§ On the question being again put, that the Speaker leave the Chair,
§ Mr. Hawes
said, that his object in rising was to move that provision be made in the Bill for the drawback of the amount of duty reduced on such duty-paid sugar as now remained in the Queen's warehouses. This was not a question which involved fraud or collusion, which other cases of drawback might do. The case was not one of great public interest, but that of private parties, who would be affected in consequence of the measure now before the House having been brought forward under peculiar circumstances. It was the case of individuals residing in London, Liverpool, and other places, who might suffer in consequence of Her Majesty's Government having proposed an alteration in the Sugar Duties. He trusted that the House would agree to his proposition, as the alteration was made most unexpectedly, and at an unusually early period of the year. He asked for a remission of duty paid on all sugar yet in a bonded warehouse. In nearly all cases where goods were in a bonded warehouse the duty had not been paid; but according to the usage of the sugar trade it was customary to keep sugar in these warehouses after the duty was paid, and the Crown, or the officers of the Crown, had the complete control over the goods. If the amount in question was small, the parties whom he represented would not urge the House of Commons in this matter, or wish to obstruct a measure of this kind, as it affected their private views. He felt that he should be justified in stating this, when he had informed the House of the amount in question. The parties whom he represented were six of the principal wholesale sugar dealers in London; and they stated in the petition which he had presented, the quantity of sugar they had locked up in the Queen's warehouses, the duty on which had been paid, and on which they now prayed a drawback. It appeared that the house of Conway, 908 Phelps, and Co., had 10,000 cwt. of sugar so circumstanced; North and Co., 3,750 cwt.; Stubbs and Co., 3,000 cwt., and the other houses about 3,000 cwt. more—making altogether nearly 1,000 tons of sugar. At Liverpool and other places there were about 590 tons. The whole amount of duty that would be affected by acceding to this drawback was about 6,000l. The House would see that this involved a loss on individuals which they ought not to be called upon to bear. He would give instances where, under similar circumstances, a drawback had been allowed on sugar. This was the case in 1830, when the right hon. Gentlemen then filled the office which he now held. Again, in the proposed reduction of duties in the present Budget, it was proposed to allow a drawback to the glass manufacturer to the amount of 75 per cent. In 1843 also, when an alteration was anticipated in the wine duties, the right hon. Gentleman intimated, in answer to a memorial from the wine merchants, that in case of such an event a drawback would be allowed for the stocks in hand. No such reduction of duty then took place; but there were other cases with regard to the wine trade in which this had really been done. Thus, it appeared that drawbacks had been allowed in cases where there was nothing like the same security against fraud and collusion as there was in this case, for the sugar was exactly on the same spot as before the duty was paid. The hon. Member concluded by moving as an Amendment,—To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'provision be made in the Bill for the Drawback of the amount of the Duty reduced on such Duty-paid Sugar as now remains in the Queen's warehouse, instead thereof.'
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
agreed with the hon. Gentleman that this ought not to be considered as a party question. The settlement of these questions involved considerable difficulty, seriously affecting, as they did, the interests of individuals; and if he felt bound to adhere on this occasion to what he considered the best for the public interest, he could assure the hon. Member that it was not for want of considering the situation of those who might be sufferers by the change of the law. But he was impressed with the feeling that, if he attempted to relieve them, 909 he might inflict a still more serious injury upon others who were in the same trade. The hon. Gentleman had presented a petition from six wholesale dealers in sugar, complaining that, having paid the high duty on sugar, and left it in the Queen's warehouse, they ought to receive back the difference between the duty they had paid and that which was about to be imposed. Now, in the first place, he would call the attention of the House to the fact that these six petitioners formed but a small proportion of the trade. There were in the metropolis fifty-two wholesale dealers in that commodity; and many of them had stocks of sugar equal to the petitioners, which they had transferred from the Government warehouses to their own, and therefore, so far as their pecuniary interests were concerned, they were equal sufferers with the petitioners. If he remitted the duties in the one case, he should inflict an injury upon parties who were in a different situation. For it was obvious that if two parties had equal stocks of sugar, the one in the Queen's warehouse, the other in his own, if the Government were to give the drawback to the one and refuse it to the other, they would give the one man a great advantage in his future commercial pursuits which they denied to his competitor. The hon. Gentleman had urged as one argument for the conceding of the drawback, that these parties were taken by surprise. Now he thought that there never was a time when parties could be less taken by surprise than on the present occasion. It was impossible that any man could attend to the discussions of last Session, and not imagine that a considerable alteration in the Sugar Duties would accompany the renewal of the Income Tax. So much was this the general opinion that the retail dealers had purposely kept the amount of their stock low, in order to prepare for the change. Then it was said that the change had taken place earlier than was expected. Now he thought that, as it was well known the Income Tax was meant to be renewed, any man who knew that the tax expired on the 5th of April, would know that the Sugar Duties, which were to be considered contemporaneously with the Income Tax, must come under consideration early in the Session. And, further, a memorial had been presented from the merchants, shipowners, refiners, and grocers in the metropolis, praying that the measures to 910 be taken with regard to the Sugar Duties might be announced early in the Session, and that they might come into speedy operation; and among the memorialists was one of the gentlemen who had signed the present petition. But, said the hon. Gentleman, the petitioners would not have objected to the change, if it had been intended as a final settlement, or settled on a satisfactory basis. Now there was nothing in the fact that the Sugar Duties were granted for one year, instead of being placed among the general Customs of the country, to be continued till Parliament should otherwise determine, that ought to alarm the wholesale dealers; and as to these duties being placed on a satisfactory basis, the Government hoped, that, by the reduction of the duties, and the consequent reduction in price, there would be a greatly increased consumption throughout the country; and he trusted that the prosperity of the trade would so increase as to make up to them for their present loss. But the great argument on which the hon. Gentleman grounded his claim for these parties, was on the score of precedent; and he had particularly referred to the drawback on sugar of which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was the author several years ago. On that occasion there was an alteration of the Sugar Duties, and he had given the holders of stock a drawback of three per cent.; and he must say that the effect of the measure was to give considerable dissatisfaction. The general rule was, that on the Customs' Duties being reduced, no claim was allowed for the difference in the duties; when the duty was increased, no claim was made for the greater amount of duty on the stock in hand: and when the duty was reduced, no claim was admitted for the drawback. With respect to the Excise Duties, the rule was different; and for this obvious reason, that the excisable manufactures were carried on under the eye of the Government Officers, and the duty was charged at a very early stage in the process of manufacture. This was the reason why they allowed a drawback on glass; and for this further reason, that, when the duty was increased, the higher rate was charged on the stock in hand. But the hon. Gentleman had relied a great deal on the course pursued with regard to wine, and had referred to the drawback allowed on the reduction of duties in 1787. But at that period the 911 wine was charged under the head of Excisable duties; and though at the reduction of duties in 1825 the wine trade had been transferred to the Customs' department, yet the Excise surveys and permits operated at the time, and they still came under the category of the Excise. So it was in 1831, when Lord Althorp reduced the duty on one kind of wine, and increased it on another; he took the increased duty on all the stock in hand which was liable to it, and gave the drawback on all the stock in hand which was entitled to that advantage. But this was never the case with regard to the Sugar Duties. He admitted that he had deviated from the rule on the occasion to which he formerly referred; but his experience on that occasion gave him no desire to repeat it. Under all these circumstances, he felt bound to state that he could not accede to the Motion.
§ Mr. Labouchere
fully concurred with the general rule which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had laid down, that in ordinary circumstances drawbacks ought not to be granted. But the question which the House had to take into its consideration was this—whetherornot there existed any peculiar circumstances in this case which would afford a fair ground for departing from the general rule; and, for his part, he must say that, having looked into the question with every disposition to take the line which the right hon. Gentleman had recommended, and fully impressed with the danger of departing from a rule which, in the main, was sound and proper, he still had come to the conclusion that the present was a case in which he did not think the House would act justly unless they made some reasonable arrangement which would mitigate the hardships of which the petitioners complained. What were the peculiarities of this case? He believed that the Government had pursued a course with regard to the dealers in sugar which was unprecedented in the commercial legislation of this country. Last year they had passed an Act altering the Sugar Duties, and enacting that the new duties should continue till the 5th of July, "and no longer;" and they now disturbed the arrangements on which dealers had a right to rely, and, three months before the expiration of the Act, they had passed another law subjecting the Sugar Duties to another alteration. 912 He did not complain of the Government for having taken this course; he believed that it was rendered absolutely necessary. But by whom was that necessity created? Why, by the Government itself. In the memorial to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred, there occurred this remarkable expression: "That the measure of last season had disturbed not settled the question." He had taken the liberty of saying at the time what he felt equally strongly now, that it was most desirable for all interests that the question should have been settled last year rather than now. And he might observe that the relief which the right hon. Gentleman had given to the retail grocer by postponing the operation of the duties, had aggravated the embarrassments of the wholesale dealer; for, in point of fact, there had been, during the whole of the interval, a complete paralysis in the trade, so that the wholesale merchant could not dispose of his stock at all. But the right hon. Gentleman said, that if he gave this boon to the petitioners, he would put them in a more favourable situation than their competitors who had removed their stock from the Queen's warehouses. He did not think that was an argument at all, because the Bill had been brought forward at a period of the Session when it was all a matter of haphazard whom it hit, depending entirely upon the stock of sugar parties might have on hand. When he saw that means could be taken without the possibility of fraud of relieving a respectable body of men, he thought it was the duty of the House to take the means which were necessary for the alleviation of the evils caused by their own legislation. It was a very hard case for individuals to be mulcted by an Act of Parliament. From a statement put forth by the wholesale grocers of Liverpool, it appeared that four houses in Liverpool had five hundred and fifty tons of sugar in the Government warehouses, on which they had paid duty to the amount of 6,000l. This was to the parties concerned a serious calamity — brought upon them—(he did not mean to renew former discussions)—but brought upon them, as all must acknowledge, by the most unprecedented and extraordinary course of legislation which had been pursued with regard to the Sugar Duties, subverting the arrangement which had been made last year, and after enacting that the duties should last for one year, and no longer, 913 declaring now that they should last for only nine months. He was glad that his hon. Friend had separated this question from the case of the sugar refiners. That was an important question, on which he would not at present give an opinion. But in the peculiar case now before them, it was impossible to allege that it afforded the slightest opportunity for fraud, as the whole of the sugar on which a drawback was sought was at this moment under the Queen's Lock. He entirely agreed with the general principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman respecting drawbacks; but, in the present instance, he was of opinion that a case had been established for relief—a case which could not be drawn into a precedent, or which would break down that rule—because the Government had converted the Annual Act into a period of nine months only. He therefore, concurred with the Motion.
§ Sir H. Douglas
said, it was his intention to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Lambeth, because it was one deeply interesting to his constituents. He had presented a memorial signed by one hundred firms in the sugar trade, and, though much had been made of another memorial on the same subject, he was in a position to say that not a single wholesale grocer or sugar refiner in Liverpool had signed it. All these gentlemen were under the impression that the Act of last year would be suffered to expire, even in case there had been an alteration in the Sugar Duties; and, therefore, they were taken quite unawares by the proposal of the Government. The result of his own intimate and thorough conviction was, that the case of the memoralists as brought before the House by the hon. Member for Lambeth, was founded on equity, and should therefore have his support. He regretted the absence from illness of his noble Colleague, as he had no doubt that his voice and his vote would be also given for the Motion.
§ Mr. Aglionby
said, that considerable anxiety was felt in the country among retail dealers on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that if they extended their indulgence to sugar in the Queen's warehouse, why not also extend it to sugar out of the Queen's warehouse? That might be received as an answer to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere); but his point was, that 914 the same indulgence should be extended to others who had taken their sugar out of the Queen's warehouses, having paid the duty. By the proposition now before the House they would give all the benefit to the capitalists and extensive dealers, who could afford to purchase large stocks and let them remain in the Queen's warehouse; while no benefit would be conferred on the less extensive dealer, who might find himself necessitated to take his sugar from the Queen's to his own warehouse. That seemed to him a great hardship, particularly as parties purchasing stocks had done so in the belief that no alteration would be made in the law for twelve months.
§ Mr. Cardwell
said, it was quite impossible in reductions of taxation to reimburse everybody that unfortunately suffered. That being the case, it would be unjust to all the others if one were to be made the exception. That general rule had been admitted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The parties who had kept their sugar in bonded warehouses had had, under all the circumstances, a longer notice than was usually given when a reduction of duty was contemplated. The House had been told, in corroboration of that fact, that several retail stocks had been kept low; and the arrangement of last year, which was termed by some hon. Members a disturbance of the trade, was in itself an intimation of subsequent settlement. That being the case, the question arose whether or no the subject before the House was one which could fairly claim exception from the general rule. If, however, the principle was admitted as regarded the Motion under discussion, in what consisted the difference between the wholesale grocer who kept his stock in bond, and the retail grocer who took his stock out of the Queen's stores? In principle there was no difference whatever. If the first exception was admitted, the second should be admitted also: and so the House would go on, from shade to shade in the matter, until it became impossible to draw a line of distinction between the exception and the rule, or say when one should end and the other begin. That would give rise to the greatest uncertainty in practice; and the multiplication of precedents established by it would lead to far graver acts than was anticipated. The case of the hon. Member who last spoke might be 915 pressed as strongly as that of the hon. Member for Lambeth, if once the principle of exception was admitted; and, therefore, although the necessity for adhering to the settled rule in cases where hardship existed was to be regretted, it was also inevitable. He should therefore oppose the Motion.
§ Mr. F. Baring
said, that the principle now sought to be maintained so stringently had been violated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in 1842, in respect to the wine trade. If no drawback were to be allowed in any case, then, although it might be a hardship upon individuals, it would be equal upon all parties; but what the right hon. Gentleman did on that occasion with respect to wine, was a sufficient answer to the arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the speech of the hon. Secretary for the Treasury. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the hon. Gentleman said, as they could not give relief to every body, they would give it to no one; but the right hon. Gentleman acted differently in 1842, for he granted a drawback on wine bottled by the great merchants, though he refused to give it to the small dealers. And upon that occasion the right hon. Gentleman justified the course he took by urging that if he had inflicted a hardship upon one party, that was no reason why he should inflict it on another, and declining to be bound by any general rule in particular cases. But, if a drawback was to be given to wine, why should it be refused to sugar? The next question to be considered was, whether the case was a special case or not? That it was a special case he contended; for there was no other which had such an Act of Parliament to govern it as sugar. The hon. Gentleman had asserted that the parties in the trade had received sufficient notice; but his reply to that assertion was, the Act which imposed the duties remained in force until the 5th of July. But it had been said that a memorial from the trade had been addressed to the Government, praying that the question might be dealt with as soon as possible. But were all other parties to be held as bound by that memorial—those parties who had not petitioned on the subject? What was the fact with respect to that memorial? In the course of years it so happened that the trade was in a state of great uncertainty, and they were anxious that the Government 916 should relieve them from that uncertainty, and they accordingly addressed that memorial to the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues. He must say he thought the right hon. Gentleman attached too much importance to the words of that memorial. Those parties had already a hardship to complain of, and that hardship was now made use of to justify the infliction of a still greater hardship. That should serve as a warning to parties against coming in the character of memorialists to the Treasury. If their arguments were to be used against them in that way, it would put an end to merchants addressing memorials to the Treasury. But in this case it should be remembered that there was this difference to distinguish it from other cases of the kind, that there was a total absence of any chance of fraud. They allowed the drawback to the wine trade, and why not also allow it to the sugar trade, when there was no ground to apprehend fraud? He had no wish that the parties who had paid the duty should absolutely receive it back again, but should be allowed such a portion of it as it might appear they were fairly entitled to. It was a case in which the Government ought to soften the hardships peculiar to it, as far as they possibly could. They had infringed the general rule respecting Customs'duties in the case of glass and wine; and he could not see on what principle of justice they now refused to extend the same indulgence to those parties.
§ Sir G. Clerk
said, that hon. Members were too fond of putting forward cases of individual hardship; but, if the right hon. Gentleman opposite had been still Chancellor of the Exchequer, he believed that he would have acted in the same manner as his right hon. Friend, not alone by resisting the Motion, but by using the same arguments against it. The case of the wine trade, as adduced by the right hon. Gentleman as one in point, was a fact totally different from the case of sugar. In consequence of a treaty being on foot with Portugal, there had been a complete stagnation in the trade in wine, and it became necessary to take out a large portion of the stock in bond for bottling for immediate use. To effect that, the trade was put under an excise survey, and every person in the country holding a ten-guinea license was allowed to bottle wine, receiving at the same time a debenture, 917 with the proviso that a drawback was to be allowed on the stock in trade in case the treaty was concluded. That was only placing the trade on the fooling of 1825 and 1831. The uniform practice with regard to the Excise and Customs' duties was this;—When an Excise duty was agreed to, the duty was taken on the whole stock on the very day it was imposed. It was only just, therefore, that any relief should be given on the same principle. The course was different with respect to customable articles. Not one of those who had stocks—of sugar for instance—in the Queen's warehouses at the time of the imposition of the duty, would be charged 1s. beyond what they would have previously paid. It was, therefore, only fair that they should have no drawback allowed them on such stock. It was admitted that there would be the greater danger of fraud if the drawback were given on articles taken out of bond; and, consequently, he should not enter into that branch of the question. But as a general proposition, it was the duty of the Government to apply an equal rule of justice in all cases; and not to exempt one to the injury of another when there was a hardship. It was not true, as the right hon. Gentleman had suggested, that the Government had created an anomalous condition of things, by their conduct last year with respect to the Sugar Duties. That there was a further settlement contemplated, was obvious to every one in the trade; and the course of a clever trader would be to reduce his stock to a minimum. He (Sir George Clerk) had been informed that this had been done in most instances; and consequently, even if the Sugar Duties were not repealed until the 5th of July, the dealers would be in no better condition than they were at present. There was nothing therefore in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth, that the change at this period of the year was a greater hardship than it would be at any other period. Under these circumstances he (Sir George Clerk) hoped the House would concur with the view of his hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and decide that any departure from the practice as laid down by law in such cases would be to establish a dangerous precedent.
§ Mr. Hume
hoped the House would not support the Chancellor of the Exchequer in resisting the Motion of his hon. Friend 918 the Member for Lambeth. The mode of proceeding which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed in this respect was against law, against all precedent, and against common justice. Why did he say it was against law? Because the law which was now in operation was to have continued in operation until the 5th of July, 1845. The holders of sugar in bonded warehouses, to which the Motion applied, had therefore been taken by surprise by the introduction of this measure so much earlier in the year than they had anticipated. Then, to show it was against precedent, he should merely refer to the rule which had been invariably acted on of allowing relief from loss to those who were affected by changes in duties, when such relief could be afforded without the possibility of encouraging or facilitating fraud. He asked whether the sugar for which a drawback was now requested was not in the same situation as all excise stock? If that were the case, why should not the same justice be done to the holders of that sugar? He had never before to-night heard the doctrine, so little creditable to those who held it, that the Government were not prepared to give such redress in cases where injustice was proved to have been done. The sugar was left in the Queen's warehouse because the purchaser refused to have anything to do with the duty; and the duty was consequently paid by the seller before the sugar was taken out. For the Government to take advantage of that, was sharp practice, creditable neither to the Government, nor the individual Minister. The right hon. Baronet said that it was the duty of the Government, when changes of this kind were made, to make the losses as light as possible. Here was an opportunity of carrying that principle into practice, and he called upon the Government to take advantage of it.
§ Sir R. Peel
Sir, I am sure the House will believe that it was the anxious wish of Her Majesty's Government to effect the necessary commercial changes with as little inconvenience and as little prejudice to the interests of individuals as possible. In effecting such changes all the feelings of the Government naturally incline towards making concessions to those interested in commercial pursuits, if such concessions can be made with a due regard to the public interests. I have received several deputations for the purpose of 919 hearing from them statements having reference to the measure now under the consideration of the House; and I am sure it must have been manifest to the gentlemen who composed those deputations that it was the anxious desire of Her Majesty's Government to effect a great public advantage with the least possible loss to individuals. Every one must regret that any individual should suffer any great pecuniary loss by the carrying out of a great commercial change. The hon. Member for Montrose considered that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in proposing this measure, has been guilty of "sharp practice." Now, however justified the hon. Member might be in applying such language to pettifogging attorneys, or to parties who tried to cheat their customers, I think such language ought not to be applied to Her Majesty's Government. We are public men, acting on our sense of public duty, and defending as far as we can the measure which, as Her Majesty's Government, we have thought it our duty to submit to Parliament. And we certainly thought that in not proposing to make the return of duty suggested by the hon. Member for Lambeth, we were acting on a general rule, which it was the duty of the Executive Government to maintain. That general rule was laid down in the letter written on the subject by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of the Treasury. The hon. Member for Montrose was wrong in stating that if there had been an increase in the duty, instead of a decrease, that increase would have been charged upon the stock in hand. I do not think that the stock in hand would in such a case have been subjected to an increase of duty, having paid the lower duty. [Mr. Humphery: In the case of tea it is so.] In reference to the particular case before us, I cannot deny that it does appear to be the general feeling of the House that in this case, at least, a certain amount of drawback ought to take place. And I must also add, that I believe the late Chancellor of the Exchequer and the late President of the Board of Trade would not have given their support to this proposition except upon the conscientious conviction that this was a special case. When sitting on the other side of the House, I frequently supported the right hon. Gentlemen in their resistance to claims which they did not think consistent with the public interests; and, on the 920 other hand, they have supported me when placed in similar circumstances. And whenever it is found that claims made upon the Government are founded on justice, they receive consideration at our hands. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer made a proposal to this effect,—not that the total amount of the drawback should be returned to the parties—but, supposing there had been, in consequence of the reduction of duty, a rise in the price of sugar, that circumstance should be taken into consideration, and a drawback allowed to the amount of the loss sustained. I consider that we have done our duty as the Executive Government in bringing forward the measure in the manner in which it was introduced to the House. But I understand it to be the opinion of the House of Commons, who are the guardians of the public money, but not so strict guardians of it as those who occupy the Treasury Bench: I understand it to be the opinion of the House of Commons that this is a special case, and that it does not necessarily lead to any other demand. I clearly understand it to be admitted on all hands that this concession does not involve any principle of further relief. I perceive that the House clearly sees the distinction between the cases of those sugars which were in bond, and the case of those which the general dealer took out of the Queen's warehouses for the purposes of sale. I understand that in this case, also, clear precautionary measures against fraud may be taken. Notwithstanding that there prevails generally a wide distinction between Customs and Excise, yet I cannot but think that the duty now under consideration partakes more of the character of an Excise than it does of a Customs' duty; and so, I think, it should be treated. Upon the whole, then, I am prepared to say, that the Executive Government are disposed to acquiesce in the proposed arrangement, for this amongst other reasons—that it implies no concession to further demands to be made either by the wholesale grocer or the retail dealer, or any other parties who may have placed themselves in circumstances different from those which are contemplated by the present proposition. Seeing the prevailing opinion of the House of Commons, I cannot but think it would be unwise in the Executive Government to oppose themselves to that opinion. But 921 this I wish distinctly to state that what I propose to agree to is, that there should be some provision introduced by which the Treasury would be enabled, not to restore the whole amount of duty that had been paid, but to make such compensation as would be equivalent to the bonâ fide loss sustained by the parties concerned. I need not now point out the mode by which that object is to be accomplished; but if the hon. Member for Lambeth agrees to that which I now propose, care shall be taken to introduce a clause sufficient for the purpose. Further, I trust that, acting on the opinion of the House of Commons in making a concession such as this, and in thus doing the utmost justice to individuals, and carrying that principle as far as a due regard to the public interest will permit, I do hope that the House will support us in a resistance to those cases where concession would be unjust to the public.
Lord J. Russell
I am very glad to hear the declaration which has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government. When the Government proposed their arrangement as to stocks on hand, I did not believe they were actuated by any motive whatever that might bear the character of hardship to individuals or to interests. I believed them actuated by no other motive than that stated by the right hon. Gentleman himself (Sir R. Peel)—a sense of public duty. I think the case which has been stated by my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. F. T. Baring) is the case which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) has taken into his consideration; that it is, in fact, an exception to the general rule. And I think it is to be understood as a case worthy of relief, provided, firstly, that it stands solely upon its own peculiar circumstances; and secondly, that in the giving of that relief fraud cannot be committed. Such, then, being the case, I think my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth cannot do better than at once to leave the matter in the hands of the Government.
§ Mr. Humphery
said, there had been a time when, although duties had been paid and were in the King's coffers, they were stopped there, and new duties levied. That had been the case with tea. He was content with the arrangement proposed, if an equitable remuneration was given for losses sustained.
§ Mr. Hawes
was willing to leave the matter in the hands of the Government, and he did so with entire and perfect confidence. He accepted the arrangement proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, and would, with the permission of the House, withdraw his Motion. He distinctly recognised the principle which the right hon. Gentleman laid down, and unless any other case came within the same special distinction, and unless fraud were quite impossible, he would join the right hon. Baronet in resisting any demand of the kind.
said, he did not see the justice of the distinction made between parties who had sugars under the Government lock and those who had removed them to their own warehouses, both having equally paid the duty. He hoped an equitable compensation would be made in every case where loss could be proved to have been sustained.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that after the decision of the House, he doubted whether the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets would act prudently in pressing the Motion for compensation to sugar refiners. It would be difficult to ascertain the particulars with respect to sugars which had been taken out, and were in process of manufacture; and the principle which applied to sugars in the Queen's warehouse did not apply to the former class.
§ Sir William Clay
expressed his readiness to yield to the suggestion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the understanding that it did not close the case of the refiners. They considered their case one of as great pressure as that which had induced the Government to yield to the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth. The sugar refiners were obliged to take out a large quantity, in no case less than five weeks' whole consumption; for their process of manufacture, and the peculiarities of that process, obliged them to continue constantly supplying their stock. Nor had any large exportation taken place, to enable them to save themselves from loss. The Government had yielded in the former case on the ground of the impossibility of fraud; and he could convince them that, in the case of the sugar refiners, there was no posbility of anything of the kind. The proposition which he wished to make was, 923 that the duty should be remitted, not upon an estimate of the stock in the houses of the refiners, but of the sugar upon which they had actually paid duty for a given number of weeks previous to the 14th of March.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he would announce on Monday the course which the Government proposed to pursue. The case of the refiners was in many respects essentially different from that of the purchasers of duty-paid sugar in the Queen's warehouse, and he could assure the hon. Gentleman that there had been a large exportation, with great advantage to the refiners.
§ House in Committee.
§ On the Clause that "On other refined sugar there shall be charged a duty of 18s. 8d."—
§ Mr. Hume
wished to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what objection he had to allow the Colonies the privilege of refining and sending their sugar into this country at the same rate of duty as clayed sugars were chargeable with? There was a protective duty of 2s. 4d. against the Colonies. He did not see why, considering that there were no excise regulations, and no additional charges on the refiners of this country, that a premium or protection duty of 2s. 4d. should be conceded them. They should give their Colonies every fair chance of finding a market. What he would propose was this—that after the 14th of March, at the end of two years therefrom, the duty on refined sugar should be the same as the duty on clayed. Not only was it on behalf of the Colonies that he contended that they should have this advantage, but also on behalf of the English public. He then moved, that after the words "eighteen and eight-pence" be inserted, "that from and after the 14th of March, 1847, the duty on refined sugar be then reduced to the amount of duty taken on clayed sugar."
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that he had one objection to it, which was, that the hon. Gentleman had proposed, to a Bill which would expire in 1846, an Amendment which was not to come into operation until 1847. He thought it advisable not to stop the progress of the Bill by pressing the Amendment, and trusted the hon. Gentleman would suffer it to drop.
§ Amendment withdrawn.924
§ On the Clause respecting the classification of sugar.
§ Mr. Hawes
said, that he thought Her Majesty's Government had not sufficiently inquired into the difficulties which would attend the establishment of the principle of classification. The right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) stated the other night the grounds on which he adhered to the principle of classification. In referring to that statement, he was perfectly certain that if he addressed an impartial audience they would record a verdict in his favour, in seeking to expunge from the Bill the words "establishing the system of classification." He would ask the House to consider all the difficulties which would attend the practical operation of these words in the Bill, and he would take the sense of the House upon them. The right hon. Gentleman stated, that he had made extensive inquiries upon the subject. He stated that there had been a meeting of merchants, brokers, and others connected with the trade, to take the matter into consideration. But he did not tell them that they were unanimous, or that the great majority of them had decided in favour of classification. They were far from being unanimous. It was but by a small majority that the parties alluded to had come to a decision on this great question, and had decided in favour of what he was sure would involve the sugar trade in great confusion and difficulty. It was not, therefore, a clear and unmistakeable matter. It was a question on which the most skilful, intelligent, and the most experienced of men, might and would differ. He would again ask the right hon. Gentleman, and press for an answer, how it was that he was to establish the uniformity of which he was so sanguine. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that samples of sugar might be sent by railroad from London, with facility to the various ports into which sugar was introduced; and that the possession of these samples by the various officers at the different ports would enable them to act uniformly one with the other. But would that apply to Cork, or to any other place to reach which it was necessary that the sea should be crossed? But even if it did so apply, was that the mode in which they intended to test the quality of sugars?—a matter in which, it was admitted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, that public 925 officers would probably differ. He had letters in his possession which he had received from various parties extensively engaged in the sugar trade, and which were condemnatory of the Government plan of classification. He could not regard the system of classification without suspecting that there were some motives at the bottom of it. He suspected that the motive was this—that there was a class of sugars—he meant Foreign free-labour sugars—which were of a higher quality than our Colonial produce—and which were therefore to be kept out of the market, and prevented from entering into competition with East and West Indian sugars. The effect of this would certainly be to continue the bad manufacture of sugar. The very foundation and essence of an ad valorem duty was, to make the superior article pay more than the inferior, and to keep, in fact, the superior out of the market. He would not let it be said that this was in favour of the poorer class of consumers; because what they gained in cheapness by such a system, they lost in the quality of the article. This was altogether a subject on which the House should have more information. The Bill proposed to reestablish an exploded system of classification—a system which had already, to a certain extent, been proved to be both defective and injurious. The Government spoke of their standard samples. These, as shown on a former occasion, would be liable to alteration by time, and from various causes operating upon them. The hon. Gentleman then moved the insertion of words into the Resolution, abrogating the classification proposed to be established by it.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, it was the hon. Gentleman's good fortune, although it was, perhaps, his misfortune, that the hon. Gentleman did not hear what had fallen from him on this point on a former and very recent occasion. The whole matter was then fully stated on both sides. He had never pretended to deny that in the institution of a system of classification, there was, and must necessarily be, great difficulty. Since it had been announced that it was the determination of the Government to adhere to the distinctive duties, the number of persons who concurred in the possibility and propriety of such an arrangement, increased from day to day. They had 926 found it possible to make and carry out such an arrangement both in France and America; and he thought that what was possible in reference to this matter in these two countries, would not be found impossible in a country like Great Britain, where the intelligence of public officers was as great as anywhere else, and where the means of assisting them were as near at hand and as available as elsewhere. He was confirmed in his original opinion that the system was a practicable one, by statements since received from various quarters; and he was sure that after the first difficulties occasioned by the immediate rush into the market of the quantity of sugar now in the warehouses, the great difficulties of the measure would be surmounted. The hon. Gentleman said that he had received letters condemnatory of the Government plan. He had received letters, on the other hand, both condemnatory and in approval of the plan, and it was only by balancing these conflicting opinions that a correct judgment was to be arrived at. He would not repeat the arguments which he had already made use of in reference to this matter; but if the hon. Gentleman divided the House upon his Amendment, he should divide against him.
§ Mr. Bright
had had some conversation with a number of wholesale grocers who had attended at the first sale of Manilla sugar. From the circumstances which then took place, it appeared that the trade was quite of opinion that great difficulties would arise from the new classification proposed by the Government. Heretofore it had been the custom of merchants to sell sugar, duty-paid; but in this particular case the merchant gave orders to the broker that the sugar should be sold in bond; and when it was put up for sale there were no purchasers who offered to buy, and the reason they assigned was, that they would not take it upon themselves to buy sugar in bond, because it was impossible for them to tell what might be the amount of duty to which they would be liable under the new classification to which the Government had expressed itself resolved to adhere. Those wholesale grocers to whom he referred, were persons competent to form an opinion on this matter; and the opinion expressed by them was, that the classification would be a source of endless difficulty to the trade. He thought it was 927 but proper that he should state the case he had mentioned to the House. He was entirely opposed to the new classification, and if the hon. Member for Lambeth divided the House, he would certainly divide with him.
§ Original Clause agreed to.
§ On Clause 13 — Sugar taken out of warehouse for home use to be charged with Duty according to the quantities ascertained at the time of the first entry and landing, without any abatement on account of deficiency—
§ Mr. Hawes
said, that he wished for an explanation of this clause. It was exceedingly important that such explanation should be given, as the clause seemed to him to be in direct contradiction to the Warehousing Act. If they were about to repeal the Warehousing Act, he was sure they would all agree with him that such a step should not be taken by the Government without furnishing the strongest reasons to the House for adopting it. He referred to the Warehousing Act, 3rd and 4th Will. IV., c. 57, Clause 17, and said he was sure the House was not aware that the Government was about to deal with the most important clause of that Act. He wished for explanation, and if one satisfactory were not given, he should move that the clause be expunged.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
considered that there was not such a departure from the Warehousing Act as to prevent the House from adopting the clause. When the duty was high, an opportunity was given for reweighing the article. By omitting to do that for the future, a saving of 8,000l. a year would be effected. Sugars placed in the warehouses in July, and taken out in October, were subject sometimes to a loss of 14lbs. a hogshead. All that results from this would be a small loss to the importers.
§ Mr. Humphery
was sorry to hear that for the saving of a few thousands a-year, it was proposed to impose a tax upon individuals. It was not to be supposed that the merchant would pay for the quantity as imported into the warehouse. He would have it reweighed again, whether they charged duty or not, and as to the public 928 they would not be the gainers by one farthing.
§ The Committee divided on the Question that the Clause stand part of the Bill:—
§ Ayes 104; Noes 74: Majority 30
|List of the AYES.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Hinde, J. H.|
|Allix, J. P.||Hogg, J. W.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Hope, hon. C.|
|Arkwright, G.||Hope, G. W.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Baillie, Col.||Jocelyn, Visct.|
|Baird, W.||Joliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Beckett, W.||Lockhart, W.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Borthwick, P.||Mackenzie, T.|
|Botfield, B.||McGeachy, F. A.|
|Bowles, Adm.||McNeill, D.|
|Broadley, H.||Marsham, Visct.|
|Broadwood, H.||Martin, C. W.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Mildmay, H. St. J.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Mundy, E. M.|
|Buck, L. W.||Neeld, J.|
|Buckley, E.||Nicholl, rt. hn. J.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Norreys, Lord|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Cardwell, E.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Chelsea, Visct.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Peel, J.|
|Clerk, rt. hn. Sir G.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.||Pringle, A.|
|Collett, W. R.||Pusey, P.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Round, C. G.|
|Damer, hon. Col.||Round, J.|
|Deedes, W.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Russell, J. D. W.|
|Eaton, R. J.||Ryder, hon. G. D.|
|Escott, B.||Seymour, Sir H. B.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Fellowes, E.||Smith, A.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Smith, rt. hon. T. B. C.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Forbes, W.||Spooner, R.|
|Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Taylor, E.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Tennent, J. E.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Goulburn, rt. hn. H.||Tollemache, J.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Tower, C.|
|Greenall, P.||Villiers, Vict.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Wood, Col.|
|Harris, hon. Capt.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Hayes, Sir E.|
|Heathcote, Sir W.||TELLERS.|
|Hepburn, Sir T. B.||Young, J.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Lennox, Lord A.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Aldam, W.||Langston, J. H.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Lemon, Sir C.|
|Manners, Lord J.|
|Astell, W.||March, Earl of|
|Baillie, H. J.||Marsland, H.|
|Bankes, G.||Martin, J.|
|Baring, rt. hn. F. T.||Masterman, J.|
|Baring, T.||Miles, W.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Mitcalfe, H.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Morris, D.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Murray, A.|
|Bright, J.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Brotherton, J.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Buller, E.||Osborne, R.|
|Busfeild, W.||Paget, Col.|
|Clayton, R. R.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Collett, J.||Parker, J.|
|Craig, W. G.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Denison, J. E.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Rous, hon. Capt.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Duncan, G.||Russell, Lord E.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Stewart, J.|
|Ewart, W.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Thornely, T.|
|Forster, M.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Gibson, T. M.||Turner, E.|
|Gill, T.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Wakley, T.|
|Hastie, A.||Warburton, H.|
|Henley, J. W.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Hume, J.||Williams, W.|
|Humphery, Ald.||Wyse, T.|
|James, W.||Hawes, B.|
|Kemble, H.||Hill, Lord M.|
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Mr. M. Gibson
was most anxious that the preamble should set forth, as fully as possible, the whole policy of the measure. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) had told the House, that in addition to imposing certain duties on sugar, it was intended by the Bill to give protection to the West India planters, and to discourage the Slave Trade. He (Mr. Gibson) thought those objects should be distinctly stated in the preamble.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, the hon. Gentleman had had full opportunity of urging that point in the discussion on the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets; it was a little too late to bring it forward now.
§ Mr. Bright
observed, that the West India proprietors must not look upon this Bill as anything like a final settlement of 930 the sugar question. It would be brought forward again next year; and he could assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that he, and those who acted with him, would then make more determined opposition than they had done on the present occasion to the principle upon which this measure proceeded; and he hoped, in so doing, they would have more of public opinion to back them. He must enter his protest against the Bill, as unjust to the consumer, and as one that would afford no practical benefit to the planters.
§ Mr. Borthwick
contended that the protection to the West Indies, of which hon. Gentlemen opposite complained so much, was rendered necessary by the legislation of that House. He contended that it was not to the operations of the Government, but to those of the League, that they owed the necessity of taxing the people, in order to maintain the rights of West Indian proprietors.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that there was a subject intimately connected with the measures under discussion, relative to which he had addressed the House upon a former occasion, and with respect to which he thought that Parliament ought to have the fullest possible information. He alluded to the means used, or to be used, to enable proprietors in the West Indies and the Mauritius to command an increased supply of labour. He considered this an especially important question to this country, which had done so much for the destruction of slavery and the improvement of the condition of the labouring population in our West India Colonies. The country had a right to know all the steps which had been taken on the subject. Now, he had received letters in reference to this matter from many parties who slated that they had relations acting as missionaries in the West Indies and Mauritius, and that these gentlemen were much afraid of the effect upon the present Colonial population which the character of the proposed labourers would probably produce. When he spoke upon the subject before, he particularly adverted to Jamaica, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer told him that there existed no loan for the purposes of immigration into Jamaica. He believed that this statement was quite correct; but then, with respect to Guiana and Trinidad, he believed 931 that there were ordinances sanctioning loans for immigration, which had passed the Legislatures of those Colonies. He thought, therefore, that it was of importance that the House should have before them any measures for this purpose, and also full information as to the nature of the instructions which had been given by the Secretary for the Colonies, stating how far Government had approved of what had been done in this respect. It was stated that the noble Lord the Colonial Secretary had proposed, or rather had it in contemplation to propose, some guarantee to Parliament for the payment of the loans in question. He did not know how far this statement was correct; but considering how closely the Sugar Bill was connected with the subject, he took the opportunity of expressing his opinion that Parliament should have as much information relative to it as Government could give it.
hoped he might be allowed to say one word in explanation, even although it interfered for a moment with the hon. Gentleman's reply. With reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Durham, he could tell him that when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer—which God forbid!—if he attempted to take off a protective duty on West India produce, that the planters could not continue to cultivate their properties, and that our market would be supplied by slave sugar. Not a farthing of the reduction of duties would go into the pockets of the planters; every sixpence of reduction would benefit the consumers.
, in answer to the questions of the noble Lord, begged leave, in the first place, to say, that the alarm expressed by the noble Lord in reference to the possible demoralization of the population in the West Indies and Mauritius, in consequence of the intended immigration, was quite unfounded. The fact was, that from the Papers which he proposed to produce to the House, it was quite apparent that no such apprehension could reasonably be entertained, the number of labourers which could be drawn from Africa being so very limited. With respect to immigration, a statement had gone abroad that in the Mauritius there was not work to be found for the labourers introduced. This was, however, quite a mistake. There was an ample demand for labour there; but there had been some labourers 932 carelessly introduced by the persons at onetime charged with the management of the immigration system, who had not been found well fitted for the purposes of cultivation: but since the system had been conducted by the Government all the immigrants had found ample employment. Another question of the noble Lord referred to the immigration ordinances. There would not be the slightest difficulty in producing the Papers relative to all these ordinances. Ordinances had been certainly passed in Trinidad and Demerara, but no portion of the loans had been raised; and, from the difficulties in the way, he did not think that any progress would soon be made in the matter.
§ Viscount Howick
thought that the hon. Gentleman had not answered one of the questions put to him by his noble Friend; he alluded to the intentions of Government in reference to any guarantee for those loans. He objected to the principle of raising loans, saddling future periods with their payment. Present expenses should be paid from presently provided revenues.
should have stated that as to the guarantee no decision had yet been come to by the Government.
§ Mr P. M. Stewart
remarked that difficulties existed in the way of introducing labourers into our Colonies. Some respectable mercantile houses in the city had obtained licenses from Singapore and Penang; but it was found that instructions had been contemporaneously issued from the Colonial Office to the effect that these licenses should not be allowed to be acted upon. Now, as numbers of willing labourers existed at Singapore and Penang, it was of great importance to know how they could be made available. The great point for the West India proprietors was to obtain labour, and that end accomplished they might do what they liked with the protective duties.
could state with confidence that it was quite a misunderstanding that any such instructions as those alluded to by the hon. Gentleman had been issued by the Colonial Office. The instructions which had been sent out were laid before Parliament. He had, however, before heard the statement made by the hon. Gentleman. He had made inquiries, and he had ascertained that any difficulties which might have existed in the way of procuring labourers had been originated 933 with the Indian Government, and had not arisen from the nature of the instructions sent out. The real obstacle seemed to have been, that the persons obtaining licenses had not sent out ships from this country to convey the labourers; but had written to agents at Singapore and Penang to hire suitable vessels, and that these persons, not understanding the system, did not choose to enter into a venture, of the result of which they had little knowledge.
§ The House resumed. Report to be received.