HC Deb 10 July 1854 vol 134 cc1478-80

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of this Bill—the object of which appeared to be to stamp as gold something not much better than brass—to explain the reason he had for introducing it, and to what point he intended to reduce the standard.


said, by the law of this country, as it now stood, no article of gold manufacture could be sold of a lower standard than eighteen carats fine. There was a very valuable trade in watch-cases of that standard, but there was a large and increasing trade in the world in watchcases of a lower standard of fineness; and very great complaint was made by the manufacturers of Birmingham, Coventry, and Liverpool, of their being shut out from a participation in this trade by the restriction to which he had referred. They were anxious, therefore, for such a change of the laws as would admit of articles being manufactured of a lower standard, which should be stamped so as to show the exact quantity of fineness, and sold for what they really were. This request appeared to him to be reasonable; and with regard to the question which the right hon. Gentleman had put to him, as to what was the standard to which he intended to descend, he would observe that he believed the greater part of the trade to which he had referred was in articles of ten carats fine; and as the object was to put such a stamp upon the article as would show exactly what it was worth, so that there could be no fraud upon the public, he saw no reason why they should not descend to twelve, or even ten carats, which he believed was the lowest standard of which such articles were manufactured.


said, he begged on the part of his constituents to thank the right hon. Gentleman for introducing the Bill, which would prove very beneficial to the watch-case trade.


said, he had been requested by the great body of the gold manufacturers of the metropolis to say that they entirely disapproved of this Bill, and that they considered it would drive the respectable trade away front England if articles were allowed to be manufactured and sold as gold which in point of fact were only one-third gold. They were of opinion that the high character of the gold manufacture of this country was owing to the high standard which the manufacturers were obliged to maintain, and that if that standard were to he lowered the trade in watch-cases would be driven away to Geneva. He understood that the object was to enable certain manufacturers of Liverpool and Birmingham to manufacture lower classes of goods, in order to compete with America, where there was no standard at all.


said, he believed that the bon. Member who last addressed the House spoke the sentiments of certain London monopolists, who supposed, mistakenly however, that they derived advantage from the present state of the law. It was supposed that the watch trade would have suffered from the establishment of free trade, instead of which it had wonderfully increased since that era. The trade was in a progressive state of improvement, but his constituents complained that they were obliged to send the works they manufactured to America or France, in order that they might be put into eases made in those countries of a lower standard than was legal in England. Why this restriction should be put upon the trade was to him a matter of absolute mystery. The fact was, that small watch-cases could not be made of gold at eighteen carats fine. The gold was too ductile. But, in asking to be allowed to make watch-cases at a lower standard, it was not sought to deceive the public. All that was asked was, that the number of carats should be stamped; that there should be appropriate marks for eighteen carats, fourteen carats, or twelve carats, as the case might be.

Bill read 2°.