HC Deb 24 June 1851 vol 117 cc1164-88

said, he rose to move for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the working of the system of warehousing foreign goods in bond in Manchester. The question he desired to submit to the consideration of a Committee was of especial importance to the towns surrounding Manchester, including Salford, Macclesfield, Bolton, Stockport, Oldham, Hyde, Ashton, and Staley-bridge, containing together a population little short of 1,000,000, who were large consumers of foreign produce, and who now enjoyed the privilege of warehousing foreign produce in Manchester without payment of duty. No less than nineteen memorials had been presented to the Government on this subject from the corporations and trades of those towns; and in bringing forward his proposal, he wished it to be clearly understood that he did not do so on behalf of the corporation of Manchester or any particular section of the residents in that city, but on behalf of the general industrial interests of the important district surrounding Manchester. If the warehousing of foreign goods without payment of duty were an advantage to any portion of the people of this country, it must be an especial advantage to the population of that district. If it were desirable to permit the warehousing of foreign goods in bond in ports along the coast of the United Kingdom, it was a still greater advantage to carry that warehousing system closer to the consuming population. The warehousing of foreign goods was now permitted in Manchester, and the population of the surrounding district had availed themselves of the advantages which that bonding system conferred upon them. Apprehensions were, however, entertained, that it was the intention of the Government to discontinue that bonding system, exercising for that purpose a discretion which was vested in them by law; and his object to-night was to ask the House to appoint a Committee to inquire into the propriety of withdrawing so important a privilege from that large manufacturing and commercial district. He wished it to be understood that he made this proposition in no spirit of hostility either to the Government or to any party in that House; but he thought that, when the Government were considering whether they should incur so serious a responsibility as that of withdrawing from a district a privilege which it now enjoyed and fully appreciated, they would be glad to have a Committee appointed who might share with them the responsibility, or at least advise with them as to the course that ought to be taken. The difficulty was, that on the one hand some additional charge must be placed on the public revenue for the maintenance of the public establishments connected with the bonding system, or that, on the other hand, the system of bonding must be discontinued, and the population deprived of the advantages they at present enjoyed. He did not now ask the House to decide that the bonding system should be permanently continued, but to consent that a question involving the interests of so important a body of their fellow-countrymen should be calmly and deliberately weighed by a Committee, who, after hearing evidence, should report their opinion as to whether it was fitting that the privilege should be withdrawn. It might probably appear that the bonding system, by cheapening produce and extending consumption, tended to increase the revenue to an amount beyond the expenses the States would have to incur for the Customs establishment necessary to carry out that bonding system. It was not improbable that the Committee, after hearing the evidence of competent persons, might come to the conclusion that if the expense of 2,700l. a year were incurred by the State for the continuance of the Customs establishment at Manchester, there would he no loss to the revenue, but on the contrary a considerable gain. For if it tended to cheapen articles, and facilitated the commerce of the country, the revenue would in all probability be increased instead of diminished. Unques- tionably, if it were determined to-morrow that the bonding system should be abolished at Liverpool, and all other ports except London, so far from any money being saved by the adoption of such a course, the impediments thrown in the way of trade would diminish the revenue, and a considerable loss be inflicted on the State. He would briefly explain the circumstances which made the inhabitants of the district he had mentioned apprehensive that the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer was about to recommend the withdrawal of the bonding system. By the law as it now stood, the corporation of Manchester wore liable to pay out of the borough funds the expenses of the Customs establishment in Manchester connected with this bonding system, and they had it in their power to reimburse themselves, if they thought fit to undertake such a responsibility, by a high rate of duties on the goods warehoused. Primarily the corporation of Manchester wore liable directly to the Government for the expenses of the Customs establishment, and the ratepayers of Manchester were required to pay the Queen's Custom-house officers for collecting the public revenue. The corporation of Manchester had the power by notice to terminate that liability; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had also the power, upon such notice being given, of terminating the bonding system in Manchester. The corporation of that city had given the requisite notice for terminating their liability, and he (Mr. Gibson) thought very properly. He had accompanied a deputation on this subject to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, when that noble Lord said he thought it was not a proper application of borough rates to pay out of such funds the Queen's collectors of the revenue, and that such an application of the rates could never have been contemplated by the Municipal Reform Act. In that opinion he (Mr. M. Gibson) entirely agreed. This case was a very strong one, because, though the corporation of Manchester were liable for the expenses of the bonding system, the parties who got the advantage were the population of the surrounding district. Salford, Macclesfield, Bolton, and Staleybridge, for instance, though they shared the advantage, did not bear any portion of the burden. He thought, therefore, first on the ground that it was improper so to apply borough rates, and, secondly, on the ground that the city of Manchester were paying for privileges enjoyed by others, that the corporation had exercised a wise discretion in giving the notice that would terminate their liability for the payment of the Customs establishment. When that liability was terminated, the corporation had no longer power to impose any duties upon the goods deposited in bonded warehouses, and the question was reduced to this narrow compass—either that the bonding system must be given up, or that the State must pay the Custom-house officers in this case as it did in all others. He would ask whether it was fitting that, without inquiry, this bonding system should be precipitately discontinued? He knew it had been urged that if bonding were allowed to be carried on at the public expense at Manchester, they would lay the foundation of what was termed the principle of inland bonding, that they would establish a dangerous precedent, and that if other places were to apply for bonding privileges, it would be difficult for the Government to resist such application. He did not think, however, that the present Government ought to be alarmed at applications of that kind, for what was the course they had taken upon the general question of inland bonding? In 1839 a Bill was introduced into that House by the late Lord Sydenham, for the purpose of empowering the Treasury to grant the privilege of inland bonding, the Custom-house officers being paid out of the public revenue. He mentioned these circumstances merely to show that the present Government ought to be the last body in the world to entertain any fears as to the effect of allowing inland bonding as establishing a dangerous precedent. That Bill passed the House of Commons by a large majority, but it was subsequently thrown out in the House of Lords. Again, in 1840, a Bill, which was, he believed, identical with that to which he had just referred, was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman who was now President of the Board of Trade, and, at the suggestion of the late Sir Robert Peel, that Bill was referred to a Select Committee. In Committee several Resolutions were passed, and amongst them was the following:— That it appears to this Committee that the privilege of having bonded warehouses may be conceded to inland towns, under due restrictions and regulations, with advantage to trade and safety to the revenue. The right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) who had been throughout a consistent opponent of the principle of inland bonding, moved an Amendment, declaring that it was inexpedient to give the Treasury the discretion of granting to inland towns the unrestrained privilege of warehousing goods free of duty, but that Amendment was negatived. Another Amendment was moved by the late Lord Granville Somerset, who was also an opponent of the principle of inland bonding, to the effect that, though he was unwilling to go the length of a general system of inland bonding, he thought it desirable to ascertain by experience how far the opinions of the advocates of that system were well founded, and he made a reservation in his Amendment in favour of the establishment of bonding warehouses in Manchester; for the Amendment wont on to say that it might, no doubt, be urged, that if this privilege were extended to Manchester, other important manufacturing towns would feel aggrieved that the same advantage was not afforded to them, but that the Committee felt there were peculiarities in the situation of Manchester which formed a decided distinction between Manchester and other inland towns of manufacturing and commercial importance. That Amendment was also negatived, and the Resolution was adopted declaring the propriety of granting the privilege of bonding to inland towns, without requiring those towns to bear the expense of the system. He thought, then, that the present Government ought to be the last people in the world to entertain any fear of setting a dangerous precedent on this subject. He might state, that in the division list in favour of the second reading of the Bill to which he had just referred, he found the names of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland, and indeed all the leaders of the Whig party who then advocated the principle of inland bonding. This system having been shown, by the experience of several years at Manchester, to be safe with respect to the revenue, and advantageous to the trade of the neighbourhood, he asked the Government not to withdraw the privilege without at least an inquiry by a Committee of that House. The principle was not carried further in 1840, because, a change of Government having taken place, the Gentlemen who supported the principle of inland bonding were then unable to carry out their policy; but the Government which came into power brought in a Bill granting the privilege of bonding to Manchester, though they clogged it with the unfortunate restriction that the corporation of Manchester should be liable for the expenses of the Customs establishment. The corporation of Manchester, however, entered into no compact or agreement that these should be the terms upon which it should receive bonding privileges. The proposition with regard to the expense came from Mr. Dean, the then chairman of the Board of Customs, who was apprehensive of frauds upon the revenue, and who—no doubt believing it for the public interest—had systematically opposed any extension of the bonding system upon such principles as those on which it was proposed that it should be granted to Manchester. That proposition was made very late in the negotiation, and it was accepted, because it could not be resisted. The corporation of Manchester was in the hands of the strong, and had only to decide whether they would take the privilege as the Government proposed to give it, or whether they would refuse it altogether. They accepted the proposal of the Government, but they always intended—as was well known to the Customs—to get rid of this improper liability as soon as they could; and all parties believed that in a short time, when the experiment proved to he successful, the expenses of the Customs establishment at Manchester would be borne by the State, as was the practice in all other cases. He (Mr. M. Gibson) disclaimed altogether any bargains or compacts on the subject, and he hoped the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer would not say that anybody had been guilty of a breach of faith. The Committee might decide that it was advisable that the bonding system should be continued at Manchester, and might be of opinion that the expenditure of 2,700l. a year for the Custom-house officers would be replaced by the general increase of revenue that would arise from the facilities given to commerce in the district. With respect to other inland towns which might claim a similar privilege, he would say, that if they made out as good a case as Manchester did, he, for one, would offer no objection to their claim. The expense of the system, as he had shown, had been borne by the city of Manchester for a limited period; and, if another inland town were to come forward and undertake to test the experiment in its case by incurring a similar expense at the outset, and could make out as strong a primâ facie case of a dense and consuming population for having the bonded system placed in its very centre, he should be very glad to see the privilege yielded to it. He begged to remind the House that the State had already granted to no less than eighty different places in the United Kingdom the privilege of bonding foreign produce, at the expense of the State, and without ultimate loss to the revenue; and if the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer should be of opinion that there were too many bonding places—which was quite possible, for he (Mr. M. Gibson) admitted that there must be some limit to the system—let him reduce the number; but what he asked was, that he should not commence with Manchester, which, in respect to the amount of revenue collected from it, was exceeded by only seven other towns in the kingdom; while numerous small places, where comparatively no revenue was collected, continued to enjoy the privilege, he know that the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer's opinion was, that no place which was not a seaport ought to have a bonding establishment. He (Mr. M. Gibson) would not say that Manchester was a seaport, hut certainly it had a direct communication with the sea by water. Now take the case of London. Were not great quantities of goods transferred from ships down the river, brought up to London in smaller vessels, and deposited in warehouses here? Well, what was to prevent goods being transferred from ships in the Mersey, and brought by direct water conveyance to Manchester, with equal safety to the revenue as in the case of London? It appeared, from a return on the table of the House, that the bulk of the foreign goods warehoused at many of the seaports which enjoyed bonding privileges, was not directly imported into those places at all, but was received from other places in the United Kingdom, frequently across the country, and deposited there. He found, for instance, that the goods directly imported into Chester, and bonded there in the year ending the 5th of January, 1851, yielded only 6,885l. of revenue, whereas the goods received from other places yielded 76,974l. Now, as far as the latter goods were concerned, he could not understand in what respect Chester differed from Manchester; or, supposing goods to be removed from London to Chester, and deposited in warehouses there, how did this case differ from that of goods being removed from London to Manchester by the same railway as the former, and deposited in warehouses there? He found that in Carlisle the total sum collected during last year was 36,471l., not one fraction of which was for goods directly imported into that city; for how near to Carlisle could ships approach? Not within nine or ten miles, he believed. No doubt, goods could be put into lighters and carried to Carlisle; but what he meant to say was, that all the good sthat paid this 36,471l. of duty wore removed from other places to Carlisle, and could not come directly into Carlisle, because it was not a seaport, though entitled to the privileges of one. He did not wish to express any jealousy of the privileges of the seaports over inland towns; but he would say that the House ought not to be frightened at a mere word if they found that there was essentially no difference between Carlisle and Manchester, though called by different names. He begged to remind hon. Members also that there were only seven places in the United Kingdom which there permitted to import tea, and yet there were nearly forty places whore tea was allowed to be bonded—so that here the Government departed to a considerable extent from the principle they thought it so necessary to enforce at Manchester. The same was the case with tobacco and many other articles. He hoped that the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, before he made up his mind to take away the privilege of bonding from Manchester, would consent to his Motion for inquiry. He did not ask the House to pass any verdict at present in favour of placing the expense of the system at Manchester on the public revenue. All he asked them to do was to appoint a Committee to consider the subject. If the Committee should come to the conclusion, upon proper evidence, that this was an improper charge to place upon the public revenue, and that the public advantage was not worth the expense of a bonding establishment at Manchester, let it be put an end to. But if the Committee should come to the conclusion that it ought to be continued, then he would say, in the words of the late Lord Granville Somerset, the Government would be acting on the most erroneous principles, if, for the sake of any pedantic attachment to routine, or some of the old officers of Customs, they were to refuse putting the expense of the Customs establishment on the Exchequer, where the expenses of all similar establish- ments were already placed. In an interview which Mr. Tatton Egerton, Mr. Wilbraham, and some other parties from Manchester, had some years ago on the subject with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn), then Chancellor of the Exchequer, that right hon. Gentleman said, that after fully considering the matter, all his objections to the proposal were removed but one, namely, he was still in doubt whether the necessary expense would be repaid by benefit to the public. Now, it was this point which he (Mr. M. Gibson) wished to refer to a Committee. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was of opinion that the privilege of bonding would be no advantage to the consumers of Manchester and its neighbourhood, he would have an opportunity of proving it before the Committee, where the Government, as well as all other parties, would doubtless be well represented. Considering, then, the large amount of Customs' revenue collected at Manchester, amounting to no less than 350,000l. a year—considering that this revenue was collected at an expense of 17s. per cent, whereas in other places the expense was 5l. 16s. 6d. per cent (including the expense of tide-waiters, in the latter case)—considering these and other circumstances to which he had referred, he hoped the House would agree to the present Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire into the working of the system of warehousing foreign goods in bond in Manchester, as it affects importers, dealers, and consumers of goods liable to Customs Duty residing in Manchester and the neighbouring towns; also as to its effects on the Customs Revenue, and to report to the House as to the expediency or otherwise of placing Manchester on an equal footing with all bonded towns in the United Kingdom.


seconded the Motion.


said, he had often admired the eloquence and ingenuity of his right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson); but he confessed he had never had more occasion to admire those qualities than now, when they had been brought into play to conceal the main features of the present question; because, if any hon. Member had taken his impression of the circumstances of the case from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he must certainly have a very faint idea of its real merits. If he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) were to confine himself to the simple question of appointing a Committee, he might dispose of the matter Very shortly; but the right hon. Gentleman having, not improperly, he admitted, gone somewhat into the general question, he felt it necessary to follow him into some of the points, although he hoped to be able to do so without troubling the House at any great length. The right hon. Gentleman had given a definition of the word "port," which he suspected would astonish the compilers of our dictionaries, for, according to him, any place which had a water communication with the sea was entitled to that appellation. Manchester, having a communication with the sea, was, he contended, by that circumstance converted into a port; so that, according to this now interpretation, every town that was connected by a river or a canal with the sea, which most of our large towns were, ought to be construed into a port. It might be very convenient for his right hon. Friend to adopt this wonderfully enlarged notion of the word in the present instance; but he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was not disposed to admit its accuracy. It was hardly necessary, he believed, to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the warehousing system, with the single exception of Manchester, had been confined to ports into which foreign ships could come, although it was true there were some few places which had been ports formerly answering this description, but which did not do so now in consequence of changes in the bed of rivers, or perhaps in the size of vessels ordinarily used, from which the privileges formerly enjoyed by them, in virtue of their having once been really ports, had not been withdrawn. It was quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman had stated, that in 1840 a Committee—omitting what might be called Treasury considerations, namely, the expense—did report that the principle of paying the Customs establishment at Manchester out of the public revenue might be conceded under such restrictions as the Treasury might think necessary. Four years later (in 1844) the Corporation of Manchester applied to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, to extend the bonding system to that town. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn), considering it necessary that there should be some check to the extension of the system of inland bonding, said he was quite willing to grant the request on the condition that the expense was borne by the corporation; and there could not be a better proof of such understanding than the fact that the arrangement was em- bodied in an Act of Parliament. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was aware that it had been represented that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) had led the corporation to believe that at some future time he would be willing to allow the expense to be borne by the public. He did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman had ever said any such thing; and for the best possible reason, for the right hon. Gentleman had told him so himself. He knew from experience that persons who waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer were not unapt to represent him as having said what they wished him to have said, or what they had said themselves. In this instance there was not the slightest trace in the papers which existed on the subject of any such expectation having ever been held out by the right hon. Gentleman as that to which he had just referred; and the right hon. Gentleman had himself told him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he had never stated any such thing, and never could have stated it, because he had always been of opinion that the only check upon the extension of inland bonding at the expense of the public revenue was to make each town that thought it worth its while to apply for the privilege, bear the expense of it. This was the view of the right hon. Gentleman at the first, and in this view he had never wavered, so that it was impossible he could ever have made the statement the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) supposed.


had never attributed to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge the statement that he expected the day would come when the State would bear the expense of the bonding system at Manchester. What he had stated was, that the objections of the right hon. Gentleman had been all reduced to one, viz., that the public benefit would not equal the expense.


had understood the right hon. Gentleman as having made the statement in question in the earlier part of his speech. [Mr. M. GIBSON: No, no!] Well, at any rate others had frequently done so, and all he wished to say on that point was, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) had authorised him to say that he had never held out any such expectation as that which had been referred to. In 1844, as he had said, the privilege of bonding was conceded to the corporation of Manchester on condition that the expense should be borne by them; and there could be no better proof of the full understanding—he would not say compact, as that phrase seemed to offend the right hon. Gentleman—but of the full understanding which then existed, and the fact that the arrangement then made was with the consent of all parties embodied in an Act of Parliament; and so little doubt did the parties seem to entertain of the advantages of the system, that application was soon afterwards made for its further extension; for, if he recollected rightly, the Bill was, in the first instance, confined to Manchester, and excluded Salford, which was only separated from Manchester by a narrow river, and the surrounding neighbourhood. He rather thought, however, that before long—probably owing to the removal of the duty on cotton—they found the arrangement not quite so beneficial as was expected. Very soon, therefore, after his accession to office, he was met with a request to relieve them from the liabilities which were imposed upon them by Act of Parliament, and to take from the public revenue for the benefit of Manchester the expense of collecting the revenues of Manchester. He stated to them that in his opinion he had no right to burden the public with that which existed for their benefit only, and that they ought to indemnify themselves for the expense imposed on them by Act of Parliament by the imposition of higher rates; for the truth was, that the corporation had put the rates absurdly low. He suggested to them the propriety of imposing higher but still moderate and reasonable rates, which would, without doubt, have defrayed the whole expenses; but they apparently preferred knocking at the door of the Treasury to doing anything to help themselves, and accordingly they refused to make any alteration in the rates. With respect to the present Motion, he begged to say that he could not see the slightest advantage in an inquiry, and for this reason—that there had already been an inquiry to the fullest extent they could wish. At the beginning of last year, or in the course of the year before last, the corporation applied to him to put an end to the bonding system in Manchester altogether. He reminded them that an Act of Parliament stood in the way of that object, but that he was perfectly willing to consent to an Act of Parliament to put an end to the system. In the course of last Session a Bill was brought in, but, being not at all of the kind he had expected, he was obliged to object to it. He was then asked to send down an officer of Customs to Manchester, before whom evidence could be placed with respect to the advantages of the system. An officer was sent, and the inquiry was attended by some of the members of the corporation and the town clerk. They produced whatever evidence they thought fit, and at the end of the inquiry the town, clerk, addressing the gentleman who had conducted it, said, "You will have to make a report—a favourable one, we hope; but we say with all sincerity, whatever may be the result, we shall be satisfied with the manner in which you have conducted the inquiry." He held the evidence in his hand; and if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) wished to have it printed, he had no objection to it. It was said that the bonding system was a great advantage to the town. He must say that the evidence taken by the commissioner did not prove this. The main articles upon which they rested their case was tea and spirits; and the evidence was not a little amusing on both the one and the other. They alleged that the bonding system tended to prevent the mixing of tea:— What is meant in the memorial is, that Manchester is very much guarded against the nefarious practices of this kind of London and Liverpool. I believe that, compared with those ports, we are perfect infants in practices of that description, and that bonding operates in guarding and securing the inhabitants of this district, who are not so well instructed in these matters as those of London, from these practices. Now, he begged the House to observe that London and Liverpool had been bonding ports for years, whereas in Manchester the system had been in operation for only three or four years; and if the allegations of the guilt of London and Liverpool, and the innocence of Manchester, were true, the inference he would draw from it was that the guilt of the former had arisen from the bonding system, and that if Manchester wished to keep herself pure and unpolluted, she ought to give up the bonding system, which had been accompanied, in their view, by so much fraud. It was also said, that the bonding system had increased the consumption of tea, as well as reduced its price, in Manchester and neighbourhood. To this he bogged to say, that these effects did not seem to him to have been produced to a greater extent in Manchester than in Birmingham, Newcastle, or in any other town in the kingdom. But what proved more completely that no such effect had at any rate been produced by the bonding system, was the fact that the competition which prevailed in Manchester was principally the competition of London houses, who paid the duty in London, and sent the tea down to Manchester duty free. The question was asked, 'Yet the London houses, selling hero retail, are selling at the same prices as you, though they clear their tea in London V Answer,' There are very few of them.' 'But they compete with you?'—'We admit that.' So far, therefore, the case as to tea had entirely failed; nor was the case as to spirits a whit more successful. According to one witness— The average of the brandy that goes into consumption is one-fourth British, that is to say, that of every four gallons three are foreign, and one British. And, he would have it inferred, that by the bonding system this was entirely avoided; for, in the matter of spirits, as of tea, there was nothing wrong ever done in Manchester. It was only elsewhere that frauds took place. One of the witnesses said— The Manchester publicans try to send out as pure an article as possible. The trade is very different from that in London and Liverpool. They are more particular in Manchester than in London. But the same witness went on to say, that such an extent of mixing was impossible, for his opinion was— I think if five gallons of British brandy were introduced into 500 foreign, you could detect the flavour. It would damnify the whole article so decidedly, that it would be rather injurious to the sale than otherwise. After all, it seemed only to be a question who should cheat the public, the dealer or the public-house keeper. The spirit was always mixed, the public never got the pure spirit. The witness was for giving the advantage to the publican—his reason for retaining the bonding warehouses at Manchester being that —"when they purchase from a dealer, they are already reduced, and the publican cannot get a living. He must say, therefore, that, neither in the case of spirits nor of tea did the evidence bear out the assertions made in favour of the bonding system. But, after all, the question was, did it benefit the people of Manchester? One of the witnesses who gave the strongest evidence on the subject, said that in his opinion "it had been of great advantage to the town, and was worth paying for." Another witness said, "it was worth paying for, but it would he more agreeable if Government would pay it for them." Another also admitted that it was worth paying for, but said it had become a matter of feeling with the people in Manchester, and they wanted to get rid of it, because it seemed strange that Manchester should be singled out as the only place where the expense was made a local burden. But Manchester was singled out for an exclusive privilege at the request of the people of that place; and now, when they believed it to be a benefit, they wanted to throw off the charge, and impose it upon the public at large. That was the question which the House had to decide: was the public revenue to be charged with 2,700l. a year for that which the people of Manchester—which their own witnesses—considered to be a benefit to them, and which they considered to be worth paying for? The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that there was something peculiar in the case of Manchester; but he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) could not see that. Manchester was close to a port, being within half an hour's railway distance of Liverpool, and had the advantage of sending their orders by the electric telegraph, and receiving back their goods almost immediately. The case of Leeds, Leicester, Birmingham, and other midland towns, was much stronger. If there was a town which had a less claim than almost any other in the kingdom, it was a town so close to such a port as Liverpool. The Manchester people had only to continue paying this very small charge, and having this benefit, if they thought it was one. They sought to give up the advantage; they were welcome to do so, giving up together the advantage and the charge; or, if they liked to keep both, they could do so. Any other town might have the privilege upon the same terms; but he was not prepared to give Manchester an advantage which other towns had not, and to charge the expense upon the revenue. One of the points to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded, was the low charge of collection in Manchester; but that was no criterion of what the expense of collecting the revenue elsewhere ought to be, for, in seaport towns, there were charges for landing waiters for the coast, and other expenses for the protection of the revenue, from which Manchester was exempt, and which materially increased the expenses. It was not a fair representation of the case to say that he was about to withdraw from them that which they had hitherto had; they themselves were giving up that which they had enjoyed for a short time. There was not sixpence saved in Liverpool by it; the whole establishment of Liverpool was precisely the same. When Gentlemen behind him were so often calling for a reduction of the charge of collecting the revenue, they were the last who ought to propose that the Government should increase the amount of the charge already borne by the public. He did not think any fair argument could be raised about an increase of consumption. He would only add, that there was a large amount of evidence, which the House might have if it chose; but he did not think any practical good would arise by further inquiry.


thought that many of the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer showed that he was disposed to treat the subject with a levity which it did not deserve. He (Mr. Bright) should not undertake any defence of the people of Manchester against the charge made by the right hon. Gentleman, of knocking at the door of the Treasury to ask for things which they were not prepared to get for themselves, for he believed that no town in England was less open to a charge of that nature than Manchester. The right hon. Gentleman said, that he had been visited by a deputation. Well, that was quite right and natural, for when he was in office before, he was in favour of that advantage which he was now asked to confer. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No!] The right hon. Gentleman had certainly voted in favour of a Bill brought in by one of his Colleagues, which gave liberty of bonding to any town in the kingdom that thought proper to demand it, and that, too, without any security for the payment of the expenses by the town that made the demand. With regard to the evidence already taken upon the subject, he (Mr. Bright) should like to see it examined and judged by a Select Committee. The right hon. Gentleman said, that the people of Manchester were now giving up an advantage which they hitherto possessed; but that was not a correct statement of the case, because in Manchester there were various parties. There were, first, the ratepayers, who were represented by the corporation, and who did not see any direct benefit arising to themselves from the system of bonding; they therefore insisted that the corporation should not apply their rates to the amount of 2,700l. a year in the collection of the Queen's revenue; another party consisted of those merchants who were interested in the bonding in Manchester; another party were the retailers, who bought from the merchants; and there was also the general public. In fact, there were half a dozen different parties who took an interest in this question, and the corporation had no power to refuse giving notice of the cessation of the payment of the charges. If the acceptance of this compact had been forced upon Manchester, and if it now found itself unable to continue the payment, he said that the trade and the public of the town, who were advantaged by the system, were fairly entitled to come to the Government and demand an inquiry into their case. He thought that if the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken a correct view of that important question, he would have considered it more seriously than he had done, and would have allowed a fair inquiry into it by a Committee. The more he (Mr. Bright) looked at the case, the more he was convinced that the right hon. Gentleman was not acting for the benefit of the inhabitants of South Lancashire by treating their demands as if they hardly deserved an argument. It was a mere superstition to suppose that there should be bonding merely in seaport towns. When the Bonding Act was passed fifty years ago, it was considered at the time a great innovation, and it was naturally confined at first to seaports, where the goods were imported; but there was no necessity for confining it to those ports. He was aware when the Bill for conferring the privilege was before Parliament, it was opposed by Lord Sandon, on the ground that it would be injurious to Liverpool, which borough he represented. That was a reason he could understand, though he did not expect the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cardwell) would oppose the present Motion on that ground he could see no reason why the privilege should be confined to the importing port. There was nothing in the position of Liverpool to make it better suited for a bonding town than Manchester, and there was, therefore, no reason whatsoever why the privilege of inland bonding should not be extended to even a greater extent than was now asked for. The right hon. Gentleman said, that when once a single inland town was admitted to the advantages of the bonding system, there was no point at which a limit could be placed. He (Mr. Bright) thought that there was, for if the Treasury were empowered to make a selection, it could say that no town except a seaport should have the privilege of bonding, unless it should receive in revenue a sum of, say 100,000l. or 200,000l., or 250,000l. per annum; the expenses in the first instance to be paid by the town, as in the case of Manchester; but afterwards, if they reached a certain sum, to be brought upon the general expenditure of the country. There was one other point worth mentioning, namely, that when the subject was before Parliament, Lord Granville Somerset and others, who were opposed to the system of inland bonding generally, but were favourable to it as regarded Manchester, never thought of suggesting that the town should be saddled with the cost of collection. The right hon. Member for Cambridge University, who had always consistently opposed inland bonding, and who believed the people of Manchester would never consent to pay the charge out of their rates, said to them when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, "You shall have the privileges provided, if you pay the costs out of the rates;" and he (Mr. Bright) thought the Manchester people did right by confirming the truth of their convictions by the course they then took; but he could not understand how the present Chancellor of the Exchequer could consistently call upon them to pay 2,700l. a year to defray the cost of collecting the Queen's revenue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer always spoke of Manchester as a place from whence little or no revenue was received. Nothing could be so absurd as that opinion. In Manchester the amount of revenue received in 1845 was 70,000l.; in 1846,187,000l.; 1847,177,000l.; 1848, 249,000l.; 1849, 319,000l. From these figures it appeared that Manchester had reached a level with the sixth bonding port in the kingdom. When the Act 43 George III. was passed, by which the bonding system was established, it was stated that it was intended for the benefit of the trade of the country; and the fact of the large increase in revenue derived from Manchester was a proof of the advantage which some parties had derived from the system of bonding goods in that city. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, that if the bonding system were put an end to in Manchester, the expenses at Liverpool and elsewhere would be the same. Now it was a fact that Manchester bonded at present one-tenth of the whole sum received at Liverpool; but the expenses of bonding at Manchester were only equal to 1–37th of the bonding expenses of Liverpool; and this circumstance induced him to think that if the bonding system at Manchester were put a stop to, the expenses at Liverpool must be increased by at least one thirty-seventh of their present amount. Manchester was the centre of a district which spun and wove and printed cotton goods to an amount of nearly one-half of the whole of our exports, and it now asked that its bonding expenses should be paid in the same way that those of other towns were paid for, out of the general funds of the country. If the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had ideas—he did not mean to speak offensively—above those of an exciseman, he would have seen that this small sum of 2,700l., transferred to the general expenses, would have been more than made up by the advantages that would be conferred on so large a population. Considering that this system was one which had been recommended by a Committee, that it had been in existence for seven years, that its results had been greater than its most active friends had anticipated, and that at that moment the difficulty of the case was such that there were no means of getting out of the dilemma, in consequence of the conditions imposed at the first, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman might have been fairly appealed to to concede that small matter. But they did not ask him to concede it; they only asked for a Committee, on whose decision he preferred to rely, rather than on that of the Board of Customs, or of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he believed it would be favourable to a plan which would be highly beneficial and greatly to the advantage of the trade and commerce of the country.


said, that his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn), who was confined to his house by indisposition, had requested him to state the exact circumstances which gave rise to the bonding system in Manchester in 1844. His right hon. Friend said, that he had objected to any departure from the original principle by which the bonding system was confined to seaport towns, because he did not see how, if one inland town were admitted to the privilege, any reasonable rule could be drawn upon which the application of any other inland town could be refused; and he also said that the only proper check he could discover was in the willingness of a town to take upon itself the expenses attendant upon having the bonding privilege extended to it. He agreed to the privilege being conferred upon Manchester on that condition; and he said that if the present Motion were granted, it would be, in his opinion, an infringement of the terms of the original contract, and would also take away all rule respecting the bonding system altogether. It should be recollected how great was the difference in many respects between Liverpool, a seaport town, and Manchester, which had "neither sea nor navigable river." That Manchester was not a port, was owing to causes which it would give him as great pleasure as hon. Gentlemen opposite to see obviated; but natura opposuit. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) referred to the 43rd George III. in terms from which it would seem as if he were ignorant of what was the great object of the bonding system—namely, to benefit the re-export trade; and it was surprising that any one so eminent for his knowledge of commercial matters as the hon. Member for Manchester, should think that to say bonding should be confined to the ports was an antiquated superstition. The hon. Member for Manchester said that any man with the genius of an exciseman would not think of a sum of 2,700l.; but he seemed to forget that the right hon. Gentleman who brought forward the Motion had stated that this was not a Manchester question only, but; that it affected Salford, Staleybridge, and other towns. Now, would the genius of a Chancellor of the Exchequer condescend to give up 2,700l. a year, if that sum were multiplied by all the inland towns in the kingdom? If they wanted to launch that great question, let them do so upon great and comprehensive terms; but let them not come forward and attempt to reorganise the whole system with a mere Motion for a Committee of Inquiry having reference to the interests of Manchester alone; and let them not charge those who might happen to vote in opposition to their Motion with any want of that enlightenment which ought to to characterise all the Members of that House.


had voted for the extension of the system when the duties were so high that it was of vast importance to have the advantage of lodging the goods, and not paying the duty until the goods were sold; and he had thought that Manchester might, in fairness, have the privilege, if the merchants there considered it worth their while to bear the expenses of it. He could not see that any information was required, as regarded Manchester, which ought not to apply to all other places that were ports, or that any advantage would be derived from an inquiry of this kind. If his right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson) had proposed an inquiry into the state of the different ports of the country, he should have been happy to join him, for there were many cases in which the advantage derived by the port was not worth the expenditure, and some in which it did not even counterbalance it. Some of the worst instances were to be found in Scotland. In Borrowstouness the expenditure on twenty-one individuals employed amounted to 941l., and the whole revenue collected was 541l.; in Irvine the expenditure on twenty-three individuals employed amounted to 958l., and the whole revenue collected was only 1,074l.; in Chichester the expenditure on thirteen individuals employed amounted to 745l., and the whole revenue collected was 595l.; in Guernsey eleven persons were paid 820l., and the amount collected was only 2l. When he considered that a bargain had been made with Manchester at the time the privilege of bonding was conferred upon that place, he could not take upon himself to vote for a change of the conditions. The burden might be felt more heavily than it had been formerly; but that was no reason why the Government should be called upon to alter the terms of the arrangement. Upon these terms alone Manchester had been made a port, and he did not think reasons had been shown for changing them. Therefore, if there should be a division, he should most unwillingly vote against his right hon. Friend's Motion, because he thought it had set a bad example.


said, that after referring to the circumstances under which Manchester was permitted to become an inland port, he must contend that it was the duty of the Government to extend the advantages of inland bonding to the great manufacturing districts. It was not Manchester alone which derived the chief benefit from the experiment which had been successfully tried, but the neighbouring localities. The retail dealer was enabled to go to the bonded warehouse, and there select for himself his tea, his spirits, or his tobacco. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the people were rather too acute in that part of the country to send commissions by the electric telegraph; they tasted and bought for themselves, and the consumer reaped a proportionate benefit. As to the bargain which had been talked about, the Government were the first to break it; for, in 1842, the late Sir Robert Peel swept away the duty from 600 or 700 articles. To his mind it appeared perfectly inconceivable, that a liberal Government should refuse to extend the advantages of inland bonding to the country.


wished to say a few words before the discussion was brought to a close, in reference to the part which he had taken in connection with this subject ten years ago. At that time it was unlawful for the Treasury to establish bonded warehouses in any town which was not a seaport. He desired himself to see established in England the system of inland bonding, which had worked well in so many countries abroad, and he thought that a discretion ought to be given to the Treasury, which it did not then possess, to make any inland town which they might think necessary a bonding town, subject to such conditions as they might deem requisite for the proper security of the revenue. He struggled to obtain a general Act for that purpose, but his object was not altogether, though it was in part, accomplished. The privilege was given to Manchester alone. It had been truly remarked by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Cardwell), that there was a wide distinction between seaports and inland towns, in as far as to the export of goods a bonding seaport was an indispensable necessity, whereas the advantage of bonding in an inland town was inconsiderable in comparison. He saw no inconsistency between the course which was then pursued, and that which his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was taking on the present occasion. His right hon. Friend had not stated that he was desirous of withdrawing from Manchester the advantages which accrued from inland bonding, but simply that if Manchester found it to her interest to continue to enjoy those advantages, she might do so upon terms which were favourable to the general security of the revenue. If Manchester really attached any importance to the privilege, he was surprised to find there should be any difficulty in providing for so small a sum as 2,700l. He thought that objections might justly be taken against the raising of the necessary funds by a borough rate; but another source of supply was fairly open to the inhabitants. A small rate might be levied on the goods actually warehoused, which would be paid only by those who availed themselves of the privilege of bonding, and he was informed that a very light rate would afford all that was required. He must deny that his right hon. Friend had thrown any undue obstacles in the way of the fulfilment of what had been promised to Manchester; and he considered that he was only doing his duty as Chancellor of the Exchequer in providing for the security of the revenue. He hoped that the House would see that the principle upon which his right hon. Friend had taken his stand could not be departed from without throwing open the door to the unlimited admission of inland towns to the privilege of bonding.


thought it unfair that Manchester should be called upon to pay all the expenses of the bonding system in that place, when the whole of the neighbouring district derived benefit from it. When Manchester originally took upon itself the burden, it was in the full confidence that the experiment would prove successful, and that when a liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer came into office he would relieve them from payment of the expenses. The success of the experiment had been most satisfactorily proved, and yet the Government refused to perform this act of justice. He did not see why particular towns should be called upon to pay for their bonding system, any more than for the post-office establishments erected within their bounds.


thought the question had been argued on far too narrow grounds. The question was whether the inland bonding system ought to be extended; and he should feel disposed, if the Motion were carried, to move an instruction to the Committee to that effect. The right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had failed to point out any mischief which had arisen from the existence of bonded warehouses at Manchester. Had Liverpool suffered from it? He was informed not. A very fair primâ facie case had been established, that the increase of consumption which had followed a more liberal system, had not entailed an increase of expense on the public. The very arguments used against the Motion, were a reason for appointing a Committee. It was said, that bonded warehouses ought to be confined to seaports. This might have been true when so much difficulty was found in moving goods from one place to another; but now that the transit was so easy and so safe, the argument fell to the ground. The inland bonding system was a great public advantage; and if it did entail some extra charge, the public would cheerfully pay it. But it would entail no extra charge, for expense must he incurred wherever the goods were lodged, whether at a port or inland. It was not often that he agreed with the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson); but, without pledging himself as to any particular line for the future, he would support him on the present occasion, being of opinion that he had made out a good case for inquiry—an inquiry which he (Mr. Spooner) thought should be extended far beyond the individual case of Manchester, and he would, with that conviction, vote for the Motion.


contended that, as Manchester was the capital of a large district, for the benefit of which it was necessary that a bonding establishment should be maintained, it was unfair that the inhabitants of Manchester should be made to bear the expense. The arrangement with Manchester was a temporary one, and an inquiry should be instituted with a view to a new and permanent settlement of the question.


considered it unfair that Manchester alone should be called upon to pay the expenses, while the district around it, comprising 1,000,000 of inhabitants, was equally benefited.


was surprised that the Gentlemen from Manchester should, for the paltry sum of 2,700l., think of throwing away all the advantages to the consumer which they admitted were derived from the system now in force.


, in reply, said, he wished it to be understood, that he had never said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge had expressed an opinion that the expenses of the establishment in Manchester should he defrayed by the State. On the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman said quite the reverse. In October, 1842, when waited upon by a deputation, he said, "all his other objections had passed away, and that it only remained for him to ascertain whether the necessary expenditure would be repaid by the advantages to the public." One of two things only could now happen, the liability of the Manchester corporation had passed away, and that the question now remained between the trade of the district and the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer. There must now be either a discontinuance of the system, or payment by the State; and he called upon the House to make inquiry before a decision was come to. He must say he was surprised that the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer should have been so bold as to take the whole responsibility upon himself, as he had seen the day when he would have been glad to share that responsibility with a Committee of the House.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 50; Noes 65: Majority 15.

List of the AYES.
Anstey, T. C. Humphery, Ald.
Best, J. Keating, R.
Blake, M. J. Keogh, W.
Brocklehurst, J. Kershaw, J.
Brotherton, J. Lacy, H. C.
Cobden, R. Legh, G. C.
Copeland, Aid. M'Gregor, J.
Crawford, W. S. Meagher, T.
Crawford, R. W. Muntz, G. F.
Duncan, G. Naas, Lord
Duncuft, J. O'Connoll, J.
Egerton, W. T. O'Connor, F.
Ellis, J. O'Flaherty, A.
Fox, W. J. Patten, J. W.
Frewen, C. H. Peel, F.
Geach, C. Pilkington, J.
Goold, W. Reynolds, J.
Greenall, G. Ricardo, O.
Greene, J. Smythe, hon. G.
Harris, R. Spooner, R.
Hastie, A. Thompson, Col.
Heald, J. Westhead, J. P. B.
Henry, H. Williams, W.
Herbert, H. A.
Heywood, J. TELLERS.
Hey worth, L. Gibson, T. M.
Hindley, C. Bright, J.
List of the NOES.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Halsey, T. P.
Baird, J. Hanmer, Sir J.
Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T. Hawes, B.
Bellew, R. M. Henley, J. W.
Bentinck, Lord H. Hodges, T. L.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Howard, Lord E.
Berkeley, hon. G. F. Hume, J.
Birch, Sir T. B. Johnstone, Sir J.
Boyle, hon. Col. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Brown, H. Lennox, Lord H. G.
Cardwell, E. Lewis, G. C.
Clay, Sir W. Martin, C. W.
Cockburn, Sir A. J. E. Matheson, Col.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Milner, W. M. E.
Craig, Sir W. G. Mulgrave, Earl of
Cubitt, W. Owen, Sir J.
Dawes, E. Paget, Lord C.
Drummond, H. Parker, J.
Dundas, Adm. Pugh, D.
Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D. Pusey, P.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Rice, E. R.
Evans, J. Russell, Lord J.
Evelyn, W. J. Salwey, Col.
Freestun, Col. Seaham, Visct.
Galway, Visct. Seymour, Lord
Gilpin, Col. Slaney, R. A.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Grey, R. W. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Stanley, E. Wilson, J.
Tanered, H. W. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Tenison, E. K. Wood, Sir W. P.
Thicknesse, R. A. TELLERS.
Vane, Lord H. Hayter, W. G.
Vivian, J. E. Hill, Lord M.