HC Deb 24 April 1843 vol 68 cc862-5
Lord John Russell

said, he would take that opportunity of putting some questions to the right hon. Baronet respecting the commercial treaties which this country was now negotiating, and about which it might be expected that the Government would give the House some information. He had taken an opportunity before the House adjourned for the Easter holidays to put similar questions to the right hon. Gentleman; and he wished to know whether those negotiations had terminated favourably or unfavourably. It was not his wish to ask respecting negotiations still in progress, and whether they were likely to proceed favourably or not; but respecting two of the negotiations in progress, he had seen it announced in the public papers that they bad terminated, and concerning them he thought the House should receive some information. With respect to the negotiations with Portugal, it had been stated in an official paper, the Gazette of Lisbon, that the terms proposed by the English Government had been finally rejected. He had seen it also stated in the public papers, that with respect to the Brazils the negotiations had entirely failed, and that the Gentleman who had been sent to that country was about to return home. If it was true that those negotiations had failed, and were at an end, he thought he might fairly ask that some communications should be made to the House. It was of great importance to all persons engaged in those trades which would be affected by those negotiations, to know whether there were an end to the negotiations or not, and on what footing the trade with those countries would be placed. He did not much wish to enter at present into the question of the policy to be adopted if they had failed. They would, probably, at an early period, have an opportunity of discussing that subject. All he wished to ask at present was, whether the statement they had seen in the public papers were correct? He also wished to put two questions to the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies. One was with respect to the bill which the noble Lord said he would introduce on the subject of Canada corn. He had asked the noble Lord at a previous period of the Session, whether he had received any deputations from the Governor-general of Canada with respect to the bill; and he now wished to learn from the noble Lord whether he intended to proceed with it? The noble Lord had informed the House that immediately after Easter he proposed to bring in a bill on the subject, but he did not see any such notice on the paper; he wished, therefore, to know what course the noble Lord intended to pursue with respect to that subject. There was another question which he wished to put to the noble Lord, with respect to the act that had been passed in Jamaica, levying certain duties on the produce of England and Ireland. It was stated on a former occasion by an hon. Gentleman that the duties levied on the produce of Ireland, in the island of Jamaica, amounted to 40 per cent. Last year they had passed a bill which had been first introduced by his right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton, and taken up by the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, who, with the support of the Government, had carried forward the bill, by which all the differential duties in the colonies were reduced to 7 and 4 per cent. It was quite contrary to the spirit of that act that a bill should be passed in Jamaica to levy such heavy duties on the produce of this country when imported into that island. He supposed, however, that the Government was sensible of the importance of the subject, and had decided to interfere with the royal authority and refuse to sanction the measures of the Jamaica legislature. He had stated the points on which he wished to have information, and he begged to ask for answers to his questions. He hoped the noble Lord would state, with respect to the act of the Jamaica legislature, that he would be ready to lay the papers connected with it before the House. There were other papers, too, connected with the island of Jamaica which were generally laid on the table of the House before this period of the Session; and he hoped the noble Lord would take the opportunity of laying all those papers together before the House.

Sir Robert Peel

said, that before the holidays, an hon. Gentleman had put questions to him concerning our negotiations with Brazils and Portugal, and on that hon. Gentleman giving him notice that he intended to ask those questions of him again, he had requested that hon. Gentleman to postpone his questions till the morrow. To-morrow, then, he should be prepared to answer both as to Portugal and Brazils, and he begged to postpone the answer to the noble Lord to the same period.

Lord Stanley

said, with regard to the Canada Corn Bill, the information that had been received from the Governor-General of Canada was ready to be laid on the Table, though it had been only recently received. Probably within a few days he should be enabled to give notice of the precise day on which he should move for leave to bring in a bill on the subject. Certainly the Government would take an early day for bringing on the discussion on this subject. As to the second question of the noble Lord, he must remark that the act complained of was only passed for nine months. He had only that morning received private information from the Board of Trade, to which, as the noble Lord knew, all such questions were referred, that the Board had taken the subject into consideration. Although he entirely concurred with the noble Lord in his objection to these high duties, in some cases amounting to nearly 40 per cent., yet he thought the noble Lord was rather hasty in concluding that it was a matter of course that the Government should advise her Majesty to withhold her sanction to the bill, which was passed in the first instance for nine months, and so compel the legislature of Jamaica to assemble at a most inconvenient season. He was quite prepared to say that the amount of these duties was highly objectionable in principle, and the Governor of Jamaica had been instructed to refuse his assent to any future bill for imposing similar duties.

Viscount Howick

wished to know on what grounds the governor had sanctioned the present bill.

Lord Stanley

said, he had not recently received any communication from the governor; he was therefore unable to answer the question. Neither had he received the official report from the Board of Trade, and when he had received that report, he should immediately, and he hoped by the next packet, communicate with the Governor-general.

Subject at an end.

Order of the Day read.

On the question that the Speaker do leave the Chair,