HC Deb 24 June 1845 vol 81 cc1155-6
Mr. Labouchere

wished to take that opportunity of directing the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade to a matter connected with the recent alteration in the Tariff, which, though it did not affect any large class of traders, was still calculated to injure some individuals of high character in the commercial world. It besides involved such manifest injustice, that he trusted some satisfactory answer would at once be given respecting it. The question arose from the alteration made in the rate of duty chargeable on the article called morphine, which was a preparation of opium, and had latterly nearly supplanted that drug in medical practice. The House having left the duty on opium, which was the raw material, untouched, while it considerably reduced that on morphine, the consequence was that the foreigner who got his opium duty free would be enabled entirely to supplant the morphine manufacturers in the market of this country. One respectable chemist in Edinburgh, who had erected a laboratory for the production of morphine, which astonished all who had an opportunity of inspecting it, from the beauty of its construction, had carried on a thriving and profitable trade in this article; but he was now apprehensive that the foreign chemists would be enabled to undersell him in the market, so as entirely to destroy his prospects. The entire revenue derived from the duty on opium did not amount to more than 3,000l. or 4,000l.; and when the injustice done to the native manufacturer was so obvious, he thought there could be no difficulty in providing a remedy.

Sir George Clerk

said, the point alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman had been already brought under the notice of the Board of Trade by the individual in Edinburgh whom the right hon. Gentleman had referred to, and who was apprehensive that the alteration in the Tariff would be injurious to his business. Prior to the year 1842, there was a duty of 16s. a pound on morphine when imported; but none had ever been imported under that duty. In 1842, the duty was reduced from 16s. to 5s., with the same result, as not a single ounce of it had been since introduced, and he had not the slightest apprehension that this state of things would be at all altered under the present system.