§ On the question that the House should resolve itself into a committee on the Customs Duties Acts,
was desirous of making a short statement as to that part of the public revenue which was received from Ireland. The right hon. Baronet had informed the House that the effect of the temperance movement had been diminished to a considerable extent, and therefore that he expected to receive more revenue from that country than he had hitherto done. He wished to lay before the House a statement to show that the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken. Since the right hon. Gentleman's speech, the revenue returns had been printed, and he was happy to say that the amount received for spirit licenses, from malt, and from spirits had considerably diminished during the last three years. The revenue of Ireland, indeed, had been augmented during the last year by 90,823l., notwithstanding the diminution in the produce of excisable articles. The new movement 889 did not take place till after the year 1838,1 and he would therefore begin from that year. In the year ending 5th January, 1838, the produce from licenses was 123,739l.; in the year ending 5th January, 1839, the produce was 128,494l being an increase on the year of 4,755l.; in the year ending 5th January, 1840, the produce was 122,705l, being a decrease on the year of 5,789l.; in the year ending 5th January, 1841, the produce was 106,436l., being a further decrease of 16,269l.; and in the year ending 5th January, 1842,the produce was only 95,980l., being a still further decrease on the year of 10,456l. making a decrease on spirits in three years of 32,514l. In the produce of the duty on malt there had been also a great decrease. In the year ending 5th January, 1838, the amount received for the tax on malt, was 282,393l.; in the year ending 5th January, 1839, the amount was 289,869l., being an increase on the year of 7,476l.; but in the year ending 5th January. 1840 the amount was only 242,561l.,being a decrease on the year of 47,308l.; in the year ending 5th January, 1841, the amount received was 200,108l., being a further decrease on the year, of 42,453l.; and in the year ending 5th January, 1842, the amount received was 165,153l., showing a still further decrease of 34,955l. on the year, making a total decrease in three years of 124,716l. With regard to spirits, the revenue from this source, for the year ending 5th January, 1838, was 1,374,429l.; that amount increased in the year ending 5th January, 1839, to 1,510,092l., being an increase of 135,663l.; but in the year ending 5th January, 1840, it began to decrease, the amount was only 1,402,130l., being a decrease of 107,962l.; in the year ending 5th January, 1841, it fell to 1,032,582l., making a further decrease of 369,548.; and in the year ending 5th January, 1842, the amount received was 964,711l, making a decrease on the year of 67,871l. But this sum of 964,711l. represented a much smaller consumption of spirits, for 93,066l. was the amount calculated by Mr. Baring as the additional produce of the Ad. a gallon laid on by him last year. The total decrease on the actual produce of the spirit duties during the three years was 545,381l., to which, if the 93,066l. additional duty were added, the real decrease would be 638,447l. The whole decrease in the revenue from 890 spirit licenses, malt, and spirits, during the last three years, was therefore 795,677l. And yet the whole revenue from Ireland was increased, notwithstanding this temperance movement, from the increased produce of other excise-able articles. The revenue of 1841 was 4,107,866l., and it was increased in 1842 to 4,198,689l., showing an increase of 90,823l. The revenue on tobacco and snuff, in the last year alone, had increased in Ireland by 33,601l.; and the revenue on tea in Ireland had increased, during the year, 80,639l. So that while there was an increase on other articles, there was a diminution of revenue to the amount of nearly 800,000l. in spirits and malt, and as the revenue was made up from other sources, there could be no regret, in the minds of other persons, that this result should have occurred. This great diminution of revenue from spirits was distinctly to be traced to the effects of increased habits of temperance amongst the people of Ireland.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
was not prepared with any figures to give an answer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman; but the statement which he had made was perfectly reconcileable with that which was made by his right hon. Friend. The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of a yearly decrease, while his right hon. Friend spoke of an increase in the quarter. No person could be more rejoiced than he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was at the increase of temperance which took place in Ireland; and he agreed with the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, that no greater advantage could have happened to the morality of the country than the increased habits of temperance now practised by the people.
Mr. O 'Connell
said, it should be remembered there was an additional duty of 4d. which would account for the quarter's increase.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that he had alluded merely to a small increase in this quarter's revenue, as showing a faint symptom of change. With regard to the revenue, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would point out to them from what other sources they were to obtain 200,000l.
thought that they had had more than enough already.
House in committee on the Customs Acts.,
891 Several items were agreed to.
On the item that the duty on train oil and blubber, of foreign fishing, shall be 6l.; and the duty on spermaceti oil, of foreign fishing, 15/. the tun, and on the question that the duly shall take effect from and after the 5th day of July, 1843,
§ Mr. Lyall
rose to propose that the duty should take effect only from and after the 5th day of July, 1844. The hon. Member quoted the opinion of Mr. Huskisson, that whenever the interests of commerce and those of navigation could not be reconciled, the interests of commerce ought to give way to those of navigation. Navigation had been excepted from the principles of free-trade by all the great statesmen of this country; and by the founder of political economy, Adam Smith, who was in favour of making the navigation laws even more strict than they were at present. The hon Member concluded by moving the insertion of the words, "5th day of July, 1844," instead of "5th day of July, 1843."
§ Mr. G. Palmer
said, that he had no chance of being called a monopolist in supporting this amendment, for it was in favour of the country generally. Ever since the Navigation Act, the fisheries had been considered a paramount object to this country. The home fisheries had been considered as the first nursery of seamen, and the distant fisheries as perfecting their character. What was the situation of the country at this moment as to this particular trade? At the end of the last war this country thought it of so much importance to encourage the fisheries, that we gave a bounty of 39l. per tun on all ships engaged in the fisheries, whether the train or spermaceti oil fisheries. That bounty was taken off in 1823. In the year previous to that the number of British ships engaged in the fishery was 322, and the number of seamen 12,788, every one of whom was made a perfect seaman, in fact, seamen capable of manning the largest fleet that ever went to sea. We were now reduced to eighty-five ships. To what had it been owing? Entirely owing to the want of encouragement given to these fisheries—to the withdrawal of the bounty in the first instance, and the gradual decrease of trade from that time. In 1821 the ships engaged in the trade were 322, with 12,788 seamen; at this moment there were eighty-five ships with only 3,008 seamen—-a diminution in three years of 892 9,000 perfect seamen. This was a matter which concerned the Ministers. It did not belong to him as an individual, however much he might feel for the character and credit of the country, but Ministers were answerable. As far as his duty was concerned, he had nothing to do but to state that it was a most mischievous thing to reduce the protective duty on the fisheries. The withdrawal of this protection from the fisheries would, of itself, do a serious injury to the country. As far as individuals were concerned, he asked for time to enable them to complete the engagements which they had entered into on the faith of the existing law. The southern fisheries were different in their character from those commercial undertakings in which shipowners were generally engaged. A fishing voyage was a speculation in which all parties were concerned from the owners to the very seamen. Each man had a share, whether one-tenth or one-hundredth. They went out, knowing that they received a certain protection in their trade, they received 8l. or 10l. as an outfit, and their families had an allowance whilst they were away. They would be engaged in the fishery for three years, and after they had been absent one year ships might arrive at the same port from England the next year. They would naturally inquire the news, they would hear of the reduction of the duty, and find that instead of receiving 100l. they were in debt. They would, therefore, most likely be induced to leave the ship and look for employment somewhere else abroad. What was the case as to America? When we had 322 ships, America had only sixty sail engaged in the fishery. America had now 634 ships manned by 17,000 seamen, whilst ours were reduced to eighty-five ships, manned by 3,000 seamen. As ships engaged in the fishery were not out less than three years some allowance should be made to those which had already sailed without intimation of the tariff.
§ Mr. Gladstone
said, that though he trusted that the House would not support the motion of the hon. Gentleman, yet he could assure him that he was much mistaken if he thought that there was any disposition on the part of the Government not adequately to protect British fisheries. They fully admitted the value of the principle which the hon. Gentleman had laid down, but the only difference between his proposal and the proposal of the Govern- 893 ment was a question as to time. The Government proposed that the duty should commence in 1843. The voyage generally lasted three years, and the spring season was the period for departure. So the vessels which set sail this spring would go with a notice of what was intended. The vessels which sailed next year would know likewise, and so the vessels which sailed last year were the only vessels that were entitled to consideration. With respect to the adventures of this single year, if the change proposed was likely to produce a fundamental revolution in the markets, he would admit that they would have strong claims for pecuniary compensation. But he would contend, that there was no shadow of reason for maintaining that the price of sperm oil would be a bit less profitable than it had been, or than it ought to be. The average price for the last eleven years was 79l. 10s., and, according to the opinion of Mr. Henderby, the price in America was about 60l. The cost of transport was 4l., and when it arrived in this country a duty of 15 per cent. was levied, making the price 79l. 16s. So the average price in England was 79l. 10s., and the price of American oil would be in the English market 79l. 16s. There was no danger, therefore, of competition unless the price of American oil was under 60lWhat were the facts? In 1840 the price was 72l. and at that price 1,500 tuns had been brought in. In $1841 the price was 63ld then only 520 tuns came in. He, therefore, asked, when the Government took the price at 60l., how could the British fisheries be injuriously affected? What was the real danger to the trade? The fact was notorious, that in every oil shop at the west end of the town there was advertised a substitute for sperm oil, arising —as it was sure to arise—from the excessive prices which were caused by the excessive duties. From 1831 to 1835 the average price was 67l, and the supply was 4,700 tuns. From 1836 to 1841 the price was 89l. 13s. 4d. and the supply had fallen to 3,300 tuns. The excessive duties had led to all sorts of substitutes—those substitutes caused a diminution of price, and that diminished price oppressed the market. The market wanted relief, and he said, that that relief would be afforded by the change which the Government proposed. It was right that the committee should know the present state of the market. In 1831 the number of ships entered inwards from the whale fishery 894 was 111, and the price of oil was 76l. per tun.
|Number of Ships.||Price.|
§ and in 1841 the number of ships entered inwards was forty, and only thirty out-wards, and in that year the price was 95l. Under these circumstances, there was a call for something to be done, and taking into consideration all the features of the case, he believed that the proposition of the Government was perfectly fair and equitable.
§ Sir C. Napier
agreed with the hon. Member for Essex that sufficient attention was not paid to the fisheries of England. They were the nursery of our seamen, and every regard ought to be paid to them. What were our seamen now? Sailors from steam-vessels, and nothing else. It was an extraordinary thing that, according to the last account, there was not a single British ship trading between Liverpool and America. The shipping of this country was declining, and something ought to be done to assist and maintain it. He should, therefore, vote for the motion of the hon. Member for Essex.
§ Mr. Hawes
said, the question was not whether the duty should be continued at its present amount, or at the rate proposed by the tariff, but whether the lessened rate should be imposed then or twelve months' hence. That was the real question before the committee, and he wished to know whether any special grounds had been stated for the alteration. He wished that a sufficient time might be allowed to elapse before the proposed change took place, in order to enable the British trader to compete with the American, who now in consequence of the cheapness of his outfit, and of other favourable circumstances, had essential advantages over the traders in this country.
§ Sir R. Peel
wished to say a few words respecting the apprehensions expressed by the gallant Commodore opposite of a decline in the maritime interests of this country. A reference to the paper which contained the most recent evidence of the state of our commercial marine would put an end to all such apprehensions at once. That paper gave the following statement of 895 shipping employed in the trade of the United Kingdom, separating British from French vessels, during the years 1840 and 1841. Of ships entered inwards that were employed in the trade of the United Kingdom in 1840 there were 17,883; in 1841, there were 18,525; the amount of tonnage in 1840 was 3,197,000; in 1841 it was 3,361,000; and the number of British seamen employed in 1840 was 172,000, while in 1841 it was 178,000. That was a very great advance in one year. Now let them look to the foreign commercial marine, in respect to which the gallant Commodore thought there was such an increase compared with the British commercial marine. The paper he was referring to showed the very reverse. It showed that in 1840 the number of ships entered inwards in the foreign commercial marine was 10,198, but that in 1841 it was only 9,527; it showed that in the tonnage there was a falling off in these years from 1,460,000 to 1,290,000; and in the number of seamen, from 81,000 to 73,000. That proved that the apprehensions of the hon. and gallant Gentleman were unfounded, and that the mercantile marine of this country suffered nothing in a comparison with other countries. With regard to the question of time he begged to observe, that Mr. Huskisson had reduced the duty on foreign oil immediately and without giving time. That reduction, however, did not produce any diminution of price in the home market. When the trade was said to be comparatively flourishing what was the price per tun of spermaceti oil? In the years 1823, 1824, 1825, and 1826; the prices were respectively 54l.48l, 57l.and 55l.a ton. Here were four consecutive years in which spermaceti oil did not exceed on the average 52l.per ton at a time when there was a considerable consumption and not much competition. But what was the price during the last four years ending with 1842? Why 95l., 104l., 98l., and 75l. per ton respectively, the consequence of which was, that concurrently with those prices there was a falling off in the number of ships employed in the trade, because those high prices gave a premium upon the introduction of vegetable oil. The article of oil being essentially necessary in the working of machinery, and the manufacturer being unwilling or unable to afford to pay the high price for the spermaceti oil, resorted 896 to vegetable oil, and thereby encouraged the consumption of that oil. If for three years, as was the fact, the price of spermaceti oil ruled at the rate of 100l. per tun, while ten years before it was only 52l., was not the consequence exactly what the hon. Gentleman opposite apprehended, namely, that spermaceti oil was driven from the market? He was afraid that no interference on their part would have the effect of encouraging the marine while such causes of decay as that existed. Nothing could be more painful to him than inflicting injury on individual interests; but if every interest were to claim time there would be a virtual postponement of the measure. They must take the disadvantages with the advantages, and consider whether there might not be a prospect of reducing the expense of the vessels in the new competition. On the whole, then, he trusted that the House would affirm the reduction of duty, which he felt to be a wise reduction, even for those interests that appeared to be affected by it.
Lord J. Russell
said, that a high protecting duty, and a diminishing consumption of the foreign article in the market, induced the Government to propose a considerable reduction of the duty. On the general principles stated by the right hon. Baronet and the President of the Board of Trade, he agreed in the propriety of a considerable reduction. But the question arose whether this change should be made immediately, some time hence, or according to the amendment. The President of the Board of Trade said, that the British whale fisheries had nothing to fear from this reduction—that the price of American oil, with the addition of the new duty, would be such that British oil had nothing to fear from the competition. If that were the case, why propose any extension of time at all? If the right hon. Gentleman's argument was good, the change might be made now as well as at a future time; but he conceived that his argument upon that point failed. He thought that there ought to be a competition in the article, that would enable the American to sell oil here whenever it rose to a high price, higher perhaps than it was at present. The statement was that three years and upwards were employed in the trade before there was a return of capital, and that the proposed change would therefore operate disadvan- 897 tageously towards some. He thought it a fair question whether they should not make some allowance with reference to such cases. A ship that went out in 1841 would not return until 1844, and it was rather a hard thing to insist upon altering the position of persons who had taken advantage of existing arrangements by bringing a lower scale of duty into operation in 1843. As for the competition, he really could not understand why we should not successfully compete with the Americans. In the German markets he believed the Americans at present undersold us, but if we had a better system, if our merchants were allowed to provision their ships at a cheaper rate, he could see no cause why we should not successfully compete with any nation in the world. Provided, too, such an arrangement could be made without any sacrifice of principle, it was, he thought, very desirable that our seamen employed in this branch of commerce should be protected and encouraged. Upon the whole, he considered the statements made of the importance of this fishery, and the peculiar facts of the case, rendered the proposition for extending the time not unworthy the consideration of the Government and the attention of the House.
expressed much alarm at the competition on the part of the Americans. They had at the present time no less than 653 vessels engaged in whaling, and so great was their success that many of our own merchants were intending to give up this branch of their business. Several of them, he knew, had in view the entire abolition of the South Sea whalery. Indeed, an eminent merchant had stated to him only a few hours back, that it was his object and desire to withdraw from all connection with the fishery as soon as possible. He attached great importance to this trade, on account of the nursery it afforded for our seamen. He believed that with the exception of our north coasting trade, it was the best nursery for seamen we possessed, and we ought to be more especially careful not to discourage it, as many of our sailors had already left us for service in the American whalers.
§ Sir C. Napier
also urged the importance of attending to the interests of our marine. He wished the House would open their eyes to the position of our seamen.
§ Mr. Divett
had at first considered that 898 some allowance should be made as to the time when the new duty should come into operation, so as to exempt from injury those whose vesssels were now out, and he had come down to the House under that impression, but what he had since heard had altered his opinion.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, they should bear in mind, that under the high duties, was said, that the American trade h increased. The American sailors, as his hon. and gallant Friend behind him had shown, were not sufficient for the supply without the aid of English sailors, and the consequence was, that unless an alteration took place, those engaged in the South Sea fisheries must abandon that trade. Such was the state of things under the existing low duty; and what was the price of spermaceti oil? Why, it was not less than 100l. the tun. If, then, they subjected the consumer to a rise of from 60 to 70 per cent. the merchants must be ruined. By the new tariff" it would be impossible that American oil could be sold in this country at less than 75l. the tun, and he could only say, that if they were to keep the price at 100l. the tun, his belief was, that the high duty would be found a fatal gift, because it would lead to a system that would rapidly exterminate the trade altogether.
§ Mr. G. Palmer
said, it should be recollected, that the ships engaged in this trade, were double the expense of other ships, and that the insurance, being obliged to be paid for the whole voyage, was 12 per cent., while other vessels were insured at 2 or 3 per cent.
§ The committee divided on the original question, that the words, "from and after July 5," be inserted:—Ayes 108; Noes 41: Majority 67.
|List of the AYES.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Browne, R. D.|
|Aldam, W.||Browne, hon. W.|
|Allix, J. P.||Buckley, E.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Busfeild, W.|
|Arkwright, G.||Charteris, hon. F.|
|Baillie, Col.||Chetwode, Sir J.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Clerk, Sir G.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Clive, hon. R. H.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Cobden, R.|
|Blakemore, R.||Cochrane, A.|
|Bodkin W. H.||Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Coote, Sir C. H.|
|Botfield, B.||Corry, rt. hon. H.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Cripps, W.|
|Brotherton, J.||Damer, hon. Col,|
|Darby, G.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Denison, E. B.||Owen, Sir J.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Patten, J, W.|
|Divett, E.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Philips, M.|
|Escott, B.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Fielden, J.||Polhill, F.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Follett, Sir W. W.||Praed, W. T.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Pringle, A.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Rice, E. R.|
|Gill, T.||Richards, R.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E.||Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Smith, B.|
|Greenall, P.||Somers, J. P.|
|Grogan, E.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Hampden, R.||Stanley, Lord|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Hardy, J.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Stewart, J.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Howard, hon. H.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Hume, J.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Jackson, J. D.||Thesiger, F.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Thornely, T.|
|Johnson, W. G.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Johnstone, H.||Turner, E.|
|Knatchbull, right hon. Sir E.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Langton, W. G.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Vivian, J. E.|
|Lockhart, W.||Wakley, T.|
|Long, W.||Wilbraham, hn. R. B.|
|Lowther, J. H.||Wood. B.|
|Manners, Lord J.||Yorke, R.H.|
|Marsland, H.||Young, J.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Freemantle, Sir T.|
|Morrison, J.||Baring, H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Antrobus, E.||Martin, J.|
|Bannerman, A.||Masterman, J.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Morris, D.|
|Buller, C.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Neeld, J.|
|Chapman, A.||O'Brien, J.|
|Clay, Sir W.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Colborne, hn. W.N.R.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||Pusey. P.|
|Duncan, G.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Dundas, Admiral||Sandon, Visct.|
|Fitzroy, Capt.||Smith, J. A.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Hawes, B.||Trotter, J.|
|Hay, Sir A. L.||Tufnell, H.|
|Henley, J. W.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Hill, Lord M.||Williams, W.|
|Hinde, J. H.||Wood, G.W.|
|Humphrey, Alderman||Palmer, G.|
|James, Sir W. C.||Lyall, G.|
§ Mr. Hawes,
in adverting to the mode of measuring timber proposed, complimented the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, for the consideration he had bestowed on this subject, and the readiness he showed to pay a courteous attention to any representations made to him. He suggested, that a different mode of measuring the timber from that proposed by the schedule should be adopted. It was proposed by the Government, that the pieces of timber should be separately measured; but this would produce great delay, and consequent inconvenience to the merchant. It was almost impracticable, and there was no doubt, that a more expeditious manner of taking the admeasurement ought to be adopted, such as by the contents in cubic feet. The parties who were most interested, wished to have a different mode of measuring the timber adopted from that which the Government proposed. The subordinate officers of the Government were also opposed to the new system, from the operation of which, they anticipated great difficulty; but they did not state their opinions to the Government, as they feared, that if they did so, they might be in danger of losing their appointments, inasmuch as they might be superseded by others, who would urge no objections to the proposed plan of measuring. Those who objected to the proposed mode of ascertaining the quantity of timber, did so, not with any view of embarrassing the Government, but in consequence of the delay and inconvenience it was calculated to cause. He wished to know, if there were any grounds for such a change as that proposed?
§ Mr. A. Chapman
said, that he had had an experience of fifty years, and that he might say, that he possessed a general knowledge of the timber trade. So far as his experience went, he was anxious to equalise the duties on timber, whether it came from the East or the West, so that the consumer should have it in his power to supply himself with the article that best suited his purposes. He was sorry that he could not agree to the measure proposed by her Majesty's Government with respect to the timber duties, and be must say, that he would prefer the measure which the right hon. Gentleman opposite had last year proposed with respect to this subject.
901 When he stated it as his opinion that it was necessary to equalise the timber duties, he said at the same time that they must bear in mind, in regulating those duties, the distance from which timber was brought, and the additional freight when it was brought from the colonies. It was also to be considered, that 2,648 ships were employed in the carriage of timber from the British colonies to this country. The preference for Baltic timber was so great, that it would cause the consumer logo to that market, and this would have the effect of changing the course of the timber trade from the British colonies to the Baltic. It was said that this measure was a benefit to the shipowners. If that was so, those shipowners were the most ungrateful people in the world, for they repudiated this benefit. They looked upon it as a measure that would be injurious to them, and would send them to compete with ships more cheaply built and more cheaply manned. The ships of this country were better and more expensively built. They were manned by sailors who were paid 50s. a month, whilst the foreigner with whom the British shipowner would have to compete paid his sailors only 25s. a month, besides which the British sailor was better fed and better provided. Besides this, our trade would be driven from our colonies, which took everything they wanted from us to countries which took nothing from us. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would take the subject into consideration, and would not persist in pressing the proposed duties.
§ Mr. Gladstone,
said, in replying to the observations of the hon. Member for Lambeth, he felt bound to thank the hon. Member for the manner in which he had given the Board of Trade credit for the attention they had bestowed on this subject. He felt that when Gentlemen came to the Board of Trade to give them the advantage of their intelligence and experience, it was his duty to pay them every attention, and he only regretted that the duty had not been better performed. With respect to the request of his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. A. Chapman), he regretted that he could not hold out to him any hope that he would abandon the present measure. The hon. Member for Lambeth had asked were there any grounds for abandoning the present system of collecting the duties? and he, in reply to that, would state that 902 the grounds on which it were abandoned were, first, its injustice; and, secondly, its complexity. The question of its injustice belonged to the larger aspects of the question, and upon that he would not now touch. But, with respect to its complexity, those who were acquainted with the timber trade would admit, that it required immense labour to become acquainted with the operation of the timber duties. The committee of 1828, recommended an alteration of this system. He admitted, that he did not suppose that it was the intention of the committee to go the length of the present change. But he did think that it was the intention of the committee to make a considerable approach to the pre-sent proposition. It had been said, that the delaying of merchandise was a kind of barren and unproductive taxation, but the measure of the Government would have the effect of simplifying the working of the system. The timber imported from the colonies formed two-thirds of the whole importation of the country, and the duty on colonial timber was to be merely nominal. There could be no doubt, that when they would have had a little experience, that modes would be discovered of calculating the duty with less expence of time and labour than was the case under the present law. He could not pretend, with respect to the Baltic timber, that it would not be necessary to have minute accounts of the dimensions, but he thought, even in this case, that the difficulties had been exaggerated. He would admit the indefinite number of sizes at which timber might be brought, but he did not anticipate any inconvenience on this account. The inconvenience of stowage would require that the parcels of timber should, for the most part, be of uniform length and size, as otherwise, loss and inconvenience would be occasioned in their stowage. He lamented the inconvenience that would attend the change, but still he did not believe that the inconvenience would be so great as had been represented. The hon. Member had stated that he had heard that the customs department had expressed their opinions on this subject. Now, he (Mr. Gladstone) had not the slightest hesitation in saying, that if the customs department entertained objections to his proposition they would have forced them on the Government, and it would have been their duty to do so. [Mr. Howes: " I spoke of the subordinate officers."'] There was no foundation whatever for the statement, It was as far from 903 the fact as possible, for this proposition met with the full concurrence of the Board of Customs, as well as of those officers on whose opinion the Board had most reason to rely. The opinion of those individuals was, that this change of system could be carried into effect without any disadvantage either to the revenue or the commerce of the country. The Government had encouraged every communication on the subject; and he (Mr. Gladstone) could see no reason which should induce the committee to withhold their assent from the proposition of the Government. It was a change from a bad to a good system; and though it was impossible that it might not be attended with intermediate inconvenience, its effect would be to remove many existing evils.
Sir W, James:
From the deep interest which his constituents took in this question, felt bound to urge on the attention of the Government the opinions of practical men engaged in the timber trade, and who entertained great doubts whether the measure of the Government would be successful or not. Much, no doubt, might be said on both sides; but it was the opinion of practical men connected with the borough which he represented, and they all agreed, that in the port of Hull the measure would be altogether impracticable. When a plan of this kind was submitted, a few years ago, to the consideration of the late Mr. Deacon Hume, he understood that that gentleman, having given attention to the subject, had expressed his opinion that the plan might be introduced into all the ports of the kingdom with the exception of Gloucester and Hull. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider this part of the subject.
§ Mr F. T. Baring
said, it was generally allowed that there was no principle in the present system of admeasurement, and the question was, not whether a system admitted to be a bad one should not be altered, but whether the course adopted by the right hon. Gentleman perfectly just in principle, would not be found in practice exceedingly inconvenient, if not impracticable. The committee that sat upon the subject had not recommended the mode proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, and he had reason to know that the opinion of the trade and practical men who had no interest except in a fair working system, was against the proposed course. Had the opinion of the trade and of experienced Custom-house officers been in favour of it 904 he should bow to the opinion of those persons; but having been last year in communication with them on the subject, and being himself strongly disposed to the right hon. Gentleman's plan which he thought by far the best on principle, he had abandoned in consequence of information he had received from his communications with custom-house officers, and other experienced persons. If they had since altered their opinion, he should be glad of it, but when he found the opinions of well-informed practical men agreeing with those of the trade, against the plan, he thought they should be cautious how they adopted it.
§ Mr. Mitchell
believed, that the wood-merchants universally objected to the plan, and he hoped the matter would not be pressed until further time for discussion was given. The effect of the plan would be, that the deals imported would be cut in Norway and Sweden, thereby throwing the manual labour of this country out of employment. The labour of sawyers was cheaper in Norway than in any country in Europe, and the consequence would be, that the whole monopoly of supplying deals would be thrown into the hands of that country and Sweden; and Russia would be thrown out of the market, when Norway and Sweden might charge any price they pleased. Another point to be considered was, that Norwegian and Swedish timber came in the ships of those countries, whereas the imports from Russia were in British bottoms. The timber, too, should be landed for measurement, and this would involve an additional expence of 22½ per cent, to be paid by the consumer.
§ Sir R. Peel:
I understand that we are only discussing a point in detail, connected with measurement; and I will remark, that the Government can have no object but that of facilitating transactions, of preventing fraud, and getting as much revenue as possible under the system adopted. Now, having put ourselves in communication with one of the most intelligent and experienced officers of customs, he has no apprehension of any difficulty arising from the proposed plan. Intending to adhere to the manner of effecting the reduction in duty, I should say, that as to the mere mode of levying it, there is no reason why further consideration and communication should take place. To that I have no objection. But I beg the House to remember the observation of the hon.
905 Gentleman who spoke last, and who says the plan proposed will give facilities to Norway and Sweden. Now, I hope sincerely, the measure may have that effect. He says we are going to injure Russia and benefit Norway and Sweden, but the truth is, that we are going to redress a great injustice, which, for a long period, has operated most injuriously on the two latter countries, and the more effectually the mode proposed produces that effect, the stronger will be the arguments in its favour. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mitchell) says, that sawyer's labour is cheaper in Norway and Sweden than in other countries. Will not that circumstance tend to reduce the price to the consumer here? [Mr. Mitchell: But it will throw overboard the sawyers of this country.] I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is not one single article included in the tariff to which an objection of this kind is not made in some quarter. He says, that the plan proposed will give some peculiar advantages in sawing timber to Norway and Sweden, by which they will be able to monopolise the trade; that Russia will in consequence be driven out of it, and that Norway and Sweden will then charge what they please. Now this is what is always said; but, if Norway and Sweden do this, will not trade revive? If they so increase prices, surely Russia will be able to come into the market again. I hope the hon. Gentlemen will not meet me with the argument that the timber trade of Russia will be so entirely destroyed that it will be quite impossible for her again to come into competition with Norway and Sweden. But, surely, the immense quantities of forest timber possessed by Russia would be a check upon the other countries, and they will not venture to avail themselves of these privileges in so improper a manner as to exact undue and unfair prices. Do hon. Gentlemen object to the principle of the measure? It is said, I am aware, that the reduction should be made at once, and that we ought not to make one reduction this year and the other next year. It was with a view to protect vested interests that this was done. I wish, for my own part, that the trade had said the first fall of duty should come into operation on the 6th of July instead of in October. I believe that had the trade done so, it would have been for their benefit, and that the suspension in the demand for limber will, on the whole, operate very injuriously on them. I therefore repeat freely that as 906 to this point I wish the trade had approached Government with an application that July, instead of October, should be the period at which the alteration should begin to operate. Having made an announcement of the course to be pursued, we cannot in justice give way, unless to an universal application from those concerned. But if an objection be felt to the operation of the new duty from year to year—if there be no objection to making the lower amount of duty leviable the first year—if I am approached by a general application from the trade to that effect, I can only say, that I shall at once give way.
said, that in consequence of the turn the discussion had taken, he must observe that many of his constituents had laid in large stocks of timber, and paid the duty thereon, and it would operate most unjustly and most injuriously on them to accelerate the period at which the reduction of duty was to take place.
§ Viscount Sandon
must protest against the doctrine that a more speedy reduction of the duty would be a boon to the working-classes. The boon would be not to reduce it till next year, and not to allow it to go below 30s. a load. He had that morning placed in the hands of his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government memorials from the importers of and dealers in timber in every port of the kingdom, including London, praying that only one change might be made in the timber duties, and that that change should be to 30s not 25s. With a duty of 30s. they thought the western ports of England might be able to balance the competition between the colonies and the Baltic, but not the eastern; but if the duty were below 30s., even the western ports would not be able to balance the competition. It should not, therefore, be said that it would be agreeable to any I large class of the community to agree to the proposition so warmly recommended from the other side.
§ Mr. Alderman Humphery
observed that as other timber, including deals of four inches in thickness, were regulated as to 907 duty by cubic admeasurement, there was no difficulty in measuring in the same manner three-inch and two-and-a-half-inch deals. Every officer in the Customs must be competent to the task.
§ Viscount Jocelyn
said, the constituency which he had the honour to represent would not be satisfied with the proposition laid down by the hon. Member for Montrose. They would be better pleased with a delay of twelve months, in order to have time to get rid of their stocks. The trade of Lynn, was chiefly in Baltic timber. Many of his constituents had laid in quantities of timber, and paid the duties, and the consequence of a sudden alteration would be, that they would lose the difference between the duly paid by them and that imposed by the present measure.
§ Sir H. Douglas
felt that a speedy settlement of the duty was most important, and felt further, that 30s not 25s, was the point at which that settlement ought to rest. He, therefore, gave notice that on the next occasion when the subject was discussed, he should propose that the duty rest at 70s., and not go as low as 25s
§ Sir R. Peel:
And I beg also to give notice that I mean steadily to adhere to my proposition. As I before stated, 1 think it quite fair that matters of detail in the mode of collecting the duty should, if desired, be reconsidered with the custom-house officers. But even here I must say that a good deal of experience has shown me that even in the most plausible objections against details, one can nearly always find lurking at the bottom some proposition to affect protecting duties. It is, I think, fair to leave details to be reconsidered. Having given public notice of the mode in which the duty is to operate—that it is not to be less than 30s. the first year, and to go down to 25s. the second, I shall make no alteration in this, except in deference to a great and universal expression of opinion from those engaged in the trade. But as to any proposition to keep the duty permanently at 30s., and not let it go down to 25s., that shall certainly have my decided opposition.
§ Mr. C. Buller
rose to draw the atten- 908 tion of the House to the motion of which he had given notice on the subject of the Bridport election. Ten o'clock was now come, and he saw no chance of the present discussion coming to a close, unless it were interrupted, as new topics were every instant started.
§ Sir R. Peel:
If we are not to have a division on the timber duties to-night it is of no use to go on further with them. In reference to the observations of the hon. Member, I wish to say one word. The hon. Member says, that to reconsider, when spoken by a Minister of the Crown, meant to be favourably disposed to the subject. Now, Sir, in reply to that construction of the words, I beg to say, that I am at present in favour of the proposal before the House; but I am not biassed in any way on the subject, and I shall hear the most intelligent Custom-house officers in reference to it, and then act according to the best of my judgment.
§ The House resumed.
§ The Chairman reported progress.
§ Committee to sit again.