HC Deb 30 June 1842 vol 64 cc789-91
Mr Monckton Milnes

wished to ask the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government a question upon a subject that had excited a great deal of interest in the manufacturing districts, and especially so in the borough that be had the honour to represent. It was with respect to the report that the Prussian Commercial League were about to impose a large import duty upon the woollen goods of England. He wished to know from the right hon. Baronet whether any intimation had been received from the Prussian government on this most important subject, or if he could give the House any information with respect to it.

Sir Robert Peel

replied, that the report alluded to by the hon. Member had come to the knowledge of her Majesty's Government. It had come to them from Frankfort. It did not come in an official form, and it was not one on which reliance could be placed. He had received a most respectable deputation from Bradford, who stated to him that naturally there had been excited a great deal of apprehension. by that which had been referred to by his hon. Friend, the rumours that it was the intention of the Prussian government to raise the duties on articles of mixed cotton and wool. Assurances had been received from the Prussian government, intimating its satisfaction as to the alterations that this Government had voluntarily proposed, and without exacting any conditions whatever. These alterations were certainly favourable to Prussia; and he was happy to say that on the subject of these modifications in their commercial tariff he had received assurances—they were general, certainly—but still they expressed the satisfaction and the earnest wish of the Prussian government to meet them in a corresponding spirit, and the disposition to act with similar liberality. He knew that there was a great pressure upon the Prussian government on the article of iron, and it was in correspondence with the spirit that had been expressed that this pressure had been resisted. He could only state the assurances that had been given, and the conduct of the Prussian government with regard to this article of their manufactures. He attached very great importance to that subject, and he should indeed most deeply regret if such a determination were about to be acted upon by the Prussian government, and particularly at this time. He had had an interview that day with the Prussian minister on this subject; but the Prussian minister had received no intimation on the matter. He had heard nothing whatever of the intention of the Prussian government to propose to the Zoll-Verein to raise the duties on articles manufactured with mixed cotton and wool. He had no guarantee as to the future: but this he could say, that the Prussian minister, whom he had only seen within the last few hours, had received no intimation on the subject, and had expressed with him the wish that it might not be true. He repeated that he could give no assurance as to the future; but this he said, that the country would have strong grounds to lament that such an article should be selected to impose upon it high duties, at the very time that so much was done by this country in favour of Prussia and other states on the shores of the Baltic; and it would have grounds to lament it too, unless what it had done was met in a corresponding spirit to that which had dictated our own tariff.

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