HC Deb 05 August 1850 vol 113 cc827-31

The House went into Committee on this Bill.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2.


called the attention of the Committee to a clause which he could hardly believe he rightly comprehended; but if he did, he wished the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to explain why such a clause was necessary. The effect of the clause was to provide that all rules, regulations, and orders made by the Board of Customs in conformity with Acts which had been repealed should still be considered valid; and, further, that power was given to the Board of Customs to vary and alter those rules, regulations, and orders; nor did the clause stop1 there, but it went on to empower the Board of Customs to make new rules, regulations, and orders, in lieu of those which were framed in accordance with Acts which were no longer in existence.


said, there was a considerable number of rules, regulations, and orders, all of which were made in clear conformity with the Acts then existing, and these Acts formed a tolerably thick octavo volume. Some of these Acts had since been repealed, and doubts had been raised as to the validity of the regulations framed in accordance with them, though it was clear that when Parliament repealed the Acts, it did not mean to touch the regulations. To remove these doubts—very slight ones as they appeared to him—was the object of the clause.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had explained one point—he must say not very satisfactorily—with respect to the regulations now existing. But the clause took two steps further, for it gave the Board of Customs power both to vary the regulations and to substitute new regulations for such of them as they might think proper, without these new regulations coming under the sanction or cognisance of Parliament.


The Board will only exercise these powers in accordance with the Acts of Parliament.


said, that the Acts upon which these powers were originally formed having been rescinded, he did not think that any power should be given to the Commissioners which properly belonged to that House. He only knew of one case in which such power had been given, and this was the case of the Poor Law Commissioners. Great dissatisfaction was expressed at the time this power was given. He could not understand how such powers could be given to any body but the House of Commons.


said, that these powers, of which the hon. Member for Montrose complained as almost unheard-of, had been in actual operation for 150 years, and through them the whole business of the country was conducted. They had been varied from time to time to suit the convenience of the transaction of business, and they were always made in conformity with the Act of Parliament.


said, that the rules were going beyond the powers conferred on the Board by the Acts of Parliament.


said, that if the Commissioners at present possessed the power of making rules and orders from time to time, the clause was superfluous.


said, the Commissioners had the power of issuing the regulations in nine cases out of ten.


read clauses in some of the existing Acts, authorising the Commissioners to make regulations for the purposes therein stated. It was expedient to give general power to make regulations for managing the business of the Customs, instead of a series of independent powers in each particular Act. The Commissioners never possessed any such powers as would have enabled them to add to the duties. The present Bill would not give them any such powers, and he thought it only reasonable that the clause should be allowed to remain as it stood.


said, that the Acts to which the hon. and learned Attorney General had referred were statutes which gave a limited power; whereas the step now proposed to be taken would be a step in advance. It would be one from limited to unlimited power; and he could not see the necessity for it.


said, that the hon. and learned Attorney General was by no means happy in his quotation of statutes. If the hon. and learned Gentleman thought that the possession of such powers on the part of the Commissioners of Customs would be submitted to by the great body of the mercantile classes in the country, he read a very different lesson from that which he (Mr. Cardwell) was taught by the communications which daily reached him. He protested against their now, at the close of a Session, enacting that the Board of Customs should have power, by the mere regulations which they issued, to give vitality to Acts of Parliament already repealed.


wished to call the attention of the Committee to the circumstance that this proposed power of making regulations would enable the Board of Customs to put into operation Acts already null and void; the House, therefore, did not know what sort of measures they were calling into existence by this proceeding, and he hoped, therefore, that the Committee would consider what they were about before they proceeded to legislate to such an extent.


hoped the Chancellor would withdraw this clause, which he could not help connecting with certain proceedings which had recently taken place in the city of London. For the last three or four months, the City had been scandalised by the most arbitrary conduct of the Board of Customs. That conduct was now about to be tested—the matter was pendente lite, and he hoped the House would not grant additional powers to the Board at a time when almost every merchant in London was up in arms against its authority.


said, that throughout the manufacturing districts a series of complaints were raised against the course taken by the Board of Customs; and he felt that any proposal for conferring on them extraordinary powers of the kind contained in that clause would meet with very general disapprobation in those districts.


hoped the House would be cautious with regard to this clause. The inhabitants of Sunderland, after constructing a large dock, were prevented from using it by the Lords of the Treasury.


said, his constituents, the inhabitants of Hull, looked upon the Board of Customs as the very last board in the kingdom which should be trusted with additional powers. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would withdraw the clause.


said, there were two distinct parts of this clause. He had not the least objection to give up the second part; but he thought great inconvenience might arise from the omission of the first. He was perfectly willing to give up what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon called the general power.


said, his objection certainly applied with most force to the latter part of the clause; but he thought the former required alteration. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman to postpone the clause, and bring it up on the report in an amended form.


said, he had no wish to press the clause upon that occasion. He was sorry to have to state, that in consequence of the illness of his right hon. Friend at the head of the Board of Customs, he had not been able to communicate with him upon that subject.

Clause postponed.

Clause 3 agreed to; as were Clauses 4 to 22 inclusive.

Clause 23.


proposed an Amendment to the Clause, to the effect that the inhabitants of the Orkney and Shetland Islands should be allowed to import wool for their own use duty free, under such restrictions and regulations as the Treasury might direct. He said, his object was to obtain for these islanders a boon, to which he thought he could prove to the Committee, and to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they were fully entitled. Also, that the granting of such a boon would involve very trifling if any loss to the revenue, and would be subject to no risk of fraud or abuse. The inhabi- tants of these islands, numbering about 65,000, were for a great portion of the year chiefly employed in the cod, ling, herring, and other fisheries, which formed the staple means of their industry. About 2,500 boats and small vessels were employed in these fisheries, and the construction and repairs of these boats and vessels formed an important branch of the native industry of the islands. Now, it happened unfortunately that the islands produced no wood whatever, and all attempts to grow wood in them had failed, consequently every supply to them of this much necessary and valuable article had to be procured from elsewhere. The wood most suitable for these purposes and the least costly, both for the original price and transit, was the wood of Norway, their former parent country, and the nearest to them. Now as boats and vessels constructed in foreign places can be imported into this kingdom free of any duty, while the raw material for constructing them in this country cannot be imported except on payment of a considerable duty, it will be a natural consequence of such an anomalous course of policy, that the boats and vessels required for the fisheries of these islands will be constructed in Norway, whence they can be navigated to the islands in a few hours, and thus boat building, a most important branch of industry, will be, to a considerable extent, if not entirely, lost to these poor islanders. The hon. Gentleman was proceeding to show how this indulgence to these islanders might be effectually guarded from any risk of abuse, when.


stated, that it was not competent for him to move the proposed Amendment, which was a total repeal of duties, without having a previous resolution of the House.


complained of having been treated not altogether fairly, as it was only that morning that he and other Members were aware of this Bill being introduced, and consequently he had no opportunity of moving a previous resolution.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed; Bill reported as amended; to be considered To-morrow.