HC Deb 09 February 1846 vol 83 cc548-9

I am anxious to take the first opportunity of referring to a question which was put to me the other night by the noble Lord the Member for the city of London. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), following his Colleague (Mr. Pattison), asked me whether it was the intention of the Government to remit the duties on foreign corn immediately after the Resolution of this House should be reported? That question, Sir, was put to me at once by the noble Lord without previous notice; and, under the impression that the Treasury had dealt with the duties on corn in the same way as other duties, I answered the noble Lord, that the Treasury would remit the duties on foreign corn on the report of the Resolution in this House. I gave that answer under the impression, as I have said, that the Treasury had dealt with the duties on corn as with other duties. I find that impression is erroneous. In every case when the corn duties have been dealt with by Parliament, the reduction of duty has taken place from the passing of the Act; and the Treasury has never in any case, on the report of the Resolution, undertaken to remit the duties. I should be exceedingly unwilling to assume, on the part of the Treasury, any authority for which there was not a precedent. I should be also exceedingly sorry to assume it in this case, because I fear that the assumption of that authority, for the first time, would have a tendency rather to prejudice than promote a satisfactory settlement of this question. It is the intention of the Government, therefore, to adhere to the course which has been uniformly pursued in all former periods of alteration in the Corn Laws, and make the reduction of duty, if the measure should meet with the sanction of Parliament, take effect from the passing of the Act. I believe there will be no inconvenience or delay as to the taking of corn out of bond at the duty of 4s. dependent on the passing of the Act; but, at the same time, it is of so much importance that the decision of Parliament on this subject should be known as soon as possible, and that the trade should have an assurance as to the principle which is to govern our conduct, that Her Majesty's Government propose to give preference to the Corn Bill over all other matters. We will propose no other Government business until the decision of this branch of the Legislature with respect to the new Corn Law shall have been taken. That Bill will, therefore, be proceeded with before any other measure connected with the Tariff; and, provided it meet with the sanction of this House, will be sent at once to the House of Lords.


wished to know whether the right hon. Baronet intended that the House should go on with the Corn Bill from day to day, or whether there should be any interval?


Of course, there will be an interval between the first and second reading of the Bill; but I do not preclude myself from going on with the consideration of the other portions of the Tariff during that interval. What I mean to say is, that as far as the Government business is concerned, the Corn Bill shall occupy the attention of the House in the first instance until finally disposed of.