MR. STAFFORD O'BRIEN
rose to put the question of which he had given notice regarding the production of agricultural statistics. During the present Parliament, he believed in the year 1844, the question of agricultural statistics had been brought before the House by the hon. Member for Manchester, who was supported by the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire, than whom perhaps a more experienced agriculturist did not occupy a seat in that House. The hon. Member for Manchester consented to withdraw his Motion on the understanding that Her Majesty's Government would take some steps to obtain an alteration in the mode of obtaining those statistics. He believed it was understood that the Government of that day was unfavourable to the course which the hon. Member for Manchester proposed to pursue; but still there was an impression prevailing that they would take the matter into consideration, and the hon. Member withdrew his Motion. The cultivators of the soil had nothing to fear from the fullest disclosures; and if the House had been in possession of better information the agricultural interest would have been able to make out even a more complete case against the Corn Bill than they had made. He believed that Government must begin any undertaking of the kind slowly, and by degrees, lest they should create jealousy and suspicion on the part of the farmers; as those farmers became more enlightened, the inquiries might be pushed farther, and not limited, as in the first instance, to mere matters regarding the quantity of land in cultivation, or the number of cattle fed upon it. He apprehended that the machinery of the new Highway Bill, now before Parliament, might be advantageously employed for the purpose. It was ever to be borne in mind that the House was unanimous as to the value of the information, and as to the propriety of obtaining it.
§ SIR G. CLERK
, as it was understood 875 that no debate was to take place on the third reading of the Customs Duties Bill, would confine himself to the question of which notice was given, whether the Government had taken any and what steps for collecting agricultural statistics since the subject was last under the consideration deavoured to proceed cautiously in the first of the House. The Government had eninstance, as was wished, and with the view of avoiding any jealousies on the part of the farmers. It had been anxious to ascertain whether the statistical information could be collected by means of existing machinery, and voluntarily, from the occupiers of land, rather than by any new and expensive machinery. The experiment had been tried upon a small scale; the northern division of Hampshire had been taken, the county of Edinburgh, and a large union in the county of Cavan, extending over 6,000 acres. In the latter case, in Ireland, the information collected had been obtained by the voluntary assistance of very intelligent landowners; the number of subdivisions of land rendered it difficult to discover the manner in which it was cropped, but information had been furnished in a very creditable manner. In the Scotch county, the means employed had been the parochial schoolmasters; printed forms were sent to them to leave with every occupier of land, to obtain a statement of the manner in which the land had been cropped, how many acres were under each species of cultivation, and the number of cattle, sheep, horses, and so on, upon the farm: the information had been very satisfactorily obtained, and put in a tabular form. With regard to Hampshire, the efforts of the Government had not at present been attended with success; they had been made through the Poor Law officers, the boards of guardians, who gave each occupier a form of return to fill up. Whether it was from some degree of jealousy or from apathy on a subject of such importance as this, he could not tell, but they had not been able to get the returns completed. Under these circumstances, therefore, he was bound to say that it might become expedient, in order to get the desired information, to make those returns compulsory within a certain time; otherwise he was afraid the object contemplated would not be successfully carried out. In the mean time, however, he was not prepared to say whether any legislative measure would be brought in for that purpose, or whether they would try for another 876 year to obtain the returns voluntarily. If they could be obtained voluntarily, certainly that mode of procuring the information would be most desirable; and he trusted that, after the expression of opinion which his hon. Friend had given, they would be able next year to obtain returns, not from one county only, but from every county in England.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
, as the subject under consideration referred to statistical details, wished to ask if some means could not be devised of procuring statistical details in regard to the manufactures of the country. It had been stated as a fact in that House that the home consumption of the cotton manufacture was one-eighth of the whole production of the country. Now, he thought that if accurate information could be obtained, the home consumption would be found to amount to two-thirds of the whole manufactures of the country.
§ MR. BRIGHT
presumed the noble Lord must be acquainted with the fact, that they could obtain from the Customs an account of the raw material imported into the country, and of the manufactured goods exported. If they imported annually 500,000,000 or 600,000,000 pounds weight of cotton, and exported annually a certain amount, all they had to do was to apply the simple rule of subtraction, to find out what was the quantity that remained in the country. There was, no doubt, one defect in these returns—they were not always given in the same way—the returns being in weight in one case, and not in weight in another; but it was well known that it was impossible for any Government to ascertain the exact amount of all the different kinds of goods, or no doubt they would have much pleasure in giving the information. When his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) said they ought to have agricultural information, he meant it for the benefit of the agriculturists themselves, and not from any mere wish to inquire what they were doing. He believed that, in reference to the manufacturing interest of the country, the noble Lord might obtain much information from inpectors.
was anxious that Government should take up the matter with as little delay as possible, and recommended that at all events the Poor Law guardians should not be resorted to to procure information, which he apprehended could be better obtained by voluntary means.
§ Bill read a third time and passed.