HC Deb 03 February 1843 vol 66 cc163-78
Lord Courtenay

brought up the report of the Committee on the Address.

On the motion that it be read,

Mr. Walter

said, he could assure the House that it was not without reluctance he rose to address it on this occasion, and the more so, because he feared that some portion of his opinions might not be very favourably received by the side on which he sat; and the other portions of it even less by those to whom he was opposed on the other side of the House. He still, however, felt bound to rise and discharge a very onerous duty, which might otherwise hang upon and oppress him for an indefinite period. With respect to the various topics of her Majesty's Speech, he felt strongly convinced there would be a pretty general unanimity throughout the country. No one could deny, or at least, no one could deny with the hope of making any converts to his opinion, that our foreign relations were in as satisfactory a state as human affairs generally could be. Whether any hostile passions and feelings agitated the bosoms of our neighbours, or of our brethren on the other side of the Atlantic, might not be clear; but of this he was very certain, that if such were the case, there was no line of conduct that we could possibly adopt that would have rendered us more amiable in the eyes of those who nourished such passions and feelings. If we were to prostrate all our greatness, and humble ourselves to the very dust, we should still not give satisfaction to those who harboured and cherished the passions to which he had alluded. Our military and naval operations abroad, also, no one could deny were in the most satisfactory state possible. What led to those operations—the propriety or impropriety of the wars into which we have been plunged, must be the subject of future discussion. That those wars had been successfully brought to their present conclusion—that they had added to our security, and imposed the wholesome restraint of fear on those who might otherwise intend us mischief in the remotest regions of the world, could not be doubted. Nor could he omit to express his hearty approbation, so justly merited by her Majesty's Ministers, and the Home Department in particular, for their conduct in the suppression of the late tumults in the manufacturing districts; which led him to believe, that even if Parliament had been sitting, they would not have attempted to introduce any new laws, still less to suspend those old ones which constituted the revered bulwarks of the constitution. But, in however satisfactory a state our foreign concerns might be now placed, a painful experience taught us, that this foreign security supplied but an insufficient antidote against domestic suffering and consequent discontent; and if there were one advantage more than another that our present general situation afforded us, it was, that we might attend to our home concerns—to all the difficulties and uneasiness of our domestic relations—without the embarrassment or distraction of perplexities springing up from abroad; we were really at leisure to look to ourselves. Of all the difficulties of this situation, the chief were those arising from topics which had been for the last half-century incessantly agitated in Parliament, and that apparently without approaching to any definite conclusion. We were as far from unanimity now, and, he was sorry to say, as from tranquility also, as we were at the moment to which he had just alluded, viz. fifty years ago. It surely, therefore, became the imperative duty of every good and patriotic man to assist in some final act which might at once soothe these animosities, and give to the nation and its several interests tranquillity and repose. The topics to which he alluded were, in one word, the Corn-laws; connected, indeed, with various considerations of commerce and manufactures. It had been his lot to represent both an agricultural and a manufacturing constituency, and he was happy to say, that the opinions he first formed, after all the reading and all the consideration which he was able to bestow on the important subject to which he was then directing attention, had received the general sanction of both those classes of persons. The leaning of his mind had always been in favour of a fixed duty; and he firmly believed, that you never could arrive at anything like permanent concord till your duty was fixed and permanent also; the very characteristic and essential quality of a variable scale being, that it should be liable to annual, or at least frequent change. The productions of this and foreign countries might adapt themselves finally and permanently to a fixed duty; a variable scale would for ever agitate, and render the supply of corn equally variable. Indeed, with respect to the act of last year, introduced by the right hon. Baronet now at the head of her Majesty's affairs, he thought it deserved its greatest tribute of approbation from the circumstance that, though proposing some variations, it still approached nearer to a fixed duty than any act by which it had been preceded. The right hon. Baronet adhered to it still, and so let him; but, if he did not see the necessity for immediate change, he was much mistaken if his mind did not prospectively look forward to some time next year, if not this, at which he would be impelled to concur in the opinion which was universally gaining ground. While there is a variable scale we are at sea; when the variations, as in the present case, are but few, we are within sight of the port, and that port is a fixed duty. There was another point, also, deeply connected with this question, and that was, the principle on which you legislate. By a fixed duty you place grain in the same position as other articles of importation; whilst, by what is called the protecting duty—that is, an ever-varying duty, for such it must be—you afford a handle for the allegation that you are legislating for classes; that it is class-legislation, not universal or national legislation, which you sanction and adopt. But if the principle on which you proceed be that of revenue only, as in the case of other imported articles, it appeared to him there would be an end of this serious charge of class-legislation. It was upon this principle that he canvassed successfully a great agricultural county in 1832, and which he maintained now as representing a great manufacturing town; and from this varying experience he was justified in concluding, that a fixed duty was the only method of procuring the concurrence of both parties. In coming to this conclusion it would be observed that he had spoken chiefly of the measure of fixed and variable duty in the abstract. With respect to all that had been incessantly beaten into their ears, on the one side, of the hardship of throwing the poor agricultural labourer out of employment by throwing poor lands out of cultivation; and on the other, of the sufferings of the starving artisans by the continuance of the present system of class-legislation, he thought there was a great deal of hollowness in the professions of both parties, and that each would be greatly perplexed by depriving it of this argument, or pretence, of sympathy for the unhappy sufferers on either side. He should, therefore, leave the rural advocates of the present workhouse system and prison dietaries, and the Dissenting ministers with bleeding hearts forming the Manchester conference, who alike agreed in the detestable principles of the New Poor-law, to settle their Corn-law differences between themselves. But reference had been made to a certain association, called the Anti-Corn-law League. Now, he had a great abhorrence of all associations; they always professed some beneficial object; but the intentions of the chief actors in them he believed to be universally selfish, antisocial, and mischievous. But he did not decry the present Anti-Corn-law League on account of its principles in the abstract, but really on account of the parties who were the leaders in it, and who he believed were quite as much disposed to grind the poor, whose sufferings they professed to make the objects of their stir, as any other class in her Majesty's dominions. But while we decried this League, let us not forget that we had had Agricultural Leagues also. He believed such associations deserved the epithets he had just bestowed on them; but he alluded particularly to one grand agricultural association which afforded a mischievous precedent to others, and assembled some years ago within 100 yards of that House. The present noble President of the Board of Trade denounced it as a Parliament sitting in the face of the regular Parliament, and dispersing its proclamations all over the kingdom. These, how ever, had all been open societies. But might there not be leaguers of a much more dangerous character, of whose intentions and acts the public might have but slight information? The atrocious Poor-law itself really emanated from the proceedings of such a league. He alluded to the original commission, now almost forgotten, and not to the body commonly called the Triumvirate. Gentlemen who knew a great many of the secrets of that commission had told us of the extreme sufferings of the poor, and of the discontent that would be felt by the masses if nothing were done for them. They had been also told of the wonders that were to be effected by education, even in workhouses; but was it an assential preparative to such education, that the objects of it should be subjected to something little short of starvation before they commenced their studies? He would read to the House two of the secret recommendations of this mind improving, body-starving commission, from which our new Poor-law had emanated. The first of these recommendations was, that The commissioners shall have power lo re duce allowances, but not to enlarge them. After some further suggestions, they proceeded thus, and to this passage he called especial attention:— After this has been accomplished, orders may be sent forth, directing that after such a date all out-door relief should be given partly in kind; after another period it should be wholly in kind; after such another period it should be gradually diminished in quantity, until that mode of relief was exhausted. From the first the relief should be altered in quality, course brown bread being substituted for fine white; and concurrently with these measures as to the outdoor poor, a gradual reduction should be made in the diet of the indoor poor, and strict regulations enforced. He should not comment on language like this now. Indeed, it was already practically commented upon by the severe sufferings and deep-rooted discontent of the labouring population. But, if the House would allow him, he would recur to the Corn-law. He could strengthen his own opinion, if time would permit, by all the authority of great names, the number and weight of which were almost universally on the side which he advocated, but he should only quote a few of them. Mr. Huskisson in 1828, Lamented from the bottom of his soul the mass of evil, and misery, and destruction of capital which the Corn-law, in the course of its twelve years' operation, had then produced; and asserted that he could make it distinctly appear, that the effect of that bill, as far as regarded the agriculturists themselves, had been to keep the prices of produce lower for those twelve years than they would have been if the trade in corn had been free. Another President of the Board of Trade, six years afterwards, declared in this House, that The agricultural interest had been, during that time, retrograding from bad to worse. He described the period from the passing of the Corn-law in 1815, down to the time at which he was speaking, as eighteen years of suffering, of decay, of privation, and vicissitude. He said, that In 1815 you were at least fifty years in advance of all that could render manufactures prosperous; the greater portion of the natives of both hemispheres were unacquainted with the different arts by which you were distinguished; there were few restrictive laws in force abroad; none of those prohibitory tariffs which now encircled every frontier (and which had since then been greatly increased). Our advantages we might have preserved, but instead of that we threw them away and imposed the Corn-law. We obliged them to enter into competition with us, to make those articles for themselves which we would not suffer them to purchase from us, because we re- fused to receive in exchange those commodities which they alone could give in exchange. Thus, by rapid steps, we forced them to be our rivals when they would gladly have become our friends and dependents. His assumption was, that, had it not been for the restrictive laws on corn immediately following the peace, British manufacturing industry would have taken a flight unequalled even in the days of Arkwright or of Watt, and supplied, without competition, the whole world, instead of being, as now, scarcely able to compete with foreigners. But he would not confine his remarks to what had passed in this House. What Said the late duke, then only Marquess of Buckingham, in 1815, He protested against the bill, against its principle, the mode of carrying it into practice, and against the precipitation with which it had been hurried through the House, in defiance of the petitions of the people. He characterised the measure as a bribe given to the landed interest, to induce them to acquiesce in the maintainance of war establishments in a time of peace; and considered it as most un just to the other classes of the community, that the landholders should thus have secured to the them, in a time of peace, the high prices which they had obtained during a period of war. But the opinions of Lord Grenville, were, probably, more entitled to weight than those of any statesman of this century. Let any man read his celebrated protest against the Corn-law Bill. Though a prophecy at that time, it read now like a true history of the disastrous consequences which that law has emailed upon the industrious classes of the community, both agricultural and manufacturing. He could find but little deserving the title of an argument on the other side. The Speech of a right hon. Baronet, who was the chief defender of the Corn-law, in 1834, assigned the only cause, and that cause unhappily derived from the principle of class-legislation, for the continuance of those laws. He said, If the effect of the proposed measure should be to reduce rents 20 per cent., he spoke advisedly when he said that two-thirds of the landed property of England would at once change hands. Now, this could certainly mean but one thing, viz., the protection of those who had mortgages on their estates; and while some taxed the poor with improvidence, it was but a corrective hint from the right hon. Baronet that others as well as the mere poor might be improvident also. He would take the liberty of adding a foreign example to those drawn from the domestic policy of our own country. If there was one thing more than another which a Frenchman ought to wish for the honour and security of his country, it would be a navy. Bonaparte, in his furious projects for universal empire by land, entirely neglected that arm of national greatness. Now, he recollected to have learned many years ago, that a mercantile navy, which is so easily convertible into a Royal navy, had partially sprung up of itself in France; for a most active commerce had, without any encouragement of the Government taken place between Odessa and the ports of the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean ports of France; and it appeared that many thousand seamen had been formed and were employed in that service. Here then was the nucleus of naval grandeur for France—here was the first germ of that power which every Frenchman ought devoutly to covet. But what was the consequence? The landed interest—and he believed he might venture to call the landed interest of France at that period, the least respectable in Europe, for it was composed almost entirely of the purchasers or plunderers of the property of the ancient nobility and emigrants—this landed interest of France began of find out that with other articles some corn was imported from Odessa, and that the markets, as they asserted, were thereby kept low. This landed interest in consequence so persecuted and pestered and French Ministers with exaggerated representations of their ruin, that the Government actually stopped this trade, prohibiting importations from Odessa. And what became of the thousands of seamen, the elements of a future marine for France! They were thrown out of employment, they were totally annihilated as seamen. But would it not be most disgraceful in the ancient hereditary landed interest of England to be pursuing the same course as the untitled possessors of land in France,—to require the sacrifice of the shipping interests of their country, of the commercial interest, of the manufacturing interest, and of all the other interests that constitute the greatness of a state, to their cupidity? These might be unpleasant truths, but they were truths, and ought to have their weight upon men who had the good of their country, and not that of a sect, or faction, or party, at heart. He should deprecate most strongly any vindictive feeling on either side, and proceed to legislate on the question of the Corn-laws with that becoming calmness and temper which so important a subject deserved. Whenever the simple principle of a fixed or variable duty came fairly before the House, be should vote for the former.

Mr. Ward

did not expect that the discussion on the address would be reopened on the present occasion; and certainly, but for the important observations of the horn. Member for Nottingham, he would not have taken any part in the debate; but the position of that hon. Member, his connexion with a great agricultural county, and now representing a large manufacturing constituency, and the side of the House from which he spoke, gave to his remarks, in themselves well chosen, an importance which could not be passed over without notice. He thought the country was under much obligation to that lion. Member for the expression of his sentiments on the important subject to which they referred, and for the time chosen for that expression. The hon. Member's speech showed that there was a growing disposition in the country to meet the question by discussion. It showed the existence of a desire to have it discussed with calmness. It also showed that many hon. Members who sat behind the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, and who gave him generally their support, would not allow the questian to remain in its present position; and that even amongst those who were most connected with agriculture a great change of opinion was being gradually brought about. Among this class of men there was a sincere desire to see things placed on a footing which would afford some promise of stability. Everybody out of the House felt that the present Corn-law was not, nor could be, nor would be lasting, Everybody knew this; everybody knew that, though the subject was not included in the Queen's speech at the beginning of the Session, the right hon. Baronet himself was fully aware that this law could not be left where it was. There was a general feeling of dissatisfaction at the working of the law, which was becoming every day stronger and more general throughout the country. This feeling existed among the agriculturists them selves. He spoke now from his own experience; and he knew that many who, three years ago, would have shown them- selves the most inveterate denouncers of those who ventured to hint at the possibility of a repeal, now said that a total and absolute repeal would be better both for the farmer and tenant than the system as it at present stood. They said that they could not farm without leases, and they could not take leases without knowing what was to be done with the Corn-laws. No tenant possessing capital would invest it under these circumstances. It was in vain to hope for any great improvement in English agriculture—for any approximation, to the state of things in Scotland without increased confidence, and that confidence could not be secured without a law that should have the general assent of the community. The right hon. Baronet knew that the present law had not the general assent of the community; but that, on the contrary, the manufacturing interest felt that it was crushing their prosperity, and standing in the way of their interest at every step. The town which he had the honour to represent, offered conclusive proof that the Corn-law was the cause of much suffering. The right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, had, in some degree, alleviated the distress of the labouring classes in Sheffield by sanctioning the appropriation of a considerable sum from the fund devoted to the carrying on of public works, for the purpose of affording them employment; but if it were not for the Corn-laws, full employment for all would be furnished by the trade of the United States. Corn ought, as the hon. Member for Nottingham proposed, at least to be put on the same footing as other articles of commerce, for it was the most important article of all. The right hon. Baronet declared last Session that his great object was to remove every restriction upon raw materials, which were the staple of labour; and the right hon. Baronet contended, that the removal of such restrictions would give such an impulse to industry, as would soon compensate for any loss which the revenue might immediately suffer from the abrogation of duties. Why did not the right hon. Baronet apply the same principles to corn. He had heard the Royal Speech with the deepest sense of pain and disappointment. He had expected that the right hon. Baronet would not take his stand upon the changes which he had effected last Session; but that, professing as he did sound principles consistent with reason and confirmed by experience, he would have continued in the career which he entered upon last Session, and in which he would have had the support of every reflecting man in the country. He was aware of the right hon. Baronet's position; there was a party at his back who would not allow him to exercise a fair judgment upon these important questions. It was thought, last Session, that the right hon. Baronet had, to a certain extent, parted company with those dead weights upon his policy; but, somehow or other, it became apparent, as the Session approached, that their influence was exerted upon him in a very sensible manner. This was a circumstance which would cause deep disappointment in the country. Hundreds of thousands of persons had, like himself, been looking forward to her Majesty's Speech, in the expectation that the right hon. Baronet would not rest satisfied with what be had done last Session, which he himself acknowledged to be incomplete, but would proceed in the useful path which he then entered upon, and at every step effect a sensible alleviation of the distress of the country. The speech of the hon. Member for Nottingham was important, as indicating a point upon which something like an approximation of opinion might take place; but, at the same time, he felt it necessary to declare that in his opinion a fixed duty upon corn must, under any circumstances, bear the character of injustice. He could not admit that corn ought to be dealt with merely as any other article of importation. A fixed duty on corn would always partake of the character of what the hon. Member had described as class-legislation. Practical men might, it was true, prefer a low fixed duty to the continuance of an agitation of which they might see no end for many years to come; but it must be recollected that to impose a fixed duty on corn imported, was, in fact, to impose that duty upon all corn grown in this country. In order to derive a revenue of 5s. a quarter on two millions of quarters imported, the people would have, in fact, to pay that amount of duty upon twenty millions of quarters of home growth. He regretted, that the noble Lord on that side of the House (Lord J. Russell) had not taken the opportunity last night of explaining his views as to the amount of fixed duty which he considered necessary. The proposal of a low fixed duty might, perhaps, be the means of enabling parties to approximate to an agreement upon the question, a result which was greatly to be desired, for as to leaving the matter as it stood it was utterly impossible, and the agriculturists would lean upon a broken reed, if they thought the question could remain in its present unsatisfactory state. Even among the ranks of the agriculturists were to be found those who recognised the validity of the arguments upon which was grounded the claim for the Repeal of the Corn-laws. In a recent publication, an article had appeared on our commercial policy at home and abroad, the authorship of which was generally ascribed to the right hon. the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. He referred distinctly to the right hon. Gentleman, because it was desirable the country should know whether the principles enunciated in the article in question were professed by the Government. If that should prove to be the case, those Gentlemen who clamoured for protection to agriculture ought to go to school to their own leaders. The right hon. the Vice-President of the Board of Trade would inform them that they could not hope for a home market for their produce unless the manufacturers had a foreign market for theirs. The principles propounded by the right hon. Gentleman were excellent; all that was wanting was, that they should be carried into practice. He did not like to see a broad ground laid down in theory, and the narrowest possible ground taken in practice. What the right hon. Baronet did last Session was good for a beginning, but bad for an ending. The right hon. Baronet could not rest his fame as a commercial reformer upon what he had done; but must go further. The right hon. Baronet might, if he pleased, obtain the highest reputation of any man who had ever engaged in the work of commercial reform; for this it was only necessary that he should proceed to act upon the principles which he had propounded last Session, and not shrink from applying them, in order to suit the exigencies of a party. The agricultural interest could never enjoy prosperity unless the manufacturing interest could find a vent for their products. At present, those sources of industry which had furnished employment for surplus labour, were dammed up, and the population was driven back upon the agricultural districts. The hon. Member for Halifax spoke feelingly last night on the effect which the want of manufacturing employment produced upon agricultural labourers in the north of England. Similar results were beginning to be observable in the southern part of the kingdom. And, men who had been absent for twenty years were coming back to their parishes and adding to the surplus population. It was necessary to provide for these men in the union workhouses, whereas under a better system of commercial policy they would be able to obtain employment in the large towns. He would caution the owners of land, that if some employment were not found for that population by the expansion of trade, there would, before long, be no security for property.

Mr. Liddell

must object to the inconvenient, he might say, the unfair course of getting up a discussion on the Corn-laws, on the question for bringing up the Report on the Address, which did not contain one word in allusion to that subject; but after the speeches of the two hon. Members who had preceded him, it was impossible for him to remain silent. The observations which the hon. Member for Nottingham had quoted from Mr. Huskisson's speeches were directed, not against such a law as now existed, but against the law of 1815. Mr. Huskisson was himself the author of the sliding scale, and it was absurd to quote him with the view of making it appear that he was opposed to a law founded upon that principle. Although the hon. Member for Sheffield had complimented the hon. Member for Nottingham's speech, it was evident that he did not concur in the views of that hon. Member. The principal ground on which the agricultural interest opposed a fixed duty was, that it was intended to be merely the steppingstone to total repeal. The hon. Member for Sheffield would not venture to say, that he thought a fixed duty would be maintained for any long period; what, then, would become of the hon. Member's argument respecting the feeling of uncertainty which prevailed under the existing Jaw? He, however, denied that any such uncertainty did exist. The agriculturist felt that he enjoyed much greater security under the present law, than he could have under a fixed duty. In fact, a fixed duty would be no security at all. He rejoiced that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had declared his determination to maintain the present law. The uncertainty to which the hon. Member for Sheffield had alluded, was occasioned, not by the state of the law, but by the violent language which had been used throughout the country. The uncertainty alluded to existed, to a great extent, only in the mind of the hon. Member himself. Leases were concluded under the present law upon a very simple principle, the rent being made dependent on the average price of corn. In that way the uncertainty caused by the present state of the law was got rid of. Improvements in the cultivation of the land were being carried on to as great an extent as he ever witnessed, and to a person traveling through the kingdom, the whole country bore the appearance of a garden. What he stated were facts, which he defied all the leaguers in the country to disprove, however they might be denied in that House, or at the meetings of the League. If the right hon. Baronet had shown any symptom of wavering, in the support of the law which he had himself put upon a sound footing last year, such conduct would have been productive of a hundred times more mischief than all the denunciations of the Corn-law League. He congratulated the friends of the agricultural interest, and the true friends of the commercial and manufacturing interest, upon the firm stand made by the right hon. Baronet on this point. Before sitting down, he would add a few words upon another subject. He should not act the part of an honest representative of the people, and a true friend of the Government, if he did not declare, with the deepest pain, that the present state of the labouring classes was most deplorable. He would not have objected to have heard from the right hon. Baronet, in his speech of last night, a further admission to that effect. The right hon. Baronet had adverted to the returns of the deposits in the Savings banks. He was not prepared to say how far those returns furnished a valid test of the condition of the working classes; but, if they were so, he would receive the evidence of improvement with gladness. He was not disposed to take a desponding view of public affairs; if anything, he was of too sanguine a disposition. There were, however, circumstances which indicated but too plainly the unfortunate condition of the working classes. In some localities, the poor-rates almost eat up the rentals. In some portions of the town of Sunderland, the quarterly rates were from 4s to 4s. 6d in the pound, making an annual rate of not less than 16s. in the pound. So great was the pressure on the workhouses in many parts of the kingdom, that the boasted workhouse test was altogether abandoned. The state of the prisons also exhibited evidence of extending distress and consequent demoralization. It was his firm belief, that if the Corn-laws were to be repealed, the distress, so far from being alleviated, would be greatly aggravated in all its symptoms. That was his firm and deliberate opinion; and if it were not, he would not stand up to vindicate the existing system of Corn-laws. Employment was what the labouring classes wanted; and the only means of improving their condition was by furnishing them with employment. It was by the revival of trade alone that employment could be provided. A glimmering of improvement in this respect was opening before them, and he trusted it would brighten into a brilliant prospect.

Mr. Ewart

observed, that the distress of the people was universally admitted; and he therefore hailed with infinite satisfaction the support to justice and humanity which had been that night given by the hon. Member for Nottingham, whose opinion was of great importance, not only because he represented a great manufacturing constituency—not only because he was connected by residence and property with a great agricultural district, but because he was likewise connected with one of the greatest combinations of talent which the press of this country possessed.

Report read.

On the question that it be read a second time,

Mr. Villiers

wished to put a question to the right hon. Baronet, in consequence of what had fallen from the hon. Member for Northumberland, which was, whether he had been correctly represented by him, or whether he had been misapprehended on that side of the House. The hon. Member for Northumberland congratulated his friends on the pledge which the right hon. Baronet had given last night to adhere to the present Corn-law, as a final settlement, and as considering himself bound by that declaration to make no farther change; he had been understood, on his side, to confine that declaration to the present moment. Would the right hon. Baronet, for the satisfaction of the country, state what he did say.

Sir R. Peel

said, he had no objection to give the best answer in his power to the question of the hon. Gentleman, and, whatever objection their might be to answering general questions of this kind, still, on a matter of such importance, he would endeavour to return as complete an answer as he could. He did not at present contemplate any alteration in the Corn Bill, as agreed to last Session. He did not think that a sufficient period had elapsed since the passing of that bill to give it a fair trial; and he certainly preferred that bill to any proposition that he had since heard. He did not believe that the substitution of a fixed duty would secure for agriculture the same degree of protection. When the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward) calculated that a fixed duty, say of 5s. a quarter, would subject the country not only to a tax of 5s. a quarter on the corn imported, but that it would be equivalent to a tax of 5s. on the 20,000,000 of quarters grown at home and consumed there—when the hon. Member maintained, in short, that such a fixed duty would be equal to a tax of 5,000,000.l. he could not at all reconcile it to his own mind how the hon. Member could think of taking his stand on the principle of a fixed duty. Upon the whole, therefore, as he (Sir R. Peel) had heard nothing to convince him of the great advantage there would be in the adoption of a fixed duty, he must retain the opinion he had expressed last Session, and oppose any alteration in the present state of the law. That was all he felt it necessary at present to state with respect to the Corn-laws. He never intended to bind himself to adhere irrevocably to any particular law. Never would he agree to purchase any degree of support by an engagement to take his stand, not on a principle, but on some existing law, in which it was impossible for any man to say that the interests of the country would not make it necessary to introduce alterations from time to time.

Motion agreed to.

Address ordered to be presented to her Majesty, by such Members of the House as were of her Majesty's Honourable Privy Council.