§ MR. ANDERSON
rose, pursuant to notice, to call the attention of the House to the differential duties levied on British ships in the ports of Spain. Having first presented a petition on the subject from merchants and shipowners of London, the hon. Member was proceeding to explain his views upon the question, when he was interrupted by
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that that depended on whether the hon. Member for Orkney intended to conclude with a Motion for leave to bring in a Bill. If he did, then the suggestion of the hon. Member for Montrose was a correct one; if not, it would not be necessary.
§ MR. M. GIBSON
wished also to ask another question, as to a point of order in connection with this subject. The hon. Mover, he said, wished to increase duties; but if so, ought he not, in accordance with the rules of the House, to be in a position to say that he had the assent of the Ministers of the Crown to the introduction of the Motion—that was, provided he was going to proceed by an Address to the Crown?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, if the hon. Member meant to propose increased taxation, that should be done in a Committee of the whole House, but it was not necessary that he should have the recommendation of the Crown; but for an increase of the estimates 661 it was necessary to have that recommendation.
§ MR. ANDERSON
then proceeded with his argument, contending that the subject was one of very considerable national importance. Differential duties, he might state at the outset, were not duties imposed for the purpose of revenue, but to secure a monopoly of the carrying trade to the ships of the country imposing such duties, and consisted of higher rates of duty levied on goods when imported or exported in foreign ships, than when imported in the ships of such country, with the object of excluding foreign ships from participating in its carrying trade. Spain had carried this exclusive policy to a much greater extent than any other country in the world; and while we have been relaxing our navigation laws in favour of her shipping, she has been proceeding in a directly opposite course in regard to our shipping, until at last her differential duties had driven British shipping to a large extent out of the trade with Spain and her dependencies. Not only the shipowners, but the merchants connected with Spain, had for many years felt this aggressive and obstructive policy of Spain towards British navigation and trade to be a serious grievance, for the removal of which they had a right to call for the interposition of the British Government. Numerous representations to that effect had been from time to time made to the Government, but without effect, and they considered that the time had arrived when Spain ought to be made to feel that she can no longer be permitted to pursue this hostile course of policy with impunity. He would, by a statement of some facts, contrast, somewhat in detail, the treatment of British vessels in Spanish ports with the treatment of Spanish vessels in British ports, as stated in the petition he had presented. From the year 1824, when the relaxation in our navigation laws, made by the late MR. Huskisson, took effect, Spanish vessels had been admitted to import goods from Spain into the ports of this kingdom, on the same terms in respect to the duties on such goods as British vessels; and since the 1st January, 1850, under the provisions of the last Navigation Act, the whole carrying trade of the world with this country bad been thrown open to Spanish vessels on precisely the same terms as to British vessels. But what had been the conduct of Spain towards British vessels during this long 662 period? Why, she had imposed such heavy additional duties on goods imported into Spain or the Spanish colonies in British vessels, although such goods might be the produce of the united kingdom, as almost to prohibit the employment of British vessels in the trade with Spain. The hon. Member then read extracts from the last Spanish tariff, and stated from it a few items of these differential duties. Salt dried fish, an article of large import into Spain, and chiefly from Newfoundland and other British fisheries, if imported into Spain in a British vessel, paid about 3l. 5s. per ton duty more than if imported in a Spanish vessel. Cinnamon and cloves, about 10l. additional duty. Pepper, tobacco, linen and cotton goods, were charged with equally high duties. And, as a general rule, the tariff imposed about one-third increase on the ordinary rates of duty, if the goods were imported in a British ship. These additional rates of duty operated as an almost entire exclusion of British shipping from carrying such goods to Spain, because were a British shipowner to offer to carry the goods even for nothing, the additional duties which the merchant exporting them would have to pay in Spain made it more advantageous for him to hire a Spanish ship even at an enormously high rate of freight, rather than send his goods in a British ship freight free. An instance of the operation of these duties might be now seen in the port of London, where, of twenty-three vessels loading for various ports of Spain, nineteen wore Spanish, and only four were British. If they went to the important colonies of Spain, such as Cuba and the Philippines, the same exclusive system prevailed in equal if not greater force. If a British ship imported goods into Ha-vannah, they had to pay from 24 to 30 per cent of duties; whereas, if the same goods were imported in a Spanish vessel, they only paid from 17 to 21 per cent, being a difference of from 7 to 9 per cent ad valorem in favour of the Spanish vessel. Again, on exportation, if sugar or other produce of Cuba was exported in a British vessel, it paid 6¼d. per cent duty; but if exported in a Spanish vessel, it paid only 4½ per cent, or, if destined for a Spanish port, only 2½ per cent. The tonnage duty, also, on a British ship at Havannah was a dollar and a half, equal to 6s. 6d. sterling; whereas, on a Spanish vessel, it was only five reals, equal to 2s. 6d. per ton, giving an advantage of 4s. per ton to the Spanish 663 ship over the British ship. At Manilla a similar system prevailed. The duty levied there on goods imported in a British vessel was 14 per cent ad valorem, and on a Spanish vessel only 7 per cent, British vessels being shut out from the trade with this important place by the imposition of a double duty. He would now proceed to show to the House some of the effects of this restrictive policy on the part of Spain on the shipping and trading interests of this country. And, first, with regard to the trade between the united kingdom and Spain. The current rates of interest at present, from London to Bilboa, was about 2l. per ton by a Spanish vessel. By a British vessel it was only 1l., or half that which the Spanish vessel obtained; and, even at that rate, British vessels were seldom employed, and only for the conveyance of goods of low value, and subject to low rates of duty. To Cadiz and Malaga the freight by Spanish vessels was about 45s. the ton; by a British vessel only 15s., or about one-third of the rate of freight obtained by Spanish vessels. But the effect of this restrictive policy of Spain was perhaps nowhere to be seen in such force as in the important fishing trade between Newfoundland and Spain. That trade was formerly carried on entirely in British fast-sailing vessels, constructed expressly for the purpose. In consequence of the high differential duties, they had now been driven out of it, and the trade was now carried on almost exclusively in Spanish vessels. He had a list of the cargoes of cod fish exported from Newfoundland direct to Spanish ports during the last fishing season. Out of 70 cargoes so despatched, 69 were sent in Spanish ships, and only one in a British ship. The trade with Cuba, in spite of the restrictions to which he had alluded, employed about 200 sail of British vessels annually, because Spain, even with all her efforts to monopolise the carrying trade for her own vessels, cannot supply shipping nearly sufficient for the wants of the trade. But were British vessels placed on an equal footing to compete with those of Spain, he had no doubt the number of British vessels in the trade with Cuba would soon be more than doubled. With regard to Manilla, he had seen a letter from a shipowner, stating that he, the shipowner, had a fine first-class ship loading at Liverpool for Manilla, and that there was a Spanish vessel, described as a very inferior one to the British ship, also loading at Liverpool for 664 the same destination. Now, the British shipowner went on to state that it was with great difficulty he could obtain cargo for his vessel, although he was offering to receive goods at so low a freight as from 15s. to 25s. the ton, while the Spanish ship, his competitor, was loading fast at rates of freight of from 80s. to 100s. the ton. To remedy, as far as possible, the injury to the trade by this system, goods for Manilla are now generally sent in British ships to our free port of Singapore, where they are obliged to be landed and reshipped in Spanish ships to Manilla, the Spanish ships generally charging more than double the rate of freight for carrying the goods from Singapore to Manilla, being only 1,300 miles, than the British vessels charge for carrying them from England to Singapore, a distance of 8,000 miles, being six times the distance from Singapore to Manilla. Such were some of the effects of the restrictive policy of Spain on the British shipping interest. He would now proceed to state some instances of its operation in obstructing the natural course of international commerce. He would first refer to documents which he had recently received from Alicant, namely, a copy of a memorial from British merchants resident at that port, to the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and a list of arrivals, sailings, and sales of cargoes of fish at that port. The hon. Member here read extracts from the memorial, complaining in strong terms that the Spanish tariff had not only excluded British shipping from the trade with Spain, but was fast destroying the trade itself, by compelling them to employ the inferior shipping and mariners of Spain at greatly higher rates of freight than British ships could be had for, together with the high rate of duty imposed on British-cured fish by the last tariff, that of 1849. That the sale of fish imported into the port of Alicant to the consignment of the memorialists had averaged about 5,000 tons annually, but that in consequence of the measures of the Spanish Government alluded to—and particularly to the increased differential duties imposed by the tariff of 1849—they had only been able to sell one small cargo of 100 tons by a British vessel, and that at a heavy loss, while about 2,000 tons were imported in Spanish vessels and sold. By a trade list from Alicant, he found that, while this one solitary cargo was imported in a British ship, 43 sail of British ships which called 665 at that port with cargoes of fish for sale, were compelled to proceed on to the Italian and other ports in the Mediterranean, not being able to dispose of a single cargo at Alicant. These British merchants prayed urgently that the British Government would adopt measures to compel the Spanish Government to a more just course of policy, expressing their conviction that no other means would be effectual. He would now refer to an extract from the annual report of the Board of Fisheries in Scotland, which stated that the trade in Scottish-cured cod and ling fish to Spain had been greatly checked by the high duties in Spain, but more particularly by the differential duties in favour of Spanish ships, such ships being very difficult to procure, and only at very high rates of freight. This report stated also an instance where a cargo of fish which had been shipped in a British vessel was obliged to be landed again and warehoused, in order to wait the arrival of a Spanish vessel. But he could state many instances within his own experience of the injurious consequences to trade of this policy of Spain; but, not to weary the House with details, he would only advert to two. He recollected once despatching two vessels on the same day from London to Bilboa; the one was a Spanish vessel, the other a British one. The Spaniard had obtained a cargo and a good freight; but the British vessel, in consequence of the differential duties, could not obtain any cargo, and was compelled to proceed in ballast, being chartered to bring a return cargo of wool. When the Spaniard had got as far as off Ramsgate, not liking the look of the weather, he put into Ramsgate harbour to wait for its bettering. The British ship pushed on, reached Bilboa, loaded her cargo of wool, and actually arrived with it in the London Dock, while the Spaniard was still lying weather-bound in Ramsgate harbour. Some years since, being then connected with a fishing establishment in these northern islands of Scotland which he had the honour to represent in that House, he received an order from a Spanish merchant in Bilboa to send him a cargo of dried fish. The differential duties in Spain compelled him to employ a Spanish vessel to carry the cargo to Bilboa, and the freight, together with additional premium of insurance, made the cost of transit nearly four times as much as it would have been by a British vessel. But this was not the worst of it: the mas- 666 ter and crew of the Spanish vessel gave an illustration of the skill and energy which the Spanish protective system had created in her mariners. They were three months and some days in effecting their passage from the Shetland Islands to Bilboa, although nothing particular had occurred to their vessel—about the time that one of the first-class British ships requires to make a passage to India. Now, the fish being so long kept in a perhaps not over-tight vessel, arrived, as might have been expected, in a damaged state, and being, besides, too late for the proper season, his (MR. Anderson's) correspondent lost a very considerable sum by the speculation. He determined to have no more to do with Shetland fish in Spanish vessels, and thus the poor Shetland fishermen had one of the best outlets for the produce of their industry seriously checked. He could multiply instances of the injurious operation of these differential duties on British shipping and commerce; but he believed that the House would admit that he had sufficiently established a case against Spain of aggression in these important British interests, which ought no longer to be tolerated, and an effectual remedy, he submitted, was in the hands of the Executive Government. The Act for repealing the navigation laws empowered the Queen to lay countervailing duties in the ports of this kingdom on the ships of such foreign countries as might levy higher rates of duty on British ships. He could see no reason why this power should not be exercised towards the ships of Spain. That Power had gone far beyond any other in her restrictive, he might say aggressive, policy. She had violated every commercial treaty she had entered into with this country. Article 38 of the treaty signed at Madrid, in 16G7, stated—People and subjects of King of Great Britain and King of Spain shall have and enjoy in the respective lands, seas, ports, havens, roads, and territories, of the one or the other, and in all places whatsoever, the same privileges, securities, liberties, and immunities, whether they concern their persons or trade, with all the beneficial clauses and circumstances, which have been granted, or shall be hereafter granted, by either of the said Kings, to the Most Christian King, the States General of the United Provinces, the Hans Towns, or any other Kingdom or State whatsoever, in as full, ample, and beneficial manner as if the same were particularly mentioned in this treaty.This was confirmed by the 9th article of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, and particularly as to— 667All duties, impositions, or customs whatsoever, relating to persons, goods, and merchandises, ships, freight, seamen, navigation, and commerce, as subjects of France or any other foreign nation.It was confirmed also by 2nd article of the Treaty of Commerce of 1713. The 4th article of the Treaty of Commerce of Madrid, 1715, stated that—The said subjects (British) shall not anywhere pay higher or other duties than those which his Catholic Majesty's subjects pay in the same place.The 5th article of the same treaty eon-firmed the 38th article of 1667; and the Treaty of Peace, dated—"Madrid, Aug., 1814," confirmed all treaties previous to 1796. We had patiently submitted to the injustice of Spain for twenty-seven years, and we could not, therefore, now be accused of precipitation in seeking redress. That course, it must be borne in mind, rested on an entirely different principle to any attempt to coerce a foreign Power to alter duties, however high they might be, imposed for mere purposes of revenue. And if Spain levied an import duty of 100 to 150 per cent on the produce of our fisheries, and on articles of extensive consumption among her people, we had no more right to compel her to alter these duties than the Chinese Emperor had to compel us to alter our enormous duty of 300 to 400 per cent on the chief produce of his country, and on an article of extensive consumption among our people—tea. That we had a right to resist the fiscal warfare carried on by Spain against our mercantile marine, by a wisely defensive measure, he thought there could scarcely be a doubt. Perhaps the only question to be raised was, would it be effectual? Might it not provoke Spain to impose still higher differential duties in favour of her own shipping, to the still greater obstruction of trade? He would state a fact which he considered would set that question at rest. He would refer to the course adopted by the United States of America. Under a fundamental law of the States (as most hon. Members were, no doubt, aware) foreign ships in American ports were treated exactly in the same manner that American ships were treated in foreign ports. Under this law Spanish ships had been for many years past subjected to countervailing additional duties in all the ports of the United States. 668 Spain had never ventured to increase hey differential duties as against the United States, and the effect of the American policy had been to exclude almost entirely Spanish vessels from the ports of America; as a confirmation of the fact, he would state that he had examined some American shipping lists, and he found that at the port of New York, between which and the Spanish islands of Cuba and Porto Rico, particularly, there was an extensive trade, out of an annual average arrival of nearly 2,500 sail of vessels of all countries, the number of Spanish Vessels was only two. He had little doubt that a similar result would soon follow the adoption by our Government of the measure he recommended, which could scarcely fail to compel Spain to alter her policy. He wished to state, in conclusion, that, as a British shipowner, he was willing to run the race of competition with the world. He had given his humble support to the repeal of the navigation laws, and, although he had voted for that repeal against the opinion of some of his friends connected with the shipping trade, he did not repent that vote. But he did expect fair play, and that he should not have unfair obstructions placed in his way.
Motion made, and Question put—
That this House will, To-morrow, resolve itself into a Committee, to consider the following Resolution:—That, with a view to the just protection of British Navigation and Commerce, it is expedient that under the provisions of the Act 12 and 13 Vic. e. 29, such additional duties should be levied in the ports of the British Empire upon goods imported or exported in Spanish ships, and on the tonnage of such ships, as may serve to countervail the differential duties on goods and tonnage levied in the ports of Spain and her dependencies on British ships.
, in seconding the Motion, said, that he could confirm all that had been said by the hon. Mover with respect to the unfair operation of the differential duties imposed by Spain. About two years ago, Spain made an alteration in her tariff, principally, it was said, with a view of lessening the duties on articles of consumption. The duty on salt fish imported in Spanish vessels was, however, slightly increased, while the duty on salt fish imported in British vessels was very largely increased; in one instance, while the increase as to fish imported in Spanish vessels was 17 per cent, the increase as to importations in British vessels was 37 per cent. Now, that was one of the main ar- 669 tides of commerce with Spain. Then there had been a distinct infraction both of the spirit and letter of our treaties with Spain by the preference which she gave to France over us. France had the privilege of carrying from one port of Spain to another, while we had not; although in every commercial treaty between Great Britain and Spain it had been provided that the subjects of Great Britain should enjoy equal privileges in the Spanish ports with those of France. It might, perhaps, be said that there were certain treaties that stood in the way of the resolution now proposed; it might be said that we had had some differences with respect to the "most favoured nation" clauses in these treaties; but for the last two centuries we had been making treaties of commerce, friendship, and peace with Spain; and on one point after another Spain had been disregarding them, and therefore when we had adopted a new commercial system, he submitted to his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether it would not be better to throw over all treaties with Spain. Let it be a tabula rasâ, and in future deal with Spain as she dealt with us. There was one objection that might be made to this Resolution, that it appeared as if they were seeking to maintain an influence by protection. He thought, however, that this was entirely an exceptional ease. There was no nation in the world that had shown the same disregard of justice that Spain had done. Now he thought they must fight each nation with its own weapons, and if Spain was resolved not to come to a fair understanding with England without being forced to it, it might be our duty to force her to it. The question was whether, situated as the Spanish Government now were, we were likely to obtain anything like equity or justice from them without forcing them to it. He was sure that the course advocated by his hon. Friend, who had proposed the Resolution, would be very influential with them. If they found that we forbid Spanish ships bringing their sugars from the Havannah, and their fruits from Malaga, except on payment of heavy duties, we should soon have Spain more clamorous to be put on an equal footing with England than we had been to lie put on an equal footing with Spain; and on that ground, and believing that the Resolution would be effectual to the end proposed, he should give it his cordial support.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that both 670 his hon. Friends had very accurately stated the facts of the case. The question might be divided into two distinct portions. Spain was at present levying, and had for a long period levied, differential duties of a] very onerous description on goods exported from, or imported into, her harbours in foreign as discriminated from Spanish bottoms. It should, however, be admitted that in the year 1849, Spain had decreased the amount of those differential duties on the greater portion of commodities. These duties had amounted previously to that year to about 33 per cent, and had then been reduced to about 20 per cent. The levying of these differential duties was the first ground of complaint we had against Spain. Our second ground of complaint was of a totally different description. It was that Spain, in certain respects, treated the shipowners of this country not only less favourably than her own subjects, but less favourably than the shipowners of other foreign nations, and more especially those of France. His hon. Friend the Member for Orkney had truly said that we had entered into repeated treaties with Spain, some of them of ancient date, which laid down in express language the obligation that she should deal towards us on the terms of the most favoured nation. Now we certainly had a right to complain of the conduct of Spain in contravening that stipulation. Under the second head of complaint to which his hon. Friend had adverted, lie believed that the most important item consisted in the fact, that higher harbour dues were levied in the ports of Spain on British vessels than on French vessels. Complaints had some time ago been made to the Spanish Government upon that subject, and that Government had professed its willingness to set the matter right. But, in point of fact, the only way in which that could be done consistently with the law of this country would be by the Spanish Government entering into a convention with us, upon which an Order in Council might be issued empowering the Lords of the Treasury to repay the duties on Spanish vessels entering our harbours. The Spanish Government professed itself willing to adopt the proposed principle, but stated that they did not wish to proceed by way of a Convention, which might fetter their independent action. They said that if we were to adopt the practice in question without any convention, they would imitate our example. 671 Now it appeared to him that was an unfriendly mode of proceeding, and a mere quibble and pretext to evade a compliance with a just and reasonable demand. His noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had very recently renewed his remonstrances with the Spanish Government upon that subject, and he (Mr. Labouchere) had every reason to hope that these remonstrances would prove effectual. But if that hope should not be realised, it appeared to him that the best course which Her Majesty's Government could pursue would be to come down to that House and ask for powers to effect that arrangement for mutual concessions on the part of Spain and of England, without the necessity of any previous Convention. With regard to the greater question, namely, the manner in which Spain treated not only English vessels, but also all other foreign vessels, he should observe that no one could feel more strongly than he did the great injury which it inflicted on the trade and commerce of this country. But he felt convinced that any person who had listened to the statement of his hon. Friend who had introduced that Motion, must see that it was against Spain herself that that restrictive policy operated most prejudicially. His hon. Friend had told them that the Spanish mercantile marine, which that policy had been meant to foster, was reduced to a most helpless and inefficient condition. Now, he should say, that that was no great encouragement to this country to revert to anything like a restrictive system, with a view of protecting our shipping interest. He should also remind hon. Gentlemen that that burden on our commerce had been of long standing, and had not dated from the repeal of our Navigation Laws; and neither had it been greatly aggravated by that measure. It was quite true that by the repeal of the Navigation Laws we had thrown open what had been called the general carrying trade of the world to Spain, as well as to other foreign nations. But he believed that no one would contend that we had any reason to look upon Spain as a formidable competitor in that trade. On the contrary, it was a remarkable fact that no nation which had adopted the protective and restrictive system of navigation was to be feared in that great branch of commerce. Which were the nations that enjoyed the largest share of the carrying trade of the world, and that possessed the greatest mercantile navies? Why, 672 they were the United States, the Baltic Powers, and England—the countries, in fact, that had shown the least disposition to dread the competition of foreigners. But he did not on that account say that it would not be most desirable for this country to obtain a repeal of the differential duties to which his hon. Friend had called their attention, these duties inflicted peculiar injury on the constituents of his hon. Friend in the Shetland and Orkney Islands, by narrowing their markets. He was also well aware of the prejudicial effect which they produced in the Newfoundland trade. It was certainly a legitimate and proper object for the Government and Parliament of this country to induce Spain, if possible, to alter these discriminating duties. All he would say on that occasion was that that question had not been lost sight of by his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and by Her Majesty's Government. They were at the present moment in active correspondence with the Spanish Government Upon the subject. The diplomatic negotiations with respect to it had not yet been brought to a close; and he trusted that the House would not then interfere in the matter by coming to any vote upon a point which, in his opinion, it would be better to leave in the hands of Her Majesty's Ministers. If the House should do them the honour of believing that they were disposed to act on the subject in the manner they might deem most conducive to these interests which they were all anxious to promote, he hoped that the House would not adopt the proposed Resolution. He believed that the debate which was then taking place, and the expression of feeling in the British House of Commons that the trade between Great Britain and Spain ought to be conducted on a more just and liberal ay stem, would not be lost on the Spanish Government. It was not, therefore, with any doubt of the importance of that subject, and still less with any disposition not to promote the objects which the hon. Gentleman had in view, that he ventured to express a hope that the House would not think it necessary to come to any formal vote upon that occasion.
MR. ALDERMAN THOMPSON
said, it appeared to him that that case might be met by a clause in the existing Navigation Act. That Act gave Her Majesty in Council a retaliatory power against these foreign countries which did not reciprocate our mode of dealing with the shipping in- 673 terest. It was well known that our policy had not been reciprocated by Spain, and that English vessels trading with Spain did not enjoy the same advantages which were enjoyed by Spanish vessels trading with this country, since the repeal of the Navigation Laws. If the Act were allowed to remain inoperative in that instance, then he said that such an example might work very prejudicially; for what security could they have that other countries would not imitate the conduct of Spain? They all knew that the Dutch Government also imposed, in certain instances, differential duties, to tin disadvantage of the British shipowner. In the island of Java, British vessels landing cargoes were subjected to double the amount of the duties imposed on Dutch vessels. Remonstrances in such cases might be all very well; but when remonstrances were carried beyond a given point, they became totally worthless. In his opinion the time had arrived when some decided course of action ought to be taken with regard to Spain. He would not then enter into any general discussion on the subject of the Navigation Laws, or the justice and expediency of the late repeal of these laws. They would have other opportunities of considering that important question. But he certainly thought that the proposal made by the hon. Member for Orkney ought at least to engage the serious attention of Her Majesty's Government: and he hoped that without any decided vote of the House upon the subject, they would adopt such measures as might prove to Spain and the rest of the commercial world that England expected to have a reciprocity of action in her commercial intercoms with other nations.
§ MR. HUME
said, no country in Europe owed so much to England as did Spain; and lie saw with regret the very little gratitude which her Government entertained towards this country. As the best means of exposing that ingratitude, he would wish to see the correspondence that had taken place, and the steps taken by Her Majesty's Government to obtain that reciprocity. He would like to see the correspondence for this reason, that nations, like individuals, often yielded to shame what they refused to justice. He did not wish it to be understood, however, that lie was an advocate for retaliation, ft was a question rather for the Spanish Government and the Spanish people, whether they were acting wisely in imposing a 674 higher rate of duty on goods imported in British vessels. They had already one instance of the folly of retaliation in the ease of the sulphur duty. They were unquestionably treated unfairly by the Government in Naples in regard to the sulphur duties, but when in retaliation they charged a duty of 4l. per ton on olive oil instead of 2l., they only punished themselves. He thought they had been treated with the deepest ingratitude by Spain; but he thought they should put up with that ingratitude rather than have recourse to retaliation, which could only injure the people of this country, who had a right to have things as cheaply as they could be got. He regretted to say that the American Government also was running wild in the same manner, for they were levying duties to the amount of 100 per cent on certain articles, thus doubling the price to their own people. What could be more preposterous than to compel a man to pay 30 dollars for a coat which lie might obtain for 15? though an enlightened nation, the Americans were in this respect acting in complete ignorance of their real interests. As he did not consider what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the beard of Trade to be satisfactory, he hoped the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs would state what steps he had taken with regard to Spain.
§ MR. M. GIBSON
said, he hoped his hon. Friend the Member for Orkney, after having heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the beard of Trade would not press his Motion to a division. The Hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Westmoreland, thought that retaliation was a good policy. But though retaliation were a good policy—which he did not admit—was the time come for retaliating on Spain? Let them remember what a struggle they had in this country to carry a free-trade policy—that the alteration in their own Navigation Laws had taken effect but twelve months ago—and they would then probably make a greater allowance for foreign nations, and give them more time to come to the same conclusion as they had themselves come to. He would consider it a most precipitate and improper preceding if the Government of this country were to adopt a policy of retaliation against Spain under the existing relations between the two countries. The right hon. Gentleman informed them that Spain had made many 675 reductions in her tariff, to the extent of 33 per cent.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that what he had stated was, that the discriminating duties on goods brought into Spain in foreign vessels, which were, as he understood, 33 per cent, had been reduced to 20 per cent when the tariff was altered in 1849.
§ MR. M. GIBSON
said, it would, in his opinion, be most unfortunate if, after having abolished the Navigation Laws, they were to withhold from Spain these privileges which they gave to all other nations. This would be to imitate what took place under the old Navigation Laws, which gave certain advantages to all other countries by allowing them to send goods in their own ships to the British colonies. But they withheld these advantages from Spain for twenty years, for in April, 1828, an Order in Council was issued, declaring "that vessels belonging to Spain were not to be allowed to carry on any direct trade between Spain and the British possessions abroad." What, might be expected, as the effect of their withholding from Spain in particular for twenty years, privileges which they gave to the rest of the world? Why, this, at least—that it was no reason to make Spain less restrictive, or more liberal towards this country—and it was only by adopting and carrying out a liberal policy, that Spain could be expected to move in the direction of free trade. Having been in the Shetland Isles last autumn, lie received certain information there which made him doubt whether the constituency of his hon. Friend approved of the proposition made by him on the present occasion. And for this reason—the constituents of his hon. Friend found it difficult to get a market for their fish in the ports of Spain, although there was a great demand for fish there, in consequence of the high differential duty on British vessels, and they felt this to be a great evil and hardship. But if, in addition to this differential duty on British ships arriving in the ports of Spain, there was to be also a differential duty on Spanish ships here, the consequence would be that they could not take their fish into the ports of Spain, either in British ships or Spanish ships, except under a high duty. As they were probably not far from a general election, he doubted whether this was a popular Motion for his hon. Friend to make. He hoped his hon. Friend was not in earnest in bringing forward this 676 proposition, and that he did so rather with a view to get the Spanish differential duty removed, than with a view of inducing the Government to reverse their policy. He hoped the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary would state what had been done by the Government of this country, and that he would assure them that in all his communications to foreign Governments he declared that England would always regulate her policy in reference to the people of this country, and would not make her commercial policy contingent on the views of foreign countries.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he quite agreed with his right hon. Friend the President of the beard of Trade that the question which had been brought forward by the hon. Member for Orkney was one of very considerable importance to a large portion of this community. He also quite agreed that we had good cause of complaint against the Spanish Government for the course they had pursued—a complaint which, however, applied more to a long course of prejudice with respect to commercial matters than to any recent disposition on the part of Spain to pursue an unfriendly course towards this country. Indeed, as his right hon. Friend the President of the beard of Trade had stated latterly the Spanish Government had been rather relaxing than increasing the restrictions of their tariff. It was well known that Spain and Portugal were very far behind most other countries in regard to the principles of their commercial policy. But the Spaniards were beginning to move. They must not be expected to move more quickly than the captain of the merchantman who had been alluded to. They would not move on the first change of wind. They might not move until the wind had blown steadily for several days from the same quarter. But he hoped they would not delay so long as that Spanish captain they had heard of, who lay in Ramsgate harbour looking at the weathercock while the English merchantman went to Bilboa and came back. The Spanish Government at present kept 20,000 men, a strong and useful part of the population, employed as custom-house officers, while an equal number were engaged as smugglers in defeating the labours of the custom-house officers, and these 40,000 men were employed in preventing revenue from coming into the Spanish Treasury. He trusted the Spanish Government would begin to pursue a course more advantageous to the interests of Spain, 677 and at the some more conducive to the interests of these countries who had commerce with Spain. He could assure the House that this was not only the impression upon his mind, but that it was very forcibly felt by the Government of Portugal. For when the Spanish Government began to alter their tariff, the Portuguese Government were apprehensive of losing a portion of revenue derived from importations into that country. The Portuguese Government were aware that a largo portion of the foreign manufactured goods consumed in Spain paid duty in Portugal, and were smuggled, duty free, into Spain, and this was a most profitable proceeding for Portugal. Thus the Portuguese Government appeared likely to lose a very large portion of revenue. However, the Spanish Government persevered, and he trusted the result would be, not only that the Spanish Government would lower their tariff, but that the Portuguese Government would, as was reasonable, so far lower their tariff as to recover the pull they bad before enjoyed upon the Spanish custom-house. At all events, the Spaniards were looking in the right direction. Her Majesty's Government had been and were still urging the Spanish Government upon the particular point to which the hon. Gentleman who proposed the Resolution had directed their attention. The House would probably expect him to comply with the request of the hon. Member for Montrose, by detailing all the arguments Her Majesty's Government had used during the negotiations, and the replies of the Spanish Government. No doubt, his own portion of this correspondence would be found to be an instructive lesson in political economy; but, on the other hand, he could not say that it would be very instructive to learn the reasons they assigned for not complying with the requests of Her Majesty's Government. The Government were urging the Spanish Government in the manner and to the extent he had described; and he should regret if the hon. Member for Orkney pressed this Motion to a division, because he thought that any expression of opinion or resolution of the House of Commons to effect this object would be prejudicial to the intention the hon. Member had in view in the present state of the relations between the two Powers. There was, in the first place, a discriminating duty of 20 per cent upon the goods of all nations brought into Spain; and, with regard to this differential duty, we stood upon the footing of the most fa- 678 voured, or rather, he ought to say, the most unfavoured, nation. But there was another matter of less importance, but where the grievance was greater, namely, in the preference given to French vessels over English vessels in Spanish ports. The only question between the two Governments was as to the method of doing what was necessary; and, when both parties were agreed upon an object, they would not be long in agreeing to the particular mode of doing it. He trusted the hon. Mover of this Resolution would be satisfied with the effect which this discussion would have upon the Spanish Government, convincing them, as it would, that the Parliament of this country perceived that the grievance was a real one, and that, on the other hand, we were disposed to meet them in the most liberal manner with regard to our commercial arrangements with that country.
§ MR. BANKES
said, the noble Viscount had made a very amusing speech, but a great part of it was far wide of the very narrow question the hon. Member for Orkney had brought forward for their consideration. They had enacted a proviso for the purpose of protecting British interests, and he called upon them to enforce it, Spain being of all other nations the one they had the best right to enforce it against, for they had been subjected to a long course of injury from that nation. That was the nation that had turned out their Ambassador in a summary way, and inflicted upon them the greatest insult that had been inflicted upon them in all their history; that was the nation that had repudiated their debt, and not only injured them, but added insult to the injury by the manner in which the chief Minister of the Crown proposed to satisfy the creditors, he said the payment of the debt was a matter of inclination on their part, and if they did not take one-half of it they would get none. He was by no means satisfied with the assurance of the noble Viscount that he had the matter under consideration, especially as he had not condescended to give them so much as an outline of the negotiations. He would certainly resist the withdrawal of the Motion. If the proviso was worth anything, and was ever to be exercised, now was the time. He had listened with satisfaction to the account given by the right hon. President of the beard of Trade of the competition between the Spanish and English vessels. It was certainly a great triumph to our vessels, 679 masters, and seamen; and afforded a refutation to the aspersions cast on them during the debates on the Navigation Bill. He thought this was a very proper Motion, affecting as it did the interest of their shipping and the honour of their country; for he thought both had been outraged by the conduct of the Court of Spain, which had treated them for a long series of years with contumely and insult. The proper mode of redress was not by a more discussion in that House. He doubted whether the Spaniards took the trouble of reading the newspapers; the proper way was, to give them a Vote of the House, and an Order in Council by the Queen, and then they would understand their language, hut not until then. He, therefore, should give this Motion his support, and would not consent to its withdrawal.
§ MR. CARDWELL
thought they were much indebted to the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward this Motion. When they had opened their ports to the commerce of all foreign countries, and when they had not received reciprocal advantages, it should be known that the House of Commons was not asleep on the subject. He trusted that no Gentleman would speak on this question with any other motive but to obtain that right course of policy from the Court of Spain, which it was the object of this Motion. He made that remark, in consequence of the observations of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, but he gave him entire credit for taking no step with regard to the debate, except that which would conduce to the object in view, namely, to obtain freedom for British ships in the ports of Spain. The question before the House was not that they should express their indignation at the want of reciprocity on the part of Spain. The Motion if carried would do this—it would take the matter out of the hands of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, and place it in their own hands. The question was, whether they were more likely to carry their object by encouraging the noble Lord, and by strengthening the hands of the noble Lord in doing the duty they had intrusted him with, or by taking the matter into their own hands? The question was, whether having, in the last Session of Parliament but one, placed in the hands of the Executive Government a certain power, and the Government having now come forward and told them they were doing their utmost in the matter, they would step in 680 and take the weapons out of their hands, and say they could use them more effectually. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire had introduced other matters with respect to Spain, which he (Mr. Cardwell) thought should not have been mixed up in this question. They were anxious to get a reciprocal system of navigation with Spain, and the best thing they could do was not to trouble their heads about some ancient grudge with that country. The noble Lord had told them that the Government was engaged in doing what was required to the utmost of their power; and he (Mr. Cardwell) hoped that by expressing their opinion, and giving vent to their indignation, they would strengthen his hands. It would be unfortunate if it should go to the Court of Spain that they had a divided opinion on this question, or one that was not unanimous. It should go forth to the Court of Spain that the Government is determined, and the House of Commons unanimous, on the question.
§ MR. WAWN
would support the Motion. The question was whether the British shipowner was to he left to suffer an intolerable grievance. Pie taxed the right hon. Member for Manchester with indifference to the interests of the shipowner, who could not enter any port he pleased, like the right hon. Member in his yacht. If the proviso in the Navigation Act was anything more than a tub to the whale, let it be acted on.
§ MR. J. L. RICARDO
did not think it was ever contemplated that by a clause in an Act of Parliament they could change the whole commercial policy of any country. The Spanish Government did not mean to insult them by the establishment of these differential duties, but it was their policy to propose differential duties as between Spanish ships and the ships of all foreign countries. Suppose they retaliated on the Spanish Government, did they think it would stop there? It would not, but, on the contrary, the Spanish Government would go on retaliating against them until the annual export of British manufactures to Spain was entirely done away with. His right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester was perfectly right in the advice he had given to the hon. Gentleman by whom this Motion was brought forward; for how could the condition of the inhabitants of the Orkney and Shetland Isles be benefited by levying a tax upon their fish? The hon. Gentleman was going to tax their own fish for the benefit of his constituents; but when the matter came to be 681 explained to them, they would not (as suggested by his right hon. Friend) altogether admire the plan of retaliation by which their fish would he taxed. He thought it would be just as well if the hon. Gentleman would listen to the advice he had received, before he pressed his Motion; and lot him consider whether the resolution might not be taken in a different view from that in which lie brought it forward.
Mr. R. C. HILDYAED
would ask hon. Members how it was that the Bill repealing the Navigation Laws was got through the House? He believed it was carried very much on the faith reposed by hon. Members in the assertion of the Government, that they would be ready if foreign nations did not act with reciprocity towards this country, to give effect to that clause. The House ought to consider what would be the effect on the shipowners of this country when they found that that provision about which so much parade had been made had been ineffectual. He would give the House some statistics with respect to the trade between Spain and this country in the year preceding the repeal of the Navigation Laws and the year following that repeal. In the year ending 5th Jan., 1850, the vessels that entered inwards from Spain were 117, and their tonnage was 17,842. That was the year preceding the repeal of the Navigation Laws. In the year succeeding the repeal, the number of ships that entered inwards from Spain had increased from 117 to 150 and the tonnage had increased from 17,842 to 23,742. It had been stated in the course of the debate, that out of 23 vessels clearing outwards from London to Spain, 19 belonged to the Spanish nation. The House had also been told that the trade between Newfoundland and Spain was altogether monopolised by the Spanish nation. Then he would ask was that clause in the Act repealing the Navigation Laws introduced by the Government in good faith, or not? If it was introduced in good faith, he would ask if there was any case in which it could be carried into effect more stringent and more palpable than the case now before the House?
§ MR. MITCHELL
said, his constituents were very deeply interested in this question, their trade with Newfoundland having been seriously injured; but after hearing this debate, he was quite content that the question should be left in the hands of the the noble Lord the Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he could not understand the consistency of the hon. Member for Bridport, if he did not support the Government in enforcing the provisions of an Act which be was instrumental in passing. With reference to an observation that bad fallen from the hon. Member for Montrose, that the Americans had had the worst of the bargain since the repeal of the Navigation Laws, he (Mr. Newdegate) was prepared to maintain that the result of the repeal, so far as concerned England and the United States, showed that the Americans had had much the best of the bargain. Was not the House aware that America bad proposed a tariff of additional duties on foreign manufactures, and that it was only defeated in the Senate by a factious system of delay? He contended that no country in the world could dictate the commercial policy of the world. They might sacrifice their manufactures and their shipping, hut it was not the will of Providence that all nations should be governed by one system, but, like families, each nation should consult its own interests, and do that which it considered best for its own prosperity.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
wished, before the House came to a division, to say a few words respecting the form and substance of this Motion. With respect to the general question of the Navigation Laws, whenever the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire chose to enter into that subject, lie would find that the result of a more liberal system of policy bad been favourable not only to the Americans, but to the commerce of every nation in the world. There were exceptions; but these exceptions were very few, and did not include any of the great maritime Powers. With regard to the advantages that America might have derived from the repeal of the Navigation Laws, he believed that this country had derived greater advantages still, and he was sure he was not at all sorry if the United States of America had derived advantage from the change. It was to be desired that both countries should derive advantage from the repeal of these laws. An hon. Member had said, in the course of the debate, that the House could no longer listen to trifling negotiations. If that were so, the proper course would be to call, against the opinion of the Government, for all the despatches on this subject, all the treaties between Spain and this country, and then the House would form its own opinion upon the whole ques- 683 tion. But to come to a conclusion without knowing really what the representations were that had been made, or what the answers were that had been given, or what was the state of the case between the two countries, would be a course so imprudent for the House of Commons to take, that they could hardly take it with any consistency. If this Resolution were adopted, there might be circumstances which would prevent its being carried into effect, for the Committee might expose themselves to the inability of the Crown to comply with the request of the House.
§ MR. ANDERSON
replied: With regard to the Motion, he said, that he regretted to find from the observations of his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, and his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, that, notwithstanding his (Mr. Anderson's) explanation of the difference in principle between an endeavour to obtain free and fair competition for our merchant shipping, and to remove obstructions to international commerce—an endeavour perfectly consistent, as he considered, with the principles of free trade—they persisted in confounding it with the levying of retaliatory duties on foreign produce, because foreign countries might levy high duties on our produce. He maintained that the proposition which he had brought forward rested on a totally different principle. It was calculated to promote the freedom of trade by free and fair competition. He would never for an instant be so absurd as to propose, that because Spain, for instance, thought proper to levy a duty of from 100 to 150 per cent on the produce of our fisheries, as he had already stated, we should therefore put a duty of 100 to 150 per cent on her wool, and thus obstruct and enhance the cost of our manufacturing industry. His object was to cheapen the cost and improve the means of maritime transit, and to show that we could do so without detriment to any other British interest.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 53; Noes 98: Majority 45.
|List of the AYES.|
|Arkwright, G.||Child, S.|
|Baird, J.||Clive, H. B.|
|Bankes, G.||Cobbold, J. C.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Conolly, T.|
|Beresford, W.||Dodd, G.|
|Blakemore, R.||Duke, Sir J.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Farrer, J.|
|Booker, T. W.||Forbes, W.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Frewen, C. H.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Gallwey, Sir W. P.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Sandars, G.|
|Grace, O. D. J.||Scully, F.|
|Gwyn, H.||Spooner, R.|
|Higgins, G. G.||Stanford, J. F.|
|Hodgson, W. N.||Stanley, E.|
|Hotham, Lord||Stanley, hon. E. H.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Stephenson, R.|
|Lennox, Lord A. G.||Stuart, J.|
|Macnaghten, Sir E.||Sullivan, M.|
|Maher, N. V.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Moffatt, G.||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Mullings, J. R.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|O'Brien, Sir L.||Walpole, S. H.|
|O'Flaherty, A.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Pakington, Sir J.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Prinsep, H. T.||TELLERS.|
|Renton, J. C.||Newdegata, C. N.|
|Reynolds, J.||Hildyard, R. C.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Abdy, Sir T. N.||Hey worth, L.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Alcock, T.||Hobhouse, T. B.|
|Anderson, A.||Hume, J.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Kershaw, J.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Labouchere, rt. Hon. H.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F.T.||Loveden, P.|
|Bass, M. T.||M'Gregor, J.|
|Bell, J.||M'Taggart, Sir J.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Matheson, Col.|
|Berkeley, Adm.||Milton, Visct.|
|Bernal, R.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Blair, S.||Morison, Sir W.|
|Bright, J.||Morris, D.|
|Buxton, Sir E. N.||Mowatt, F.|
|Calvert, F.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Carter, J. B.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Clay, J.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Parker, J.|
|Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.||Patten, J. W.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Peel, F.|
|Craig, Sir W. G.||Pilkington, J.|
|Cubitt, W.||Power, Dr.|
|Denison, E.||Power, N.|
|Duncuft, J.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Rich, H.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Ellis, J.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Fagan, W.||Salwey, Col.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Seymour, Lord|
|Fitz Patrick, rt. hn. J. W.||Smith, J. B.|
|Forster, M.||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Fox, W. J.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Freestun, Col.||Tancred, H. W.|
|French, F.||Thompson, Col.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Thornely, T.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Guest, Sir J.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Harris, R.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Hastie, A.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Hatchell, rt. hon. J.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Hawes, B.||Williams, J.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Wilson, J.|
|Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C,|
|Headlam, T. E.||Wood, W. P.|
|Henry, A.||Brotherton, J.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Gibson, T. M.|