HC Deb 29 May 1846 vol 86 cc1427-9

On the Order of the Day having been read,


said, his statement on a former evening as to the rejection of Yorkshire potatoes from the London market was received with incredulity, if not derision. Since that time he had had an opportunity of investigating the particulars which he gave, and he then rose for the purpose of confirming by name every one of the assertions which he then made. Having mentioned to the noble Member for Lynn that he should make some statement as to the supply of potatoes to the London market, his noble Friend, with that kindness which always distinguished him, said, "Here is a letter from Yorkshire which you had better take charge of." The noble Lord did not know the writer. He (Mr. Lawson) did; and as he knew him to be a respectable man, and that he would not assert anything which was not true, he took on him to confirm his assertions. He was asked to give the name of the individual, but he refused to do more than pledge himself to the accuracy of his statement. He was now happy to be enabled to inform the House that the writer was one of the greatest potato growers in England, and well known, as he found on inquiry, to the salesmen in Tooley-street. His name was Robert Scholefield, of Sand Hill, near Howden, and he grew from 1,300 to 1,500 tons of potatoes annually. One of the organs of public opinion had animadverted on his statement; but he had previously written for a confirmation of the assertions made in the letter to his noble Friend. The answer which he received was most satisfactory. The name of the person who sent the cargo of potatoes to London was Mr. Meggit, of Howden. He did not see why the potatoes of a tradesman of Howden were not as likely to be as good as if sent by anybody else. They were landed at Cotton's-wharf, and consigned to Mr. Liddell. He had taken the trouble to go down and have an interview with the persons interested, and had at that moment the bill of sale in his hands. The potatoes were shipped from Hull on the 17th March, were sent back from London on the 14th April, and arrived in Hull on the 24th April; and he had the bill of prices for which they had been sold at Leeds. Some of those potatoes had been sold for 46s., and some for 50s. The name of the vessel was the Vigilant, and her master's name was Shaw. As to the general price of potatoes, he could assure the House that a salesman had informed him that except in years of abundance it was never so low as 50s. The hon. Member proceeded to read extracts from correspondence he had received on the subject, in support of his statements, and concluded by quoting the expression made use of by a gentleman who had written to him on the subject, declaring his surprise that the sagacity of Alderman Humphery had not taught him, if those potatoes had been rotten, as he said, that they would have been thrown overboard.


congratulated himself on the opportunity he had given the hon. Member to make an explanation, which he believed the House would think was something like the produce of the mountain in labour. Instead of being satisfied by the statement of the hon. Member, he impugned it again. The potatoes were not landed at all. The facts of the case were, that a gentleman named Meggitt or Maggot, who combined a number of trades in his person, thought that there would be a scarcity of potatoes, and therefore went to a potato grower and bought fifty tons at 88s. a ton. They were shipped for London, with four other rooms of potatoes, and were stowed away under the forecastle of the brig Vigilant. When the vessel arrived in London, a gentleman who had a cargo of the same description of potatoes on board, sold them for 95s. and 5l. a ton. A Mr. Good, who also had potatoes on board, had the vessel run down to a wharf, where he kept her for a few weeks before he sold them. Mr. Little sold some of them for 80s. and 95s. a ton, and would have sold them all at 3l. a ton, but that Mr. Meggitt thought they would sell better at Leeds than at London, and was persuaded accordingly to take the bulk to Leeds, where they were sold, it is said, to the poor at 1s. and 1s. 6d. a bushel. Now these were the circumstances under which Mr. Scholefield thought proper to say that a scarcity of potatoes did not exist. But he could prove that there had been a great falling-off in potatoes this year. The fact was, that between this year and the year preceding there had been a difference in the importations to London of 40,000 tons. Taking the quantity at 90,240,000 lbs. of potatoes, and the population at 2,000,000, it would appear that the people had been deprived of about seven weeks' consumption of this article. At present the best potatoes were 9l. per ton. One gentleman of York had stored up about 7,000 tons of potatoes, for which he could have got from 6l. to 7l. a ton; but as he wanted 9l., and as potatoes will not keep beyond a certain time, he stored them up till 4,000 tons were rendered entirely useless. He had been very properly punished; and he hoped the gentleman would be punished in the same way whenever he acted in a similar manner. It was a fact that no less than 5,000 tons of potatoes had been thrown overboard in the Thames last year, as being unfit for human food, in consequence of damage in shipment and in the voyage. He thought the statements which had been made were intended to deceive the public as to the scarcity of potatoes; but no one could deny that the price of the article had risen from 50s. to 6l., 7l., and 9l. a ton, and the poor would not have been able to bear up against the increase but for the abundance of employment which existed in London.


thought that the statement made by the hon. Member as to the falling-off in the quantity of potatoes imported into London by the river, might be explained by the circumstance that much of the country produce was now conveyed by railroad.