said, he had given notice of a series of Resolutions on the subject of the Custom-house duties on various foreign manufactured articles, and also of foreign agricultural produce. Those who had attended to the progress of the free-trade principle must recollect what took place in 1840, when, in Committee of the House, he had an opportunity of bringing forward a mass of evidence, showing the manifest advantages to be derived from the removal of those monopolies which were then existing in the manufacture of many articles, by the abolition of the restrictions on the importation of similar articles from foreign countries. The result of his Motion on that occasion was the appointment of a Committee, and he considered it to have been as fair a Committee as could have been selected. The principle which had guided him on all occasions, when treating of the import duties, was to put an end to monopoly. He was as much opposed to commercial monopoly as he was to political monopoly. They were both founded on injustice, and were both equally mischievous to the general interest. It had been clearly proved, that when the duty on imports exceeded a certain amount, so far from the revenue deriving any advantage, the effect was to diminish importation, and thereby 1006 lessen the advantages previously enjoyed by the consumer, without conferring any benefit on the importer. The truth of this had been demonstrated by the fact that whenever there had been a deficiency in the revenue, the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the time being had been obliged to resort to an increase of the assessed taxes, and to the imposition of an additional 5 per cent on the income tax. The result of all this was, that the vast majority of the nation had come to a conclusion in favour of what some called free-trade, but which the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Disraeli) had termed unrestricted competition. The Motion of which he had given notice consisted of three paragraphs. The first two were a sort of preamble, setting forth facts which would enable the House to judge on what grounds the concluding paragraph, which embodied the substance of the Resolution he had to submit to the House, was founded. By the first paragraph it appeared that there were 233 entries in the Custom-house tariff list of foreign manufactured articles charged in the year 1851 with duties of import varying in amount from 1 to 50 per cent on the value of such articles, and which articles might be classed under the following five heads:—
Thus it appeared that the whole 233 articles only yielded a revenue of 434,154l. Many leading men had asked him why he confined his views to the repeal of these small duties; why he did not at once propose taking off the whole of the duty on sugar, for instance? Now, he should be very glad to take off the import duties altogether; and the time would come, no doubt, when it would be the duty of many in that House to support such a proposition. But, at the present moment, all he asked was to carry out the principle of free trade in those manufactured articles by removing the remaining protective duties. They had done away with protection to the produce of land without injury to any class, but with great advantage to the country at largo. He had a return—not to speak of corn—of the number of cattle, sheep, and 1007 swine which had been imported, and which it was said it would be utterly impossible to admit free of duty without ruin to the country. But what were the prices of all those articles at the present time? They were much higher than they were before the introduction of free trade. Having stated the number of foreign manufactured articles still retained in the Custom-house tariff list, and shown the paltry amount of revenue which they yielded, he would now point out to the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer the number of articles under the head of foreign agricultural produce. They amounted to 62, and produced in the aggregate, as import duty, 916,435l., as the following list would show:—
No. Import duty. 1. Each article producing under 100l. of duty 129 articles producing the aggregate sum of £2,349 2. Under £500 of duty 37 articles producing the aggregate sum of 9,366 3. Under 1,000 of duty 17 articles producing the aggregate sum of 11,351 4. Under 5,000 of duty 30 articles producing the aggregate sum of 67,629 5. Under 100,000 of duty 20 articles producing the aggregate sum of 343,459 No. 233 and duty £434,154
It was most unjust to the country at large, and to the agricultural interest especially, after having repealed the duty on the main articles of foreign agricultural produce, that Parliament should not carry out the principle of free trade in respect to all foreign manufactured articles. They were promised it at the time the principle of free trade was adopted, and it ought to be granted. By a Return to Parliament he found that the quantity of foreign cotton manufactures imported for home consumption in the year ending January, 1851, amounted in value to 20,798l., producing a revenue of 2,079l. It had been thrown in the teeth of the Manchester men as a reproach that they retained this duty on foreign cotton manufactures. The reproach was by no means deserved; but at the same time it was most unfair to retain this duty, when it appeared that our home cotton manufactured goods exported in 1850 amounted to not less than 769,250,000 yards, at a declared value of 9,817,197l.; they also exported 590,500,000 yards of cotton yarn, at a declared value of 10,703,238l. The total amount of our cotton exports for the year 1850 was 28,257,401l. The only other article he would refer to now was glass. The Excise duty on glass had been repealed; window 1008 glass paid a duty of 3s. 6d. per cwt, which was in some instances as high as 50 per cent on its value. Now, what was the price of glass in Belgium, for example? The House would scarcely believe him when he stated that 100 square feet would cost on the average, abroad, 13s.; the duty of 1 cwt.—the net of 100 feet—was 3s. 6d.; the duty, therefore, was about 27 per cent. But where foreign glass exceeded 1-9th of an inch in thickness—an article most valuable for horticulturists and building purposes—it was excluded from home consumption by the duties, as shown thus—100 square feet cost abroad 16s. 6d.; the duty, at 3d. a foot, was equal to 25s., or about 150 per cent ad valorem. The House would see from this instance how important it was that they should have unrestricted free trade in glass, as in every other article. Next came the leather duty, which only amounted to 9l. 14s., and which by increasing the price affected very materially the comforts of the people. It was levied on boots and shoes, boot fronts, goloshes, and such articles, as well as on leather, and could not operate in any way except in preventing the introduction of articles of necessity, and keeping up prices by preventing competition. Then there were the duties on linen, which produced 4,670l. a year. How perfectly absurd such a duty was, when it was considered that this country exported 122,000,000 yards of linen every year! In the case of silk, we exported upwards of 1,250,000 yards, but still retained the duty upon imported silk goods. The silk trade suffered most injuriously from the prohibitions under which it laboured, and the progress of this branch of our manufacture was greatly checked by the operation of this system. Upon articles of woollen manufacture a revenue was derived of 13,520l., while the value of our exports of the latter was about 13,000,000l. sterling. There were on the whole 233 articles, paying annual duty to the extent of 434,154l. Sweep away all these duties and they would soon see that the revenue would not lose, while the comforts of the people would be greatly increased. As to the articles of agricultural produce, which formed the next part of the Resolutions, he could not understand on what principle or on what grounds they were maintained after the results which had followed the admission of foreign sheep and oxen. It was found that prices had not fallen, notwithstanding the fears expressed before the change was made. The 1009 duty at present derived from butter was 158,000l., and from cheese 85,500l. The number of eggs imported was not less than 105,780,000, and the duty received did not amount to more than 38,000l. Seeds of various kinds were admitted at duties ranging from 2s. 6d. to 5s. per bushel, and he could not but think that in many instances the abolition of this duty would be a great relief to the agricultural interest, and especially so in the case of laying down land in grass. The duty derived from tallow was 78,270l., and there could be no doubt that the abolition of the duty upon that article, tending as it would to reduce the price of soap and candles, would add greatly to the comforts of the community. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, judging from what had occurred in past years, when similar reductions were made on other articles, need not be afraid of striking off these duties, for the increase of revenue would exceed the amount of diminution. From 1821 to 1850, the duty on sugar was decreased from 27s. to 11s. per cwt.; the quantity consumed increased from 3,530,362 cwt. in the first to 6,229,094 cwt. in the last-named year; while the difference to the revenue was only the difference between 4,077,706l. and 3,900,663l.—or 177,043l. The duty on coffee was reduced from 1s. 6d. per pound in 1801 to 4d. per pound in 1849; the quantity consumed increased from 750,861 lb. to no less than 34,399,374 lb., while the duty increased from 56,315l. to 566,822l. The duty on brandy in 1821 was 22s. 7½d. per gallon; in 1849 it was reduced to 15s.; the quantity consumed rose from 1,013,400 gallons, to 2,187,801 gallons; and the duty from 1,031,217l. to 1,640,488l. The paper duty in 1821 was 3d. per pound; in 1849 it was only 1½d., and the quantity used rose from 48,204,927 lb in the first to 132,133,657 lb. in the latter year, He came now to the Excise duty on soap. In 1821 this was 3d. per lb., and the quantity consumed was, in round numbers, 93,000,000 lb., producing a revenue of 1,023,530l. After great efforts, they had succeeded in obtaining a reduction of one-half the duty, and the 93,000,000 lb. consumed in 1821 became 197,632,280 lb. in 1849. It was true the revenue only gained to the amount of 3,000l., the increase being from 1,023,530l. to 1,026.080l.; but what had been the comfort to the consumer in this reduction of duty upon that which was one of the necessaries of life? The Resolu- 1010 tions of which he had given notice were declaratory ones. The first was:—
No. Import duty. 1. Each article producing under 1001. of duty 25 articles producing the aggregate sum of £382 2. Under £500 of duty 8 articles producing the aggregate sum of 1,729 3. Under 1,000 of duty 4 articles producing the aggregate sum of 2,911 4. Under 5,000 of duty 11 articles producing the aggregate sum of 30,140 5. Under 100,000 of duty 12 articles producing the aggregate sum of 533,733 6. Under 500,000 of duty 2 articles producing the aggregate sum of 347,540 No. 62 and duty £916,435That whilst the agricultural produce of wheat, barley, oats, and other grain, and oxen, sheep, goats, and other animals are admitted, duty free, to compete with similar productions of the United Kingdom, it is both impolitic and unjust to the country, and to the agricultural interests especially, to continue duties of import on articles of foreign manufacture of the same kind and class with those manufactured in the United Kingdom, as by these protective duties on imports the fair competition of foreign manufactured articles with the articles of British manufacture is prevented.The second Resolution was, however, the only one which he would submit to the House. It was to the effect—That this Mouse will, at an early period, take into its consideration the duties that are strictly protective in the existing tariff on articles of import. If we were to have free trade, let it be carried out in its entirety. He had been a humble instrument in forcing free trade upon the attention of the House, and he thought the agricultural interest had been badly treated by the non-removal of the duties upon every manufactured article. The removal of the protective duties upon manufactured articles ought to have taken place simultaneously with the repeal of the duties upon corn. It was not his fault that they had not been repealed; he had urged it strongly upon the Government; and he believed that if Sir Robert Peel had been allowed to remain in office, and had been supported as he ought to have been, the repeal of these duties would have been effected long since. By the proposal which he now submitted to the House, protective taxation to the amount of 1,340,000l. would be abolished. The effect of this would be like sowing seed for the purpose of obtaining a rich and abundant harvest, and an increased quantity of manufactures, which would add greatly to the wealth and prosperity of the country, and at the same time benefit largely the agricultural interest. He had never yet been able to convince the agricultural interest that its members were really manufacturers. Farmers were manufacturers of corn. The machinery by which they produced the article was different in form, it was true, from that employed by other producers; but they were not the less manufacturers on that account. It was, therefore, the interest of that as of other manufacturers to have food and labour as cheap as possible, in order to enable them to compete successfully with the other countries of Europe. England was the largest market 1011 in the world, and upon examination it would be found that in regard to cheapness, and in every other point of view, it was superior to that of any in Europe. With respect to the time for agreeing to his propositions, he might be told that the Government was about to bring forward a new Budget, and that it would be wrong for the House to come to any Resolution on the subject. He maintained, on the contrary, that whatever system of finance might be brought in, justice should be done to the agricultural interest, and free trade should be carried out fully and completely. What he wanted to obtain was an assurance that the House and the Government would not allow the agricultural interest to be unfairly or unequally taxed, and by removing those protective duties to which he had referred, they would, while fairly carrying out the principle of unrestricted competition, place the agricultural interest upon an equal footing with other classes of the country.
§ MR. MITCHELL
, in seconding the Motion, said, the duties mentioned by his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, were no other than protective duties, and so was another tax which had not been alluded to by his hon. Friend—the duty on wood. Such a tax as that now levied on corn, which only amounted to 1s. per quarter, did not require immediate attention; but there were other articles, the duties upon which pressed more severely, and one of the chief of these was the import duty upon tallow, upon which 8 or 9 per cent was levied upon the raw material, and which was then taxed on its manufacture into soap, thus paying a double duty to the revenue. Butter, cheese, and eggs, were articles which entered largely into the consumption of the lower classes, and the repeal of the duties upon those articles would conduce highly to the comforts and well-being of the people. With regard to one particular class of duties embodied in the Resolution of his hon. Friend, he concurred with him in thinking that the very first which this House ought to repeal were those upon manufactured articles imported into this country. It was a gross act of injustice to the agriculturalists to continue to impose duties, amounting to 434,000l., upon the import of foreign manufactured articles; but there was one particular class to which he would call especial attention—namely, the ad valorem duties, which amounted in 1850 to 188,000l., and which fell almost exclusively under the head of the 1012 434,000l. levied upon manufactured articles. He had presided last year over a Committee which had recommended in the strongest terms the abolition of these duties. That Committee included among its Members the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and several other high ex-officials, and it was their unanimous opinion that the ad valorem duties ought to be at once and entirely abolished. From an answer given by the right hon. Gentleman to a question put to him by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Horsfall), on the subject of Customs reforms, he had inferred that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had no intention to carry out the reforms recommended by that Committee, and he should be very happy to have his mind disabused as respected that impression. Reverting to these ad valorem duties, he would repeat that they were open to every species of objection. The Committee had before them Sir Alexander Spearman, Sir Thomas Fremantle, and others, all of whom stated that the trouble and annoyance given by their existence was such, that they doubted whether the expense of the Custom-house staff thus rendered necessary was not equivalent to the cost of the duties themselves. These duties placed a very great temptation in the way of the inferior officers of the Customs; for, if they did not conceive the valuation made by the importers was sufficient, they might take the articles at the valuation put upon them, and the Customhouse officers got half the amount which those articles produced above their valuation; while, if they fetched less, the Custom House bore the loss. The system, therefore, afforded a direct premium to the officers to seize the goods, for in no case could they lose, and in many instances they obtained a very handsome profit. Another result of the system was, that the uncertainty entailed by it had taken the trade out of the hands of the respectable merchants and had put it into those of the lowest class of traders, who were the only persons capable of dealing with these Custom-house officers, and of wrangling and disputing with them. He did not wish to bind the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer down to any particular time of introducing the changes to which he had alluded, but he certainly thought they should be made in the course of the present Session.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That this House will, at an early period, take
into its consideration the Duties that are strictly protective in the existing Tariff on articles of Import into this Country, both of manufactures and agricultural produce, with the view of speedily repealing the same, as affecting unfairly every interest in the Country.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, old birds were not to be caught with chaff. He had listened to the hon. Member for Montrose, but he was too old a soldier to trust an enemy in his camp—one too much given to setting spring guns and steel traps for the unfortunate fanners. The hon. Member for Montrose had said He was a freetrader. Now, he (Colonel Sibthorp) told that hon. Gentleman distinctly that he (Colonel Sibthorp) was no free-trader, He was against free trade. The hon. Member for Montrose now, for the first time since be (Colonel Sibthorp) had the honour of sitting in that House, talked about the injury which the Legislature had done to the farmers. Now, really that was too barefaced. When you had almost killed a man—when you had cut him up—it was too late to call in such a physician as the hon. Member for Montrose—who had come down to the House with a black draught which he (Colonel Sibthorp) was too wise to attempt to swallow. That draught was nothing more nor less than poison—and a most deadly poison too. Those import duties against which the hon. Member for Montrose had spoken, he (Colonel Sibthorp) firmly believed had been beneficial even to that class whose interest he had at heart. at least as much as had the hon. Member himself—he meant the labouring poor. He had always stood up in that House against the foreigner, and in favour of our own people, with respect to import duties. As long as duties were levied on the importation of foreign goods, this great country would be as it ought to be—not the slave of the foreigner. The hon. Member had no doubt, when at school, read of the fable of the sheep and the wolf. His (Mr. Hume's) proposition reminded him (Colonel Sibthorp) of that story. The hon. Member seemed to be desirous of acting the part of the wolf; but he would take good care not to be the lamb. We had a new Government, although he (Colonel Sibthorp) was not very partial to it, and we had also a new Chancellor of the Exchequer, of rather a free-trade cast; yet he believed the right hon. Gentleman's know ledge, judgment, and experience would prevent him from lulling into this snare. At all counts he (Colonel Sibthorp) would 1014 not be the unwary fish to swallow the bait that was held out. The right hon. Gentleman must pardon him, for although he might trust him with his purse, he could not trust him with his vote.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I feel greatly indebted to the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down, for, if not the favourable, yet the not very unfavourable anticipations which he has formed respecting me. And I feel the more indebted to him because I remember that many years back he exercised his humour upon me with reference to the subject of free trade in a manner that was highly amusing. It was the year 1843, in which it was my lot as President of the Board of Trade to introduce a Bill to legalise the export of machinery, and with the most perfect good feeling I quote the reception which he gave to that Motion. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said, that—The President of the Board of Trade—and I call him the President of the Board of Free Trade—has brought in a Bill to legalise the exportation of machinery. I object to any Bill to legalise the exportation of machinery, but I do not at all object to any Bill for the exportation of the President of the Board of Trade and his Colleagues.I mention this for no other purpose than that of illustrating the consistency with which the hon. and gallant Member has adhered to his own views; to which I most frankly append an expression that I am myself still of the same opinion as I was then, and that upon the subject of free trade, I cannot recant the sentiments which then made me the subject of his wit. Before noticing the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), I will notice the observation of the hon. Member for Bridport (Mr. Mitchell). That hon. Gentleman has referred to the answer that I made to the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Horsfall), and which appears to have been misunderstood; and that misapprehension I wish at once to remove. It appears to have been supposed that I gave it to be understood that, with reference to reform in the management of the Customs Board generally, no Bill would be introduced to Parliament by the Government during the present Session. Now, I did not understand the question of the hon. Member for Derby to have any such extended scope. I believe that question referred, not to the subject of Customs reform in general, but to the subject of the constitution of the Board of Customs; and perhaps the hon. Member 1015 for Bridport may recollect that I went on, after answering that question, to detail what had been done by the Government with respect to the constitution of the Board of Customs. With respect to the constitution of the Board of Customs, I stated that I was not in a condition to say whether the decision of the Government with regard to it would entail the bringing in of a Bill by the Government or not; but with regard to the general question of reform in the Board of Customs, that when a decision was come to upon it, a Treasury Minute would be prepared and laid upon the table on the subject; but whether this further question would or would not entail another Bill, no inquiry was made of me, and consequently I returned no answer. Now, with regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose, the hon. Gentleman certainly wishes to offer me something like fair terms, for he says that if I will accept his principles he does not desire to press the adoption of his Motion on the House. With respect to the adoption of this Motion, I must confess I decidedly object to it, and I trust the House will not adopt it either. The Motion itself I should object to upon the' ground which it is often the duty, and the irksme duty, of those who occupy my position to state, namely, that this House ought not to part with the standing revenue of the country until it knows and has determined what the expenditure is to be. That is not only a matter of technical arrangement, but a sound constitutional duty. The first duty of this House is to vote the funds necessary for the public service, and having done that, it is to proceed to consider in what manner the funds for these purposes shall be applied. But the hon. Gentleman says he anticipates the objection to his Motion on the ground that we cannot afford the loss here entailed—a loss amounting to no less than 1,350,589l. He says that it will not all be lost, but will react upon the other branches of the revenue and improve it—that it will entail only the loss of a part, and that that part we can very well afford to lose. Now, I ask the hon. Gentleman how he knows that we can very well afford it? He cannot possibly have put together yet the amount of the public Estimates for the year; and I am afraid that when he puts them together he will find that the Exchequer cannot very well afford this loss. I mean to put it to the House that the subject-matter of this Motion must be left to be considered in connexion with the 1016 general financial arrangements of the year. It will be for the House to consider, when it has the financial arrangements of the year before it, the whole of the sums that will be required to meet the demands of the public expenditure; and then, if there he a surplus applicable for the remission of taxation, it will be for the House to determine the manner in which to apply it; and on the other hand, if there be no surplus, it will be for the House to consider whether or not it will reduce certain taxes and supply their place by others. But surely the hon. Gentleman will see that it would he most objectionable, apart from any question of the balance between the expenditure and revenue of the country, if we were to amuse ourselves by condemning large portions of the public income. In fact, I have a greater objection to this Resolution as it stands than I should have if it required us to deal with these duties at once. I hope that the House is not about to adopt the practice of living upon trust and credit with the people. Let not the people be left to judge of us in the matter of our legislation by what we promise, but by what we do. The hon. Gentleman asks us to pledge ourselves—That this House will, at an early period, take into its consideration the duties that are strictly protective in the existing tariff on articles of import into this country, both of manufactures and agricultural produce, with the view of speedily repealing the same, as affecting unfairly every interest in the country.Now, I am not finding fault, in the slightest degree, with the hon. Gentleman's asking, if he thinks it necessary, for an explanation of the opinion of the Government upon this subject. All I hope is, with his great experience of public business, that he is not going to propose—and whether he is about to propose or not, I hope that the House is not going to adopt—the practice of making promises of what it will do, and of what by-and-bye it will proceed to do, instead of resting its character before the country upon its acts and performances, and instead of availing itself of every opportunity which the state of the public finances afford to earn the confidence and approbation of the public by its acts and deeds. But, having dealt with the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, which, I believe—indeed he says—is not his sole object, I have no further ground of quarrel with his proposition. So far as regards his speech, and so far as regards the facts that he has adduced, and the 1017 arguments that he has urged to the House, I have really the greatest difficulty in finding anything in which I have the slightest difference with the hon. Gentleman. He has been arguing for the removal of protective duties, and contending that the reduction of them has exercised, as has been proved by happy experience, a most powerful influence in promoting self-reproduction and in restoring the revenue by the energy which it imparts to trade, and by the increased comforts of the people. I certainly am not here to dispute that, and I should almost have ventured to express a hope that now we have reached the time of day when these propositions are not necessary any longer to be sustained by detailed argument in this House, but when they might be presumed almost to take their place among the elementary truths upon which our whole financial and commercial system should be based. But there is another matter upon which, perhaps, the mind of the House is not equally made up, and that is, the question as to what is to be done with regard to minor duties. The hon. Gentleman has called the attention of the House, by the very proper and simple method of classification that he has adopted, to the fact that there is still a very large number of small and unproductive duties in existence. That is a very different question from the duties which produce a considerable amount of revenue. From his statement, there are no less than 213 articles, under the denomination of foreign manufactured articles, charged with import duties, the whole sum produced by which is not quite 91,000l; and in addition to this there are 48 more articles belonging to the class of agricultural productions which yield no more than 35,000l., so that in fact you have here duties upon 261 articles, yielding you but 125,000l. or less than the sum of 500l. upon each article. Now it is certainly a material question for the House to consider whether it be worth while to maintain the system of import duties upon articles so unproductive as these. There are, I know, many different opinions on this subject. Many persons think it is desirable to have light and small duties upon such articles, hut I confess that I am not among them, I think it is of very great advantage to get rid of nominal duties of all kinds, except in cases where they are levied on bulky articles that are largely consumed, and which bring in a considerable sum to the revenue, such as the case of the small duty 1018 now retained on corn, which cannot be dealt with in the same category as other minor duties. Where you speak of small and unproductive duties, I have a strong opinion that it is greatly for the benefit of trade, and a most economical measure of public administration, to get rid of and wipe away altogether such duties. And I say, both for myself and for those with whom I have the honour of acting, that this is no new opinion on our part; for in the year 1845, if my hon. Friend will refer to the 8 & 9 Vict., chap. 12, he will find that a list of articles was given with regard to which a great change was effected, and by that Act a great many articles in the tariff were exempted from duty. Well, whether it be as to minor duties, or as to protective duties, it is quite unnecessary for me to occupy the time of the House in canvassing or criticising in any manner, either the language of the Resolutions of my hon. Friend, or the arguments of his speech, because I entirely concur, I believe without an exception, in the spirit which breathed through them. With respect to some descriptions of articles, I am very glad that he has called the attention of the House to them, because it is not positive fraud or falsehood on the part of the manufacturers that we have to guard against, but there are exaggerated alarms and apprehensions which have the effect of inducing them to imagine themselves, and then to seek to persuade the Government, that when the duties which they regard as a protection are about to be reduced or withdrawn, they are going to be exposed to a crushing competition, which turns out, almost without exception, to have been visionary. Having shown, I hope, that it would be highly inconvenient for the House to adopt a Resolution of this character as being in the nature of a promise to carry a Motion into effect at some future period, with regard to the end which my hon. Friend has in view in raising this debate, I think that the shorter and simpler my adoption of his arguments is, the better. I have no exception to it—no qualification—I regard the removal of protective duties on manufactures the hon. Gentleman does, as an act of justice to agriculture. I regard the removal of duties on the articles of food, which are still liable to such duties (such as butter, cheese, and eggs,) as a matter of considerable importance to the comforts of the people. They must he considered whenever an opportunity may arise, with on the 1019 one side every anxiety to give complete effect to free trade, only balanced on the other side by a due regard to the imperative necessity of making an adequate provision for the public service, and by an earnest anxiety to choose, among the many competing claims for the remission of taxes, those, the operation of which is most burdensome to trade and labour, and the remission of which will be attended with the greatest benefits and advantages. Sir, these are the principles upon which the Government at the proper time will approach the consideration of any commercial legislation, or of any financial question, or any matter affecting either our Customs or Excise duties. I concur with the hon. Member for Bridport in thinking that the system of ad valorem import duties as such is highly objectionable. Undoubtedly there may be cases where public policy will not allow of it, and therefore I do not mean to lay down any universal or sweeping provision; but I accede to the doctrine that the system of ad valorem import duties on manufactured articles is highly inconvenient, that it greatly tends to the demoralisation of the operations of trade, and happily the amount realised from those duties is so little significant that any Government which may hereafter be in a position to approach the subject of their repeal, either as a whole or in part, will find the path to such a repeal far from difficult.
§ Mr. E. BALL
said, that, having always taken an active part in the subject of protection, he was now anxious to address a few words to the House. He had been one of the most active opponents of the system of free trade, and was so still, believing that it had produced much injury; and if he had the power to reverse, amend, or change that system, he would do so. But as it was not in his power to do so, and the position of the question was not such that the advocates of protection could come and ask for a revocation of free trade; it was better to try what could best be done with what he considered to be a very bad measure. After 268 Gentlemen had gone into the lobby of that House affirming the prosperity which free trade had brought to the country, and he (Mr. Ball) had gone out with only 53, he thought the time had not arrived successfully to attempt to reverse the system. Such being the case, it had occurred to him that the next best thing to do on behalf of that important class of the community which had sent him to Par- 1020 liament was to consider earnestly how beet the evil might be checked, and as much good extracted out of free trade as possible; and the only method which had occurred to him was to direct against the Free-traders that artillery they had levelled at the Protectionists, and to call upon them to adopt those principles which they had forced upon others, and so endeavour if they could to prevent further serious injury falling upon them, and alleviate the pressure under which they now laboured. In this view of the case, then, he could not oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose. Nay, he felt bound to give what little support he could to the Resolution. He would even say more—namely, that if the hon. Gentleman was consistent and honest—and he had no reason to think but that he was—he (Mr. Ball) trusted that he would not shrink from the course he was now adopting, but fairly and manfully carry his proposition to a division; and if he (Mr. Ball) followed the hon. Member into the lobby alone, he was prepared to declare that the only mode of doing justice to the agriculturists was by carrying out the principle of free trade in its fulness to every other interest in the country. He regretted to differ from the hon and gallant Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp), with whom, until this evening, he thought there had been a harmony of views. He had thought that if we were to have free trade, they all wished it should be universal, and he regretted that the hon. and gallant Colonel was not of that opinion. The hon. and gallant Colonel had observed that the hon. Member for Montrose, by this Motion, was getting "spring-guns." Now, the spring-guns had long been set, and had cruelly wounded the farmer; and those who were the farmers' friends would see how those wounds could best be healed—how their sufferings could be mitigated. Free trade, he repeated, had had a very cruel influence on the farmers, and had wounded the tenantry of this country in a multitude of instances, producing calamities which could never be repaired, and inflicting injuries which ought never to have been dealt out. For free trade ought not to have been commenced upon those least able to bear it, which he contended was the case of the farmers, but upon the manufacturers. He was told that in taking the course he had marked out for himself, with regard to this Motion, he should be opposed by some of his old friends, because a great many of the items referred to by the hon. Member 1021 for Montrose were articles of agricultural produce, and because the amount of taxation gathered as import duty on agricultural production exceeded the amount calculated to he received upon manufacturing commodities. "Why," said those friends, "go and strike off such taxation?" Now, what he contended was, that the amount of protection on manufacturing commodities was so large, that it prevented the farmer from getting those goods cheaply—whereas, the duty on the productions of agriculture were so insignificant, were so completely inoperative as protection, that those productions came into this country in spite of the duty. For instance, there was wheat, barley, oats, beans, and maize at 1½d. a bushel, and it was perfectly ridiculous to suppose that such a duty would check importation. It could be practically proved to be absurd. He was prepared to support the hon. Member for Montrose, therefore, on the ground that as the farmers of England had been compelled to compete with the farmers of other countries, the former should be allowed to procure their commodities at as cheap a rate as the latter. So to cheapen commodities and diminish prices would only be following out the doctrine which the hon. Member and his neighbours around him were in the habit of preaching. The hon. Member for Montrose had spoken, for instance, of the importance of reducing the duty on leather as a means of cheapening shoes. Might not the advantage of cheap leather be felt by the agriculturists when they paid their bills fur harness, and for the other implements of their occupation in which leather was used? In urging these considerations, he (Mr. Ball) took the only course which he believed to be open to him. He was driven to make the best of the position in which he found himself placed by the carrying of free-trade measures in that House. On behalf of protection he had used his talent (of which he might have but little), he had used his time (which had been at the service of the cause), and he had used something of his property. He had used all these for the purpose of preventing and staying the evil of free trade, believing that it had brought great calamity upon our villages and our farmers. But as he knew it was not practicable to recede—as he could not alter the decision of the House of Commons, it was for him to consider how, under all circumstances, he could best act for the welfare of that portion of the community which had done him the honour to send him to Parliament. There 1022 were two ways, as it appeared to him, of attaining this end. One was, by cheapening everything. And there was no way by which they could so well cheapen things as by taking duties off things which came to this country from abroad. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer contemplated a boon and a benefit to the agriculturists, for the right hon. Gentleman knew that they had sustained great injury, and he believed that he could not do them greater service than by taking off a portion of the malt duty. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to take off half of the malt duty; and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer would prove a better one if he did that wholly and entirely which his predecessor had only proposed to do in part. If the present Chancellor of the Exchequer would come forward and say that hitherto parties had compelled him to oppose the remission, but that now he was free to act, and that he was prepared to repeal the whole duty, he would be a better Chancellor of the Exchequer than the last. These were the only two ways by which the agriculturists could be relieved. They must carry out the system of free trade to its full extent. When the manufacturers had free trade, he honestly believed they would be sick of it. He could imagine their saying, when they had got free trade, "Let us forget the past. Let us have an ad valorem duty on every thing." He could imagine their crying out, "Abolish direct taxation; let us have indirect taxation." Approving of the first portion of the Resolution rather than the second, he would conclude by saying, that when the manufacturers found the system of free trade applied to themselves, they would not like it much better than the suffering interests connected with agriculture did.
§ MR. W. BROWN
said he wished to inquire of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it was intended to bring forward any Bill in reference to the Customs regulations, so that the trade might not be dependent, as they were now, on Treasury Orders? He would suggest to the Government the great importance and utility of consolidating the Customs Acts, and embodying the regulations of our commercial code in a distinct and well-condensed form. A comprehensive Act, defining and stating its provisions, would confer the utmost benefit on those engaged in carrying on the trade of the country. With regard to the observations the right hon. Gentleman had offered on the question now before the 1023 House, he begged to say that he generally approved of them.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he regretted that he could not agree in the course proposed by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. E. Ball), with whom he had long been associated in the defence of native industry; he retained the opinions he had held throughout the struggle on behalf of protection. He felt this to be the more incumbent on him, as he represented a constituency among whom were a large body of manufacturers, who were still protected. Knowing well the sentiments of his constituents, he could not reconcile it to his conscience to betray his duty to them. For years he had denounced the system of free imports—a denunciation in which he had been fortified by the example of the Americans. He had described the application of what was called the system of free-trade to the commerce of this country as an exaggeration, and he believed the country would soon so understand it. It would ill become him, therefore, to urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to repeal, for instance, the duties on the importation of silks. He did not think the House was in a position to understand the real meaning of this proposed reduction of duty. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had brought forward, under six heads of the return upon which this Motion was founded, certain articles of foreign manufacture and certain articles of agricultural produce, imported into this country. The amount of duty levied on articles of foreign manufacture appeared to be 434,000l. The hon. Member for Montrose had enumerated several trifling articles on which a very small amount of duty was collected. He had said very little about the duty on silk manufactures; but it was at the duties on the importation of silk manufactures that this Motion was aimed. There was a sum of 200,000l. duty on silk manufactures, out of the sum of 434,000l., very nearly half the amount. Now he (Mr. Newdegate) knew that the Manchester Chamber of Commerce memorialised the late Chancellor of the Exchequer for the repeal of that duty, in which course they were not supported by the rest of the silk trade in this country. When Sir Robert Peel introduced his financial reforms to the notice of the House of Commons, he went fully into this question of the silk duty. Debating the question with all the information at his command, which he had procured from the Custom House, and the 1024 inquiry into the Custom-house frauds, after having originally proposed duties at 10 per cent, Sir Robert Peel raised the scale of duties on silk, and left a protection on silk of 15 per cent. He therefore cited the authority of Sir Robert Peel that these duties should be retained. The French placed from 4s. 6d. to 12l. a cwt. export duty on dyed silk; and if we deprived our manufacturers of their protection, we should expose them to the competition of France as respected the raw material, upon which France placed a further duty of 12s. 6d. a cwt. He put himself in communication with the trade of Macclesfield and Spital-fields when the memorial was presented to his right hon. Friend, and they all declined to yield the point so long as they were exposed to unfair competition with France. He could explain how it was that the Manchester manufacturers sought to repeal the duties, while the rest of the trade wished to retain them. It should be known, then, that there was a low class of silk manufactured in Manchester, of dark colours; Manchester, somewhat like America, a little remarkable for sharp practice, asked for a repeal of the duty on silk—a requisition, which Macclesfield, Spitalfields, and Coventry, could not understand, as they believed that such a repeal would prove injurious. So he inquired a little into the subject, and found a singular fact in connexion with these Manchester manufactures. He had, perhaps, better read to the House a statement he had received upon the subject. It was as follows:—You will perceive that silk is brought up when dyed some time 40 oz. to the pound weight. Now, this is generally three-thread tram or weft, and when put into a hot liquid the threads open; and by thickening the liquor by shumac and other adulterations of a gelatine substance it gets between the fibres, and is there retained, of course making a piece of silk weigh heavier and feel thicker. It is, perhaps, needless to tell you that this deception does not add to the wearing of the cloth; it is done to deceive the eye and fingers, and not for utility. These are the low silks for which Manchester is famed, and with which they are able to compete with France; but in Spitalfields, Macclesfield, and Coventry, where they use and make light colours and better goods, such as pinks, sky blues, lilac, or more fanciful colours, the silk seldom comes up to more than 14 oz. to the pound, and in darker shades (not black) 16 to 18 oz., and wear the better for it; and upon this system the French goods are made. Now, the hon. free-traders of Manchester care nothing for their fellow-tradesmen in other towns, knowing that they may be able to put more rubbish in, if requisite for cheapness; but other towns making lighter colours could not do it without injury to the colour.1025 That would explain to the House the reason of the memorial to which reference had been made. Foreigners had found out that there was a good deal more than silk in these manufactures; and when the Manchester manufacturers complained that their export trade fell off, which was not the case with the products of the silk manufacture generally, he would say to these Manchester men, "Put less shumac into your goods." It was proper that these circumstances should be understood, and that neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor the public should he deceived as to the causes that created a difference between the goods and opinions of Manchester and those of other places. Now, to touch for a moment upon the general subject. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose had long been contemplating this Motion. [Mr. HUME: For three years.] The hon. Gentleman had moved for the returns, upon which to base this Motion, in one shape; then he moved for them in another shape; on the third occasion he moved for them in a form very similar to that which he has adopted in this; and last year he moved for them in the shape in which they appeared on the present occasion. He could not for some time make out the meaning of all those preparations; but now, however, it was explained. The hon. Gentleman had divided the scale of duties which the late Sir Robert Peel established in 1846, for levying the duties on imported silk manufactures, into five of the different classes of the returns. It was obvious, however, to the House that the variations in Sir Robert Peel's scale in the amount of duty, referred only to different varieties of the same article, and differing only in their relative qualities—such as was the case with silk—that the duty levied must have reference to the value as well as to the denomination of the article. But the hon. Member for Montrose, dividing Sir Robert Peel's scale, has classed the article under five heads, without reference to the fact that the difference was only in quality. [Mr. HUME here made a remark which was inaudible.] He (Mr. Newdegate) fully admitted that the hon. Gentleman did divide the duties, but he divided the scale in such a manner as to render it utterly useless to the Custom House. He certainly hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would negative the proposition of the hon. Gentleman; but to come back to the general question, namely, was it the interest of the agricul- 1026 tural body to support the hon. Member for Montrose? What did that hon. Gentleman propose? He asked the House to reduce the duties upon the importation of foreign manufactures to the extent of 430,000l.; but he proposed to reduce the duties upon agricultural produce to the extent of 916,000l. Therefore, while he pretended to give the agriculturists a relief of 1l., by diminishing the price of certain articles, many of which they did not generally consume, he deprived them of an absolute protection of 2l. upon articles which they certainly do produce. Now, in the face of such facts, having been attached, and still remaining, as he hoped, attached to the agricultural interest, and always ready to vindicate them from injustice, he could not feel justified in giving his vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose. But the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. E. Ball) expressed a hope that the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer would repeal the malt tax, if it were proved that the agriculturists were prepared to adopt and enforce the doctrine of unrestricted competition. Why, was it not that right hon. Gentleman who headed the combination which ousted his right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire from office because he proposed to repeal half of the malt tax? And if that repeal could not be obtained in favour of the agricultural interest, why was it that he (Mr. Newdegate) should be called upon to vote for the repeal of the duties upon butter, cheese, and such other articles of agricultural produce as Sir Robert Peel had still left protected? Was he to go to his friends in the country, and say to them that this was the way he had served them? Having a moral certainty that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer would not repeal the malt tax, he had consented to the withdrawal of the protective duties upon cheese and butter and other articles of agricultural produce, for no other purpose than to bring things to the dead level of free trade, and with the mere hope that the country would sicken of that system? He certainly held that the country would tire of the present commercial policy. The action of foreign tariffs on our trade would alone effect this; but he did not believe that that result would be accelerated by a policy of retaliation between the interests of this country. Protection was no longer a party question, and, in his opinion, it never ought to have been one; it was not Gentlemen on that side of the House that 1027 had made it so; it was made so by hon. Gentlemen opposite, It was made so seven years before the Protectionists moved at all upon the subject, when the Anti-Corn Law League first started into life. He believed that the beneficial effects attributed to that free-trade system had been grossly exaggerated. That exaggeration, however, he would leave to be discovered by the good sense of his countrymen.
§ MR. J. WILSON
said, he had no intention to prolong the present discussion, but he was anxious to reply to the inquiries of the hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. W. Brown) with regard to the Custom House Acts, the more especially as the answer of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, upon a former occasion, had been erroneously interpreted. He had to inform the House that there were already several Bills in preparation, and that those Bills were already in a very forward state, and only awaited the consideration and sanction of the Treasury, which must be given by a Treasury Minute, which Minute must precede any act upon the part of the Custom-house authorities.
§ MR. VANSITTART
said, for his part he should be highly obliged to the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer if he would take off the existing duties upon the articles mentioned by the hon. Member for Montrose; for considering the value which British agricultural produce had latterly began to assume in foreign markets, he thought that the agricultural interest had nothing to fear. However, if the right hon. Gentleman derived a large revenue from the duties imposed upon such articles, he would rather that he retained it, in order the better to enable him by-and-by to remove some of those restrictions which were really injurious to the agriculturists of the country.
§ MR. APSLEY PELLATT
said, that as one of the class of manufacturers who had been benefited by the principles carried out by the late Sir Robert Peel, he wished to state to the House that the demand for flint, crown, and plate glass had increased beyond the anticipations of even the most sanguine free-traders. By means of patent machines the manufacture of crown glass had taken quite a new direction, and it had caused an enormous increase, which, as well as rough plate glass, had been used in new positions, and for novel purposes, never before contemplated, while the price had undergone a corresponding reduction. Justified, there- 1028 fore, by his experience in this article, he could have no fear of any reconstruction of the tariff which might admit the further competition of foreigners. The English people, relying upon their capital, their industry, and the talents of their workmen, no longer wished to embarrass the progress of other nations by a system of retaliating tariffs. With regard to the question of butter and cheese, there had been recently passed in Holland a law which enabled Belgium, the Zollverein, and France, to send products into that country at somewhere about 2 per cent duty, while English productions were charged 6 per cent. This was done on account of our duty on butter and cheese imported from Holland; if, therefore, these duties did the agriculturists no good, while they excluded some of our manufactures from the Dutch market, they ought surely to be removed. Having been for many years subject to the trammels of the excise, and knowing how much it cramped the springs of manufacturing industry, he was strongly in favour of the removal of the excise upon soap. Its collection was more expensive than that of any other duty. In many of the manufactures in the north of England and Scotland, soap was made under the inspection of the exciseman on one side of the building; while upon the other, where it was used, officers had also to be in attendance to pay the drawback. What benefit could the country derive from having to employ one staff to put the duty on, and another to take it off? Mr. Porter, in his Progress of the Nation, stated that there were annually taken out forty or fifty licences to manufacture soap, where the quantity made was so small as not to amount to one ton per annum under each licence. This was, no doubt, done to evade the duty; and the honest manufacturer was thus exposed to competition with the dishonest. At the present moment the English manufacturers imported soap, to meet foreign orders, from Ireland, because it was made cheaper in that country, where there is no duty. He therefore hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would consider the propriety of repealing the soap duty, which did not amount to more than 1,000,000l. annually.
§ MR. HUDSON
said, he must deny that the manufacturers of glass sympathised with the expressions which had just fallen from the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Pellatt). They were glad to he relieved from the presence of the exciseman in their 1029 manufactories; but they hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not repeal those duties, which at the same time benefited and protected them, and added considerably to the revenue of the country.
§ MR. EWART
said, that we ought not to take our stand upon what Sir Robert Peel had done, but should consider what he would have done had he been alive now. We should not fix the tariff where he left it, but improve it upon the principles he had bequeathed to us. He had listened with great satisfaction to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because so far as he wont his principles were sound; but still he thought that the right hon. Gentleman was rather hard upon those who brought forward such Motions as these, when he said that they were adventurers in commercial legislation, and that they should not let off their pilot balloons until the Chancellor of the Exchequer bad brought forward his Budget; for it was well known if they waited until then, they would be told that it was too late, for the financial arrangements for the year had been made; and thus they would have no opportunity for testing the opinion of the House. As a free-trader, he flung away the distinction between agriculturists and manufacturers; he was equally desirous that all duties that were onerous, either to manufacturers or to commerce, should be taken off. With regard to butter and cheese, the attention of the House should be called to the fact, that while the importation of these articles had lately greatly decreased, their exportation had considerably increased. He had a statement from Liverpool, from which it appeared that we were now actually exporting butter and cheese to the United States of America. Last year about 13,000 casks of butter were received at Liverpool from Canada; but this year the United States buyers had swept that market both of butter and cheese. As his correspondent observed, there was a great change taking place in the markets of the world, and a great tendency to equalisation in the price of food all over the world. This was a consummation much to be desired; and under these circumstances he thought it was most desirable that we should reconsider our tariff There were now a great number of articles in our tariff which yielded very small sums to the revenue, and the duties on which, he thought, should therefore be entirely abolished. For 1030 instance, the duties received on apples only amounted to 4,000l.; that on boots to 8,000l.; on cherries, 253l. With respect to eggs, Mr. Huskisson stated, twenty years ago, that the number imported from abroad was 90,000,000; but notwithstanding the great increase which had since taken place in our population, we did not now import more than 115,000,000. The duty on eggs was only 1d. a dozen, and did not realise more than 13,000l. a year, and he, therefore, thought that this was a duty which might very well be abolished. These were details, by attention to which great benefit might be conferred upon the country. He was glad to see that one agriculturist at least had on this occasion joined the free-traders. He hoped that his example would be followed by others, and that the agriculturists would take their proper position as reformers of our fiscal system. He believed the time was fast coming when agriculture would be acknowledged to be a trade and a manufacture; and when the ideal separation between agriculturists and manufacturers was removed, they would together pursue the common good of our common country.
§ MR. PARKER
said, he could not understand how, as an honest man, he could be called upon to abandon the principles which he had adopted. He should be surprised if those Members who had lately voted in favour of the Resolution declaring that free-trade principles should in future govern the policy of the country, should so soon recede from it; and if the hon. Member for Montrose divided the House upon this Resolution, he should vote with him. He was surprised, indeed, that the hon. Member should have brought forward such a Resolution, unless he doubted the sincerity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in supporting the free-trade policy. As, however, he (Mr. Parker) did not understand political chicanery, he should vote honestly, according to the principles he had adopted, and which had lately been declared by a majority of that House to be those which should in future govern the country.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he wished to say a few words in explanation, after the extraordinary statement of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). Perhaps some persons would think that was hardly necessary, since the hon. Gentleman was so much in the habit of making unfair and unfounded attacks on 1031 manufacturers who lived in the town which he (Mr. Bright) represented. The hon. Gentleman appeared to wish to emulate the course taken by a gentleman, formerly a Member of that House, and who sat for Knaresborough (Mr. Ferrand), and who obtained an unenviable notoriety by his attacks on the manufacturers of this country. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire wished to make it appear that the silk trade of Manchester had a particular interest in the abolition of the duty on that article, which was not participated in by the silk manufacturers of Macclesfield and Spitalfields. The hon. Gentleman was not aware, perhaps, that a memorial on the subject, which was lately presented to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was signed by a very large number of the silk manufacturers of Manchester, and that not one of them was opposed to the objects of the petition. The hon. Gentleman seemed to suppose that there was no silk manufactured in Manchester, except a coarse article, three-fourths of which was not silk. But the fact was, that the silk manufacture in Manchester, of late years, bad extended more and been more prosperous than in any other district; that it consisted of articles of every quality in the trade; and if it was true that the article manufactured was of inferior quality, and customers did not readily come to purchase it, he (Mr. Bright) thought that it would be just the one that would require protection against the foreigner. The hon. Gentleman ought, at all events, to give the manufacturers of Manchester credit for consistency in the maintenance of the principle of unrestricted competition. In the memorial to which he had alluded, it was stated that the silk trade had suffered, because there was an opinion entertained that the English silk manufacturer could not compete with the foreigner, and that their articles were not so good; and they wished that opinion to be destroyed by the repeal of that duty. These manufacturers, who had supported the Anti-Corn Law League, and had besieged that House with petitions for the repeal of the corn laws, were at least consistent when they came and asked that the principle of the tariff of Sir Robert Peel should be carried out, and stated that they were willing to accept the application of that principle to their industry. That principle the silk manufacturers of Manchester had carried out, trusting to their own energy, activity, and perseverance; and they had found 1032 those qualities produced the same results, whether they were applied to the manufacture of cotton or to silk. He was sorry, to find that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire still maintained what the; right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) had called obsolete opinions; but he was glad to find that the fifty-three who could not be converted had now dropped to fifty-two by the defection of the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. E. Ball). He (Mr. Bright) should not have said a word, but that there were persons who might feel themselves aggrieved by the unjust observations upon them which were uttered in that House, unless some one made a fair reply to such unnecessary remarks as those of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. Before sitting down he (Mr. Bright) wished to ask a question of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer. This was, perhaps, a proper time to put it. It had been stated in the papers that negotiations were going on between the Governments of France and England for the reduction on articles which this country could supply to a large extent, such as coal, iron, and earthenware, and that the French were willing to make reductions in the duties on these articles, if England would be willing to reduce the duties on wines and brandy. He should be glad, as they were now on the question of free trade and extended commerce, if the right hon. Gentleman could give him, an answer on that point; and, if there were any papers on the subject, allow the House to see what was doing, for it would be better to strike down the barriers which restrict trade, than to be occupied with in creasing our armaments and military expenditure.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was sorry that, in answer to the hon. Gentleman, he had but little to say. There had been, some consider able time ago, communications between the two Governments, but no definite result had been attained. All he could say was, that the subject had not escaped, the attention of the present Government.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, before the House comes to a vote upon this question, I wish to make some few observations. It is my opinion that the cultivators of the soil in this country are subjected to an undue weight of taxation. The late Government, impressed with that conviction, considered a system of taxation with a view to afford a remedy to injustice, or at least to what 1033 they conceived to be an injustice. It was their opinion that that remedy was best to be found, not by taking a partial and limited view, by looking to the immediate interests of any class, but rather by considering the principles upon which our general system of taxation was founded, They arrived at the conclusion that they would best benefit the producer by consulting the interests of the consumer. They adopted that opinion, and, considering the whole system of our taxation, they thought it their duty to propose certain measures to the House. I was the organ of the Government on that occasion, when we proposed measures which the House did not think proper to sanction. It is not true that these measures were recommended to the adoption of the House as a new financial system. They were distinctly described to the House of Commons as only the first step. Other steps, and as important ones, were expressed or intimated. We knew that, to enable the House and the country to adopt the policy which we wished them to adopt, it was necessary to make apparently some sacrifices. Nothing in this country or in the world that is great can be achieved without sacrifices. But we were convinced that in time there would be such a general sentiment throughout this great community that the principles upon which the financial policy of the late Government were recommended to the adoption of the House of Commons were sound and beneficial, that we looked with confidence for our justification to the consequences of that policy if it had been adopted. The House of Commons, however, did not think proper to adopt that policy, and we proved the sincerity of our conduct, I hope, by what took place after that vote. We relinquished power—I will not say without a pang—but we relinquished power because we were of opinion that power was valueless, unless it was exercised with the fair and generous confidence of the House of Commons. I, at least, so far as I am concerned, consider that the vote of the House of Commons upon the financial policy recommended by the late Government, of which I was the organ, was conclusive. I have still an undiminished confidence in the principles I then recommended, and the policy I then hoped the House would have adopted. But, so far as I am individually concerned, I have no wish to intrude those opinions on an assembly that has in so formal a manner resolved not to adopt the policy that we re- 1034 commended to them under those circumstances. I am equally undesirous to invent occasions to harass those who have succeeded us in office, by discussions on financial questions. That I think I, as well as those with whom it is my honour and happiness to act, showed the other night, when an hon. Member opposite brought forward a Motion which we might very consistently have supported, and which, if carried, might have very much embarrassed the Government, but which, although I had that night been accused of a factious proceeding, I was not willing in any way to sanction. The present occasion is one upon which I am called to give an opinion on a subject of the greatest interest as concerning the general principles of our fiscal system, and especially as they affect those whom we believe to have been unjustly treated, and whose interests we are bound to advocate. The right hon Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has found one great fault with the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume). He says, "What this practical public require, and what this practical assembly should accomplish, is performance, not promise." But what, Sir, is the Resolution which the Chancellor of the Exchequer very properly described as a promise? It is—That this House will, at an early period, take into its consideration the duties that are strictly protective in the existing Tariffs on articles of Import into this country, both of manufactures and agricultural produce, with the view of speedily repealing the same, as affecting unfairly every interest in the country.Well, now, before I proceed to make a single comment upon that Resolution, let me see how the charge of making a promise, brought against the hon. Member for Montrose by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is supported. The Resolution of the hon. Member for Montrose does no doubt hold out a policy to the country, and we have to consider, first, is the policy a sound one; and, if a sound one, is it politic at this moment to hold out to the country the promise of it? If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had risen and said, "This is a Motion which, if carried into practical effect, will materially influence the revenue of the country; I am the guardian of the Exchequer of the country; I will not enter into any argument on the subject, but will appeal to the confidence of the House to guard me from these attacks upon the Exchequer; I will not give an opinion; I do not think it my duty to give 1035 an opinion on the policy recommended; but I will say at once that I will enter upon no discussion, and I call upon this House to enter upon no discussion on this policy, or this promise of a policy." If he had done this, I could have understood the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that it might have been the duty of every man in this House to support him. But what is the conduct of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Declaring that the course of the hon. Member for Montrose is merely a promise, and that a promise without performance is a most dangerous course of Parliamentary conduct, the Chancellor of the Exchequer rises in his place and makes a speech which is one long promise from beginning to end. From beginning to end he has been promising what the Government will do on this particular question, when circumstances and the occasion permit them to deal with it. The whole question of policy is thus opened by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We have therefore not to consider the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose with respect to its convenience or inconvenience to the Treasury—which is the position in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have placed it—but we are to consider this Motion as a Motion of policy, and of policy alone. Well, I approve of the policy of the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose. If the principles of policy which the late Government recommended this House to adopt, but which this House rejected—a policy which, some day or other, will be recognised as one beneficial to the community, and advantageous to property, because it considered the interests of industry in their proper sense; if that policy, I say, is not pursued, I must look to the other means that exist to remove that injustice from the cultivators of the soil in this country, to which they are subjected, and under which I believe they are at present suffering. My hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), who is not, I think, liable to those depreciating observations that have been made with respect to him by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), but who, on this as on all occasions, has shown an admirable consistency, great talents, and unwearying powers of research, has said, "This is a bad bargain for the agiculturists; remove these protective or quasi protective duties, and you only take off an amount of 434,000l. from the importation of manufactures, while 1036 you take off double that amount which is at present imposed upon agricultural produce." Now I say, with great respect to my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire, that the question of industry in this country has got far beyond the question of 400,000 or 900,000l. After the immense revolution that has been carried into effect, we cannot cling to the rags and tatters of a protective system. Here is the agricultural class compelled to pay a considerable duty on articles which they wish to use. We cannot be told in answer to that, "You derive a small revenue from certain articles of foreign agricultural prodution." I deny that practically—if we could condescend to enter into these particulars—any of these duties that are levied on foreign agricultural articles are really, in the language of the Motion, of a protective character. They are not strictly protective, they are not protective at all. But I will not enter into the question now, whether the duties that are levied on foreign manufactured articles are protective—and strictly protective I believe they are—but I protest, after the Vote which the House has come to, and after the verdict of the last general election, against the cultivators of the soil being subjected to any duties that are either protective or strictly protective. We have been forced into the consideration of the policy of this Motion by the Minister. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had risen in his place, and, placing the question on fiscal considerations, had objected to all discussion, this debate might long ago have ceased; but it was because he has objected to the Motion as a Motion of promise, and then has entered into a long speech, which was only a speech of promise, that he has forced us to give an opinion on the policy which he does seem at a distant day to sanction, but which now he meets in a manner that I cannot describe, or even at this moment exactly understand. But this I understand, that, forced to give an opinion—believing that the course recommended is the course which is founded upon those principles which the people and the Parliament of England have sanctioned and adopted—believing that it is a policy which does justice to the agriculturists, I shall vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose.
§ MR. CARDWELL
Sir, with an admirable dexterity which those who have admired the ability of the right hon. Gen- 1037 tleman might not be unprepared to expect, at a late hour, and to a crowded House, the right hon. Gentleman has given a description of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered at an early period of the evening. It would not be right in me to assume that there was any degree of ingenuity cast into the version which the right hon. Gentlemen gave of it beyond what is strictly conformable to Parliamentary practice; but this I say, that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer may wonder when he hears the version given by his right hon. predecessor of the speech which at an early period of the evening he is supposed to have delivered. The right hon. Gentleman says that if my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had rested his defence upon the simple position that he was the guardian of the public Treasury, and that at the present period of the financial year it was not right to deprive that Treasury of a sum exceeding 1,500,000l., then the debate might have come to an immediate conclusion, and that at least the right hon. Gentleman himself would not have been found the champion of this Motion. I appeal to those who, at an early period of the evening, were present at this debate, what was the argument of my right hon. Friend. It is true he did not venture to say that the House of Commons shall not only not come to a fiscal Resolution, but it shall not presume to debate—that its Members shall not presume to express opinions as individuals upon a fiscal subject. Have we not been asked by Gentlemen who have spoken—What is the time and what is the opportunity for recommending to the House of Commons the remission of taxes? If we come forward, it is said, at an early period of the Session, you tell us we are premature, for the financial year is not closed, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not ready to receive your suggestions; if we came forward at a later period the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us, "Oh, but the time is passed—the financial year is closed, our arrangements are made—the surplus of the revenue is expended, and the opportunity is gone." That is the complaint now; but what reproaches would be urged against the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who went a long step further than that—who, when a Gentleman of experience and weight in this House, like my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, brings forward a long list of fiscal cases, 1038 which he thinks worthy of redress, and places them upon the notice paper of the House, and invites the attention of Parliament and the country to them, at the proper time and before the financial statement is made, that the attention of the Government may be called to them, and that by the Government and the Parliament they may be considered; saying, at the same time, only admit my principles—only lay down that this is sound legislation; grant me that commercially, and then as a question of finance, I will respect the Treasury, and not call upon the House of Commons to commit itself to a vote; and that, Sir, was the course taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose—what, I say, would have been the charge against my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he had got up in his place, and had said, "You have no business to bring this question before the House of Commons. You have no business to explain your opinions, or ask others to express theirs. I will give you only one answer—I cannot spare the money, and, whether your principles are right or wrong, I will enter into no debate, but will charge you with impertinence for bringing them forward." [Cries of "Oh oh!"] The right hon. Gentlemen opposite may well be astonished at that doctrin when it is placed before them in that categorical manner. I am glad to hear their cheers, and I accept it as an argument in my favour. That we should ventilate this subject in debate is not the true objection; but the true objection is, do not commit yourself by any formal Resolution to condemn any portion of your revenue until the time is arrived when you are prepared to give effect to your condemnation and relieve the people from these burdens. The right hon. Gentleman opposite is determined to give a vote in favour of this Motion, and I call upon the House to consider the tendency of the support which the right hon. Gentleman is about to give it. The right hon. Gentleman says it is too late to cling to the rags and tatters of protection; but an hon. Gentleman behind him has expressed a different opinion, if my ears did not deceive me. He has expressed his intention of giving the same vote as the right hon. Gentleman; but he made this candid declaration on the subject:—He said, I do cling to protection, but I want to see the artillery of free trade turned against those Gentlemen opposite, that it may inconvenience them, and that they may be dis- 1039 gusted with it and that so we may get rid of it the sooner. That is not a course which it is convenient to take, nor is it desirable that we should commit ourselves by a formal vote at a time of the year when we are not prepared to give effect to it; and that was the argument which at an early period of the evening my right hon. Friend addressed to the House. When we recollect the inestimable services which my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose has rendered by presiding over the celebrated Committee which reported upon Import Duties, and the fruits which have been reaped from that inquiry, it is not surprising that with his great Parliamentary experience and sagacity he should give his own principles a fair chance, not by pushing the question to a division at a time that is convenient for his party opponents, but by resting satisfied with the assurance that has been given to him by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer; sure, from his former experience, that the seed is sown in seed time, and will be ripened and brought home in harvest.
said, he would suggest that the hon. Member for Montrose should leave out the words "with the view of speedily repealing the same," and thereby leave the House full power to consider the subject. It should be recollected that certain articles of agriculture, as, for example, cheese and butter, were deemed to be manufactured articles, and if they were to repeal the duty upon manufactured articles, he saw no reason whatever why the duty upon those articles should not also be repealed. He must vote, if these words were maintained, against the Motion.
said, as the House was now full, which it had, unfortunately, not been when he introduced his Motion, it appeared right that he should state the position in winch that Motion now stood. He could not express too much satisfaction at the manner in which the principles he was aiming to support had been received. It seemed they were all unanimous. The only question seemed to be how they were best to carry those principles out. When he introduced the Motion, he said that, being aware that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was about to bring forward his financial scheme, he was only anxious to have the assurance that free trade would be carried out still further, and that we should not have those manacles on our free-trade system, perpetuated, and therefore, as it 1040 appeared now they were all agreed, he would not put the House to the trouble of dividing. ["Oh, oh!" and "Divide!"] He asked the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), who had entirely agreed with what he had stated, to let them have a unanimous vote. With regard to the wording of the Resolution, he thought it best as it was, because it insured the removal of inequalities. He was willing to withdraw his Motion—[Cries of "Divide, divide!"]—but if hon. Gentlemen were desirous of a division, he should be happy to oblige them.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 159: Majority 58.
|List of the AYES.|
|Annesley, Earl of||Lennox, Lord A. F.|
|Arkwright, G.||Liddell, H. G.|
|Bailey, C.||Lucas, F.|
|Ball, E.||M'Cann, J.|
|Bass, M. T.||MacGregor, J.|
|Bell, J.||M'Mahon, P.|
|Bellew, Capt.||Mandeville, Visct.|
|Berkeley, hon. C. F.||Michell, W.|
|Bowyer, G.||Miller, T. J.|
|Bremridge, R.||Moffatt, G.|
|Bright, J.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Christopher, rt. hon. R. A.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Clay, J.||Murrough, J. P.|
|Cobbett, J. M.||Naas, Lord|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Napier, rt. hon. J.|
|Cobden, R.||Newport, Visct.|
|Crook, J.||Oakes, J. H. P.|
|Devereux, J. T.||O'Brien, P.|
|Disraeli, right hon. B.||O'Flaherty, A.|
|Du Cane, C.||Ossulston, Lord|
|Duncan, G.||Parker, R. T.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Peacocke, G. M. W.|
|Ewart, W.||Pechell, Sir G. B.|
|Ferguson, J.||Pellatt, A.|
|Forbes, W.||Percy, hon. J. W.|
|Forester, rt. hon. Col.||Pollard-Urquhart, W.|
|Forster, Sir G.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|French, F.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Gardner, R.||Robertson, P. F.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Greenall, G.||Shelley, Sir J. V.|
|Greene, J.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Greville, Col. F.||Stafford, A.|
|Hadfield, G.||Stanhope, J. B.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Stanley, Lord|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Stephenson, R.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Hastie, A.||Sullivan, M.|
|Hume, W. F.||Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Kendall, N.||Vane, Lord A.|
|Kennedy, T.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Kerrison, E. C.||Walcot, Adm.|
|Kershaw, J.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|King, J. K.||West, F. R.|
|Knox, Col.||Whiteside, H.|
|Knox, hon. W. S.||Whitmore, H.|
|Laffan, R. M.||Wilkinson, W. A.|
|Laslett, W.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Wyndham, Gen.||Wynne, W. W. E.|
|Wynn, H. W. W.|
|Hume, J.||Williams, W.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Hastie, A.|
|A'Court, C. H. W.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Adair, H. E.||Heneage, G. F.|
|Anderson, Sir J.||Herbert, H. A.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Herbert, rt. hon. S.|
|Ball, J.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Baring, rt. hn. Sir F. T.||Hey wood, J.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Horsfall, T. B.|
|Berkeley, Adm.||Hudson, G.|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Hutt, W.|
|Biddulph, R. M.||Jackson, W.|
|Blackett, J. F. B.||Keating, R.|
|Bland, L. H.||Ker, D. S.|
|Boldero, Col.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Kirk, W.|
|Booker, T. W.||Knatchbull, W. F.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Langton, W. G.|
|Brown, W.||Lindsay, hon. Col.|
|Browne, V. A.||Loveden, P.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Lowe, R.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Luce, T.|
|Byng, hon. G. H. C.||M'Gregor, J.|
|Campbell, Sir A. I.||Malins, R.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Miles, W.|
|Chaplin, W. J.||Milligan, R.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Mills, T.|
|Cheetham, J.||Milner, W. M. E.|
|Christy, S.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Clinton, Lord R.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.||Molesworth, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Cogan, W. H. F.||Monck, Visct.|
|Cowan, C.||Moncreiff, J.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Monsell, W.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Morris, D.|
|Crowder, R. B.||Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.|
|Dalrymple, Visct.||Mundy, W.|
|Deedes, W.||Mure, Col.|
|Denison, J. E.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Drumlanrig, Visct.||Norreys, Lord|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||O'Connell, M.|
|Duff, G. S.||Oliveira, B.|
|Duff, J.||Osborne, R.|
|Dundas, G.||Otway, A. J.|
|Dunne, M.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Ellice, E.||Paget, Lord G.|
|Emlyn, Visct.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Esmonde, J.||Patten, J. W.|
|Evans, W.||Phillipps, J. H.|
|Fitzgerald, J. D.||Phillimore, J. G.|
|Fitzgerald, W. R. S.||Phinn, T.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Pilkington, J.|
|Forster, M.||Pinney, W.|
|Fortescue, C.||Portman, hon. W. H. B.|
|Geach, C.||Price, W. P.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W.||Ricardo, O.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Glyn, G. C.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Goodman, Sir G.||Sadleir, J.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||Sawle, C. B. G.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Scully, F.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Seymour, Lord|
|Grogan, E.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Hardinge, hon. C. S.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Spooner, R.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Stanley, hon. W. O.||Warner, E.|
|Stapleton, J.||Wickham, H. W.|
|Stirling, W.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Strutt, rt. hon. E.||Wilson, J.|
|Tancred, H. W.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Thicknesse, R. A.||Wise, J. A.|
|Thompson, G.||Wyndham, W.|
|Thornely, T.||Wyvili, M.|
|Tollemache, J.||Young, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Tufnell, rt. hon. H.|
|Vansittart, G. H.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Verner, Sir W.||Mulgrave, Earl of|