HC Deb 30 August 1848 vol 101 cc721-5

House in Committee.

On the Schedule being proposed,


said, he meant to move an Amendment. As the schedule stood, a duty of 1s. per ton was to be levied on all copper ore imported. He would allow that duty to remain as applicable to all copper ore the produce of our own colonies; but he would propose a higher rate of duties on ore imported from foreign countries. The same question was involved here as in the sugar duties, with reference to the encouragement given to slavery; and he contended that copper ore from Australia, considering the great length of the voyage and other circumstances, could not be im- ported with the same advantage as ores produced in Cuba and Chili, if the duties were similar in each case. His Amendment was, that while the duty per ton on all copper or copper ore imported from our colonies should be 1s., the duty per ton on copper or copper ore imported from foreign countries should be one guinea.


admitted, that the hon. Gentleman had very fairly raised the question; but the point was one which had been already settled by the House; for it had been decided that there should be no distinction in the duty imposed on the copper or copper ore imported, whether from the colonies or from foreign countries. He had always expressed his opinion that not only the consumers but the producers in this country were benefited by the introduction of foreign ore, as there was a great advantage derived from mixing the two ores together. There was, however, another view of the question. Was it for the advantage of this country that the copper which met us in the way of competition on the Continent should be smelted in foreign countries rather than in our own? Yet that would be the effect of preventing the importation of foreign ores, as proposed by the hon. Gentleman. The export of copper had largely increased. In the four years from 1838 to 1841 the unwrought copper exported amounted to 33,000 tons; and in the four years from 1843 to 1846 to 34,000 tons, showing an increase of 1,000 tons. In the four years ending 1841, the quantity of wrought copper exported amounted to 24,000 tons, and in the subsequent period to 35,000 tons; showing an increase of 11,000 tons on the last four years. The home manufacture of copper goods had derived considerable benefit, therefore, from the mixture of foreign ore with the copper of this country; and it was equally for the benefit of the British miner, smelter, manufacturer, and artisan, that foreign ore should be introduced at a low duty.


was well aware that many of his constituents in Birmingham had suffered like others in various branches of trade; but in the copper trade their prosperity had lasted longer, risen higher, and been better secured, than that of most of the interests which had been exposed to the free-trade system. England produced more than one-half the fine copper of the world. It was hard to suppose that the course taken by this country would affect the conduct of foreign countries in this matter; but though immaterial to others, the differential duty was an object to the British producer. For the sake of the Australian colonies, also, he hoped the proposition of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire would be adopted.


wished to call the attention of the House to the fact that this was the first occasion since the passing of the Slave Emancipation Act on which they had seen a liberal Government putting the miners of Cornwall in competition with the slaves of Cuba. If the principle of putting slave labour in competition with the free labour of Her Majesty's subjects were to be adopted, a new era would commence, a new order of things would be introduced which the whole mass of the people of England, whatever might be their opinion in favour of free trade, would deprecate.


thought, if British manufacturers were exposed to the competition of foreign countries, they ought to be enabled to get the raw material of their manufacture at as cheap a rate as possible. The case of copper produced by slave labour was exceptional. But he recognised only two exceptions to the principle of free trade, namely, in cases involving slave labour, and in the case involving the national defences, namely, the navigation laws. He, therefore, could not support the Motion of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, unless it were limited to copper, the produce of slave labour.


understood the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to argue that the introduction of foreign copper would be an advantage to the British smelter. If the introduction of foreign wool were taken as a precedent, the illustration was an unfortunate one; for the exports of wool had on the whole diminished, while the imports had increased.


thought, the proposition of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire adverse to the interests of his constituents, as it would raise the price of the raw material. The House having determined to carry out the principle of free trade, he, for one, was desirous that it should not be carried out partially. He thought, that when a principle was once adopted, it ought to be fully carried out; and if it should be found not to work well, then let them endeavour to find out why. He would not object to the principle of protection, provided it was extended equally to all classes and to all interests; but in the present instance it was partial, and consequently unjust, and therefore he should oppose it.


said, that there were no fewer than 10,000 persons employed in the mines in Ireland, and about 50,000 persons in all dependent upon these mines. These parties were under the apprehension that, if the free importation of copper ore were allowed, their interests would be seriously injured. He therefore supported the Amendment.


confessed he thought there was a good deal of fairness in what had been said by the hon. Member for Birmingham, that as he was in favour of the principle of free trade, he wished it to be applied generally, not partially. For his part, however, he (Mr. Robinson) was disposed to agree rather with the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, that, as he considered the principle of free trade a bad principle, he would not be a party to carrying it further than he could help. He would therefore on this, and on all other occasions, enter his protest against it. The error of the free-traders, he thought, was in attaching an undue importance to the consumers, as contradistinguished from the producers of the country. Now, in his opinion, if cheapness was produced at the expense of the producer, the effect would ultimately be to place the consumer, notwithstanding the cheapness, in a worse position than before. That was his reason for supporting the principle of protection.


said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had used a singular argument, the long and the short of which was, that the greater the supply of copper ore, the higher would he the price of the article produced in this country. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No!] What, then, was the meaning of his argument when he said that it would be for the good of the copper producers in Cornwall that copper should be imported from Chili and Cuba? There was the strongest reason to believe that the price of the produce of the Cornwall miners would be considerably reduced by the measure of the right hon. Gentleman. The House might know very well what its effect would be, because, by anticipation, the price of Cornish copper had fallen 11 per cent since January last. The noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown had boasted that the Government had succeeded in suppressing sedition, quelling an incipient rebellion, and maintaining the ancient institutions of the country in the midst of European convulsion. He (Lord G. Bentinck) was very much afraid that if there was any truth in the doctrine of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that disaffection and discontent were very apt to go along with want of employment, the boast of the noble Lord could not be long maintained if they passed a measure depriving the miners of Cornwall of their employment, and, consequently, of their means of subsistence. He held in his hand a letter, dated St. Austel, Saturday, the 26th inst., from a proprietor in Cornwall who cultivated a considerable portion of his own estate, in which he said— Are the Government mad? Will they throw this unfortunate county into a state of open insurrection by their acts? You know the people of this district well; you know their loyalty, their intelligence, their patient endurance of severe labour, their extreme temperance, their natural contentedness under circumstances of even more than ordinary suffering; but you know also that, with all their industry, their loyal feeling, their high order and intelligence as labourers, in consequence of the necessary requirements for the effective prosecution of their labours, there is mixed up a determination of character which suffering will call into action, and which it will be dangerous to test or tamper with beyond a given point. The writer proceeded to notice the gloomy prospect of that county for the coming winter, if Her Majesty's Government persevered with this measure. He (Lord G. Bentinck) hoped, however, that the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire would be adopted, and the threatened evils so far averted.

The Committee divided on the question that the words proposed by Mr. Henley be inserted in the table:—Ayes 19; Noes 43: Majority 24.

List of the AYES.
Anstey, T. C. Lowther, hon. Col.
Bentinck, Lord G. Newdegate, C. N.
Blackstone, W. S. Robinson, G. R.
Drummond, H. Sidney, Ald.
Dunne, F. P. Vivian, J. E.
Hamilton, G. A. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Herbert, H. A. Willoughby, Sir H.
Hood, Sir A. Wodehouse, E.
Keogh, W. TELLERS.
Knox, Col. Henley, J. W.
Lacy, H. C. Wyld, J.
List of the NOES.
Adair, R. A. S. Bowring, Dr.
Anderson, A. Brotherton, J.
Armstrong, Sir A. Buller, C.
Bagshaw, J. Campbell, hon. W. F.
Bellew, R. M. Cobden, R.
Duncan, G. Rich, H.
Ebrington, Visct. Romilly, Sir J.
Ewart, W. Scrope, G. P.
Hawes, B. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Hay, Lord J. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Hayter, W. G. Spooner, R.
Henry, A. Talfourd, Serj.
Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J. Tancred, H. W.
Kildare, Marq. of Tenison, E. K.
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Thompson, Col.
Matheson, Col. Tufnell, H.
Monsell, W. Ward, H. G.
Morpeth, Visct. Watkins, Col.
Morris, D. Wilson, M.
Muntz, G. F. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
O'Connell, M. J. TELLERS.
Parker, J. Hill, Lord M.
Pinney, W. Craig, W. G.

Schedule agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at half-past Nine o'clock.