HC Deb 22 August 1848 vol 101 cc376-86

Bill read a third time.


had an additional clause to propose, and said: Sir, it will be in the recollection of the House that when this Bill was in Committee I moved a clause, the effect of which would be to place the English refiner on the same footing with foreigners. At that time, unfortunately, five-sixths of the House were absent, and having been defeated under such circumstances as these, I think I am perfectly justified in trying my luck on this occasion. All I ask is this, that the Eng- lishman may be put on an equal footing with the subjects of Holland, Belgium, and Hanover—that the Englishman refining the sugar in England shall be permitted to enter his sugar without paying a duty upon it, whether it be British colonial or foreign sugar, and not be obliged, as he now is, in order to obtain an equal privilege with the Dutchman, to carry his sugar over to Holland, and bring it back here. I hold in my hand some English refined sugar that was obliged to take a voyage to Holland to become naturalised Dutch sugar, in order to enjoy equal privileges with foreign sugar in the English market. I remember the indignation with which all Her Majesty's Ministers used to inveigh against the navigation laws and their protecting clauses. They used to complain that Brazilian sugar had to go to the Cape of Good Hope in order to be entitled to the privileges of colonial sugar. They also inveighed against the necessity of sending raw produce to the united States of America in order to entitle it to come in as American produce. All I ask is this, that when the sugar is refined in bond it may be sent back to the locks of the Crown, where it will remain side by side with packages of similar foreign sugar, be permitted to pay the same duty with the foreign sugar next to it, and then be entered for home consumption. It appears to me that a proposition so reasonable cannot be resisted in this House. Sir, I am told that there will be great difficulty in accomplishing this—that half a year's more preparation will be necessary in order to enable Government to frame a measure that will preserve the revenue from fraud. I cannot understand how any fraud can be committed. I myself have visited one of these refineries—a bond refinery of special security. I found there a few barriers of iron, and a few padlocks, and a few iron gratings, such as would confine a lady's bullfinch. These were all that were required to prevent any fraud. When I heard that there was all this difficulty in making a bond refinery of special security, I expected to find a building surrounded by ramparts. But, on the contrary, I discovered that the revenue required no protection beyond that which is usually given by the continual presence of a customhouse officer, who never leaves the premises. Such a security is, in fact, found in the regulations of the Customs. There are at present ten different checks in the form of documents, and one in duplicate, making altogether twelve securities that are required to prevent fraud. These bond warrants and securities are, in my opinion, quite sufficient to protect the revenue. Indeed, during the last fourteen years that the refiners have been permitted to refine in bond, there has not been so much as one single conviction of any one for an attempt at fraud. I am not surprised that there should be such a petition from the home refiners as that which was this day presented. It was because the Government wanted to make the refining in bond compulsory that that petition was presented. Had the Government proposed to make the refining in bond optional, it would be gratefully accepted. The spirit of the petition is that the home refiners should be protected against the Englishman who is now permitted to refine in bond for exportation, and that the foreigner should not have a monopoly against the English refiner. I hold in my hand a letter from Messrs. Goodhard and Patrick, on the difficulty of refining in bond. [The noble Lord read the letter. The writer complained of the system of compelling all refiners to work in bond, and said that the supposed danger to the revenue from the plan of Lord George Bentick was all moonshine. The refiners were ready to give every security against fraud. Indeed, for thirteen years refining in bond had been carried on in this country, and no single instance of fraud had been proved.] Let the House understand that these refiners in bond do not ask to be permitted to refine sugar in bond for home consumption brought here in unprivileged ships. They are willing to surrender the privilege which they now enjoy, as regards refining in bond for foreign exportation, and they ask to be permitted to enter their sugar, being British colonial sugar—and I am sure that they would refine the sugar of Demerara and Mauritius in bond—and to pay the foreign duty upon it. The hon. Member for Westbury has stated that the freight and charges of sugar from Holland to this country would be at the rate of 2s. 6d. per cwt. Are the English refiners to be forced to have recourse to this humiliating and expensive process of sending their sugar over to Holland in order to become naturalised and be entitled to the privileges of the English market? The conveyance to Holland and back again is from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. per cwt., while the freight and charges of sugar from Holland to Hull at this time is only 9d. per cwt. I am aware that Messrs. Goodhard and Patrick have not succeeded in obtaining the consent of the Customs to enter their sugar as white clayed sugar. They carry on a great trade by refining sugar for foreign and home consumption. I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury bench, how they mean to deal with the Dutch treaty? How can they exclude sugars manufactured in the same way as Messrs. Goodhard and Patrick's? These gentlemen do not presume to say that sugars are brought to this standard by being white clayed. It is by going through a process of refining. Is the Government prepared to say that no sugars can go through the process of, literally speaking, claying, but the sugars of the country of which clayed sugars are now the growth and produce? Do you mean to bring up this question of growth and produce to suit your present purpose? When it did not suit your purpose you made no such distinction. If you are not prepared to stop the refined sugar of Calcutta, and Bagshaw's sugar, how will you prevent the sugar of Holland from coming in? If you do not prohibit the sugars of Holland from coming in, with what face can you say to Messrs. Goodhard and Patrick, "We know from your locker that your sugars are of the same standard and go through the same process as white clayed sugars—as the sugars of Holland; we will permit the Holland sugar to come in and pay 21s. 7d. duty; but we will not permit your sugar to come in for home consumption, because we know from our locker over your refinery that this sugar has been refined in the same way that the sugars of Holland are refined?" Is it not a humiliating circumstance that Englishmen must send their manufactures abroad in order that they may be placed on an equal footing with the produce of foreign countries? Have we not a right to say that this is a foreign-loving Government, a Government that prefers the interest of foreigners to the interest of Englishmen? All I ask is, that you will give fair play to the energy, skill, and enterprise of your own countrymen, and will not put a ban on the refiners of England, while you hold out an advantage to the refiners of foreign countries. I beg leave to move the insertion of the following clause:— And whereas it is expedient to admit Sugar, without payment of Duty, to be refined for home consumption, under the lock of the Crown; Be it further Enacted, That it shall be lawful for any person or persons who may be now, or who may be hereafter, engaged, under the provisions of the Acts of the 3rd and 4th Will, IV., c. 61, and 8th and 9th Vic., c. 91, in the trade of Refining Sugar in bond for exportation, to enter the products extracted from the same for home consumption, anything in the aforesaid Act or Acts, or any other Act to the contrary notwithstanding, at the rates of Duties levied upon Foreign Sugar, as sot forth in the third Schedule of this Act, under the same regulations as are now, or may hereafter, be applied by Her Majesty's Officers of Customs to the exportation of such Sugar; Provided always, That such person or persons as aforesaid shall previously give bond to the satisfaction of Her Majesty's Commissioners of Customs to use such Sugar only as shall have been imported in ships privileged under the Navigation Laws to import Sugar for entry to home consumption.

Clause brought up and read a first time.

On the question that it be read a second time,


rose to repeat the opposition which on a former occasion he gave to the proposition of the noble Lord, and expressed his regret that the noble Lord should have thought it necessary to have gone over the same ground again. The noble Lord argued, that certain privileges ought to be granted to our countrymen as a matter of justice. There were undoubtedly great advantages attending a general system of refining in bond. This he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had never denied for a moment: on the contrary, he had stated them on a former occasion. On the other hand, there were great difficulties in the way. The Government at present could not clearly see their way to the adoption of a general system; but between this and the next Session they intended to consider the subject. He had had several conferences on the subject with refiners both of the town and country; and they perfectly concurred in the views of the Government, that though a general system had great advantages, yet it was surrounded with great practical difficulties. If such a system were adopted, it must be adopted universally and at present they did not see their way to it. They stated, in a memorial to the Government, that the subject involved many practical difficulties; that the system would impose many vexatious restrictions; and that at this late period of the Session it would be impossible to prepare a well-digested and comprehensive scheme. A petition had been presented to the House, signed by every refiner in London but two against the proposal of the noble Lord. The noble Lord was not therefore correct in saying, that this was the request of the refiners in London. The noble Lord said, it was to the compulsory part of the Government proposition that the refiners objected; but the principal part of the refiners in London told him, that unless the measure was made universally compulsory, they did not see any safety to the revenue. He could not perceive what injustice could be done by putting all parties on the same footing who carried on the trade of the country. Any question respecting the foreign refiner did not apply to persons refining in bond, but to the great body of refiners. The duty imposed on Dutch refiners was a reasonable protection to English refiners, and by it justice was done to all parties. He confessed it was impossible for him to see that, because refined foreign sugar was admitted into this country, therefore the refiner in bond should be allowed to do what the great body of the trade were not allowed to do. The Chairman of the Customs, to whom this question had been referred, satisfied himself that it was impossible to secure the revenue if the noble Lord's proposition were adopted; and when the noble Lord talked of twelve restrictions against fraud, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was afraid they came under the description of being paper securities, and not real securities. If fraud could be detected, there would be an end of the difficulty, as the guilty party might be punished. But the difficulty here was to detect the fraud, against the perpetration of which those papers afforded no security whatever. He was not arguing against the general principle of refining in bond, but against the proposal of the noble Lord. That proposal was dangerous to the revenue, injurious to the fair trader, and opposed by the great body of the trade. He hoped, therefore, the House would affirm its previous decision, and not adopt, against the general wish of the parties interested, the proposal of the noble Lord. The noble Lord had asked how Dutch sugar was to be excluded from this country. The only ground upon which Dutch sugar was admitted into this country was, that it was the manufacture of that country. All the sugar from India came in as raw sugar. Dutch raw sugar was inadmissible, but Dutch manufactured sugar was admissible on paying the duties. It was only as refined sugar it was admissible. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) considered the proposal of the noble Lord to be unjust to all parties engaged in the refining trade of this country. If the refiner in bond paid the duty in the first instance, then no injury whatever was inflicted on any body, and the refining trade remained on the same footing as the general trade of the country. The Government would direct its attention to the subject during the recess, in the hope of adopting some general measure that would apply to all parties.


said, all sugars, not merely foreign sugars, but British colonial sugars, should be admitted to the refiners of this country for the benefit of all parties. He believed that to be perfectly practicable, and that the chemical and mechanical skill of the Board of Excise would be sufficient to guard the revenue against fraud. The state of the sugar market showed that the House had been acting most ruinously towards those engaged in the sugar trade. The introduction of the Sugar Duties Bill, and the discussions upon it, had driven down the market 3s. the cwt., and had extracted from the pockets of the sugar growers perhaps 3l. per hogshead. The refiners in Whitechapel had been selling at 50s. the cwt. That sum included the reduced duty of 13s. a cwt., 4s. for freight, and 2s. for charges. How was the unfortunate person who produced this sugar to cultivate his estates under such circumstances? The real question now was, whether our colonies were worth preserving or not. You will at least reduce your colonies to such a state of ruin and distress, that it will take years to restore them to a condition in which they will be of use to the mother country. The consequence of the legislation of that House with regard to the West Indies would be, that estates would be abandoned, labourers thrown out of employment, and, the colonies returning to a state of barbarism, dissatisfaction would be produced at home and abroad, and injury inflicted upon every one of the interests of this great empire.


thought it would be well that some general system of refining in bond should be adopted; but as the Session was so far advanced, and the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had held out hopes of a measure on the subject being introduced next Session, he should give his vote against the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn.


said, it was admitted on all hands that the rejection of the proposition of his noble Friend the Member for King's Lynn would inflict great injustice on English industry and English capital; and all the answer that the Government could give was, that they were not skilful enough to find a remedy. The Government would soon have to repent of their policy with regard to our West Indian colonies. Every packet brought them intelligence of the dangers which they were creating in the colonies. Every packet told them how precarious their tenure of the colonies was becoming, in consequence of their legislation. Lord Grey, in a recent despatch to the colonies, had told them that they must no longer look to the mother country for protection—they must he prepared to enter into full competition with foreigners altogether unaided by the British Government. That was not the way in which to govern this great empire—to preserve our colonial or any other interest. The Government had involved themselves in the greatest inconsistency, and had not even had the courage to carry out their own principles. They had abandoned free trade, whilst their measure of protection was so paltry that it would be of no service to those for whom it professed to be brought forward. It was not denied that the Act of 1846 had given the greatest encouragement to the cupidity of those who were concerned in the carrying on of the slave trade, whilst at the same time it had brought ruin upon the colonies. This miserable expedient must have the effect of destroying the loyalty of our colonies, and their ultimate severance from the mother country—a catastrophe which he was sure would be as much deplored by the occupants of the Treasury benches as any other men in that House.


complained that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had failed to show any reasons for his determination to vote for the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn; he had preferred making an attack upon the policy of the present Government to defending his intended vote. He could assure the House that he would be the last man to deny that the present state of the West Indian colonies was such as to inspire every lover of this country, in common with the Members of the Government, with the greatest anxiety and alarm. He never had disputed the fact that great distress prevailed in those colonies, and that any remedies which they could fairly apply to that distress it was their duty at once to adopt. But the House should bear in mind that the English colonies were not the only ones labouring under distress. Cuba, in which slavery was rife, and the colonial possessions of the French, were at present suffering from great distress. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) opposed the Government proposition because they had not proposed a system of permanent protection for the colonies; but it was not for the interest of the British colonists themselves that any hope of the Imperial Legislature returning to the system of protective duties should be held out. He believed that nothing could be more fatal to their prosperity. The right hon. Gentleman had blamed his (Mr. Labouchere's) noble Friend, Lord Grey, because he had stated in a despatch to the West Indies that they must ultimately look for unrestricted competition with the colonies of other countries. Why, there was only one point on which the Committee of that House which had recently sat upon the West Indian question were unanimously agreed—he believed that there was only one dissentient voice to the opinion that the West Indian colonies must eventually look for unrestricted competition with foreign countries, namely, the noble Lord who presided over the Committee; and yet the right hon. Gentleman had complained of Lord Grey having expressed himself to the colonists to the same effect. [Mr. HERRIES had not advocated permanent, but merely temporary protection.] He did not know what the right hon. Gentleman meant by "temporary protection." His hon. Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Bernal) had said that this Bill had had the effect of knocking down the prices very much in the sugar market. Now, he held in his hand a statement which he found in the City article of the Times newspaper of that day, which he thought was very much at variance with the statement of his hon. Friend. The article stated that, notwithstanding the hostility that was exhibited by the Jamaica press to the Ministerial measures, prices had risen considerably. It could not be disputed, therefore that his hon. Friend's statement as to this Bill having caused a reduction in prices in the West Indies, was not correct.


would vote for the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, because he protested against a law which compelled the English consumer to pay the expense which was incurred by the English importer being obliged to take his sugar to Holland to have it refined. The Government should not suffer an inefficient Custom-house to impede a measure of justice and benefit to all classes. The Government said that they were not yet prepared with the necessary arrangements for carrying into effect the intentions of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn; but why were they not prepared? It was the duty of the Government to enable the consumer in this country to obtain his sugar at the lowest possible price, and that could not be done until permission was given to the English importer to refine sugar in bond; and that being the object, as he believed, of the proposition of the noble Lord, he felt bound to give it his support.


When last this question was brought under discussion, he opposed the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, because he agreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) that it would be very unjust to give a privilege to one class of refiners in this country which was refused to the rest; but having since heard the statement of the noble Lord with regard to the enormous injustice that they were about to perpetrate upon a body of refiners, by allowing the Dutch to refine sugar to the disadvantage of the English sugar merchant, whom they would not permit to refine, he now thought that the alternative of the noble Lord was better than the proposition of the Government. With regard to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, that the colonies of other countries were suffering as well as those of Great Britain, he had to observe, that the accounts received from Cuba, Brazil, &c., did not justify the right hon. Gentleman's statement.


said: I wish to say only a few words in consequence of what fell from the hon. Member for Inverness. He said that my right hon. Friend ought not to have stated that he meant to propose a measure with respect to refining sugar in bond, unless he fully intended to bring such a measure forward, or if he had not a belief that such a measure was to be brought forward. Now, the sense of what my right hon. Friend stated was this, that it was a subject encumbered with great difficulties, and that he would consider of such a measure during the recess; that if he saw his way to a good and practicable measure, he would propose to introduce it, but that he would not pledge himself to bring such a measure forward until he had fully considered the difficulties belonging to it. My right hon. Friend has had interviews with persons connected with the trade upon this subject; but having asked the Chairman of Customs, Sir Thomas Fremantle, to pay particular attention to this subject, after a very careful investigation, he has come to the conclusion that refining in bond under the present Custom-house arrangements could not be carried on without much inconvenience to the trade, and fraud on the revenue. This question, therefore, is one which cannot be decided in a few days; it is a subject which I think requires serious practical examination.


, as the representative of the great body of English sugar refiners in the metropolis, felt bound to give his cordial support to the proposition of the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck). He had listened with the utmost attention to every word which had been said during the debate, and felt thoroughly convinced that Government, having offered no solid argument for the course they took, there must be some Dutch influence at the bottom of it.


was aware, in consequence of what fell on one occasion from the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck), to what house the hon. Member alluded. He (Mr. Wilson) had never had the slightest communication with that foreign house, one way or the other, upon the subject. The present proposition was to give effect to the request of a single refiner in bond, he being at the same time a refiner for the home market. If carried, it would enable him, by dividing his cargoes between his two refining houses, the inferior part to the one and the better to the other, to put in his pocket a certain sum which he would otherwise have had to pay to the revenue; and nine-tenths of the refiners could not in practice take advantage of such a permission.

The House divided on the question that the clause be read a second time:—Ayes 40; Noes 70: Majority 30.

List of the AYES.
Bankes, G. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Christy, S. Keogh, W.
Crawford, W. S. Kershaw, J.
Cubitt, W. Miles, P. W. S.
Disraeli, B. Moffatt, G.
Duncombe, hon. O. Moore, G. H.
Du Pre, C. G. Mullings, J. R.
FitzGerald, W. R. S. Napier, J.
Forester, hon. G. C. W. Newdegate, C. N.
Fox, W. J. O'Brien, Sir L.
Grogan, E. Repton, G. W. J.
Gwyn, H. Sibthorp, Col.
Hamilton, G. A. Spooner, R.
Henley, J. W. Thompson, Col.
Herbert, H. A. Thompson, G.
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Urquhart, D.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Verner, Sir W.
Hume, J. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Waddington, H. S. TELLERS.
Wawn, J. T. Bentinck, Lord G.
Wodehouse, E. Baillie, H. J.
List of the NOES.
Adair, R. A. S. Lewis, G. C.
Barnard, E. G. M'Gregor, J.
Barron, Sir H. W. Matheson, Col.
Bellew, R. M. Morpeth, Visct.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Morison, Sir W.
Bernal, R. Morris, D.
Boyle, hon. Col. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Brockman, E. D. O'Connell, M. J.
Brotherton, J. Owen, Sir J.
Buller, C. Paget, Lord A.
Campbell, hon. W. F. Parker, J.
Cavendish, hon. C. C. Pigott, F.
Childers, J. W. Raphael, A.
Clements, hon. C. S. Rich, H.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Romilly, Sir J.
Craig, W. G. Rumbold, C. E.
Duncan, G. Russell, Lord J.
Dundas, Adm. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Ebrington, Visct. Shelburne, Earl of
Evans, J. Sheridan, R. B.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Foley, J. H. H. Thornely, T.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Turner, E.
Grenfell, C. W. Vane, Lord H.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Verney, Sir H.
Grey, R. W. Villiers, hon. C.
Hawes, B. Ward, H. G.
Hay, Lord J. Watkins, Col.
Hayter, W. G. Wilson, J.
Headlam, T. E. Wilson, M.
Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Hobbouse, T. B. Wood, W. P.
Hodges, T. L. Wrightson, W. B.
Howard, P. H.
Jervis, Sir J. TELLERS.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Tufnell, H.
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Hill, Lord M.

brought forward a series of alterations in the schedules, to correct, as he said, the blunders of Ministers.

The House divided on the question, that 17s. as the duty on brown clayed sugar, for which the noble Lord proposed to substitute 16s. 6d. stand part of the Bill:—Ayes 80; Noes 17: Majority 63.

The House divided again on the question, that 16s. 4d. stand part of the Bill as the duty on sugar candy, instead of 16s. as proposed by the noble Lord:—Ayes 81; Noes 16: Majority 65.

[It will answer all useful purposes to give only the Noes on the second of these two divisions.]

List of the NOES.
Baldock, E. H. Keogh, W.
Christy, S. Moore, G. H.
Dick, Q. Mullings, J. R.
Disraeli, B. O'Brien, Sir L.
Gwyn, H. Robinson, G. R.
Henley, J. W. Verner, Sir W.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Waddington, H. S. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Bentinck, Lord G. Spooner, R.

Bill passed.

Back to
Forward to