§ Sir R. Peel
then rose: I should have been statement I have I was in hopes that enabled to mate any to offer on the subject of the proposed commercial tariff, after the House had resolved itself into a committee on the Customs' Duties' Acts. It is quite clear that it will he for general convenience that my statement should 352 precede any extended discussion of the subject; and as the noble Lord and other hon. Members have given notice of motions which I apprehend they intend to bring on before the House resolves itself into the committee, I have no option but to make my statement on the motion for reading the Order of the Day. At the same time it is not my wish to anticipate, in what I have to say, the debates which will probably take place upon the motions which individual Members have inserted in the votes. It seems to me that it will be better, as far as I can do so consistently with my duty, to avoid entering into the consideration of particular points. I rejoice that we have now arrived at that period when we can enter, as I trust we shall, seriously and continuously upon the discussion of the tariff". I am aware that much public inconvenience has necessarily resulted from the delay that has unavoidably occurred. At whatever period this subject was introduced, it was absolutely necessary that there should be a considerable interval between the first proposition of the plan submitted by Government, and the consideration of it by the House in its perfected form. At the same time, it will not be understood that I am complaining of delay, or that impediments have been thrown in the way of discussion; such a delay, I say, was inevitable from the nature of the question, and I am sure all who hear me will feel that it was the duty of Government to avoid communications beforehand with parties personally interested. It would have been impossible in those communications to have avoided indicating something of the intentions of Ministers, and thus private parties with whom the communications had been held would have had an advantage over their competitors. We had, therefore, no alternative but to make our proposition, in the first instance, without the advantage of private information; and after it was made, parties had a fair right to be heard in respect of the contemplated important changes in our commercial system affecting their pecuniary interests. 1 trust, therefore, that there has been some compensation for the evil of delay necessarily belonging to a proposal of this nature; and that an opportunity has been afforded to those whose partial and individual interests are affected maturely to consider the whole scope of the plan of her Majesty's Government, and fairly to consider whether 353 they will not find ample compensation for the loss they may sustain in their special occupations and private interests, in the general advantages which we may hope will arise out of the measure in contemplation. The House has before it, in the papers recently printed, the existing rates of duty on the import of foreign articles; it has also before it the amount collected under those existing rates; it has before it the original proposition submitted by her Majesty's Government for the amendment of the commercial tariff of the empire; and, lastly, it has before it the corrected proposal, and consequently an opportunity of comparing the one with the other. A judgment may thus be formed of the intended modifications, and a satisfactory conclusion may be arrived at as to the temper and spirit in which this great arrangement has been undertaken by her Majesty's servants. I think it will and must be evident to all who have compared our first proposal with our last, that no undue influences have been allowed to operate upon the minds of Ministers. In the course of the discussions I was repeatedly assured that I should not be able to resist the influence of interested parties; I appeal to the first proposal of Government and to the last, and I leave it to any impartial man to determine whether any changes have been introduced from unworthy and improper motives. I think it will be seen that, whether the parties were powerful or weak, if they had reason on their side in favour of a modification, that modification has been made. If powerful parties have suggested alterations without reason, it will be manifest that these alterations have been resisted; if weak and unprotected parties submitted their claims to a farther consideration of some portion of the original proposition, those parties, though weak and unprotected, have had a fair hearing, and if favour has been shown to any one it is to those who are weak and unprotected, I shall avoid as far as I can any reference to specific subjects to be separately brought under the consideration of the House, and I will state what is the general scope and purport of the commercial arrangement Ministers have found themselves called upon to recommend. The general object of it is to simplify the existing law. It cannot be denied that the existing law is in many respects obscure and inconsistent, and that there are duties applicable to particular articles which are not reconcileable with principle. 354 In the year 1787 Mr. Pitt consolidated the custom laws, and during the war, according to the degree of financial pressure, it was the practice occasionally to raise the customs' duties indiscriminately, with a view to revenue merely, and without considering the general results it might produce. I think that a great part of the anomalies and inconsistencies of our present tariff arises from that practice of an indiscriminate per centage being applied to various articles. In 1825 the customs laws again came under the consideration of Parliament, and, at the instance of Mr. Huskisson, many important changes were made. I may here remark that I wish to claim for the present Government no undue share of credit for the proposal they have made, and I am bound to admit that the last occasion on which the attention of the House was called to the subject was when the committee on importations was appointed, in the year 1839. I do not say that if time had permitted the investigation might not have been more general and the result more complete, but I never did at the time, and I do not now, wish to depreciate the labours of that committee, or to deny that, in directing the attention of the public to the state of the tariff and importation duties, it established a claim to public gratitude. We have, therefore, applied ourselves to the imperfections in the tariff, in order to make it clear and intelligible, and as far as possible consistent, which of itself, without reference to the amount of duty, is certainly a great public object. Speaking generally, we have also sought to remove all prohibitions—rail absolute prohibitions—upon the import of foreign articles, and we have endeavoured to reduce duties which are so high as to be prohibitory to such a scale as may admit of fair competition with domestic produce. In cases where that principle has been departed from, and prohibitory duties maintained, there we justify our departure from the rule by the special circumstances of the case; but the general rule has been to abolish prohibitions and to reduce prohibitory duties within the range of fair competition. With respect to raw materials which constitute the elements of our manufactures, our object, speaking gene rally, has been to reduce the duties on them to almost a nominal amount. In half-manufactured articles, which enter almost as much as the raw material into our domestic manufacture, we have reduced 355 the duty to a moderate amount; and with regard to completely manufactured articles our design has been to remove prohibition, and to reduce prohibitory duties so that the manufactures of foreign countries may enter into a fair competition with our own. I still entertain that confident belief and expectation which I expressed on first intimating the intentions of Government as to this tariff, that the general result of it will be, if adopted by the House, materially to diminish the charge of living in this country. If you say to me that we do not make sufficient reductions on particular commodities, which are material items in the expenditure of a private family, I am quite ready to admit it, as far as relates to individual articles; but I speak of the general effect of the tariff as proposed by her Majesty's Government. If there be any truth in the principles either of trade or of arithmetic, I contend that its inevitable effect must be to give great advantages to all classes of consumers, and to make a considerable reduction in the present cost of living in this country, as compared with the cost of living in other countries. Taking the reductions on raw materials, on half-manufactured goods, and on manufactured goods, I am persuaded that the general result will be to make a considerable saving in the expenses of every family in the kingdom. I am quite aware that in this case, and in all such cases, it is impossible to make any great reduction on articles of general demand without affecting some special and particular trade. If I am told that we have dealt with too many articles, and that it would have been better to have taken only a few, my answer is that there is this important advantage iii dealing generally with the whole, that while we do in some quarters a partial injury, even there by our other reductions we make a corresponding compensation. I will now take the liberty of calling the attention of the House to some of the reductions proposed by her Majesty's Government, and I will first advert to an article regarding which a great benefit will, I apprehend, be conferred upon agriculture, I allude to clover-seed. In the breeding and feeding of cattle, upon the improved system of agriculture, this is a most important item; and at the present duty of 20s. per cwt., such has been the demand for foreign clover-seed, that the amount of revenue produced by it in 1840 was no less than 141,000l. Clover-seed is produced in some of the southern 356 counties of England; but Scotland and some of our northern counties, arc entirely dependent upon an extrinsic, if not a foreign supply. We propose to reduce the duty from 20s. to l0s. per cwt.—that is to say 100 per cent.; and I deeply regret that in making this reduction, some injury will be inflicted on those districts which have hitherto partially supplied the demand for clover-seed, and, indeed, in consequence of the high duty, have had a comparative monopoly. Our regret has been overruled by the necessity of the case; which is proved by the large importation of clover-seed in 1840, yielding 141,000l., and by lowering the duty we propose to facilitate the importation of the article which will be a great advantage to the agriculturists of the north. The same reasoning will apply to grass-seeds; there may be in some parts of the kingdom a partial failure, and we may be able to procure a supply of a better article from the continent, and is it not to the manifest advantage of agriculture to promote the introduction of what is in some sort to be looked upon in the light of a raw material? We have, therefore, reduced the duty from 20s. per cwt. to 5s. per cwt. on grass-seeds. Take, again, onions. [Laughter]. Gentlemen may laugh; hut let me tell them that the onion is a vegetable of the greatest importance to the vast body of the community; and if there should be a partial failure of this seed, it is most desirable that we should have the means of procuring it from the continent. The duty at present is 1s. 6d. per lb., an amount that encourages smuggling; and we recommend so considerable a reduction, that no doubt particular and interested parties have been greatly but unnecessarily alarmed. We propose to reduce the duty of 1s. 6d. per lb. to 1l. per cwt. Then as to linseed, hemp-seed, and other oil seeds, the change of duty will, of course, be of advantage to the crushers in this country, and enable them to compete with the foreigner. On these seeds, we reduce the duty from one shilling to one penny per quarter. The article is one of great importance; and the same character may be given to that to which I shall next advert: I mean foreign woods for furniture and for dyeing. The duty on foreign woods has ranged from 50 to 100 per cent, on the value of the article, and to the high amount is, 1 believe, to be attributed the recent great and injurious change in this kingdom in respect to cabinet-making. There is no country in the world where 357 greater skill might be shown in the manufacture of furniture than in this. I cannot conceive a country possessing greater advantages of consummate skill and industry for supplying other countries; but what has been the consequence of the high duty? I know that there have been cases where mahogany has been imported into ling-land, exported to the continent, and re-imported into England in the shape of furniture on the payment of a 20 per cent, duty. This may seem extraordinary, but the fact is so, and great advantages must be the result of lowering the duty on woods, and 1 do not in the least despair by the reduction of that, duty, and the encouragement of competition among the skilful mechanics of this country, to bring about such improvements in the manufacture of furniture, that instead of importing it as at present from France and Germany, we shall manufacture largely for export, and that by our own excellent mechanics, will outstrip all their foreign competitors. It is impossible to deny that of late years, whether from this cause alone or others, conjointly, the manufacture of furniture has been very much transferred from this country to France and Germany. So much, then, for the reduction of duty on wood for the purpose of ornamental furniture. By the by, I must not overlook another very important consideration with reference to this point—I mean the great advantage that will arise generally from the reduction of the duty on mahogany. It has of late years been discovered that this article, which hitherto has been exclusively devoted to furniture and ornamental purposes, might most advantageously be applied to purposes of ship-building. It has peculiar properties for resisting the dry rot, and if the price were reduced, it might most extensively be employed in some parts of ships. If I did not wish to avoid entering too much into detail, I could give examples of the effects that will be produced by the very material reductions proposed in the duties upon dye-woods but that must be obvious to every man at all conversant with the trade of the country. There is no part of the tariff in which we make more important alterations than in that which relates to the reduction of the duty on ores. Whether I speak of iron, lead, or copper, in my opinion great advantage to the commerce and manufactures of this country will result from permitting the entry of these important articles at much more diminished 358 rates of duty than at present. Let me take the case of copper. At present you cannot import and smelt foreign copper for internal use. You have greater advantages than any other country possesses with respect to coal—you have it at a cheaper rate; and you can apply that coal with great advantage to the smelting of foreign copper; but when it is smelted you cannot make use of it for the purpose of home manufacture, and you send it to France and Belgium to be rolled and manufactured. What is the consequence? Why, that those foreign countries can come into the markets of Europe, undersell you in copper smelted by your coal, in bolts for the fastening and copper for the sheathing of ships, and in a variety of other articles made of brass and copper, giving in many instances to the foreign manufacturer the advantage of 10l. per ton in respect to copper smelted with your coal. In France and Belgium, I believe I state the fact, the price of smelted copper has been less by 10l. per ton than in this country: and as I said before ships can be fastened and coppered on the continent at a much cheaper rate than in this country. As a decisive proof of the benefit to be derived from reducing the duty on manufactured copper, I may mention that the effect of the tariff has already been, in France and Belgium to reduce the price of copper. In confirmation, I may refer to something that passed in this country last winter. A foreign power was desirous of entering into a contract for building several steam-ships, an application was made to parties in this country; the only objection to entering into the contract was the expense of copper fastening, and coppering the vessels, as well as of the copper boilers. A drawback on the amount of copper so to be employed was asked for, or that it should be imported duty free. Of course it was impossible to concede this point, and it was stated that the contract must on this account be transferred to Rotterdam, or to some port of Belgium. I believe that that course was not taken, and that the acceptance and fulfilment of the contract is suspended until the decision of this House is known. There is every ground for thinking that the expected reduction in the price of copper will enable the parties in this contract, to execute the contract which otherwise must be transferred to some ports of the continent. From copper, I proceed to another important element of our manufactures — I mean 359 oils and extracts. The domestic manufacture of this country has of late years been exposed to comparative disadvantage, in consequence of the price of oils, and of these no one is more valuable for the purpose than spermaceti oil. The present duty on spermaceti oil, train oil, and blubber, is 26l. 12s. per ton, and we propose to reduce the duty on train oil and blubber to 6l. per ton, and upon spermaceti oil to 15l., per ton. Thus we shall introduce the produce of the American fisheries into competition with the produce of our own fisheries, and prevent the price of oil in this country from reaching an extraordinary or extravagant amount. I hope, Sir, that in stating these details, I am not needlessly detaining the House I want to establish by proof a position, of the truth of which I feel confident, that the general result of this tariff, if adopted by the House, will be to give new life, and activity to commerce, and to make a reduction in those charges which are now incurred by a residence in this country. A very short time since the price of spermaceti oil in this country was from 60l. to 70l. per ton; but lately, I think in 1839 or 1840, it had risen to 95l., and even to 111l, per ton. and the effect was a great diminution of the consumption. The manufacturer who required that oil had no alternative but to consume olive or other vegetable oils, which did not answer his purpose so well, or to pay an extravagant price for spermaceti oil, I mean extravagant as compared to the price of that oil in the United States. There are no oils that can be substituted for it without disadvantage; vegetable oils have not the quality that is valuable in spermaceti oil, and yet we have had to carry on a formidable rivalry with the United States in some branches of manufacture with the disadvantage of having to pay 8s. or 8s. 6d per gallon for oil which in America is sold for 3s. 9d or 4s. per gallon—a difference of about 100 per cent. The reduction of duty we propose, under this head, while it will prove highly beneficial to manufactures, will not injuriously affect the capital employed in that important branch of our commerce, the sperm fishery. At the same time, it is important to take a security, that when sperm oil bears the price it has reached of late years, there should be some competition with the produce of other countries, which will reduce the price within moderate limits; and I do not be- 360 lieve it possible, when the price is reasonable in this country, that the Americans can inflict any injury on the British fisheries. From oils I pass to dye-stuffs and drugs, and this point is materially connected with the adulteration of medicines. In respect to dye-stuffs, without entering into minute details, I may state generally that the present amount of duty on those articles imported is so great as to lead to extensive smuggling. Very recently, a person who had smuggled a quantity of nux vomica compounded with the Custom-house, and paid 1,000l. To escape the rigour of the law. The effect of imposing an excessive duty has been in this, as in other cases, to lead to an illicit importation of the article. On the proposed change in the duty on timber, I believe, we are to have a separate discussion—a difference of opinion, I know, has been expressed on the subject of the proposed reduction of the duty on that article. For my part, I must say, that the more I consider the subject, the more firmly I hold the opinion that we are about to confer an important benefit on the consumer by the relinquishment of a certain amount—a very great amount, I admit, of revenue. Here I may be allowed to support my views by a dictum of Mr. Deacon Hume, who observed,We have abundance of untaxed coal abundance of untaxed iron; we only want abundance of untaxed wood, in order to be provided cheaply with the three great primary raw materials of employment and industry.That was the opinion, shortly expressed, of Mr. Deacon Hume, with respect to the great advantages of a reduction of duty on this article. I am afraid we cannot confer on the consumer the benefit of untaxed wood; I wish we could; but a total reduction of duty would be, I think, unwise. To admit an unlimited competition with the colonies in an article of so much importance to them would, I think, be a course open to grave objection. But the arrangement ultimately to import colonial timber free from duty will, in my opinion, keep in check any demand which might be made upon you, in the event of your being disposed to afford additional facilities for the importation of Baltic timber. I am aware that it is a grave objection to my plan— that it will occasion a loss to the revenue of 600,000l.; but I do not know any article in which a reduction of price will be more useful. These are the principle raw materials or elements of manufactures in respect 361 to which great reductions have been made; and I have stated some instances of the benefit which will, I think, arise to trade from the plan I have brought forward. I now approach the consideration of a reduction of duty on articles of foreign manufacture. We propose, speaking generally, to apply an amount of duty not exceeding 20 per cent to such articles. There may be particular exceptions in cases where it has been shown, that such a duty would be productive of injury as I have before stated, the exceptions will be found to be in favour, where favour is shown at all, of the weak and unprotected interests. But the general rule is to establish a maximum duty of 20 per cent. At the present moment, the duties imposed on articles of foreign manufacture are as high in amount as they were during the war. There does not appear to have been any consistent and uniform consideration of the amount of those duties, and they have remained as they stood at the time when they were originally laid on. An objection has, I know, been taken by some Gentlemen to the proposed reduction on articles of this class. It is said, that in making that reduction, and inviting the competition of foreign manufacturers, we have begun at the wrong end; that we ought to have dealt more largely with the Corn-laws— that we ought to have reduced to a greater decree the duties on articles of provisions; and that it is not just or wise to reduce the duties on foreign manufactures until such alterations have been made. It is said, that we are subjecting the manufacturers of this country to competition with labour which can be had on the continent on more favourable terms, and that we are bearing with undue hardness on that interest. Now, I wish to consider fairly the force of that objection. My answer to that is, in the first place, that we have reduced in a very material degree the price of the necessaries of life. I will take the article of corn. The duty on the import of foreign wheat during the present week is, I think, 13s. per quarter. If the old law had been still in force, it would have been about 27s.[Inlerruplion.] I shall be much obliged to hon. Gentlemen if they will allow me to proceed without interruption in the statement which it is my duty to make. I say, there has been a very material reduction in the duties on the import of foreign corn, and that any man who will compare the duties payable this day on foreign oats, barley, and wheat, 362 with those which would have been payable if the old law had been in force, must admit, that there has been a very great diminution. I will now take the article of meat- What do we find to be the existing law in respect to the importation of meat? Why, with the exception of the duty on coarse salt beef, we find foreign fresh meat, or slightly salted, subject to absolute prohibition. It cannot be imported at all. We find also that fresh pork is equally subject to absolute prohibition. Now, the proposal which, after full consideration, her Majesty's Government have come to is, that foreign meat shall be admitted into this country, subject to a duty of 8s. per cwt. We find lard, an important article in the consumption by the poor, and also important to manufactures, now subject to a duty of 8s. per cwt. We propose to subject it to a duty of 2s. We find at present, salted meat subject to a duty of 12s. the cwt., we propose to reduce it to 8s. the cwt. We find ham subject to a duty of 1l. 8s.., we propose to reduce it a 100 per cent.; that is to 14s. With respect to live animals,—namely, oxen, cows, calves, and sheep, we find them now subject to a duty amounting to an absolute prohibition. We propose to admit them at rates of duty which are supposed by some to be considerably too low, but which, I trust, I shall be able to show are not so; for although the rates we have affixed will give a security against an extravagant increase of price of meat at seasons when cattle are scarce, yet I feel confident, that by the removal of absolute prohibition, and by the substitution of a reasonable duty on live animals, as well as on fresh meat, the general interests of the country will be benefitted, at the same time that the agricultural interest will have no reason whatever to complain. On the contrary, I feel confident that that great interest will, together with all the other interests of the country, derive benefit from the proposed alteration. I think I have now established the proposition I laid down,— namely, that with respect to the great leading articles of consumption, wheat, living animals and fresh meat, but particularly with respect to the two latter, her Majesty's Government have proposed a measure that will effect a very important reduction in the price to the consumer. I will now take the article of fish. We find the importation of foreign salmon prohibited altogether. We propose a duty of 363 10s. per cwt. on foreign salmon, thus getting rid of the prohibition. Indeed, in every case, we have removed prohibition, and substituted a duty. I am aware, that this proposal, with respect to salmon, has excited alarm among persons having important interests in the salmon fisheries. An invidious distinction has hitherto been made in respect to duties imposed on foreign fish: those fish which formed an article of consumption with the rich were admitted free of duty; but fish consumed by the poor have been prohibited, or only admitted at a high rate of duty. I will take a fish in which the poor are most interested— I mean herrings. A particularly important change has been proposed in respect to foreign herrings. ["Hear."] I am almost doubtful, considering the importance which the hon. Gentleman attaches to this part of the tariff, whether I am to construe that "hear" into a sign of approbation or of dissent, because I have certainly received the strongest remonstrances against this proposed reduction in respect to herrings, from that part of the country with which the hon. Gentleman is connected. At present, all foreign-cured fish are prohibited. We propose, that foreign cured fish shall be imported at a duty of 2s. the cwt. I will read a statement which has been made to me, in a a letter from Scotland, with respect to herrings:—Norway (the writer says) prepares about as many herrings as we do. They go to the Baltic, and the herrings cost them there about 7s.6d. to 8s. per barrel: ours cost us from 18s. to 20l. per barrel. I presume, the Norwegian herrings may be landed in Ireland at l1s. to 12s. per barrel; while ours cannot be taken there for less than from 20s. to 22s. a barrel. I am a free trader in every other respect; but, with respect to herrings, I caution you against applying the general rule to them.I give you that as a sample of the general postscript which is attached to every communication her Majesty's Government have received respecting every other article in the tariff. Now, I do not share in the apprehension entertained by this doubting correspondent; and I cannot help appealing to him that unless he can convince me that I shall be doing injury to the working classes in the north of Ireland by enabling them to obtain herrings for 10s. a barrel, for which they are at present paying 20s., I do not quite agree that I am absolutely wrong in the change I now propose. But my wish is to encourage the 364 native fishermen, and enable them to compete with foreign fishermen. Why should not the inhabitants of the north of Scotland be enabled to cope with the Norwegian fishermen, in supplying Ireland with herrings? I say, reduce the duty on timber,—enable them to build boats in which they may navigate rougher waters, and traverse more distant seas; and then they will be quite capable of competing with foreign fishermen. Their bravery is as great, and their skill is as great. Let them have the means of obtaining as strong vessels as other fishermen, then new scenes will be open to them, and fresh stimulus will be given for exertion. But to effect this, you must reduce the cost price of the materials with which they work; but, above all, you must reduce the duty on timber. This will enable the British fishermen to compete successfully with the Norwegian in supplying the north of Ireland with fish. With respect, then, to the article of fish, I think, after what I have stated, it cannot be denied that her Majesty's Government have made some important alterations. Now I come to vegetables, and to those which chiefly conic into the consumption of the working classes. I find the duty on onions is now 3s. per bushel; we propose to reduce it to 6d. We find potatoes subject to a duty of 2s. per cwt., amounting almost to a prohibition. During the last winter, I received from the north of England and from Scotland many representations upon the subject of the supply of this article. Great alarm was felt respecting it during the prevalence of the wet weather. The price of potatoes appeared to be very low and reasonable, but it was said that the cause of that reduced price was the apprehensions that were felt that the potatoes would not keep, and they were therefore forced into the market. Considerable apprehensions were at that time entertained in Lancashire and throughout the north of England and Scotland in respect to the supply of the potatoes failing, and urgent representations were made to the Government upon the subject, some parties even suggesting that an Order in Council should be issued to permit the importation of sound foreign potatoes to prevent the possibility of a deficient supply. I believe that those apprehensions were not altogether well founded, but, considering the importance of the article, I think a duty of 2s. a cwt. amounts to a prohibition. It is, at all events, considerably too high, and a very 365 material reduction ought to be made. I now pass from vegetables to the article of rice, Rice is an article which may be made a most material element in the subsistence of the people of this country. It is a most wholesome and useful article of food. The duty at present on foreign rice is 1l. per quarter; we propose to reduce it to 7s.per quarter. I now come to a vegetable, in respect to which some notice has been taken in this House, and questions have been put upon it—I allude to hops. It appears in the printed tariff that no alteration in the duty is to be proposed. I stated on a former occasion that the consideration of this question was encompassed with many difficulties, on account, first, of the mode in which the duty was assessed, and the peculiar nature of the cultivation of the plant; and next, on account of the time when the arrangement for making-alteration occurred. 1 wished to have an opportunity of communicating further with the parties who possessed the requisite local knowledge with respect to these points; and I, therefore, was anxious to suspend legislating upon this important article until I had the opportunity of having a full communication with them. That full communication has taken place, and her Majesty's Government have formed their decision with respect to the course it was fitting for them to pursue. Considering the great vicissitudes of the seasons, particularly in their application to the production of this article—considering the great variations in the amount of the supply, and the high price it bears, as compared to the price of other productions —considering also the great importance of this article as entering into that which constitutes the beverage of the people—I mean beer and ale—considering all these things, I do think that the present great duty upon hops is extravagantly high. And although I should be most unwilling in this, as in any other interest, rudely to derange the existing application of capital, or bring about distress which would re-act upon other parts of the community, still her Majesty's Government, after considering the peculiar nature of this article, and the alternations in its price, think that some security ought to he taken against those exorbitant prices which have obtained in some years by reason of the high prohibitory duty now imposed, The present duty on hops is 8l. 11s. per cwt. After having given the subject full consideration, we are of opinion, contrary, I, 366 fear, to the impressions of many, and contrary, certainly, to the remonstrances which her Majesty's Government have received on the subject—but still, acting upon one uniform principle with respect to this tariff—we are of opinion that we ought to propose to Parliament a considerable reduction of the present duty upon this important article. We therefore propose to reduce the duty of 8l. 11s. now levied, to 4l. 10s. per cwt. The effect of this alteration will be, not to injure or check the cultivation of hops, hut to afford a security against the extravagant price which that article sometimes reaches in this country when the supply is deficient. Having enumerated these various articles on which alterations are proposed to be made, I maintain that it cannot, be justly alleged that her Majesty's Government have not made very material reductions with respect to the price of articles which constitute the subsistence of the people of this country. Take the whole tariff, and not any one individual article, like the Corn-laws, and then can you deny that a material reduction has been made in the cost of sustenance, and that we are justified on that account in calling on the manufacturer to submit to a reduction of those duties which are supposed to constitute his protection? Now, in my opinion, there are very material errors in the general opinion with respect to the comparative cost of living in this country and foreign countries; and you will find, if you institute a comparison, particularly with respect to the inhabitants of large towns on the continent, that the cost of living of skilled manufacturers in those towns is very nearly as great as in this country. I will take the case of Brussels as an instance. A letter has been addressed to her Majesty's Government, by a most intelligent and respected individual, and who is at the present moment the representative of her Majesty at the court of Brussels. That gentleman was not invited to express any opinion on the subject, but, no doubt, considering the great interest that is now taken in this country respecting these matters, he was induced to make some observations upon the subject. He says: —
§ " Brussels, May 3, 1842.
My Lord, In the attempt so frequently made to establish a comparison between conditions essentially dissimilar, that, namely, of the working man in England and of a man of the same class on the continent, it very commonly happens that no allowance is made for
the municipal or 'octroi' duties, which in the greater number of cases press heavily upon the latter. The paper which I have the honour of enclosing will show your Lordship what the town dues amount to at Brussels upon some of the great articles of consumption, and will prove, at the same time, that these heavy charges have all but doubled during the ten years intervening between 1830 and 1840. Upon cattle the duties leviable on entering the town are in some cases quite as high or higher than those paid upon crossing the frontier. Thus a beast imported from Holland would be subject to a duty of 20f. on arriving at Belgium, and to a fresh duty of 24f. on passing the gates of Brussels.
§ To the Right Hon. Earl of Aberdeen, K. T., &c."
§ This is the communication furnished by a gentleman well qualified to speak upon the subject; and, therefore, in instituting a comparison between the price of articles in England and upon the continent, you must be guided in your conclusions not only by the customs duties, but also by the municipal duties of the several towns. But supposing that the answer which I hare given upon the question of reduced prices of the articles of consumption should not be entirely satisfactory, yet there is another and an exclusive ground on which, independently of that question, I vindicate a reduction of the duties on articles of foreign manufacture. I say that these high duties are a mere delusion; that they do not constitute a protection to the British manufacturer, and that in looking at those duties for protection he rests entirely upon a fragile and faithless support. The check to their operation is the smuggler. It is a mere delusion to tell the home manufacturer that you levy a duty of 35 and 40 per cent, upon the importation of foreign manufactured articles, if he is robbed of that apparent protection by the importation of the same articles in an illicit way, consequently 1 think I could conclusively show that there is no reduction proposed with respect to foreign manufactures, which I cannot vindicate on this single and exclusive ground, that the duty remains at last as high as you can possibly levy it without calling in the interference of the smuggler. In order to remove all uneasy feeling from the mind of the British manufacturer, with the permission of the House I will read an important and bonâ fide letter, written by a very extensive smuggler. I will read it because I wish to give the House a conclusive proof of the delusiveness of maintaining high protect- 368 ing duties upon foreign manufactures. This letter is, of course, not addressed to me, but I can guarantee it to be a bonâ fide letter, addressed by a man of large means and large capital, in a regular way of business as a smuggler, who, I believe, has daily intercourse with persons in this great city:—It is dated at the end of December, 1841, and after offering his services in supplying goods to certain persons, he adds:—
I am also able to forward to you, every week, blondes and laces (I mean articles manufactured at Lille, Arras, Caen, Chantilly, &c.) at a very low premium, by the indirect channel. The goods would be delivered in London the same week of the reception here, by a sure and discreet individual. My means are always free of losses and damages, or I would not use them. Here follow the prices at which I might at present undertake the passage:—
|Blondes, by pieces, according to value||9|
|Blonde veils, according to value||8 or 8½|
|Laces (Lille ditto)||8 or 8½|
|Silk gloves||11 to 12|
|Kid gloves||12 to l3|
§ And generally all silk goods, as gros de Naples, satins, gros des Indes, gros de Paris, jewellery, &c, for which articles prices would be to be determined, but certainly a great deal under your Custom-house duties."
Can there be, I ask, a more irresistible, a more tangible, or a more positive proof that you are not conferring a benefit upon the manufacturer by imposing a duty on articles of foreign manufacture so high as to afford a premium to the smuggler, who sets systematically your laws at defiance? Is it not clear that it is a positive advantage to the domestic manufacturer that he should know the extent of foreign competition he has to meet? 'Is it not to his interest that he should be fully and openly aware of it, and not be subject to an illicit, unseen competition, against which he can adopt no protection? There are no parties with whom I have had more intercourse, or whose case has called for more serious attention on my part, and on the part of my Colleagues, than the case of a class of persons unsupported by any great interest, but which has been brought under our notice in a way which quite entitled them to consideration— I mean those parties who are concerned in the manufacture of straw plat. They are mostly women and children; and they live in certain confined districts of the country. The present duty on straw plat is 17s. a cwt. We proposed a
reduction of the duty to 5s., but we have been induced, in consequence of their representation, to increase the duty upon the import of the foreign manufactured article to 7s. 6d. a cwt., in the hope that these parties will be enabled still, by the exercise of their ingenuity and skill, to compete with the foreign manufacturer. But I wish to convince them of the delusiveness of the security which they ask for. The present duty on the raw material, that is foreign straw, not platted, is one penny per cwt. The duty on the same article, if platted before it is imported, is 17s. per cwt. Now this platted straw is so light an article that it affords great facilities for smuggling it into this country. I will give the House a proof of this. This small bundle which I hold in my hand is straw, (the right hon. Baronet exhibited it) the raw material which is used for the purpose of manufacturing the plat, and is subject only to a duty of 1d. the cwt. on its introduction into this country. The foreign platted straw, as I have already said, is subject to a duty of 17s. 6d. per cwt. But this is apparently a bundle of the unplatted straw. Now, observe (said the right hon. Baronet, and he then began very deliberately to remove from one end of the small roll of straw, such as may be seen in the straw-bonnet shops of this metropolis, short pieces of the same material, and having done so, he drew forth a parcel of foreign manufactured platted straw), that it is upon this (continued the right hon. Baronet) that a duty of 17s. 6d. per cwt. is imposed in order to give protection to the home manufacturer ! Now, this is important, in order to show how delusive is the protection which this duty really affords against the importation of the manufactured article. This is a bonâ,fide illustration of the delusiveness of these high protecting duties, and a conclusive proof how little benefit is derived to our domestic manufactures from imposts which can be so easily evaded. Now, these are the general grounds upon which I vindicate the reduction of duties upon foreign manufactures. I do so upon a double ground; first, by showing that we have made such a reduction in the cost of the means of subsistence as to justify us in reducing those duties; and, secondly, by showing, that the existing rate of duty is so high, that it affords no protection whatever. I dare say, by stating the amount of the reduction which I propose in some of the articles of foreign produce,
hoping thereby to reduce the rate of living in this country, I have caused some alarm on the part of the producers of similar commodities in England. I speak chiefly now of those who are concerned in the production of cattle, and in the supply of meat. I wish to address myself more particularly to that class, for I never felt more confidence than I do now, that I shall be enabled to show, that the removal of prohibition in the case of cattle, and the reduction of duty on the importation of foreign meat, are not only perfectly justifiable, but demanded by a true consideration not only of the general interests of the country, but of the agricultural interest itself. It is quite an error to suppose that any class derives advantage by a high rate of living in this country. In the first place, there is no man, whatever article he may produce, but must derive a great advantage from a general reduction of prices. The particular article which he himself consumes may abide at the same price, and not fall under the general rule of reduction, and in respect to that particular article, he may be exposed to some suffering and loss; but he must, in regard to the general articles of consumption, share in the benefit of the reduction which the prices of those articles undergo. I will take, as an illustration of my argument, the case of the poor-rates. Within the last four years the cost of the articles of subsistence has been high. It is said, and I believe justly said, that the poor-rates fall with peculiar severity upon the landed interest. The profits of tradesmen in the towns which were originally contemplated to be subject to that impost, have of late years been free from it, by the effect of a temporary law, and those rates now fall with peculiar severity upon the owners and occupiers of land. Let us see how the cost of the articles of subsistence affects those rates. It appears, that the "amount of moneys levied under the denomination of poor's-rate in England and Wales, in 1837, was 5,294,000l.; 1838, 5,186,000l.; 1839, 5,613,000l.; 1840, 6,014,000l.'." This shows that the increase of the amount of money levied on account of poor's-rate is in proportion to the increase of the price of provisions. I am quite aware that in some cases these prices have lately been reduced. I know, that there has been a general apprehension, and, indeed, a general panic, on the subject of the importation of live cattle. It has been constantly represented to me
that the panic existed, that it was in vain to argue against it, whether well or ill-founded— and to so prevailing a feeling, great deference ought to be shown. I venture to differ from that statement; I do not think it a part of the duty of any Government to defer to a panic which they consider unfounded; much less do I consider it consistent on the part of the real friend of the agricultural interest of this country to show a deference to unjustifiable apprehensions. To defer to sound argument—to defer to justifiable apprehensions—is the duty of every Government; but to concede to a panic which you believe to be ill-founded, would be inconsistent with a wise and statesmanlike course, and would be inviting persons who were the subjects of those unfounded fears to rest their hopes upon high prohibitory duties, which would indeed be resting upon an unstable foundation. But no steps which I could take could guard against the panic which has existed. I admit it has existed. But let me observe that some portion of the reduction which has taken place in the price of cattle must not be attributed to the panic. There must be, at this time of the year, a reduction of price. It is inevitable, because there is a large supply of, and a reduction in the price of fodder. The whole extent of the reduction, therefore, must not be connected with the panic. But if persons will insert advertisements in newspapers, offering to supply the best meat from Hamburgh and other places at 3d. per lb., and if parties will not inquire into the truth of it, but will take it for granted, and will sell their cattle in consequence, I cannot help it. A little inquiry would have shown at once how impossible the thing must be. A house with a fine German name, at Hamburgh, is represented as offering to supply meat at 3d. per lb. Now, the slightest exertion would have discovered that no such house exists at all. If it does exist there, all I can say is, that the house which so offers to supply the manufacturing districts of the country with meat at 3d. a lb., is at present paying 6d. a lb. for it in Hamburgh. My belief is, that interested parties, pretending to sympathize with the poor manufacturing classes, have inserted these advertisements, having a knowledge of the prevailing panic, for the purpose of taking advantage of those who, by their fears, are bringing their cattle into the market. But I trust that the delay which has taken place in
bringing forward this measure has tended to produce a calmer and soberer judgment on the subject, and that this cattle panic is of itself fast dying away. I have read an account of some recent occurrences, particularly in the northern parts of the country, which leads me to think, that those who expected to purchase cattle at a very reduced price will be disappointed: and that sounder notions are entertained, with respect to the price of cattle. But, in arguing this question of cattle, I am not about to say, there will be no reduction of price—I am not going to contend, that by admitting foreign cattle, and foreign meat, that at no period there will be any competition or reduction of price. But what I maintain, and what I am about to establish, is this, that the price of cattle and meat in this country has been unduly high — extravagantly high—and that if we can effect a reduction of price, we ought to effect that reduction. I shall show you, that your apprehensions are unfounded—that there will be no such material fall (I cannot effect that) in the price of cattle, as will affect the price of land, or in any way disturb the relations which now exist between landlord and tenant. But I am able to establish, by conclusive proof, that you ought to seek security, if you can, against the extravagant price of meat in this country, and which may arise from a defective supply, caused by applications of capital to other agricultural productions, and still more by the disorders which have prevailed among the cattle, and which have much diminished stock. Supposing any man, some twenty years since, any grazier, for instance, had been told what was to happen with respect to Ireland and Scotland. Supposing I had told him, fifteen years ago, what was then the produce of those two parts of the empire, and had foretold to him the wonderful discovery of steam, the facility with which, from Aberdeen, and other parts, enormous quantities of cattle could be brought to London; and what would be the increase of the produce in Ireland within the last twenty or thirty years. I apprehend, that the English grazier would have felt a panic twice as great as the panic which has now been felt, and he would have said, that it was utterly impossible for him to contend against the competition of Ireland and Scotland. I am quite ready to admit, that with respect to Ireland and Scotland, there was this difference, that they, being
parts of the United Kingdom, arc entitled to import cattle. [" Hear, hear ! "] But the hon. Gentleman who cheers me, will not deny, that the 10,000 head of cattle, brought from Aberdeen, and from Ireland, would have just the same effect in depressing the English market, as if the same quantity of cattle had been imported from a foreign country. That is my argument. 1 am not saying that foreign countries have an equal right with Scotland and Ireland to import cattle, and on the same favourable terms. My argument is, that this great and unexpected increase of importation from Ire-land and Scotland would produce the same depressing effect upon the British market as if the increase had come from Hamburgh. 1 say, therefore, that if twenty years since we had told the English grazier what would be the extent of importation at the present moment, from improvements in agriculture and navigation and other causes, he would have imagined that the price of cattle in the home market would be so reduced that he would have no chance of success against such competition. Yet, notwithstanding this competition, the price of cattle and meat has increased, and the price of meat is still increasing to an extent which deserves our most serious attention. As a proof and illustration of this, I will take the navy contracts for fresh meat that have been made within the last four or five years. I find that in 1835 the navy contracts for fresh meat were taken at 35s. and a fraction per cwt.; the price rose, in 1838, to 41s. per cwt., in 1840 to 46s., and in 1841 it had increased, from 35s. in 1835, to 49s. per cwt. This, be it remembered, has occurred, notwithstanding the increased imports of cattle from Ireland and Scotland. I will now refer to the contract prices of meat for Greenwich Hospital. In 1835 the contracts were taken at 40s. a cwt.; and I must observe, that the probability is that that institution is supplied with a superior description of meat. I find that the price rose from 40s. in 1835, to 56s. in 1841. Again, I find that contracts for supplies of meat for shipping were made in Leaden-hall market in 1835 at 36s. per cwt., and contracts of the same kind were taken there in 1841 at 48s. per cwt. I will now take pork—I mean salt pork for the navy —and I beg the House to recollect that this increased price of provisions tends materially to swell the navy estimates. I find, in 1835, that the contract price of
salt pork for the navy was 4l. 14s. 8d. per tierce, and in 1841 the price had risen to 7l. 3s. 5d. This had not been a sudden rise, but it gradually took place during the intermediate years. In 1835, the price was 4l. 14s.. the tierce; in 1838, it had risen to 51. 14s.; in 1839, to 61. 11s; in 1840, to 6l. 14s..; and in 1841, to 71. 3s. 5d. To show how this affects the public 1 will refer to Greenwich Hospital. The meat alone for Greenwich Hospital for the consumption of the inmates of that institution, though there was no increase in the number of its inmates, cost 4,420l. more in 1841 than it did in 1835. It appears also that the total increase of the household expenses of that institution was I2,000l. in 1841 than in 1835. If such an advance continued to take place in the price of meat, the authorities of the hospital stated that they should find some difficulty in making their present revenue sufficient. 1 have surely now said enough to show that notwithstanding the great importation from Ireland and Scotland there has been a continuous increase in the price of meat, and that it is desirable to open the ports of the kingdom to a foreign supply. Is not the fact of such a continuous increase in price conclusive proof that something shall be done; and does it not suggest the apprehension that the population is increasing more rapidly than the supply? I am aware that it has been said that the price of cattle has much increased of late years, and has been occasioned by another circumstance; it has been asserted that it has arisen because a disorder has prevailed among cattle. Now, I would ask, is not this very circumstance a conclusive proof of the necessity of doing something to meet such a case, and that there should be not an absolute prohibition, but a moderate duty which will enable you to go to the places where wholesome cattle are to be met with, that you may have the means of increasing your supply when the home supply is deficient. The amount of duty which I propose in the resolutions before the House is a penny a pound on fresh meat, or on meat slightly salted, and 1l. a head on oxen. I apprehend that the chief objection which is entertained against this part of the resolution is directed against the new duty of 1l. a head on cattle in the place of the present prohibition. There is an apprehension of danger to the domestic producer of cattle. Now, before I can assent to any apprehension of danger of this kind,
I should ask the House to look to the extent of that portion of the continent of Europe from which a supply of cattle can be obtained. Corn, it must be admitted, can be obtained from almost every place where it is produced, it suffers no decrease in substance, and no deterioration in quality, how great may be the distance of transport, and it can be as as well imported from Odessa or North America as from the Baltic or the opposite coasts of the continent. In the importation of corn, we are subject to competition in the home market from the supply obtained from all Europe, and even America. But is there the same chance of competition with respect to a supply of foreign cattle. Let me in the first instance, separate the case of lean cattle from that of fat cattle. I think that I can prove satisfactorily to every sensible grazier that there can be nothing but advantage to him from the importation of lean cattle. I think I can show, too, that in no occupation has the profits been reduced in so great a degree of late years as in the fattening of lean cattle. I admit that this trade in cattle has been carried on with great advantage from certain parts of Ireland and Scotland, but I could show that there has been such an increase in the price of lean cattle in this country as to make it impossible for the feeder to realise any profit from fattening them, and that the importation of lean cattle from the continent would be of the greatest benefit to him. I have made inquiries on this point, and have ascertained from several of the most experienced and eminent graziers in the country, that of late years the profit is reduced to nothing, and the feeding would cease altogether were it not for the benefit of the manure. Therefore, by admitting the importation of lean cattle, I shall be conferring a benefit not only on the community, but on that body of agriculturists who are engaged in providing cattle for the supply of the market. But then I may be asked, why not apply the duty according to the weight of the cattle imported? My reply is, that the application of any such principle would defeat the object which I have just alluded to. It must be recollected that the weight of that description of cattle, which I think will be most largely imported— namely, the large lean cattle—is very great. The large lean ox, which would afford a profit to the grazier to fatten, would weigh much more than the small fat cattle which are likely to be imported. By adopting this
principle, then, of imposing the duty by weight, you would be discouraging the importation of large lean cattle, the fattening of which might become such a large source of profit to the grazier and I say, therefore, that the advantages will be very great in applying the duty in the manner I propose. Now, let me refer to the danger which is likely to arise from the importation of fat cattle. I think that I can show in an equally satisfactory manner as I have done in the former case that the apprehensions which are entertained on this point are entirely without foundation. From what countries is the danger from competition in the importation of fat cattle likely to arise? Now it must be recollected that the increase in the cost of foreign cattle would be enhanced, not so much by the amount of duty on the importation as the distance and expense of carriage from the countries from which the cattle would be brought. No one, I suppose, will argue that there is much danger to be apprehended from the competition that would arise from the importation of cattle from Spain and Portugal. I do not suppose that a single ox, fat or lean, will cross the Bay of Biscay for our markets. Let us next take France, and see whether there is any danger likely to arise from the importation of foreign cattle from that country. If any hon. Gentleman would take the trouble to inquire, he would find that the supply of cattle has for some time in France been rapidly falling short of the demand of the population. With respect to France, I can refer to documents which, I think, will prove my case most satisfactorily. I shall refer the House to the accurate statistical information which is prepared on this and other subjects in that country. I say, then, that I can show that there is no danger to be apprehended from France. Supposing, that the rich pastures of France could pour in a supply of fat cattle to an unlimited amount there would, I admit, be some ground for apprehension; but what are the facts of the case? During late years, France has been an importing country of cattle, and not an exporting country. I find that in 1840 — and I have similar returns for several years back and they vary little as to the general result there were 12,519 cattle exported from France, and 39,000 cattle imported into it. I will now take sheep—and many of these animals are exported by being sent across the frontier into countries were
prices are dearer—and I find that 92,000 were exported in 1840, but during the same year 135,000 were imported into France. The result is, that for the last twelve or fifteen years the importation of cattle and other animals into France has greatly exceeded the amount of exports. In respect to cattle, then, France is an importing country; and yet even with this, I think I can show that the supply of meat there has not been equal to the demand, nor to the wants of the increasing population of the country. I will now take the prices in France, and show that there has been a great rise in prices of late years in that country. We will begin as so far back as 1822. In that year the average price of beef in the eighty-six chief towns of France was 7½d. per kilogramme, and in 1839 it had risen to 9¼d.; and in the same period the average price of mutton in those eighty-six towns rose from 7½d. in 1822, to 9¾d. in 1839. In Paris there had been a much greater increase. In 1822 the price of all sorts of meat there was 8½d. per kilogramme, and in the chief market on the 10th of March, 1841, the price had risen to 14d., being an increase of 62 per cent, from 1822 to 1841. I will give the prices in Paris of oxen in different years. In 1822 the price of an ox was 296 francs, or about 12l.; in 1839, 392 francs, or 15l. 15s.; and in 1841, 459 francs, or 19l. Is any danger to be apprehended of a supply of foreign cattle from France, in which the price of oxen has risen within a few years from 12l. to 19l. In France too as in England, notwithstanding the number of foreign cattle that has been imported the price has risen, so that it is clear that the supply is not sufficient for the consumption of France. I find that the average consumption of meat in that country, between 1812 and 1816, was in the ratio of 70.51 for each individual; but during the years 1837 and 1840 the ratio was represented by 48.12. I think then that I have shown that there is no danger to be apprehended from competition with France, for here is a rise in the price of meat, and yet a diminution in the consumption, while the country is, I hope, in a state of prosperity, and that being the state of things, there is consequently no danger to be apprehended from a great importation from France. With respect to Belgium our Minister there when he noticed the alarm that was felt in this country on the subject, thought it his duty to write to the Government, and his words were:—
I observe some allusions in the English papers with respect to the price of meat, and 1 see it stated that it can be imported from foreign countries into,England, and sold at the rate of 3d. per lb. It is however, clear this supply cannot come from Belgium since the price here is just twice as high.
There is then a great delusion in supposing that meat can be imported from Belgium and sold in England at any such low prices. I apprehend that Holland is not a country from which we need fear any great importation. There is no fresh land there for cultivation. Spain is out of the question. The Prussian League is, with respect to cattle, an importing and not an exporting country. The only danger, then, is from Holstein and Jutland. But the cost of the conveyance of an ox by sea from either of those countries is greater than from Aberdeen. Remember, also, the enormous increase of supply of cattle from Ireland, and that it has not lowered the prices, and then compare Holstein and Jutland with Yorkshire, and ask yourselves is there any prospect of a competition which is likely to interfere with the interests of English agriculturists. If you can make some reduction in price— if you can take any security against the exorbitant price of meat, you will be conferring a great advantage on all classes of the community, and even on the agriculturists themselves. But the extent of the area of the countries which can come in competition with them is so comparatively small, and the expense and difficulty of bringing cattle here from over the sea are so great, that they need fear no foreign competition. Next compare the quality of the meat. Your meat is far superior to the meat of the continent. When you hear that meat is 4d. per lb. on the continent and 7d. in London, you can draw no safe inference, unless you also compare the quality of both. I do not despair of seeing this country yet exporting fatted cattle. I believe that improvements in science, and the application of chemical processes to agriculture, may produce such results that you may be an exporting country. In confirmation of the opinion which I have just expressed, I can refer to the authority of a document drawn up by a minister of France, in which he names this country amongst others as one from which France could derive a supply of cattle. Again, your mutton is so much superior to that to be obtained on the continent, that I have every reason to believe
that instead of this country importing any mutton, We shall export it largely to the continent. Indeed, at this moment, I believe legs of mutton are continually taken from Hull to Hamburg for consumption in the latter. The great advantage that I look to as being likely to arise from the importation of cattle, is that it may establish a check against inordinate prices, and on this principle I vindicate the course proposed to be taken by her Majesty's Government in the reduction of the duty. It has been said, why not impose your duty according to the weight or value of the animal imported? But I say, it cannot be done with advantage to the farmer and the consumer? I have already shown, that no such extent, of import will take place under the mode proposed by the Government, as will prove injurious to the agriculturist, and I have also shown the advantages that will arise to the English grazier from the importation of lean cattle; I have also shown other reasons that operate to prove, that the course that we propose to take is the most convenient one that can be adopted. In addition, I may observe, that every foreign country which imports cattle, and imposes a duty on it, follows the plan which we recommend, and lays the tax on each head of cattle. Throughout the states, forming the Prussian League, foreign cattle are not admitted by the payment of an ad valorem duty, or on their weight, but the duty is levied on each animal. In France, there is an import duty of 20f. on each head of cattle; in Belgium also I find a duty of 20f. applied to all cattle. I do not mean to say, that no reduction of price will result from my proposition, I should be sorry if that to a small degree, were not to be the case; but looking at the state of this metropolis—looking at the great importance of a fair and reasonable supply of meat—and looking at the improvements which have taken place in steam navigation, I cannot think it has derived as much benefit, in the reduction of the price of meat, from them as it ought, and I should be sorry to see it derive no benefit from the proposed reduction. For my own part, I have no hesitation in saying, that if by the operation of this part of the measure, the price of meat be reduced in London, I should consider such result as a public benefit. I have laid on a duty of 1l. per bead on cattle, because I consider the limited area of the countries that can compete with us, and the cost of conveying
cattle by steam, and various other circumstances, throw so many difficulties in the way of the importation of foreign cattle, that no danger is to be apprehended to our home supply, and that sufficient protection remains for the grazier. Is the House aware, that in London alone there were slaughtered every year not less than between 170,000 and" 180,000 cattle, and this is independent of all the slaughtered meat sent up to the London market. What an immense' quantity of cattle must come in, then, to make any perceptible reduction in the prices. But is it likely that 10,000 fat cattle will come in? I do not apprehend, that any one believes that 10,000 additional cattle will be taken to Smithfield from abroad in the course of the year; and if that number were to be taken, would it make any very material difference in the price. I believe, that the general annual consumption of cattle in England is between 13,000,000 and 15,000,000. Is there, then, any just ground for their apprehension. In my mind the reasons are decisive for applying to this question the principles on which we have proceeded in framing the other parts of the tariff. I beg the House to recollect the extraordinary increase that has taken place in the amount of cattle, sheep, and swine imported into this country from Ireland within the last few years. In 1825, the number of cattle imported from Ireland was 63,000, and in 1840 the number was 120,000. The number of sheep imported from Ireland in 1825 was 72,000, and the number increased to 193,000 in 1840. The number of swine imported from Ireland in 1825 was 65,000, and in 1840 the number was 384,000. Now, notwithstanding this enormous increase in the imports from Ireland, it has not produced the slightest effect in the reduction of the price of meat; on the contrary, the prices of all kinds of meat have gone on rising for the last few years. Taking this circumstance into consideration, and supposing that there were no extensive importation of meat or cattle, and looking also to the constant and continued increase of our population, is there any cause for alarm or consternation on the part of the graziers? In adopting the step which I now recommend to the House on the part of the Government, I have no hesitation in declaring that by adopting it we are taking a security against an exorbitant price of meat in times of scarcity. I can illustrate the view by what takes place with respect
to horses. There is at present a duty of 1l. a head on the importation of horses, and at that rate the smallest poney and the most valuable charger may be imported. Now look at the price of horses in some parts of the continent. Compare the Norman horse,—a beautiful animal— compare the price in France with the price of a horse of the same quality in this country. Why has there not been an importation of them into this country? You only levy a duty of 1l. upon all horses, and yet the amount of duty paid on the importation of horses has not been more than 400l. per annum for several years past. But what are the facts of the case? Why, that during this time we have been an exporting country for horses. I take the year 1839, I find that 389 horses were imported into this country, which paid a duty of 1l. a head; but during the same year 1,330 horses were exported. In 1840 the number of horses imported was 505, the number exported was 2,275, and in 1841 the number imported was 339, and the number exported was 4,538. I should rejoice were the same circumstances to take place with respect to cattle, and that we became an exporting country. My hopes are strong on this point, and I do not despair of seeing the day when, by the employment of capital, and the application of chemical science to agriculture, we shall have so far improved the breed of our cattle as to be enabled to export them, as well as horses. The cost of a horse is great in this country compared with the price in foreign countries, and yet we have been able to compete with other countries by the superiority of our horses; and I know no natural or necessary reason why we should not be able to supply cattle as well as horses. These, then, arc the grounds on which the measure of her Majesty's Government has been framed. I hope that in the observations which I have addressed to the House that I have so far satisfied the mind of my hon. Friend (Mr. Miles) as to induce him to drop the amendment of which he has given notice. At any rate, if he persists in pressing it. I am prepared to meet it, and shall offer it a respectful but decided resistance. And I shall certainly be curious to know the arguments upon which, considering the gradual but rapid rise of price in this country, and the limited alteration proposed in the tariff—I shall listen with interest to the arguments by which he
supports the necessity for an increased duty on the importation of foreign cattle. I deeply regret that the tariff proposed by her Majesty's Government should have had undue advantage taken of it by pretended sympathisers with the supposed sufferers to raise a panic relating to it. I have a sincere and cordial respect for the interests which apprehended that they would be affected by it, and I have therefore felt it my duty to enter into these details. Subsequent consideration and free communication with all parties have confirmed the Government in the opinion that these measures will be attended with great public advantage—that they will produce general advantage to all classes, including the agricultural class, by the reduction which we propose to make in foreign meat and cattle, and, above all, the removal of that complete prohibition which we found when we approached the subject. Not wishing to enter upon a question which has been adopted by Parliament,—I mean the question of the Corn-laws—wishing to postpone the question of sugar, till the alteration of which the noble Lord has given notice comes under discussion—not wishing to prejudice that question by an imperfect reference to it, I have fulfilled the purpose for which I rose—namely, to state the general scope and object of the commercial arrangements proposed by her Majesty's Government, and to vindicate those points which have been most subjected to animadversion. I know that many Gentleman who are strong advocates for free-trade may consider that I have not gone far enough. I believe that on the general principle of free-trade there is now no great difference of opinion, and that all agree in the general rule that we should purchase in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest. [Cheers.] I know the meaning of that cheer. I do not now wish to raise a discussion on the Corn-laws or the sugar duties, which I contend, however, are exceptions to the general rule. I have stated the grounds, on more than one occasion, why I consider these exceptions to the general rule, and I will not go into the question now. I know that I may be met with the complaints of Gentlemen opposite of the limited extent to which I have applied the general principle to which I have adverted to these important articles. I have felt satisfied that it was inexpedient to apply such important changes as I have heard suggested to these important in-
terests. I thought, after the best consideration that I could give to the subject, that, if I proposed a greater change in the Corn-laws than that which I submitted to the consideration of the House, I should only aggravate the distresses of the country, and only increase the alarm which prevailed amongst important interests. I think that I have proposed, and the Legislature has sanctioned, as great a change in the Corn-laws as was just or prudent, considering the engagements existing between landlord and tenant, and also the large amount of capital which has been applied to the cultivation of the soil. Under these circumstances, I think that we have made as great a change as was consistent with the nature of the subject. I shall postpone what I have to say on the subject of the sugar duties until the noble Lord regularly comes forward with the motion of which he has given notice, and I shall then be ready to state the reasons which have induced her Majesty's Government I to adopt the course which they have. It is impossible, in dealing in general with such immense and extensive interests, to proceed always by a strict application of the general principle, for in such cases it is of the utmost importance to proceed with caution. I believe that the true friend to general principle will argue that it is not expedient or proper to propose such a change as would produce so much individual injury as to cause general complaint, and excite a strong sympathy. I contemplate the matter in the same point of view, as this question was contemplated by a distinguished statesman, now no more, with whom it was my good fortune to act in 1825. That eminent man then proposed to make some changes in the commercial and colonial policy of the country, but the proposition which he brought forward in 1825 was not so extensive as that which I have had the honour of submitting to the House. Those measures had my cordial support and concurrence. Mr. Huskisson, when he brought them forward, prefaced his speech with these observations:ߞ
I am not anxious to give effect to new principles, where circumstances do not call for their application; feeling as I do, from no small experience in public business—and every day confirms that feeling—how much, in the vast and complex interests of this country, all general theories, however incontrovertible in the abstract, require to be weighed with a calm circumspection, to be directed by a temperate discretion, and to be adapted to all the existing
relations of society with a careful hand and a due regard to the establishments and institutions which have grown up under those relations.
§ These, I think, are just and profound, and wise opinions, and in the temper in which Mr. Huskisson, acted, I and my Colleagues have attempted to remodel and simplify the tariff by removing the prohibition on some articles, and by the reduction of duty on others, and we have proceeded with such care and caution as to produce as small an amount of individual suffering as was compatible with the end in view. I regret any suffering that may be inflicted on any parties, but if we admitted the principle of putting off the question on that account, I fear that we should have to postpone the consideration of all such questions to an indefinite period. I sincerely hope that the general result of this and the other measures will be ample compensation for any individual suffering that may be inflicted, and that the general result of the whole will be to increase the demand for the employment of industry, and which would also increase the means of the people to command the comforts and necessaries of life. We have made this proposal at a time of very considerable financial embarrassment, but in doing so, we have set an example in Europe, we have declared that we will not seek to improve our finances by increasing the duties on imports. Amidst all our financial difficulties, we have trusted to other means for replenishing the Exchequer. In the face of all these difficulties, we have come forward with a proposal greatly reducing the restrictions, and imposts on foreign articles. I deeply regret to have it to say, that other enlightened communities have not acted upon this principle. We have reserved many articles from immediate reduction, in the hope that ere long, we may attain that which we consider just and beneficial to all,—namely, increased facilities for our exports in return. At the same time, I am bound to say, that it is for the interest of this country to buy cheap, whether other countries will buy cheap from us or no. We have a right to exhaust all means to induce them to do justice, but if they persevere in refusing, the penalty is on us, if we do not buy in the cheapest market. But I believe firmly, that the example which England is now setting, will ultimately prevail. The countries I speak of may hope to retrieve their financial diffi- 385 culties by the adoption of a different course from that which we pursue; they may think to increase the revenue by increasing the imposts on foreign manufactures, but they may rely on it they will here be met by that very influential corrective of high duties—the smuggler. They can rest only on one of two measures to correct the evils arising from high duties—they must either resort to such an extensive establishment, that it will cat up all the profits, or if they neglect this, and merely impose exorbitant duties, without keeping up an exorbitant establishment, they will find that almost the entire demand for the various articles will be supplied by smugglers, and those things will be introduced by an illicit trade, which their imposts prevent the introduction of legally, and with advantage to themselves. If you look at the countries in which high protection, prohibitory protection is kept up, you will gradually find the people of those countries more and more comparing our example and the results of it, with the principle acted upon amongst themselves and the results of it. Take Spain, for instance, where, as Mr. Huskisson, among others, had pointed out, protective prohibitory duties existed in their most extensive form; what had been the effect of this system there? Eternal conflicts on the frontier, and no revenue. I regret, I say, that in other enlightened countries there is not as yet evinced a disposition to follow the example which we are now setting; and I very much regret to see any thing of this illiberal spirit in the United States, but I at the same time feel that the people of those states are too enlightened not to see that our example ought to be followed, and that they will, ere long, take care that it is followed. In Russia, attempts have been made at a most enormous and unprofitable expense, to introduce manufactures; but I am sure, that before long, the great pecuniary loss sustained in that country, by these attempts to force manufactures, will bring conviction to the minds of the people of their futility. I feel certain that the example of England adopted at this time of commercial and financial difficulty—our determination to pursue one path in the right course, will operate on foreign nations; but if we find, that our example is not followed—if we find that, instead of reducing the duties on our manufactures, they resort to the impolicy of increasing them, still this ought not, in my opinion, to operate as a discouragement 386 to us to act on the principles which we believe to be sound, those principles which will not only be immediately profitable to us, but the example of which will ultimately ensure that general application of them, which will confer reciprocal benefit both on ourselves and on all those who are wise enough to follow it.
§ Mr. Labouchere
said, that he quite felt it was in the highest degree desirable, that consistently, with fair discussion, this commercial measure of the Government should be decided on as soon as possible, in order to avoid those evils which protracted uncertainty on this subject must produce on the trading classes of the country, and he should not himself interpose on the present occasion anything more than a very few remarks upon the general character of the tariff. He had heard with very great pleasure the main principles which the right hon. Baronet had that evening laid down, and the outline of the measure which he had proposed. One observation, however, in justice to himself and to those with whom he had acted in office, he felt called upon to make; namely, that the late Government had distinctly declared, and were prepared to act upon, the opinion which was now adopted and announced by the present Administration, namely, that the time had now come, when reference to the finances of the country, and with a view to the general interests of commerce and of the nation, it was necessary that the whole of our commercial system should be revised and reformed; and he could only regret that any state of parties should have existed, which could have the effect of depriving the country of the inestimable benefit it would have derived from a measure like this having been passed at an earlier period. [" Sir James Graham: The tariff was not touched by the late Government."] The right hon. Secretary for the Home Department informed him that the tariff reform was not proposed by the late Government. The right hon. Baronet and his friends took pretty good care that the late Government should have no opportunity of proposing such a reform. But he could in turn inform the right hon. Baronet, if he was not aware of the circumstance, that the late Government actually announced a tariff reform, and, moreover, that they had a measure on the subject ready; and it would have been his gratifying duty, had the late Government 387 been permitted by the House to go on with its measures as to corn, timber, and sugar, to have followed up those measures by the introduction of a reformed tariff—it was nothing but the want of success which those three measures encountered which prevented the late Government from proposing to the House measures of a similar character and description to that brought forward by the right hon. Baronet. He had really felt it to be a duty to himself, and to those with whom he had acted in office, to remind the House of these circumstances, especially as the right hon. Baronet, in bringing forward this motion, had entirely omitted to make any reference to them, however indirectly. The right hon. Baronet had occupied a considerable portion of his speech in dealing with those objections which he said had been urged by some of the manufacturing classes of the country to the unfair manner in which as they alleged they had been dealt with in the new tariff. Now, he probably, in consequence of his late official situation, had had opportunities of seeing and conversing with many persons representing or connected with the classes said to be injured with this tariff; they had come to him for the purpose of complaining of the manner in which they were affected; and when he replied to them, "How can you expect me, with my known opinions as to the reduction of duties on imports, to oppose the Government in their reformed tariff?" They rejoined, "Yes, we know very well that you yourself proposed to deal with us in the same manner, but then, at the same time, you proposed to deal effectually with the Corn-laws too;" and the right hon. Baronet might depend upon it, that the feeling of dissatisfaction which prevailed in many quarters, on the subject of his tariff, was mainly founded upon the very general opinion that the right hon. Gentleman had dealt with the great subject of the Corn-laws in a different manner from that in which he had dealt with comparatively minor interests which were affected by the tariff. It was the conviction of the late Government that a new Corn-law, based on sound, just, and commercial principles, was an essential foundation and corner-stone to an honest and effectual tariff reform. The right hon. Baronet had mentioned a Scotch correspondent of his, who avowed himself a good free-trader in everything but herrings; the right hon. Gentleman himself somewhat 388 resembled the person of whom he spoke; the right hon. Baronet was a good free trader in everything except corn; not to mention some other important exceptions, such as sugar, which he would not enter upon that evening. He would repeat, the main and essential difference between the scheme of the late Government and that now proposed by the right hon. Baronet was this: that whereas the late Government thought it unjust, nay, impossible, to bring in a general measure of commercial reform, which must necessarily affect injuriously the interests of so many classes, without previously, or at the same time, dealing boldly and firmly with the laws restricting the importation of corn and other prime necessaries of life, such assugar, &c. The right hon. Baronet entered upon his plan of commercial reform without dealing in anything like a satisfactory manner with the subject of corn, and leaving the sugar question altogether untouched. This was the essential difference between the plan of the late and the plan of the present Government, and he could fairly say, after hearing all that had been said, that he retained his opinion, that the measures of the late Government were more just, more effectual, and more satisfactory than the measure now before the House. Premising thus much, he could assure the right hon. Baronet that he did not mean to deny that there was a great deal which was most valuable in the amended tariff he had laid on the Table. He had read with much pleasure the greater portion of the alterations proposed, and he felt sure that at no great distance of time, the effect of these changes on our commerce, manufactures, and on the general condition of the people, would be most beneficial. It was observable that some of the most useful parts of the measure were precisely those which had encountered the greatest degree of opposition throughout the country. He considered what the right hon. Baronet had said as to the importance of reducing the duties on foreign minerals and ores, especially copper ore, to be perfectly sound; indeed, the cases stated by the right hon. Baronet must have at once convinced the House on the subject. It was well known, that in consequence of the present duties, ships, which formerly used to come to England to be coppered, were now sent to Hamburg or Rotterdam for that purpose, solely because it could be done so much 389 cheaper there. The right hon. Baronet had truly stated, that in many cases where parties complained of a change in their protection, the protection they now nominally enjoyed was of no avail, because the smuggler stepped in, and undersold them. The allusion which the right hon. Baronet made to the subject of lace, reminded him of a very singular but very sensible communication he had once received from a body of lace traders, begging him to reduce the duties on foreign lace, for those duties had increased smuggling to such an enormous extent, that the fair traders were being set aside altogether, and they had in consequence opened their eyes to the fact, that their best protection would be a moderate duty instead of a prohibitory one. In the course of his speech the right hon. Baronet had triumphantly referred to his measure on the Corn-laws, as one which had been successful in greatly reducing the price of the great necessary of life; for, said he, "look to the duty now which is applicable to foreign corn, and recollect what it would have been under the old law." But what was the simple fact of the matter? Undoubtedly the nominal duty was lower now than it would be were the old law still in force; but the new sliding-scale stepped in, as the old would have done, and, in reality, foreign corn was at the present moment as much excluded as ever; there was no foreign corn coming into consumption at all now, any more than it would have come before. Now, as before, the speculators were all holding back, in the belief that prices would rise, and the duty fall lower, and still lower; the sliding-scale, in fact, was operating at the present moment precisely in the same manner that the old sliding-scale had operated, and the country was as much as ever debarred from the use of foreign corn. Having said thus much, he would only add, that he should enter upon the discussion of the new tariff with every wish to deal with it fairly and impartially, and to interpose no petty cavils or trivial objections; he considered that every measure of this sort should in a great degree be looked upon as a whole. He had had quite sufficient experience of this subject, to know that a right conclusion was much more likely to be arrived at by Ministers of the Crown discussing the various points at their office with the parties respectively interested, than could be attained by discussions in the 390 House, and he was quite ready to say, that when he agreed in the general principles of the tariff, he should raise no petty cavils at details. He should reserve till a proper occasion the statement of his opposition to a few points in the tariff, where, as he conceived, either some important principle had been violated, or some great and flagrant injustice had been committed. In conclusion, he would only say, that he rejoiced to find, that those who were prevented from carrying this measure into effect when they were in office, now saw their principle admitted, and would have the gratification, as independent Members of that House, of giving their cordial support to that measure, now that it was brought forward by their political opponents.
said, with reference to the accusation made on the other side of the House, that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had repudiated principles when in opposition, which he had adopted when in office, that that charge had been made without due examination of the facts of the case. He did not think, that the hon. Gentlemen opposite had succeeded in making out their claim to being, peculiarly, the originators of the principles of free-trade; and, as it was of great importance, that the House should have as correct a knowledge as possible, as to the pedigree of those particular dogmas, that Gentlemen opposite should not continue to consider that the country was indebted to themselves for the doctrines of free-trade, or Gentlemen on his own side imagine, that those doctrines were of such recent and modern invention as was generally supposed, he might be allowed to remind the House, that it was Mr. Pitt who first promulgated them, in 1787. At the time when this country had been deprived of the great colonial market of America, he was led to look round for new markets on the continent of Europe, and first developed that system which he considered should form the future commercial policy of the country. Mr. Pitt said, that we must begin to carry on commerce upon a system of complete reciprocity—that we roust lower our duties, and consolidate our customs. This was at a time when the Whigs ranked among their number such names as those of Fox, Sheridan, Burke, Sir Philip Francis, and the distinguished relative of the noble Viscount 391 (Viscount Howick) opposite, and yet Mr. Fox, on a question in which the principles of the then proposed commercial policy was discussed, denounced those new principles of commercial reciprocity, and said they formed altogether a new system in which not only were the established doctrines of our forefathers departed from, but all the essential principles on which our commerce had been previously conducted, were to be changed and abandoned. Mr. Burke and Mr. Sheridan also strongly opposed the commercial system recommended by Mr. Pitt. In the House of Lords, too, the opposition to it was still more strong and efficient, and the opinions of Mr. Pitt upon commerce were so far in advance of the age, that not even a Member of his own Government in the House of Lords was willing or competent to become their advocate. The task devolved on Lord Hawkesbury, not then a Member of the Administration; an able man, whose mind had been directed to such studies. Yet he could not maintain the controversy against the violent assault of Bishop Watson, who brought forward a mass of statistical details, rare materials of Parliamentary debate in those days, to prove that the system of Mr. Pitt was utterly erroneous, and that the first method of carrying it into effect, namely, a commercial treaty with France, was pregnant with ruin to British trade. It was the repeated attack of Bishop Watson, and its effect on the audience to which it was addressed, that brought from his retirement the most remarkable man of his age, Lord Shelburne. Let hon. Gentlemen read and digest the speech delivered by Lord Shelburne in answer to Bishop Watson on the French treaty; and they will then find that instead of that great progress, which we are too apt to suppose public men have made of late years, in the science of political economy, we were at this moment far behind many of the great statesmen who flourished at the end of the last century. The principles of free-trade were developed—and not by Whig s—fifty years ago; and how was it, that the Whig party now came forward, and contended, that they were the originators of these opinions? But what was the conduct of the Pitt party after the peace? Was the party which originally brought free-trade principles into notice at that period, false to those principles? If that question were fairly examined, it would 392 be found, that exactly the reverse was the case, and that, on the very first possible occasion, the Administration of Lord Liverpool showed itself in advance of the years, upon the question of a greater freedom of trade. Before Mr. Huskisson received his great and beneficial influence on the commercial legislation of this country, Mr. Wallace and Mr. Robinson had carried a series of measures founded on the true principles of this commerce; and Mr. Huskisson only prosecuted their system, and in which the right hon. Baronet now proposed, it was manifest, that he was doing neither more nor less, than carrying into effect principles which originated with Mr. Pitt. The conduct pursued by the right hon. Baronet was in exact harmony—in perfect consistency—with the principles in reference to free-trade laid down by Mr. Pitt, and his reason for saying thus much, was to refute the accusations which had been brought against the present Government, that, in order to get into, and being in, to keep office, they had changed their opinions on these subjects.
§ Mr. Hume
did not mean to follow the hon. Member who had just sat down in tracing back for the origin of free-trade principles, being perfectly content with finding that those principles were now to be acted upon. He was delighted at this result, and he hailed with joy the right hon. Baronet and his Colleagues as converts to the wisdom of the principles of free-trade. Was it not a cause of triumph that the present Government had adopted the principles of free-trade, and had not he, who, twenty-five years ago, had been reprobated for broaching free-trade doctrines, reason to rejoice when he heard the right hon. Baronet declare, that the people of this country ought to buy in the cheapest markets they could find? When he (Mr. Hume) made similar statements, he was treated as one who wanted to destroy the country, and hence it was that he was delighted to find that his own principles— the principles of free-trade—were to be the order of the day. No doubt the principles of free-trade had been adverted to in 1787; but had they not since been allowed to slumber, at least so far as the Tory party were concerned? Although the hon. Member had claimed credit for his party as free-traders, he (Mr. Hume) could only hail the hon. Gentlemen opposite as proselytes to those principles which 393 had been advocated by hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House; but he cared not to which side of the House the credit belonged, being satisfied that the principles of free-trade had at length been adopted, and he thought the result was one at which the country had great cause to rejoice. He did not hesitate to say, that they were bound to consider the whole subject with reference to the state of the country, and not to party politics. It was not a party matter, and they should therefore look at it simply in reference to the peculiar situation and exigencies of the country at the present period. Regarding the condition of trade and commerce, they were bound, not only to act with decision, but to act speedily, and, for his own part, he should throw no obstructions in the way of the measure. He must admit, that he heard the statement of the right hon. Baronet with the greatest satisfaction. That statement did the right hon. Baronet the utmost credit, and for his own part he would not upbraid the right hon. Baronet because of the reflections which had been cast upon that side of the House. He would fairly say, that the times in which they lived might account for the change which had been produced in the opinions of the right hon. Baronet and the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and he was the more ready to throw out this observation, because he thought it behoved every man to look at the great object which they had in view, independently of party or political considerations. For himself, he could only say, that he should do all in his power to support the right hon. Baronet in carrying out the principles of free-trade, which he had so ably explained to the House, and his only regret was, that the right hon. Baronet did not extend the principle which he applied to other articles of food—to corn. Had he done so, he would soon have found how admirably he could have relieved the country from the present difficulties; but it was quite evident that the present step could not be taken without being speedily followed by the removal of the Corn-laws. He regarded the present measure as an instalment, and it was on that ground that he hailed it as an advantage to the country, especially, coming as it did from the Members of the Cabinet, who had become converts to the opinion that the principle of free-trade would improve the circumstances of the country.
§ Mr. Gladstone
said, he did not rise to reply to the epithets used by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, or to argue the details of the measure, for the argument of which there would be other and ample opportunities when the matter came regularly before them. It appeared to him, considering the extraordinary importance of proceeding as speedily as possible with the contemplated changes in the tariff, that they would be but ill-discharging their duty, if they were to waste their time by indulging in discussions as to which party might claim credit or be liable to blame, or minutely inquiring as to who were the authors of the principles on which the measure under consideration was founded, and on which they were now called upon to act. The hon. Gentleman opposite stated, that the Government had come forward as converts in support of principles to which they had been previously opposed, but although he would not now enter into any controversy with the hon. Gentleman on that point, he must enter his protest against the statement, and wished to be understood as distinctly denying the truth of such an allegation. There existed no such change of either views or principles as the hon. Gentleman had stated, and the fact would be demonstrated by a reference to the commercial history of the country. Those who had watched the course of events since the war, must be aware of the truth of what he asserted, and when it was remembered, that his right hon. Friend, the First Lord of the Treasury, was the colleague of Mr. Huskisson, and had zealously co-operated with Mr. Huskisson in all his measures nearly twenty years ago, there could be no doubt whatever, that his right hon. Friend had neither changed nor abandoned his former opinions. He felt bound to say so much,. because the late Government had, in its last moments, endeavoured to blend their policy in particular with the history of the principles of free-trade, and at the fitting opportunity when the matter could be discussed without obstructing the public business, he would be prepared to show, that there was no justice whatever in their laying claim to any such association. For the present, he would be contented with the simple assertion, that if they were to take the twenty-seven years since the war, it would be found, that in no period of seven years out of the twenty-seven, had so little been done 395 for the advancement of the principles of commercial relaxation, as during the seven years through which the late Government had held office. He said this without wishing to provoke discussion at the present moment. He laid claim to no credit on the part of hon. Members on his side of the House, and made the assertion merely because of the allegation of an opposite kind which had been confidently but carelessly made by the hon. Gentleman opposite. He denied, that there was any historical foundation for the alleged charge, and he thought, that nothing was more unworthy than to impute to parties, that they were supporting opinions contrary to those which they had professed. The right hon. Gentleman, in conclusion, suggested whether, instead of indulging in personal altercations, it would not be better at once to proceed with the measure under consideration?
§ Mr. E. B. Roche
was as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down to proceed to the discussion of the main question before the House; but when that right hon. Gentleman said, there had been no alteration of opinion upon this question, he could not but take leave to remind him that when similar measures to these were brought forward by the late Government, they had heard nothing of the right hon. Baronet's undeviating adherence to free-trade opinions. When Lord Melbourne's Government introduced their great measure for the revision of the tariff—was the right hon. Baronet a free trader then? Not at all. When the measure for the alteration of the Corn-law was introduced—was the right hon. Baronet an enemy to monopoly then? Why, they heard of nothing but support of the agriculturists. When an appeal was made last year to the constituencies— were hon. Gentlemen opposite free-traders then? Why, they were anything but free traders. They took their stand, as they said, on the principle of "No surrender." They refused to permit of any modifications whatever. If he knew little of their elections, Gentlemen would give him credit at any rate for knowing something about his own, and certainly the great cry raised against him in the county of Cork was on account of his supposed desire to alter the Corn-law. But he had then foretold the present proceeding. He said to his constituents, "Let the Tories come into power, and they will alter the 396 Corn-law on our principles." Did they deny that he was a true prophet? Had they not adopted the liberal principle of modification, and effectually altered the law? But he did not rise for the purpose of entering upon recriminatory observations of this sort. Representing, as he did, the largest agricultural constituency in Ireland, he could not but look with some anxiety at this measure, and when he reminded the House of that circumstance, and also reminded them that this was the first time he had had the honour of addressing them, he was confident they would give him an attentive hearing, whilst he offered his opinions on the subject. He candidly admitted, that he had never had more difficulty in coming to a conclusion upon any question than he had had in deciding upon this. He had always advocated principles of free-trade, but when he looked at the details of this measure, he could not but see that they would be very injurious to Irish interests. Ireland largely exported corn and provisions, the latter in double proportion to the former. Now, how were the Government dealing with those interests? Were they applying the same principles to each and to both? Gentlemen opposite were great sticklers for the sliding-scale; but if they were sincere in their advocacy of that extraordinary expedient, why did they not find it necessary to apply the same principles to meat as to grain? His own opinion was decidedly favourable to a fixed duty upon both; but, looking at the measure as it stood, he did say, that they were doing a great injustice to Ireland by bolstering up their own interests by this juggle of a sliding-scale, and leaving Irish interests with a very inferior protection. But, examining more deeply into the matter—looking at the amount of duty they proposed, why they put a duty equal to'27 per cent upon corn, whilst the duty on meat was only equal to 9 per cent, thus giving a differential duty of 300 per cent in favour of the meat over the corn imported. This was a manifest injustice to the meat interest. But, still further; viewing the question as a practical agriculturist, he did say, that if they forced upon Ireland the necessity of growing corn in preference to rearing cattle, they were forcing that upon her for which she was the least fitted. On these accounts, therefore, he thought that Ireland was likely to suffer by this measure; but then 397 the question arose, did he, on that ground, intend to oppose it? Now, he looked at the feelings of his constituents, and he found that they deeply sympathised with the distressed people of this country, and that on every principle of justice and humanity they were willing and prepared to make a sacrifice to relieve their wants. He should, therefore, in compliance with their wishes and his own, give his support to the measure of the present Government; but, doing so, he would ask were they not entitled to demand some equivalent? He did not, of course, mean that they should put their hands into their pockets to relieve the wants of the Irish people; but what he did ask was, that they should give to Ireland a good and comprehensive measure of legislative justice. He asked them to consider the important question of the formation of railways in Ireland; he asked them to give Ireland a proper measure of fiscal reform—to allow the people to have some share in the administration of the funds they supplied; and he further asked for that which he feared the party opposite were loth to grant—a properly defined franchise, and one also which was more extended than the present. As one of the representatives of a people prepared to make a large pecuniary sacrifice for the general good, he did ask them to afford Ireland some compensation for her inevitable loss by turning their attention to these subjects, and adopt measures which would stimulate the people by giving them the advantages he had pointed out, as well as by awarding them the unbiassed justice to which they were so fully entitled.
§ Mr. G. Palmer
was, he said, astonished to find both parties now claiming for themselves the credit of originating and supporting free-trade. The right hon. Gentleman, the late President of the Board of Trade, very properly and very consistently claimed this, if it were a merit for himself. It was because the right hon. Gentleman had been so last year, that he had opposed him and his principles, and those principles he now also was opposed to. He believed in his conscience that the happiness and greatness of this country depended not upon free-trade, but upon protection. It was to protection they owed the maintenance of their interests, the superiority of their navy; and it was that, and that alone, that had made 398 them powerful. He must say, that if the right hon. Baronet below him had only stated last year the opinions which he had just now given utterance to, the division would not be like what it was then, and all parties would be in a very different situation now. What must have been the case if such declarations had been made at the hustings. Sure he was, that if he himself had made such declarations as he had heard that night, he should not have had fifty votes. Hon. Gentlemen might judge for themselves; but he would only say, that last year he had given his vote in one way, and he was not sufficiently acquainted with Parliamentary customs to give a vote the contrary way now. The tariff, as it was now presented to them, was composed of a mixture of all manner of contradictions. There was protection for one interest, and all protection was taken away from another. But, then, the manufacturers remained untouched. The intention to assist them was shown in lowering the duties on oils and other matters, and then there was a protection of 20 and 30 per cent, on what they produced. The agricultural interest must look, in his opinion, with much alarm upon the measures that were taking place. There was the first measure— the Corn-laws — and with regard to wheat, the right hon. Baronet had gone the full length that the agriculturists would consent to let him go. And now, having past that measure, the right hon. Baronet had been going on deeper and deeper, until at last he had come to the reduction of all protection upon some of the smaller articles, perhaps because it was though that they had no powerful advocates to contend for them. Let them, for instance, look at the article of potatoes. There was no article that was of more importance. They were told that the people of this country were short of food. Now, three times as much money was expended in the cultivation of an acre of potatoes as on an acre of corn. Not only was there so much more expended in the cultivation; but the produce was three times as nourishing in maintaining the lives of the people, as an acre of wheat. Now, that he said was not the sort of article on which they ought to try their free-trade principles. It was his opinion, that all they were doing was calculated to create alarm amongst the agriculturists. If there was nothing else to 399 alarm them, they must find it in the sort of free-trade observations of the right hon. Baronet, and that those observations had been answered by the cheers of Members on the Opposition side, not one of whom but had advocated the total repeal of the Corn-laws. It did not rejoice him to hear cheers from that side from the right hon. Baronet. But the thing went farther. The right hon. Baronet had turned to Members on the Opposition benches. The right hon. Baronet had been heard before now quoting their opinions; for instance, he had told them to attend to the opinions of the hon. Member for Bolton (Dr. Bowring), who was, he said, so well acquainted with matters of this kind, and had such great research in statistics; and the right hon. Baronet had told them, on the authority of that Gentleman, that the cattle were not yet dropped that were to be imported into this country, nor was it likely they would be dropped. But then, if that hon. Gentleman's authority was good in one case, surely it must be so in another; and that hon. Gentleman had assured them, that it they gave him a little of what he wanted now, it would enable him to secure the ultimate object of his wishes—and that was a repeal of the Corn-laws altogether. Such assertions from the other side of the House gave reason to the agriculturists to be alarmed. He, for one, felt that alarm himself, for he did not know what the right hon. Baronet might not yet do. He did not know but that similar things to what he opposed before might occur. He feared that when the right hon. Baronet had passed his tariff he would be called upon to repeal the Corn-laws. The same engine might be set to work again, the same designing individuals might use the same engine, and the multitude might be brought forward. That same engine might be brought into use that had carried the Reform Bill. The right hon. Baronet was not able to resist the Reform Bill, and he remembered the hon. Member for Montrose, on the occasion of a dinner at the London Tavern, to celebrate the triumph of the Reform Bill, had said, that the two best friends to reform were the right hon. Baronet and the noble Duke, for without them it could not be carried; for if they had not repealed the Test Acts, and if they had not carried Catholic Emancipation, they never could have had the Reform Bill.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
said, that if anything could tend more than another to make him dislike the tariff it would be the manner in which it had been received by the other side of the House. It had met with the full and entire approval of the hon. Member for Montrose, who came to the House, after his short absence, duly primed and loaded, and who had discharged his great gun no less than seventeen times the first night, displaying a degree of celerity in re-loading and firing again which could not have been executed by the best disciplined park of artillery. He had listened with great attention to the speech of the right hon. Baronet, which displayed much ingenuity, and (he should be pardoned the expression) considerable subtlety, with some fallacy. The hon. Member for Montrose said, that he was delighted with the measure of the right hon. Baronet, and he repeated, that if anything could tend more than another to make him dissatisfied with the tariff, it was the approbation of that hon. Member. But the right hon. Baronet had too strong a head to be led away by any such indication of support—he was too sensible to be caught with chaff—he would not listen to the voice of the charmers at the other side, "charm they never so wisely," and in particular to the hon. Member for Montrose. When hon. Members opposite expressed their approval of the measure of the right hon. Baronet, he remembered that he had read at school—Timeo Dana'ios et dona ferentes.And he could assure those hon. Members that they were too wise at his side of the House to be affected by that praise. He cautioned the right hon. Baronet against listening to the voice of those charmers opposite.
The Order of the Day read for the House resolving itself into committee on the Customs' Duties Acts.
On the motion that the Speaker do now leave the Chair,
§ Viscount Howick
said, that the attention of the House had been already so much occupied, and for such a length of time, that perhaps it would be more convenient for the House if he were to postpone his resolution for the present, and bring it on again the next evening on which the House went into committee upon the tariff.
rose to move "for any additional details which may have been 401 supplied by Mr. Meek to the Government, relative to the importation of agricultural produce, salt provisions, &c, or any passage or passages which may have been suppressed." He said he feared, that after the conduct of the noble Lord who had just sat clown, he might not be considered in strict order in pressing the motion of which he had given notice. Nevertheless, he would, in a few words, state what he wished to say, and the grounds of his motion, which he hoped the House would agree to. He found, on comparing the original document with the report laid upon the Table of the House that certain passages had been suppressed in the latter, particularly some statements of Mr. Meek with reference to the contract prices of salt meat and the expense of importation. With reference to these additional details at pages 49 and 50 of Mr. Meek's report, the original document went on to state, that "the last contract prices for navy beef were, per tierce, 71. 5s. 4.d; pork, 71. 3s. 6d. "And this statement was wound up by one which, as coming from the head of the victualling department in the navy, was one which was entitled to very serious consideration; that statement was the following:—As the Hamburg salt meat is so much cheaper than the Irish, and equally as good in every respect, it may become a question for consideration, whether a portion of Hamburg meat, as a measure of economy, shall not, upon payment of a 12 per cent, duty, be permitted to be tendered when the salt-meat contracts are arranged next summer.It was thus fully admitted, that the meat could bear the duty, and still afford a sufficient profit. The difference between the contract prices in this country, and those which might be concluded at Hamburgh, was then thus stated:—
|English contract for beef, per tierce||£7 5 4|
|Hamburgh, including freight and all other charges, Deduct duty||4 8 0|
|£2 17 4|
|Deduct duty||0 12 4|
|Difference||£2 5 0|
|And then as regarded pork:|
|English contract||£7 3 6|
|Hamburgh ditto||4 11 0|
|2 12 6|
|Deduct duty||0 12 6|
|Difference||£2 0 6|
§ The tierce being 304 lbs., of 12 stone, it followed, that including duty and all other charges. Hamburgh beef could be had in our markets under 4d. per lb. If the whole of this report had been given, he believed that the consequences would have been a very strong protest from the agriculturists against the measure now submitted to the House. It would only have been fair to have given the report entire and unmutilated, while his conviction was, that upwards of twelve pages of the report had been suppressed. If the case had been more fairly stated, he thought that the consequences would have been most disadvantageous to the Government. There was, he observed, a difference in the paging of the two documents, which could not be properly accounted for, and he thought that there existed a necessity for giving the document in full before going into committee upon the tariff. The hon. and gallant Member concluded by proposing his motion.
seconded the motion. It was a matter of the utmost importance that all details of the information received should be laid before them. It was most notorious that there had been considerable panic among the agriculturists, and if the whole of the details on which the Government had, in part at least, grounded their measure were not to be made public, he believed that that panic would be increased. It would be supposed that they were discussing a question on information, the whole of which they were not possessed of, or, at least, which they were not quite sure they possessed in as correct a state as it could be given to them. He thought that it would only be doing justice to the agriculturists to give their members the whole of the information possessed by Government. He trusted that they would not be asked to decide upon the question, without having the information which, whether it might be valuable or not—and that was a question he was not called upon to decide—it was yet clearly their right to be in possession of. For these reasons he would support the motion of the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Mr. Gladstone
said, that he was really at a loss to discern the great importance which the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite seemed to attach to the subject of his motion if he were to judge from 403 his bringing it forward, as he did, at the moment when the House was on the eve of going into committee upon such an important and extensive subject as that now under its notice. He trusted, however, that the agriculturists would be alive to the importance and the gigantic nature of the effort which was now being made by the hon. Gentleman to shield them from impending ruin. But trifling as he conceived the nature of the motion to be, he must ask the House to negative it, because in cases in which Gentlemen were sent confidentially by a Government for the purpose of collecting certain information, it rested, as he conceived, with that Government to determine what part of that information should be reserved for their own use, and what portion of it should be laid before Parliament and the public, provided, of course, it were so done as not to produce false impressions. He never heard that there could be a doubt upon such a question. In the volumes which they had seen laid upon the Table of the House of confidential communications from ambassadors, governors of colonies, and other functionaries, it was a matter of course that there should be a power of selection vested in the Government. But he did not now require to claim the exercise of this right to withhold information. He had now come to his second objection to the motion, an objection which was founded upon the fact that there had really been no suppression and no omission of any information whatever; there was merely an omission of certain pro formâ bills, invoices of shipping corn, &c, which were not information, but merely hypothetical, and to a certain extent, arbitrary invoices or arrangements in the form of invoices, of the information contained in other parts of the report; there was also certainly the omission of the name of a party who had furnished certain information with respect to the trade of Hamburgh, and whose wish it was, that his name should be suppressed; that wish had been complied with; his name had been suppressed, but his information had been fully given. Reference had, however, been further made to some statements regarding salt meat in Hamburgh, which had been struck out, and which it was now, on the part of Government, refused to supply. If hon. Gentlemen who happened to have a copy of Mr. Meek's report would turn to 404 the forty-ninth page, they would find some statements relative to the terms at which salt meat could be supplied at Hamburgh. The prices of pork and beef were there given, and it was stated at what prices these provisions could be obtained for navy contracts. Mr. Meek, after giving the information in question, acting not so much in the capacity of a commissioner of inquiry as the head of the victualling department of the navy, made a very proper allusion to the prices at which the navy contracts had been concluded during the last year, and he concluded by asking whether it would not be worth while that Hamburgh meat should be received for the navy after the payment of the necessary duties. Such was the nature of the passage omitted, and the reason of its being left out was, that it belonged to the administration of Mr. Meek's department, and was irrelevant to the subject of his inquiry. At the same time, he did not mean to say, that any positive mischief would have resulted from its insertion, and it was a matter of but little consequence originally, either one way or the other. The navy contracts were no secret, and the hon. and gallant Member might very easily, if he chose, ascertain at what prices provisions were purchased under these contracts by moving for their production. As regarded the difference in the paging of the two documents, it had merely arisen from a difference in the type in which they had been printed. He objected, then, to the motion before the House, both in the abstract, because he thought that the Government had a right to withhold, according to their judgment, any parts of confidential statements: and, on the other ground, because no information had in the present case been suppressed, but every detail and particular information which Mr. Meek had stated had been fully and immediately supplied to the House.
§ Mr. M. Attwood
thought that the House ought to have before it as much information as possible on the subject which was before them. If they left this branch of trade to itself, to the natural operations of supply and demand, they would find that the evil would soon cure itself. That had happened on former occasions, and they would find that the price would be reduced without any occasion for Legislative interference. He thought in discussing a question of this kind the House were bound 405 to examine every part with the most scrupulous anxiety. If it was shown that any information was withheld that ought to be given, he would support any motion for giving to the House the fullest opportunity of examining this question.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, as the House is now somewhat more full than when I made my statement at an earlier part of the evening I will refer to what I then stated. I stated what was the fact, that for several recent years a gradual advance had taken place in the price of provisions. I took the year 1835, when I said distinctly that the price of meat and pork was at its lowest point, and I showed that from 1835 to 1840, a progressive increase of price had taken place—I stated that at the same time a considerable increase had taken place in the price of cattle imported from Ireland. I stated, that taking the prices at Greenwich Hospital in 1840, as compared with 1835, the difference of price in meat alone made a difference in the cost of that establishment for that year of not less than 4,000l. I then took the price of provisions in France and Belgium and this country, and I argued, from the gradual and progressive advance in the price of provisions in those countries that there were no grounds for the apprehensions that were entertained in some part of the country, that the price of cattle would be materially lessened by importation from those countries. With respect to Holstein and Jutland, I admitted that there might be some supply, but that there was no probability of such an increase as would have any serious effect on the price of provisions in this country—seeing that within the last six years, notwithstanding the facilities afforded by steam navigation, the prices of meat in most of the public establishments had progressively increased during each of these years. Seeing that this had taken place, I stated that I thought the time was come when competition with respect to live animals and meat might be safely permitted. This was the statement which I made to the House with respect to this part of the subject. Now, with respect to the particular motion before the House, I must say, that there must have been somewhere or other a gross breach of trust. These papers were printed solely for the use of the Government. The whole of the material information was extracted from them, and given to the House. So much was this the case that it might be 406 remarked that Mr. Meek was never alluded to, and the measures proposed by the Government were at variance with the information furnished by Mr. Meek. But supposing that those papers, containing information procured by a servant of the Government for the service of the Government, contained information given by an individual, who said, that he would communicate all the information in his power, but he did not wish to have his name made public. Supposing this to be the case, does the House think that it would have a right to compel the Government to disclose the name of that individual. The Government gave the House all the information they possessed; they gave the House all the facts; and as to the suppression of particular passages, the charge is altogether without foundation. We gave you the prices of meat at Hamburgh —we gave you the prices taken for the navy contracts—we gave you everything material—but a gentleman officially connected with the Victualling Office makes an observation with respect to the expediency of taking the contracts for the navy from other countries; and does the House think that we ought to give this communication, intended for the Government alone? Well, then, take the case of an individual supplying information for the use of the Government, requesting that his name might not be disclosed. Would it not, I ask, be a breach of all confidence to disclose the name of that individual. We have given you all the information with reference to the tenor of the measures we have proposed. We have given you. the price of the contracts, and you may have the navy contracts if you think it necessary; but I think it would be going too far, when a gentleman connected with the Victualling Office makes a suggestion to the Government, that the Government should be called upon to communicate that information to the House. There is the other case of an individual communicating information to the Government, under the assurance that his name will not be disclosed, and I say that if the House compels us to give this information there is an end to all confidence. We have withheld nothing in the shape of information contained in the report of Mr. Meek. We have given you all the facts. In the exercise of our discretion we have withheld particular passages, which I maintain we were justified in doing, I say, then, con- 407 sidering that there has been a gross breach of confidence on the part of somebody in giving to the hon. Member information intended for the Government, I trust that the House will not compel the Government to give information that has been so presented to them.
Lord J. Russell:
If the motion now made were calculated to produce public inconvenience, I should not support it. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade alludes to the case of public despatches. Undoubtedly, if the production of the despatches were detrimental to the public service, I should be satisfied with that avowal, without asking for a further ground of refusal. In like manner, when it was urged that divulging the name of a gentleman who had given information to an officer of the Government was a breach of trust, and that difficulties would be thereby thrown in the way of communications hereafter to be made, I think that a sufficient ground for not producing this gentleman's name, and, of course, my hon. and gallant Friend will not press for its production. But with respect to the information which my hon. and gallant Friend chiefly calls for, I think, in refusing its production, he has taken away the reasons for not divulging it. "No public inconvenience," says the right hon. Gentleman—" No injury can possibly flow from its production. "Then the question reduces itself to this—the Government having thought fit to lay these papers on the Table of the House, and not confining them to their own cognizance, should they not be asked to produce facts which are suspected to be important, and which are of a strictly statistical nature. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) says, that the Government has laid before the House all that it is important it should know; but, according to his own statement, Mr. Meek, who is at the head of the victualling department, and therefore the most competent judge, drew certain inferences from the prices which he found to exist, and which were to this effect:— "If such and such provisions were bought for the navy, might they not be supplied in a better manner? "If such is not the tenor of the gentleman's observations, I think it clearly better that the observations themselves should be produced; because the position which he holds under the Government renders his opinion most important. Be it of little or great importance, 408 however, it is of a statistical kind; it refers to the general question. Of the price of provisions, it does not contain any secrets by the publication of which the public service would be at all injured, and it ought therefore, in my judgment, to be produced. I do not impute any blame to the Government for having excluded this matter from their first report. It may have struck them as not important with regard to the subject to which it refers, but being once called for, I do not think there should be any hesitation concerning its production.
§ Mr. S. Wortley
said, he could not help expressing his surprise that, at the moment when they were engaged about matters of the greatest and gravest importance, they should be interrupted in that paramount duty by the introduction of a topic so utterly unproductive of any information which might assist them in their present inquiry. They were called on by their constituents to address themselves with all convenient speed to the adjustment of commercial regulations of great and solemn interest to the whole population of the country; instead of which the hon. and gallant Member now invited them to employ their time in fighting with a shade. For his part he was perfectly satisfied with the explanation of the reason for not producing the whole of the document offered by the right hon. Baronet, and persuaded that nothing had been withheld which would enable them to come to a proper decision upon the question before the House. For this reason, therefore, he could not give his support to the motion.
§ Sir G. Grey
admitted that an unnecessary delay had taken place; but it was on account of the refusal of the Government to give information which would enable the House to come to a right decision upon this subject. The whole blame—if blame there were—rested on the right hon. Gentleman, who resisted a reasonable proposal, which his hon. and gallant Friend thought essential to the proper discussion of the question on which they had entered. If the suppressed part of the report were immaterial, why not allow the House to judge of the fact? But he must say, it was establishing a dangerous precedent, that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade should say, "The facts you ask for I have seen, and they are, in my opinion, immaterial; and therefore it is unnecessary to divulge 409 them." Such an announcement tended, undoubtedly, to establish the omnipotence of the Government, but not at all the omnipotence of Parliament.
agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for the North Riding of Yorkshire, that a great deal of time had been lost in discussing this subject, and he must add that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had exhibited much unnecessary warmth in refuting imputations supposed to be thrown on the opposite side of the House. He admitted, that the paper was perfectly immaterial; but it was confidential and irrelevant. All the real information which the Government received from Mr. Meek they produced, and laid before the House. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) admitted they were not to blame for omitting this suggestion, which had been called for, from their report. The passages on which the Government was charged with suppressing information, contained a suggestion of Mr. Meek for the conduct of his own department, and also the name of the gentleman who had communicated some information. The report before the House gave the price of the meat, the freight, and every possible information which could be deemed material. But Mr. Meek wrote, on this fact, a sort of private commentary, "Would it not be wise if Hamburgh provisions were resorted to for victualling our navy?" It would be establishing a dangerous precedent to accede to the motion before the House. In consequence of a breach of confidence on the part of some servants of the Government, the hon. and gallant Member had become possessed of the contents of part of a document, and then he thought it consistent with his duty, as a Member of Parliament, to come down to the House and move for the production of the original passage, a knowledge of which had been acquired by such means. The passage in itself was immaterial, but the precedent sought to be established was not immaterial. If the House should insist upon the Government communicating the information, it would establish a most dangerous precedent.
§ Mr. Sheil
said, it might be a bad precedent for the Government to be compelled to give information which they did not wish to disclose, and a knowledge of which had been obtained in consequence of a breach of confidence committed by some person in their employment; but it 410 was a still worse precedent for the Government to produce a document, purporting to be perfect and complete, and to omit a passage which they alleged to be immaterial, but respecting the materiality of which the House ought to be the best judge. The Government had in this matter been convicted of a suppressio veri, if not of the suggestio falsi. The document before the House certainly professed to be perfect, and Mr. Meek's name was attached to it. It was made the foundation of a great change in the financial and commercial policy of the country, and under these circumstances, the whole of it ought to have been laid before Parliament. If the Government thought it would be prejudicial to the public service to publish certain portions of the report, that fact should have been stated in a note. As that course had not been pursued, the House was justified in insisting upon the production of the passage that had been suppressed.
§ Mr. Muntz
wanted no other proof that the information sought to be obtained was important, than the fact that Minister after Minister had risen to declare that it was of no value. Hon. Members opposite were the persons most interested in the production of the document. If they chose to give up the advantages they possessed, without inquiring into the grounds upon which it was proposed that they should do so, they would have nobody but themselves to blame; though he had little doubt that when they began to suffer they would turn round upon the Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House, and attribute their misfortunes to them. He was satisfied that there was something in the passage which had been omitted, not only by the general denial of Ministers, but by the manner of the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. There was a great deal in manner.
§ Mr. Christopher
was quite convinced by the candid statement of the Vice-President of the Board of Trade that the information which the hon. and gallant Member sought to obtain by his motion was of no importance whatever. He was dissatisfied with what he had already seen of Mr. Meek's reports, and wished for nothing more from the same quarter. He would vote against the motion, because its adoption would establish a bad precedent.
§ Mr. J. O'Connell
said, that the hon. 411 Member who spoke last always professed a great desire to serve his agricultural friends, but it unfortunately happened that they never could get the benefit of his vote, which was invariably recorded in favour of Ministers. He had heard nothing which satisfied him that the information sought to be obtained was not very important, and for that reason. After having observed the course of the noble Secretary for the Colonies in that House, nothing had ever surprised him more than to hear the noble Lord deprecate a display of warmth and loss of temper upon this occasion.
§ Mr. Lambton
thought with hon. Members on his (the Opposition) side of the House, that if the motion should be agreed to, the House would establish the precedent that henceforth no Government whatever would be justified in withholding information from the House. He could not help thinking that if the late Government had been in power they would not have maintained the doctrine which they were now endeavouring to establish. There was one circumstance which threw suspicion and discredit upon the motion; the information of the hon. and gallant Mover must have been obtained by a gross breach of confidence. The House had received no explanation upon that point; but they ought to be informed of the mode in which the hon. and gallant Member obtained his information.
§ Viscount Sandon
asked the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Dr. Bowring), as we understood, whether the late Government had printed his reports in the form in which they had been presented to them.
declared his intention of voting for the motion. The House ought to look to something more than the mere party speeches on each side; they should consider what the public would think upon the occasion; and if they believed that no government interest would be compromised, they should insist upon the production of the information.
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, the question which his noble Friend the Member for Liverpool had put to the hon. Member for Bolton was formerly proposed to the Ex-secretary for Foreign Affairs, upon which occasion Lord Palmerston avowed that certain portions of the hon. Member's reports had been withheld because it was considered that their publication would be prejudicial to the public service. No such reason had 412 been assigned upon the present occasion. The only ground upon which the production of the information was resisted was, that it was not material. He protested against the Government taking upon themselves to determine what information it was or was not material for the House to be in possession of.
said, he had derived his information from a person in no respect connected with the Government, and it was probable he had acquired the page of Mr. Meek's report through the carelessness of the head of one of the departments. [Cheers.'] He did not understand the meaning of that cheer. He repeated that the person who had furnished him with the information had become possessed of it without any breach of confidence on his part.
§ The House divided on the question that the Speaker do now leave the Chair:— Ayes 219; Noes 152: Majority 67.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Campbell, Sir H.|
|Acland, T. D.||Campbell, A.|
|A'Couri, Capt.||Cardwell, £.|
|Ackers, J.||Cholmondeley,hn" H.|
|Acton, Col.||Christopher, R. A.|
|Adderley, C, B.||Chute, W. L. W.|
|Alford, Visct.||Clayton. R. R.|
|Allix, J. P.||Clements, H. J.|
|Ashley, Lord||Clerk, Sir G.|
|Astell, W.||Clive, hon. R. H.|
|Bagot, hon. W.||Cochrane, A.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Collett, W. R.|
|Baillie, Col.||Compton, H. C.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Conolly, Col.|
|Baird, W.||Coote, Sir C. H.|
|Balfour, J. M.||Corry, rt. hon. H.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Courtenay, Lord|
|Barrington, Visct.||Cresswell, B.|
|Bell, M.||Cripps, W.|
|Beresford, Capt.||Damer, hon. Col.|
|Beresford, Major||Darby, G.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Denison, E. B.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Divett, E.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Dodd, G.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Douglas, Sir H.|
|Bradshaw, J.||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Douro, Marquess of|
|Broadley, H..||Duffield, T.|
|Broadwood, H.||Duncombe, hon. O.|
|Brooke, Sir A. B.||East, J. B.|
|Brownrigg, J. S.||Eaton, R. J.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Egerton, W. T.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Egerton, Sir P.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Eliot, Lord|
|Escott, B.||Mackenzie, T.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Farnham, E. B.||M'Geachy, F. A.|
|Fellowes, E.||Mahon, Visct.|
|Ferrand, W, B.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Flower, Sir J,||Marsham, Visct.|
|Follett, Sir W. W.||Martin, C. W.|
|Ffolliott, J.||Marlon, G.|
|Forbes, W.||Master, T. W. C.|
|Forster, M.||Masterman, J.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Maunsell, T. P.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Gladstone,rt.hn.W.E.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Gordon, hn. Capt.||Mordaunt.Sir J.|
|Gore, M.||Morgan, O.|
|Gore, W. O.||Morgan, C.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Mundy, E. M.|
|Goring, C.||Murray, C. R. S.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Neeld, J.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Neville, R.|
|Granby, Marquess of||Newry, Visct.|
|Greenall, P.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Greene, T.||Norreys, Lord|
|Grimston, Visct.||Packe, C. W.|
|Grogan, E.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Halford, H.||Patten, J. W.|
|Hamilton, C. J. B.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Hamilton, J. H.||Peel, J.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Hampden, R.||Price, R.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Pringle, A.|
|Hardy, J.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Reade, W. M.|
|Hepburn, Sir T. B.||Reid, Sir J. R.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Richards, R.|
|Hill, Sir R.||Rolleston, Col.|
|Hillsborough, Earl of||Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Hodgson, F.||Round, C. G.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Round, J.|
|Hornby, J.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Ingestrie, Visct.||Russell, J. D. W.|
|Irton, S.||Ryder, hon. G. D.|
|Jackson, J. D.||Sanderson, R.|
|James, Sir W. C.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Scott, hon. F.|
|Jocelyn, Visct.||Seymour, Sir H. B.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Johnstone, H.||Sheppard, T.|
|Jones, Capt.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Kelburne, Visct.||Smith, A.|
|Kemble, H.||Smythe, hon. G.|
|Knatchbull, rt. hon.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Sir E.||Stanley, Lord|
|Knight, H. G.||Stanley, E.|
|Lambton, H.||Stewart, J.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Stuart, H.|
|Law, hon. C. E.||Sturt, H. C.|
|Legh, G. C.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Leicester, Earl of||Thompson, Mr. Ald.|
|Lindsay, H. H.||Tollemache, J.|
|Lowther, J. H.||Tomline,G.|
|Lowther, hon. Col.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Lyall, G.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Lygon, hon. General||Trotter, J.|
|Turnor, C.||Wood, Col.|
|Tyrell, Sir J. T.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Vere, Sir C. B.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Verner, Col.||Wyndham, Col. C.|
|Vesey, hon. T.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Vivian, J. E.||Young, J.|
|Waddington, H. S.||TELLERS.|
|Wakley, T.||Baring, H.|
|Wilbraham,hon. R. B.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acheson, Visct.||Fox, C. R.|
|Aldam, W.||French, F.|
|Archbold, R.||Gibson, T. M.|
|Bagge, W.||Gill, T.|
|Bankes, G.||Gordon, Lord F.|
|Bannerman, A.||Gore, hon. R.|
|Barclay, D.||Granger, T. C.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Greenaway, C.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Bell, J.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Hatton, Capt. V.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Hay, Sir A. L.|
|Berkeley, hon. G.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Bernal, R.||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Heneage, E.|
|Blake, Sir V.||Henley, J. W.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Heron, Sir R.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Brotherton, J.||Hollond, R.|
|Buck, L. W.||Howard, hn. C. W. G.|
|Bulkeley,Sir R. B. W.||Howard, Lord|
|Buller, E.||Howard, hon. E.G.G.|
|Busfeild, W.||Howard, P. H.|
|Byng, G.||Howard, hon. H.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Howick, Visct.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Hume, J.|
|Chapman, B.||Hurophery, Mr. Ald.|
|Chetwode, Sir J,||Johnston, A.|
|Childers, J. W.||Knight, F. W.|
|Clements, Visct.||Labouchere,rt. hon.H.|
|Cobden, R.||Langston, J. H.|
|Colborne, hn.W. N.R.||Leader, J. T.|
|Colville, C. R.||Listowel, Earl of|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B.|
|Craig, W. G.||M.Taggart, Sir J.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Maher, V.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Marshall, W.|
|Drax, J. S, W. E.||Martin, J.|
|Duff, J.||Miles, W.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Mitcalf, H.|
|Duncan, G.||Morris, D.|
|Duncombe, T.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Dundas, Admiral||Murphy, F. S.|
|Dundas, F.||Murray, A.|
|Easthope, Sir J.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Ellice, E.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Ellis, W.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Esmonde, Sir T.||Palmer, R.|
|Evans, W.||Parker, J.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Philips, G. R.|
|Fitzroy, Lord C.||Plumridge, Capt..|
|Pryse, P.||Traill, G.|
|Pulsford, R.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Pusey, P.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Rawdon, Col.||Tufnell, H.|
|Redington, T. N.||Turner, E.|
|Roche, E. B.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Rumbold, C. E.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Rundle, J.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Wall, C B.|
|Scholefield, J.||Ward, H. G.|
|Scrope, G. P.||Watson, W H.|
|Seymour, Lord||Wawn, J. T.|
|Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.||White, H.|
|Smith, B.||Williams, W.|
|Smith, rt. hon. R. V.||Wilshere, W.|
|Somerville, Sir W. M.||Winnington, SirT. E,|
|Stansfield, W. R. C.||Wood, B.|
|Stanton, W. H.||Wood, C.|
|Stuart, W. V.||Wood, G. W.|
|Talbot, C. R. M.||TELLERS.|
|Tancred, H. W.||Vivian, Major|
|Thornelv, T.||Worsley, Lord|
§ House in committee pro formâ. Resumed.— Committee to sit again.