§ On the question that the Speaker do now leave the Chair,
§ Mr. Cobden
said, there was one point to which he wished to draw attention, namely, as to the amount which would be voted as a tax for the benefit of the Colonial proprietors. He thought both sides of the House would agree that they were going to vote avowedly an amount of money to the Colonial proprietors, and therefore there could be no harm in ascertaining, as far as it could be done, what that amount would be. He would take the right hon. Gentleman's own data, and he thought the fact would appear self-evident as to the amount which they were about to pay to the Colonial proprietors; and as the subject might be adverted to in the discussion upon the Income Tax on Monday—for the two questions were pretty much blended together—he should like to know the fact from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman assumed that we should receive 230,000 tons of Colonial sugar, and we were to pay 10l. 10s. a ton as protection upon it. He assumed, also, that we should have 20,000 tons of Foreign sugar: he therefore thought it was evident, before we could receive the 20,000 tons, we must have previously paid the 10l. 10s. extra duty on the Colonial sugar. If he was right—and he was taking the right hon. Gentleman's own proposition—then the amount which the House was about to vote in the way of protection would be about 2,416,000l. In fact, the tax which they were to vote was 3,500,000l. to the Crown, and to the Colonial proprietors, as he had before stated, a tax of 2,416,000l., a sum which would enable the right hon. Gentleman to take off the window tax and the soap duty, and have left him about half a million to spare. If there was any fallacy in what he had stated, it should not remain uncontradicted. He and others with whom he acted had been charged with exaggeration, both in and out of the House; and if, therefore, there was anything wrong in what he had now stated, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would set him right.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
did not acquiesce in the reasoning of the hon. Gentleman, or the results at which he had arrived as to the effect of the protection proposed to be given to Colonial sugar as 441 distinguished from Foreign sugar. As they were all naturally anxious to go into the details upon the Resolutions to be proposed, he thought it would be better to reserve a discussion upon any general question, which might form a feature for future debate.
§ Lord Howick
thought the question of the hon. Member for Stockport was a very plain one, which had been very clearly stated, and it involved a point which ought to be cleared up. It was capable of being answered aye or no. If he understood the position of the hon. Gentleman it was this—the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed a duty of ten guineas a ton on Colonial sugar as compared with Foreign sugar, and he assumed that Foreign sugar, under that protecting duty, would come into the market and be sold. It followed, therefore, that, if it were not for this protecting duty, the growers of such Foreign sugar could afford to sell it ten guineas a ton cheaper than they actually would do whilst a protecting duty in favour of Colonial sugar to that amount continued. If the Foreign free-grown sugar could be sold in the market at a profit, whilst it paid ten guineas extra duty, he wanted to know why, if that extra duty were removed, it would not equally answer their purpose to sell their sugar to the consumer ten guineas a ton cheaper? They would receive precisely the same amount for it, the only difference being that ten guineas less would go into the Treasury. He understood the point which had been put by the hon. Member for Stockport to be this:—"If Foreign sugar could be sold ten guineas a ton cheaper than Colonial sugar would be under the present arrangement, it was perfectly clear that if Foreign sugar was allowed to come into the market on equal terms with Colonial sugar it would bring down the price of Colonial sugar ten guineas a ton; and it was for the purpose of preventing such a fall upon Colonial sugar, that a protective duty was imposed." He confessed that he was totally at a loss to understand what a protecting duty was for, if it was not for that purpose. If the price of sugar, then, was raised ten guineas a ton—if the Government proposed a protecting duty for that purpose—and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer calculated upon 230,000 tons of British sugar being brought into the market, he wanted to know where the error in arithmetic—where the fallacy was, when the hon. Gentleman 442 behind him said, "you are imposing a tax on the British consumer of 2,416,000l., and upwards."
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that in the course of last week 3,000 quarters of Foreign corn had been imported at a duty of 20s. The consumption of wheat in this country was estimated at 20,000,000 quarters, and with the exception of 1,000,000 quarters, the whole 19,000,000 quarters had been derived from our domestic supply. Did the hon. Gentleman or the noble Lord mean to contend that because 3,000 quarters of Foreign wheat were brought into the market last week, and paid a duty of 20s., therefore a tax to the amount of 19,000,000l. had been levied on the British public, because 19,000,000 quarters, the produce of our own supply, had been consumed within the last year? And how did the noble Lord reconcile the complaint he now made with the statement which he made the other night, namely, that if the duty upon Foreign corn was removed, it would not at all follow that the price would be diminished? because an attempt had been made to show that in Jersey and Guernsey, where the trade in corn was free, the price of wheat was not lower than it was in this country. Did the noble Lord really mean to contend that a tax of 19,000,000l. had been levied on the British public, because 3,000 quarters of wheat had been brought in last week at a duty of 20s., for that, as he understood it, was the tenor of his argument?
§ Mr. Hume
said, the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) was mistaken, because the very object of the Corn Law was to keep up the price of corn. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would not give a pin for the Corn Laws, if they did not keep up the price of corn. Therefore the right hon. Baronet had been arguing against his own Friends. The right hon. Baronet had not answered the question, which was a direct one—what amount the proposed Sugar Duty would put into the pockets of the Colonial proprietors? It was said, that the whole would not go to them; and the question was, what proportion would? He (Mr. Hume) believed that it would depend on the proportion between the quantity coming in and the quantity admitted at the lower duty; at any rate, it was a question which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was called upon to answer. He (Mr. Hume) should be told that one in twenty was too small a proportion to have the effect imputed; 443 but he only rose to show how utterly fallacious was the argument of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), and how he shrank from answering the question: for why go to corn? Why not keep to sugar? Sugar was the question, and to go to corn was no answer. The right hon. Baronet went to corn, thinking that a more attractive subject. He had often been told, "Oh, now do not let us hear any more of corn." So he would say now, "Keep to sugar; sugar is the question." The right hon. Baronet had said that he had no intention either to make any difference between the East and West Indies, or to increase the protection of both; and it was for him to make it evident to the people at large that this relief in the reduction of duty would not produce those effects, in consequence of the manner in which the duties were lowered. The time would come when all protection must be given up. He (Mr. Hume) was sorry right hon. Gentlemen were not coming to the discussion fairly and candidly.
§ Mr. Labouchere
It appears to me that the argument of the First Lord of the Treasury, brought forward in so triumphant a tone, as if it constituted an answer to the question of the hon. Member for Stockport, and the arguments reiterated by the noble Lord (Lord Howick), is one of the most extraordinary evasions ever heard in this House. What was the proposition? That, inasmuch as the plan of the Government supposed a regular trade to this country in Foreign sugar, amounting in the next year to no less than 20,000 tons, the price paid for our Colonial sugar by the consumer must be governed by the price paid for the Foreign sugar, and at which it can be imported into this country. Now, the right hon. Baronet is entirely evading the argument, in what I must think, on the part of so able a debater, a fit of despair. The right hon. Baronet says, "Why, I will bring forward precisely an analogous case in the instance of corn;" and what are the circumstances as described by the right hon. Gentleman himself? Why, that there was actually such a quantity as 3,000 quarters of Foreign corn imported into this country, against a quantity of 20,000,000 quarters of home-grown consumed in this country; and he said that, of course those 3,000 quarters must have precisely the same effect upon the price of the 20,000,000 as the 20,000 tons of Foreign sugar must have upon the 230,000 tons of Colonial sugar which he expects. Why, there is this immense distinction, 444 which makes the whole difference,—The right hon. Baronet supposes, on his calculation of 20,000 tons of Foreign sugar, that it will be a profitable speculation for the foreigner to introduce the sugar here; but it remains to be proved (and I believe if the facts were before us we should find it to be entirely the contrary,) that this trifling quantity of Foreign corn which has come in has been a winning speculation, or that, under the operation of the sliding-scale, the transaction is likely to encourage the foreigner to send his corn here in future. I really am astonished that the right hon. Baronet should have ventured on such an illustration. What have been the circumstances of the corn trade? Why, that large quantities of Foreign corn, after being kept in our warehouses in the hope that it might be admitted here at no loss to the importer, for the consumption of this country, have at last got into so damaged a state, that it has not been possible to pay the duty upon them, and they have been thrown into the river. And this is the state of trade, under the operation of the sliding-scale—scandalous to the country and destructive to everybody engaged in it—to which the right hon. Baronet compares the sugar trade under the regulations which he has introduced. He endeavours to establish an analogy between circumstances so entirely dissimilar. Sir, however ill I may think of the scheme of Sugar Duties proposed by Her Majesty's Government, I do hope it will not inflict upon this country the curse of a sugar trade conducted upon the same principles upon which, unfortunately, the corn trade is conducted. But my purpose in rising was, at any rate, to protest against the argument brought forward by the right hon. Baronet, that he finds in the circumstances of the corn trade an answer to the question of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Cobden). I do not wish to enter upon that question, as to whether the statement of my hon. Friend is true to its full extent, in the unqualified manner in which he has put it; I do not wish to pronounce an opinion; but this at least I may venture to say,—that there never was a more complete failure in answer, than in the attempt of the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury to persuade the House and the country that, because it would be absurd to contend that that wretched quantity of 3,000 quarters of Foreign corn introduced into this country the other day produced any sensible effect upon the price of the 445 great bulk of the corn consumed here in the present season, from that we can draw an analogous conclusion upon the circumstances of the sugar trade, and the effect of the introduction of Foreign sugar as well as Colonial into this country.
Sir, there has been a question put on one side of the House, and a question put on the other; and neither of them has been answered. A question was put from the opposite side of the House, I will say, not with the intention of obtaining any information. That question was put with the intention of raising argument and debate, but not with the intention of gaining information. [Lord Howick: With the intention of giving information.] The right hon. Baronet showed the noble Lord (Lord Howick) that this game of putting questions was "a game that two could play at;" and considerable uneasiness on the opposite side of the House has been the result of that retort. I say that a fairer answer was never made to such a question as that which came from the hon. Member for Stockport. I will not evade his question; I will go to it; but what have you done with the question of my right hon. Friend? My right hon. Friend put his question upon the 3,000 quarters of foreign corn entered last week—"Do you mean to say that those 3,000 quarters raised the price of all the 20,000,000 quarters consumed in Great Britain?" The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) is a most candid man, and he answered, perhaps fairly as far as it goes, that it is not fair to take that small quantity, that "wretched quantity" I admit, and to argue as if it formed an appreciable portion of the trade. I do not know that I differ from him in that; but I will give him a slight modification of the question, which shall preserve the substance of it, and avoid that objection of his. In the year 1843 there came in 1,000,000 or 1,200,000 quarters of corn; that at all events is no slight or inappreciable or imperceptible portion of the trade; and that paid a duty of about 15s. In the year 1844, 800,000 or 900,000 quarters of wheat came in; and that paid about 17s. a quarter duty. These are no "wretched quantities;" these are portions of the trade of the country, quite as great as we suppose or expect in the case of sugar. And now I will ask the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) my question;—will you look at the average price of wheat in 1843 and 1844, and tell me 446 that the price of the 20,000,000 quarters consumed in the country was raised by 15s. a quarter in 1843, and by 17s. a quarter in 1844, above what it would have been without the Corn Law? You cannot ride off upon the excuse that this is a question upon some small and inappreciable fraction of the consumption. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) says, that very probably the importer of these 3,000 quarters lost money. Possibly so; who can tell, upon a single transaction, or upon several, whether he has lost or not? But did the importers of 1,000,000 quarters in 1843 lose money? If they did, why was another million imported in 1844? I ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer me that. The right hon. Gentleman says, that quantities of corn were thrown into the river; he spoke, too, of a man in great difficulty, approaching even to despair, for an argument; and so he must go back to a story which, if I recollect rightly, was told in this House eight or ten years ago, of a transaction occurring, not under the present Corn Law at all, but under the old law, when some particular parcel of corn was thrown into the river. What has that to do with the question before us? I do say, that the question put by my right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel) was perfectly just, and that it was impossible to answer such a question as that put on the opposite side in a manner more entirely consonant to equity and truth. I will endeavour to show the relation between the two. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cobden) and the noble Lord (Lord Howick), who, I must say, is always candid and plain-spoken in this House, proceeded upon the supposition, that when you impose a protective duty, the meaning is (and the certain effect) to raise the price to the consumer; and what was the meaning of the question? What did the hon. Member for Stockport say? He said, "This is a plain matter of fact; it is a proposition of arithmetic, a sum in multiplication. You have to take 250,000 tons of sugar, and multiply them by the 10s. 6d. duty, and there you have the result; we are giving so much to the Colonial interest." Very well; you proceed upon that assumption, that the amount of the protective duty has necessarily a corresponding difference in the price to the consumer. But this is quite as fairly applicable to the Corn Law; and if you have put a foolish question, it is fair to answer you by another question framed 447 upon exactly the same principle. But now I will endeavour to answer the question of the hon. Member for Stockport. It is not a question about a matter of fact, to be answered in a definite phrase; but only by taking into consideration a great variety of circumstances. I maintain that a protective duty is not the measure but the maximum of the addition that can be made to the price. The hon. Member for Stockport does not require to be told, that the protective duty on Foreign sugar was until last year 39s. per cwt.; but I do not suppose any hon. Gentleman is prepared to contend that 39s. was the addition made to the price by the operation of that protective duty. If the hon. Member for Stockport wishes to contend that 10s. 6d. a cwt. is the addition to be made to the price of sugar, in consequence of that duty being imposed, let him do so; it is perfectly fair argument; he has a right to contend for it. I am not surprised at his opening the point, and pushing it; in his view, and in his sense, it is right enough to drive his argument home, and bring out as well as he can the amount of protection. I do not object to that; but I do object to the assumption which seems to be made, because there are really many points to be taken into view in order to the clear and full understanding of his question. One of them is, that if you assume, that because a tax of 10s. 6d. is laid upon Foreign sugar, that sum must be added to the price of British sugar. You are bound to show that the article which will be entered as Foreign sugar will be of precisely the same average value as that which will be entered as British. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the British sugar is only worth two-thirds of the value of the Foreign, and suppose the British sugar pays 14s. duty, and the Foreign 23s. 4d.; it is manifest that the duty would be a protective duty of 9s. 4d., if it were upon articles of equal value; but if the Foreign sugar happens to be half as valuable again as the British produce, the 23s. 4d. is, in fact, only a very little tax ad valorem. This is not a mere theory; it is a practical consideration. I venture to assert that the sugars of foreign countries which will come here will be more valuable than the sugars from the British possessions; the foreign grower having a choice from a great variety of samples, will choose the best, and will enter a more valuable article. The duty, therefore, will fall more lightly upon that 448 article, in proportion to its excess of value, and the addition to the price will be reduced in the same proportion. Of course, it must also be considered whether you allow that all the 20,000 tons of Foreign sugar which my right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel) admited would probably be entered here will be forthcoming or not; and if not, a deduction again must be made in your calculated rise of price. All these are matters of argument and discussion; it is quite right in the hon. Member (Mr. Cobden) to sift them to the bottom; but as to his putting the question he has put, and saying it comes to 1,000,000l. or 2,000,000l., it is a fair stratagem in debate, and no objection can be taken to it in that light; but with reference to any information to be thus gained, it deserves precisely the answer that has been given to it, in the form of another question, by my right hon. Friend. And that question I hope some Gentleman on the other side will endeavour to dispose of more satisfactorily than has yet been done.
§ Mr. Roebuck
said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had argued that the hon. Member for Stockport put a foolish question, which had been answered by another foolish question, by the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government. That did not appear to him (Mr. Roebuck) to be the case, or to be worthy of either one side of the House or the other. The hon. Member for Stockport put a very pertinent question, and it was answered with exceeding dexterity by the right hon. Baronet, because he merely put his finger upon one part of the question, and did not answer the whole. This would be said, he was sure, of the question of the hon. Member for Stockport, that it was a plain, clear, definite, and brief question, intelligible by everybody; but he did not think any one of those characters could be assigned to the answer made by the right hon. Baronet. The question put by the hon. Member for Stockport was, "If a certain amount of duty be placed upon Foreign sugar as a means of protection, what is the loss to the community by that protective duty?" That was the real meaning of the question. That hon. Member made also a statement which he thought was not quite accurate—namely, that the loss to the community was to be measured by the gain to the planter. There was a loss to the community, made up of different items, besides protection or gain to the planter; there was the great 449 quantity of labour and capital thrown away, entirely lost to every body. That protective duty, therefore, did only partial good to the planter, while it did a distinct increasing mischief to the whole community by the quantity of labour and capital thrown away in the production of the article in a more barren soil. The hon. Member for Stockport was answered by being asked—"Will you say that the importation of Foreign corn last week is a measure at all of an increase in price?" It was not a very accurate measure, because the quantity was so small; but if the quantity had been large, it would be an approximation to a measure. The question of the hon. Member for Stockport was, therefore, really put for information sake. It might be shown to be so, in this way:—The East and West India growers were to be protected by a 10s. 6d. duty, what was that put on for? He held in his hand a most significant letter written by Mr. Gladstone (the father of the right hon. Gentleman who had addressed the House) to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and published in that day's Times, avowing that the West India planter must be protected against two things—against cheaper and better sugar; and what did that mean but that the community lost in two ways—by high price and bad quality? They were to have worse sugar at a higher price; this was what was called protection! Supposing a distinct and definite quantity introduced from the West Indies, the hon. Member for Stockport wanted to know the amount of loss to the community, or how much the price was raised in reality? It was raised by thus much—as much as the West Indies would import if there were perfectly free trade, so much might not be considered loss. The right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade had intimated that they would be utterly ruined; and if so, there would be no importation. The price, therefore, was accurately enough stated by the hon. Member for Stockport to be measured and increased by the 10s. 6d. duty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was shaking his head; Lord Burghley was represented to have shaken his head; but he should be much more delighted with an argument from the right hon. Gentleman than with a mere significant gesture. If there would be no importation from the West Indies, in case of free trade, then the price was increased by the whole amount of the protective duty. If there would be any importation, it would 450 be just so much as could be produced in the West Indies at the same cost as it was in Brazil. If the Brazilians could import at 10s. less than the West India grower, the sugar imported from the West Indies would then have to be really imported 10s. cheaper; and therefore the 10s. did mark the difference in price. Now, how was this answered by the mystification of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), who said a variety of circumstances entered into the consideration? No doubt they did; but here was a pertinent question deserving the attention of a statesman—what the exact amount was which was paid for protection? It was supposed that great benefit was derived from this protection of the Colonies; he denied it altogether. There might be very good reasons for protecting the East Indies as well as the West, but the reason was not an economical one; and the hon. Member for Stockport was putting an economical question, which wanted an economical answer. In his opinion, the value of the West India Colonies to this country was to be estimated by our loss. We derived no strength from them, but had to pay them a large tax in the shape of a Sugar Duty. It had not been shown in any way whatever how the statement of the hon. Member for Stockport could be escaped from, that this country paid every year 2,400,000l. in the tax on sugar for the behoof of the West Indies.
§ Sir George Clerk
believed the hon. and learned Member for Bath stood alone in that House, in maintaining that the Colonies, and more particularly their West Indian settlements, were of no value whatever to this country. Instead of answering the hon. and learned Gentleman, therefore, he would prefer addressing his argument to the speech of the hon. Member for Taunton, who held that at least some protective duty was necessary for the prosperity of the West Indian Colonies, and that, however he might advocate the principles of free trade, he was free to admit that, owing to the peculiar position of the West India planters, an exception ought to be made in their favour to the general rule for which he contended. The right hon. Gentleman was, of course, for granting that protection merely in order to ward off the impending ruin which would be sure to fall upon these Colonies if all protection were withdrawn, and if they were compelled to enter into an unlimited competition with other countries. But both the noble Lord and the hon. 451 Member for Stockport thought that the matter resolved itself into a mere money question; and that the amount of the loss which this country sustained in continuing the protection to the West Indian interest was to be measured by allowing 10s. 6d. a ton for the entire quantity of sugar imported from the West Indies. If that argument were to hold good, it would necessarily follow that the larger the supply of sugar which they received from the West Indies happened to be, by so much would the tax which was paid by this country in the shape of protection be increased. The hon. Member for Stockport said they would get 230,000 tons of sugar from the West Indies, and that a protection of 10s. a ton on that amount wauld be equivalent to a tax on this country of 2,300,000l. Now, in order to see how far that allegation was well founded, he would suppose that the West India Colonies, instead of being able to send them the quantity of sugar supposed by the hon. Gentleman, were enabled to export only 100,000 tons, or even 50,000 tons to this country, and that the deficiency were to be supplied by the importation of Foreign sugar; then it would necessarily follow that the amount of protection given to the West Indies, instead of being 2,300,000l., would be only 500,000l. He would admit that the argument of the hon. Gentleman would hold good, if the supply of sugar from the West Indies were very inconsiderable, compared with the necessary consumption of this country, and if they had the means of obtaining an unlimited supply from Foreign countries, without the market price being increased. If that result were to follow, then the protection would, as stated by his right hon. Friend, arrive at the maximum rate, and the argument of the hon. Member for Stockport might hold good; but how could that argument be shown to be applicable under existing circumstances, when they actually expected to receive from their Colonial possessions a much larger quantity of sugar than had ever been consumed in any one year in this country? When the noble Lord opposite spoke a few evenings ago of the differential duty between Foreign and Colonial sugar, being fixed at 7s. 6d., he would wish to know how the noble Lord, bearing the argument he then used in his mind, could arrive at the same conclusion to which the hon. Member for Stockport had come, when he spoke of 452 fixing the tax borne by this country on account of protection to their West India interests at the amount of the product of the entire quantity of sugar imported by the rate of the differential duty. Now if they were to remove all protective duty in favour of the West India Colonies, the necessary consequence would be that a large portion of the sugar plantations there would be withdrawn from the cultivation of sugar; and the result which must necessarily follow would be, what his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated, and what had been admitted by the hon. and learned Member for Bath—namely, a repetition of what had occurred in the year 1798, when the sugar crops of St. Domingo became unproductive, or, in other words, the price of sugar would immediately rise all over the world, and then, instead of the 10s. reduction of the protective duty going into the pockets of the people of this country, it would of necessity be absorbed in the great increase which must take place in the price of Foreign sugar. It was impossible to deny but that the object of the protection was to a certain extent to give some advantage to the West India proprietors—an advantage to which he considered they were fully entitled, from the unfavourable position in which they had been placed by the Legislature of this country; but he should, at the same time, beg leave altogether to deny that there was any foundation for the argument of the hon. Member for Stockport, that the tax levied from off the people of this country on account of the protective duty, was to be measured by the amount of that protection, and the quantity of the sugar imported from those Colonies. Now what was the state of things a few years ago, when they were raising more than a sufficient quantity of sugar in the West India Colonies for the home market? At that time the differential duty was 39s. a cwt. on Foreign sugar, while the cost price of sugar in the market was no more, he believed, than 34s. a cwt., an amount much below that of the differential duty. Would it be alleged that the price of sugar in this country could at that time be reduced—if the protective duty were repealed—by the amount of that protective duty, or, in other words, by more than the entire cost of the article. The argument of the hon. Gentleman was, therefore, evidently fallacious, and it was clear that the extent of the benefit conferred upon the West India Colonies by 453 the protection extended to them must be measured by the proportion of sugar which they were able to send into this country, combined with the amount of the consumption of this country. If the West India Colonies were able to send over only an inconsiderable portion of that supply—say one-tenth or the one-twentieth part of the entire consumption of this country, and that the whole of the remainder had to be imported from foreign countries, then he would admit that there would be some ground for the argument of the hon. Member; but when the fact was different—when they were, as was really the case, expecting a much larger supply from the West India Colonies than the entire annual consumption of this country had amounted to for many years past—when they were coming to a position similar to that which prevailed prior to the year 1833, when the Colonies raised a sufficient supply not only for home consumption, but also for exportation to the Continent to a large extent—then he denied that the argument of the hon. Gentleman was at all applicable. He denied that when a high differential duty was imposed, the entire of that differential duty went into the pockets of the West India planters. On the contrary, so far from that being the case, he considered the protective duty to form but a very inconsiderable addition to the price of the article.
§ Sir William Clay
said, the speech of the right hon. Baronet who had just sat down was perfectly beside the question before the House. The right hon. Baronet said, if there had been a surplus of sugar produced in their own Colonies beyond the entire consumption of this country, then the differential duty would not cause a tax upon the people of this country equal to the amount estimated by the hon. Member for Stockport. There could be no doubt of that fact; but the argument of his hon. Friend was founded on the supposition that the protective duty would raise the price of sugar. It was not denied that at the period to which the right hon. Baronet referred, when the Colonies produced more sugar than the consumption of this country amounted to, the differential duty of 39s. a cwt. did not raise the price of sugar in this country by an equal amount. But in the argument before the House it was supposed that a necessity would arise for importing Foreign sugar, and that supposition was founded on the 454 statement of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), who had told them that it would be necessary for them to obtain a supply of Foreign sugar. It was on that condition, namely, that a supply of Foreign sugar would be required for the consumption of this country, that hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House rested their argument that the differential duty would bear to the whole extent, or very nearly to the whole extent, of the protection upon the pockets of the people of this country. The right hon. Baronet would therefore permit him to say that he had entirely mistaken the argument of the hon. Member for Stockport. With respect to the other questions involved in the subject of the Sugar Duties, he would not then enter upon them, but would reserve his opposition to the measure introduced by the Government until the House was in Committee. He would then bring forward the Motion of which he had given notice as an amendment to the third Resolution, and until doing so he would forbear entering into the question at large. He could, not, however, hear the argument of the right hon. Baronet without standing up to observe that the right hon. Gentleman seemed altogether to have forgotten the case put forward by his hon. Friend the Member for Stockport.
§ Mr. P. Borthwick
said, his object in rising was to meet the question put. Simple and concise, as the hon. and learned Member for Bath admitted it to be, that hon. and learned Gentleman had not clearly stated it to the House. The question was, not "By how much do you increase the price of sugar by the differential duty?" but, "Do you not increase the price by 10 guineas a ton?" Admitting that the people were taxed by the differential duty, the hon. Member asked, "Do you not tax them 10 guineas a ton?" He rose to ask the hon. Gentleman whether he was serious in putting that question or no? for they were to receive 230,000 tons of sugar from the West Indies, and 20,000 tons from foreign countries; and the hon. Gentleman said, "Because you put a differential duty of 10s. a cwt. on Foreign sugar, does it not follow that you put 10 guineas a ton on the price of the West India sugar consumed?" But as the consumer bought sugar as cheaply as he could, did it not follow that he would exhaust the market of the West Indian sugar at as cheap a price as he could purchase it, before he bought the taxed Foreign sugar? Would 455 he not buy in the cheapest market? The increase in price was not therefore, 10s. a cwt., the amount of the differential tax, but a smaller increase, which was to be determined by the amount of sugar which was admitted into the market from Foreign countries. It was therefore clear that the answer to the question of the hon. Member for Stockport must be given in the negative, and that whatever sum the increase of price amounted to, it did not amount to 10s a cwt If the West Indies exported no sugar at all, in that case the direct amount of tax would be 10s. a cwt., but that was not the question they were considering; they were considering a question of fact, which was that 230,000 tons were coming from the West Indies, and only 20,000 tons were required from foreign countries to supply the deficiency. Were they going to pay 10s. a cwt. more for Foreign sugar before they proceeded to purchase West India sugar? He asked by what means the 20,000 tons of Foreign sugar were to increase the price of the 230,000 tons of West India sugar? He clearly admitted that this was a tax on this country, and that they could buy cheaper sugar from the market of the world if they took away the tax altogether. But who was to be blamed for that? They on the other side of the House, who had taxed the people of England 20,000,000l. to place the West Indians in the position in which we now found them, to cripple them in their resources of labour, and to prevent them providing sugar cheaply, because free labour was not to be found at any price. He believed that the West Indies could compete with the world in the produce of sugar, and needed no protection at all, if a well-considered plan of emancipation had been adopted. But hon. Members opposite had adopted a plan which had had the effect of crippling the powers of the West India productions, and now they must pay for their wisdom.
§ Mr. C. Wood
was not then going into the question of the propriety of a protective duty, nor was he going to say a word in reply to the argument used by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. He rose merely for the purpose of observing that the question before the House was the amount of loss sustained by this country on account of the protection given to Colonial sugar over sugar the produce of Foreign countries; and in the way of answer to that question, he did not think the slightest progress had been made by any 456 of the hon. Members who had addressed the House in favour of the Ministerial plan. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newark had proposed to answer what he called the foolish question of his hon. Friend the Member for Stockport by at least as foolish a question (though it was not he, but the right hon. Gentleman, who designated it as such), put by the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury; but he trusted that the matter would not be suffered to remain in such a position, but that some Member of the Government who had not yet spoken would give the House a plain answer to the plain question put by his hon. Friend the Member for Stockport. The Government did not deny that the intent of their measure was to impose a tax upon the people of this country in raising the price of sugar, for the avowed benefit of the producers of Colonial sugar. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newark said, that the estimate which had been made by the hon. Member for Stockport was the maximum tax which could be imposed upon the people of this country under the proposed protection. Of that there could be no doubt. If there were a sufficient supply of Foreign sugar for the market of this country, and if they were, notwithstanding, limited by means of the protective duty to the Colonial produce, then, undoubtedly, the maximum tax would fully equal the amount stated by the hon. Member for Stockport; but he (Mr. Wood) would not pretend to say that, under existing circumstances, that tax would reach to the sum stated by his hon. Friend. But yet it was not denied that in reality a tax to some amount would be paid by the people of this country on account of this protection. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he believed, admitted the fact. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary expressed a similar opinion; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newark had made no attempt to deny it. It could not, in fact, be denied, that to some extent a tax was imposed upon the people of this country for the benefit of the West India proprietors; and the question put by his hon. Friend the Member for Stockport was, what, in the opinion of the Government, did that tax amount to in the aggregate? His hon. Friend had stated that he estimated the amount thus put into the pockets of the West India interest at 2,300,000l. or some such sum. 457 His hon. Friend might be wrong in that estimate; but what his hon. Friend and the House had aright to know—and what the country had a right to know—what did the tax amount to which the Government put upon the population of the British islands, for the benefit of the West India proprietors? And to that question no answer had as yet been given.
§ Viscount Sandon
said, he would answer the question of the hon. Gentleman by asking another. He would ask, in reply, what the amount of the tax was which the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell) proposed to levy, for the protection of the agricultural interests when he brought forward his Measure for imposing a fixed duty upon Foreign corn? The noble Lord, he believed, estimated the entire produce of the wheat crop of the country at something about 20,000,000 of quarters, and on what number of millions of quarters in addition did he intend to impose a tax upon the country. He asked that question at the time the measure had been brought forward, but he received no reply; and he now repeated, would hon. Gentlemen opposite consider it a sound argument, if he alleged that the effect of the noble Lord's plan would, if carried out, be to impose a tax of 10,000,000 of money upon the country for the benefit of the landowners? The question of the exact amount which was paid to the West Indian proprietors in the shape of protection, was one which, in his opinion, nobody could answer. The only attempt at answering it which had been at all made, was that of the hon. Member for Stockport himself, and his calculation had been disavowed by every hon. Member who had spoken subsequently on both sides of the House. In fact, the hon. Gentleman appeared to be rather unintelligible even to himself. It must be clear to every one that it was impossible to ascertain what the precise annual amount paid away in protection to the West India interests might be. It could not be denied but that some advantage was given to the Colonial proprietors by this protection. ["Hear."] Hon. Gentlemen sitting in front of the Opposition Benches should not cheer until they found themselves out of the scrape; for were they not themselves all protectionists, with the exception, perhaps, of the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland alone? They ought, therefore, not to suffer themselves to be carried away by the allegation that protection implied a certain amount of taxation upon 458 the population of this country. Such an argument was totally fallacious, and however suited it might be to the atmosphere of Covent-garden, it ought not to have been put forward in that House. Every one knew that the price of sugar would be regulated by the supply and the demand. If the supply in the market were greater than the demand, the prices would fall, wholly irrespective of everything which might take place in Foreign countries. As to the calculation of the hon. Member for Stockport, it had been admitted to be incorrect by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House; and he believed if the question were maturely considered, it would be admitted with equal unanimity that nobody could by possibility solve the question in the year before, what the respective proportions would be between the supply and demand for every month of the succeeding year, so as to enable them to ascertain the average amount of duties paid upon Foreign sugars within that time. He would not then enter into the general question of protection of particular interests. He would leave that matter to be supported by the noble Lord the Member for London, and the other hon. Members who sat with him upon the front benches—always excepting the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland, who, he believed, was opposed to protective duties altogether. The Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House were always put forward in the front of the battle in such questions, as if they alone were responsible for principles which were shared in common with them by the noble Lord opposite and his party. He had merely risen for the purpose of expressing his opinion that the amount of taxation caused by protective duties could not be measured by any mere question of differential duty, and that it was utterly impossible to ascertain that amount beforehand.
§ Mr. Milner Gibson
believed it was an undoubted fact that the price of Foreign sugars during the past year was but 21s.; while the price of Colonial sugars was 34s. The consequence was, therefore, that a sum of 13s. for every cwt. of sugar used in the country had been squeezed out of the pockets of the public by the protective duties of the Government. A sum of 13s. per cwt., on an average, upon all sugars, was squeezed out of the pockets of the British public by their system of protection; and the Government 459 having been successful in that attempt, were now reserving to themselves the power of squeezing from their pockets, in the same manner, 10s. 6d. per cwt. on all sugars imported for consumption into this country in the ensuing year. That is, they were adopting means by which the public would be compelled to pay half-a-guinea per cwt. more for their sugar in England than they could get it in any market in the rest of the world. That could not be denied, and he should therefore maintain that the fact might go forth to the country, that the Government were prepared, as had been stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, to hand over the full sum of 2,300,000l. out of the taxes paid by the British public to West India proprietors. The Government handed over to the same interests, within the last year, 2,600,000l. taken out of the pockets of the people of this country, by exacting the differential duty of 13s. per cwt., and they were now prepared to follow up that act by giving a further sum of 2,300,000l. in the same manner. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newark did not deny that the result would be so. He had merely asserted that the hon. Member for Stockport had not proved that such would be the case. The result might be what his hon. Friend had calculated, and at all events the Government did all they could to make it so. They invited the House to do their utmost to transfer the sum of 2,300,000l. to the Colonial proprietors out of the Exchequer of this country.
§ Mr. Brotherton
said, he thought they ought to form their estimate of the future by looking to the past. On looking to the result for the last five years, he found that the public were obliged to pay an average of 19s. 4d. more per cwt. for British plantation sugar than they would have to pay for foreign sugar if there had been no protective duty. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool wished to know what the amount of the tax taken out of the pockets of the people in favour of the agricultural interest would be under a duty of 8s. a quarter, supposing that 20,000,000 of quarters of corn were grown in the country. He would answer the noble Lord at once, and tell him, as he had often said before, that that tax would amount to 8,000,000l. sterling. He recollected that, when he had been solicited to vote in favour of the 20,000,000l. being granted for the emancipation of the negroes, 460 some gentlemen from Liverpool assured him that, if he complied with their wishes in that respect, the country would, in a short time, be saved the annual amount which it paid in the shape of protection duties to the West India planters, and that they would in that manner get back the entire twenty millions again in a few years. But he had there a Return published in 1841 by order of the Board of Trade, showing that so far from that being the case, the country had, since paying the twenty millions, given away no less than nineteen or twenty millions more to the planters in the shape of protecting duties. It was but a weak argument to address to the House, that if they gave the West India interest 4,000,000l. in protection duties, they would in Return take some 3,000,000l. worth of manufactures from England. It would, in his opinion, be better to give them at once some fixed sum, say 20,000,000l. more, than to continue the present enormous amount of protection.
§ Mr. Mitchell
said, there was a great difference between the case of a fixed duty upon corn referred to by the noble Lord, if only some small quantity of 3,000 quarters were imported for the purpose, perhaps, of improving the inferior quality of the home produce, and the case of sugar, in which, according to the right hon. Baronet, there would be as much as 20,000 out of 250,000 tons imported from foreign countries. He admitted that if the protective duties were at once taken off, there would be a rise in the price of Foreign sugar; but what did he care for an increase in the price of the article in this country, when the same increase must take place in all the Continental markets. The complaint made by the flax, and cotton, and woollen manufacturers of England was, that they could not compete with the Foreign manufacturers, as long as they had to pay higher prices for their sugar and their corn than were paid in the Continental markets; and he cared not whether an equalization were caused by a rise in the Foreign markets or by a fall in the markets at home; in either case the result would be the same, in relieving their manufacturers from the inequality to which he had alluded.
said, he thought if the right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade were right in his estimation of the argument of the hon. Member for Stockport, then his hon. 461 Friend had been very fortunate in the result which he had drawn forth. The right hon. Gentleman said that his hon. Friend had not put forward his question with the view of eliciting information; and if that were the fact, then his hon. Friend certainly had been very successful. The public would, he was convinced, think it rather curious that a question of such a nature should be dealt with as that had been. The only reply which had been given to it was, what had been called a foolish question, and the rather indiscreet remarks of the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool. But nothing like a distinct answer had been given or attempted. The public were told by that House, that, they were to be taxed to an enormous amount for the protection of the West India proprietors, and when they asked what the amount of that taxation was to be, they could get no answer. The hon. Member for Evesham put a question which he said was that which the hon. Member for Stockport ought to have. His hon. Friend had asked the loss which the country would sustain by the protection afforded to the West Indian interests; but instead of replying to that question, the hon. Gentleman went to tell them something about the difference in the prices of Foreign and Colonial sugars. They were told by the right hon. Gentleman, that without protection those most valuable possessions of Her Majesty — the West India Colonies—must be lost. There was then a price paid annually by this country for the protection of the West Indies, in the shape of an addition to the cost of sugar; but surely the Government could tell what that price was. They could surely inform the House what the cost of sugar was in the West Indies, what it sold at here, and what it should be sold at to compete with Foreign sugars. They wanted to know how much was really given to the West Indians. They had had no answer from the Government, but there was a Gentleman connected with the Board of Trade, who had written a most valuable work, which contained information on this point. He alluded to Mr. Porter, the author of the "Progress of the Nation," which was founded on Parliamentary and official documents, and he wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a statement in that work. Mr. Porter states, as a fact, that in 1841 the people of this country paid in one year 5,000,000l. more than the price which the inhabitants of 462 other countries in Europe would have paid for an equal quantity of sugar. Mr. Porter, in this work, the authority of which he had never heard disputed, had also stated another curious circumstance, which was, that the cost of a like quantity of Brazil or Havannah sugar, of equal quality to that which we receive from our Conies, would have been rather more than 4,000,000l., so that if they had given them that amount they would still have the benefit of having 1,000,000l. a-year in their pockets. If any hon. Member near him had made such a statement, he would have been charged with exaggeration, but this was the statement of a functionary of the Board of Trade. Whoever got this, it was taken from the people, and was a loss to them, and it was immaterial to them who had it, and their constant inquiry was, why they should be called upon to make such a sacrifice?
§ Lord John Manners
wished to ask the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, whether he intended to say, that as far as sugar was concerned, he preferred a sliding scale to a fixed duty?
§ Mr. Thornely
said, that he held in his hand a Parliamentary Paper, which threw a great deal of light on the sugar question, both as regarded the consumer in this country and the price of it. The Paper to which he alluded was moved for by the hon. Member for Lambeth on the 2nd of May, 1843. It appeared from this document, that in the year 1840, the quantity of sugar retained for consumption in this country, was 3,764,000 cwt. In one column he found it stated that the average price, according to the returns in the Gazette for that year, to consumers of British plantation sugar, was 49s. 2d. per cwt. He also found from the merchants' prices current, that the average price of Foreign sugar was 21s. 6d. The difference, therefore, between the price of British plantation sugar, as stated in the Gazette, and of yellow and brown Brazilian, and other Foreign sugar, was 27s. 8d. on each cwt. Taking the average consumption at 3,764,000 cwt., and the difference of price, there would be an increased charge to the consumer, either in the shape of protection or tax, to the large amount of 4,957,875l., which was only 40,000l. less than 5,000,000l. sterling.
§ Mr. Kemble
observed, that little or no authority should be attached to such calculations. It was his firm conviction that if they got rid of the protection duty, and 463 admitted all sugars, they would not be able to obtain a sufficient supply to satisfy the demand. The high price that our Colonial West Indian bore, was occasioned by the circumstance that the Colonies were compelled to send all their sugar to this country. If the advice of Gentlemen opposite were taken, and our Colonies ceased to produce it, the price of Brazilian sugar would run within a short time to the price of British Colonial.
Mr. M. P. Stewart
, connected as he was with that unpopular body the West Indians, could not help rising to answer some of the charges which had been made by the hon. Gentlemen sitting on the same side of the House as himself. An hon. Member having stated the amount of protection, asked how much it added to the rise in the price of sugar. They had been challenged as to the amount of the tax which it was alleged the people had to pay in consequence of this; but he would remind the House that the whole of the difficulty had arisen from the nature of the legislation which the House had chosen to adopt. The hon. Member for Salford had stated, in the course of his speech, that a Liverpool friend of his induced him to vote for the grant of 20,000,000l. compensation, but which sum, by the by, only amounted to 15,500,000l., by telling him that such would be the effect in the West Indies, that the people of this country would get it all back in the course of a few years. There was no doubt but that this Gentleman founded his opinion on the supposition that when the Legislature of this country took away the system of forced labour in the Colonies, which he conceived was perfectly right, and had received at the time his humble and cordial support, that it would assist the Colonies in supplying this forced labour by ample free labour. Instead of doing so, it threw every hindrance and obstacle in the way to prevent a supply of free labour to the Colonies. The result had been that the produce of sugar in the West Indian Colonies, which was 205,000 tons in 1833, was now only 107,000 tons; and at the same time the cost of production had immensely increased. When he was told to search for the cause of this, his reply was, that it was occasioned by their refusing to allow the emigration of labour from other Colonies of the Empire where there was a superabundance of labour, to those where was such a striking deficiency. Why, he would ask, 464 should they not do so? The Legislature had appointed stipendiary magistrates to all those Colonies; and therefore there existed in those places ample means of affording protection to all who might emigrate to them. But for the unwillingness of the House to agree to this, the natural result would have been a great reduction in the cost of producing sugar, and instead of, as formerly, there being only 200,000 tons, those Colonies, without looking to the Mauritius and the East Indies, would have increased the growth to such an extent, that a large quantity of sugar would be left for exportation to other countries. If they intended to deal with the old Colonies as if, as some hon. Members had described them, they were worse than nothing, the sooner they did so the better; but do not let the House forget that the unfortunate situation of the West Indian Colonies was owing to its own proceedings. If these Colonies were to meet the competition of the world, he would say that they did not shrink from it. All that they demanded was, "give us an ample supply of free labour, and take off those differential duties which press so heavily upon us; let us carry our produce where we like, and let us take the manufactures we require from whom we like; but, above all, take off the differential duty between British spirits and the rum of the Colonies." On British spirits made from corn—for distillation from sugar and molasses was prevented—the duty was 7s. 10d. the gallon, on spirits in Scotland, 3s. 8d., and on spirits in Ireland, 2s. 8d., while the duty on Colonial spirits was 9s. 4d. The consequence was, that the proportionate consumption of rum, compared with home British spirits was one-fourth in England, with Scotch spirits in Scotland, was one to 123, and with Irish spirits in Ireland, was as one to 600. If they were to be thrown into immediate competition with the foreign producer of sugar, let it be a fair stage, and let it be, as it should be, not with all advantages against them; but do not let them be kept down under the effect of your ill-advised legislation. By the latter observation he did not mean emancipation, but he alluded to other matters; and above all, he would say, let them have free labour, and they might take off all protection. He would also say that they should allow West India sugar and molasses to be used in our Colonies. He therefore called upon the House to treat their Colonies as if they were integral 465 parts of the Empire, and in the same way in which they treated their other Colonies. Let them be treated as Canada had been, and allow their produce to come in free; let them be regarded as friends, and not treated as a malignant race, for such had been the case, as regarded the treatment of the body to which he belonged; do not visit them with contumely, but treat them with justice, and the result would be, that in time of peace, and above all in time of war, if it unfortunately should occur, you would find these Colonies again become one of your strongest means of defence.
§ Mr. Escott
said, that in all cases of protection, every interest in turn complained most loudly if any proposition was made to touch the duties particularly affecting itself. It was always said that such removal should be accompanied with some concomitant change for their advantage. This was the case with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. He was entirely for free trade in all other matters, but when they came to West India produce, he was against it, unless some other advantage was given to the Colonists. He was not surprised that the hon. Member for Stockport had not received an answer to his question as to how much these protective duties, in this case, added to the cost to the consumer. This question could not receive, and had not received, a direct answer, yet it certainly was a very important question. If the hon. Member had not received a direct answer, he had at least elicited the admission that some portion of the amount of it operated as so much additional cost to the article. This had been admitted by the right hon. Member for Newark. He recollected last year that it was admitted that some proportion of the amount of the protective duty was an addition to the cost of the article. He (Mr. Escott) never had held an opinion in favour of a protecting duty, on the ground that it was so much added to the cost of the article. He was only for such an amount as would protect those engaged in the production of the article in securing a sufficient supply for the consumption of the country. But immediately that it was admitted that it was imposed to increase the cost of the article, a very strong case was made out against such protection. Now, he thought that this was a very strong reason why the Sugar Duties should be passed for only one year, for if they operated as an additional cost to the consumer, 466 even only in degree, it was wrong to continue them in perpetuity. He was, however, very far from thinking that they could do every thing at once in the course of removing restrictions on our trade, and the supply of the articles of commerce; for those who had hitherto been protected would be exposed to such competition as would be ruinous to them. He was far from agreeing with the hon. Member for Bath that it would be advisable to throw the Colonies overboard, as they were a cost to the country. He did not believe that such was the feeling of the country, or that any measure for such a purpose could pass this House, or that any thing could be devised which would be less agreeable to the country. He believed that it was most advisable that the Colonies should be maintained, and that they should be governed in the same manner as this country, for it was only by treating them as integral portions of the Empire, that they could expect to derive advantage from them. He considered that Colonial establishments were most advantageous to this country, as they afforded places of resort to any surplus portion of the population of the Empire. They were monuments of our power, and great branches of our national greatness; they could not be neglected by British Statesmen. And this measure had his support, not because he thought that it was or ought to be permanent; but because, while it inflicted no injury on the Colonies, it was a great benefit to the consumers of this article of Colonial produce.
§ Mr. Darby
was satisfied that the calculations of the hon. Members opposite were erroneous, and that it was perfectly impossible to make out a case to show that the Sugar Duties had increased the cost of the article to the consumers in this country five millions. He was satisfied, if they destroyed the differential duties, that before the termination of five years the consumers would have to pay more for their sugar than they did at present. It would put an end to the production of sugar in our West India colonies, and when that was completed, the people of this country would be in a worse condition than they now were with these protecting duties. He believed that in the long run protection was for the advantage of the consumer, as it operated as an encouragement to the production of the article.
§ Mr. Bright
could not help observing 467 that the right hon. Baronet, and those who sat near him, had been exceedingly silent since his hon. Friend the Member for Stockport put a question on the subject of these duties. The right hon. Baronet evidently wished to avoid being led into an admission, in a case like the present; but whenever there was any sophistry to be put forward which would silence an opponent, the right hon. Baronet was a most active and efficient debater. In the course of that night the right hon. Baronet could not make it appear that these differential duties did not operate as a grievous tax on commerce; and he, therefore, was silent. The right hon. Gentleman sat by, while those around him, for whose language he was not involved or damaged, stood forward. He had been much amused with the ingenious speech of the late President of the Board of Trade. He could not, however, help believing that there was something more in it than a desire to support the views of the Government; that there was a deep feeling of personal interest at the bottom. He conceived that there was some reason for this inference, for they never saw a discussion on the Sugar question occur in that House, but that a Gentleman, a relation of the right hon. Gentleman, figured in one of the morning papers on the subject, and apparently issued a manifesto or command to the Government as to the measures which they were to bring forward respecting sugar. The right hon. Gentleman was not in the same position that he was in last year, for he was not now connected with the Government, but was a volunteer defender of this measure. He should like to know whether this arose from his love of the Government, or from his love of the sugar planters. The right hon. Gentleman sat there as the representative of the town of Newark. He (Mr. Bright) knew not how far the inhabitants of the town of Newark were involved in keeping up the price of sugar; but he could understand how the relative of a sugar planter was interested in enhancing the price of the article. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool had come forward to the relief of the Government, and he had said that the amount of this tax, so levied, could not be measured. He (Mr. Bright) believed that the depth of the noble Lord's understanding on this point could not be fathomed. The noble Lord had 468 said, that nothing could be wilder than the making speculative speeches in that House on the Sugar Duties. Now he recollected that five years ago the noble Lord, immediately on the Sugar Duties being brought forward, was not so squeamish in making a Motion on them, the result of which involved the existence of the Government. On that Motion the Government was out-voted and overturned. The noble Lord said that the effect of this tax could not be measured; but he said, that it was a tax which would be felt very severely. The right hon. Baronet wished to establish a high reputation to himself as a financier; but what must be the character of his system of finance, which inflicted a tax on the country which one of his own supporters said could not be measured? The question of his hon. Friend should be answered, how much of this tax fell upon the labouring classes in the manufacturing districts, or on the agricultural pauper population. The other day the Morning Post said, that these duties could not interfere with the agricultural population, as they did not consume much sugar, and that in Dorsetshire and Hampshire sugar was, in the small shops, constantly made up into penny and halfpenny parcels for that class. Now, was it not fair that this class should not only know the object of the tax, but how much each of them paid towards it, in each of their small packages of sugar? No Minister had a right to sit still in a case like this, and refuse in such a case to answer a straightforward and simple question. He would suggest to the noble Lord a mode by which the amount, of this tax could be measured. A calculation might be made as to the amount that could be obtained from each Colony. The House should apportion in the Estimates, every year, a certain sum to be given to the producers of sugar in the Colonies—say seven, eight, or nine shillings the cwt. for every cwt. of sugar imported into this country. He did not know how such accounts were kept by the Government; but he would suggest that, in the books for this purpose, such entries as the following should be made:—Paid to the right hon. Henry Goulburn so much per cwt., for so much sugar produced on his property in the West Indies, and shipped and landed in this country. Again: Paid to John Gladstone, Esq., of Fasque, near Pitcar, Scotland, on account of so much sugar produced 469 by him, and landed in this country. The right hon. Gentleman opposite might say that this was a very unparliamentary way of stating the question. It might be so; but the opinion of Parliament on such a point was not the opinion of the country. The people out of the House must have an especial interest in having sugar at its natural price. The noble Lord might not care whether he paid a penny or two a pound more for his sugar; but the people who had to work six days in the week in Lancashire for a maintenance, or those who were employed in labour in the agricultural districts, had a direct interest and a strong desire to procure their sugar at its natural price. He might have done injustice to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his late Colleague; but it appeared to him that nothing stirred up the eloquence or brought out the ingenuity of the latter right hon. Gentleman so much as sugar; it appeared as if all his filial feelings were involved in the question, and that his very family connexion with sugar brought out all his eloquence. He hoped that it was not so; but that the interests of the public were as powerful with him as any private consideration. He anxiously wished, however, that those persons who were interested in levying a tax on the whole community for the benefit of one particular class, should not be Members of the Government; for if, as the noble Lord said, the effect and amount of this tax could not be measured, ought it not to be that men taking office in the Government of the country should have clean hands on such questions, and that they should be such as looked to the public interest, and not to class interests? He repeated, that the question of his hon. Friend had not been answered. It was admitted that a very heavy tax was imposed on the consumer merely for the benefit of the growers of sugar. The noble Lord said that the amount could not be measured; but several Gentlemen on that side of the House had shown that it amounted to upwards of two millions a year. The only excuse made for this was, that there was some deficiency in the supply of labour in the West Indies; but this did not apply to the Mauritius or the East Indies. No Member of the Government had stated any reason, good, bad, or indifferent; and that night, as well as upon a previous evening, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford had 470 carefully avoided alluding to the subject, why the people of this country should be taxed in this way for the sugar from Mauritius or the East Indies. The right hon. Member for Newark, when he spoke behind the Treasury benches, said that he gave up the question of the Mauritius and the East Indies; but he defended the tax as regarded the West Indies, in consequence of the deficiency of labour in those Colonies, and also in consequence of so many of the planters being absentees. Why not, he (Mr. Bright) would ask, send these planters back? But if this was a just reason for the continuance of this system, it would be continued until all the Members of that House were sleeping with their fathers, as well as their sons after them. The Government did not treat either the House or the country with respect, if they did not afford some answer to the question put to them.
§ Mr. Entwisle
said, the hon. Member for Durham had got rid of the urbanity which marked his speech on the Game Laws the other night. He was again himself; and he congratulated the hon. Member, if not the House, on the restoration. The question of the hon. Member for Stockport—if he (Mr. Entwisle) understood it rightly — was, whether ten guineas a ton on Foreign free-labour sugar did not impose a tax in favour of the West Indies to the amount of 2,500,000l. The hon. Member also said, that Foreign sugar was at 21s., and British at 34s., making a difference of 13s.; but he wanted to ask whether he meant Foreign free-labour sugar, or slave-labour sugar? [Mr. Gibson: They are just the same price.] Then, with regard to the free-labour sugar, he would ask whether the hon. Member did not know, that when the Resolutions of the House of Commons of last year got out to the Mauritius, there was immediately a rise there of several shillings the cwt.? Now, if that cause produced a rise in sugar there last year, would not taking off the differential duties altogether have the effect of increasing the price of Foreign sugar generally? If that was a fair inference, he could not go with the hon. Member to the extent he went in saying, that the amount of the tax this country paid equalled the amount of the differential duty; but, the question having been asked by the hon. Member, he would offer this remark in return—that he did not believe that, if they were now 471 to reduce the differential duties altogether, the price of sugar in three, four, or, at most, five years, would be materially reduced to the consumer in this country.
§ Mr. Ward
thought the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House had put a very unfair construction on the speech of the hon. Member for Durham, whose remarks he seemed to suppose were in some measure personal. The hon. Member for Durham believed, in common with many others, that the effect of the protective duty was to put a sum of money into the pockets of those Gentlemen for whose benefit it was continued; and he therefore proposed, as a preferable plan for those persons who were interested in the question—as the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the father of the late President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Gladstone)—that they should draw checks on the Public Treasury for sums proportioned to the extent of their exports from the Colonies, and that the public should be allowed to buy their sugar in the markets of the world. He considered there was no lack of urbanity in that proposal: he thought there was a great deal of truth in it. It would afford the same indemnity to the planter, while the people of this country would be able to buy their sugar in the markets of the world, without being fettered by any absurd distinctions between slave-labour and free-labour produce. He was convinced that no distinction ever could be maintained in the makets of the world, or even in our own markets, between slave-grown and free-grown sugar. But the hon. Member for South Lancashire expressed his conviction, that if all protective duties were immediately removed, sugar would continue as dear, if it were not dearer, than at present. He was quite willing to take the chance of that. It had, in his opinion, been shown most indisputably that the difference between the sugars produced in British Colonies and imported into this country, and the sugars sold in the general markets of the world, had, during the whole of last year, averaged 13l. per ton. Now, would the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Lord Sandon) admit that this was a tolerably fair statement? If this were the fact, the effect of the law was to give that precise amount of protection to the Colonies. They were told that our Colonies were valuable possessions, and he would not attempt to dispute the truth of that assertion; 472 but if this country was taxed to the amount of 2,400,000l. a year for the benefit of those Colonies, it became a question whether it was to our advantage to retain them, or to let them set up for themselves. Some hon. Gentlemen had urged the claims of the West India Colonists to protection; but what could be said on behalf of sugar producers in the East Indies? There was no place in the world where labour was so cheap as in the East Indies; and on what ground were they to give the East India producers a protecting duty of 10s. a cwt.? He believed that what his hon. Friend (Mr. Bright) had said with respect to the feeling of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) on this subject, was perfectly true. He had narrowly watched the conduct of that right hon. Gentleman in this House; and he had never observed him enter on the consideration of any subject so reluctantly, so gingerly, and with such evident dislike, as on the question of the Sugar Duties. His firm belief was, that the opinion of the right hon. Baronet on this subject had been overruled, and that he was compelled to fight in that House a battle which he disapproved. He had no doubt the right hon. Baronet had distinctly stated to his Colleagues that the plan now before the House would involve them in inextricable difficulties; and he entertained a strong belief that the right hon. Gentleman was anxiously looking forward to next year, when he might come down to the House and say—"I was aware that great difficulties might be experienced in the working of the Government plan, and therefore I only consented to its enactment for a single year; but I am now convinced that the system cannot be maintained, and I intend to place it on a more simple and a more satisfactory footing."
was sure that the House must be wearied of this discussion—most assuredly he was. Hon. Members questioned the right of the West Indies to protection; the question in his mind was, whether, instead of two, or three, or four millions, they were not entitled to forty millions. Suppose an Act of Parliament were to compel him, as a Cumberland landowner, to employ no labourers on his lands but his own actual parishioners, these being few in number, and having a monopoly of their labour, while his neighbours were allowed to press into their service any 473 number of labourers they could collect, and compel them to work for merely the food, producing thus a better article at a far smaller cost;—should he not have full right to compensation under such circumstances? This was precisely the case of the West India planters; and, therefore, they were fully entitled to protection—if you like to call it protection.
§ Mr. Ricardo
said, it was a most preposterous thing on the part of the West India planters, that, having paid them 20,000,000l. of compensation money for emancipating their slaves, involving us in an additional charge of 700,000l. or 800,000l. per annum, they should now call upon us — for that was the literal fact—to pay them between 2,000,000l. and 3,000,000l. a year more.—tantamount to a further compensation payment of not 20,000,000l., but of 100,000,000l. It was most extraordinary, too, that they could not get the right hon. Baronet to reply to the simple question—what is it you are going to give the West India planters? It was no defect of the calculative powers that prevented the right hon. Baronet from giving the desired information. He knew to a pound what he should get from the Income Tax, from this tax and the other tax; and what he should lose by the 240 articles of taxation he gave up. Why, then, merely because the Sugar Duties were a waste of the consumer's means, and did not come into the Exchequer, could he not tell what the result of them to the West India planters would be? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newark had said that they did not ask this question to obtain information. This was, he at once admitted, perfectly true. He or his friends were at no loss for information on the subject: they had plenty of information. They had formed close calculations. What they wanted of the right hon. Baronet was, that he should either affirm or deny what they stated. If he persisted in doing neither the one nor the other, they must take it for granted that he admitted their statements to be correct.
§ House went into Committee.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that he rose to explain to the Committee 474 the grounds on which he thought it advisable to adhere, in substance, to the proposition he had on a former occasion laid before the House in reference to the Sugar Duties for the ensuing year. He should not be diverted from the prosecution of that task by any of the various topics which had been introduced preliminary to the discussion which was fixed for this evening. He was quite willing to admit that the attempt to impose a discriminating duty upon sugar, according to its qualities, was accompanied with considerable difficulty. He had never concealed from himself that it was always a matter of difficulty to impose duties of this description; and that difficulty was enhanced when the course proposed to be pursued involved a departure from the practice which had hitherto prevailed; for there was in commercial transactions, as in the other transactions of life, a force and power of habit which so wedded persons to existing systems, and rendered them so alive to the difficulties of alteration, that they were in general extremely unwilling to sanction any deviation from the course to which they had been accustomed. But, while he made this admission fairly and openly, he must be allowed to advert to those admissions which had been made on the other side by persons who differed from him with regard to the views he held on this subject. It was admitted — he would not say on all hands, but generally—that a distinctive duty upon sugar was, in itself, a desirable object; that, considering the variety of qualities between the lower and higher classes of that article, the duty should be in some degree proportioned to the different value of the extremes of those qualities. He thought it would also be admitted by all who had given the subject consideration, that some distinction must be preserved between refined sugar and sugar introduced in a state short of refinement. He was anxious, then, that the House should, throughout the observations it would be his duty to make, bear in mind these two admitted principles—first, that the distinctive duty, if practicable, was just in principle, and that its maintenance was desirable and expedient; and secondly, that in any system of Sugar Duties one distinction at least, that between sugar refined and sugar unrefined, must be maintained. The question which, as it appeared to him, the Committee had to decide, was this—whether, on account of the difficulties which were supposed to 475 attend the introduction of a second distinctive duty, they would abandon a measure which, abstractedly considered, they believed to be just in principle, and desirable to every interest concerned. The House must bear in mind the effect of the decision to which they might come upon this question. They were now practically entering upon a new era with respect to the Sugar Duties; they were, for the first time, admitting to competition with the produce of their own Colonies, the produce of certain Foreign countries; and they must endeavour to adopt such a course as would be equitable and convenient to the consumers of this country, due regard being had to the various interests of other parties concerned. They knew from experience that there were some descriptions of Foreign sugar which were of a higher quality, in their respective classes, than the corresponding descriptions of sugar produced in our own Colonies; and those better qualities were, in fact, more valuable, because more productive for the purposes for which they were used. It had already been observed this evening, that if Colonial sugar of every quality was admitted to the markets of this country at the same rate of duty, and Foreign sugar subjected to one rate of duty also, the result would be, that the lower qualities of sugar, either raw or clayed, which were consumed by the poor, would not be imported. He contended that they must adopt the same principle with regard to Foreign sugar, as with regard to their own sugar. Nor would such a system be without beneficial results; for by enabling the lower class of sugars, which principally entered into the consumption of the lower orders, to be charged with the lower rates of duty, they did, in fact, diminish to the poorer people the price of the article which they consumed, but which would be enhanced if subjected to the same duty as that on the better description of sugar brought into the market. The Committee must also consider, if on the present occasion, when they were making this change in the Sugar Duties, they should, in consideration of the difficulties with which the plan might be attended, consent to abandon it; that they abandoned it not then only, but for ever. They must, if they rejected it then, give up the hope of ever introducing a system which was admitted to be desirable, equitable in principle, just to all classes, and most expedient. It therefore behoved them well to 476 consider whether they could not effect a system of classification which should effect their object, without having anything in its details which should render it impossible to be carried out. Whatever might be their position, it was admitted on all hands that they must be prepared to meet the difficulty as concerned refined sugar; for no one would maintain that on refined Foreign sugar they should not place a higher duty than on sugar of inferior character: to the refiner of this country such a course would be manifestly unjust; nor would it be more just to the Revenue to admit refined sugar at a low duty, giving it on export a drawback as refined. To equalize, therefore, the duty upon clayed and refined sugar would hardly, he thought, be insisted on. A great difficulty had been raised on this question as to the means of discriminating between the different sugars; that difficulty, however, had been found to be not insurmountable. It had, no doubt, led to discussion, and, in some measure, to a diversity of decisions; but, upon the whole, in practice it had been found that the object could be effected. Generally speaking, the distinction between refined and clayed sugar had been so clearly marked as to enable the public to avoid the evils which would have been found to exist if refined sugar had been admitted at the duty of clayed. Yet, if hon. Gentlemen had only had the opportunity of seeing samples of the different qualities, he thought it would, in particular cases, require an eye of great experience to mark clearly the distinction between refined sugar which ought to receive a drawback upon exportation, and sugar nearly equal to refined, though of an inferior description. That discrimination, however, had been made; and that by means of standard samples of the article. When they spoke, therefore, of the difficulties which must necessarily attend the introduction of a new classification in sugar, they must bear in mind, whatever might be the difficulties in the way, that they had practically, for a long series of years, effectually acted on the principle of discriminating duties on two classes of sugar, the confines of which were as difficult to be defined as were the confines between white-clayed and Muscovado. It might, perhaps, be urged in the course of the debate, as an argument against the discriminating duty which he proposed to establish, that a discrimination of a similar nature had existed in former times, and had been, after 477 a certain experience, abandoned. He could not say that he was fully prepared to admit that argument as an evidence of the impracticability of the arrangement which he proposed to adopt. If that system had been abandoned in 1823, it must be remembered that it had worked for twenty-three years without interruption, whilst the discrimination was only between Muscovado and clayed sugar. As long as the imported sugar of this country was confined to the West Indian Colonies, no difficulty occurred in distinguishing the produce of those Colonies—that which came within the class of Muscovado and clayed sugars; and it was only at a subsequent period, when the same rule was attempted to be applied to sugar of the East Indies, that the difficulties arose which were detailed in the Papers before the House, and which had led to a change in the form. It was then ascertained that all the sugar from the East Indies was clayed; and it was attempted, on the part of those who had an interest in the West Indies, to exclude all that sugar from being introduced at the lower rate. It eventually came to this—that the discrimination was done away with, and an increased duty was for the future laid on all sugar of the East Indies. It behoved the Committee, in considering the subject of discriminating duties, to see what was the practice of other countries with respect to the imposition of duties upon sugar. There was on the Table of the House a great variety of Customs' Tariffs, which had been prepared by the industry of an individual holding office under the Government, on the accuracy of which they might unhesitatingly depend; and he did hope, that hon. Gentlemen who thought that the proposed system was so utterly impracticable would look through those Tariffs, and would see in how many cases discriminations of this nature existed in countries which were importers of sugar. In almost every European country there was the distinction between refined and unrefined sugar which he proposed to adopt. If they looked to other classes of sugar they would find distinctions also. Denmark, which imposed on raw brown sugar a duty of 4s., placed 8s. 3d. on raw white, whilst on refined sugar the duty was prohibitory. In Sweden, the duty on refined sugar was much more than on white powdered, which, again, was greater than that on brown sugar. Then, if they looked to France, and the United States, the two largest importing countries of sugar, next 478 to Great Britain, they would find (France importing 85,000 tons annually, and the United States 65,000 tons) that a principle strictly analogous to that which he recommended to the Committee had been acted upon for a long time, and had been found effective and successful. If they looked at the French Tariff, they would see that the French had three distinct degrees answering to Muscovado, white clayed, and refined. In the United States' Tariff, they would find equally the triple division. He could not think so ill of the business habits of persons in this country as to suppose that that which was practicable in other countries, where the importation and consumption of sugar were great, could be impracticable in our own country, the skill and integrity of whose officers could not be less than the skill and integrity of the officers of other countries. He would say, then, that in the experience of other nations, he saw a strong reason for believing that the adoption of discriminating duties might be, without great difficulty, properly carried into effect in this country. Another criterion by which he would wish to be guided upon such a matter as this, would be the opinion of persons in this country conversant, with the trade. So far as regarded the opinion of those to whom the Government must necessarily look for information in matters of this nature—he meant the Custom House—he had before him the Report of the Chairman of Customs, stating the reasons which had influenced him in recommending a discriminating duty intermediate between brown and refined sugar. On conferring — as he had done since he had last addressed the House—not only with the Customs' Officers of the Port of London, but with those of other ports also, he found, that though not insensible to some difficulties in the way of the proposed classification, they did not conceive those difficulties to be insurmountable; but considered that, on the whole, the attempt to discriminate between the different sugars was one which ought to be made, and which might be carried into effect. He had also extended his inquiries beyond those who were officially connected with the Government. He had communicated with various persons connected practically with the trade of this country, and he had found some certainly indisposed towards the measure, whilst others were of a different opinion, stating that though aware of the difficulty, they believed the plan to 479 be practicable and beneficial; and he might say, with respect to those who were opposed to it, that he had since heard admissions even from them which gave him reason to doubt the soundness of their opinions. He believed the general opinion to be, that it was practicable; he knew that it was the daily practice of all connected with the sugar trade to judge accurately of the difference between the various qualities of sugar. That was constantly done in the simple operation of buying and selling by the trader; and they might deduce the strongest proof of the possibility of deciding between sugars, from the practice which had come recently unto his knowledge, with respect to the introduction of sugar from Java. It was a known fact that the sugar produced in Java was divided into no less than 22 qualities, of which samples were sent to Europe; and when any one wanted a particular quality, all he had to do was to send out the "number" of the sugar, whether "12," or "15," or "20," or any other number up to 22, and it would be sent him. If that were practicable for the purposes of trade, he could see no reason why it should not be equally practicable for the purpose of estimating the duty to be imposed. He had, however, not limited his inquiry to personal communication with persons engaged in the sugar trade in the metropolis; but a meeting had been called by the Collector of Customs at Liverpool, where all had the opportunity of attending, with the view of considering the practicability of making an arrangement for the enforcement of a discriminating duty; there was there, undoubtedly, a division of opinion; but the majority decided that a discriminative classification, though difficult in practice, was practicable, and on the whole, was desirable; and that decision had been come to, not by one class either of West India or of East India proprietors, but at a meeting where all had an equal opportunity of attending. He had heard it generally admitted, that if this arrangement were confined to the port of London there would be little difficulty in carrying it into effect; and it was admitted that the great difficulty was to be apprehended from the officers at the out ports not being able to decide as to the quality of sugar imported. With regard to this he could only say that he had every reason to believe that the difficulty might be completely obviated; if they looked at the ports at which sugar was imported, 480 they would find that they were very few indeed. London alone imported three-fifths of the whole consumption: Liverpool imported about one-fifth more; and there were five other ports only in which the quantity of sugar imported was anything considerable, or where any difficulty or delay would be found to exist. It was not now, as in former times, when the out ports had no ready means of communication with the metropolis. Liverpool and Bristol, the two greatest ports, were now, in consequence of the facilities afforded by railroads, within a very limited distance of London. In ordinary cases there could be no doubt that the officers of the out ports would be able to form a proper conclusion as to the quality and description of the sugar imported; but in cases near the margin they might have doubts; yet the opportunities of communicating with London were so great—coming to-day and returning to-morrow—that he certainly could not see any real difficulty upon that point. Confined, then, as the importation of sugar was, in the main, to a limited number of ports in England, Scotland, and Ireland, there did not appear to be, to those who were competent to judge upon the subject, that chance of difficulty in its operation which would render the plan liable to serious objection. Taking therefore into his view all these considerations—observing that in foreign countries the rule which he proposed had been long acted upon—taking into consideration that the judgment of many of the most experienced persons in the trade was favourable to the introduction of the classification; remembering, also, that one classification they were all prepared to admit, and that the rule which regulated one, might with equal safety be applied to the other cases; observing, too, the facility which now existed of communicating with the more distant ports; and considering also that the measure would be expedient, if practicable, and that it was just in principle, his Colleagues and himself had come to the conclusion that it was prudent and desirable that the attempt should be made. He had, therefore, to present to the Committee a Resolution in a somewhat altered form, as regarded words, but in substance the same as he had presented on a former occasion. With respect to the words of the Resolution, he had introduced into it, as the distinctive mark between white clayed and refined, that the sugar should be white clayed, or "equal in quality." The word "quality," he had introduced with 481 the view of preventing any doubt as to "colour" being the test; and in the Bill by which he proposed to give effect to these propositions, he should be prepared to give such an explanation of the word "quality" as should guard against the "colour" being received as a test, by which the duty should be determined. He had every reason to believe that the operation of these duties would be equal upon all sugar that came within the scope of the arrangement, whether it came from the British possessions in the East Indies, from the British possessions in the West Indies, or on sugar from foreign possessions, which might under the law be permitted to be introduced into this country. Relying on the high authorities with whom he had communicated; backed in his principle by Mr. D. Hume, whose great practical knowledge and truthfulness had always entitled his assertions to the highest credit; relying, too, on the judgment of those who had presided over the Board of Trade, and who, without any party bias, had approved of discriminative duties upon this commodity; relying also upon the opinion of those who had filled the office which he then filled, he certainly was impressed with the conviction that it was most for the interest, both of the consumer, of the importer, and of the dealer in the article, that the discriminative class of duties which he proposed in the Resolutions which he held in his hand should be adopted and maintained. He begged, therefore, to withdraw the Resolution he had formerly proposed, and to propose the following Resolutions, viz.:—1st. In lieu of the Duties of Customs now payable on Sugar and Molasses, there shall, from and after the 14th day of March, be charged, for time to be limited, the Duties following; that is to say,—
£ s. d. On Sugar the growth and produce of any British Possession in America, or of any British Possession within the limits of the East India Company's Charter, into which the Importation of Foreign Sugar is prohibited, and imported from thence, Double Refined Sugar, or Sugar equal in quality to Double Refined, for every cwt. 1 1 0 Other Refined Sugar 0 18 8 White Clayed Sugar, or Sugar rendered by any process equal in quality to White Clayed, not being refined, for every cwt. 0 16 4
Brown Sugar, being Muscovado, or Clayed, or any other Sugar not being equal in quality to White Clayed, for every cwt. 0 14 0 Candy, Brown, for every cwt. 1 6 0 Candy, White, for every cwt. 1 15 0 Molasses, for every cwt. 0 5 3 2nd. On Sugar, the growth and produce of any other British Possession within the limits of the East India Company's Charter,— White Clayed Sugar, or Sugar rendered by any process equal in quality to White Clayed, not being refined, for every cwt. 1 1 9 Brown Sugar, being Muscovado, or Clayed, or any other Sugar not being equal in quality to White Clayed, for every cwt. 0 18 8" Question in respect to the foregoing Duties, put, and agreed to. Motion made, and Question proposed, "3rd, On Sugar the growth and produce of China, Java, or Manilla, or of any Foreign Country the Sugars of which Her Majesty in Council shall have declared, or may hereafter declare, to be admissible as not being the produce of slave labour, and which shall be imported into the United Kingdom either from the Country of its growth, or from some British Possession, having first been imported into such British Possession from the Country of its growth:— White Clayed Sugar, or Sugar rendered by any process equal in quality to White Clayed, not being refined, for every cwt. 1 8 0" Afterwards Motion made, and Question put, "White Clayed Sugar, or Sugar rendered by any process equal in quality to White Clayed, not being refined, for every cwt. 1 3 4" The Committee divided; Ayes 69, Noes 152:— Original Question, "White Clayed Sugar, or Sugar rendered by any process equal in quality to White Clayed, not being refined, for every cwt. 1 8 0" Put, and agreed to. Brown Sugar, being Muscovado or Clayed, or any other Sugar not being equal in quality to White Clayed, for every cwt. 1 3 4 "4th. On all other Sugars not otherwise charged with Duty:— Refined Sugar, for every cwt. 8 8 0
Brown, or Muscovado, or Clayed Sugar, not being refined, for every cwt. 3 3 0" Motion made, and Question proposed, "Molasses, for every cwt. 1 3 9" Afterwards, Motion made, and Question proposed, "Molasses, for every cwt. 0 7 6" And by leave, withdrawn. Molasses, for every cwt. 1 3 9 Candy, Brown, for every cwt. 5 12 0 Candy, White, for every cwt. 8 8 0 Motion made, and Question proposed, "On Molasses, the growth and produce of China, Java, or Manilla, or of any Foreign Country, the Sugar of which Her Majesty in Council shall have declared, or may hereafter declared to be admissible 0 7 0" And, by leave, withdrawn. And so in proportion for any greater or less quantity than a hundred weight. That Her Majesty be authorised by Order in Council to give effect to the provisions of any Treaty now in force, which binds Her Majesty to admit Sugar the produce of Foreign Country at the same Duties as are imposed on Sugar the produce of the most favoured Nation.That the Bounties now payable upon the Exportation of certain descriptions of Refined Sugar from the United Kingdom do cease and determine, and that, in lieu thereof, there shall be paid and allowed the following Bounties or Drawbacks; that is to say,—
£ s. d. "Upon Double Refined Sugar, or Sugar equal in quality to Double Refined, for every cwt. 1 0 0 Upon other Refined Sugar in loaf, complete and whole, or lumps duly refined, having been perfectly clarified and thoroughly dried in the stove, and being of a uniform whiteness throughout, or such Sugar pounded, crashed, or broken, for every cwt. 0 17 0 Upon Bastard or Refined Sugar broken in pieces, or being ground, or powdered Sugar pounded, or crashed, or broken, for every cwt. 0 14 0"
§ On the Question being put, That the said duties shall commence and be charged from and after the 14th day of March,
§ Mr. Hume
suggested, that for the present the date should be omitted in the 1st Resolution, otherwise the House would 484 pledge itself to the 14th of March as the date from which the new duties should take effect. They could afterwards discuss the point as to when the new duties should come into operation.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, it was of importance that the discussion as to the date when the new duties should come into operation should not be long delayed. He had heard many complaints about the date—some said the period was too long, and some that it was too short. It was, therefore, advisable that the discussion upon the date should take place at an early period.
§ Mr. F. Baring
thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer should explain what he meant by the term "quality." If the right hon. Gentleman would state the distinction, he (Mr. Baring) thought it would be a great relief to the trade, for there had been a great deal of uncertainty on the subject.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
was understood to reply, that by the distinction made as to "quality," it was meant that "colour" was not to be made the test—that was the course recommended to be pursued by the hon. Member for Beverley (Mr. Hogg), when he brought the subject before the House.
§ Mr. M. Gibson
asked whether any Resolution in which occurred the words "towards raising the Supplies granted to Her Majesty" had been passed? In the Resolutions formerly submitted to the House, it was stated that the object in imposing the proposed duties was to grant a Supply to Her Majesty. [The Chairman: No such Resolution had passed.] He believed, that in the 1st Resolution formerly submitted to the House occurred these words,—That towards raising the Supplies granted to Her Majesty, the following duties should be imposed.Now, he wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would think it an advisable course to indicate in the preamble, as it were, of the 1st Resolution the whole policy intended to be pursued by the Government in reference to the Sugar Duties? If he understood the matter aright, they had two objects in view—one object was to raise money for the purpose of meeting the current expenditure of the country, and another object was to raise money as 485 a bounty to the growers of sugar. Now, all he asked was, if they indicated one object, why should they not indicate the other? Therefore he should move that the following words be introduced into the Resolution—"And also for the purpose of granting a bounty to growers of sugar, to enable them to carry on its cultivation."
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
thought such words could not be introduced into the Resolution. They were a Committee for granting Supplies to Her Majesty, and not to any other person.
§ Mr. Hume
said, it was admitted that part of the money that would be raised from the proposed Sugar Duties would be raised for the benefit of the planter; but if they had no power then to take measures for raising money but for Her Majesty, they could not take steps to raise money for the benefit of the planter.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, they were then in Committee on Ways and Means, and could not act upon the suggestion of the hon. Member for Manchester. No doubt they might go into a Committee of the whole House, and decide on granting any sum of money to any individual, as recommended by the Crown; but in a Committee of Ways and Means they could not do so.
The distinct way of putting the matter was, that so much should be raised as Ways and Means for the Public Service, and so much should be raised as Ways and Means for the West India planters. Then they would have the whole question fully before their eyes on its merits, and the public would understand it. That, in point of fact, was the object of these differential duties. He thought it was the duty of the Committee distinctly to state the amount required for the use of Her Majesty, and the amount required for the use of the West India planters.
§ Viscount Sandon
apprehended that all the money proposed to be raised was to go to the use of the Crown.
§ Mr. M. Gibson
thought it could not be wondered at that a Gentleman should raise this question, when the Members of the Government had been the first to depart from the long-established system. In the 1st Resolution formerly submitted to the House upon the Sugar Duties, the words "towards raising the supplies granted to Her Majesty" occurred. Now, he concluded that it was intended to omit those words, because the Government was not going to confine itself simply to raising Supplies for Her Majesty. The Amendment he had to propose was, that after the word "Majesty," there be added the words "and for the purpose of giving a bounty to the growers of sugar in the Colonies." [The Chairman: Those words cannot be added at this stage of the proceedings.] Then he must take the liberty of asking in what position they were? The last time the House was in Committee of Ways and Means, he heard the Chairman read, "towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty." The Resolution in which these words occurred was, he understood, afterwards withdrawn. They were again in Committee of Ways and Means, but the words to which he referred were not introduced in the 1st Resolution.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
thought that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. Gibson) was very fond of a joke, but this was not a subject for jest. The Resolution formerly brought before the House was in the usual form, and it was their suggestion that its consideration should be postponed. He provided an Amendment to the Resolution, and though in the Resolution submitted to the House the words referred to by the hon. Member (Mr. Gibson) did not appear, that made no distinction in the question. They were a Committee of Ways and Means, for the purpose of granting a Supply to Her Majesty, and whether the words referred to were omitted or inserted, made no difference.
§ Mr. Bright
protested against the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in assuming that the objection raised by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Gibson) was only a jest. The right hon. Gentleman said, "This is a very good thing for a jest—the hon. Member (Mr. Gibson) cannot be serious — but it is hardly time for jokes." But he (Mr. Bright) did not 487 think it was a joke. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) who urged the objection represented a very large constituency, who were deeply interested in the matter, for they knew that the Legislature of the country, by imposing a tax on sugar, were destroying their trade with Brazil. His hon. Friend was precisely the Member of the House who had a right to get up and protest against the imposition of the tax. He thought the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to come to the question, and grapple with it.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, it would be better to bring forward that subject at another stage, and not to propose the introduction of words which were contrary to the usual custom of that House. When the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets proposed his Motion for the reduction of the discriminating duties, the hon. Members who were opposed to the passing of the Resolutions in their present shape, might vote for that reduction, and prevent the Colonies and the West India proprietors from receiving any more benefit than that which would arise from a more reduced discriminating duty. It was only wasting time to bring forward the subject now, when a legitimate opportunity of bringing it before the Committee would be necessarily afforded by the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets.
§ Mr. M. Gibson
said, that if his Amendment were out of order, of course he would not press it; but if his Amendment were out of order, the Resolutions were still more at variance with the rules and regulations of the House; for the Government proposed by those Resolutions to regulate a matter of trade in a Committee of Ways and Means. A Committee of Ways and Means was a Committee for the especial purpose of voting a Supply to Her Majesty; and it was a Committee of the whole House which should undertake the regulation of any branch of trade. Would it not, then, be more regular to propose this in a Committee of the whole House? He conceived that it was very hard on him not to allow him to introduce the words which he had proposed, for it was only reasonable that the public should know what was intended to be carried into effect by the vote of public money which the House of Commons was called upon by the Government to agree to. That appeared to him to be reasonable, 488 whilst the course now adopted in regulating a matter of trade in a Committee of Ways and Means, was a departure from the spirit of the regulations of the House. He should not press the words, as the Chairman was of opinion that they were not in order; but he thought that it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who made the first departure from the usual rule of the House. He presumed that the omission of the words relating to granting a supply to Her Majesty was accidental on the part of the right hon. Gentleman—but his (Mr. Gibson's) Amendment was not accidental; it was intentional, and the intention was, he believed, a good one.
§ Mr. Hogg
was perfectly satisfied with the course now proposed to be pursued by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In a Resolution which had been brought before them, the right hon. Gentleman had introduced the word "quality," so that "colour" should not be made the criterion or test. And he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would define what "quality" was. He (Mr. Hogg) believed that he was correct in supposing that he would define quality to consist of different elements, such as granulation, the saccharine matter, or something to that purpose. With the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer he was now perfectly satisfied, and he had only to express his acknowledgments to Her Majesty's Government for the attention they had paid to the suggestions which he (Mr. Hogg) had thought it his duty to make. He begged further to state, that the East India and China Association was perfectly satisfied with the measures now proposed by Her Majesty's Government. Those measures removed all the objections which that Association entertained in reference to the proposed Sugar Duties formerly brought under the consideration of the House. Then, with regard to the practicability of working the discriminating duties, they thought, and he (Mr. Hogg) thought, that that ought to be left with Her Majesty's Government, who had had opportunities of communicating with the Custom-house officers, who had given it as their opinion that it was practicable to carry them into operation.
§ Mr. C. Wood
had no objection to the principle of classification, but he doubted its practicability on the same grounds as 489 the Chancellor of the Exchequer had doubted it last year, in respect to the proposition of his (Mr. Wood's) right hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere). On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman had stated that it was impossible; and he could not help feeling amused that the right hon. Gentleman should now propose it himself. He did not altogether understand the distinctions that were about to be drawn by Her Majesty's Government. It appeared that, in addition to the two distinctions that now existed in respect to sugar—namely, Muscovado and clayed—they intended to introduce a third, as between brown, clayed, and white clayed sugar. That was not the distinction suggested by the Chairman of the Customs, Mr. Dean, nor was it that which existed under the old Act (39th Geo. III.) It would be found, on reference to the Report of the Customs' Commissioners, that the difference between Muscovado and clayed sugars was not always discernible; how much less, then, must be that between brown clayed and white clayed? It was a distinction, besides, which in the case of East India sugar, did not exist. Why did not the Government rather adopt the suggestions of the Report of the Commissioners of Customs, and repeal the 3d George IV. If it was found impracticable in 1822 to ascertain the quality by colour; how much more difficult would it be to do so now, when so many different shades of colour were produced. He maintained that no distinction was practicable such as that proposed; and he grounded his assertion on the Minutes of the Board of Trade. All other distinctions should be given up, except the discharge of the sugar from molasses; but as that applied to the brown clayed, as well as to the white clayed article, he could not see how the distinction would be taken between them. He objected, therefore, under these circumstances, to such a distinction; and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would inform the Committee in what manner it was proposed to be made. He was also desirous of knowing how it was proposed to deal with free labour Java sugar, white clayed? The Motion of the hon. Member for Bristol last year to tax that sugar at the higher rate of duty had been resisted by the Government, and the result was that large orders were sent out to Java on the faith of its continuing to be admitted at the 490 lower rate. What he was desirous to know was, whether the great mass of Java sugar would be admitted at the lower rate—the duty of last year, or whether it would be subjected to the higher rate as on white clayed sugar?
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, the hon. Gentleman pre-supposed that a fraud had been practised on Java, because in the last Session the rate of duty was taken at 10s. generally on all sugar the produce of that island; but if those persons in Java who grew sugar took notice of what passed in that House on one point, they should do so on every point connected with the same subject. It was stated on the occasion in question that so long as the differential duty that then existed in respect to British Colonial sugars continued, so long would the duty then imposed on Java sugar not be disturbed. The hon. Member for Halifax should recollect that those who imported the higher class of sugars would have to pay the higher duty, and those who imported the lower class would have to pay the lower duty. And then, as to the distinction on white clayed sugars, the difference of quality was perfectly known, and the regulation as to the duty would, he was satisfied, very soon become a matter at once of certainty and of ease.
§ Mr. F. Baring
did not think the right hon. Gentleman was proceeding with his experiment upon very clear grounds. As the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in office, he must be permitted to say, that if the right hon. Gentleman had given the House some little estimate of what he expected from one class of sugars and from another, it would have been more satisfactory. Now, last year he was assured that there would be a very small quantity of white clayed sugar imported. This year the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his revenue calculations depend upon this statement, that 5,000 tons of the lower class sugar would come in, and 15,000 of the higher class. On that calculation he depended for his revenue. Thus the right hon. Gentleman assumed that the greater part of the sugar imported would be of the higher class; while the late President of the Board of Trade stated last year, and also, he believed, in the present Session, that the greater part would be of the lower class. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer 491 would have the goodness to tell them which was the real Simon Pure—were they to have the higher class sugar and the revenue he calculated, or the lower class without that revenue? Last year the Government passed a Bill giving notice to parties who had sugar at the other end of the world, that if they brought it in they would have to compete with British-grown sugar, at a protecting duty of 10s. 6d., and now they made that protection 9s. 6d. for the lower class sugar, and something more, something nearer 11s., for the higher class sugar. That notice was to regulate the movements of the trader who speculated in sugar; and to tell him now that you had changed it, and that the party he had to compete with was to have a lower rate of duty, was the queerest consolation he had ever heard from the Treasury Office. He had always been in favour of a classification; but a mere ad valorem duty he thought would be attended with great inconvenience. He thought there should be a distinction, a classified rate of duty, something in the nature of an ad valorem duty, which when well arranged was preferable. If there was a great difficulty in carrying out such a classification, the hon. Member for Beverley and the East India Association would never have consented to it. The consent he understood them to give to it, showed that there could not be the great difficulty supposed in making the necessary distinction. If they established a distinction between the white clayed and Muscovado sugars of our own Colonies, there could be no great difficulty in establishing it as regarded other countries.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, it was extremely difficult to give anything like an estimate regarding facts that were not before the House. His original expectation was that then a greater quantity of the higher class of Java sugar would be introduced into this market. As far as the experiment had gone, however, he had no opportunity of bringing that expectation to the test, because no vessels had arrived from Java, while the number of vessels from Manilla was not larger than that of former years.
§ Sir W. Clay
said, that though sugars came from Manilla and from Java, some would come in under the higher, and some under the lower duty. Orders would be sent out for the higher quality article, and therefore the higher duty 492 must be paid; hence the parties concerned would be obliged to pay a higher rate of duty than they anticipated. In compliment to the hon. Member for Beverley, the Government had given up the exclusive test of colour, and adopted one in which colour, granulation, and saccharine quality, formed elements. It was the interest of the exporter to show that the article which he exported was up to the mark; but there were difficulties in the whole matter, which had been already clearly stated; and as it appeared to him, the explanations given had by no means removed those difficulties.
said, the reason why the discriminating duties had been given up was not because they were supposed to be impossible, but because they were considered to be unjust. The plan which had been rejected did not regulate the duty according to quality, but by any arbitrary test. Judging from the information received from the United States, he should say that there was more entered there which would pay the higher duty than that which would be liable to the lower. He doubted that white clayed sugars could ever be made the standard, for when once mixed they could never be distinguished. An hon. Member on the other side had imputed to him an opinion which he did not hold. He never had said that at all times and under all circumstances the quantity of sugar to be imported from Java would be small; but when the Sugar Duties were under consideration in the month of June last, he did say that the crop of that year in Java had in a great degree been disposed of, and very little more would come from that country. So much for that topic. Now with respect to another. He could not help being amused at the earnestness with which a right hon. Gentleman opposite pressed for a precise estimate of the quantity of sugars that were likely to come under the higher and the lower duties. He perfectly recollected, when that right hon. Gentleman was in office in 1841, that, being himself pressed to estimate the quantity of all kinds of sugars likely to be imported, he said it was impossible to attempt to form any estimate.
§ Mr. Hume
expressed himself surprised as the hon. Member for Beverley (Mr. Hogg) being himself satisfied at the modifications of the Government proposition. He was not aware whether the hon. Gentleman 493 bad ever read the Act of 1st Geo. IV. or not, but in that Act were these words referring to sugar, "clayed or otherwise refined, or prepared so as to be equal in quality to clayed sugar." Now, who was to decide what was clayed and what was not clayed? Was it to be decided by Custom-house officers, or by refiners, or by the general trader? The grossest contradictions had already been observable in attempting to make the distinction by men well informed and experienced in the trade. It appeared to be impracticable to enforce the Act of George IV. There had been the greatest delays on the arrival of every cargo of sugar, on account of the difficulties attendant upon making the distinction, and hardly a single cargo was introduced that the sellers were not called upon to pay the low duty, their bonds being taken for the difference, in case, on further inquiry, the difference should be payable, and not a few paid the additional duty at once to get rid of the delay. What, then, could the hon. Member for Beverley or the East India Asociation expect from the complicated words now used in the Government scheme, seeing that such difficulties arose upon words nearly similar in the Act referred to. The words now used were, to all intents and purposes, the words formerly so ineffectually used. It was because it was found impossible to carry these words into practical operation, that the Act of Geo. IV. was repealed. Unless the classifications decided upon be such as to admit of no mistake, there should be no classification whatever. He did not altogether like the lines drawn by some Gentlemen between night and day. He did not like the shades of distinction to be left to the penetration and discretion of Customhouse officers at London, Liverpool, and Bristol. When simplifications were going on in the Customs' Department, it was singular that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government should have allowed the complication of which he now complained to have been introduced. It was their duty always to encourage the introduction into the market of the best article. The tendency of the present proposal would, he much feared, be to discourage the production of the best sugar for the British market. He was quite confident that the Government was going in direct opposition to the opinions and experience of men having the very best means of information 494 on the subject. He would enter his protest against such classifications as those proposed. The right hon. Gentleman might pass his jokes on such matters; but knowing, as he did, a little of everything, he (Mr. Hume) wished to know a little more of the matter in hand. He would give the right hon. Gentleman a lesson, and that was—that he should attend to his own business and leave others to manage theirs. Some people fancied they could acquire all kinds of knowledge and wisdom by simple intuition. They regarded experience and practical knowledge as nothing. They came down to the House and read their lectures to hon. Members as self-complacently as if they were each a Solon, and expected that these lectures must of necessity be satisfactory both to the House and to the community. He (Mr. Hume) had no objection to the receipt of a revenue from sugar, provided it were derived from a properly regulated scale of duties. He objected, however, most decidedly, to giving an indefinite premium either to the East or West Indies. He thought some protection should be given to the West Indies until they had a better command of labour; but he knew no reason why that protection should be extended either to the Mauritius or to the East Indies. He wished that the right hon. Baronet — if these were to be protected—had decided for what period protection was to be extended to them, that the sugar-growers in both quarters might understand, once for all, how long they were to be so favoured; and that the protected interests might know when to expect the final removal of protection.
§ Mr. Hogg
hardly knew what to think of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose expressing surprise or astonishment that he was satisfied with the proposed classifications as they now stood. He did not know by what standard his hon. Friend measured Parliamentary content. That standard, he apprehended, would be as difficult to ascertain as would the standard and criterion of the discriminating duties. He had made certain objections on a former occasion to the propositions of the Government, and had taken the liberty of offering certain suggestions for the removal of what he considered objectionable in the Government scheme. Her Majesty's Government had been kind enough to adopt and act upon 495 these suggestions; and now his hon. Friend was astounded that he was satisfied. In an early part of the debate his hon. Friend had approved of men sometimes holding their tongues. He had heard of advocates, who had both the judge and the jury with them, but who, by an imprudent use of the tongue, had succeeded in turning both against them. He was aware that the word "quality" had been formerly introduced, and that that word had led to great discussion; but he begged the hon. Member for Montrose to remember, that to guard against the difficulty which arose before, he had suggested that the meaning of this word "quality" should not be left to the caprice of Custom-house officers; and had suggested also, that it should be defined in the Act of Parliament, and that it should consist of the three elements of colour, granulation, and saccharine matter. These suggestions, he was happy to say, were to be adopted. He would now repeat, on his own behalf, as well as on that of the East India Association, that they were content to leave the matter now in the hands of Her Majesty's Government, who had at their command the best means of ascertaining the most eligible modes for distinguishing quality, and the best means of working their system—a system which he had no doubt, if it were found to work improperly, would speedily be abandoned.
§ Sir R. Peel
was surprised by the observations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose. The hon. Gentleman thought it desirable that protection should be granted to the West Indian colonics, and withheld from the East. The hon. Gentleman said, that the West Indies were placed under peculiar difficulties with respect to their working population, under which the East Indies did not suffer, and therefore that protection might justly be claimed by the West Indies, but could not with equal justice be claimed by the East. If that were right, then they must revert to the practice under which different rates of duty were applied to East and West Indian produce. He thought that it was almost the unanimous opinion of the House, until he heard the hon. Member for Montrose, that there should be no such distinctive duties in respect to the produce of their own Colonies; and he had not expected to hear any hon. Gentleman now advocate a return to that practice, under which there was a discrimination 496 in the duties payable upon East and West Indian produce. The Government had, during the interval which had elapsed since the measure was first introduced and the present time, applied itself to the consideration of the question of the practicability of distinguishing sugars by the standard of their quality. The inference which they were entitled to draw, after having consulted men of great experience in the trade, was, that from experience, in respect to the great bulk of sugar imported, there was, in reality, no such difficulty as was apprehended in some quarters as to discriminating quality. The principle of discrimination was not an unjust one. If, however, they abandoned it now and determined to have an equal rate of duly, in his opinion they never could revert to the principle again. If the experiment were to be tried at all, let them determine to try it at once; for if they abandoned it now they could never resort to it on any future occasion. He was on the whole decidedly of opinion that the experiment, should be tried, because the principle involved was just. He trusted of also that experience would amply prove that the difficulties in the way had been vastly overrated. Considering that by far the greatest quantity of sugar consumed in this country was imported into but four ports, and that into the three ports of London, Bristol, and Liverpool was brought the greatest portion, by bringing the officers of these ports into close communication with each other, and by directing the special attention of the Board to this particular and important subject, he hoped that it was quite possible to establish a unity of action in respect to the determination of quality, which might be so applied that the trade might not be subjected to great inconvenience or delay. Such was the conclusion which he had been led to draw from the inquiries which the Government had instituted since the subject had been last brought under the consideration of the House. The preponderance of opinion was in favour of trying the experiment; and if the principle involved was admitted to be a just one, the opinion of the House, he was sure, would be in favour of trying the experiment. He was led to understand that a considerable change might be expected to be speedily introduced into the mode of carrying the sugar business. He had reason to believe that new machinery, new ingenuity, 497 and new capital were about to be conjointly applied to the cultivation of sugar. They were not to argue of the future state of the trade from what was now past. Every estimate must be made with more or less uncertainty; but he could not help thinking that both in the East and West Indes they were about to have the manufacture of sugar greatly improved, and that there would be a consequent tendency to have a sugar of a lower quality than refined—yet still nearly approaching to refined—brought into this country. If that were the case, the policy of a discriminating duty would only appear the stronger. It appeared to him, under such circumstances, still more urgent to establish a new distinction; nor was he quite sure, that by introducing a new classification they would multiply inconvenience. If there were only two classes of sugar, constant efforts would be made in order to get the sugar which by improved means of production would approach almost to refined, admitted at the lower rate of duty, escaping altogether the higher duty payable by refined sugar. But if they established a new class, with a 16s. 4d. duty, instead of a 14s. duty, that sugar which they would have some scruple in treating as refined sugar, they would have no scruple in subjecting to the intermediate duty of 16s. 4d., that is, to the duty between the 14s. duty and the duty on sugars refined. He would again repeat that as the present was the fitting time for trying the experiment, and as the principle of discrimination was admitted to be a just one, he trusted that the House would now resolve to carry out the principle, rather than, by abandoning it now, abandon it altogether.
§ The Resolutions were then read seriatim. On coming to the third Resolution,
§ Sir William Clay
said, that the Motion he should propose to the Committee would differ slightly from that of which he had given notice. The Committee having agreed to the first and second Resolutions, had affirmed the principle of classification; and it was not, therefore, competent for him to moot that question a second time, which he should have done by moving his Amendment in its original shape. Preserving, therefore, its principle, he should now move simply, that in lieu of 1l. 8s. on white clayed Foreign sugar, and 1l. 3s. 4d. on brown, that the duties should be, on the former 1l. 3s. 4d., 498 and on the latter 18s. 8d. per cwt., being a reduction in each case of 4s. 8d. per cwt. on the Government proposition, and leaving a mean differential duty in favour of the British Colonial sugar of 5s. 10d. per cwt. instead of 10s. 6d., as proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. He felt the strongest confidence that he could show to the Committee sufficient grounds for the Amendment he proposed. It would be in the recollection of the Committee that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government had stated as one of the main elements of his scheme of finance, as one of the chief reasons which should induce the House and the country to consent to a renewal of the Income Tax, the reduction which its continued imposition would enable him to effect in the cost of an article so important as sugar to the comfort and enjoyment of every class of the people. By his success in this reduction of price, therefore, the merits of his financial scheme must in a great measure be tested. If the people of this country were to endure for an indefinite period the pressure of a tax so objectionable as the Income Tax, the House ought at least to be assured that the public received the promised equivalent. Had they any such security? He thought it under the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman at least problematical. If the anticipations of the right hon. Gentleman as to the increase of consumption were well founded, it was quite certain the public would not get the promised reduction. One or other of the two results contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman would fail of occurring; either the consumption would not exceed the produce of our own Colonies, and then little or no Foreign sugar would come in, and the revenue would fall greatly short of his anticipations, or the consumption exceeding the supply from the British Colonies, the price would rise, and the public would not get the full advantage of the reduction of the duty. The right hon. Gentleman calculated on an increased consumption in this country of 50,000 tons in round numbers: about equal to a twelfth or thirteenth part of the entire quantity of sugar annually consumed in the world. The effect of an increased demand to such an extent must be an increase of price. Of that increase the British Colonists would partake—they would be the first to partake, indeed—as the increased demand 499 would first press on the English market. It would be hazardous to predict what would be the degree of that rise of price—it would depend mainly, of course, on the extent of the increase in the demand. If that increase were as great as was anticipated by the right hon. Gentleman, the rise of price would certainly not be inconsiderable. Already since the promulgation of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme, there had been, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newark had said, an advance in the price of British Colonial sugar, the average price, by the Gazette of the week preceding the announcement of the Budget, being 28s. 2¾d.; and the average of last Friday's Gazette, 30s. 2d., or an advance of 2s. per cwt. If the price should advance 3s. to 4s. more—no improbable supposition, for he was led to believe, that throughout Europe there seemed a tendency to advance the price of sugar—then the consumer would be deprived of fully one-half the advantage of the remission of duty of 11s. 3d. per cwt.; for if the price rose 5s. 7d. per cwt., he would gain but 5s. 7d. per cwt. in price, one-half the amount of the duty remitted, the other half going into the pockets of the Colonial proprietors. But were not the people of England entitled to the benefit of the whole reduction of the duty, that benefit for which they paid so dearly by consenting to the continuance of the Income Tax? Such assuredly were the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman when he brought forward his Budget. He then promised the House and the public that he would effect a reduction of 1¼d. or 1½d. per lb. in the price of sugar. He (Sir W. Clay) believed that he would have no chance of fulfilling that promise if he persisted in maintaining the differential duty he had proposed. He would, on the other hand, be enabled to fulfil his engagement if, in giving, by his large reduction of duty, to the British Colonists an extended market, and with it an advance of price, he took from the monopoly price as much as he added to what might be called the natural price of their produce. It was with the view of effecting this object, and thus protecting the public, that he brought forward the Amendment he was about to propose to the Committee. This appeared to him to be peculiarly the fitting moment to consider what should be the differential or protecting duty which it was expedient to impose on Foreign sugars 500 in favour of the British Colonies. In 1841, 12s. per cwt. protecting duty had been proposed, the rates on British and Foreign sugars in the Budget brought forward by his right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth being 24s. to 36s. respectively. The protecting duty in the Bill of last year was 10s. 6d. But at both those periods the circumstances were widely different from those under which they were now called on to legislate. At the former, it was proposed to admit all Foreign sugar, slave as well as free-grown, and there was no reduction of duty on British Colonial sugar. Now, the British Colonies were protected from the competition of slave-grown sugar, and at how high a rate that protection ought to be valued they might learn from the speech the other night of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who told the House that to permit the introduction of slave-grown sugar, as proposed by his noble Friend the Member for London would be to produce a price of sugar so low, as to throw half the estates in the British West Indies out of cultivation. Again, last year, although slave-grown sugar was excluded, there was no reduction in the duty on British Colonial; there was now a very large reduction, and the right hon. Gentleman spoke confidently of a great increase of consumption, which must of necessity be followed by an advance of price—of what he had ventured to call the natural price of the article. They were clearly, therefore, in new circumstances, and fairly at liberty to consider what should be the protection which, in fixing the Sugar Duties, it would be just and expedient to award to the British Colonial interest. He was quite aware of the difficulty, not to say the impossibility, of giving any very precise or perfectly satisfactory reasons in this, as in all other cases, for fixing the amount of a duty imposed solely for the purpose of protection. The duty which would afford sufficient protection to one Colony, might be inadequate as to another. Even in the same Colony, estates differently circumstanced would need very different degrees of protection. But did that difficulty attach to his proposition alone? Did it not, on the contrary, press with tenfold greater force on the right hon. Gentleman opposite? If he felt difficulty in explaining the precise grounds on which he was willing to give to our Colonies a protection of 5s. 10d. 501 per cwt., the right hon. Gentleman must find incomparably greater in justifying a protecting duty of almost double the amount. The protecting duty proposed by the right hon. Gentleman was in reality most onerous, and its effect—its clear and undeniable effect—in pressing on the public, enormous. That the price of the whole sugar consumed in this country would be enhanced by the full extent of the differential duty—supposing the consumption exceeded the supply from our own Colonies—was a position not admitting; of an instant's doubt. This had been shown most clearly both by his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, and his noble Friend the Member for London, in former debates on the Sugar Duties, and again to-night; but the principle was so important, that he might be forgiven for re-stating it in a single sentence. If the supply from our own Colonies was insufficient for the consumption, and they wanted any Foreign sugar, they must give for that sugar, first the price at which it could be imported free of duty, and, secondly, the duty. Thus, if Foreign free-labour sugar could be laid down here at 20s. per cwt.—if the duty were the same as on British sugar, 15s. 2d. on the mean—it would cost the consumer 35s. 2d. per cwt.; but if the duty were (as was intended) 25s. 8d. on the mean, it would cost him 45s. 8d. per cwt. But as there could not be two prices for the same article in the same market, the price of all sugar must be 45s. 8d., and the public would thus pay 10s. 6d. per cwt. more than, but for the differential, they would need to pay on all the sugars they consumed. 10s. 6d. on 250,000 tons, the probable consumption, agreeably to the right hon. Gentleman's calculations, amounted to 2,625,000l.—an enormous burden to lay on the people of this country, when it was recollected that of that sum 200,000l. at the utmost would go into the Exchequer, and the rest into the pockets of the Colonial proprietors. Was there any justification for so large a protection—a protection amounting, if his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester were right, to more than 100 per cent. on the prime cost of the article. He (Sir William Clay) believed that his hon. Friend was right, at least as regarded the East Indies, the Mauritius, and possibly British Guiana, in saying that the prime cost of sugar in those Colonies did not 502 exceed 10s. per cwt. His accuracy, indeed, was scarcely denied in that particular. Was it rational to think that those Colonies required a protection of 100 per cent. on the prime cost? and with regard to the West India Colonies, it should be recollected that, by the exclusion of slave-grown sugar, they were saved from the competition of their most formidable rivals, viz., Cuba and the Brazils. As against China, Manilla, and Java, they had the difference of freight, and the advantage of the better condition of their sugars, from the shorter voyage, in addition to whatever protection in the shape of duty the House should think fit to award. If the Committee agreed to his proposition, they would have a protection for it of 5s. 10d. per cwt., or 5l. 16s. 8d. per ton, 50 per cent., probably on prime cost; and then a further protection of from 1l. 10s. to 2l. per ton, from the circumstances to which he had referred. Would it be said, they could not grow sugar under such encouragement? He (Sir William Clay) thought that whosoever said so was a most dangerous friend to the West India proprietors. With regard to the East Indies, there could not be a doubt that the protection he proposed would be amply sufficient. It appeared that Java and Manilla sugar, equal in quality, perhaps, to the average of Muscovado, or East India, could be laid down here at 20s. per cwt.; if from that sum be deducted freight, charges, and the importer's profit, the prime cost could not greatly exceed 10s. per cwt. But would the House believe that in British India, with labour as cheap, with a soil as fertile as in those countries, and with all the advantages of British capital and skill, the growers of sugar could not, with a protecting duty of 5s. 10d. per. cwt., or 50 per cent. on the prime cost, compete with the planters of Java or Manilla? It should not be forgotten, moreover, that the producers of sugar in British India would always have a very great advantage over their rivals in those countries in one very important particular, viz., in the rate of freight and in finding ships always ready to take their produce. The traffic from this country, both in passengers and goods, would always be on the export voyage to the ports of British India; and ships, having discharged their outward cargoes in those ports, would of course be offered by their captains and consignees to go home direct 503 from thence on lower terms than if they had to seek cargoes at Java or Manilla. For these reasons he was of opinion that the duty he proposed was as much as it was fair to call on the people of England to pay, or prudent for the Colonists to require. He used the word prudent, advisedly; for he entertained the most profound and sincere conviction, that it was not for the interests of the Colonists themselves, and especially the West India Colonists, to seek for a larger protection than that which the duty he proposed would afford them. Not only would a higher protection excite feelings of dissatisfaction among the people of England, which would render more probable every year the success of such Motions as that of his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, but a far more important consideration remained behind. The Colonists, in seeking to retain so great a protection, were hastening the advent of a time when no differential duty would avail them, and when they must be content with the prices which they could obtain—not in the English market, but in the market of the world. That time would have arrived when the British Colonies should produce more than this country could consume, and the surplus would have to find a market in other countries. He need not remind the House that the price which that surplus, however small, could obtain in the other markets of Europe, would govern the price of the whole supply to the English market. And was that time far distant? He believed it was at hand; he believed that but few years would elapse before British India would furnish sugar more than sufficient to make up for any deficiency in the supply of the other British Colonies. India, with its boundless extent of fertile land—its swarming, laborious, and docile population—was destined, ere long, to afford a practical solution of the problem as to the comparative productiveness of slave and free labour. From a mean annual export of from five to ten thousand tons, India had, in ten years, advanced to an export which last year was 55,000 tons, and in the present year would probably not be less than 70,000. The West India proprietors would do well to look to this Consideration. Was it well to apply the present enormous stimulus to their gigantic rival? Would it not be more prudent to moderate the present tendency to 504 investment of British capital in the growth of sugar in India, and allow themselves somewhat a longer time to prepare for that period, which must ultimately come, when their only security would be found in their own economy and good management, and the consequent cheapness of production. Nor did he think the present state of the Sugar Duties a wholesome one for India herself; the stimulus was too great, and would end at last in the revulsion always consequent on protection and monopoly. He had only further to trouble the Committee with one or two remarks as to the effect which his proposition, if adopted by the Committee, would have on the Revenue. That effect would be trifling compared with the benefit it would confer on the public. The difference between the duty in the Resolutions on the Table and that which he was about to propose was 4s. 8d. per cwt. in the mean on the respective duties on British and Foreign sugar, or 4l. 13s. 4d. per ton. This difference would amount to 4,666l. 13s. 4d. on 1,000 tons, and if the quantity of Foreign sugar required to make up the deficiency of our own Colonial growth should, as the right hon. Gentleman supposed, be 20,000 tons, the loss to the Revenue would be 93,000l. But the saving to the public would be at the same rate of 4l. 13s. 4d. per ton on the whole quantity consumed, 250,000 tons, agreeably to the right hon. Gentleman's calculation, or no less a sum than 1,166,700l. It was true, that if, with the right hon. Gentleman, he were to assume that the larger portion of the 20,000 tons of Foreign sugar to be admitted were to come in at 28s., the loss to the Revenue would be larger than he had stated; but it was clear, he apprehended, that little or no sugar would come in at the higher rate of duty, and that in this respect the anticipations of the right hon. Gentleman would be wholly disappointed. The right hon. Gentleman had more than once stated that he was making a bold experiment in finance by the large reductions of duty he had proposed. He thought that it was so in some particulars—the very article of sugar, for instance. He was disposed to think that he hazarded a great amount of revenue without sufficient object; but, at all events, let the public have the full benefit of the experiment, as they paid its price in the continuance of the Income Tax. Let the House take 505 care that what the State lost, in the shape of diminished duty on sugar, was really gained by the people in diminution of price.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, the hon. Gentleman had stated that the protection proposed now was less than had been proposed under any former scheme submitted to the House, but doubted whether the consumer would derive any advantage from it. In his opinion, the benefit of all protective duties must be divided between the producer and consumer, and the consequence of such a measure as that which was now proposed would be to bring into this country a very large supply of sugar, which, he believed, would give to the consumer very nearly the whole amount of the reduction of duty. The rise or fall in price of any article must necessarily depend not merely on the differential duty, but on the extent of supply afforded for increased consumption: and as they had reason to anticipate that in the course of the ensuing year there would be from our own possessions in the East and West, and from those Foreign countries that could bring sugar into this country, a supply far beyond the anticipated increase of consumption, and leave a considerable surplus, he did not think it necessarily followed, as the hon. Gentleman had inferred, that the fact of an increased consumption would necessarily lead to an increase of price. The hon. Gentleman anticipated, on the contrary, that the price would be enhanced to the consumer to the full amount of the differential duty. Upon that point he did not agree with him, for the reasons he had stated. As to the precise amount of differential duty to be fixed, it must be observed that this measure was a continuation of that to which the House agreed in the last Session; but the experiment of the introduction of Foreign sugar not having been fully carried into effect, he thought they were bound by the decision of previous years, and that they ought to adhere to that amount of differential duty. Nothing could be more unfortunate with a view to an ample supply of sugar in this country than to throw discouragement upon the efforts of those who were engaged in the cultivation of sugar in our possessions in either quarter of the globe; and, therefore, he thought that by giving a higher duty than the hon. Gentleman thought 506 under the circumstances was necessary, it was an error entirely on the right side. For these reasons he could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman in the proposal he had made.
§ The Committee divided on the Question that the duty on white clayed sugar be 1l. 3s. 4d. Ayes 69; Noes 152: Majority 83.
|List of the AYES.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Leader, J. T.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Marsland, H.|
|Mitchell, T. A.|
|Baring, rt. hn. F. T.||Morris, D.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Murray, A.|
|Bright, J.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||O'Conor Don|
|Brotherton, J.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Buller, E.||Parker, J.|
|Busfeild, W.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Childers, J. W.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Christie, W. D.||Ponsonby, hn. C. F. A.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Collett, J.||Russell, Lord E.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Craig, W. G.||Staunton, Sir G. T.|
|Currie, R.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Strutt, E.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Duncan, G.||Thornely, T.|
|Duncombe, T.||Trelawney, J. S.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Wakley, T.|
|Fitzroy, Lord C.||Walker, R.|
|Gibson, T. M.||Warburton, H.|
|Gill, T.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Hastie, A.||Williams, W.|
|Hill, Lord M.||Wilshere, W.|
|Hindley, C.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Howard, hn. C. W. G.||TELLERS.|
|Hume, J.||Clay, Sir W.|
|Hutt, W.||Ewart, W.|
|List of the NOES.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Blakemore, R.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Boldero, H. G.|
|Antrobus, E.||Borthwick, P.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Bowles, Adm.|
|Baillie, Col.||Bramston, T. W.|
|Baird, W.||Broadley, H.|
|Baldwin, B.||Bruce, Lord E.|
|Barclay, D.||Bruges, W. H. L.|
|Baring, T.||Buller, Sir J. Y.|
|Baring, rt. hon. W. B.||Campbell, Sir H.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Cardwell, E.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Carew, W. H. P.|
|Beckett, W.||Charteris, hon. F.|
|Bell, M.||Chelsea, Visct.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Clayton, R. R.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Clerk, rt. hn. Sir G.|
|Clifton, J. T.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Clive, Visct.||Lockhart, W.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Lopes, Sir R.|
|Cochrane, A.||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.||Mackenzie, T.|
|Colquhoun, J. C.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Corry, rt. hn. H.||Maclean, D.|
|Darby, G.||McNeill, D.|
|Deedes, W.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Denison, E. B.||Marsham, Visct.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Masterman, J.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Douglas, J. D. S.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Dugdale, W. S.||Miles, W.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Morgan, O.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Mundy, E. M.|
|East, J. B.||Neville, R.|
|Eastnor, Visct.||Newry, Visct.|
|Ellice, E.||Nicholl, rt. hn. J.|
|Entwisle, W.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Escott, B.||Packe, C. W.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Patten, J. W.|
|Fellowes, E.||Peel, rt. hn. Sir R.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Peel, J.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Pennant, hon. Col.|
|Forbes, W.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Forman, T. S.||Polhill, F.|
|Fox, S. L.||Pringle, A.|
|Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T.||Pusey, P.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Rolleston, Col.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Rous, hon. Capt.|
|Gore, M.||Russell, J. D. W.|
|Goulburn, rt. hn. H.||Shaw, rt. hn. F.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Shirley, E. J.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Grogan, E.||Smith, A.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Smollett, A.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Henley, J. W.||Somes, J.|
|Herbert, rt. hn. S.||Spooner, R.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Stewart, J.|
|Hinde, J. H.||Stuart, H.|
|Hogg, J. W.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Hope, G. W.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Houldsworth, T.||Tollemache, J.|
|Hussey, A.||Tower, C.|
|Hussey, T.||Trotter, J.|
|Ingestre, Visct.||Villiers, Visct.|
|Irton, S.||Waddington, H. S.|
|James, W.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|James, Sir W. C.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Wodehouse, E.|
|Jocelyn, Visct.||Wood, Col.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Knight, F. W.||Young, J.|
|Legh, G. C.||Lennox, Lord A.|
§ Original Resolution agreed to.
§ On the 4th Resolution, and on the part imposing a duty of 1l. 3s. 9d. per cwt. on Foreign molasses,508
§ Mr. Milner Gibson
observed, that this was a very high rate of duty to impose upon Foreign, as compared to Colonial molasses. What became here of the 10s. 6d. protecting duty? If they imposed a duty upon Foreign molasses in proportion to the value of the article, there ought only to be 7s. on Foreign when there were 5s. on Colonial molasses. He asked to deal at least with molasses as they dealt with sugar. Here, he said to hon. Gentlemen opposite, was an opportunity for them to give relief to the agricultural classes, and at the same time to adhere to the principle laid down by the Government itself. He moved that the duty on Foreign molasses be reduced to 7s., in order that they might adhere to the principle laid down by Government.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed that the House had already determined that sugar raised by slave labour should be excluded by a duty short of prohibition. By admitting molasses in the proportion that molasses bore to sugar, and acceding to the hon. Gentleman's proposition, they would reverse the decision the House had come to on a former debate, for they would be giving facilities to admit molasses raised by slave labour. Would the hon. Gentleman say that molasses would be brought to them from Java and Manilla? If any hon. Gentleman on the Ministerial side of the House were to propose as a means of relieving agricultural distress, that molasses from Java and Manilla should be allowed to come into this country at a low duty, for the purpose of relieving that distress, the proposition would be treated by the hon. Member for Manchester with the ridicule it deserved.
§ Mr. Hume
observed that though they excluded the molasses of some countries on the ground of its being the produce of slave labour, molasses produced in the same way would, as in the case of sugar, come in from others. It was cruel and unjust to the great mass of the people of this country to place difficulties in the way of the admission of an article of such general consumption.
§ Mr. M. Gibson
would endeavour so to alter his Amendment as to meet the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and make the proportion between the duties on the different kinds of molasses the same as that on the different classes of sugars. He would substitute for the Amendment 509 he had already submitted — "that for every cwt. of molasses the produce of China, Manilla, and Java, or of any country, the produce of which should be admitted by an Order of the Queen in Council under any Treaty of Reciprocity or otherwise, a duty of 7s. should be charged."
§ Mr. Warburton
observed that if, as was generally understood, the sugar from Java and Manilla came to this country principally in a state more or less refined, a smaller amount of molasses would result, from the manufacture of that sugar; it would be necessary, therefore, to look to an increased supply from other countries. The Amendment now proposed was in the same proportion as the proposed duties on sugar, and he thought, therefore, there could be no objection to it.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, if it should be found that the proportion was the same, he should be willing to introduce the Amendment at a future period, in the shape of a clause in the Bill; as this would be a reduction of duty that would be the most convenient mode of dealing with it.
§ Amendment withdrawn. Resolution agreed to.
§ On the Question that the new rate of duties shall commence "from and after the 14th of March next,"
§ Mr. W. Williams
observed that if the new rate of duties came into operation so soon, great loss would be entailed on the refiners and others who had large stocks on hand. There was certainly no necessity for the Bill coming into operation before it received the Royal Assent. Unless the right hon. Gentleman consented to allow a drawback upon the sugar in hand, he (Mr. Williams) would move as an Amendment, that the "5th of April" be substituted for the 14th of March.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that the almost invariable practice in respect to reductions in Customs' Duties was not to allow a drawback. If it were allowed in one case, it was quite clear the principle must be admitted in all, and this would open the door to fraud and lead to great inconvenience. The Government proposed that the 510 existing rates of duties should continue till the 14th of March, thus giving one month from the first announcement of the proposed alteration until it was carried into effect, for the parties to dispose of their stocks on hand, giving them the exclusive command of the market during that time. That notice, he held, was sufficient; and he appealed to the House not to refuse to give the public the advantage of the intended reduction from the time proposed by the Government. He did so on the ground, that it was known to the trade that the Government would propose an alteration in the Sugar Duties at an early period of the Session, and at the same time that they would deal with the Income Tax; and to show what was the feeling of the parties engaged in the trade, he would state to the Committee that he had received a memorial, signed by some seventy houses in London, including that of Baring, Reid, Irving, and Co., by the chairman and deputy-chairman of the East India Company, the agent for Barbadoes, the chairman of the East India Association, and of the West India Association of Glasgow, the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester, by merchants of Blackburn, of Bristol, and of almost every other place interested in the sugar trade, signed, in fact, by almost every house in the sugar trade. He had received this memorial in December or January last; and the memorialists, after deprecating leaving of the question in a state of uncertainty, and showing the effects of uncertainty upon the trade, concluded by praying that any further measure that might be in the contemplation of the Government as to the Sugar Duties, should be announced at the earliest possible period after the meeting of Parliament, and come into operation at the earliest possible period. The Government had assented to the prayer of that memorial, and had at the earliest meeting of Parliament brought forward the plan for altering the Sugar Duties, and had connected it with the Income Tax. The Ministers had acquiesced in the proposal of those parties, and they had given a month from the day of the announcement of the plan before it was proposed to carry it into effect; and he trusted that Parliament would agree with them in the propriety of this course.
§ Mr. Williams
said the parties who had signed the memorial were principally those 511 who were connected with the import of sugar—not the refiners. The right hon. Baronet allowed the drawback on glass, and why not on sugar?
§ Mr. Thornely
said it was clear that those who had signed the memorial were not of that class that would suffer most. There was the class of wholesale dealers, upon whom a great hardship would be inflicted, and who had paid the full duty upon sugar now in bond upon the faith of an Act of Parliament, which enacted that the existing rate of duties should continue until the 5th of July.
§ Mr. Sheil
had received a letter from a grocer of Clonmel stating, that as there was no bonding warehouse in that town, he and others had taken out and paid the duty upon a large quantity of sugar for home consumption, and that they would be very seriously injured if no drawback was allowed. Now, the case of the grocers of Clonmel would be that of the grocers of every other town similarly circumstanced. Though the great merchants of London and Liverpool might not be affected by the change taking place before the 5th of July, the period guaranteed by the existing Act, the case was different with the grocers and small dealers.
§ Dr. Bowring
concurred with the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), that to allow a drawback in this case would tend to great embarrassment. He admitted there might be individual cases of hardship, but he did not see how practical effect could be given to the principle of drawback in all its details in every case in which reduction of duty took place.
§ Viscount Ebrington
said, that to allow the drawback on the sugar in bond, on which the duty had been paid, could not lead to any fraud, or occasion inconvenience.
§ Viscount Sandon
agreed in the policy of announcing the change, and carrying it into effect at an early period; but he was at the same time aware that there were many who did not expect that it would take effect so soon. The retail dealers, he believed, assisted each other; but the wholesale dealers of Liverpool, who had signed the memorial which he had presented to the right hon. Baronet, stated in a petition they had forwarded to him (Viscount Sandon), that they would be great losers unless a drawback were allowed.
§ Mr. Trelawny
wanted to know whether a drawback had been allowed in 1830, when a reduction had been made under similar circumstances.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
replied, that it was true that in 1830 a drawback of 3s. had been allowed, but he denied that the circumstances of the two cases were similar. In 1830 no notice had been given, as in the present case, of the early period at which the alteration would take place. With regard to allowing the drawback on sugar in bond, the general practice was not to pay the duty until the article was actually wanted; and of course it would until then remain in bond, the duty being unpaid. Therefore, in this respect, he did not apprehend any great inconvenience. On the other hand, if they allowed a drawback, after the payment of the duty, they offered an encouragement to fraud; and if it were allowed on sugar, there was no reason why the principle should not apply to every other article on which a reduction of the Customs' duty was effected. His noble Friend (Lord Sandon) said the wholesale dealers of Liverpool had not signed the memorial to the Government, and were consequently ignorant of the early period the duties would come into operation; but it could not be supposed that they would be unaware that such a document was in course of signature. He had had complaints from the retail dealers, stating that the wholesale dealers—the holders of large stocks—had, immediately the proposed change became known, raised the price of their sugar 2s. per cwt., which they (the retail dealers) were compelled to pay. Then with regard to the refiners, for this right they had less ground to demand a drawback than any other class of the sugar trade, for it was well known that the refining of sugar was carried on by a very few persons comparatively; that it required large premises, a considerable capital, and large and expensive machinery; there therefore was little fear of competition, and it was quite clear we could not obtain refined sugar from any other quarter for a long time to come. They, therefore, having the public completely under their controul might charge their own price, and guard themselves against loss; and if a drawback were allowed, the money so paid would be thrown away by the public. Seeing this, and that the memorial to which his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel) had 513 referred, was signed by the merchants of all the great towns in the kingdom, he saw no sufficient ground for extending the time beyond the 14th of the present month.
§ Mr. Bright
contended that the only way to prevent the constant injuries which these frequent alterations inflicted, was to settle the Sugar Duties permanently, and that could only be done on the principle of free trade.
believed that five weeks, as the period of the new duties coming into operation, would be an arrangement that would satisfy the refiners. He would propose that the date should be the 25th of April.
§ Mr. Bramston
thought the case of the refiners required some consideration at the hands of the Government. He denied that they could raise the price to the consumer, which right hon. Gentlemen seemed to suppose; for it was not to be imagined that the people would consent to pay a higher price. It must be remembered also that only three-fifths of the sugar that went to the refiners came out as refined sugar—the rest was refuse, and the loss the refiner would sustain on that would more than counterbalance any increase in price they might put on the refined article.
§ Viscount Ebrington
thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer was sufficiently answered by his own Resolutions, for he charged five or six different rates of duty upon sugar refined coming into Great Britain and Ireland; of course, if no refined sugar came in those Resolutions would be inoperative. The Chancellor of the Exchequer proved too much for his own case, for if the price of refined sugar was to be raised to the consumer, what benefit would be derived from the continuance of the Income Tax?
§ Mr. Hindley
thought it was quite right not to give a general drawback, but he considered this was a case in which the Government ought to give an extension of time to the parties.
§ Sir R. Peel
hoped the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Fox) would not divide the Committee, as it was of the utmost importance that there should be no delay in bringing the measure into operation. The memorial which had already been referred to, set forth the most powerful arguments why they should come to an immediate and final settlement of the 514 question. The memorialists alleged that the present state of uncertainty as to the period on which this alteration of duties was to take place, had already given rise to a system of adulteration of sugars, the evil of which would be augmented every day so long as that uncertainty continued.
§ Mr. Hume
would advise his hon. and gallant Friend not to press his Amendment to a division. It was important to the community that this measure should come into operation on the 14th of March, otherwise between that and the 25th of April great detriment would be done to the commercial transactions of the country.
consented to withdraw his Amendment, leaving the responsibility of the injury done to individuals to rest with the Government.
§ Amendment withdrawn. Resolution agreed to.
§ House resumed. Resolutions ordered to be reported.