HC Deb 14 August 1850 vol 113 cc1070-2

said, in 1847 he moved for a return which was to explain to that House and the country the changes that were taking place in foreign tariffs, and this Session he moved for a continuance of that return, which he had now before him, but he found that it was extremely inaccurate. The information was supplied by the Consuls of this country abroad; and he had fancied that it would have filled up a great gap in the information which had been hitherto supplied to this House. Until he moved for the return in 1847, that House was entirely without information as to the duties levied by foreign countries, und the differential duties levied on the commodities of this country. But the return was very inaccurate. For instance, no notice whatever had been taken of important changes in the tariffs of Belgium, Denmark, and Russia. He wished to give the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Board of Trade an opportunity for offering any explanations which he might have to lay before the House; and he would also ask him, whether the Government would consent to the production of copies of the tariffs of all foreign nations, they being documents which at present it was next to impossible to procure, and whether he would agree to a Motion that the tariffs should be printed?


said, he entirely concurred in the object of the hon. Gentleman, namely, that it was most desirable this House and the country should have as complete and accurate information as possible on the subject of foreign tariffs, and the changes which from time to time were made in them. The return to which the hon. Member had referred was moved for early in the Session, and the Board of Trade immediately requested the Foreign Office to address a circular to British Ministers and Consuls abroad, asking them to obtain such information as was necessary to complete the return. He (Mr. Labouchere) had laid upon the table as it arrived the information which had been transmitted to the Board of Trade. The board could be responsible for the accuracy of that information only to this extent, that it was derived from the best sources to which they had access—through the medium of British Ministers and Consuls abroad. He was, of course, unable to compare the documents transmitted to him with the existing foreign tariffs; and therefore he could not say that inaccuracies might not have occurred in the return. The Board of Trade had, however, done more than this; for, in the course of the Session, the Foreign Secretary had, at their request, written to British Ministers and Consuls abroad, directing them to obtain copies of all existing foreign tariffs, and to communicate to Her Majesty's Government all alterations that might at any time be made in those tariffs. The Colonial Secretary had also undertaken to obtain similar information with regard to the tariffs of our own colonies. The hon. Gentleman had asked whether he (Mr. Labouchere) would consent to a Motion that the foreign tariffs, AS they were received by the Government, should at once be printed and submitted to the House. He must request the hon. Gentleman not to make a Motion of that kind at present, but to leave the matter in his hands, and he could assure the hon. Member he would not lose sight of it. He (Mr. Labouchere) was not quite sure that it would be desirable to lay the tariffs themselves upon the table. Many of them were very bulky documents. The tariffs of France and Spain, for instance, formed large volumes, and their printing would be attended with considerable expense. He would, however, consider what was the most convenient form in which the information could be presented to the House.


was obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for having so far acceded to his request as to obtain copies of foreign tariffs. He did not wish to have those documents translated, but he hoped free access would be allowed to them.

Subject dropped.

The House adjourned at half-after Three o'clock.