§ MR. NEWDEGATE
wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of trade the following questions:—From what documents, authorities, or sources of information the prices of wheat given in the Return No. 206 of this Session are derived; and whether the average—not the mean—prices of wheat per quarter for the years and at the places stated in the above return, are in the possession of the Government, and can be furnished to the House?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, the returns to which the hon. Member referred gave the highest and lowest prices of wheat for a series of years in various parts of the Continent. They also gave the mean prices. This document was derived from various returns that had been made by the British consuls abroad, and were transmitted to the Board of Trade from the Foreign Office. The hon. Gentleman asked whether it gave the average as well as the mean prices? They did not give the average prices; for it was impossible for the Government to ascertain the quantity of wheat sold, so as to enable them to arrive at a satisfactory result upon this point.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that he had applied to the Board of Trade on this subject without being able to obtain any satisfactory information. Everything connected with the trade and navigation of the country should be printed. According to the Trade and Navigation Account, No. 50, ordered to be printed on the 15th of February, 1850, there appears, as entered for home consumption during the twelve months of the year 1849—
During the month of January, 1849, the duty—being at the rate of 10s. per quarter—received upon wheat and wheat flour amounted to 49,639l., which represents an 690 entry for home consumption of 99,278 qrs. Now, if these 99,278 qrs. are deducted from the total entries for the year 1849–5,633,117 qrs.—there remain 5,533,839qrs. which paid a duty of only 1s. per quarter, amounting to 276,692l.; add to this amount the duty received in January, 1849, 49,639l.; total duty received in the year 1849, 326,331l.; while the amount of duty stated as having been actually received upon wheat and wheat flour in the return No. 146, September, 1850, amounts only to 300,747l.; leaving a deficiency of 25,584l., which, at the rate of 1s. per quarter, represent an unaccounted-for entry for home consumption of 511,680 qrs. Again, the quantity of wheat and flour entered for home consumption, according to the Trade and Navigation Accounts, No. 102, September, 1849, was, in January, 1849, 914,793 qrs., which, at the then existing rate of duty—10s. per quarter—must have produced a revenue of 457,397l.—a sum exceeding by 156,650l the whole amount of revenue stated as having been received during the whole year 1849, in the re turn No. 146 of Session 1850. Could the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade afford any explanation of these inconsistencies? Until the House was in possession of some data upon this subject, he submitted to the hon. Member for Montrose the propriety of postponing the Motion which he had given notice of that evening.
Wheat … … 4,509,626 qrs. Wheat flour … … 1,123,491 qrs. Total … … 5,633,117 qrs.
§ MR. HUME
said, that those returns would not affect the object which he had in view in bringing forward the question of which he had given notice. That object was to raise the question in that House as to how far we should be allowed to carry out the principles of free trade. It was his intention, therefore, to ask the Government to afford him an opportunity for bringing this question on.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
thought it would be a great public convenience if hon. Gentlemen who intended to question the accuracy of any return laid upon the table of the House, would give some notice of the intention to the head of that department from which the return proceeded, so as to enable him to offer some explanation on the subject. The hon. Gentleman had made a very elaborate statement, questioning the accuracy of the returns made to the House; but until he (Mr. Labouchere) came to the House that evening, he had not the smallest notion that the hon. Member intended to bring the subject before them. 691 Had the hon. Member given him notice of his intention, he would have been enabled to ascertain whether there was any ground for the charge of inaccuracy. If the hon. Gentleman would give him (Mr. Labouchere) in writing the particular items which he considered inaccurate, he would take care that the Board of Customs should be put in possession of all the facts of the case.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
must apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for not having given him longer notice of his questions; but his great object was to prevent a discussion, if he could, upon a subject connected with those returns, which discussion would be premature and incomplete in the absence of that information which he required.
§ Subject dropped.