime otherwise direct.His motion did not appear to apply substantially to this clause, yet, as it related to the averages, he thought it would be convenient to the House then to bring it forward. [Mr. Gladstone—The question docs not arise.] He would then move that all words after the word "and" be omitted. His object was not to do away with the addition of the towns; but as the right hon. Baronet had said that he had no wish to depress the averages he thought it would be worth while to consider whether they would now pass a clause relating to the averages which, having passed, could not. be recalled, or give an opportunity for its further consideration. His proposition was, that the schedule should remain as it was, but at the same time that they should not act upon the averages under it for twelve months. By this means they would be able to ascertain whether there really was any substantial difference in the two modes of taking the averages. He thought there were good grounds for bringing forward this motion, when from both sides of the House it had been stated, that the effect of the alteration would be a considerable fall in the average of the annual price of corn in this country. The hon. Member for Somerset shire stated distinctly that, in his opinion, that fall would be 3s. or 4s.; and in his (Mr. Childers's) opinion, the infliction under the new scale would be very heavy at high prices, and at the highest almost in tolerable. He could not conceive what reason there could possibly be for retaining the high prices of 71s., 72s., and 73s. in the scale; for he thought that when the averages rose to 68s., the sooner they imported at the lowest duty the better. He thought he might also appeal to the right hon. Baronet to support his plan on the ground of what he (Sir R. Peel) stated last night, in the debate on the Income-tax—namely, that it would again come under the consideration of Parliament at 1300 the end of three years, when the House would be able to judge of its operation and the propriety of continuing it—a principle which, he though, might also be advantageously extended to the present question.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that the hon. Member opposite appeared to wish that the existing towns should he retained, and yet, he proposed to leave out the only clause by which any towns whatever could be used for the purposes of the measure. If the object of the hon. Member were to keep the law as it now existed with reference to the towns at which averages were to be taken, why did he not move in accordance with such a purpose? If he aimed at keeping the law unaltered, the mode he took of doing so was extraordinary. [Mr. Childers proposed omitting all the words in the present clause for the purpose of substituting another form of words.] The ninth clause was the portion of the bill which the hon. Member proposed to leave out altogether. He begged the House to observe what was proposed to be enacted by this part of the bill; the clause ran in these words:—And whereas it is necessary, for regulating the amount of such duties, that effectual provision should be made for ascertaining from time to time the average prices of British corn; be it therefore enacted, that weekly returns of the purchases and sales of British corn shall be made, collected, and transmitted in the manner hereinafter directed in and from the cities and towns named in the schedule of cities and towns annexed to this act.Now, by the proposition of the hon. Member, it was intended to get rid of the averages altogether; in that he could not acquiesce. In support of his argument, the hon. Member said that when the price of corn was 66s. or 67s. no duty whatever ought to be charged, and that her Majesty's Government in bringing forward the present measure ought to have so modified the provisions of the bill as that no duty should be chargeable at a price of 65s. or 66s. Surely that doctrine was fatal to the principle of a fixed duty, for the sup porters of a fixed duty would impose a tax of 8s. or 10s. at all periods, and in every state of the market; the 8s. duty was a penalty attaching to the importation of corn under all circumstances. The hon. Member was of opinion that the importation of corn should be free when the price rose to 66s; the Government measure provided that it should be so when the 1301 price rose to scheme would 73s. but the fixed duty lay on a tax of 8s. or 10s. even when the price was as high as 73s., or at any price whatever; that certainly must be the effect of a fixed duty. [Mr. Childers said, that under the plan of a fixed duty, corn would never reach to such a price as 72s.] But suppose that it should reach such a price, what did hon. Members say to that? Could they deny that if it reached 78s. the fixed duty would be the same as if the price were only 53s.? That in a certain state of things it would never reach 73s. was a mere matter of speculation, which it was very easy to suggest to the hon. Member opposite in order to assist him in getting out of the dilemma in which he had placed himself. With respect to the additional towns at which the averages were to be taken, it was a mistake to suppose that the addition of them, or their being wholly omitted, would have the effect of raising the price of corn; the addition would not raise the averages, it would make the system more just. It had been said on the other side, that frauds were practised in both ways—were practised for the purpose of raising prices, and for the purpose of depressing them. On that he should observe, that he had multiplied towns for the purpose of preventing fraud. But then, the hon. Member contended, that one fraud balanced another, and that the system, in its working, righted itself. The House surely would not say, that one injustice ought to set against another. He did not say, that the frauds were confined to one side, they might be found on both, but he trusted, that the effect of the measure which he introduced, would be to prevent sudden fluctuations. Much had been said of the frauds, but he entertained no doubt that they had been greatly exaggerated; admitting, however, that some frauds had been practised, he relied upon the gradual decline of the duty to prevent their continuance, and there might be many faults in the system, besides the frauds. He had been asked, why he had selected the towns contained in the schedule; to that his reply was, that he had selected those towns in fifteen of the chief agricultural and manufacturing districts. If the object was to ascertain what were the real prices of corn, the obvious mode of accomplishing that object could not be any other than to select the principal corn markets of the kingdom. It was true, that he had proposed to continue the Income-tax for 1302 three years, then to cease, unless Parliament should otherwise determine, but that could form no reason for adopting the principle of the hon. Member for one year, unless altered by Parliament. He therefore adhered to the proposition he had made as it now stood.
§ Mr. Hawes
differed in opinion from the right hon. Gentleman, whose object, ac cording to his own statement, was to pre vent frauds from being practised in taking the averages, and who, in order to produce that effect, had added to the number of the towns, as well as greatly diversified their localities. In his opinion the frauds referred to took their rise in very different causes. He had taken pains to inquire into the subject, and he had asked several eminent dealers in corn whether the nomination of additional towns as average towns was likely to produce any alteration in the price of wheat. All of those to whom he applied had said, that the effect would be to lower the average price of corn by from 2s. to 4s. per quarter; and as a necessary consequence the duty would rise in proportion 2s. to 4s. He had gone further than this. He had applied to another gentleman, who was a very large dealer in corn, to know what the general effect of the new mode of taking the averages would be, and his opinion was, that the principal portion of the additional towns had been selected from those counties where there was a bad growth of wheat; that is to say, a small proportionate quantity, and bad comparative quality of corn; and that the fewest towns had been selected from those counties where wheat was grown in greatest abundance and of the finest quality. The con sequence of that would be, that a larger quantity of inferior wheat would be thrown into the market, and the averages would be lowered. Couple that fact with the more stringent mode about to be adopted of taking the averages. The Excise—a body of men under the superintendence of Government — were to be employed; and knowing how much the Government was influenced by the landed interest, it was certain they would expect the returns to be strictly enforced. A larger portion of inferior corn would be in the market, and the effect of that would be a rise in the, duty. He would now say a few words as to the general selection. On turning to the statistical work of Mr. M'Culloch, he found that certain counties were enumerated as growing the largest quantity of wheat of the finest quality, according to their acre- 1303 age. Those counties were, Kent, Essex, Suffolk, Hampshire, Berks, Rutland, Herts, and Herefordshire. Mr. M'Culloch said, that, generally speaking, the agricultural produce of Wales was lower than any other part. He was not responsible for those statements, but, assuming them to be well-founded, let the House observe from what parts of the country the majority of towns had been selected to furnish the averages. He found that in Kent four towns were added, in Essex three, in Suffolk none, in Hampshire one, in Rutland one, in Herts four, in Berks four, in Hereford one. He would assume, then, that certain great producing counties in the north and south of England were, taken generally, inferior in the production of wheat to those he had enumerated. But he found that of the great towns of Lancashire three had been added; in the northern part of Yorkshire four had been added. In Lincolnshire ten had been added, in Stafford nine, and in Wales twelve. If he went to the west and south of England, he found that in Somersetshire four towns had been added, in Devon three, and in Cornwall four. Thus he found that forty-nine towns had been added from districts generally growing wheat of an inferior quality, while only twenty towns had been taken from districts growing wheat of the best quality. Now, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether he could show that he had added towns from districts growing wheat of the finest quality in the same proportion as from districts where it was inferior? He could defy the right hon. Gentleman to prove that. Then, again, looking at the manner in which the fifteen great agricultural towns and the fifteen chief commercial towns had been selected, he observed the same feature to pervade the choice that had been made—for London, where wheat was always high-priced, had been left out —and Liverpool, where the price of corn was always lower than in the generality of towns, was inserted. He would ask why this was done? He was bound to say, that the tendency of the measure was to affect the averages as against the public. What had been the effect of the frauds Which had heretofore been practised? Why, Whatever might be said respecting the per. sons who had been engaged in those transactions, the effect of them was in favour of the public by tending to diminish the duty. But now it was said the object was to pre vent fraud, yet they were about to institute a system which would lower the nominal 1304 price and raise the duty. If they desired to be just towards the consumers, they ought to alter the scale and attach a lower duty to some of the figures, by way of compensation for the effect that would be exercised upon the averages. That might put the scale on an equal footing, but now the alterations made were against the public, and in favour of the exclusion of foreign corn. He approved of the proposal, that for the present year the duty should be regulated by the averages of those towns only which had hitherto made the returns, and thought that no interest could be injured by it. The hon. Member (Mr. Childers) did not seek to prevent the bill coming into operation, but he desired that the return of the averages should for the present be regulated by the old law, while the importation of corn should be governed by the new. That was a fair and intelligible proposition to which no valid answer had been given from the other side. Before he sat down he would request the right hon. Baronet to show distinctly that he had made a selection of towns from the districts in which superior wheat was grown in the same proportion as from districts where the wheat was inferior. If the right hon. Gentleman had not done so, the result would be lower averages and higher duties.
§ Mr. Darby
said, the bill ought to be considered as a whole. Its object was to get rid of the mischiefs of the former Corn-laws, and one of those mischiefs was the temptation which it offered to speculators to force up the price of wheat at certain states of the market. The object of the present bill was to prevent this from being done. By the combination of the London dealers, the averages were raised beyond what they were in the country. Was the object of the hon. Member to keep up that system under which enormous frauds had been committed? He altogether disputed the facts of the hon. Member as to the country districts, and under these circumstances the fair way was to take the whole of the bill together. He should oppose the motion.
§ Mr. Gladstone
said, that he objected to the proposition of the hon. Member for Malton to postpone for a twelvemonth the introduction into the averages of the returns from the list of new towns, because in a great measure like the present, which was calculated to agitate the minds of large classes of persons, it was desirable to make whatever alteration was designed once for all, and not to fret 1305 and worry by the prospect of further alteration those whose interests were affected. It was most desirable that whatever change was to be made should be made at once. The hon. Gentleman complained that the Government had set their faces against the public in the matter of the averages; but what the Government had really set their faces against was the prevalence, and, as far as practicable, against the possibility of fraud. The hon. Member must feel upon consideration that the clause was actually in favour of the public. The hon. Member remarked, that whatever might be said of the frauds that had been practised, as affecting individuals, still the effect of them had been favourable to the public. That would be a sorry apology if true; but was it so? He admitted that the immediate operation of lowering the duty by raising the average price appeared to tell in favour of the public, but the hon. Gentleman, by his present assertion, ran counter to the whole course of the arguments he had used against a graduated scale. What had been alleged to constitute the evil of a graduated scale was, that speculators had thereby facilities for raising the prices, and were tempted to keep back their corn out of the market. Did not that allegation depend upon the supposition that it was by fraud or tampering with the averages that the prices were to be raised? If that allegation were true, the fraud was, in point of fact, the greatest mischief to the public, because by those means facilities were given for raising the prices, and thereby the inducement to keep corn out of the market came into operation. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hawes) had referred to authorities. He could refer to authorities also — authorities which if named would carry great weight with the House, and who, so far from coming to the conclusion that a change of 3s. or 4s. would be made in the averages by the proposed addition of towns from which the returns were to be derived, were strongly of opinion that there would not be a change of so many pence. He had heard with astonishment the assertion of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hawes), that the new towns proposed to be added to the list had been generally selected from the districts in which inferior wheat was grown. It would hardly have surprised him more if the hon. Gentleman had asserted that these towns had 1306 been selected only from the districts in which superior wheat was grown. The hon. Gentleman had selected eight particular counties in which fine wheat was grown, and compared the number of towns proposed to be added in these counties with the number of towns to be added in eight other counties, where the growth of wheat was inferior. The proportion of towns to be added in the fine wheat growing counties, as compared with the number to be added in the counties producing wheat of an inferior quality was, he said, as twenty to sixty. Thence he inferred that the general average price of wheat would be reduced, and the duty at which foreign wheat could be admitted proportionably increased. Now there would be some force in that argument if the hon. Gentleman had taken the whole of the fine wheat growing counties, and the whole of the inferior wheat producing counties, and shown that the disproportion in the number of towns to be added, as applied to the aggregate, was such as he stated it to be in regard to the particular counties he had selected. The fact was, that the Government had been at especial pains so to select the towns in all the different districts of the country, as to equalise their distribution throughout: and he had no reason to doubt that the effect would be to render the proportion of those where good wheat was brought to market, as compared with those where inferior wheat was brought to market, as nearly similar as possible to what it had been upon the old list. There were many other counties in which the wheat grown was quite as fine as in those mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. In Surrey, for example, three new towns had been included where there was but one of the old list; Worcester, three new towns and only one old; Somersetshire, four new towns to six old ones; in Shropshire, seven new towns and not one old one; and lastly, in Staffordshire, that great manufacturing and consuming county, where there was the finest corn and the highest prices, there was not one single town in the old list, and under the new one eight were included; in point of fact, those five counties grew among the finest wheat in the country; in those five counties twenty-five new towns were introduced, while there were but eight old ones, and this would for the present sufficiently serve to lest the very rash allegation of the hon. 1307 Gentleman. Now he would like to know how the hon. Gentleman meant to substantiate his allegation. Perhaps, however, it would be well for him to state what had actually taken place with respect to this new list. The object of it was to provide against fraud, and to obtain more accurately the real price of corn in England and Wales, and the desire of the Government was to obtain a considerable number of towns of the largest markets. For that purpose they communicated with the chairman of the Board of Excise, and they called on him, in the first place, to assist them in making out a list of the largest markets, and subsequently in making a correction of that list; and, moreover, to regulate the list of agricultural towns, on the one hand, and the list of manufacturing and commercial towns on the other in such a manner that the numbers of the two classes respectively upon the new list might bear the same proportion to one another as on the old one. Now, this was a simple narrative. The hon. Gentleman spoke of prices in certain towns being 4s. or 5s. higher in the manufacturing and commercial towns than in the agricultural part of the country, and he quoted a return made last September in proof of his proposition. When he stated, that that was a particular period, namely the period before harvest, when speculation prevails in certain markets, he (the hon. Gentleman) said "Yes, but what is true of one particular period was true of another." Why, some thou sands of averages had recently been laid on the Table of the House, and there was not one of those returns that would not show the immense effect that was produced on several occasions in particular markets, by speculation at that particular time, and nothing could be more ludicrously fallacious than that the prices of that time or place should be held a proof of the prices in other times and places. The hon. Gentleman had referred, in support of his view, to the returns laid on the Table exhibiting the course of prices in the fifteen agricultural towns, on the one hand, and the fifteen manufacturing and commercial towns on the other. Now the principle of selecting those fifteen towns was to take the largest markets. The hon. Gentleman blamed the Government for including Liverpool, where very low averages prevailed instead of high ones. This censure, then, made against his own 1308 proposition, which was, that in every large town the range of averages was necessarily high. The case of Liverpool proved, that in very large towns the averages might range very low; for instance, when there was a considerable consumption of corn imported from foreign places, since though the foreign corn was not entered in the returns yet it had the effect of keeping down British corn. The hon. Gentleman asked, why leave out London? It was very true the averages of London were higher than those of the other fifteen manufacturing and commercial towns. No doubt London was the centre of speculation; but the fact was likewise in part caused through the quality of the corn consumed. But it was not necessary to exclude London, for if the metropolis were included with the other fifteen towns, the difference in the range of prices for a long period would be very inconsiderable. He had compared the averages of the sixteen manufacturing towns, that is to say, including London in the list with those of the fifteen agricultural towns. He had taken eighteen periods, having three periods in the months of April, August, and December, for each of six years. In the years 1833,1834, and 1835, the aver ages were low; in the three years 1839, 1840, and 1841, the averages were high. During the last three years, the prices in the sixteen commercial towns were higher than in the fifteen agricultural ones, though this was not universally the case. For ten of the eighteen periods the averages were higher in the sixteen commercial towns; in seven periods they were higher in the agricultural; in one they were equal, therefore the notion of the hon. Member, as to the effect of including London, and as to a great permanent difference in price between these two classes of considerable markets, was visionary. He could assure the House, that the selection of the towns had been made without the slightest reference, direct or indirect, to the nature of the districts in which the towns were taken; and these had been taken, not with any intention on their parts of unduly influencing the returns; their only object had been, to range over the different districts, so that they might insure returns from the various markets spread over the country.
§ Mr. Gladstone
repeated, that there had been no intention or idea on the part of the Government to make an unfair selection, and notwithstanding the confidence 1309 with which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hawes) made his assertion, he still maintained that the proportions upon the new list corresponded as closely as possible with the proportions upon the old list.
§ Mr. Hawes
would reassert that a very great disproportion existed between the number of towns to be added to the schedule in counties in which fine wheat was grown and that of the towns in counties where inferior wheat was grown. The consequence would be that the averages would be lowered. He denied that he had selected particular towns or counties to answer his own argument. No man in the House was freer from such a charge than he (Mr. Hawes) was, and he thought it would have been better that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade had spared the sarcasm, which was so wholly undeserved.
§ Sir E. Knatchbull
denied that there had been any unfair selection of either towns or counties. In the county which he had the honour to represent, and which was acknowledged to grow as fine wheat as any in the country, there were formerly four towns to return the averages, and now other four were added, which showed no unfairness. The same principle had been observed throughout, and although there might be a disproportion in some counties, still throughout the country a fair balance was struck.
§ Mr. Villiers
said, that assuming every thing that was said for the Government with respect to the object and effect of selecting these towns was correct, there was yet a question that remained un answered, namely, why they were added at all. For, according to the right hon. Baronet when he brought in his bill, he considered there was little reason for suspecting fraud in taking of averages, and according to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) who had just sat down, their addition would be inoperative; so that, on the one hand, we hear that there is no fraud to be prevented, and on the other, no effect to be produced. Then, he said again, why are they to be added? They were not indifferent in the opinion of many. His hon. Friend who had brought this question forward stated what was generally known, that there was a belief among people of all kinds, especially amongst those persons in the trade most competent to judge, that they would have the effect of lowering the average, and 1310 thereby raise the duty; then it was clear that with the opinions of the Government, there was a doubt on the matter, and a fresh uncertainty then connected with he trade in corn. Now one of the evils of the old law was the uncertainty that necessarily attended every transaction in the trade; why, then, add a fresh circumstance of this kind to aggravate the evils of the past? There was little in the new law to correct what was bad in the other. This was then an aggravation of the old one. It is not intended to meet the complaints of the people, it is not intended to increase the quantity of food, to lower the price of food, or to hold out to the foreign grower the hope of a better market. The old law is not admitted even as a cause of the present distress; he should have thought, then, that the policy that seems to have recommended the change might have preserved us from this addition to it. The purpose of this change seems to have been to remove all the odium that was unnecessary for effecting the original object of the Corn-law, which is, by raising the price of food, to secure to the landlord rent upon a class of soil which might otherwise not yield it, and which thereby influences the rent on all other land. It has been found that something more in the way of duty was imposed to effect this, and this has been reduced; but every man who votes for the bill on the other side has been assured and believes that not one title of the protection which the old law gave him will be withdrawn by the present, and he believed that they were quite right in so thinking. Why, then, attempt to do more; or if they are not attempting to do more by adding these agricultural towns, why add them at all, for it is clear that, with the doubts that exist already on the subject, no merchant would engage largely in the trade. No grower on the continent would invest fresh capital with a view to this market till there has been some experience of the effect of this new feature in the law, possibly having very important effects. At least, then, if the Government will not give them up, there can be no reasonable objection to the Member for Malton's plan, which proposes that for the first year the averages shall be struck separately on the two sets of towns, so that people may see their effect. But the right hon. Baronet and the Vice-President of the Board of Trade have said why they 1311 objected to that, and their objection is worth attention. The right hon. Baronet said that it would revive discussion on the bill next year, and the Vice-President said, that when they were making a great legislative settlement of a measure, it was better to complete it at once, so as to preclude future agitation. Now, really to suppose that this new bill was a final settlement of the matter, argued a degree of simplicity which, coming from those quarters, he did not expect. He did not expect it, after all that they heard said of the operation of the change in this House, and all that was known or was felt about the Corn-law out of this House, and after the new lights respecting free-trade that seem to have shone lately on the opposite side. Did the Vice President of the Board of Trade really believe that the people of this country were so imbecile, so slavish, so lost to every thing which they knew to be their due, as to accept this measure as a great legislative settlement of that claim which they put forth to have their trade in food free. Why, what did this bill really amount to, as regards the people, but an acknowledgement that they were right before in condemning the old bill, and that those who maintained that law were in error. And who can say before another year is out, that they may not be able to convince the Government that the new law is as bad as the old one. What, in fact, had they been hearing for the last month, but that after all, those principles of free-trade which had been so long condemned, are sound and ought to be acted upon? When the people have by agitation, got their principles thus acknowledged, shall they shrink from agitating further to get them applied? He then could conceive nothing less likely than that this law should be a final settlement. Certainly it would not be rendered so by the addition of these towns, or with holding what his hon. Friend asked in letting the public see what effect they would have. The only presumption which the refusal of this motion would have, was to induce a belief that the Government have some fear of the effect being known, and to excite still more dislike and distrust of the measure. He should certainly vote either for the plan of withdrawing those towns altogether, or to allow the public to know what the effect would be.
§ Mr. Labouchere
said, seeing that the House had already recognised the propriety of maintaining a sliding-scale, which necessarily implied that a system of averages must exist, he fully concurred with the hon. Gentleman that fraud ought to be prevented by every possible means. He for one had not heard that principle denied; certainly by no one on his side of the House; and he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade had dealt fairly with his hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, who most certainly had not said one word in favour of any fraudulent system. What they had stated was, that they apprehended from the threefold operation of the plan proposed, the diminution of frauds which to a certain extent no doubt, would succeed, to the addition to the number of towns from which the averages were to be taken; and lastly, that to which no one had yet adverted— the placing the returns of the averages in the hands of the Excise, who would most undoubtedly do their duty in a much better manner than the corn inspectors— what they stated was, without imputing to hon. Gentlemen opposite that which they disclaimed, they feared that the practical effect would be seriously to affect the advertised averages. Of course, all that was said on that point now must be merely conjectural, but he would rather take the opinion of twelve or fourteen merchants whose lives had been devoted to the corn trade, to that of any twelve gentlemen in that House, who, of course, were unaccustomed to the working of the averages between town and country. On a former occasion he had stated that the addition of so many county towns would reduce the price of corn 5s. per quarter. He then, of course, spoke from the information he had received. He felt bound to say that upon further consultation with the parties, and upon further consideration he had then considerably overstated it. He did not now believe it would affect the averages to that extent. After full consideration and consultation with parties well acquainted with the trade, he could not say that the advertised averages would not be considerably affected by the plan. Indeed, no Gentleman in the House on 1313 either side, with the exception of the Ministers had denied the proposition. Some went the length of 3s., some of 2s.; but until that night none but her Majesty's Ministers had denied, that the addition of more towns would affect the averages, but now they were at last backed up by the hon. Member for Sussex (Mr. Darby). Still his conviction was, that they would be affected to a consider able extent, though not to the extent of 5s. If his hon. Friend the Member for Malton (Mr. Childers) divided the House on his motion, he would give his vote in its favour. He hoped, however, that whatever might be the decision of the House with regard to that motion, the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) would take measures for directing that a separate account should be kept of the averages taken into the old towns and in the towns which the right hon. Baronet proposed to add to the list. There could be no difficulty in accomplishing this, and it would afford some means of judging of the operation of the scheme of the right hon. Baronet.
§ Lord Worsley
did not think, that the addition of the proposed towns would entirely prevent fraud. He thought, how ever, that it would make fraud more difficult to be committed. He was not of opinion that the result of the averages in the towns proposed would lower the averages to the extent of 2s. He believed the farmers did not consider the new scale of duty a sufficient protection, and that they were ready to seize on anything which they thought would give them an additional protection. The additional towns might lower the averages, but certainly not to the extent mentioned by several hon. Members. He believed that the farmers generally approved of those towns being added, in the hope that they would thereby obtain lower averages, but whatever opinion he held as to the protection not being sufficient, he would never endeavour, by any side wind, to effect a change in the system. It was not fair to institute a comparison between towns like Guildford and Liverpool; because the wheat sold in the former was of the finest quality, such as is used by the London pastrycooks, whereas at Liverpool the lowest sort of Irish wheat was brought to the market. The averages might have been materially lowered, had the right hon. Baronet selected towns having the 1314 lowest markets; but as this had not been exclusively done, he could not believe that the averages would be lowered to any considerable extent. He wished the right hon. Baronet had included the town of Driffield in the list. It was not mentioned, yet in that town 50,000 quarters of wheat, and 27,000 sacks of flour, were sold in the course of the year. In regard to the frauds, he believed they were not confined to London. During one week, last year, there was a difference in price between the markets of Hull and Beverley of no less than 9s., the object of the Hull dealers being to raise the price, while those of Beverley had no such object. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton had stated that the object of the present bill was to keep up rents. He could only say, that he did not think it a sufficient protection, and although he had not been successful in getting a greater protection, he would still prefer the old bill; but not for the purpose of keeping up rents, but because he did not think the present measure would give sufficient protection to encourage the growth of wheat in this country, and because he thought the consumer ought to be supplied with wheat grown in this country, and believing that they ought not to encourage the introduction of foreign corn, to the detriment of those who could supply the consumer with home-grown wheat at a price not considered as extravagant. He should vote in favour of these towns being retained in the list, but would so far qualify his vote by saying, that he did not do so in the belief that they would reduce the averages, nor would he say, that they would completely prevent fraud, although he admitted, that fraud would be a matter of a greater difficulty than under the old system.
§ Mr. E. Howard
disapproved of the measure that the right hon. Baronet had brought forward. His own plan for curing existing evils would not be by making the public eat bad bread, but by adopting the same system with corn that was to be pursued in respect of other articles. In the importation of foreign cattle, and in the other articles included in the tariff, the right hon. Baronet laid down the principle of a fixed and regular trade, and the country would strongly disapprove of a partial and one-sided law, giving an exclusive kind of protection to the landed interest.
§ Mr. Childers
did not intend to divide the H use on that occasion; but he should certainly divide upon the subject when the 29th clause came under the consideration of the House.
§ Mr. Aglionby
said, his wish was neither to raise nor to lower the averages, but to produce honesty. It was now stated by hon. Gentlemen that frauds with respect to the averages had been practised to a comparatively small extent. For years past, however, it had been asserted by the advocates for the repeal of the Corn-laws that frauds were committed to an immense extent; and in addressing meetings of farmers, he had always referred to that circumstance, and had stated, that a fixed duty alone would prevent those frauds. Now, however, he was informed, that he was in error in supposing that frauds had been committed to any considerable extent; and, if there was no good ground for an alteration in the present law, he thought such an alteration should not be made. He was not prepared to admit that sufficient reason had been shown by her Majesty's Government for the proposed change in the Corn-law. If it was admitted that frauds were prevalent, and that they could be obviated by the mea sure of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) he would support it; but he under stood it to be denied that frauds were committed, or at least it was contended that they were practised to a very trifling extent. He was convinced that a sliding scale would never satisfy the public; the only way to get rid of their difficulties would be to adopt a fixed duty. He might mention, with reference to some observations which had been made during the de bate, that in Carlisle corn sold in the public market, and in the same street, varied in price from 3s. 4d. to 10s. He wished to ask the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) whether any new expenses would be incurred by the addition to the number of towns from which the averages were taken? He wished to know whether the Excise-officers would not, in some form or another, have an addition to their salaries for the duties imposed upon them by this bill?
§ Sir R. Peel
I am quite sure that if, in procuring a correct account of the averages, any reasonable expenses are incurred, the House will be willing to provide for those expenses. Therefore I do not urge it as a strong argument in favour 1316 of the proposed change, that there will be any saving of the public money produced by the change. There will, however, be such a saving, more particularly when certain existing interests expire. The expense of collecting the averages is at present about 7,000l. a year. Now, I think that if Excise-officers can assist in per forming the duty, the public, by whom they are employed, have a fair claim upon their time. I do not think, therefore, that these new duties will lead to any additional expenses in the way of compensation. But, however this compensation may be awarded, the expenses of collecting the averages will, on the whole, be less under the new system than under the old. I must say, after the statement made by the hon. Gentleman about the price of wheat in the Carlisle market, my opinion of the judgment of Carlisle purchasers will not be higher than it has previously been. Of course, were the qualities of the two bushels of wheat different, the hon. Gentleman would have stated it. We are, therefore, informed, that, while one bushel of a given article was sold for 3s. 4d., another bushel, within a few yards of it, brought 10s. [Mr. Aglionby: That was the case.] Well, then, it appears that purchasers in Carlisle market, having the sacks open, paid 10s. a bushel for wheat, while within ten yards they could buy an article, the quality of which was equal, for 3s. 4d.
§ Mr. Aglionby
begged to explain that there was a difference in quality. What he wished to show was, that in the same district the quality of corn was so totally different that one bushel brought only 3s. 4d., while another fetched 10s.
§ Sir R. Peel
Oh, we on this side of the House understood the hon. Gentle man to mean that the qualities were the same, and that in the same market the price of corn was subject to that great variation, and we did, of course, think it most extraordinary that so great a difference of price should prevail between articles equal in quality. With respect to fraud on the averages, I think, that under certain circumstances it has been practised to some extent, more extensively, probably, during the last three or four years than previously, and, if there be any great and sudden variation in the duty, these frauds or combinations with a view to influence prices would increase. I use the term fraud as it has been before applied 1317 to these transactions, though I cannot my self give them exactly that designation. They are, in fact, speculations entered into, with a view to gaining a profit. The extent of these frauds I likewise think has been exaggerated. Its existence I do not deny, but it has not been committed to the extent mentioned by the hon. Gentle man opposite in addressing his constituents. My opinion is that, as was very justly remarked by the noble Lord (Worsley), the addition of 140 new towns from which returns of the averages are to be made will not operate as a complete prevention of fraud; but the addition of these towns will have a further tendency to prevent frauds of another kind—not that of diminishing the duty by raising the price, but the fraud of raising the duty and diminishing the price, which has been practised when large quantities of corn have been sold, and parted with for the advantage of high duties. I do not think it is correct to state that the price of corn always varies in proportion to the difference in quality; but the quality is doubtless a material element in determining the price. I should, I believe, be able to show that in counties which are not great corn producers, prices are higher than in those where the best wheat is grown. In Staffordshire, for instance, an inland, manufacturing county, far removed from the influence of operations in foreign corn, the price is higher than in the best wheat-growing counties, 1 should not be surprised to learn, that in Essex or Northamptonshire the price of corn was higher than in Kent, a maritime county, with the advantage of a fine soil. Much reliance has been placed on the fact, that the wheat in the Liverpool market is of an inferior description, but let it not be forgotten that the greater the influence of those towns, the general trade of which is in the inferior description of wheat, the more diminished will be the influence of those whose trade lies in inferior wheat, from Ireland, Scotland, or elsewhere. An hon. Gentleman has produced two samples, one of Scotch and the other of English wheat. Now, if this (pointing to a parcel before him) be a fair specimen of Scotch wheat—and some indignation would, perhaps, be expressed at its being called so— I would again remind you that the more you increase the influence of the good wheat upon the average, the more you diminish that of the inferior, and the more 1318 you increase the influence of the inferior, the more you diminish that of the superior. And I must say, the introduction of the new towns will have a tendency to increase the influence of the superior article. In order fully to carry out perfectly the principle of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, he ought to require that, in half the towns, the old inspectors should be retained for a year, in order to ascertain fairly what would be the effect of the in creased vigilance of the Excise-officers. I do hope that on the whole the House will concur with Government in endeavouring to make the machinery as perfect as they can, and sanction the addition of the new towns to the places from which the averages are to be collected.
§ Mr. P. M. Stewart
said, if the House legislated till doomsday, it would be unable to remedy the evils inseparable from the present system of Corn-laws. In. Scotland, where the averages were at tested on oath before the sheriffs, universal complaints were made of the frauds practised. He thought, however, the proposed addition to the number of towns from which the averages were taken would tend in some measure to correct the evils of the present system. Assuming that the 289 towns, the number with the addition made to the 150 towns for taking the averages, were fairly chosen, this would greatly tend to lessen the power of the corn dealers to combine to alter the averages. The more they multiplied the markets from which returns were made, the more they scattered the power, and increased the difficulties of those who tampered with the returns. He was, therefore, surprised at the arguments which had been adduced in favour of the restricted number of markets. He wished to know why the right hon. Baronet had not crossed the border and taken some of the celebrated corn markets of the south of Scotland into the list of towns for making returns for the averages. He begged to say, that the bad sample of wheat which had been exhibited was no sample of the wheat of his country. The Member for the county of Haddington would bear him out when he said that there was no market in the United Kingdom where so much fine grain was sold as at the markets of Haddington. No doubt there was some reason for it; and he, therefore, asked why, when the right hon. Baronet was in search of good mar- 1319 kets to make returns, he had not taken in Haddington and the Mid-Lothian and West-Lothian markets of Scotland?
§ Sir R. Peel
said, the hon. Member had said that much dissatisfaction prevailed in Scotland with the averages on account of their being bad and incorrect; and bad averages would not improve the new bill, and, therefore, he declined to have them.
§ Mr. P. M. Stewart
said, the right hon. Baronet had had his joke, and now he asked seriously, was there any reason why these markets should not be included to make returns?
§ Sir R. Peel
said, the bill had confined the averages to the towns in England. If the returns were extended to Scotland, the averages might be framed from the rice of a considerable quantity of very ad corn; this had induced him to con fine the returns to English markets.
§ Mr. P. M. Stewart
said, Scotland was liable to the law, and he did not see why it should not contribute to the test.
§ Dr. Bowring
confessed, he felt some surprise at the many observations which had been made with respect to those averages. He was surprised to hear the advocates of a free-trade principle receive this new system of averages. The effect of this new system would be to increase the amount of the duty, and he thought the hon. Gentleman who had spoken last was not aware that it must materially affect those interests he had so well advocated. Now these averages produced an effect, or they produced none. It was quite clear they interfered with a great number of arrangements which depended on the old system, and a great many contracts had been entered into, grounded on the old system. The right hon. Baronet pro posed to disturb them, and he (Dr. Bow ring) believed it would produce disadvantages to the interests he was anxious to protect. The effect of the addition of 150 new towns, would not be to decrease the general average. The nearer they went to places of production, the lower the price would be; and the lowering the prices caused the duty to be raised. The effect of the new system must be to lower prices, and consequently to increase the duty; and to the extent it was raised, to that extent would sacrifices be made by those who were already oppressed by these restrictive and prohibitory duties. Now, the right hon. Baronet was not 1320 satisfied with the present averages, because the average now taken had a tendency to diminish the amount of duty; and he, therefore, proposed a more stringent sys tem of averages. The public had some sort of benefit in the collusion or fraud, as it was called, in raising the prices of corn, in order that the amount of duty should be lowered, for by that very collusion the price was lowered to the consumer. It, therefore, did appear to him that the new system must be pernicious to the consumer. He, therefore, could wish to see the proposal of the right hon. Baronet worked under the system of the old machinery.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ Question again put, that "clause 9 stand part of the bill,"
§ Mr. Wakley
said, that one of the samples of wheat which he had produced for the inspection of the right hon. Baronet was taken from a parcel of wheat which was sold in Mark-lane on the 3rd of March last for 36s. a quarter, and upon the same day the best wheat in the market was sold at 80s. a quarter. Inasmuch as the inferior sample was not fit to be used as human food, he thought it ought not in the slightest degree to be allowed to affect the general averages. It was easy to see how the introduction of such corn must have a most pernicious effect upon the health of the community. This House should discourage the sale of such wheat for human food, whereas under the system proposed, the greatest inducement possible would be held out to have such wheat thrown into the market for such a purpose. What he would wish to propose was a proviso to this effect:Provided always, that no wheat declared to be bad and utterly unfit for human food shall be introduced into the market: the quality of the wheat to be reported on by the Excise officers to be appointed under this act.He admitted the great difficulty that would frequently arise to give effect to this proposition. He admitted, that it would require a considerable judgment to decide whether such wheat would be fit or not for human food, and he, therefore, was afraid that such a proviso would not meet the object they had in view. He therefore brought the subject forward with the view merely of calling the attention of the right hon. Baronet to a most important subject for his consideration. If any hon. Members could suggest any proper 1321 remedy for this evil he should be glad to hear their opinions upon the subject. In some districts, during wet seasons, the wheal that was brought to market was generally most unfit for human food, but at the same time affected the averages to a considerable extent. It would be perfectly useless to submit his proposition in the form of a motion; but if the right hon. Baronet could see any way in which their object could be carried out, he hoped he would act accordingly.
§ Sir R. Peel:
I hope the hon. Gentleman is not about to desert his own offspring so soon, and throw it on the compassion of the parish. At all events, I do not wish to be burdened with it, and 1 must decline the responsibility he would impose on me. But, seriously, Sir, I do not see how the proposition of the hon. Gentleman can be carried into effect. It would be very injudicious to leave it to the Excise officer's judgment to determine whether or no a sample of wheat were fit for food.
§ Mr. Gibson
said, the debate showed how badly the sliding-scale operated, for when the greatest quantity of bad corn was in the market there was the greatest necessity for good corn to mix with it, which could not then be had owing to the high duty.
§ Mr. Brotherton
said, another element which would affect the averages, and which had not been taken into consideration, was the currency. With a metallic currency the prices would be low, with an increase of paper currency the prices would be high. From the arguments he had heard he was convinced, that nothing could be so injurious to the public as persevering in this system of taking averages.
§ Lord Worsley
said, there was another great difficulty in taking the averages. In Lincolnshire, the corn merchants there insisted on all the wheat being made up to weigh eighteen stone. The consequence of this was to raise the averages.
§ Mr. Hawes
said, that what had fallen from the hon. Member for Finsbury was of great importance. The greater the number of places at which the averages were taken, the greater would be the opportunity of selling inferior wheat, and thereby lowering the averages. It was most monstrous that wheat, unfit for anything but cattle, should be allowed to have the effect of raising the price of 1322 bread. He hoped the hon. Member (Mr. Wakley) would hereafter frame a clause to meet this evil.
§ Mr. Gladstone
saw no reason why, if such an amendment was to be proposed, it should not be discussed at once, instead of postponing it to the end of the bill. The hon. Member for Finsbury had admitted, that there would be great difficulty in effecting his object. He thought it was the practical difficulty of carrying any such scheme into execution that constituted the objection to it. The objection was, that increasing the number of towns for taking the averages would increase the quantity of bad wheat to be included in the returns. He differed from this opinion. The hon. Member for Lambeth assumed, that the new towns would be the centre of production, and not of consumption, whereas it had been shown, that the list of new towns at which the averages were to be taken was composed in the same proportion of producing and consuming towns as existed now. He would suggest why, perhaps, bad wheat was much more likely to be sold in large towns than in agricultural towns — it was this, that damaged wheat was much used for manufacturing purposes, especially for making starch. He thought it most desirable, if returns could be obtained, that would separate a bad description of wheat from good, but it was perfectly impossible to do so. However, it was almost certain, that no great quantity of such wheat was likely to enter into the calculations.
§ Mr. Aglionby
admitted it might be difficult to meet the evil apprehended, but he did not think it was impossible. Suppose, for instance, the best wheat should be sold at a given market on a given day for 10s. a bushel, might it not be arranged, that no wheat which should be sold at the same market on the same day at a price less, say for example, than one-third of 10s. should be included in the inspector's return; the inference being, that any wheat sold for less than that proportion would not be fit for human food?
§ Mr. M. Philips,
in allusion to what had fallen from Mr. Gladstone respecting the use of damaged wheat for manufacturing purposes, assured the right hon. Gentleman, that the manufacturers required the very best wheaten flour; so much so, indeed, that they generally sought to obtain the article from the 1323 United States; and he really thought the manufacturers had a strong claim on the Government to be allowed a drawback on the article used by them.
§ Mr. Wakley
said, the best remedy for the evil he had complained of would certainly be to admit corn free; but that would hardly accord with the spirit of the bill they were considering. He thought there was sound sense in the suggestion of the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Aglionby), and he would endeavour, with that hon. Gentleman's assistance, to frame a clause to prevent corn unfit for food to go into the averages.
§ Clause 9 agreed to.
§ On clause 14, which enacts, that the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the city of London should appoint the inspector of corn returns for the city of London.
§ Mr. Gladstone
proposed, that after the word "London," the words "and the city of Oxford and town of Cambridge" should be inserted.
§ Mr. Gladstone
said, that much of the property in Oxford and Cambridge was estimated in value by the corn returns, and it was amongst the rights and privileges of these two places to make the appointment of corn inspectors; if these words were not inserted, those rights would be infringed.
§ Amendment made, and clause agreed to.
§ On clause 18, which enacts, that the present inspector of returns in the city of London should continue in office, and the appointments of other inspectors of re turns should cease on the 24th of June next, after the passing of this act,
§ Mr. Aglionby
objected to the principle of the clause when considered in conjunction with clauses 21 and 37, the former of which empowered the Treasury to grant warrants to continue the present in spectors in office, and the other empowered them to grant compensation on the de termination of the offices and appointments respectively of any inspectors. The city of London was excepted from this provision, and the inspector was made re movable for misconduct, or neglect of duty, by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen. He did not see why a similar provision should not apply to other places, and he most decidedly objected to putting the power of removal in the hands of the Minister, coupled, as it was proposed to he, with the power of compensation.
§ Sir R. Peel
thought, that it would be very inexpedient to act upon the suggestion of the hon. Member, and give to those officers a tenure of their office quamdiu se bene gesserint. They had no such tenure now; they were liable to be re moved now on any misbehaviour, or any other good and sufficient cause to the justices appearing. It was proposed to give the Treasury the power of continuing the present inspectors in their offices if they were found to be competent, and of discharging those who without being chargeable with any misconduct, it might still be for the public interest to remove; and he thought, that was a reasonable power. He could not understand the force of the hon. Member's objection.
§ Mr. Aglionby
would rather that the power remained with the justices; why should they deal differently with the inspectors for London and those for other places? He objected to compensation altogether; it was an unnecessary tax; it had the appearance of a job; and he should, at a future stage of the bill, pro pose an amendment to place the rest of the inspectors on the same footing with the London inspectors in this respect.
§ Sir Robert Peel
denied, that this clause would impose any tax upon the people. On the contrary, he undertook to say that in every case of removal there would be a saving to the country; and he must say, that, considering how great the power of the Executive Government was, that extreme jealousy about the removal of a few inspectors was quite unnecessary. The corn inspectors were a highly respectable class of men, but still it was advisable to give to the Treasury a discretionary power of retaining or dispensing with their services.
§ Lord Worsley
said, there prevailed an opinion in the country (whether well-founded he could not say) that some of the inspectors connived at frauds. He thought the best way would be to remove all the existing inspectors, making them compensation, and let the duties be performed by the Excise-office.
§ Sir Robert Peel
observed that Mr. Aglionby wished all the existing inspectors to be retained, while the noble Lord wished them all to be removed; he pro posed a middle course, and that it should be left to the Government to remove them or not, according as the Treasury should judge proper. It would be hardly fair to 1325 say of the inspectors as a body, that, because some were suspected of conniving at frauds, all should be dismissed. He believed that they were a very respectable class of men, and he was not, therefore, prepared to act upon the opinion of the noble Lord.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
said, that he was surprised the noble Lord should express such an opinion. He was sure the noble Lord would not have said as much at the meeting of his constituents which he attended yesterday.
§ Lord Worsley
said, his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the city of Lincoln had alluded to the county meeting held yesterday at Lincoln, which the gallant Member did not attend. He had presented a petition, agreed to at that meeting, against the Corn Importation Bill and the tariff; and, as the forms of the House precluded him from stating, on the presentation of the petition, what passed at the meeting, he begged to inform his hon. and gallant Friend that after the petition had been signed by the sheriff on behalf of the meeting, a similar petition was proposed to the Lords, upon which an amendment was proposed, to add a prayer against the Income-tax. The sheriff refused to put the amendment to the vote; the original petition was rejected. On the sheriff still refusing to put the amendment, notice was given that on the sheriff's leaving the chair, some one else would be called to it. A vote of thanks was proposed to the sheriff, but before it was seconded it was announced that an amendment to that motion would be put, and the sheriff left the chair without the motion for a vote of thanks being seconded. A noble Lord who was present was called to the chair, and the original petition and a petition against the Income-tax were carried.
§ Mr. Aglionby
said, since the clauses which provided for the removal of the inspectors after June, and gave the Treasury power to appoint new inspectors, and to grant compensation to those removed, were made for some purpose of action, he wished to ask what the real object of the Government was in making these provisions?
§ Sir R. Peel
replied, that as the inspectors held their offices under the existing law, the moment that was repealed their offices ceased. It was not intended to displace, but to retain them, and he should retain 1326 them in all cases where they had discharged their duties properly, and no other valid objection could be raised.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses to the 26th were agreed to.
§ Mr. Thornely
called the attention of the committee very briefly to the advantage given by the bill to neighbouring ports, while the importation of corn from distant ports, such as Odessa and New Orleans, would in effect be prohibited.
On Clause 27,—That the average prices of all British corn, by which the rate and amount of the said duties shall be regulated, shall be made up and computed on Thursday in each and every week in manner following: (that is to say) the said comptroller of corn returns shall on such Thursday in each week, from such returns as shall be received by him during the week next preceding, ending on and including the Saturday in such preceding week, add together the total quantities of each sort of British corn respectively appearing by such returns to have been sold, and the total prices for which the same shall thereby appear to have been sold, and shall divide the amount of such total prices respectively by the amount of such total quantities of each sort of British corn respectively, and the sum produced thereby shall be added to the sums in like manner produced in the five weeks immediately preceding the same, and the amount of such sums so added shall be divided by, and the sum thereby given shall be deemed and taken to be the aggregate average price of each such sort of British corn respectively, for the purpose of regulating and ascertaining the rate and amount of the said duties):—Question proposed, "That the blank be filled with 'six.'
§ Lord Worsley
said, that he was anxious that the averages should be taken at a longer period than was proposed by the bill as it stood. At present the period was five weeks; he wished to make it ten, and he apprehended that the change would be beneficial both to the consumer and the seller, and it would certainly enable the consumer to obtain wheat from a greater distance. Twelve weeks had been mentioned to him as a proper period, but he thought that would be too long, and five much too short; ten weeks seemed to him the proper limit. He suggested, therefore, that the word "ten" be inserted instead of six.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
opposed the amendment, because ten weeks would give a greater opportunity for importation. The noble Lord, one of the Members for North Lincolnshire, called himself one of the 1327 farmers' friends, yet he supported the late Government.
§ Lord Worsley
said, that he was sure the hon. and gallant Member must recollect, at the county meeting last year at which he was present, a gentleman asking Lord Worsley to withdraw his confidence from the late Government, which he refused to do. Yesterday he in his speech at the meeting, asked the same gentleman, who, as the gallant Member knew, was a staunch Conservative, whether he did not now think that he was right for refusing to place confidence in the right hon. Baronet opposite; on which the gentleman answered before the whole meeting:—My Lord, all I can say is, that if I had been one of the Conservative Members in the House of Commons, I would have voted against all these measures of Sir Robert Peel.
§ Mr. R. Palmer
would prefer twelve weeks, but in the event of a division, he should vote for the motion of the noble Lord.
§ Mr. Gladstone
thought, there was no objection on his side of the House to the principle of the noble Lord's amendment, which, no doubt, had for its object to choose that period of time, which upon the whole, would be most convenient; but that period he conceived would be six weeks. Ten weeks would be at variance with the principle of the bill, as it would expose the farmer, when the price of corn was falling, to a longer period of foreign competition.
§ Mr. P. M. Stewart
opposed the amendment. He had contemplated making a proposal diametrically opposite to that of the noble Lord. From all experience of the working of the Corn-laws, ever since they were passed, it appeared, that to secure the greatest accuracy in the averages, the period was limited. When they were an exporting country, the averages regulating the exportation were, at first, limited to the weekly returns, and finally to the market price on the day before the exportation. From the time the country became apprehensive of needing a supply the present system of averages was introduced. He considered a limited period ensured greater accuracy. He was glad that the noble Lord had no chance of carrying his amendment. In his opinion, the shorter they made the period for ascertaining the averages, the more would they be likely to succeed in carrying out 1328 the new law with advantage to the community at large.
§ Mr. Christopher
would support the noble Lord's proposition, because he felt convinced it would tend to diminish fraud by increasing the difficulty of raising the averages. He felt also, that ten weeks would shew a much greater steadiness of price than six weeks. He was sorry to say, that the bill in its present shape would not have the effect of preventing a few speculators in the market towns of great consuming districts from combining to raise the price, but in such a way as not to confer any advantage upon the farmer. He, therefore, supported the amendment, which he believed would also benefit the consumer, by enabling mercantile men to extend their trade to America.
§ Viscount Ebrington
regretted the noble Lord's proposal was not for ten years instead of ten weeks, as they should then have the measure excluded altogether. He was favourable to the amendment, because he thought that if they shortened the duration of the averages they would only throw away so much revenue without benefitting the consumer.
Colonel T. Wood
believed it to be a mistaken idea that frauds were carried on to anything like the extent generally supposed. He considered the amendment calculated to act most perniciously on the interests both of the consumer and the farmer. Its result would be nothing more than to prevent an importation corresponding to the wants of the country at the time when such importation could take place with the greatest benefit. It was materially for the interest of the consumer that the corn should come in steadily, and he believed this amendment calculated to produce anything but so desirable a result. He should certainly offer it every opposition.
§ Mr. E. Buller
was inclined to vote in favour of the more extended period, on the ground that it would decrease the opportunity of forcing up the prices to their maximum point.
§ Mr. G. Palmer
said, that whatever opinions Gentlemen entertained as to the amount of protection which ought to be given to corn, there was no Gentleman who was not anxious to prevent the frauds in the averages, The hon. Gentleman seemed to think those frauds of little importance, but they were in reality of great importance. During the last six weeks of 1329 the last summer the averages were raised 6s. more than they ought to have been. The British agriculturists, who gained nothing by those nominal high prices, had the discredit of causing them, and it was on account of those high prices that the outcry was made by the manufacturers. He should like to know who received those prices. Certainly not the farmer. By the returns which the Government had laid before the House it appeared that 70,000 quarters per week was the average sale; whereas, during those six weeks, when there was in fact less corn used than in any other six weeks of the year, on account of the people using new potatoes and other vegetables, the pretended average sale was 125,000 quarters a week. Every Gentleman would join in opposing those frauds. If the period were extended, there would not be the like inducement as at present to deal with the averages, and force them up to the highest point without passing a grain of corn.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that various propositions on this point had been submitted to the Government. Some desired to extend the period to eight weeks, some to ten, others to twelve, whilst certain persons would even prolong it to fifteen. After carefully considering these suggestions, the impression on his mind certainly was, that the proposed extension of time would not operate as a check on fraud; but that, on the contrary, the speculator would derive an advantage from the ability to pour in corn for a more extended period. He had also formed the opinion, that the alteration would operate injuriously to the consumer by keeping up the duty at a time when the necessities of the country required an importation of corn; and further, he thought, that it would act injuriously to the producers, by subjecting them to a "competition at lower rates for a more considerable period than at present. On the whole, therefore, he could not but think that it would be safer to adhere to the six weeks as proposed in the bill now before them. He could mention instances where the extended period would have a very injurious operation, but as this was a question of detail, on which it was for the committee to decide, he would content himself with the statement he had made of his reason for adhering to the system now existing.
§ Mr. Hawes
preferred the bill as it stood to the amendment of the noble Lord the 1330 Member for Lincolnshire. If the proposal had been to prolong the period to six months instead of ten weeks, or if, on the other hand, it had been proposed to shorten the time, he could have conceived that the amendment might have been attended with benefit, but in the present case he must freely confess that he could not understand the principle upon which the present proposition was submitted.
§ The committee divided on the question that the blank be filled up with the word six: Ayes 242; Noes 37; Majority 205.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, T. D.||Collett, W. R.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Colvile, G. R.|
|Acton, Col.||Coote, Sir C. H.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Copeland, Mr. Ald.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Craig, W. G.|
|Antrobus, E.||Crawford, W. S.|
|Arkwright, G.||Crosse, T. B.|
|Ashley, Lord||Damer, hon. Col.|
|Astell, W.||Darby, G.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Dawnay, hon. W. H.|
|Balfour, J. M.||Dodd, G.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Douglas, Sir H.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Beckett, W.||Douglas, J. D. S.|
|Bell, J.||Duncan, Visct.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Duncan, G.|
|Blake, Sir V.||Du Pre, C. G.|
|Boldero, H. G.||East, J. B.|
|Borthwick, P.||Ellis, W.|
|Botfield, B.||Eliot, Lord|
|Bowring, Dr.||Emlyn, Visct.|
|Broadley, H.||Escott, B.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Estcourt, T. G. B.|
|Brotherton, J.||Evans, W.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Ewart, W.|
|Brownrigg, J. S.||Farnham, E. B.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Fellowes, E.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Fielden, J.|
|Buckley, E.||Ferrand, W. B.|
|Buller, C.||Filmer, Sir E.|
|Bunbury, T.||Fitzroy, Capt.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Fitzroy, hon. H.|
|Campbell, Sir H.||Fleming, J. W.|
|Campbell, A.||Forbes, W.|
|Cavendish, hon. G.H.||Forester, hn. G. C. W.|
|Chapman, B.||Forster, M.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Chelsea, Visct.||Gaskell, J. Milnes|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Gill, T.|
|Cholmondeley, hn.H.||Gladstone, rt.hn.W.E.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Gordon, hon. Capt.|
|Clayton, R. R.||Gore, M.|
|Clements, Visct.||Gore, hon. R.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Goring, C.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Graham, rt. hn. Sir J,|
|Cochrane, A.||Greenall, P.|
|Cockburn. rt. hn. Sir G.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Codrington, C. W.||Grimston, Visct.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Hale, R. B.|
|Cole, hon. A. H.||Halford, H.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Paget, Lord W.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.||Peel, J.|
|Hardy, J.||Philips, G. R.|
|Hastie, A.||Philips, M.|
|Hawes, B.||Pigot, right hon. D.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Pigot, Sir R.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Pinney, W.|
|Hepburn, Sir T. B.||Polhill, F.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Hill, Lord M.||Ponsonby, hon. J. G.|
|Hillsborough, Earl of||Powell, Col.|
|Hodgson, R.||Power, J.|
|Holmes, hn. W. A 'Ct.||Pringle, A.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Hope, A.||Reade, W. M.|
|Humphery, Mr. Ald.||Rice, E. R.|
|Ingestre, Visct.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Round, C. G.|
|Jocelyn, Visct.||Round, J.|
|Johnson, W. G.||Rous, hon. Capt.|
|Johnstone, A.||Ryder, hon. G. D.|
|Johnstone, H.||Sanderson, R.|
|Joliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Jones, Capt.||Scott, R.|
|Kemble, H.||Seymour, Sir H. B.|
|Knatchbull, rt. h. Sir E.||Sheppard, T.|
|Knight, H. G.||Shirley, E. P.|
|Knight, F. W.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Knightley, Sir C.||Smith, A.|
|Lawson, A.||Smith, B.|
|Leader, J. T.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Legh, G. C.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Leicester, Earl of||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Stanley, Lord|
|Lindsay, H. H.||Stewart, P. M.|
|Listowel, Earl of||Stewart, J.|
|Lockhart, W.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Long, W.||Strutt, E.|
|Lowther, J. H.||Sturt, H. C.|
|Macaulay, rt. hn. T.B.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Maclean, D.||Thompson, Mr. Ald.|
|Mc Geachy, F. A.||Thornhill, G.|
|Mahon, Visct.||Towneley, J.|
|Manners Lord C. S.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Manners, Lord J.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|March, Earl of||Trotter, J.|
|Marshall, W.||Tufnell, H.|
|Marsham, Visct.||Turner, E.|
|Marton, G.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Master, T. W. C.||Verner, Col.|
|Masterman, J.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Meynell, Capt.||Villiers, F.|
|Miles, P. W. S.||Vivian, hon. Capt.|
|Morgan, O.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Morris, D.||Wakley, T.|
|Napier, Sir C.||Walker, R.|
|Neville, R.||Wilbraham, hn. R. B.|
|Newry, Visct.||Williams, W.|
|Northland, Visct.||Wodehouse, E.|
|O'Brien, J.||Wood, B.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Wood, Col.|
|Wood, Col. T.||Wynn, Sir W. W.|
|Wood, G. W.||Young, J.|
|Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Wrightson, W. B.||TELLERS.|
|Wyndham, Col.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Wynn, rt. hn. C. W. W.||Baring, H,|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aldam. W.||James, W.|
|Allix, J. P.||Lygon, hon. General|
|Archbold, R.||McTaggart, Sir J.|
|Barclay, D.||Murray, A.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Norreys, Lord|
|Brodie, W. B.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Buller, E.||O'Brien, C.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Busfeild, W.||Packe, C. W.|
|Childers, J. W.||Palmer, G.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Pusey, P.|
|Dundas, Admiral||Tancred, H. W.|
|Dundas, F.||Tollemache, J.|
|Eaton, R. J.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Grogan, E.||Wallace, R.|
|Hamilton, C. J. B.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Henley, J. W.||Worsley, Lord|
|Howard, hn. C. W. G.||Palmer, R.|
§ Clause to stand part of the bill.
§ Clause 28 agreed to.
On the 29th clause,
That until a sufficient number of weekly returns shall have been received by the said comptroller of corn returns under this act, to afford such aggregate average prices of British corn as aforesaid, the weekly average prices of British corn published by him immediately before the passing of this act shall by him be used and referred to in making such calculations as aforesaid, in such and the same manner as if the same had been made up and taken under and in pursuance of this act.
§ Mr. Childers
moved the following clause in substitution of it:—That from the passing of this bill, up to the 1st of May, 1843, the duty to be paid on the importation of foreign corn shall be regulated by the averages of those towns only which have hitherto made returns in accordance with the act of 9th George 4th.
§ The committee divided on the question that the original words stand part of the clause: Ayes 202; Noes 69; Majority 133,
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, T. D.||Archbold, R.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Arkwright, G.|
|Acton, Col.||Ashley, Lord|
|Adare, Visct.||Astell, W.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Bailey, J., jun.|
|Allix, J. P.||Baillie, Col.|
|Antrobus, E.||Baring, hon, W. B.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Grimstone, Visct.|
|Becket, W.||Grogan, E.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Hale, R. B.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Hamilton, W. J.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Borthwick, P.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Botfield, B.||Hardinge, rt.hn. Sir H.|
|Bradshaw, J.||Hardy, J.|
|Broadley, H.||Hayes, Sir E.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Heathcote, J.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Heneage, G. H. W.|
|Brownrigg, J. S.||Heneage, E.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Henley, J. W.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Hepburn, Sir T. B.|
|Buckley, E.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Bunbury, T.||Hillsborough, Earl of|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Hodgson, R.|
|Campbell, Sir H.||Holmes, hn. W. A'C.|
|Campbell, A.||Hope, hon. C.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Ingestrie, Visct.|
|Chelsea, Visct.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Cholmondeley, hn. H.||Jocelyn, Visct.|
|Christmas, W.||Johnson, W. G.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Johnstone, H.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Jones, Capt.|
|Clayton, R. R.||Kelburne, Visct.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Kemble, H.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Knatchbull, right hon.|
|Cochrane, A.||Sir E.|
|Cockburn,rt.hn.Sir G.||Knight, H. G.|
|Cole, hon. A. H.||Knight, P. W.|
|Collett, W. R.||Knightley, Sir C.|
|Colville, C R.||Legh, G. C.|
|Compton, H. C.||Lcicester, Earl of|
|Copeland, Mr. Ald.||Lennox, Lord A.|
|Crosse, T. B.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Curteis, H. B.||Lindsay, H. H.|
|Darner, hon. Col.||Lockhart, W.|
|Darby, G.||Long, W.|
|Dawnay, hon. W. H.||Lowther, J. H.|
|Dodd, G.||Lygon, hon. General|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Douglas, J. D. S.||Maclean, D.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||M'Geachy, F. A.|
|East, J. B.||Mahon, Visct.|
|Eaton, R. J.||Mainwaring, T.|
|Eliot, Lord||Manners, Lord J.|
|Emlyn, Visct.||March, Earl of|
|Escott, B.||Marsham, Visct.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Marton, G.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Master, T. W. C.|
|Fellowes, E.||Masterman, J.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||Maunsell, T. P.|
|Fitzroy, Capt.||Meynell, Capt.|
|Fizroy, hon. H.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Fleming, J. W.||Morgan, O.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Morris, D.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Murray, C. R. S.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E.||Neville, R.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Newry, Visct.|
|Gore, M.||Norreys, Lord|
|Goring, C.||Northland, Visct.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Granby, Marquess of||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Greenall, P.||Packe, C. W.|
|Paget, Lord W.||Sturt, H. C.|
|Palmer, R.||Sutton, hn. H. M.|
|Palmer, G.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Patten, J. W.||Thompson, Mr. Ald.|
|Peel, rt. hn. Sir R.||Thornhill, G.|
|Peel, J.||Tollemache, hn. F. J.|
|Pigot, Sir R.||Tollemache, J.|
|Polhill, F.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Pollock, Sir F.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Powell, Col.||Trotter, J.|
|Pringle, A.||Tyrrell, Sir J. T.|
|Pusey, P.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Rashleigh, W.||Verner. Col.|
|Reade, W. M.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Reid, Sir J. R.||Wakley, T.|
|Richards, R.||Wilbraham, hn. R. B.|
|Rose, rt. hn. Sir G.||Williams, T. P.|
|Round, C. G.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Rous, hon. Capt.||Wood, Col,|
|Ryder, hon. G. D.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Sanderson, R.||Worsley, Lord|
|Sandon, Visct.||Wortley, hn. J. S.|
|Sheppard, T.||Wynn, rt. hn. C.W.W.|
|Sibthorp, Col.||Wynn, Sir W. W.|
|Somerset, Lord G.||Yorke, hn. E. T.|
|Sotherton, T. H. S.||Young, J.|
|Stewart, J.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Stuart, W. V.||Baring, H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aglionby. H. A.||Marshall, W.|
|Aldam, W.||Murray, A.|
|Barclay, D.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Berkeley, hn. C.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Blake, Sir V.||O'Brien, C.|
|Bowring, Dr.||O'Brien, J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Buller, C.||Philips, M.|
|Buller, E.||Pigot, rt. hon. D.|
|Busfeild, W.||Pinney, W.|
|Cavendish, hn. C. C.||Ponsonby,hn.C.F. A.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Ponsonby, hn. J. G.|
|Christie, W. D.||Power, J.|
|Clements, Visct.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Craig, W. G.||Scott, R.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Sheil, rt. hn. R. L.|
|Duncan, G.||Smith, B.|
|Duncombe, T.||Smith, rt. hn. R. V.|
|Dundas, Admiral||Somerville, Sir W.M.|
|Dundas, F.||Strutt, E.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Evans, W.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Ewart, W.||Tufnell, H.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Turner, E.|
|Forster, M,||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Gill, T.||Vivian, hon. Capt.|
|Gore, hon. R.||Wallace, R.|
|Hill, Lord M.||Williams, W.|
|Howard, hn. C. W. G.||Wood, B.|
|Humphery, Mr. Ald.||Wood, G.W.|
|James, W.||Wrighton, W. B.|
|Johnston, A.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Leader, J. T.||TELLERS.|
|Listowel, Earl of||Childers, J. W.|
|Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B.||Hawes, B.|
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Other clauses of the bill were agreed to.
§ Lord Worsley
moved the following clause, to succeed clause 22:—And be it enacted, that every person who shall sell any British corn at or within any city or town named in the said schedule hereunto annexed, other than the City of London, shall, before he or she shall sell any British corn at any such city or town, make and deliver in manner hereinafter mentioned, a declaration in the following words, that is to say;—
§ (Form of declaration.)
§ "I. A. B., do declare that the returns to be by me made conformably to the act passed in the year of the reign of her Majesty Queen Victoria, entitled [here set forth the title of this act], of the quantities and prices of British Corn which henceforth shall by me, or for me, be sold, shall, to the best of my knowledge and belief, contain the whole quantity, and no more, of the British corn bonâ fide sold for, or by me, within the periods to which such re turns respectively shall refer, with the prices of such corn, and the names of the buyers respectively, and, to the best of my judgment, the said returns shall in all respects be ac countable to the provisions of the said act."
§ "Which declaration shall be in writing, and shall be subscribed with the hand of the per son so making the same, and shall by him or her, or by his or her agent, be delivered to the mayor or chief magistrate, or to some justice of the peace for such city or town, or for the county, riding, or division in which the same is situate, who are hereby required to deliver a certificate thereof to the supervisor of excise acting as inspector of corn returns for such city or town as aforesaid, at the place appointed for receiving such returns, or to such continuing inspector of corn returns as aforesaid for such city or town (as the case may be), to be by such supervisor or inspector registered in a book to be by him provided and kept for that purpose."
§ The noble Lord said, he attached considerable importance to this proposition. The result would be, he thought, that it could easily be seen how far the price at which corn reached the consumer was the farmer's, or the intermediate dealers.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, he had received, among many other suggestions on the subject, one to the effect of that made by the noble Lord; but he really doubted very much the wisdom of such a course, and he did not think the noble Lord himself was fully aware of the difficulties to be encountered. Nor did the clause of the noble Lord appear efficient for effecting his own object. 1336 At present, the buyers made returns of all the corn they purchased. But this clause only required returns of corn sold within the cities or boroughs. So that the returns under the noble Lord's clause would by no means be so satisfactory as those which would be made under the bill as it stood.
§ Clause withdrawn.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
moved the following clause:—That all duties in future payable upon the importation of corn, meal, or flour, from any foreign country into the United Kingdom, shall, after the passing of the Act of Parliament relative to the importation of such articles, be levied or paid at the period of importation, instead of at the period when taken out of bond, as heretofore.The effect of the proposed measure with respect to corn, had been already to reduce the price of corn in Lincolnshire to the extent of 25 per cent. This reduction in the price of corn had had the effect of reducing the wages of the labourer from 2s. 6d. to 2s. 3d. and 2s. With respect to the tariff, he considered that the removal of the prohibition to import cattle from foreign countries would be injurious to the agricultural interest in this country, and one of the effects of the change would be to introduce into consumption food of a poisonous quality.
§ Clause brought up.
§ On the question that the clause be read a second time.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that he must decline to enter into the general subject of the tariff on the present occasion. When that question should be before the House, he would have an opportunity of entering fully into the subject. He believed, that great advantage would be derived, both to the agricultural and manufacturing interest from removing the absolute prohibition that at present existed with respect to the importation of foreign meat and cattle. He would take a future opportunity of showing that the apprehensions that were entertained with respect to the injurious effects of the importation of foreign cattle were unfounded; and by pointing out those countries which were importing, in stead of exporting countries, he would be able to show that those parties who (as his hon. and gallant Friend had stated) had purchased those articles at a reduction of 25 per cent, had made a very fortunate bargain. His hon. Friend had 1337 urged, that by the importation of foreign cattle, the produce of this country would be brought into competition with an inferior article, and one of his lion, and gallant Friend's objections to the tariff was, that it would introduce poisonous meat into competition with sound meat. But that very reason ought to diminish his hon. and gallant Friend's alarm. Surely, that was an evil that would soon cure it self, for when the poisonous quality of the meat was discovered, and after three or four persons had been poisoned by eating it, he (Sir R. Peel) did not anticipate that it would be likely to come into very extensive consumption. Another argument urged by his hon. and gallant Friend was, that parties, after having kept corn three years in bond, then brought it into com petition in the market with corn of a sound and wholesome quality. Now, considering the expense of warehousing and loss by waste for three years, he (Sir R. Peel) could not help thinking that the parties who did this, did not find it turn out a very profitable speculation. With respect to the motion of his hon. and gallant Friend, it appeared to him, that its adoption would be at variance with the principle of their commercial policy. If this proposition was adopted, what would there be to prevent parties bonding their corn at Rotterdam, or any other neighbouring port, and placing themselves in a condition to watch and take advantage of the course of our markets by bringing in their corn? He hoped, after what he had stated, that his hon. and gallant Friend would withdraw his motion. When the proper time arrived, he trusted, with respect to the tariff, that he would be able to satisfy all parties that the proposition of the Government was not an unreasonable one.
§ Lord Worsley
could confirm the gallant Member as to the fall in wages, but it was more in consequence of the fall in corn than from any fear of the tariff.
§ Mr. Wakley
said, statements relative to wages should at all times be avoided in that House, unless the parties making them were prepared to enter into the whole question. The hon. and gallant Member had stated that the Lincolnshire farmers had reduced the wages of the labourers; that was an evil example, very likely to be followed; but the statement ought to go forth, that in Lincolnshire the price of provisions had fallen 25 per cent. The hon. and gallant Member certainly 1338 said that the price of meat had fallen 25 per cent., and that ought to be known wherever the statement as to the reduction of wages went.
§ Motion negatived.
§ Mr. Barclay
moved the omission of all the new towns from the schedule. After the division which had been had on the motion of the hon. Member for Malton, which was the same in principle only not so extensive, he would not give the House the trouble to go to another division. He would, however, take that opportunity of entering his protest against the language which had been used by the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire in relation to those engaged in the corn trade. He said it had been infamous and notorious. Such language was undeserved by those engaged in that trade, with whom he had no connection whatever, but he could not hear a respectable body of men so stigmatized without entering his protest against it. He wished to record his opinion on the subject of his motion; he would therefore press his amendment for the purpose of having it negatived.
§ Mr. Christopher
rose to explain. It was notorious that more nefarious practices— more gambling—more speculation—existed upon the Corn Exchange than upon the stand at Epsom, or the course at Don-caster. He would refer to returns published on the motion of the hon. Member for Halifax, in proof of his statement. It was, of course, for the interests of fair purchasers of corn to buy the article at the lowest prices; but, by the returns alluded to, it appeared that on the Corn Exchange of Wakefield, in Yorkshire, the average weekly quantity of corn sold when prices were low, was 6,000 quarters; but when prices became high, the amount rose to 16,000 quarters. It was the same thing with respect to the Corn Exchanges both in London and Leeds, He would not at present enter into any inquiry as to how these circumstances existed—whether from defects in the law or other causes— it was sufficient for his purpose that they did exist; still he did not charge any individual member of the Corn Exchange with nefarious practices, but he did assert that such practices existed.
§ Dr. Bowring
thought, that the statements of the hon. Member would not prove of much service to the sliding-scale. He thanked him for them. He had confessed that the sliding-scale opened 1339 the door for fraud and gambling of all kinds, and yet the hon. Gentleman wished to continue the system which gave room to those practices, in order to maintain the price of the people's bread at a higher rate than it would be purchased at did no Corn-law exist.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ On the motion of Mr. Gladstone, on the schedule with reference to the cities and towns to which the bill referred, the town of Evesham was inserted; Marlborough was struck out; Market Drayton and Chippenham were inserted, and Newbury was struck out.
§ The schedule, as amended, was agreed to. The House resumed. Report to be brought up on the next day.
§ House adjourned.