HC Deb 10 February 1846 vol 83 cc639-42

moved— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be pleased to direct that there be laid before this House, Copies of the existing Tariffs and Commercial Regulations of each of the British Colonies and Possessions in the same manner as the Tariffs and Commercial Regulations of Europe and America have been laid before the House. That there be laid before this House Copies of the existing Tariffs and Commercial Regulations of British India and the Dependencies thereof, on Exports and Imports, in the same manner as those laid before the House of the European and American States. The hon. Gentleman said that in the year 1839 he had given a similar notice for returns of the tariffs of foreign countries; and he believed that the last tariff that had been collected had been laid yesterday before the House. Upon the occasion to which he had referred, he had been told by the Government, that without the adoption of any Address to the Crown they would be prepared to present the returns. If some such assurance were given him on the present occasion, he had no wish to persevere in his Motion for an Address to Her Majesty. It was of great importance that they should have before them the commercial regulations of the Colonies; and it was certainly desirable that they should adopt every means in their power for deriving all the benefits they ought to derive from our extensive and valuable Colonies. He believed that up to the present time our Colonies had been a burden instead of a benefit to this country.


seconded the Motion. He wished to bear his testimony to the great value of those tariffs of foreign countries which had just been laid before the House. They had been prepared by Mr. Macgregor, and he felt that they did great honour to his knowledge, his zeal, and his industry.


said, he had very good authority for stating that the documents to which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bolton had referred, were very inaccurate. He believed they might be justly characterized as dull romances. He wished to ask the right hon. Baronet the Vice President of the Board of Trade on what authority the statements in those documents rested?


said, that the tables had been taken from consular returns sent to this country. If the noble Lord could point out any mistake in any of the documents, he (Sir G. Clerk) should be very happy to make inquiry into the subject, and to enter into any explanation he might be able to offer respecting apparent or real errors. He believed that great pains had been taken in preparing the documents.


begged to state, in answer to the noble Lord who had called those returns "dull romances," that he should be glad to hear the noble Lord point out any romance which could be considered equally useful to the country, He should be extremely sorry to find it go out among the public that there was anything in the returns which could not be proved by official documents. If the noble Lord thought that they contained any errors, let him move for a Committee by whom the subject could be fully investigated. He had reason to know that great trouble had been taken by Mr. Macgregor in preparing the returns, and he thought it was extremely unfair to call them "dull romances."


had great respect for the talent and industry of the Gentleman who had framed the documents in question; and he thought it was rather hard that he should be attacked for an alleged inaccuracy in one document. If there was any complaint of the information furnished, the best plan would be to appoint a Committee to whom the subject would be referred, and who would report to the House. He had, however, risen principally for the purpose of expressing the great pleasure he had felt on hearing the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose bring forward his Motion for returns of our colonial tariffs, and on hearing that Motion seconded by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bolton. He was delighted to find hon. Members in that House turning their attention towards our colonial affairs. He hoped that the importance of our Colonies would not be lost sight of; but that they would be made the means of adding to the prosperity of this country.


said, he wished to throw out a suggestion with respect to the manner in which such documents as those in question were usually printed. They appeared in large and ponderous volumes—in a shape which prevented their circulation throughout the country, and which was extremely inconvenient to the Members of that House. He would suggest to the Members of the Printing Committee, of which the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford was chairman, to take into their consideration whether some mode of printing these documents less expensive than the present, and which would render them more accessible to the public, might not be adopted.


said, it was much more convenient that documents such as those referred to should be printed in a tabular form; and folio volumes were much better fitted than octavos for containing documents in that form. With respect to the returns in question, he wished to observe that they had not come under the cognizance of the Printing Committee, for they had been printed under the direction of Her Majesty's Government. It had been said by the noble Lord (Lord Seymour) that the returns were very inaccurate. Now, he had not the good fortune to concur in political opinion with the Gentleman who had framed those returns, but he thought that it would be fair to that Gentleman that a Committee should be appointed who would inquire into the alleged inaccuracies in those documents.


wished to state, in reference to a suggestion made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Devonport (Sir G. Grey), that a Committee of that House, which had sat ten years ago, and of which he had been chairman, had recommended that returns should be published in a tabular form; but folio volumes were those best fitted for that form. He thought, however, that it was desirable that the information contained in the documents referred to, and which he considered exceedingly valuable, should appear in a more portable form.

Motion agreed to.