§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. THOMAS BARING
rose to move the Resolution of which he had given notice relative to the adulteration of Coffee. He said, that this subject had been under discussion so recently, that perhaps some apology was necessary for again bringing it under the notice of the House. After the very slight majority which the Government had obtained against him, after the opinions expressed in various quarters and from different parties in that House who were not unacquainted with the subject, and after the general manifestation of 1385 hostility by the public out of doors to a continuance of the system on the part of the Government for continuing these frauds, he was in hopes that the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer would have withdrawn that obnoxious Treasury Minute which was the only question at issue. The present was no party question. It would have been in a party sense no triumph to him (Mr. T. Baring) to have succeeded in his Motion, and it would have been no disgrace to the Government to have withdrawn the Treasury Minute. The Motion he now proposed was not linked with the fate of the Government. The withdrawal of a Treasury Minute would not shake the Treasury, and the power given to parties to sell chicory was not sought to be withdrawn. All that was asked was, that they should sell it for what it was on its real and genuine character, and not as coffee. He might be asked, why he again forced the discussion of this question on the House after a previous division, when the subject seemed almost exhausted, both as to its statistical details and in every other respect, except in the determined adherence of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer to his first opinion, after the representations of that portion of the commercial community which was concerned in the production and importation of coffee had been disregarded, and after the able speeches by which he had been supported on previous occasions. But the state of the case was this. By a Treasury Minute, the Excise officers were directed not to interfere with the mixture of chicory with coffee, and in consequence there existed at present no supervision or control whatever over the adulteration of coffee. It was now proposed that the House should go into Committee to consider the details of a great reduction in the duties on coffee, and the House was called upon to express an opinion that the reduction of duty would have the effect of cheapening the commodity to the consumer. Two questions thereupon naturally occurred. Was the reduction proposed a reduction of duty to such an extent as to prevent the future adulteration of coffee, to take away the temptation from the dealer, and to render inoperative the permission to adulterate coffee with all kinds of ingredients? If the proposed reduction of coffee were not to such an extent as to prevent adulteration, was it fair to those who produced and imported coffee, and who paid a duty of 50 per cent upon it, to place them in com- 1386 petition with dealers who paid no duty upon articles which passed current with the Treasury sanction as coffee? The duty upon coffee proposed by the Bill was 3d., and the duty upon foreign chicory was 3d., while the untaxed chicory grown at home could be brought into the market and sold at 4d. per lb. Now, when for 4d. per lb. you could buy a commodity and pass it off for coffee, which paid a duty of 3d., it was in vain to expect that a reduction of the duty to 3d. would prevent adulteration in coffee. Here, then, was a direct inducement to the dealer to adulterate his coffee with chicory. The value of coffee, ground for use, might be taken to be 10d. per lb. Chicory was the dearest commodity with which coffee could be adulterated. Beans and lupins were cheaper than chicory, while dog-biscuits, mahogany shavings, and tan, might be had for little or nothing. But without taking into consideration other adulterating substances, let them take the case of chicory. Chicory cost 4d. per lb., then half a pound of coffee at 5d., and half a pound of chicory at 2d., gave a pound of something which was sold for coffee, and which cost only 7d. This, be it observed, was a greater mixture of coffee than was generally sold by the fraudulent dealers, and hero was a mixture for 7d. when the article in a pure state cost 10d., which they were selling to the public at from 1s. 4d. to 2s. as "canister coffee" and "patent coffee. Now, did the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer think to put an end to adulteration of this nature by such a reduction of the duty on coffee as he proposed? If not, then came the question whether they would act fairly to the producers of coffee unless they took some means to put an end to these adulterations? The propriety of removing all protective duties, was a question wholly unconnected with the present Motion. The colonists, indeed, might say, that having taken away all protective duties from them, and having compelled them to enter into competition with the coffee-growers of other countries, it wos unfair to make them compete with untaxed chicory at home, which was sold as coffee by Government advertisement. The colonists might say, let the Government be fair one way or the other; and let them either tax chicory or take off the duty on coffee. He would advise neither. It would be too great a loss to the revenue to take off the duty on coffee at the present time, and he was opposed to laying a tax 1387 upon chicory. But if the Government did not allow tobacco to he grown in this country without taxing it as foreign tobacco—if they would not allow any saccharine matter resembling sugar to be sold without taxing it—then they ought not to allow an untaxed substitute for coffee to compete with an article that paid a high tax. It was not the colonists only, but the importers of foreign coffee, who might appeal to them on the ground of fairness and justice to prevent the encouragement of fraud. He did not wish to interfere with the growth of chicory at home, or to remove that protective duty which our agriculturists enjoyed as against the foreign chicory growth. Let chicory be grown and sold. All he said was, do not let it be sold for what it was not. It was no answer to tell him that adulterations in coffee existed before the Treasury Minute, and that adulterations would take place after it was withdrawn. He knew that the Government could not prevent fraud; but it was one thing to brand it with disgrace, and another to stamp it with legality; and it made all the difference with regard to the extent to which the practice might be carried. It was no answer, then, to say, that the withdrawal of the Treasury Minute would not prevent fraud; nor was it any answer to his Motion for the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that he wished to have no Excise interference. What was the difference between the Excise interference against the adulteration of tea, tobacco, and pepper, and the case of coffee? The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) advocated the removal of all this Excise interference. But how would he get his revenue? Let the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer remove the Excise interference with regard to tea, tobacco, and pepper, if he objected to Excise prosecutions for the adulteration of coffee; but let him be consistent, and not have one system for one article, and another system for another. As the case stood at present, they did not prosecute the man who adulterated coffee; but they did prosecute the parties who adulterated pepper, even though it might be with chicory. Coffee produced a large duty, diminished, indeed, on account of the system pursued by the Government, but still amounting to 600,000l. Therefore he conceived that, as a question of revenue, the Government were bound to adopt the same course upon coffee as when the Ex- 1388 cise found that sloe leaves were mixed with tea, rice with pepper, and molasses with beer. But then he was told that he proposed to interfere with the produce of the British soil, and to destroy a branch of industry that was remunerative to the agriculturist. He certainly did think that the agricultural interest had nothing to gain from any system which was not founded upon justice. It might as well be said that, because sloe leaves were the produce of the soil, they ought to be used in the adulteration of tea, as to say that chicory ought to be sold for coffee. There was one principle which the House ought to adopt with regard to the manufacturing, the commercial, and the agricultural classes, and that was to prevent and punish fraud, and to protect the honest dealer. And it was not the Government that ought to depart from that system. By the Treasury Minute only chicory was permitted to be mixed, but practically the officers of Excise were prevented from all interference with respect to any mixture. And so it must be; for if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he must have armies of excisemen in order to prevent the adulteration of coffee by chicory, it was clear that it would be as difficult to exercise any interference with respect to other articles. He presumed that it was upon some such ground that a Treasury Minute had not been issued to prevent the adulteration of coffee with other deleterious substances; and the warrant of the Treasury for not interfering with the mixture of chicory with coffee, was considered as a warrant for abstaining to interfere in cases of its adulteration with other things. The rich man might protect himself against these adulterations; but the masses of the consumers were not in the habit, and had not the ability, to lay in any stock, and the poorer classes only bought what they wanted, and when it was ready for use. They could not buy mills or roast the coffee, as they were advised by some persons to do, and they therefore required protection against the frauds and abuses of the unjust dealers. The right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer asserted that the mixture of chicory with coffee did not diminish the consumption of coffee, and that it was no injury cither to the producer, the importer, the revenue, or the consumer. Now he (Mr. T. Baring) wished to say that he was interested in the cultivation and importation of coffee, and 1389 therefore he would leave it to others to receive his opinions with such a degree of reserve as they might think necessary. But still he would remark that it was probable that those who had a personal interest in any topic that came under consideration would bring some information to the subject; and if all of those who were interested in the question of the consumption of coffee, wore importers both of foreign and colonial produce, and if they were unanimous in saying that this Treasury Minute had diminished the consumption of coffee, he thought that such a statement would go some way in corroborating the statistics that had been already quoted on the subject, and in refuting the assertion of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now he would state that the result of the continuance of that Treasury Minute of 1840 had been to produce a gradual but very large diminution in the consumption of coffee. On the 5th of January, 1851, the consumption of coffee was very little above what it was on the 5th of January, 1845, when the reduction of the duty first came into full operation, while there was every reason to suppose that there had been an increased consumption of other articles. Without troubling the House with any lengthened details, he would just take three separate periods at intervals of ten years from each other, when the consumption of coffee was as follows:—In 1830 the imports of coffee were 22,691,000 lbs.; in 1840, 28,722,000 lbs.; in 1850, 31,226,000 lbs. Up to 1840 the duty was on West India coffee, 6d. per lb.; on East India coffee, 9d. per lb.; and on foreign coffee, 1s. 3d. per lb. In 1850 the duty on East and West India coffee was 4d. per lb., and on foreign coffee, 6d. per lb. Here was an increase of 6,000,000 lbs. in 1840 over 1830, when there was no reduction of duty, and only an increase of 2,500,000 lbs. in 1850 over the period when a reduction of 50 per cent had taken place in the duty, and a diminution of 60 per cent on the bonding price. Those figures showed, if anything could, the reduction in the consumption of coffee. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not allege that the chock in the consumption was attributable to any want of prosperity on the part of that portion of the population who were the principal consumers of coffee, namely, the population of the large towns. They had been in a very prosperous condition, 1390 and yet year after year the consumption of coffee fell off. There was no reason for saying that the check in the consumption of coffee had arisen from the preference given for tea and cocoa. There had been a considerable increase, no doubt, in the consumption of tea; but the consumption of cocoa was very much what it was in 1847. Tea had increased, hut not out of proportion with the increase of the population, when they considered the reduction of the first cost, and the increased ability of consumption. But while with a high duty of 300 per cent on tea, the consumption was increasing, the consumption of coffee, upon which the duty had been reduced, had fallen off. It would be impossible to account for this, unless by the adulterations in the article of coffee. This was the case he offered, and the object of the Instruction to the Committee which he now moved, was not to go back to any stringent measure against the production or consumption of chicory, not to go back to that state of the law which prevented the dealer from having chicory in stock. He would leave him full liberty to sell either the one or the other article, but not to sell fraudulently the cheaper article under the name of the dearer article. He wished for no interference with trade; all he asked was that the Treasury should not stand godfather to the legal christening of chicory by the name of coffee. He did not wish to interfere between the dealer and the public. He did not understand why the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer objected to this, except that he might say he did not wish to interfere, or perhaps that it would lead to an increase in the number of excisemen; but he did not think that any such increase was necessary. The right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer said he was fortified in his opinion by a memorial signed by 3,682 retailers and grocers who were opposed to any change; copies of that memorial had been extensively circulated throughout the country, and in it was a passage to the effect that, should the Treasury Minute of 1840 be withdrawn, very great injury would be done to the retail trade, because the conscientious dealer would be prevented from selling coffee mixed with any other ingredient, while the unscrupulous dealer would continue to do so. But were those 3,682 persons conscientious or unscrupulous? If they were unscrupulous, what weight could be attached to their representations? He believed, however, 1391 that they were otherwise, and that they and the great body of the grocers in the country were highly respectable men, and that a mere intimation given to them that it was illegal to adulterate coffee, would lead to a cessation of the practice among the great mass of grocers, and that others would, either from shame or fear of the control of the Excise, soon follow the example. A great number practised this adulteration because they were told by the Treasury it was legal; and he knew many who had told him they had resisted the temptation because they could not reconcile it to their consciences to sell to their customers an article that was not genuine, and that it was only when ruin stared them in the face from the adoption of it by others that they had resorted to the practice. If the Minute were withdrawn, the poor man might still take what portion of chicory he pleased. Was it not consistent with common sense and justice to the producer, and equity to the consumer, to withdraw that Minute? He could not have any hostile feeling to the Minister who introduced it, for it was introduced under different circumstances, and he did not believe that any man would have done it if he had known the system of fraud to which it would lead. Believing that the course which he recommended would increase the consumption of coffee, as well as benefit the consumer, he begged to submit his Motion to the favourable consideration of the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision therein for preventing the mixture of chicory with coffee by the vendors of coffee.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was the last person who should attribute to his hon. Friend that he was influenced by any interest on his part in the importation of coffee. He gave him full credit for the motives which influenced him in bringing forward this Motion; but he certainly was a little surprised at a Motion of this kind. Mixtures of Various kinds took place in almost everything we ate and drank. But his hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon wished to go back to the system of interference by the Excise. In 1832 coffee-dealers were not allowed to have chicory in their possession. Between that period and 1840, they were allowed to 1392 have it on their premises, but not to mix it with coffee. But that was found so inconvenient, on account of the number of Excise prosecutions, that on a representation made to his right hon. Friend (Sir F. Baring), then Chancellor of the Exchequer, his right hon. Friend issued the Treasury Minute in question, and since then no such prosecution had taken place. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. Baring) said he did not mind the mixture of chicory with coffee, but that he objected to the mixture of other articles; nevertheless, what he asked was to prevent the mixture of chicory, and of chicory only, for the Minute referred to nothing else. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was of the opinion, so far as the question went between the consumer and the dealer, that the consumer ought to be left to take care of himself, because, if the article was bad, the dealer would lose his trade; if good, it would increase; and there were only two grounds upon which Government interference should take place, either that the article mixed was deleterious, or that the revenue was interfered with. Now, the hon. Gentleman said, that under the name of chicory deleterious articles were mixed with coffee; but from inquiry he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had made, he believed that that was not a general practice, and he found that those who dealt in coffee were very naturally indignant at the imputation they conceived was cast on their honesty, by its being said that other articles than chicory were mixed with coffee. He had only that morning received a letter from one of the largest firms in the metropolis dealing in coffee, and they said—We are prepared to prove that previous to the introduction of chicory a large portion of coffee that was sent us to roast was so offensive during the process of roasting that our men could scarcely bear themselves in the premises, and were compelled to leave and get into the air to recover themselves. What has become of all this trash now? Why, the trade will not buy it, and the importers do not send it. The trade can afford to give long prices for their coffee, and by buying fine chicory they can afford to give the working classes a better drinking article, and far more wholesome, than half the coffee that was sent into this country twenty or even fourteen years ago.As to any deleterious articles being mixed with coffee, he was as ready to prosecute as if the Treasury Minute did not exist; and how it could be supposed that because chicory was allowed to be mixed with coffee, other articles might also be mixed with it, he could not conceive. No doubt, with 1393 respect to articles on which a high duty-was imposed, as tobacco or tea, it was desirable to enforce the law against adulterations; but that was not so much for the protection of the consumer as for the revenue; and it was for the discretion of the authorities of that department to say whether they considered it necessary for the protection of the revenue to subject persons to the vexatious interference which always accompanied Excise prosecutions. He believed that in this case that interference would be greater and more vexatious than any advantage that would be gained by the withdrawal of the Minute. He would not follow the hon. Gentleman through his figures brought forward in proof of his assertion that the consumption of coffee had fallen off. No doubt that was true as to the last four years; but the consumption of coffee had materially increased within the last ten, and he thought that he had himself taken the best course, by the reduction of duty, to promote that consumption, though it might not utterly prevent fraud. His hon. Friend had referred to the memorial which had been signed by 3,682 grocers. Now, he knew that that had been signed by sixty-three in not a very large town in the West Riding of Yorkshire; but there were, in fact, 131,000 grocers in Great Britain licensed to deal in coffee, and every one of those persons might be subject to the supervision of the Excise if this Treasury Minute were withdrawn; and did his hon. Friend think it a light matter that they who had been for ten or eleven years freed from that supervision should now again be subjected to it? The hon. Member had said, and had said very truly, that some weight was due to the representations of those who were interested in this subject as coffee importers, because they could give information to the House upon it. He trusted, therefore, that the representations of the growers of chicory would have some weight also. Memorials had been addressed to him from Lincolnshire, Essex, and some parts of Yorkshire, all of which prayed that no interference might take place to prevent the sale of chicory. Only that morning he had had a letter from a most respectable person of Protectionist principles, in which he said—I believe I am one of the most extensive growers in this country. I hope it will be a sufficient apology for my troubling you on this subject. I believe there are 20,000 people engaged at this time in the necessary cleaning and culti- 1394 vation of this root, and I may add that this number, if not engaged in this, would be totally out of employ. I have nearly 300 people engaged at present; and we find, from the very circumstance of the growth of this plant, that the supply of labour is not equal to the demand; consequently an advance of wages is the result, and every labourer in the chicory districts is in full employ.In the great consuming districts the mixed article was preferred to the inferior coffee that was formerly sold. [Mr. CHISHOLM ANSTEY: No!] His hon. and learned Friend might not be of that opinion, but he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had abundant proof of it. It was remarkable that up to that moment not one complaint had been made by the coffee consumers. Having so recently addressed the House on this subject, he would not trespass longer on their attention; but he must observe upon the extraordinary course adopted on this occasion. They were now going into Committee on a Bill on the Customs duties, and his hon. Friend the Member for Huntington proposed to introduce a clause to be carried out by the Excise. That was a new practice. It was indeed altogether new, when the Government did not think it necessary to enforce any interference on their part, that they should be called upon to do so. He had heard complaints that the Government were not willing to give a free power of cultivation to the agriculturists of the country. If, then, the consumer now was prevented from having a cheap and wholesome beverage, and the producer was prevented from growing chicory, it would not be the act of the Government, but the hardship would be forced on the Government, unwilling and reluctant to interfere in a manner so injurious to the dealer, the grower, and the public.
§ MR. R. W. CRAWFORD
, as a commercial man, begged to express his entire concurrence in the Motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. T. Baring). Neither the growers of Ceylon, nor the importers of it into this country, nor even a considerable portion of the dealers, objected to the use of chicory as chicory; but their objections were confined entirely to the use of various substances for the employment of which the present system afforded such facilities to the unscrupulous dealers in the country. The mixture of coffee with chicory was forbidden by an express Act of Parliament; and yet the Government had taken upon themselves to suspend the operation of that Act, and thereby to enable the frauds to be practised of which 1395 they complained. Power was undoubtedly vested in the Government to initiate prosecutions or not, as the peculiar circumstances of each case might seem to justify; but he denied their right to issue Treasury Minutes the effect of which was to repeal an Act of Parliament. The whole of the substances which were used for adulterating coffee had not been enumerated; and, as many hon. Gentlemen were about to dine, he should be sorry to name them all. He had, however, in his pocket a sample of one of these ingredients, which was given to him as he came into the House, and he should be happy to show it to any hon. Gentleman who was curious on the subject. It was horse's blood. What, then, they protested against was that persons should be allowed to sell the poor man an article composed of horse beans, a little of coffee, a little of chicory, and a little of these filthy abominations. The poor man was often under pecuniary obligations to the proprietor of a shop, and could not defend himself from these frauds by removing his custom to another; and, therefore, it became the duty of hon. Members to protest in the strongest possible manner against the sale of these abominable and disgusting adulterations.
§ SIR JOHN TYRELL
said, when he had last addressed the House on this subject he had made some reflections, which were perhaps contrary to the rules of the House, upon the disinterestedness of the hon. Member who had introduced the Motion; and he deeply regretted that he could not remove that impression from his mind, notwithstanding the hon. Gentleman's straightforward disavowal. The hon. Gentleman had admitted that he was largely interested in coffee plantations in the island of Ceylon and the West Indies. [Mr. T. BARING: Not the West Indies.] He had certainly understood from the speech from the throne—from the commercial throne which the hon. Gentleman occupied in the City, that he was interested in plantations in the West Indies; but at all events the hon. Gentleman had recently by the fall of the hammer possessed himself of a valuable tract of country in Ceylon. A gentleman who at that moment was staying at his (Sir J. Tyrell's) house, had furnished him with the particulars. His friend had been an unfortunate speculator in coffee. About four years ago he was possessed of some 7,000l. or 8,000l., which he was persuaded to invest in a coffee plantation. He was unfortunate. The estate was brought to 1396 the hammer, and it passed to that great house, of which his hon. Friend (Mr. T. Baring) was so great an ornament. The estate was called Peradenia, and it was situated near Kandy. He (Sir J. Tyrell) would like to know when had arisen this now-born pious horror at chicory; for when the matter was first introduced into that House, scarcely four hon. Members know anything about it. There were at present 20,000 persons engaged in the production of chicory, and the cultivation of the root also gave employment to large numbers of persons in Essex, Sussex, and other districts. The cleaning, roasting, and preparation of this vegetable, grown upon a given quantity of land, afforded much more employment to the agricultural community than if the same quantity of land were devoted to cereal crops. One of the hon. Members for Suffolk having offered a prize at an agricultural meeting for the person who employed the greatest number of labourers, it was won by a chicory grower. He had in his hand a letter from a person who farmed 160 acres with chicory, and who in that cultivation employed thirty labourers; whereas, were the same quantity of land applied only to the cultivation of grain, it would employ only fourteen or fifteen labourers. He (Sir J. Tyrell) had seen the balance-sheet of another farmer who had expended 135l. 1s. 11d. in labour for the cultivation of the same root; and when so much capital had been invested in this way, what right had the planters of the West Indies to come there and brand the persons who grew chicory with encouraging the use of horses' blood? He should be happy to give them a hundredweight of genuine chicory if they could produce a hundredweight of the mixture they had described. No doubt it answered the hon. Gentleman's purpose very well to allege these adulterations as a reason for the Motion he had proposed; but the real grievance was, the coffee growers did not like the competition of chicory, and therefore they wanted the Treasury Minute to be altered. He (Sir J. Tyrell) had in his hand a letter, which he would read, and he hoped the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley) was in his place, for it would be seen that, like Cæsar's wife, he was not altogether above suspicion. [The letter spoke of the cry as having been got up by the coffee growers and merchants, and hinted that the Lancet might be in their pay.] With respect to the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer's remarks 1397 about the agricultural interest, they were of a nature they so seldom heard from the Government, that they wore quite refreshing. On a former occasion he had had to lament that the Government, with the exception of the late Attorney General, had no practical acquaintance with agriculture. It was true that the farmers had had the benefit of various lectures given them by a distinguished Member of the Government, the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. J. Wilson), in his very amusing newspaper; and he (Sir J. Tyrell) ventured to suggest that it might in future be worth the consideration of the Government whether the salaries of certain of their officers might not be paid by placing tracts of land at their disposal. These gentlemen might borrow money of the Government to drain this land; and their actual employment of capital, skill, and industry upon it, would probably render these instructive treatises on the subject of agriculture much more satisfactory. But to return to the subject of adulteration. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) had, perhaps, better get up a meeting in Exeter Hall, and by taking a high moral view of the question on the shocking immorality of mixing chicory with coffee, he might secure a greater number of votes, and at all events he would gain a great amount of the concentrated essence of prejudice. Seriously, it was most unfair to turn round in this sudden way upon a number of persons who had invested their capital upon what was now almost the only profitable branch of agriculture. It was true that they were only a small body, and that was perhaps the reason why hon. Gentlemen thought themselves entitled to trample upon them.
§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
said, the speech of the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Tyrell), though amusing, was entirely beside the question. Nobody wanted to interfere with the growth of chicory, or to prevent the agricultural mind from indulging in ingenious speculations on the culture of that root. All that was wanted was to prevent substitutes from being sold for things which they wore not, and for prices which, if offered fairly in the market, they would not fetch. Taking the value of chicory at 4d. per pound, was it fair or honest that it should be sold as coffee for 10d. or 1s. a pound? When the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer talked of the boon to the poor man, and all that subterfuge which he borrowed from his 1398 respectable friends the grocers, he (Mr. C. Anstey) should like to know who were the true friends of the poor man—those who would enable him to judge whether it was chicory or coffee that he was buying; or those who, like the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursued a policy which raised the price of chicory to the poor man, at the same time that it lowered the value of coffee to the planters. The only parties who benefited by that policy, were the grocers. There were about 3,000 grocers who bought the genuine article in the cheapest market, and adulterated it, and then sold it in the dearest market; and of course these parties would memorialise the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and say there was nothing but wisdom in the Treasury Minute of 1840. The result of the present policy would be that Government must take the duty off colonial coffee entirely. The necessity of this was beginning to be felt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer having proposed to reduce it by one half, Either they must do this, or revoke the objectionable Minute of the Treasury. The result of putting down the adulteration of tobacco had been a considerable increase of the duty. Though the Chancellor of the Exchequer refused to set in motion the Excise for the protection of coffee, he did not withhold this protection from tea; and the consequence had been, that the noxious article called "British leaf" had almost disappeared from the market. If the right hon. Baronet objected to enforcing excise regulations, let him repeal the coffee duty altogether. No change of the law was necessary; the two Acts of George III. and IV. were sufficient to secure all that was wanted. By those Acts a person who sold coffee could not sell chicory; a special license for the latter was required. The tobacco revenue was kept up by prosecutions of persons having in their possession materials for adulterating the genuine article. Why should not the same be done with regard to coffee? The law was perfectly easy of enforcement; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not shown the slightest reason for resisting the Motion. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it would be an unprecedented course if they introduced an Excise Clause into a Customs Bill; but he would remind the right hon. Gentleman of the precedent established by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goul- 1399 burn), in which an excise clause was so introduced to prevent the adulteration of tobacco. Excise regulations were applied to prevent adulteration in the cases of tea, pepper, and tobacco; and he did not sec why the same safeguard should not be applied in the ease of coffee. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had made a concession that day for the first time which he had never been able to extract from him before, for he had said that he had no objection to prosecute if it could be shown that something else than chicory was employed in the adulteration of coffee. The right hon. Gentleman might consult the different resolutions which he (Mr. Anstey) had moved during the last three years, and he would find that he had never used the name of "chicory," but mentioned the fraudulent admixture of vegetable substances. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would adopt one or other of the two alternatives he had stated—either to abolish the coffee duties altogether, and enable the coffee planter to compete with burnt bricks and red earth; or to adopt the suggestion of the lion. Gentleman opposite (Mr. T. Baring), and permit the Excise officers to do their duty.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, that, having been the author of the unfortunate Treasury Minute which had been so much objected to, he was anxious not to appear as one seeking to avoid his actual share of responsibility. The House had been given to understand, by the hon. and learned Member for Youghal (Mr. C. Anstey), that they had only to repeal that Treasury Minute, and then there would he no difficulty in preventing the present adulteration of coffee. He was sorry to say that ten years' experience respecting the case of tobacco, convinced him that the truth was entirely the reverse of that assertion. From 1832 downwards, the statements were, that the adulteration of coffee and tobacco had gone on to a great extent, and that the use of chicory had very much increased. This Treasury Minute was issued on the representations of the most respectable part of the trade, that the existing legislation was a punishment upon the honest dealer, and a protection to the dishonest dealer; and that whilst they themselves did not mix any chicory with their coffee, their neighbours did, and took away their trade from them thereby. The respectable part of the trade, whom he consulted, also declared, that the law was so inefficient, that if the whole of its pow- 1400 ers were put in force, they would still be inadequate to check the evil. The House was told that this was a question of public morality, and that great dishonesty was practised in the sale of mixtures called coffee. But if the purchasers were perfectly well aware of what they bought, he could not understand how there was any dishonesty in the matter. He was told that all the world knew of this mixture; and that the "Chancellor of the Exchequer's Mixture" was put up in the shops. In fact, the people knew far more about the matter than many imagined, and the price which they paid must prevent any mistake; and therefore no deceit was practised. If the hon. Member for Huntingdon was anxious by his present Motion to advance public morality, he (Sir F. Baring) could assure him that his object would not be gained by the mere repeal of the Treasury Minute. They would have to introduce a new system of Excise surveillance; and did they think that that was likely to render the people more moral? His unfortunate experience of the working of the Excise laws led him to believe that it would lead to evasions and frauds; and, believing the Motion to involve an unconstitutional principle, he hoped the House would reject it.
§ MR. HERRIES
assumed that, as the right lion. Gentleman (Sir F. Baring) was the author of the Treasury Minute in question, he had exhausted all the arguments which could be urged in its defence. And, after all, what had he said? All he had said was that with him it was a matter of necessity. But, he said, that if they now insisted in enforcing by means of the Excise a check on this fraudulent practice, they would increase immorality greatly by extending the Excise laws. The Government said they would not extend the operations of the Excise officer; but they allowed him to visit every grocer's shop for fraudulent mixtures of pepper and other articles, while coffee was to be left untouched. This was the first time he had heard the head of a department sanction the commission of fraud. A technical objection had been taken to the Motion on the ground that an Excise Clause was proposed to be introduced into a Customs Bill. But that was not correct. If the House should accede to the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. T. Baring), it would not follow I that Excise officers must of necessity be the persons employed, for it would be quite competent for the Treasury to employ the 1401 officers of the Customs if they should so please. The mixture was said to have been accepted by the public; but did they know of what it consisted—that it was only one-fourth coffee, and the other three-fourths chicory and various adulterations? He confessed he had never heard that the public were willing to have it, or that this celebrated "Chancellor of the Exchequer's Mixture" had been advertised. Such being the case, and the Motion of the hon. Member for Huntingdon not being inconsistent with the practice of the House, and being, moreover, calculated to prevent fraud, he would certainly give it his support.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, that however hon. Gentlemen might object to taking coffee before their dinner, he could not but feel that this was a question of great importance to the commerce of the country. A greater delusion had never been foisted upon the public than that relating to the alleged adulterations of coffee, which had been first hatched by the hon. and learned Member for Youghal (Mr. C. Anstey), and was now fathered by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring), and which had been so ably exposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Baring). The whole gist of the matter was, that hon. Gentlemen opposite called upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to violate a very important principle, and to interfere in all the petty details of commerce, instead of leaving them to the fair spirit of competition. The question had not been properly represented. The fraud, if any, was sanctioned by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Herries), who declared that the mixture consisted of only one-fourth part coffee; whereas they had it on unquestionable authority, from the most respectable members of the trade, that pure coffee formed 75 per cent of the mixture. He had been informed, by one highly respectable dealer, that, in consequence of the late representations about bullocks' blood, and so forth, a great demand had arisen for "Anstey's Pure;" but those who had tried it had come back in a fortnight, saying, "Let us have no more of this stuff, for which we pay 1s. 8d. a pound; give us the old 'Wood's Mixture' again at 1s." The Act of George III. had been referred to, and it was said its provisions should he enforced; but that Act related only to vegetable adulterations, and would not touch the case of bullocks' 1402 blood or horses' blood, supposing such adulterations really to be used. This he doubted; for the hon. Member for Fins-bury (Mr. Wakley), who had written a great deal on this subject, and done more to damage the grocers than any other person, had never mentioned bullocks' blood or horses' blood as an adulteration. [An Hon. MEMBER: Horse beans, not horses' blood.] He supposed that adulterations of this kind existed only in the lively imagination and maiden zeal of the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. R. W. Crawford), who dwelt on them with such unction, that he (Mr. B. Osborne) expected that, as the hon. Member had stated that he had some of the article in his pocket, he was about to throw it, as Mr. Burke did the dagger, on the floor of the House, so as to flash conviction into the minds of the most incredulous. This the hon. Gentleman had not done. The fact was, such articles were never used for adulterating coffee, for a very simple reason—chicory was much cheaper. Much stress had been laid on the fact, that the quantity of coffee entered for home consumption had decreased of late years; but what was the case as to tea and cocoa? They had very largely increased; and, taking the three articles together, tea, coffee, and cocoa, there had been an increased consumption, in the last two years, of 2,609,804 pounds. The revenue derived from those three articles had increased, in a very short period, 1,355,648l. This was a very important question for Ireland, where the consumption of coffee, he knew from occasionally residing there, was rapidly extending; and he should have called on the hon. and learned Member for Youghal (Mr. Anstey) to resist this Motion; but probably he did not care much for Ireland, as it was not likely he would sit for an Irish borough again. No doubt the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward the Motion was actuated by the purest motives; but there were parties behind—the large consignees of tea and coffee—who would have 25 per cent added to the value of their stock if this Motion were carried, and chicory withdrawn from the market; and many, he (Mr. B. Osborne) knew, were speculating for the rise at the present moment. Let not the House be made a tool for a commercial operation. By resisting this Motion, they would not only be marching under the direction of right principles, but would give greater satisfaction to the body of the people.
§ MR. GRANTLEY BERKELEY
said, 1403 the question before the House was whether the Government would sanction a fraud on the community or not. They were told that chicory was instrumental in increasing the export of coffee from their colonies. Now, he could prove the contrary. He held in his hand a document to which he was anxious to invite the attention of Government, because it was a report made by one of their own Commissioners, appointed to report on the state of British Guiana, as regarded its exportation. He was anxious that the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies should account for the non-production of so important a document, which should have long since been in possession of the House. The present condition of British Guiana, as compared with what it was in 1829—according to the report which he had mentioned—was melancholy in the extreme as regarded the produce of coffee and sugar, owing to the premature apprentice system. The exports of coffee, instead of increasing, had decreased to the amount of 800,000l. in the short space of four months. Now, what he wished to have done was that everything should be sold in its own name, and not forced on the community who did not bargain for such. The same policy that had brought ruin on the colonies, was bringing it on the mother country also; and unless they stood together to check it, the present state of things would end in the ruin of the community. Therefore he hoped the House would support the proposition of the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring), and so put an end to gross fraud and dishonesty.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, the question before the House was in reality this—shall the Government of England sanction a practice of this kind, and will the House of Commons declare its approbation? Whether chicory were an unhealthy root or not, was not the question—the question was, shall the Government, which dares on certain occasions to institute prosecutions for adulteration, give its sanction to adulteration for a purpose not explained? Believing the practice of adulteration in this case, as well as in others, to be most unjust, immoral, and injurious to the character of the Legislature of this country, he, for one, should give a most cordial vote in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for Huntingdon. He understood that before he came down to the House certain allusions had been made in the course of 1404 this debate, to himself; he thought he saw the hon. Baronet the Member for North Essex (Sir J. Tyrell) in his place, and he understood the remarks to have come from him. He was told that the hon. Baronet had received a letter from somebody whom he did not name.
§ MR. WAKLEY
It is queer writing; the writer seems to have a twist in his hand as well as in his head. "The row against chicory," said the writer, "has, I have no doubt, been got up by the coffee merchants and brokers, and it is not impossible that the Lancet and other publications are in their pay." Well, now he must say that the practice on the part of the Government of sanctioning adulteration was calculated to have an injurious effect on the morals of the people; it had even extended to the hon. Baronet the Member for North Essex. That hon. Baronet at one time was esteemed and respected as a noble-hearted, very droll, but straightforward and honourable man. But see the extraordinary effect produced on him by the practices of Government; he did not hesitate to read a letter in that House containing odious and scandalous imputations of this kind. The hon. Baronet had not road the name of the slanderer; he (Mr. Wakley) had got it in his hand; but if the hon. Baronet was acquainted with a single fact or circumstance which would justify him in conveying such an insinuation to the House and the country as he had done, he ought to have stated it. In former times, before he was reduced to his present wreck of morality, the hon. Baronet would have stood boldly forward in the face of that House, and named the party who made the accusation. But now it seemed that the hon. Baronet—an English country gentleman—notwithstanding the former attributes of his character, was sunk to such a degraded level, that he could make these insinuations. The fact was, that if he (Mr. Wakley) were guilty of the misconduct insinuated in this letter, he was unfit to have a seat in that House, and unfit to be a member of society. Throughout the whole of these proceedings, he could assure the House, and he trusted the hon. Baronet would take his word for it, that he had been solely influenced by public grounds and considerations, without regard to any individual feeling or consideration whatever. He could assure the hon. Baronet, and he 1405 hoped he should be believed when he said so, that out of that House he was not acquainted with a single coffee merchant or broker, nor had he had private communications with any one. What he had done had been induced by the conviction that the public health had been greatly damaged by the adulteration practised in this article. He trusted he should be allowed to add, that if he had said anything that could hurt the feelings of the hon. Baronet, he begged at once to recall it. Nothing could be further from his intention than to cast any imputation upon the hon. Baronet, and he entertained the greatest respect for his personal character.
§ SIR JOHN TYRELL
, in explanation, assured the hon. Member for Finsbury that, in reading the extract from the communication he had received, he did not mean seriously to convey any insinuation against him. He entirely acquitted that hon. Gentleman of being influenced by the motives imputed to him. But when motives were bandied about from all quarters against the chicory supporters, he thought he would just read a part of one communition he had received; but in so doing he had furnished the hon. Gentleman against whom it was directed with the communication from which he made the extract.
§ MR. HUME
said, he would only refer for one moment to the Treasury Minute which the Goverment was called upon to rescind. The Minute in question was issued for the purpose of putting a stop to harassing prosecutions on the part of the Excise against the sellers of chicory and coffee. On the 4th of August, 1840, an application was made to the Treasury respecting a prosecution against certain parties resident in Liverpool, who sold coffee and chicory. The Treasury was of opinion that those prosecutions were unwise, and should be dropped, because coffee mixed with chicory paid the Excise duty, and the revenue was in no wise injured. So long as this was the case, he thought the Government had acted wisely, and that an Excise officer had no right to interfere between the seller and the consumer.
§ MR. CAYLEY
said, his constituents in the North Riding of Yorkshire were chicory growers to a largo extent. They had been induced to grow that crop because they found that nothing else would pay since the repeal of the corn laws, and he felt hound to defend their interests. It had been said that on this occasion the agricultural party should not be divided, and he 1406 trusted they would not he induced to speculate on the chance of defeating Ministers.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 122; Noes 199: Majority 77.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Keating, R.|
|Aglionby, H. E.||Knox, Col.|
|Bagot, hon. W.||Lacy, H. C.|
|Bailey, H. J.||Lawless, hon. C.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Legh, G. C.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Lennox, Lord A. G.|
|Bass, M. T.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Bateson, T.||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Beresford, W.||Lockhart, W.|
|Berkeley, hon. G.F.||Lowther, H.|
|Blandford, Marq. of||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Macnaghten, Sir E.|
|Bremridge, R.||Meagher, T.|
|Brooke, Lord||Mahon, Visct.|
|Bunbury, W. M.||March, Earl of|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Masterman, J.|
|Chandos, Marq. of||Matheson, A.|
|Chatterton, Col.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Meux, Sir H.|
|Child, S.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Cocks, T. S.||Moffatt, G.|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Morgan, O.|
|Conolly, T.||Naas, Lord|
|Corbally, M. E.||Napier, J.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Neeld, J.|
|Cubitt, W.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Currie, H.||O'Ferrall, rt. hon. R.M.|
|Disraeli, B.||Peto, S. M.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Powlett, Lord W.|
|Duncan, G.||Reid, Col.|
|Duncuft, J.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|East, Sir J. B.||Richards, R.|
|Ellice, E.||Sandars, G.|
|Forbes, W.||Seaham, Visct.|
|Galway, Visct.||Smith, J. A.|
|Gilpin, Col.||Smollett, A.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Somerset, Capt.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Spooner, R.|
|Granger, T. C.||Stuart, H.|
|Grattan, H.||Sullivan, M.|
|Grogan, E.||Taylor, T. E.|
|Gwyn, H.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Thornhill, G.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Hall, Col.||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Hallewell, E. G.||Urquhart, D.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Hastie, A.||Villiers, hon. F. W. C.|
|Heald, J.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Herries, rt. hon. J. C.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Waddington, D.|
|Higgins, G. G. O.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||Wakley, T.|
|Hill, Lord E.||Welby, G. E.|
|Hodgson, W. N.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Hope, Sir J.||Yorke, hon. E.T.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Baring, T.|
|Jones, Capt.||Anstey, T. C.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||French, F.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Freshfield, J. W.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Bailey, J.||Gooch, E. S.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Greenall, G.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F.T.||Grenfell, C. W.|
|Bellow, R. M.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Bennet, P.||Grey, R.W.|
|Berkeley, Adm.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Bernal, R.||Guest, Sir J.|
|Blake, M. J.||Hallyburton, Lord J. F.|
|Booker, T. W.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Harris, R.|
|Boyd, J.||Hatchell, rt. hon. J.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Hawes, B.|
|Broadley, H.||Headlam, T. E.|
|Brockman, E.D.||Heathcote, Sir G. J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Heneage, E.|
|Brown, H.||Henry, A.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Heywood, J.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Heyworth, L.|
|Butler, P. S.||Hobhouse, T. B.|
|Cabbell, B. B.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Campbell, hon. W.||Hope, H. T.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Hotham, Lord|
|Cayley, E. S.||Howard, Lord E.|
|Cholmeley, Sir M.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Howard, P. H.|
|Christy, S.||Hudson, G.|
|Clay, J.||Hume, J.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Humphery, Ald.|
|Clements, hon. C. S.||Hutchins, E. J.|
|Cobden, R.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.||Kershaw, J.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Kildare, Marq. of|
|Colvile, C. R.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Langston, J. H.|
|Craig, Sir W. G.||Lawley, hon. B. R.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Lemon, Sir C.|
|Currie, R.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Loch, J.|
|Davies, D. A. S.||Lushington, C.|
|Dawes, E.||Mackie, J.|
|Dawson, hon T. V.||M'Gregor, J.|
|Decdes, W.||Mangles, R. D.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hon. C.T.||Marshall, J. G.|
|Divett, E.||Martin, J.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Martin, C. W.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Duff, J.||Milner, W. M. E.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Duncombe, T.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Moncrieff, J.|
|Dunne, Col.||Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.|
|Ellis, J.||Mulgrave, Earl of|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Murphy, F. S.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Newport, Visct.|
|Evans, J.||Norreys, Lord|
|Evans, W.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Evelyn, W. J.||O'Connor, F.|
|Ewart, W.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Fergus, J.||Ord, W.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Osborne, R.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Owen, Sir J.|
|FitzPatrick, rt. hon. J.W.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Parker, J.|
|Forster, M.||Patten, J. W.|
|Fox, W.J.||Pechell, Sir G. B.|
|Freestun, Col.||Pendarves, E. W. W.|
|Perfect, R.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Pigot, F.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Pilkington, J.||Staunton, Sir G. T.|
|Pinney, W.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Plowden, W. H. C.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Ponsonby, hon. C. F. A.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Power, Dr.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Pugh, D.||Thompson, Col.|
|Pusey, P.||Thornely, T.|
|Rawdon, Col.||Towneley, J.|
|Ricardo, O.||Traill, G.|
|Rice, E. R.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Rich, H.||Trevor, hon. T.|
|Robartes, T. J. A.||Tuffnell, rt. hon. H.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Romilly, Col.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Wall, C. B.|
|Russell, F. C. H.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Salwey, Col.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Scholefield, W.||Westhead, J. P. B.|
|Scobell, Capt.||Wilcox, B. M.|
|Scrope, G. P.||Williams, W.|
|Seymour, Sir H.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Seymour, Lord||Wilson, J.|
|Smith, rt. hon. R. V.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Smith, J. B.||Wood, Sir W. P.|
|Smyth, J. G.||Wyld, J.|
|Somers, J. P.||TELLERS.|
|Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Spearman, H. J.||Hill, Lord M.|
§ House in Committee; Mr. Bernal in the Chair.
§ Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
§ Clause 8.
§ MR. HERRIES
said: I am desirous of knowing from the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he intends to make any alteration in the Timher Duties. From all parts of the country I have received very strong remonstrances on the suhject. The shipowners of the city of London, whose petition I had the honour to present, give the strongest reasons for not making alterations in the Timber Duties in the manner in which it is proposed to make them. If the Committee will bear with mo for a few moments, I think I can satisfy them that by it a great injury would he inflicted both on the shipping as well as on the colonial interest. It may he remembered, that in 1846, an adjustment was made of the Timber Duties, in order to establish what should be considered as perfect free trade between Canadian and the Baltic interests. The distinctive duties put on had reference to the difference of freight between the Baltic and our North American possessions. And the difficulty in making an adjustment was to allow for the differences arising from the trading between England and those places, and to fix the amount of compensation. The differential duty was, I think, 30s. as regarded the one, and 14s. as to the 1409 other. The difference of freight at that time was, if I remember correctly, 27s. or 28s., as compared with 14s. and 15s. These differences in freight formed the only ground for the differential duty, and yet it is now proposed to abolish that compensating difference, and to put the Colonial and Baltic trade on terms, not of relative (as it ought to be), but of abstract equality. This has been urged by the petitioners to whom I have referred, as most unjust; and I must own that to me it seems to be so. I am not, however, prepared with any specific amendment, nor is it my intention to divide the Committee on the clause; but I am most desirous of hearing what the right hon. Gentleman has to say upon the subject. I have no doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer has himself received many remonstrances on the subject, and he may perhaps be able to state how it is that, notwithstanding these remonstrances, he thinks it right to persevere in his plan for an entire levelling of the duties, and how he can reconcile perfect equality of duty with the arrangement which was on a former occasion thought equitable as between our Colonies and their Baltic competitors. Baltic shippers have now so decided an advantage over ours, that I am informed, by those immediately concerned in the trade, that foreign ships that had been formerly engaged in the Baltic trade, are now chartered to bring timber from Canada, because they can do so at a lower rate of freight than our own. This is, at all events, a subject of great importance, and ought to receive the serious attention of the Government, especially as their plan would seem to be a reversal of the regulations established in 1846, giving a decided advantage to foreigners over our Colonial timber growers. I hope that I shall receive some explanation from the right hon. Gentleman, more satisfactory than any I have yet heard, in or out of this House, on the subject. I am not myself ready with any specific proposition; but the question is undoubtedly one of the greatest importance. I hope, in a short time, to be able to call the attention of this House to the present state of our shipping interest; and, in the subject I shall then bring forward, this portion of our trade will necessarily form a part. I shall then have any opportunity of stating, more at length, some of the reasons which induced me to call the attention of the House to the extreme impolicy and injustice of adopting the course recommended 1410 by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer. At present, however, I can only ask for an explanation from the Government, to which, on behalf of those whose interests I advocate, I conceive I am entitled.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought he would best consult the wish of the Committee—and he hoped of his right hon. Friend—if he now refrained from entering generally into the question of the navigation laws. When his right hon. Friend brought that question before the House, it would be the duty of himself or of his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to show why the Government most widely differed from his opinion, and to prove that, so far from the repeal of those laws having been injurious to the shipping interests, they had been benefited by such repeal, and that the country at large had from that measure obtained great benefits. The opinion of the right hon. Gentleman was, no doubt, entitled to great weight. He did not propose, however, to enter into any specific opposition to the present Motion, but merely asked for an explanation of the views of the Government. Now, the Resolution for the reduction of the timber duties having passed through a Committee of the whole House without any opposition being offered to it, he had felt himself authorised to allow the reduction to take effect at once (the parties introducing timber at the reduced duties, of course giving a bond for the payment of the higher ones should the reduction not be ultimately assented to), and he thought it would be a great hardship if the Committee now refused to sanction the reduction, when transactions involving duty to the amount of 100,000l. had been entered into upon the faith that it would take place. He never understood that the Act of 1846 was to be considered a final settlement of the timber duties. He had always been of opinion that, when a further opportunity offered, it would be right and just to reduce, as far as possible, the duties upon that raw material so extensively used by the body of consumers in this country in building, and in manufactures. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) said, that the measure of 1846 was a fair settlement between the colonial and the foreign producer, and therefore ought not to be disturbed. But the fact was, that the import of foreign as compared with colonial woods showed that foreign wood (to use a sporting phrase) had been 1411 a little over-weighted; for whereas, if they had been put upon an equality, they might have been expected to increase or fall off in the same degree, the fact was that the importation of foreign timber had considerably fallen off, and that of colonial woods had largely increased. He had with him a circular of one of the largest timber dealers in this city, addressed to the trade, and from which he would read a few words. It appeared that, though of course the producer, if he had a large stock on hand, got a certain benefit at first, yet that upon the whole the consumer was deriving, as nearly as might be, the full benefit of the reduction of duty. Messrs. Churchill and Lewis stated—In our market for colonial wood we cannot at present trace any visible effect by the change of foreign duty" [the protecting duty]. "Pine woods having been brought down below the producing rate, and being in a great measure free from the influence of Baltic competition, we think their lowest price will have been seen this spring. We have yet to see what is the capability of increasing the supply of foreign white wood to interfere with the great spruce trade of British America, still inclining to believe that any marked demand in Norway, at Gottenburg, or in Russia, for white-wood deals, would so far augment the shipping price as to leave colonial timber cheaper. It is evident that the reduction of foreign duty will stimulate consumption, and its effect will not be limited to foreign wood, but carry with it a fair share of cheap colonial wood also.The result, then, of the alteration was, that the consumer had pretty nearly already the full advantage of the reduction of the duty, and that the colonial trade had not suffered by the reduction of the duty on foreign timber; indeed, the two differed considerably, and did not very much compete with one another. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) had stated truly that the benefit of the shipping interest was one consideration which weighed with him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) in making this proposal, though at the same time there were other considerations, such as cheapening the price of buildings; and he had been told by a great builder that the reduction of the price of timber had made already, in building a house, the whole difference of the price of the roof.
§ MR. MITCHELL
said, that the reduction in the price of Baltic timber since the alteration of the duty was 10s., whereas the duty taken off was only 7s. 6d. Consequently the public got more than the full reduction of duty. The import of Canadian timber had rather increased than di- 1412 minished since the reduction, for Canadian timber was used for purposes totally different from foreign timber. The latter was chiefly used in situations exposed to the weather, whereas the former was used in the interior of buildings; so that, in fact, the use of the one, so far from restricting, rather promoted, the use of the other. He did not believe the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) represented the majority of the shipping interest in this country, which he (Mr. Mitchell) thought was generally in favour of a reduction of the duty on foreign timber. He believed the right hon. Gentleman put forward the case not of the shipping interest generally, but of a few great shipowners, and that a shipowner in Glasgow, who had made a colossal fortune from building a fleet of ships in Canada, was the principal opponent to the reduction, fearing that if the price of Baltic timber were reduced, ships would be so cheaply built in this country that they would compete in price of construction with those built in Canada. Arrangements had been made upon the faith of the reduction which had taken place, and transactions had been entered into by merchants to an extent involving 100,000l. of revenue: all this had been done on the faith of an unopposed Resolution of the House of Commons. It would therefore be little short of swindling those merchants to follow the course desired by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) and his party. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman oppose the Resolution in the first instance, and not defer his opposition until all these extensive engagements were entered into on the part of the merchants of this country.
§ MR. HERRIES
must protest against the idea that lion. Gentlemen on that side of the House were sanctioning swindling.
§ MR. HERRIES
The hon. Gentleman has totally misapplied his harsh language; and as for the great shipbuilder in Glasgow, of whom he speaks, I am not aware that I received any communication whatever from him. The communications to which I have alluded are from Sunderland, Liverpool, and all parts of the country, and not confined to a few places or a few persons. I can only say that there are very respectable witnesses on this side of the question. The right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, has not answered my observations with re- 1413 spect to the equality of Baltic and Canadian timber.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had already explained that he did not think colonial and foreign timber were put on a footing of equality by the arrangement of 1846, because the importation of foreign timber had fallen off. He could not think it right to impose duties with the view of countervailing freight in the case of timber from Canada, any more than in the case of coffee from Java, or of sugar from Brazil.
§ MR. WAWN
had not to find fault with the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer for reducing the duty on timber, but could not understand why the right hon. Member for Stamford, as a friend to the shipping interest, objected to the reduction. [Mr. HERRIES: Not a bit.] The whole gist of the right hon. Gentleman's argument was that he found fault with the Chancellor of the Exchequer for proposing this reduction. There was one point, however, to which the attention of the Government ought to he directed. Why should vessels built in the Baltic of duty-free timber be allowed, on coming to this country, to have the benefit of the British register? A vessel had arrived at South Shields, which had been built in the Baltic of duty-free timber; but she came here to contend on equal terms with vessels built of duty-paid timber.
§ MR. HUME
said, he thought it was part of the agreement of 1846 that justice should he done to our shipowners and shipwrights. He regretted that a single foreign ship should be allowed to come in under the circumstances which at present existed. Ships were now built in the Baltic, and the moment they arrived here they obtained a British register. He thought the reduction of the duty ought not to be only for the advantage of the foreigner. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) when he intended to bring forward his Motion with respect to the navigation laws, for he thought that a discussion on that subject would be the means of removing many mistakes which existed at the present moment in reference to the operation of those laws. The Government was destroying the coasting trade in consequence of not relieving them from the duties for the support of light-houses, which were so very heavy. He was sorry to say that he could not get the Board of Trade to move on this subject.
The MARQUESS of GRANBY
Mr. Bernal, I beg to remind the Committee that the agreement with our colonists in 1846 was, that the changes then made should be a final one; but that that principle has been departed from, I infer from the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for he now says that he cannot deny that there is a difference in the freight of Canadian and Baltic timber. I say there has been a departure from the principle laid down in 1846. I believe that in Canada they are debating whether they ought not to impose a high duty on American produce, in consequence of the Americans not having reduced their tariff. I cannot allow this Bill to proceed without entering my protest against the injustice which I think we are inflicting on our colonists.
§ MR. CARDWELL
thought it very undesirable that there should be any doubt as to what was done in 1846. The principle then established was that the law applied to corn should be applied to timber also; that is, that we, the empire of Great Britain and Ireland, should consult our own convenience and advantage, and that exclusively, with reference to imports from foreign countries. From that period the duties on the raw materials of manufactures had been reduced, on silk, cotton, flax, and the like; the duty on glass had been removed. All articles necessary for native manufacture came into this country free. The object was to encourage native industry by placing the raw materials of manufacture within reach of the native manufacturer at the lowest possible price. The duty on one article alone remained, namely, on timber. A great advance was made in the reduction of that duty in 1846, and the reason why it was not then still further reduced was that owing to the nature of the supply of timber which came down the rivers falling into the Baltic, the advantage, if the duties were reduced more rapidly, would go into the pocket of the foreign producer, and not into that of the consumer. He presumed that was also the reason why the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer only now proposed a reduction of 7s. 6d. in the duty. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Hear, hear!] No doubt, in the first instance, even this reduction would go partly into the pocket of the producer; but that was no argument, in the long run, against the remission of all duties which pressed upon the raw material of our manufactures. At 1415 present a ship was the only article that could be imported into this country duty free, while the raw material from which it was manufactured still continued to pay duty, and the shipwrights were thus exposed to a disadvantage which applied to no other manufacture, and one to the removal of which he thought they were called upon to contribute by passing that Bill.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that since the Resolution had been adopted in Committee, the scale of duties had been altered so as to suit more fully the convenience of the timber dealers, but the same amount of duty would be raised as he had originally estimated.
§ MR. CARDWELL
would suggest that lancewood poles, which were employed in various delicate parts of different manufactures, and gave rise to a considerable employment of labour, while they paid but a small amount of duty, should partake of the entire remission of duty which had been extended to furniture woods with such good effect.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the subject had only been mentioned to him a few days ago, and he had not had time to consider it; but his present impression was in favour of the retention of the duty, which was only a low one, and did not practically interfere with the use of the article. He would, however, consider the question before the bringing up of the Report.
§ MR. BAILLIE
said, he must protest against the assumption that the maintenance of the present Timber Duties would benefit the agricultural interest. Native timber was never so unsaleable; and it was remarkable that while almost every other article had risen in price during the last 100 years, native timber had fallen considerably.
§ MR. HERRIES
said, that the object of the Motion of which he had given notice, and to which the lion. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had adverted, was not to obtain the re-enactment of the Navigation Laws, but to procure some relief for the interest which he conceived had been injured by their repeal.
§ Clause agreed to; as well as the Preamble.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported as amended.