HC Deb 10 June 1842 vol 63 cc1455-66

On the question that the Speaker do leave the Chair, to go into a committee on the Customs' Acts,

Mr. Hume

rose to call the attention of the right hon. Baronet, the First Lord of the Treasury, to a vote which the House had come to in his absence, opposing a reduction of duty upon cotton, and to another and a similar vote, opposing a reduction of duty on wool—two articles of raw material. The decision of the House on these points he considered to be contrary to the principles laid down by the right hon. Baronet, when he stated his anxiety generally to relieve from duty as much as possible articles of raw material, and he would submit that, whatever amount of money might be raised as duty on these substances, that it was a question for consideration, whether Government would not lose more by a diminution in the Excise and Customs revenues paid on the articles consumed by the labouring classes. Many branches of trade were altogether lost by being under-sold to the amount of only 4 or 5 per cent.; and, he trusted, that the right hon. Baronet would take the cases to which he had alluded under his consideration.

Sir R. Peel

said, he had proposed an Income-tax for the purpose of procuring a surplus revenue, and he could not look at the subject alluded to by the hon. Member exclusively with reference to those considerations upon which the hon. Member had touched. He could not consent to sacrifice the revenue,—nearly 800,000.l. derived from the duties on raw cotton and wool.

House in committee.

Schedule 13 agreed to.

The proposed rates of duty on the two first articles in schedule 14, relating to silk, namely, "knubs or husks of silk," and "raw silk," were also agreed to.

On the question that the duty on raw silk not dyed, singles be 1d. the lb. Thrown silk, not dyed, viz., singles, tram, organzine, or crape silk; dyed, viz., singles, or tram, organzine, or crape silk.

Mr. Grimsditch

objected to the reduction of duty, that it might produce great inconvenience in this branch of the British manufactures. He should move to leave the duties as they stood at present, which did not amount to a protection exceeding more than 5 per cent. As he considered his proposition was founded in a just regard for the large amount of capital embarked in throwing mills, he should take the sense of the House on it. He therefore moved that the blank be filled up with 1s. 6d.

Mr. Brocklehursl

seconded the motion, and said, it was a bad thing to recognize the principles of free-trade with respect to the manufacture of silk alone before they were generally introduced. The adoption of Mr. Huskisson's plan, as applied to that manufacture, had had a most injurious effect on the wages of the work people which had been reduced one-half. He believed if that plan, were followed out as now proposed, it would finally cause the total ruin of the silk manufacture in this country. Free-trade might under certain circumstances be beneficial, but the silk trade in this country had always been a protected trade, and the diminution of the protection which had already been made, had almost ruined one large branch of it, that depending chiefly on manual labour. The hand-loom weavers in the silk trade were in a state of great destitution. On these accounts he should cordially support the motion of his hon. Colleague.

Mr. M. Attwood

thought this particular reduction on thrown silk did not carry out the principles of the tariff, the present protection was a reasonable one. He would take upon himself to say, that since the adoption of free-trade principles with regard to the silk trade, no improvement in the machinery for silk manufacture had been made. The Jacquard loom was not introduced by Mr. Huskisson's measures; it had been in use long before. The quantity of silk worked up had undergone no increase, and since that trade had been subjected to the curse of free-trade theories, they had seen only one solitary silk mill erected through the length and the breadth of the land. Here, then, was a trade which had gone on flourishing for years under the benumbing influence, as it was termed, of a protective system; and which had been no sooner subjected to the experiments and theories of modern political philosophers, than its prosperity was arrested; no more foreign silk was introduced and worked up, and, with one solitary exception, no silk mill had been since then erected throughout the country. No doubt the late Secretary of the Board of Trade, and the clerks of the Customs, had stated before the Import Duties Committee that the silk trade had improved; but it would have been more discreet in them to have said, that they were not competent to answer those questions, and that the proper source of information was the silk manufacturers themselves. The most influential of them had been examined before the committee of 1832, and they had described the ruinous effect entailed upon the silk trade by Mr. Huskisson's measure of 1826. They were removing prohibitory duties at a time when foreign powers were adopting an entirely different policy. What was America doing? What was France doing? The conduct of the American Government, and the feelings of the American people, were exhibited in a speech of Mr. Clay, in which he said, that— "His experience had led him to defend a large protection to native industry—that free-trade was a splendid vision of philosophers, but a vision practically repudiated by all the nations of the world, and that the advance which America had made in free-trade principles, had been the cause of her commercial failure. He did not understand the ground upon which this reduction of the duty upon silk was proposed, and he should certainly vote against it.

Mr. Gladstone

would not follow the hon. Gentleman through all the remarks which he had made, but would simply refer to the effect which the present proposal would be likely to have upon the silk trade. The hon. Gentleman had strongly condemned the policy which Mr. Huskisson had pursued; and, in support of his argument, had compared the prices of two years under the prohibitory and under a more free system. But the hon. Gentleman had taken the years 1825 and 1826, which were known to have been years of extraordinary speculation. Upon the figures which the hon. Gentleman had himself quoted, he had made out no case against the present motion. With regard to it, it would be admitted that a sufficient protection was now given to the throwsters of England, in comparison with the quantity of raw silk imported, as was proved by the fact that the quantity of thrown silk imported had been gradually diminishing from 345,0001bs. to 252,0001bs. The throwsters themselves had come forward, and supported a reduction of the duty on thrown silk, provided the system of debentures was done away with. In fact, under the proposed change, the uniform duty of 1s., without the system of debentures, would be a protection fully equal to the present duties, which varied from 1s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. per lb. with it. By imposing a moderate duty on thrown silk, they would place themselves in a more favourable position for entering into engagements with foreign countries as to the importation of raw silk. The present proposal was no diminution of duty, but it was a duty levied in an equally effective and far more convenient manner.

Mr. Attwood

had picked out no particular years for his argument. He had taken the general state of the trade before and after Mr. Huskisson's proposal.

Mr. Gladstone

thought, notwithstanding the remark of the hon. Member for Whitehaven, that he had not dealt fairly with the subject. The hon. Member had rested his arguments on the years of such extraordinary speculation, that one manufacturer then put an advertisement in the public papers offering employment to 1000 additional hands.

Mr. Brocklehurst

5,000 additional hands.

Mr. Gladstone:

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for confirming and extending my statement.

Mr. Brocklehurst:

Though there was an advertisement for 5,000, it was not bonâ fide—it was put forth for effect, and in consequence of some differences which that manufacturer had had with his men. Mr. Huskisson knew the facts to he so, although he gave them to the House in the manner just stated by the right hon. Vice-President of the Board of Trade. I informed Mr. Huskisson of the real circumstances of that case, yet he came down to the House and made a statement wholly contrary to the information which he had received. I never before had an opportunity of mentioning this in public, and I gladly avail myself of the present occasion.

Mr. Gladstone

regretted, that the rules of order in that House did not prohibit those terms of censure regarding the dead which could not be used with reference to the living. It filled him with surprise to learn that any hon. Member in that House should consider the proposed duty an insufficient protection. He certainly should resist the present motion, or any other which went to increase protection.

Mr. Strutt

protested against the doctrines both of the hon. Member for Macclesfield and of the hon. Member for Whitehaven. They recommended the repeal of Mr. Huskisson's measures, and a recurrence to the old protective system. To such a change the constituency which he had the honour to represent would look with dismay. The manufacturers with whom he was best acquainted desired no such protections as those now proposed; all that they wanted was, that the Legislature should do them justice in other respects. There had been considerable improvements in machinery for throwing silk; and as an illustration of that fact he might mention one curious circumstance. Avery large silk mill was first erected in Derby by Sir Thomas Lombe, who received a patent on condition that he should lodge a model of his mill in the Tower of London, where it had remained to the present day. The mechanism of that mill was of the most barbarous description, and in the course of years it became a mere curiosity — a memento, in fact, of the great inferiority of the machinery of bygone days. And what effect did the measure of Mr. Huskisson produce? The old and inferior machinery was gradually swept away, and a new and improved kind was brought into operation, by which a greater quantity silk was thrown, and more profits realised. However it might suit some hon. Gentlemen to sneer at political economists, and those who were called "reformers of our commercial laws," he must say, that he knew of no higher and prouder character that a British statesman could enjoy than that of being a reformer of our commercial code. With respect to the duty on thrown silk, he must confess, that although he was frequently in correspondence with his constituents, not one of them had yet expressed the slightest objection or disapprobation of this proposition of the Government. But while they did not object to the principles of free-trade being applied to their own case, they certainly felt themselves treated hardly, and with crying injustice, because the same principles which were applied to their trade were not at the same time applied to those commodities which they consumed and upon which they subsisted. They asked only a fair field and no favour; they were ready to compete with foreigners upon equal terms, but they said "Do not permit the gross injustice of acting upon perfectly different principles when you are dealing with those articles of consumption without which we cannot live."

The committee divided on the question that the blank be filled with 1s.:—Ayes 240; — Noes 22:—Majority 218.

List of the AYES.
A'Court, Capt. Browne, R. D.
Acton, Col. Browne, hon. W.
Adderley, C. B. Buller, C.
Aldam, W. Buller, Sir J. Y.
Allix, J. P. Burrell, Sir C. M.
Antrobus, E. Cardwell, E.
Armstrong, Sir A. Carew, hon, R. S.
Ashley, Lord Chapman, A.
Bailey, J., Chapman, B.
Bailey, J. jun. Charteris, hon. F.
Baillie, H. J. Chelsea, Visct.
Bannerman,A. Chetwode, Sir J.
Barclay, D. Childers, J. W.
Baring, hon. W. B. Christie, W. D.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Clayton, R. R.
Barrington, Visct. Clerk, Sir G.
Bateson, R. Clive, E. B.
Bentinck, Lord G. Cochrane, A.
Blake, M. J. Cockburn, rt. hn.SirG.
Boldero, H. G. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Botfield, B. Coote, Sir C H.
Bowring,' Dr. Carry, rt. hn. H.
Broadley, H. Courtenay, Lord
Brooke, Sir A. B. Crawford, W.S.
Brotherton, J. Denison, E. B.
Dickinson, F. H. Jermyn, Earl
D'Israeli, B. Johnston, A.
Dodd, G. Johnstone, Sir J.
Douglas, Sir H. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Duncan, G. Jones, Capt.
Duncombe, T. Kelburne, Visct.
East, J. B. Knatchbull,rt.hn.SirE.
Eaton, R. J. Labouchere, rt. hn. H.
Eliot, Lord Lambton, H.
Escott, B. Layard, Capt.
Esmonde, Sir T. Leicester, Earl of
Estcourt, T. G. B. Lennox, Lord A.
Evans, W. Lincoln, Earl of
Fellowes, E. Listowel, Earl of
Ferguson, Col. Litton, E.
Filmer, Sir E. Lockhart, W.
Fitzroy, Capt. Lyall, G.
Follett, Sir W. W. Mackenzie, T.
Ffolliott, J. Mackenzie, W. F.
Forbes, W. M'Geachy, F. A.
Forster, M. Mahon, Visct.
Fuller, A. E. Mainwaring, T.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Mangles, R. D.
Gill, T. Manners, Lord J.
Gladstone, rt.hn.W.E. Marsham, Visct.
Gladstone, T. Marsland, H.
Glynne, Sir S. R. Martin, J.
Godson, R. Martin, C.W.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Masterman, J.
Gordon, Lord F. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Gore, M. Mitcalfe, H.
Gore, W. O. Mitchell, T. A.
Gore, W. R. O. Morgan, O.
Goulburn, rt. hn. H. Morris, D.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Morison, Gen.
Granger, T. C. Morrison, J.
Grant, Sir A. C. Murray, A.
Greenall, P. Neville, R.
Grogan, E. Newry, Visct.
Guest, Sir J. Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Hall, Sir B. Norreys, Lord
Hamilton, W. J. Norreys, Sir D. J,
Hampden, R. O'Brien, C.
Hanmer, Sir J. O'Brien, J.
Hardinge, rt. hn.SirH. O'Brien, W. S.
Hardy, J. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Hastie, A. Ogle, S. C. H.
Hawes, B. Packe, C. W.
Hayes, Sir E. Paget, Col.
Hepburn, Sir T. B. Paget, Lord W.
Herbert, hon. S. Pakington, J. S.
Hervey, Lord A. Parker, J.
Hill, Lord M. Patten, J. W.
Hindley, C. Pechell, Capt.
Hodgson, F. Peel, rt. hn. Sir R.
Hodgson, R. Peel, J.
Hollond, R. Philips, G. R.
Holmes, hn. W. A'Ct. Plumridge, Capt.
Hope, hon. C. Pollington, Visct.
Howard, Lord Pollock, Sir F.
Howard, P. H. Protheroe, E.
Howick, Visct. Pryse, P.
Hughes, W. B. Reid, Sir J. R.
Hume, J. Repton, G. W. J.
Hussey, T. Rice, E. R.
Hutt, W. Rolleston, Col.
Irton, S, Rose, right hon. Sir G.
Round, C. G. Thornely, T.
Round, J. Thornhill, G.
Rumbold, C. E. Trench, Sir F. W.
Rundle, J. Tufnell, H.
Rushbrooke, Col. Tuite, H. M.
Russell, Lord J. Turner, E.
Russell, J. D. W. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Ryder, hon. G. D. Vane, Lord H.
Sanderson, R. Vesey, hon. T.
Scott, hon. F. Vivian, J. H.
Seymour, Lord Waddington, H. S.
Shaw, rt. hon. F. Wallace, R.
Sheppard, T. Ward, H. G.
Shirley, E. J. Wawn, J. T.
Shirley, E. P. Wemyss, Capt.
Smith, J. A. Wilshere, W.
Smith, rt. hon. R.V. Winnington, SirT. E.
Somerset, Lord G. Wood, B.
Somerville, Sir W. M Wood, C.
Stanley, Lord Wood, Col. T.
Stansfield, W. R. C. Wood, G. W.
Stanton, W, H. Worsley, Lord
Stuart, Lord J. Wyndham, Col. C,
Strutt, E. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Sturt, H. C. Yorke, H. R.
Sutton, hon. H. M. Young, J.
Talbot, C. R. M. TELLERS.
Tancred, H. W.
Taylor, T. E. Fremantle, Sir T.
Thompson, Ald. Pringle, A.
List of the NOES.
Ainsworth, P. Kemble, H.
Attwood, M. Legh, G. C.
Buckley, E. Palmer, G.
Copeland, Ald. Sandon, Visct.
Darby, G. Sibthorp, Col.
Egerton, W. T. Trollope, Sir J.
Egerton, Sir P. Wilbraham, hn. R. B.
Fielden, J, Williams, W.
Grimston, Visct. Wodehouse, E.
Halford, H.
Heathcoat, J. TELLERS.
Henley, J. W. Brocklehurst, J.
Hinde, J. H. Grimsditch, T.

Blank filled with 1s.

On the question that plain silk or satin be admitted at a duty of 1ls. per lb., or, at the option of the officer of customs, at 25 per cent, ad valorem.

Dr. Bowring

objected to the proposed amount of duty, and said, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had himself admitted that a duty of 20 per cent., would afford ample protection. This article was not dealt with on the same principle as other articles in the tariff, because, in point of fact, the old duty was to remain. He considered this impolitic on many grounds, and thought that it would have the effect of encouraging smuggling. During the last twelve years, silk manufactures from France of the value of 12,130,000l. had obtained admission into this country, while on 1,875,000l. worth of it only had the duty been paid. This proved the disadvantage of high duties, and he could only say, that in this respect, this country did not reciprocate as they ought with foreign countries. He moved, as an amendment, that foreign manufactured silk goods should only pay an ad valorem duty of 20 per cent.

Sir R. Peel

could not deny that the proposed duty upon manufactured silk was high, and admitted that great advantages would result from a reciprocal commercial intercourse between this country and France. He trusted, however, that looking to the state of the negotiations pending between France and England, the House would not press the Government too hastily upon this point. England had made offers to France which he believed would not only be attended with great pecuniary and commercial advantages to both countries, but would also tend to allay those unfortunate differences which of late years had grown up between them. A proposition highly advantageous to both countries was made some time ago, but had not yet been acceded to by France; and he very much doubted whether, if the House now went too far upon a principle which abstractedly was very good in itself, and gave to French productions the advantage of a readier admission into this country, there would not be danger, looking to the present feeling of France, that the advantage of a reciprocal admission of English manufactures into that country would be postponed. The present Government had expressed its readiness to carry out the treaty proposed by its predecessors. France had not yet acceded to it. Under these circumstances, he trusted that the House would not press propositions of the character just submitted by the hon. and learned Member for Bolton. It would not be well to make concessions to France, until an equivalent could be obtained from her.

Mr. Labouchere

thought, that in the present state of our commercial relations with France, the House would exercise a sound discretion in leaving this question in the hands of the Government. A treaty had not only been in negotiation between the two countries, but as far as the commercial part of it was concerned, had been actually agreed to. The terms of the treaty had been submitted to no less than three governments of France, that of Count Mole, M. Thiers, and M. Guizot, and up to a certain point had been agreed to by each, but unfortunately had ultimately been rejected by all, solely on account of the political differences which had arisen between the two countries. In truth, the difficulties interposed to the ratification of the treaty were purely political—there was no difficulty or obstacle upon the mere commercial part of it. He understood from the right hon. Baronet that he was prepared to adhere to the treaty as left by the late Government; but that the government of France had not yet acceded to it. In this state of things, it would be a pity that the House should interfere. Though he thought much advantage would result from a reduction of the duty on French manufactured silk, he should, upon the present occasion, unite with the right hon. Baronet in resisting the amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Bolton. He would take that opportunity of stating that although he thought the Government of England would be perfectly right in entering into a commercial treaty with France, stipulating for the reduction of the duty on certain articles of our manufactures in return for a similar reduction of duty on certain articles of French manufactures, he yet hoped that our Government would be cautious how they pushed the principle too far. He thought it would be most inexpedient for this country to tie itself up too much by engagements to other countries, in respect to the precise amount of customs duties to be levied upon particular articles. He was the more anxious to say this, in consequence of something which fell from the right hon. Gentleman, the other evening, in the debate on the sugar duties. He hoped that, in reference to such an article as sugar, upon which so great a portion of our revenue depended, the Government would be cautious how, in entering into any treaty with other countries, they bound themselves to levy any specific and positive amount of duty.

Mr. Hume

agreed with his hon. and learned Friend, that it would be very desirable to reduce the duty on manufactured silk; but after the speech of the right hon. Baronet, he trusted that his hon. and learned Friend would not press his amendment.

Dr. Bowring,

after the declaration made by the right hon. Baronet, would not press his amendment.

Viscount Howick

thought that the hon. Member for Bolton acted judiciously in declining to press the House to a division. But at the same time, he could not refrain from expressing his doubts of the justice of the grounds on which the Government refused to reduce the duty on French silks. It was admitted by all that great benefits would result from an extended commercial intercourse between the two countries. Government had thought it expedient to postpone any reduction of duty, in the hope that they would obtain concessions from France, but he doubted whether they would arrive at the wished-for results by mutual concessions, instead of acting independently at once. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government said, on a former occasion, that it was the interest of this country to buy in the cheapest markets, whether other countries did so or not. When the right hon. Baronet had declared that he would not ultimately persevere in the present system of prohibition, he thought the wisest policy for this country to pursue would be at once to admit to our own market those articles which were required, and to regulate our commercial policy according to our own interests, and he was persuaded that no long time would elapse before other nations would follow the example. He did not think if they reduced the duty on French commodities, that France would increase the duty on linen yarn. If it did, the smuggler would at once redress the inequality, and the only result would be, that the revenue of France would suffer.

Amendment withdrawn.

Proposed duties on manufactures of foreign silk were agreed to.

On the proposal that for every 100l. value of manufactures of silk, or of silk mixed with any other material, the produce of, and imported from, British possessions, a duty of 5l. be levied.

Captain Mangles

admitted that this was a great and important concession, but he wished to ask the right hon. Baronet whether he would not consent to put the same duty on the goods exported by India to this country, as was levied by India on the goods imported into India, being 3½ per cent.

Sir R. Peel

hoped the House would bear in mind the extreme difficulty which Government experienced in defending every separate article in the tariff. The hon. Member admitted that they had made a great and important concession, in reducing the duty on the article in question, from 20 to 5 per cent., and what Government attempted to do was, to attempt to approximate, as nearly as possible, to justice, without giving a great shock to any interest. They may have fallen short in their attempts in some particular cases, but looking to the tariff, as a whole, he thought they had taken the wisest course. No one felt more strongly than he did the claims which India had on the consideration of this country, but he hoped the House would not forget that the reduction in the present case was from 20 to 5 per cent., and he, therefore, trusted the hon. Gentleman would not take the sense of the House on his proposal.

Motion agreed to.

The House resumed. Committee to sit again.

The House adjourned.