HC Deb 23 March 1843 vol 67 cc1320-2
Mr. Barclay

wished to put a question with respect to the duties on timber payable upon the introduction of that article into the Isle of Man, for the purposes of shipbuilding. At present, the duties on timber entering that island were much lower than those payable on the introduction of timber into this country. The shipbuilders of Sunderland, and the other ship-building ports, felt this to be a great hardship on them, inasmuch as that the existing law gave a preference to the shipbuilders of the island over those of the ports of this country. He wished to know whether any change in the law were contemplated?

Mr. Gladstone

In consequence of the interest taken in this subject by the representatives of the shipping ports of this country, inquiries had been made by the Board of Trade into the question relating to the duties levied on the timber imported into the Isle of Man, for the purposes of ship building, and it was found that those duties were lower than those exacted on the introduction of timber into this country. This was a state of facts which, prima facie, presented a case of hardship on British ship builders; but on looking into the case, it did not appear to the Government that any means existed of repairing the mischief without producing other greater evils. It was felt that although the ship-builders of the Isle of Man, in this respect, possessed a preference, yet that, on the other hand, they laboured under great disadvantages. All their iron came from this country, as well as all the commodities of foreign production which they required, and which, therefore, they received at advanced prices. Their capital was small; and the persons engaged in this trade were not able to enter into any extensive speculations. The reason for the interest which had been taken on this subject, was to be found in the fact of the great decline of British ship-building in 1837, 1838, and in 1841 and 1842, and from the report which had gained ground, that much of the ship-building had been transferred to the Isle of Man. Some time ago there was an increase of business in the Isle of Man, but this was a state of things which had not continued, and the depression in the ship-building trade had extended to that place. He had obtained some information upon this question, and he found, that the total tonnage of ships built in the Isle of Man, in 1842 was 1,746 tons; while, in 1841, it had amounted to no less than 2,933 tons. If the year 1842 were compared with the average of the previous five or even nine years, a considerable decrease in business appeared. From these circumstances he drew the inference, that the ship-building trade of the Isle of Man, notwithstanding the advantages which it possessed in the item already alluded to, rose and fell with that of this country; and it was from no competition in that quarter, that British ship building suffered any disadvantage. The strongest reason, however, which disinclined the Government to alter the law was this, that they did not find that they could draw any clear distinction between timber to be used for the purposes of building sea-going ships, and ships to be employed for fishing purposes; and timber imported for the ordinary objects of farm buildings and other general purposes. They thought, that it would be hard to subject the inhabitants to a great increase of duty on articles of the first necessity, which they had hitherto had at a very moderate duty; and they had, therefore, thought it best to allow the law to stand as it now did.

Mr. Barclay

That answer of the right hon. Gentleman would not be satisfactory to his constituents.