§ LORD G. BENTINCK
said: A return of which some explanation had been promised, has been laid on the Table of the House by Mr. Parker, professing to be a statement of the number of ships arriving here during the suspension of the Navigation Laws. It sets forth that there have arrived in England 201 ships, measuring 15,374 tons, which would give an average of nearly seventy-five tons to each; that 103 ships, measuring 6,291 tons, giving an average of sixty-one tons to each, have arrived in Scotland; and that 234 ships, measuring 41,890 tons, have arrived in Ireland; making altogether 538 ships, measuring 63,555 tons, which are represented to have brought into this country provisions to the amount of 95,000 tons. Now, this appears to those who are best acquainted with the trade and commerce of the country a most mysterious return. They cannot conceive it possible that there can be anything like this number of foreign ships of that small burden laden with corn; and as regards the 538 foreign ships, which it is said brought over 95,000 tons of provisions, 1058 every one acquainted with the shipping interests says there are no foreign ships, except those of the United States, of a. capacity to carry so much more than they measure; and that it is impossible the return can be correct. I have an account of the foreign ships which have left the United States in the fortnight between the 22nd May and the 5th of June. It is but a fortnight, it is true; but it essentially contradicts the return. It appears that, of foreign ships, which have sailed with grain from the United States, there were eight Bremen, two Hamburgh, one French, and one Prussian; and that of these twelve ships, two only, both Bremeners, cleared for Cork; facts which make it perfectly clear that there is some radical error in the return. And though it is one which would appear to help out a case for the renewal of the suspension of the Navigation Laws, I do not think that the Government laid it before the House for that purpose. Before the noble Lord takes any step for the renewal of the suspension of the Navigation Laws, the shipping interests have a right to have this return cleared up. I, therefore, ask the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) if he has any objection to furnish returns explanatory of this return, and which will give the fullest particulars of the several vessels?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
begged to say, that he had desired the officers of the Customs to make a return of the ships which had brought in corn by virtue of the suspension of the Navigation Laws, and which could not otherwise have done so. Now, the return was that which it purported to be, and which he believed it to be. So far as the port of London was concerned—the only one as to which inquiry could be made in the time which had elapsed since his noble Friend put his question—it was so beyond all manner of doubt: and he was perfectly able to lay on the Table a return, so far as London was concerned, stating the arrivals, number, and countries of the ships, with the quantity and description of corn imported. He found that, as far as the port of London was concerned, the result was as follows:—Ships, 136; tonnage, 8,757; quarters of corn and rice, 72,846; bags of rice, 9,160. He could only leave the House to infer that, the order having been complied with for London in the. terms in which he had given it, it had been so complied with in the other great ports throughout the empire. He had 1059 written to his right hon. Friend the Chairman of Customs on the subject, and the answer he had received was this:—"We are prepared to maintain that the ships, so far as London goes, do mean foreign ships bringing corn, which would not have brought it but for the suspension of the Navigation Laws." His right hon. Friend's inquiries could have extended no further than London in the time which had elapsed; but he had no objection to give a return extending to every port in the United Kingdom, though he hardly thought his noble Friend at the head of the Government would consent to postpone the Bill until the return was made as regarded all the ports.
LORD J. RUSSELL
said, he believed the return in question was generally correct; the purpose for which it was presented, was to show generally to the House what had been the operation of the suspension of the Navigation Laws. But whatever were the case with regard to this return, he did not mean to rest the case for the second reading of the Bill to continue the suspension of the Navigation Laws on it. Even if it were true that only 500 quarters had come into our ports under the suspension now existing, he should still maintain that it was necessary to make every exertion to secure a supply of corn by suspending the Navigation Law until the 1st of March next.