HC Deb 12 February 1845 vol 77 cc342-4
Mr. Bouverie

wished to ask the right hon. Baronet if it were true that a negotiation was on foot for a Commercial Treaty with the Brazilian Government? If such a negotiation had been entered into, it seemed absolutely certain that the Brazilian Government would insist on a reciprocity Treaty. The Treaty of 1827 was one of that nature, and there was an additional reason for assuming this as a probability amounting to certainty, because more than one-fifth of the export of that country consisted of sugar. Now, there could be no doubt, if the Brazilian Government insisted on a reciprocity Treaty with respect to that article of produce, no prospect remained of an agreement between Her Majesty's Government and the Brazilian, so long as that frivolous distinction was kept up in our Statute Book between free-labour and slave-labour sugar—a distinction which, as they had been forewarned from that side of the House last Session, had proved to be utterly so, inasmuch as the only sugar yet imported from a foreign State, under that law, had been slave-labour sugar from Venezuela, and the only sugar that was at present expected to come in any quantity, was the slave-labour sugar of New Orleans. That distinction, if they were to have a Treaty on the footing of reciprocity, must be abandoned. In expressing the hope that this would be done, he felt sure that he was expressing the hope of a very large portion of the country. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would, as he had done on former occasions, put his consistency in his pocket, and at once remove the inequality. He wished to know whether any negotiations were proceeding with respect to a Commercial Treaty?

Sir R. Peel

would answer the hon. Gentleman's question as to the case as it stood at present, and set aside speculations regarding the future. There was no ne- gotiation pending with the Brazilian Government, involving any alteration of the Tariff with respect to import duties. A proposal had been made to the Brazilian Government, which was now under consideration, in respect to one of the original Treates of commerce and navigation. That was the only one at present under consideration. He supposed the hon. Gentleman was aware of the nature of the Treaty referred to. It related merely to navigation; there was no treaty in progress with respect to the Tariff.

Mr. Ricardo

said, it had been generally understood, from the manner in which the change of the Sugar Duties was proposed last Session, that some further change would be introduced during the present. He thought the right hon. Baronet would put an end to a great deal of uncertainty if he would inform them whether that was his intention. He confessed he was very glad to hear that the negotiation with the Brazilian Government for a reciprocity Treaty was given up. All he heard about reciprocity treaties convinced him that the matter lay in a very narrow compass, and that our end would be much better attained without that expedient. It would be well for the right hon. Gentleman also to consider whether it would not be advantageous to give up those differential duties, which imposed a very formidable burden on the country without any counter-balancing benefit. He had thought that, on going into Committee of Supply, it would not be out of order for him to make some mention of those general principles by which he conceived their deliberations ought to be guided.

Mr. Gibson

would merely express his hope that the right hon. Baronet would abandon all attempts at commercial treaties. It must strike everybody that with the countries with which the right hon. Baronet might negotiate as to import duties, even if treaties of this kind were desirable, they could not possibly be effected. The difficulty lay at home, and it would be far more satisfactory to the House, if the right hon. Gentleman were to tell them that commercial negociations were going on successfully with the Central Society for the Protection of British Agriculture, than it would be to hear of such being in progress with any foreign power. Unless you could induce the class interests to make the sacrifice, if it were a sacrifice, and to consent to a reduction of import duties on leading articles of consumption and food, it would be impossible to make those concessions to other countries which would induce them to make a reciprocity Treaty. He was glad his hon. Friend had put this question, which he did not think would anticipate the discussion of Friday next, for he very much feared that the adherence to differential duties, and the principle of protection, which prevented the right hon. Baronet from making a Treaty with Brazil, according to the account he had given of Mr. Ellis's negotiation, still continued. The House would recollect that Mr. Ellis was cut short in his attempt to negotiate, by being informed by the Brazilian Government that they would not consent to any larger advantage being given to British colonial sugar over foreign than 10 per cent. Mr. Ellis was prevented from opening his communications to the Brazilian Government, and now that that negotiation had come to an end, he should like to see laid before the House the instructions which Her Majesty's Government had given to Mr. Ellis.