HC Deb 04 June 1857 vol 145 cc1122-76

then rose to move, that a Select Committee to inquire into the origin, the past and present constitution, and the powers and duties of the Board of Trade, with a view to its better adaptation to the requirements of the country. He said, that he wished to express the deep sense he entertained of the difficulties of the duty which he had undertaken, and to disclaim being actuated by any personal or party feeling, or by any intentional disrespect or hostility to the noble Lord who presided with so much courtesy over the Board of Trade, or towards the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board. He was happy to admit at once that the Board of Trade was not a sinecure Board. His complaint, on the contrary, was, that it did too much. Its duties were too numerous, too varied, and too complicated, to admit of their being satisfactory and efficiently discharged. Before going into the main question, perhaps he might be permitted to glance briefly at the history of the Board. It was in 1636, that the first Board of Trade was appointed, in the time of Charles I. In 1655, Cromwell reconstituted the Board, and appointed his son Richard at its head. It then was composed of certain Lords of the Council and twenty merchants, summoned from various parts of the kingdom, Liverpool being then too insignificant to have a representative upon it. After the death of Cromwell, during the reign of Charles II., and in the year 1660, another alteration took place, and it was divided into two boards—one the Board of Foreign Plantations, and the other the Board for the Superintendence of Commerce. Those two departments were again united in the year 1672; but fresh changes were made in its constitution in 1696, and again in 1699, the principle, however, upon which it was formed remaining nearly the same until 1780. It then became very unpopular; and there being a general conviction that the Board was wholly unnecessary, Mr. Burke in that year introduced a Bill which, amongst other objects, proposed to provide for the abolition of the Board of Trade. This proposition led to a very animated debate, in a full House, when the clause for abolishing the Board was carried by 207 to 199. The observations of Mr. Burke on that occasion were so pertinent to the question then before the House that he hoped he might be allowed to quote a few of them. Mr. Burke said,— …. I speak, Sir, of the Board of Trade and Plantations.…. I have known that Board, off and on, for a great number of years. Both of its pretended objects have been much the objects of my study—if I have a right to call any pursuits of mine by so respectable a name. I can assure the House, and I hope they will not think that I risk my little credit lightly, that without meaning to convey the least reflection upon any one of its members, past or present, it is a Board which, if not mischievous, is of no use at all, You will be convinced, Sir, that I am not mistaken if you reflect how generally it is true, that commerce, the principal object of that office, flourishes most when it is left to itself. Interest, the great guide of commerce, is not a blind one. It is very well able to find its own way, and its necessities are its best laws.…. In the reign, indeed, of Charles I., the Council or Committees of Council were never a moment unoccupied with the affairs of trade; but even where they had no ill-intention (which was sometimes the case), trade and manufacture suffered infinitely from their injudicious tamperings. But since that period, whenever regulation is wanting (for I do not deny that sometimes it may be wanting) Parliament constantly sits, and Parliament alone is competent to such regulation. We want no instruction from Boards of Trade or from any other Board; and God forbid we should give the least attention to their reports. Parliamentary inquiry is the only mode of obtaining Parliamentary information. There is more real knowledge to be obtained by attending the detail of business in the Committees above stairs than ever did come or ever will come from any Board in this kingdom, or from all of them together. But, notwithstanding that division, the mercantile interest of that day, like the same body at the present day, were anxious, not for the abolition, but the re-constitution of the Board. He admitted that that Board had, in many respects, done good service to the country, and that it had been presided over by many eminent persons, both in that and the other House. What he wanted to direct the attention of the House to was, the constitution of the Board. He would not enter into the question whether the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London were or were not now members of that Board, though he believed they were not very long ago. But he would accept the definition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, when speaking of savings banks, said that he would have nothing to do with the honorary Commissioners, he was the only responsible party—that the President of the Board of Control was the responsible Member of that Board; and that the responsible parties at the Board of Trade were its President and Vice President. The first point which presented itself was this:—What were the duties which the Board of Trade had to discharge? It had been truly said by Mr. Thomas, of the Record Office, that the duties of the Board of Trade were of the most miscellaneous character. It was their duty to advise the Colonial Secretary on questions affecting the commerce of the Colonies; to advise the Lords of the Treasury on matters affecting the Customs and Excise; to communicate with the Foreign Secretary on commercial treaties; to supervise every Order in Council; to report on every local Bill, including every Dock Bill and every Railway Bill for the guidance of Parliament; to superintend generally agricultural statistics and those of the corn trade, of commerce and navigation, and of railways; to attend to the Department of Science and Art at Marlborough House, to the Mining Record Office, to the Geological Survey of the United Kingdom, the Museum of Irish Industry, the Registration of Designs, the Metropolitan Water Supply, the Coalwhippers Office, &c. And if the duties which the Board of Trade had already to perform were not sufficient, in order to make the list complete, he would suggest that the duties consequent on the passing of the Medical Bill, the Industrial Schools Bill, and the Aggravated Assaults Bill should devolve upon that Board. He believed that it was impossible for any Board to attend to duties so multifarious and various in a manner to satisfy the public; and, in point of fact, the body to which his Motion related certainly had not conducted the affairs entrusted to it satisfactorily, either to the commercial or to the other interests of the country. He would advert, in proof of this, to the feeling of dissatisfaction which prevailed with respect to their administration of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854. Meetings were now being held, and petitions were being sent up from every seaport, complaining of that Act, and of the manner in which its provisions were carried out. In 1850 the present Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Labouchere) introduced a Bill on this subject, which recognised the great principle of local self-government, in opposition to that of centralization, by giving local Marine Boards to the principal ports in different parts of the kingdom. On these Boards devolved the duty of inquiry into the cause of wrecks, and the misconduct of merchant captains or officers, and generally into the cause of casualties at sea. He spoke from the experience which he had had as a member of the local Marine Board at Liverpool, when he said that no Boards could have worked better than those thus constituted, or have given more general satisfaction. But when Mr. Cardwell introduced the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854, for which he obtained deserved credit, he made some few mistakes, and amongst them was the clause by which he transferred the power exercised by these Boards to two justices or a stipendiary magistrate. The result of this step had been to create the greatest dissatisfaction amongst the mercantile marine. And he could with confidence ask the House to compare the constitution of the local Marine Board with the tribunal to which the matters in question were now referred. By the Act of 1850 the local Board consisted of six shipowners elected by the shipowners of the port, and of four merchants or shipowners appointed by the Government, and they had the advantage of the legal advice of the stipendiary magistrate, of the presence of the examiner of seamanship—a merchant captain of great ability, appointed by the Board of Trade—and of the scientific examiner in navigation. He thought it would have been impossible to appoint a more efficient tribunal for the purpose for which it was instituted. How much more satisfactory was this than the appointment of two magistrates, who might not know the mainmast of a ship from the bowsprit. To remedy this, it was true that the Board of Trade appointed a naval assessor—but this provision was far from giving satisfaction. Mr. Cardwell, when the Act in question was passing through the House, told him (Mr. Horsfall) that the powers proposed to be given by it were merely permissive. Now, if they had not been exercised no complaint would have arisen. It was because they had been exercised that they had created such general complaints amongst the general body of merchant captains, 25,000 in number. He should, indeed, be told that but few cases had been transferred to the tribunal of which he complained. But those cases were the most important ones which were thus taken from a competent tribunal, the local Marine Board, and transferred to what was considered an incompetent, stipendiary magistrates, assisted by a naval officer. Now, he should not be suspected of saying anything disrespectful of the officers of the navy when he contended that a naval officer was not, under the circumstances, the fittest man to judge of the conduct of captains of the merchant service in critical emergencies. He did not know the circumstances in which they were placed, or the difficulties with which they had to contend. A naval captain went to sea with officers, and a crew whom he knew, but a merchant captain had under him twenty or thirty men, all strangers. Was it to be wondered at, then, that a naval captain should carry his ship, under such circumstances, through a gale of wind, while a merchant captain lost his? Was it to be said that that was owing to negligence or carelessness on the part of the merchant captain? What the merchant captains contended for was, that they should be tried by their peers in cases of misfortune or misconduct, as the officers of the navy were. Now, the local Marine Boards had amongst its members merchant captains. The navy were tried by their peers—why should not the merchant service? He thought the former therefore had great reason to complain of the manner in which the Board of Trade had exercised these permissive powers entrusted to them by the Merchant Shipping Act, by appointing an incompetent and unjust instead of a competent and just tribunal. But this was not all. The Board of Trade, not content with discharging the duties imposed on them by the Legislature, had systematically grasped at every possible extension of their jurisdiction. Thus, under the 148th section of the Merchant Shipping Act, the owners of any vessel that was in distress or lost were obliged to make a return to the Board, giving the name and description of the owner and of the ship, a statement of her cargo, of the ports from and to which she was bound, of the occasion of her being in distress, and of the services rendered in her salvage. That was all very proper, and though he should have imagined that information to be sufficient; the clause went on to say, "and such other matters on circumstances relating to such ship, or to the cargo on board the same, as the receiver or justice think necessary." Would the House believe that, under these words, the Board had applied to owners whose vessels had been lost or gone ashore for a statement whether she and the cargo were insured or not; and if the former, the amount of the insurance, where the insurance was effected. There is nothing in the section he had referred to to justify such a demand, which was most unjustifiable in its character, and calculated to inflict serious injury either upon the merchant or the underwriters—more especially when it was recollected that the information thus directed to be sent to the Board of Trade was not to be confined to them, but was to be posted up at Lloyd's. Now, what mercantile man would like to have it posted at Lloyd's that he had lost £50,000 or £60,000 uninsured; or, in case of insurance, what underwriters would like to be posted as liable for that sum? In one case, a person who had been asked for this information had been advised to tell the Board of Trade, by way of answer, to mind their own business and that he would mind his; and such an answer, in more courteous terms, was returned. There were, in fact, constant complaints of the interference of the Board of Trade in all directions. When he served upon the local Marine Board at Liverpool no differences took place between them and the Board of Trade. The business entrusted to them was conducted harmoniously and successfully. But of late the interference of the Board of Trade had reached such a pitch that the whole of the members of the local Board of Trade had resigned their seats. Those gentlemen served the public gratuitously, and with the utmost assiduity and integrity, but they were constantly thwarted by the Board of Trade. Since he gave notice of this Motion, the late chairman of the Liverpool Board wrote to him in these words:— Although the Board in London did on all occasions concede in the end our recommendations, it was generally the result of long, wearisome, unnecessary correspondence. A great number of cases had been brought to his notice in which masters of ships considered they had been hardly dealt with, and in others it was complained that the action of the Board of Trade had not been sufficiently stringent. In the latter cases he believed, however, that the Board of Trade had acted strictly in accordance with the letter of the law. In one instance the licence of a captain who was a notorious drunkard had been renewed, after he had been absent from the country for three years, because the owners of his vessel were unable to obtain vivâ voce evidence of his habits, and they could not proceed upon written evidence. In that case he believed the Board had no alternative. He (Mr. Horsfall) agreed entirely with the observations of Mr. Burke as to the functions of the Board of Trade with reference to reporting upon local Bills. He thought it was inconsistent with proper legislation that a Board—or, rather, one or two individuals—should, without hearing any but ex parte evidence, be allowed to send to Members of Parliament, who were to sit as jurors to consider the merits of private Bills, reports which were in favour of or opposed to those Bills. Such a sys- tem he regarded as altogether inconsistent with the principles of the British constitution. He would not enter into the question of local dues. It had been said that he meant to take occasion in bringing forward his Motion, to refer to the subject of local dues; but he could assure the right hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) that he did not intend to make the slightest allusion to that subject. He might state, however, that there were hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who were opposed to him on the question of local dues, but who meant to support the present Motion. He could not help taking that opportunity of referring to one measure, the Birkenhead Docks Bill, which was at present under the consideration of a Committee. Hon. Gentlemen could have no conception of the obstructions which had been thrown—many of them, he feared, by Committees acting upon the recommendations of the Board of Trade—in the way of constructing docks at Liverpool and Birkenhead. For want of sufficient dock accommodation at those places vessels were kept waiting not only for days, but for weeks, before they could discharge their cargoes. It was not Liverpool alone that suffered from this state of things, but the whole trade of the country and the Public Exchequer were also affected. A very long Report had been made by the Board of Trade with reference to the Bill to which he alluded, and he would read a paragraph from that document:— As regards the first of the above Bills, involving, as it does, nautical and engineering questions, my Lords have only to observe, as they observed last year, that the plans to be adopted should be such as to meet the wants, not merely of the town of Liverpool, but of all persons in the country who are interested in the trade of the Mersey. They think it the more important to make this observation, since the Admiralty, who in general report on all questions of this kind on behalf of the public, have not done so of late years, in consequence, it is believed, of the creation of the Mersey conservancy. But there was a singular censure passed upon the Board of Trade by the Admiralty, who said, with reference to this Bill:— It appears from the plans and sections transmitted to the Admiralty that the subject of giving every facility for vessels of all classes to dock and undock, and of affording every accommodation to the trade, has been well and deeply considered by the engineers of the corporation, and as regards the docks and their entrances their Lordships have no objection to make. With respect to the further accommodation to shipping so much wanted in the Mersey, their Lordships consider it would be highly desirable that works on which so much time and money had been spent, should now be carried out and completed, and that the corporation of Liverpool, who ought to be the best judges of the requirements, and who have the greatest interest in the outlay, should be permitted to complete works which have remained so long in abeyance. He hoped the hon. Baronet the Chairman of the Committee on the Birkenhead Docks Bill and the Members of that Committee would recollect the Report of the Board of Admiralty as well as that of the Board of Trade. He did not think the House could have any conception of the loss which resulted to the trade of the country, and to the public revenue, from the want of dock accommodation at Liverpool. He might illustrate this point by reference to what occurred on another. In 1835 there were only 110 landing waiters at Liverpool. Representations were made to the Board of Customs that vessels could not get landing-waiters, but the answer was that Liverpool had landing-waiters enough, and that no addition would be made to the number. For ten years these representations were continued without any effect, although in that time the trade of the port had increased 60 per cent. He begged to say, that this was at the period when Mr. Dean and not Sir Thomas Freemantle was Chairman of the Board of Customs. The consequence was, that vessels were detained a fortnight or three weeks waiting for a, landing-waiter before they could be discharged, at a great loss both to the merchant and the Government. So great was the grievance, that American captains stated the matter to the owners of their vessels, and representations came over from America, complaining that their captains and ships were often detained in the Liverpool docks waiting for a customhouse officer a longer time than it took them to make the voyage across the Atlantic. A committee was then appointed at Liverpool, who drew up a statement showing that the loss to the trade of Liverpool and Manchester and the manufacturing districts amounted to several hundred thousands of pounds annually from the detention of the outward and homeward ships and cargoes. A representation embodying these facts was then presented by a deputation to Sir Robert Peel, who was much surprised by the facts they detailed to him, and said, "This matter, gentlemen, shall have my personal attention." And although for ten years nothing had been done, in six weeks from that time Sir R. Peel had put on fifty-six additional Custom House officers, of whom twenty were landing-waiters. If the House would consent to a Committee, he hoped that, on receiving its Report, the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) would make them the same promise with regard to the Board of Trade—that he would give the matter his personal attention—and then he was sure that he would reconstitute it, and that after that reconstitution, instead of being, as now, an obstruction to trade, it would be the means of a great increase, both of the commerce and of the revenue of the country. It was not for the sake of Liverpool alone that he pleaded, but of the country generally, whose commerce was coming to a dead lock for want of the necessary dock accommodation, the provision of which had been impeded by the reports and interference of the Board of Trade. He next came to the subject of the Returns with respect to the corn trade published under the authority of the Board of Trade. It was his impression that those Returns were not accurate; but he should not have ventured on his own authority alone to hazard an opinion on this point. He had, however, received a letter from the chairman of the Liverpool Corn Association, enclosing the following resolution of the Committee of that body passed yesterday upon this subject:— Resolved,—That the official Returns of grain are generally regarded by the corn trade throughout England as utterly worthless for any statistical purpose, and since the repeal of the Corn Laws these Returns have had no other use. Such a statement is strongly instanced by the fact that in or about June, 1855, it having become desirable that the quantity of British corn actually brought into the home market, as indicating the probable stock remaining in the hands of the farmers, should be accurately estimated, the Board of Trade Returns were examined in the belief that as they had been uniformly taken for some years past they might be found to be useful. Upon such examination it was observed that the buyers had of late been making few Returns, and a circular was immediately issued to the local inspectors, which had the effect of producing a very large increase in the number of Returns made by the buyers, showing at once the fallacy of previous Returns as a ground of calculation, or of accuracy as regards statistics in any shape. The following was the opinion of the president of the Liverpool Agricultural Society. It was contained in a letter which he had received from that gentleman two or three days ago:— I am decidedly of opinion that any system of agricultural statistics worked by the Board of Trade, constituted as it is, would be of little or no practical value. Even the Scotch statistics, creditable as they are to those who have got them up, command little or no confidence in the corn-dealing world. Mr. H—farms some 3,000 acres in Scotland, and as a contributor to the figures, and knowing well how they are obtained, places no reliance on the result. Thus much for the corn statistics of the Board of Trade. He should next call the attention of the House to a subject in which those who were connected with the landed interest were deeply concerned—he alluded to the supply of guano, and he should read upon that subject the opinion of the chairman of a committee of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, who was perfectly unprejudiced in the matter, and who could not be supposed to be actuated by any unkindly feeling towards the Board of Trade. That gentleman said:— You will, doubtless, remember accompanying a deputation from this chamber to the Board of Trade, in 1854, on this subject. In this neighbourhood the monopoly of the guano of Peru has always been deemed evidence of a gigantic blunder on the part of the Government, and we suppose of the Board of Trade. This will not be forgotten as long as that supply exists, and is so locked up. And lately, when the Kuria Muria Islands were found and granted to the British Government, we hoped that some official effort would be made to repair that mistake. On the contrary, we see another monopoly created, and in a way that puzzles as well as annoys us. The Emigration Commissioners, who seem to be subordinate to the Colonial Office, and to have nothing to do with guano or with trade, make a grant of the islands to a private firm, the value of which is already currently estimated at a million sterling. We do not blame Messrs. Ord, Hindson, and Co. They seek profit and have found it, and there is no dishonesty in asking for such a grant. But we do think a department of Government, taking upon itself the control and management of our trading relations with Foreign Powers, should have used a little more vigilance on behalf of the public—the buyers of this guano—and through them of the nation at large. Now, it had been his duty in conjunction with the chairman of the Shipowners' Association of Liverpool to wait upon the Secretary for the Colonies upon the subject referred to in that document, and he was bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman had evinced the utmost desire to facilitate the attainment of the object which they had in view. The result had been that the Shipowners' Association, as the representatives of the shipping interest of the United Kingdom, had agreed upon certain terms with the representatives of the lessees of the islands in question, which they had submitted to the Secretary of the Colonies for approval. He had very properly referred those terms to the Board of Trade, that they might pronounce their opinion with regard to them; and in order that the House might understand exactly how the matter stood, he (Mr. Horsfall) might briefly state the nature of the terms of the arrangement, as well as the answer which had been returned upon the part of the Board of Trade. The terms of the arrangement set forth that the trade in guano was to be confined to importation into the United Kingdom; to be open to all parties on payment of £1 per ton and the royalty of 2s. per ton for the first year, and 4s. per ton for the second and subsequent years, and that all parties were to be treated alike upon the basis of the terms, without any partiality. When he had transmitted those terms of arrangement to the Secretary for the Colonies, he had taken the liberty of suggesting that, as no duty was payable on Peruvian guano, the Government ought to relinquish the small royalty of 2s, and 4s. which they claimed. Now, if such a proposition were made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he could very well understand his replying to it in the negative, but he could not quite so well comprehend why the Board of Trade, whose duty it avowedly was to protect and promote commerce, should refuse to accede to it. Such, however, had been the case, and not only had the proposition been negatived, but it had been put forward as an excuse for its rejection, that it would tend to create a monopoly upon the part of the Liverpool shipowners, notwithstanding the terms of the arrangement were so explicit upon that head, that it was impossible any person of common sense could have made a mistake as to their meaning. The following was the letter in reply, addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies:— Office of Committee of Privy Council for Trade, Whitehall, April 14, 1857. Sir—I am directed by the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 3rd instant, enclosing for the opinion of their Lordships a letter from Mr. Horsfall, which accompanied the copy of an agreement recently entered into between the Shipowners' Association of Liverpool and Messrs. Hindson and Hayes, on behalf of the licencees of guano in the Kuria Muria Islands. My Lords direct me to state, that in their view of the policy to be observed with regard to these islands, the object of Her Majesty's Government was to secure for the benefit of agriculture in the British territories the deposits of fertilizing material which they have been represented to contain; and that, by throwing open to shipping in general the carriage of that article, its supply would be ensured to these countries on the most advantageous terms. Their Lordships cannot but apprehend that any special agreement between the agents of the licencees and a section of the shipping interest of these kingdoms, confined to a single port, is inconsistent with the wider interests involved; and that any favour or advantage shown directly or indirectly to one association of shipowers, as it must necessarily be to the prejudice of the rest, would ultimately react on the interests of agriculture. For this reason, my Lords are of opinion that Her Majesty's Government cannot recognise an agreement such as that which has been submitted by Mr. Horsfall; looking, as they must, to see all shipping embarked in the trade treated on a footing of perfect equality. As to the other suggestions of Mr. Horsfall, that inasmuch as there is no duty on the importation of guano from Peru, Her Majesty's Government should forego the small payment in the shape of a royalty, payable on guano from the Kuria Muria Islands, my Lords have only to observe, that they are not prepared to recommend a compliance with the application.—I am, &c., (Signed) "J. EMERSON TENNENT. H. Merivale, Esq., &c. The House would recollect that what the association asked for, was not, as represented in this letter, any advantage for "a section of the shipping interest;" but a measure which it conceived would promote the general interests of the British shipping. And, accordingly, this letter was written to the Under Secretary of the Colonial Department, by whom the reply of the Board of Trade had been forwarded to the association:— Shipowners' Association, Liverpool, May 17, 1857. Sir—Mr. Horsfall having forwarded to the Committee of the Liverpool Shipowners' Association your letter of the 17th ult., together with a copy of a letter of Sir J. Emerson Tennent, containing the views of the Lords of the Committee of the Privy Council for Trade, with respect to the terms of arrangement between the Committee of the Association and the representatives of the lessees of the Kuria Muria Islands, to form the basis upon which the guano trade at those islands should be carried on, I have been requested to inform you that the same have been taken into consideration by the Committee of the Association, and the Committee regret to find that there has been a great misunderstanding on the part of the Board of Trade of the character of the interference by the Association in this matter, and the object of the terms of arrangement. The shipowners constituting the association are associated for the purpose of promoting the general interests of British shipping, and not of promoting any private interests of themselves, as a body, or of its members, and their interference in this question was entirely on public grounds. In a very early stage of the question of the supply of guano from these islands, and as soon as the lease to Captain Ord and others became matter of discussion in Parliament and elsewhere, this association, through their Chairman, Mr. Graves, and Mr. Horsefall, M.P., had communications with Mr. Labouchere, and in the course of those communications it was considered that this association might be of service in arranging with the lessees in Liverpool some terms of a general character upon which the trade at the islands might be carried on, such terms being for the benefit of shipping in general, and for the promoting of the great object in view—namely, that of obtaining an increased supply of guano to this country on the most advantageous terms, and the association had not the most remote idea that the terms which they arranged with the lessees, and a copy of which was immediately laid before Mr. Labouchere, would be construed into a 'special agreement' between the agents of the licencees and a section of the shipping interests of these kingdoms, or that it would be considered that any 'favour or advantage' was to be obtained thereby, directly or indirectly, to the association. The Committee would beg to point out that the first article of the terms provides that the trade is to be 'open to all parties;' and by the sixth article ' all parties are to be treated alike,' and they would have supposed that by such expressions as these it was apparent, on the face of the terms, that they were not entered into for the exclusive benefit of the association, as a body, or of its individual members. The Committee can only suppose that the misunderstanding by the Board of Trade of the object of the terms of arrangement must have arisen from their not having been acquainted with the communications and interviews which had previously taken place between Mr. Labouchere, Mr. Horsfall, and Mr. Graves. With regard to Clause 3 of the terms—namely, that the licences should be granted only through the lessees at Liverpool, the Committee would observe that this was a stipulation insisted upon by the lessees, and that the Committee considered it one with regard to which they could not interfere, as it was a matter of detail in the carrying on by the lessees of their business in this country. I have been further requested to mention to you that a rumour is prevalent that some parties contemplate obtaining guano at the islands, and clearing there for the Cape of Good Hope, and at that place obtaining fresh papers enabling their ships to proceed with the guano to foreign countries; and the Committee deem it right to call the attention of the Secretary for the Colonies to this rumour. I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant, (Signed) "JAMES SMITH, Deputy Chairman. H. Merivale, Esq., Under Secretary, Colonial Department. But there was also another department under the superintendence of the Board of Trade—he alluded to our railways. The House was aware that a very wise and proper provision existed, in accordance with which it was necessary before any railway was opened, that a competent engineer should be sent to inspect it, and to report upon its construction. But was that provision, he would ask, complied with? He should confidently answer that question in the negative. Competent persons were not sent by the Board of Trade to inspect the new lines of railway, and in proof of that he might adduce one instance which, he thought, would clearly establish that the view which he took upon the subject was correct. He held in his hand the report of an engineer—Mr, G. P. Bidder—which was addressed to the Chairman and Directors of the Norfolk Railway Company, and which went back as far as the year 1849,—and came down to the year 1856—the former was of course a period at which the right hon. Gentleman the present Vice President of the Board of Trade was not responsible for anything which might have taken place in connection with the department. He should, with the permission of the House, read a few extracts from the Report— In 1849 the Government Inspector reported to the railway department of the Board of Trade that the Torksey viaduct and bridge over the River Trent, on the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire line of railway, was insecure, and 'could not be opened with safety to the public.' The Government Inspector required additions to be made to its strength, which the engineer of the railway declared to be unnecessary, and which he refused to recommend the railway company to make. After three months' correspondence and delay the Board of Trade consented to certain experiments being tried before the Government Inspectors, in order to ascertain the strength of the bridge. These experiments took place on the 28th March, 1850; and on the 6th of April the Board of Trade informed the directors of the line that they had 'reconsidered' the propriety of allowing the line to be opened, and were willing to allow it to be used. It has been used from that day to the present time without a single accident—thus demonstrating that it is not 'inspection' but experience' that alone can demonstrate what is strength and what is weakness. In the same way, the railway department of the Board of Trade refused, on the report of their inspectors, to allow the opening of the line from Waterloo Station to Vauxhall on the Southwestern Railway, on account of the assumed insufficient strength of the bridge which spans the Westminster-road. After considerable delay, the line was allowed to be used without the bridge being strengthened. The whole traffic of the line had ever since passed across that bridge without a single accident, or threat of one. These facts and instances illustrate the conclusion that in reporting the bridges and viaducts of the Eastern Counties Railway as in ' a dangerous state of decay,' and in laying down the principle that wood cannot be considered ' a safe material for railway structures,' Lieutenant Colonel Wynne has embodied in an official Report statements which neither experience nor reason justify. And they further appear to indicate that the railway department of the Board of Trade is in the habit of receiving from its inspectors reports and representations of a character calculated to excite needless alarms, and that it is also in the habit of assuming, upon those Reports, a false position, from which, sooner or later, it is obliged to recede. In another part of the same Report was this statement— In order to inquire and report satisfactorily respecting a railway it is necessary that the inspectors should be persons of enlarged experience, accustomed not only to the construction of railways, but to their daily use. In the present, and in other cases, the Reports to the Board of Trade upon railways, their working, and their condition, have been made by a gentleman who has never himself been engaged in the construction of a single mile of railway or of a single bridge, who practically knows nothing about either, and whose only source of practical acquaintance with the subject on which he so strongly reports is that practice of inspection of new railways which for all useful purposes every civil engineer knows to be valueless and absurd. When we remember that with a host of eminent officers of engineers employed in the Crimea, her Majesty's Government nevertheless thought it proper to entrust practical civil engineers (the principal of whom was engaged in the construction of your line) with the duty of laying down six miles of railway from Balaklava to the heights, it certainly does appear not a little anomalous that that Government should think it proper to commit the inspection of the railway works of practical civil engineers to men of the very class to whom they could not commit their construction ! A great variety of cases had been submitted to him, in which the Board of Trade had interfered too much, and others in which they had interfered too little, but he would not go into them, nor would he go into local grievances; but he would just state, that when the Chamber of Commerce at Liverpool applied to the Board of Trade to introduce a Bill, to amend the laws relating to prices of landing, they were told to get their own Members to do it, and when he introduced it they struck out the most important clauses. He would just also remind the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade that when the commercial interests of the country wished to introduce a clause into the Joint-stock Company's Act relative to the official liquidations, the Board of Trade opposed the proposal, and induced the House to reject it. That clause was in principle inserted in the Bill in the House of Lords on the Mortion of Lord Brougham. He had sufficiently shown, he thought, that the Board of Trade, as at present constituted, was not fitted to discharge the duties which were imposed upon it, and did not give satisfaction to the country. Without any disrespect to the House of which the noble Lord at the head of the department was a Member, or to the profession to which the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President belonged, it was the universal feeling of the commercial community that a peer and a lawyer were not exactly the persons to preside over the commercial interests of the country. Had he deemed it necessary he might have occupied the time of the House at much greater length in detailing his reasons for making this Motion; but he had stated enough to justify him in so doing. He felt that he might appeal with confidence to the representatives of the commercial, manufacturing, agricultural, and railway interests for support. But he preferred appealing rather to the candour of the noble Lord at the head of the Government and to the justice of the House of Commons to grant him this Committee, for which he now begged to move.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the origin, the past and present constitution, and the powers and duties of the Board of Trade, with the view to its better adaptation to the requirements of the country."


said, that he had listened to the speech of the hon. Member with considerable surprise, and he must add that he had felt some degree of astonishment when he saw a notice put on, the paper by a gentleman, himself a merchant of high character and experience, and representing a commercial community like that of Liverpool, which amounted to an arraignment of the whole constitution of a great department of the Government, having under its especial care the mercantile interests of this country. He (Mr. Labouchere) had, at least, expected that under such circumstances the hon. Gentleman would have prefaced and justified his Motion by the exposition of large and comprehensive views on this subject, by statements which would have led the House to believe that the Board of Trade, if differently constituted, might have produced more satisfactory results, and, above all, by pointing out, by reference to its history for some years past, how completely that department had failed to discharge the duties for which it was created. But the House he thought would agree with him when he (Mr. Labouchere) affirmed that the hon. Gentleman's speech was almost entirely composed of details of local quarrels and grievances, of the complaints of his constituents and the constituents of other hon. Gentlemen against the Board of Trade—complaints which, if they were all true, only proved that the Board of Trade had acted wrong in those particular cases, or that the law under which it had acted required amendment; but which certainly furnished no ground why that department should be arraigned before a Committee with a view to its entire reconstruction. But were the complaints of the hon. Gentleman against the Board well founded? The history of the department for the last few years was intimately connected with the history of the country. Beginning from the time of Mr. Huskisson, a struggle had been going on for the liberalization and improvement of our commercial system, in which the Board of Trade had borne a conspicuous and honourable part; several of the most important measures originated by Mr. Huskisson had been carried into effect by the successive Ministers who presided over that department—indeed it was not too much to say that the aid which it had given to the passing of the various measures by which our trade and commerce had been freed from all those shackles with which it had been formerly encumbered had been of the utmost advantage to the community. The hon. Gentleman had not explained very clearly in what manner he proposed to reconstruct the Board of Trade, but he appeared to object to its being placed in the hands of any persons who were not intimately and practically connected with commercial pursuits. It would ill become him not to speak with the highest respect of the merchants of this country, but he held, and the opinion had always been held in that House, that the functions of the Board of Trade should never be entrusted to the hands of any man directly and personally engaged in any branch of the trade of this country. He remembered that when Mr. Poulett Thomson, afterwards Lord Sydenham, was appointed Vice President of the Board of Trade, the first question asked in that House (by the present Lord Lonsdale, if he remembered aright) was, "Have you given up all connection with the mercantile house in which you had a share?" That had always been the principle, and a very valuable and important principle it was, and one which he hoped would never be departed from. For what were the functions of a Minister of Trade in this country? It was his duty to take a large and impartial view of the interests of trade, not only as between the persons engaged in particular branches of trade, but also as to the relations of that trade with the community at large. The questions of trade with which he had to do did not interest traders alone, but the whole community. Those interests were doubtless identical in the end, but it might happen that for a time they were at variance, and it was of the utmost importance that the Minister of the Crown who presided over this department should be independent of any branch of trade. He would appeal to the House whether this country had suffered from the adoption of that rule. There was, of course, no reason why a merchant formerly connected with, but not actually engaged in commerce, should not be appointed President of the Board of Trade, and indeed some of the most efficient members of that Board had been formerly engaged in trade operations. No one could object to the appointment of such a man as the late Lord Ashburton; and Mr. Poulett Thomson, after being actively engaged in commerce, presided with efficiency over the Board of Trade; but men equally distinguished might be quoted on the other side who had never been engaged in commerce. Mr. Huskisson was an illustrious example, and he saw opposite to him a right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley), a man of acuteness, information, and intelligence, who was quite as able to come to a conclusion upon any matter relating to trade as any merchant could be. Common sense was quite as valuable a qualification for the office as a knowledge of the details of trade, and a great and essential point was that the Minister of Trade should not be actually interested in the matters upon which he had to decide. The principle advocated by the hon. Gentleman that the affairs of trade should be managed exclusively by merchants was, he contended, a retrograde principle. It was a return to the old principle that trade was best managed by guilds; it implied a partial and one-sided view of commercial affairs, and if it had continued to have operated upon our legislation the interests of the country would have proportionately suffered. He had a great respect for the shipowners, but if they had had exclusive possession of the Board of Trade they would never have repealed the Navigation Laws. They would, it was true, have repealed them at last, but those laws would not have been repealed, as they had been, before the mischief was done, but when they had lost half their markets, and when other nations had retaliated upon them. When it was too late, when the mischief had been done, when their doors were besieged by ship- owners complaining that they were ruined, then a Board of Trade so composed would have repealed the navigation laws. The hon. Gentleman had truly stated that the functions of the Board of Trade were very much altered of late years. It used to be a great consulting department. It was consulted by the Treasury in those tariffs in which the protecting principle used to be largely mixed up; by the Colonial Office, in those colonial Acts which referred to commercial subjects; and by the Foreign Office, in those tariff treaties, now happily out of date, in which we consented to let in the goods of foreign countries at a certain rate if they would concede reciprocal advantages. That system had been swept away, but the Board of Trade still continued to be a consulting department. Questions of trade continued to arise in which it was of the utmost importance that the Treasury, the Colonial Office, and the Foreign Office should be able to obtain the advice of a separate department, whose duty it was to consult the interests of trade as distinguished from the secondary interests of revenue. As an instance, he had himself had occasion, only the other day, to refer to the Board of Trade a consolidated commercial code, which he had received in the form of an ordinance from Malta, and which embraced many questions of a complicated and important nature. It was obvious that, simplify trade as much as they might, there must always remain questions upon which it would be important that the various departments of the Government should be able to consult a Board so constituted as to be able to give a careful, impartial consideration to the subjects upon which they were called upon to advise the Government. The question then came, how such a department ought to be constituted. He held to the opinion that, although the Board of Trade ought always to be open and accessible to the traders of this country, and although it was their duty to listen to every representation made on the part of those engaged in trade, yet it was essential to the due discharge of the functions of the Board of Trade, and for maintaining its credit and confidence, that the Members and presiding officers of the Board should be themselves free from participation in trade, and above suspicion in that respect. He was unwilling to go into details on the subject, and would leave them for his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Board. It was true, as the hon. Gentleman had stated, that he (Mr. Labouchere) when at the Board had had frequent communications with the local commercial bodies of Liverpool, and he should always be ready to acknowledge the support he had received from them in framing the great measure relating to the mercantile marine. He was not surprised that differences had arisen upon some of the questions settled by the measure of consolidation brought in by Mr. Cardwell, and he could not mention Mr. Card well's name without referring to the great loss which the House had sustained in the absence of a gentleman of his high character and great qualifications from their deliberations. He believed that one of the hon. Member's complaints was that the tribunals now appointed in cases of wreck were not composed of shipowners or captains, but of a more independent tribunal. Certainly, if the circumstances attending upon a wreck were interesting only to them—if there were no general or public interests involved—he would say let a man be tried by his peers, and let a shipowner be tried by shipowners, and a ship captain by ship captains. But there was another party—namely, the public—who took a deep interest in these matters. It was for the public interest that questions of wrecks should be probed to the bottom, and that they should be tried by a tribunal of greater independence than shipowners and ship captains exclusively. Hence arose the necessity for carefully guarding that interest by the presence of a representative from the Board of Trade. Much of the hon. Member's speech was composed of Liverpool grievances against the Board of Trade, which, even if they were well-founded, would not be valid arguments against the constitution of the Board of Trade, but only complaints against those who presided over it, which he had no doubt they would be able satisfactorily to answer. The hon. Member complained that the Board of Trade should meddle with private Bills and make Reports upon them. He had always heard that private Bills often came before Select Committees, where the interests of powerful individuals and great corporations were adequately represented, but where the public had also great interests at stake, which were entirely unrepresented. It was, therefore, thought essential that the Board of Trade should present Reports, stating the public view of these questions. The hon. Member might complain that these Reports were not properly done, and that would be a special complaint which might be investigated; but as a general system he thought the Board of Trade discharged a most valuable and important function in examining what was to be said on behalf of the public upon the question at issue. The hon. Gentleman also alluded to the important Committee presided over by the right hon. Member for Carlisle, which was now sitting on a question connected with the interests of the port of Liverpool. He (Mr. Labouchere) had the task, the year before last, of presiding over a similar Committee, and he had sufficient acquaintance with the circumstances of the case to know that the Bill to which reference had been made, though nominally a private measure, involved important public considerations. He rejoiced, therefore, that the matter was now in such able hands. The Board of Trade, in stating its opinion to the Committee, had only done its duty; while, on the other hand, that opinion was in no way binding on the tribunal to which it was submitted, but would merely receive its consideration. The hon. Gentleman had certainly gone far afield in search of his objections to the Board of Trade. The corn returns were made up in too slovenly and defective a manner to please him. He forgot, however, that the object of those returns was not statistical, but merely to enable the tithe averages to be struck&—a purpose for which perfect accuracy of detail was wholly unnecessary. Moreover, to collect those returns with minute exactitude would require the creation of a new machinery, and entail a heavy expense to the country, which successive Governments had wisely declined to incur. Again, the hon. Member said it was most improper that the Board of Trade should be intrusted with the superintendence of our railway system.


I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon, but I said nothing of the kind. My complaint was that the Board did not send down competent engineers to inspect railways.


That, again, was a point of detail which did not touch the constitution of the Board of Trade. That Board obtained professional advice in regard to railways just as it did in regard to the mercantile marine and its other func- tions; but it by no means followed that, if they reconstituted the Board, the evil of which the hon. Gentleman complained would be remedied. This objection, also, was therefore totally beside the grave and important question whether this great department of the Government was constituted in a manner which ought to satisfy that House and the public. The hon. Member likewise adverted to the subject of guano. Not having the papers before him, he (Mr. Labouchere) was unwilling to go into that subject; but he had hoped that the arrangements now made on this question were perfectly satisfactory to the constituents of the hon. Gentleman, as well as to the community at large. At all events, those arrangements removed every vestige of monopoly, and threw the trade open to the shipowners of the entire kingdom. The Board of Trade, besides being a great consulting department, was now also an executive department, exercising most important functions. The working of the Mercantile Marine Act, including the superintendence of the examinations of masters and mates, the improvement of the regulations and discipline of the merchant service, and other important provisions had been intrusted to its supervision. Another measure, introduced at his own instance, had also increased both the duties and the responsibility of the Board of Trade. He alluded to the Bill relating to the great and embarrassing question, the Merchant Seamen's Fund, passed a few years ago. Before it was transferred to the Board of Trade, that fund was administered by those local guilds for which the hon. Gentleman seemed to have a predilection; and under their management it fell into a state of hopeless incurable insolvency. So deplorable, indeed, was this insolvency, that that House was obliged to come to the rescue, and—to its honour be it said—the House, without a dissentient voice, did an act which, while truly just, was at the same time noble and generous, having regard to the class of men who were the sufferers by such a state of things. It made a sacrifice of more than £500,000 in order to place this fund on a secure footing, and under proper management. He had taken a great interest in the new system, and could state that, under the Board of Trade, it had worked beneficially to the merchant service, and satisfactorily to the public. He hardly thought the hon. Member serious- ly intended to press his Motion upon the House. To the proposition of a Select Committee there was, first of all, the general objection to taking such a course under the present circumstances of the Session—an objection which gained in strength as every week passed over their heads. Indeed, he thought it would be quite impossible to find Gentlemen fit to conduct the inquiry who would devote that kind of attention to it which would end in the adoption of any useful Report upon the subject; but his main objection to the Motion was this—if any step ought to be taken upon it at all, the subject was one for the House itself, rather than for a Select Committee. They were getting into the too frequent practice of referring to Select Committees questions which properly belonged to the whole House. If the House were of opinion that the principle on which the Board of Trade was founded was radically and fundamentally wrong, let them say so, and insist on having its constitution altered; but he, for one, could not consent to send such a question to a small knot of gentlemen sitting up stairs. Let the thing be done in the face of day; and on the floor of that House, where the opinions of eminent merchants, and the experience of Members on both sides who had officiated at the Board of Trade could be brought to bear on the question. His own belief—and he trusted the House would concur with him—was that nothing in the past history or present condition of that department could justify the affront now sought to be put upon it. Ever since the days of Mr. Huskisson, when the Board of Trade was placed in the hands of independent men unconnected with commercial affairs, that Board had rendered invaluable services to the country. He approved its present constitution; but if any part of its duties ought to be severed from it, let that be done. It might, indeed, have committed some errors of detail, but no ground had been shown for impeaching its general conduct and management. He did not say that this or any other public department might not be remodelled. Some men of great authority thought that this Board ought to be more assimilated to other departments, and that we should have a Minister of Trade, assisted by a Parliamentary Secretary. As far as the performance of the duties in the office were concerned, that might be a better arrangement than the present; but, looking to the business to be transacted in both Houses of Par- liament, the system of having two Ministers of the rank of Privy Councillors connected with that department had its undoubted advantages. That, however, was not a question for a Select Committee, but should be fairly discussed and determined by the House itself. If, therefore, the hon. Gentleman persevered in his Motion, he was satisfied that the House would mark by a decided vote its opinion that no ground had been laid for taking the unusual and extraordinary course of re-referring the constitution of a great public department to the investigation of a Select Committee of the House of Commons.


Not seeing any other hon. Gentleman disposed to address the House, and not being able, consistently with my sense of duty, to give a silent vote on this question, I shall take the liberty to offer a few observations to the House. I know something of the particular office the composition of which has now been brought under the notice of the House. True, I have had no official experience at the Board of Trade, but to use the language of Burke, quoted by the hon. Member for Liverpool, I may say "I have known that Board off and on for a great number of years." Ever since I have had the honour of a seat in this House, now nearly forty years, I have seen the functions of that Board discharged by men of pre-eminent merit, and I must say I am really surprised that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool should be the person to lead an attack upon that Department. Why, he cannot take a step in the city he represents without being reminded of one of the most distinguished men who ever sat in this House—one who was a credit to the representation of Liverpool, and who presided over the Board of Trade with an advantage to this country which our gratitude, in my judgment, can never repay. He cannot go to the Exchange of a morning without seeing the statue of Huskisson, on which it is recorded that he was one of the greatest benefactors of his country. He cannot take a walk round those docks that adorn the river which flows past that city without seeing on one side the Huskisson Dock and on the other the Canning Dock, and all those immense works, the waters of which receive into their ample bosom the commerce of the world—the cotton of America, the sugar of the Indies, the tea of China, the gold of Australia—and these basins it was the great work of Huskisson to originate. There is the Custom House, too, which was considered by some much too large at the time of its construction, but which his wise forethought clearly led him to foresee would be at a future day inadequate to the trade of Liverpool. You cannot go beyond the walls of the city, to the cemetery where the remains of Huskisson rest, without being reminded of what he was—"what shadows we are and what shadows we pursue." And yet the hon. Member for Liverpool, with these recollections surrounding him on every side, on this occasion chooses to attack the Board of Trade. He has made an appeal to my noble Friend at the head of the Government; he has entreated him to look to this matter. I too hope, and am sure, that my noble Friend, who is so honourably connected with the character and reputation of Mr. Canning and Mr. Huskisson, will look to this matter himself, and will be slow indeed to consent to any reconstruction of the Board of Trade. The hon. Gentleman argues that the composition of the Board is not satisfactory. He does not confine this view to the present moment, but after paying some passing compliments to the noble Lord who now presides over that department and to the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board, who sits below me, he expressed his opinion, that commercial experience was indispensably necessary to the proper discharge of the functions of the office. He said, indeed, something of a Lord and a lawyer; but I may be permitted to say that many noble Lords, including such men as Ashburton, Dalhousie, and Ripon, have at times presided there when measures having an important bearing on the interests of the country were under consideration. I do not wish to speak of my right hon. Friend below me (Mr. Lowe) in terms of flattery, but I doubt whether many men as eminent for their abilities and knowledge have filled the post of Vice President of the Board of Trade. I am afraid of wearying the House, and yet I should like to bear testimony—due from me from my long observation of the merits of this Board—to the great services which, in my mind, it has conferred upon the trade of this nation. I conceive that the period between 1820 and 1830 was the real commencement of the great battle which has been fought in this country for sound commercial and economical principles. Then was really fought the Waterloo of free trade, of which Mr. Huskisson was the champion, then was the battle really won, and, in my opinion, the Board of Trade was the pioneer of the sound principles which have since prevailed. They cleared the bush, as it were, they prepared the soil, and sowed the good seed which has since increased and multiplied a hundredfold, till it has produced an abundant harvest, such as was never produced in any country in the world. It is melancholy to reflect how the errors and slips of eminent men are remembered while their great services are forgotten— Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues We write in water. There is a tendency to dwell on the foibles of great and eminent men, and to forget the services they have conferred on their country. If we look at the mode of dealing with some of the principal articles of trade and commerce previous to 1820 we shall see that nothing could be more disastrous to the interests of the community. Take, for example, the article of fuel. In certain parts of these islands we were blessed with an abundant supply of fuel, while in other parts there was a deficiency that now will scarcely be believed. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the evils of the system that prevailed. Could it be believed that as late as the year 1820 there was a duty of 9s. 6d.—amounting to 50 per cent—a chaldron on sea-borne coals passing from the coal districts to those less fortunate portions of the United Kingdom where coal was not produced? By the efforts of Mr. Huskisson, in 1824, then the President of the Board of Trade, that duty was very much diminished; and it was the triumph of Mr. Poulett Thomson, then Vice President of the Board, in 1831, to procure the entire remission of the remaining tax. Again, in looking back to those times, I can see nothing more prejudicial than the system of forced bounties that prevailed. As late as 1829 the bounty amounted to £300,000 on linen exported that year from Ireland. In the subsequent year, 1830, the vicious system of bounties was repudiated, and from that time we have to date the prosperous commencement of the linen trade of Ireland. In 1819, and previously, it was always supposed by Chancellors of the Exchequer that articles of large consumption were capable of bearing a higher duty, with the certainty of yielding a large revenue; and accordingly, in 1819, Mr. Vansittart raised the duty on coffee from 6d. to 1s. per pound. Mr. Huskisson objected strongly to the course then pursued, and in 1824 he persuaded the Government to try the experiment of a reduction of the duty; and it was reduced from 1s. to 6d. In 1824, at the time of the reduction, the quantity of coffee imported was 7,993,000 lb., and the revenue was £407,000. In 1830, six years after the reduction, the quantity imported had risen to 22,740,000 lb., and the revenue to £583,751, being an increase of 20 per cent. I will not dwell on the question of the coasting trade. Mr. Huskisson was most earnest, together with Lord Wallace, Vice President of the Board of Trade, in pressing for a relaxation of the fetters of that trade; and he effected certain changes, not so extensive as he desired, but such as laid the foundations in argument and in practice for the measure which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere) had the good fortune to carry, when, to his immortal credit, he succeeded in persuading this House, in 1850, to repeal the navigation laws. But a great battle was fought by Mr. Huskisson on another point, still more important than those on which I have touched—I mean the battle he fought against protecting duties. In 1826 he chose as his battle-ground the question of silk, and the struggle was between what was termed the principle of protection to native industry and what Mr. Huskisson called the salutary effect of competition. As the arguments on both sides are well stated in speeches delivered at the time, I will take the liberty to read an extract to the House. I know not whether the right lion. Gentleman the Member for Coventry (Mr. E. Ellice) is in his place, but at that time fighting the battle of his constituents, he was the great advocate of high protection to native industry. He stated the case in these terms:— That there were in that city (Coventry) 9,700 looms, 7,500 of which were in the hands of operative weavers, who applied their manual labour as well as their machinery to the manufacture of ribands. These looms were, for the most part, of the worst possible construction; and it would scarcely he believed that the improved loom in France would, in a given time, produce five times as much riband as the common loom in England with the same manual labour ! He could also state that there existed an improved manufacture in Germany, by which one man could make forty-eight times as much velvet as could be made in an equal time by an English machine. What chance was there that the English manufacturer could maintain such a competition? That was the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry in de- fence of native industry. Will the House listen to the answer of Mr. Huskisson? I think they will agree with me that everything that could be tersely and beautifully said in favour of the opposite principle which we have happily lived to see prevail is by him briefly summed up in these memorable words. He says— The monopoly had produced what monopoly was always sure to produce—an indifference with regard to improvement. That useful zeal which gives life to industry, which fosters ingenuity, and which in manufactures occasions unceasing efforts to produce the article in the most economical form, had been comparatively extinguished. To the prohibition system it was to be ascribed that in silk only, in the whole range of manufactures, we were left behind our neighbours. We have here a proof of that chilling and benumbing effect which is sure to be produced when no genius is called into action, and when we are rendered indifferent to exertion by the indolent security derived from restrictive regulations. I have not the slightest doubt that, if the same system had been continued with respect to the cotton manufacture, it would have been at this moment as subordinate in amount to the woollen as it is junior in its introduction into the country.'' Now, hear the comments of Mr. M'Culloch, in 1850, on this very question of silk. He says— We do not exaggerate, we state the matter of fact, when we affirm that the silk manufacture has made a more rapid progress since the abolition of the prohibitive system in 1826 than it did during the preceding century. The former disparity in quality between the goods of French and English make has been materially abated in most articles, while in a few the superiority is now on our side. The real or declared value of the silk goods of British manufacture exported to France in 1842 amounted to £181,924. In passing, I may observe that the duty upon silk, notwithstanding the battle that was fought in favour of a less restrictive system, remains almost the only anomaly in our tariff. There is still on many articles a duty varying from 25 to 30 per cent as against foreign manufactures. With regard to articles of raw material, I might allude to many—to timber, for instance, the duty on which was reduced at the instance of Mr. Poulett Thomson in 1831. It was again reduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) while Vice President of the Board of Trade in 1842, and it was still further reduced by my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary in 1851. But I cannot pass over a particular article, which was one with respect to which the principles of Mr. Huskisson have signally triumphed, and by which the manufacturing industry of this country has received a most remarkable impulse. I allude to the article of wool. Previous to 1825 the importation of the foreign raw material was absolutely prohibited, and there was a very heavy export duty upon the manufactured article. The result of the change is most remarkable. In 1825, Mr. Huskisson entirely abolished the barbarism of an absolute prohibition of import. In 1819 the duty had been raised by Mr. Vansittart 6d. per lb., which was equal to 50 per cent of the value of the article itself. It was reduced in 1825 by Mr. Huskisson, and the duty upon the raw material was entirely repealed by the Government of Sir Robert Peel when my right lion. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford was Vice President of the Board of Trade. Yet the price of home-grown wool was never, I believe, in the history of this country so high as in the present year. The home-grower has had all the advantage of the increase in price, while the manufacturer has had the advantage of freely importing the raw material; and the export duty upon home-grown wool has also been entirely repealed. Now, I might point out to you what has been done by the Board of Trade since 1845 on behalf of our commerce. My right hon. Friend has stated most truly that the tariff has been revised. What was the revision which took place in 1845? That revision took place under the immediate advice of the Board of Trade, when my right hon. Friend, the Member for Oxford University, presided there. The duty was absolutely repealed on 420 articles. The duty upon all raw materials was abolished. All prohibitory duties were converted into protective duties, and all protective duties were diminished. What has been the effect of all this? I will only just trace the effect upon certain most important articles to which I have already referred. The hon. Member for Liverpool says that he can learn nothing from the Board of Trade; but the document which I now hold in my hand is the statistical abstract for the present year presented to Parliament by the Board of Trade, and never, in my opinion, was a more instructive document presented to the consideration of the House. The short points which I am now about to call to your recollection are all contained in this document. I begin with silk, on which the first experiment was tried. The quantity of raw silk imported into this country in 1842 was 3,951,000 lb.; in the year 1856 it had risen to 7,383,0001b. The quantity of wool imported into this country in 1842 was 45,881,000 lb.; in 1856 it had risen to 116,211,0001b. The quantity of flax imported in 1842 was 1,145,000 cwts.; in 1856 it had risen to 1,687,000 cwts. Well, now, let us see what is the effect with respect to the exports of these articles. I begin again with silk. The declared value of the silk exported from this country in 1842 was only £590,000; in 1856 the declared value of silk exported was £2,966,000. The declared value of woollen exported in 1842 was £5,185,000; in 1856 it had risen to £9,512,000. The declared value of linen exported in 1842 was £2,340,000; in 1856 it had risen to £4,896,000. In the next place, I may ask what has been the effect with regard to the repeal of the navigation laws? That step was taken by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, when he was President of the Board of Trade. There were most gloomy forebodings with respect to the effect of that measure. It was said that British shipping would diminish, that the number of British sailors would rapidly fall away, that it would be fatal to our commercial superiority, and that indirectly it would bear upon our naval supremacy in a most disastrous manner. Well, what are the facts? In 1850—the year in which the change was made—there were registered sailing and steam British vessels 17,892; in 1856 that number had risen to 19,270. The tonnage of these British sailing and steam ships in 1850 was 3,137,000 tons; in 1856 that tonnage had risen to 4,156,000 tons, being an increase of about 20 per cent. Well; take the number of men employed. The number of men employed in 1850 was 151,430; in 1856 it had risen to 173,918. Then there was a foreboding that the increase of foreigners serving in British ships would be very large. How stands the fact? What was the whole number of foreigners serving in the British commercial marine in the years 1854–5–6? I have told the House that, in 1850, there were 151,430 British seamen, and that in 1856 there were 173,918. Of these seamen in the year 1854, 13,200 only were foreigners; in 1855, the number had diminished to 12,927; and at the commencement of the present year, the whole number of foreigners serving in the British mercantile marine amounted only to 13,320. Then, in consequence of the change in the navigation laws, it was found necessary to remove the compulsion under which our shipowners were placed of keeping a given number of apprentices in proportion to the tonnage of their ships. It was predicted that they would diminish to a dangerous extent; and the first effect of the alteration in the law was a material reduction in the number of apprentices. Well, in 1852, the number of apprentices was only 11,105; but in 1853 it rose to 13,826; in 1854 it rose to 18,423; and in 1855, the end of the last year comprised in the last return, the number of apprentices rose to 22,082. I am really afraid of wearying the House with these details, but I am desirous of showing the salutary effects of the changes that have been made by this Board of Trade, the object of the hon. Member's attack. Since 1842 to the present time, speaking in round numbers, £10,000,000 of Customs and Excise duties have been remitted. Putting on one side the war operations, and one particular article (spirits) upon which there has been a permanent increase of duty, for which some abatement of the figures must be made, the fact is as I have stated. Let the House now well observe the effect of prudent remissions of duties in producing increased consumption and increased revenue. The Customs duties in 1842 amounted to 21,025,000. In 1845, large remissions of duties having taken place in the interim, the Customs duties were £20,196,000, while in 1856 they reached the sum of 22,370,000. The Excise duties in 1842 were £12,517,000; in 1845 they rose to £13,585,000; and in 1856 they were no less than £17,357,000. Thus, taking Customs and Excise duties together, the revenue has increased from £33,542,000 in 1842 to £39,727,000 in 1856. The hon. Member said the Board of Trade gives no information. [Mr. HORS-FALL: I said nothing of the kind.] I thought the hon. Gentleman relied upon the statement of Mr. Burke, that "We want no instruction from the Board of Trade." Well, if not instruction, by which some men never profit, at all events we Lave derived valuable information from the Board of Trade; for I conceive that amongst all their mixed and valuable services, their monthly returns of export and import values and shipping are the most useful and beneficial information ever communicated by any official body. My right hon. Friend has truly said, in the progress of events the character of this Board has been changed; it has changed since the time of Mr. Burke; it has undergone mo- difications from time to time; and, by the force of events, it has recently undergone still greater changes. As the Secretary for the Colonies has truly said, it had until lately been regarded as a consulting Board. It was consulted by the Foreign Office as to reciprocity treaties; but those things are now held to be antiquated and exploded, and we hear of them no more. England acts upon her own policy—relies upon well-ascertained economical facts—that if she imports largely, either directly by the balance of trade, or indirectly through the agency of the smuggler, the account is balanced, and her imports are paid for by her exports. The Board of Trade was also consulted by the Colonial Office; but, I since the salutary change which has taken place in our Colonies—since self-government has been conceded to them—the necessity of appealing to the Board of Trade as to inter-colonial Acts has greatly diminished. The Privy Council formerly consulted the Board of Trade respecting patents and charters of limited liability, but lately the exclusive power of granting those privileges has been abolished, and the law of patents having also been altered, these matters have been placed under the control of the Law Officers of the Crown. The Treasury, also, used to consult the Board of Trade as to tariffs; but the great revision of Sir Robert Peel, which reduced our tariff to about twelve articles really bearing the whole burden of Customs duties, has abolished that necessity; but, although the Board of Trade has ceased to be a consulting body, it is most valuable as an executive body. I will not follow my hon. Friend into all the details of railroads, the discipline of merchant ships, investigations into the causes of wrecks, and other important duties recently imposed upon the Board of Trade; but I must concur with my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies, that the Reports of that Board on Harbour and Railway Bills are most valuable. It would ill become me, sitting as I am with My colleagues in a judicial capacity upon the local dues on shipping, to make any comments upon what has fallen from the hon. Member for Liverpool respecting the Liverpool town dues. In that investigation, we have received great assistance from the Reports of the Board of Trade; but, although we acknowledge their value, we shall, of course, exercise our own judgment in deciding upon the facts which that inquiry involves. As to the next point, of guano, which was raised by the hon. Gentleman in reference to the discoveries upon the Arabian coast, I am bound to say that the able naval officer who was sent out by Lord Aberdeen's Government, when I was at the Admiralty, to explore the islands in question, had stated that they would be found utterly unproductive of guano of good quality. Then, as to agricultural statistics, I have never been enamoured of any compulsory demand of that nature upon farmers; still I think that, if accurate information of that kind could be obtained, it would be of very great advantage to the nation; but, unless accuracy be secured, the result will be most fallacious. Neither need I follow the hon. Gentleman into his comment upon the interference of the Board of Trade in railways or shipwrecks; but I must say, I think it would be most imprudent to intrust the decision on accidents upon railways or on board ship to those whose interests were involved in the issue, and are adverse to those of the public. I agree with what fell from my right hon. Friend, that if the Inns of Court and Doctors' Commons were left to themselves, we should never have any reform in the testamentary jurisdictions, nor if we left it to the Trinity House or other corporate bodies, should we have any reform in pilotage matters. So I say I do not believe, if we had consulted shipowners alone, we should have had any repeal of the navigation laws, nor had we been solely guided by capitalists, would there have been any law of limited liability passed through Parliament. Thus I say, it is not proper that questions of loss of life and property arising from shipwrecks should be left to the judgment of those interested in the decision. The hon. Gentleman has stated that, in his opinion, the Act of 1850 was preferable to the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854, and that centralization—that much-dreaded, little—understood term—was the character of the latter enactment. Under the Act of 1854 the decision in case of shipwreck, I believe, is left to the local magistrates, who act in open court, with the assistance of an assessor, and therefore the judgment pronounced is that of the local authorities.


They are appointed by the Board of Trade.


The assessor is appointed by the Board of Trade, but the magistrates are justices of the locality.


The Board of Trade has power to appoint the magistrates, or a stipendiary magistrate.


But they must be magistrates of the locality—justices exorcising jurisdiction within the district. But, if I am correct, the 241st section of the Merchant Shipping Act, which constitutes these tribunals, was retained in the new Act at the instance of the hon. Gentleman himself. I have dwelt much on the beneficial measures effected in modern times by Mr. Huskisson, Lord Wallace, Mr. P. Thomson, Mr. Gladstone, and Lord Dalhousie—men of distinguished and eminent talent, who in succession have filled this great department in the State which the hon. Gentleman now seeks to pull to pieces and demolish. But what has been done in more recent times? Take the last five years. I don't see the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies in his place; but I feel more free in his absence to speak of his merits, and of what he achieved while at the head of the Board of Trade. He repealed the navigation laws; he instituted an examination of seagoing masters; he suppressed crimping by shipping offices; he insured the survey of passenger steamers; he extinguished the Merchant Seamen's Fund, which was bankrupt; at his instance, Parliament generously made up the deficiency by a grant of £100,000; and he established also a regular system of inquiry into the misconduct of masters. Mention has been made of my right hon. Friend Mr. Cardwell. What did he effect in the first year of his office? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, in opening his budget in 1852, had stated various grievances of which, in his opinion, the shipping interest had a right to complain. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley) who was President of the Board of Trade under Lord Derby's Administration—and never was there a more efficient Minister; unassuming, diligent, careful in investigating, quick in observing deficiencies—had supplied the Government of which he was a member with information of the defects which existed in our system, and of the grievances which ought to be redressed at that time; and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) detailed those grievances in his budget. Lord Derby's Government, however, did not remain in power a sufficient time to redress them. Lord Aberdeen's Government succeeded. My right hon. Friend Mr. Cardwell, being at the Board of Trade, immediately turned his attention to the subject, and in that very Session what did he effect? He regulated the salvage claimed by Queen's ships; he regulated the volunteering into Queen's ships from merchantmen on foreign stations; he modified the law which compelled shipowners to take apprentices; he repealed the clauses which regulated the proportion of foreign seamen on board English ships; he regulated the general law of wrecks and salvage; he established savings£banks for the benefit of the merchant seamen; and he introduced a system for the payment of seamen's wages by transmission of lists which has produced the most salutary effect. But was that all? In the following Session what was done by the President of the Board of Trade?—this idle officer, whose very existence as a member of the Government is viewed with jealousy by the hon. Gentleman. He introduced and passed through Parliament in one Session an Act called the Merchant Shipping Act, of about 460 clauses—a complete consolidation of the whole code of merchant shipping—a consolidation of fifty statutes, all of which he repealed and embodied in that one Act; and I believe I am not wrong in saying that, after all which has been said about the consolidation of the statutes, this is the one solitary instance of consolidation effected on a large scale. Well, then, what more did he do? There is a provision in that Act for the transfer and the mortgage of ships upon a small payment, which gives extraordinary facilities, works without any confusion, and which, if I mistake not, is a model upon which the measure for the registration and transfer of lands itself must at last be framed. Was that all? My right hon. Friend was fortunate enough, by his conciliatory demeanour, to obtain the consent of the Trinity House in London to the most extensive change with reference to local dues which has ever yet been effected. Notwithstanding their charter of incorporation, which dates from the time of Henry VIII., and which might have been adversely pleaded, the Trinity House, looking to the wants of the times, and on the representation of my right hon. Friend, consented to a new regulation of its functions under the control of the Board of Trade, and to a reduction of light dues, by which the shipping interest will, in the course of two or three years, have benefited to the extent of £170,000 a year, while the old lighthouses have been efficiently maintained, and new ones of the best construction are in progress of erection. My right hon. Friend also carried a measure regulating the whole system of pilotage in the port of London, the cinque ports, and in the Thames and Medway, by which, if I am not mistaken, the shipping interest already has benefited to the extent of £20,000 a year. I am shocked at the time I have detained the House, but really a sense of justice has compelled me to bear evidence on this subject. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, who has an intimate knowledge of these matters, and whoso experience with reference to the past is greater than mine, will confirm the accuracy of what I have stated. I rejoice that the Government have not yielded for one moment to the solicitation of the hon. Gentleman for a Committee, and will firmly resist this Motion. I hope they will maintain the existence of this great department in the State, the value of which I think incalculable. Experience may suggest small alterations in its constitution, but the outline of the department is good and sound, and, in my humble judgment, is well worthy of being preserved.


thought his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) had made out a complete case for inquiry, and he should therefore support the Motion. There were one or two points, however, on which he was compelled to differ from his hon. Friend. For instance, he distinctly and decidedly differed from his hon. Friend as to the alleged inquisitorial character of the questions put by the Board of Trade, on the subject of Insurances, because he (Mr. Bentinck) believed that the utmost publicity should be given to all transactions of that nature; and he differed from him also in thinking that the powers of that Board should be diminished rather than increased, and on that ground he was the more inclined to support the Motion. He could not come to the conclusion, however, that the Motion of his hon. Friend involved a charge or accusation against the Board of Trade; it simply asked for an inquiry; and as he (Mr. Bentinck) believed inquiry in such cases always was good, he should support it. As far as railroads were concerned he (Mr. Bentinck) concurred with his hon. Friend; and he had himself brought forward a Motion on a former occasion, proposing that additional powers should be given to the Board of Trade, believing such a course would tend to the interest and benefit of the country, and also of Railway Companies. He believed, however, that the principle of the constitution of the Board of Trade, as well as of all Government Boards, was essentially bad, because it involved a divided responsibility, and because, consequently, no business that came before it could be well done. It had the two great defects of all Government Boards, for it, like the Board of Admiralty, was composed of men who by their education and previous training, let their talents be what they might, could have no sufficient knowledge of the subjects brought under their notice; and secondly, it was so constituted as to attach no responsibility to any one. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had, amongst other subjects, referred, in a tone and terms of extreme gratulation to the repeal of the Navigation Laws, and he had justified that tone and those terms by referring to the great increase in the tonnage of our shipping engaged in commerce; but that was no test whatever. The only fair way to look at the case was to take into view the effect of that repeal, not only upon the commercial marine of this country, but also its effect upon the commercial marine of other great countries. If that were done it would be found that the increase of the latter, in consequence of the repeal of the Navigation Laws, was far greater than the increase of the former. If the repeal of the Navigation Laws had increased the ships and commerce of this country, it had increased the ships and commerce of France and of America in a much larger proportion, and if the present system was long continued he (Mr. Bentinck) had no doubt that the commercial supremacy of this country could not be maintained. There was also another point of great importance connected with the subject of the repeal of the Navigation Laws, namely, the difficulty of manning the navy now experienced. He (Mr. Bentinck) had heard the right hon. and gallant Admiral the late Member for Gloucester (Admiral Berkeley) state from the Treasury Bench, that this difficulty existed in consequence of the Repeal of the Navigation Laws; and the gallant Admiral was a competent authority on the subject. With reference to the subject of the balance of trade to which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had so triumphantly alluded, he (Mr. Bentinck) should be glad to know how it was that of late the balance of trade had been so invariably against this country, notwithstanding all restrictions had been removed from commerce?


said, he was not aware that the gallant Admiral alluded to had attributed the difficulty in manning the navy to the repeal of the Navigation Laws. Neither did he himself think it was generally believed that such was the case. At any rate, all the naval officers in the House, with the exception of the late hon. and gallant Member for Bath, had voted for the repeal of those laws. He (Sir G. Pechell) complained that the returns said to be laid on the table on the 21st of March by the Board of Trade were still in the shape known as "dummies,"—they consisted only of the cover, and were waiting for the several returns from the office before they could be printed and delivered to Members, notwithstanding the high eulogium of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle as to the labours of the department. He argued, therefore, that the Board of Trade either had too much to do, or that it neglected its duties. The former he believed, however, to be the case; they had not only too much to do, but they did more than was required. By an Act, the 18th & 19th Vic., c. 101, they had obtained power to carry out more stringently the convention with France respecting the oyster fishery in the Channel. Upon that authority, an Order in Council, dated the 21st of May, had just issued, forbidding any one, during the months of May, June, July, and August, to remove any oysters, or introduce any into the United Kingdom, from any part of the British Channel or the coast of the United Kingdom. Now, it was well known to those connected with the oyster fisheries, that it was necessary for improving the trade, that the oysters in the said Channel might be taken up during those months and placed in other grounds—or for consumption. But, now, in consequence of this Order in Council, oysters could not be transferred even from one pond to another without entering into a bond of £100. And the master of a vessel was liable to a penalty of £6 for having dredging machines on board, as well as the forfeiture of any oysters found in the vessel. The effect of this infringement on the rights of fishermen, and the complete stoppage of the large trade hitherto carried on, where thousands of tons of oysters had been sent up by the Brighton and Southampton railways, had caused great distress on the coast of Kent, Sussex, and Hants. This was going very much farther than Parliament intended they should go, and therefore he would support the Motion for inquiry.


said, that if he did not make, in answer to the speeches which they had heard that evening, so satisfactory a statement as he could wish, he must throw himself upon the indulgence of the House, because he had been submitted to an ordeal which it would be difficult for any public officer to pass through with credit, even if he were competent for the situation which he held, whereas, by the hypothesis of the hon. Member for Liverpool, he (Mr. Lowe) was not competent to discharge the duties of his office. He had come down to the House prepared to meet the allegation of the hon. Member for Liverpool, that there ought to be an alteration in the constitution of the Board of Trade; but it was not likely that he could be prepared thoroughly to answer every possible case which any hon. Gentleman might bring against the Board of Trade, without the necessary papers and books before him, and without any notice having been given of the questions. He submitted that it would be better, if hon. Gentlemen had complaints to make of a public department, that they should do so either by a Motion for papers or a Vote of censure. That would raise the case distinctly, and it would enable the House to come to a definite decision—not upon an ex parte statement such as the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) had made—but after hearing both sides of the case. The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) had disposed of one part of his own Motion very satisfactorily, because after the history with which he had favoured the House it surely would be unnecessary for any Committee to inquire into the origin of the Board of Trade. Neither would it be necessary to enter very minutely into Mr. Burke's description of that department, because, except that the name was still retained, there was no similarity whatever between the two establishments. The Board of Trade in Mr. Burke's day consisted of eight Members of Parliament, who received £1,000 a year each for doing nothing, so far as he (Mr. Lowe) could understand. Among the Members, however, the Board had the honour of including Mr. Gibbon. They had to regulate trade; but as the powers vested in them for that purpose were only those of the Queen's pre- rogative, which were of no partial avail, and as they had no statutory powers whatever, they had nothing to do but to pocket their salaries. That flagrant and corrupt institution, as it had been called, had been swept away; but what had such a Board to do with the present Board of Trade, which, in reality, was not a Board at all? It consisted, indeed, of a nominal Board, appointed at the commencement of every reign, of great officers of State who never sat, but it was really confined to a President and Vice President. It had nothing in common with the Board of Mr. Burke. Its whole authority was of a statutory character, delegated to it from time to time by that House, when there was any public duty to be performed which, in the opinion of the House, it was calculated satisfactorily to discharge; and it was no small testimony to the efficiency of the Board of Trade, that during the last thirty years the Legislature had been in the habit, when they wanted a body to act with intelligence and impartiality between the public and any private interest, of uniformly selecting the Board of Trade for such a purpose. Scarcely a private Act was passed without something being delegated to the Board of Trade, and he hoped to be able to show to the House that the department had not failed in the exercise of those functions with which it had been entrusted. The only argument with which the hon. Member for Liverpool had favoured them in support of his view of the necessity of altering the constitution of the Board of Trade was founded on the allegation that it had too much to do. He (Mr. Lowe) did not know that that was a very logical way of arguing, because if a department had too much to do the remedy was simple—it was not to alter the constitution of the Board, but to relieve it of some of the burdens which had been imposed upon it. If that were what the hon. Gentleman meant, he (Mr. Lowe) claimed his thanks, for during the last few years the main occupation of the Board of Trade had been the relieving itself from a number of unnecessary burdens with which the country had injudiciously trammelled it. It might, he thought, be justly said, that the Board of Trade had been the grave of protection and the cradle of free trade. Mr. Huskisson prepared the way, and it was from the Board of Trade, in 1840, that there went forth that invaluable evidence given before the Com- mittee on the Import Duties by Mr. John Deacon Hume—a man whose name never could be mentioned without respect, whose convincing testimony before that Committee shook the whole fabric of protection to its very centre, and carried conviction to the minds of many people who had failed to be convinced before. No more remarkable evidence, perhaps, could be adduced of the benefit which the country might derive from the possession of such men, who, trained to official life from their earliest years, obtained a knowledge of the springs of action, and were enabled by their acquaintance with the practical workings of difficult measures to trace effects to causes, and to reason from results in a manner that could be accomplished, probably, by no other system of training, The Board of Trade, then, was censured, because it had too much to do. It had got rid, however, of treaties of reciprocity, because it had been the main agent in establishing those principles which rendered reciprocity treaties obsolete and unnecessary. It had got rid also of a vast quantity of business relating to joint-stock companies, by instituting the principle that people might establish joint-stock companies for themselves. Moreover, the interference of the Home Government with the Colonies had of late years been greatly lessened, and the functions of the Board of Trade in that respect, therefore, had also been greatly diminished. So far, then, he claimed the thanks of the hon. Member for Liverpool, because, having too much to do, the Board had been constantly endeavouring to rectify that error by the inculcation and establishment of sound principles which would work efficiently of themselves, without the intervention of any department of the Government at all. He now came to the charges which had been brought against the Board of Trade, and he should deal with the last first. The hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Sir G. Pechell) had stated that, the Government having completed a treaty with France with regard to oysters, the Board of Trade had, by means of an Order in Council, made that treaty more stringent. Exactly the contrary, however, was the case. The Foreign Office had made a treaty with France that oysters should not be removed during the four months which did not contain in them the letter R—May, June, July, and August—when those delicacies were not supposed to be in good condition for consumption. That treaty, however, he apprehended only applied to oysters intended to be eaten; but he understood that it was considered necessary in the oyster trade that they should be transferred during those months from one bed to another. But that sort of removal appeared to come within the technical meaning of the treaty, and, as great difficulty and annoyance resulted from it, the Board of Trade obtained an alteration in the treaty enabling the removal of oysters during those months, not for the purpose of being consumed, but of being transferred to fresh pasturage. That was the Order in Council which the hon. and gallant Admiral had stigmatized as a cruel infringement by the Board of Trade upon the rights of the oyster fishermen. In effect it was just the contrary. Then the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) accused the Board of Trade of being the enemies of local self-government. But it was the principal duty of the Board of Trade to stand as an impartial arbiter between great interests, such as the railway or the shipping interest, and the public. That was the duty which the Board had to discharge, and in the performance of it, with what intelligence, impartiality and integrity they might, it was impossible to avoid incurring considerable obloquy and giving great offence. They were the advocates of no particular interests, save the interests of the public; they were bound to see that all proceedings were conducted equitably as between the public and those great interests to whom the lives of the public were in some measure entrusted; they had to take care, when fatal casualties occurred, that the guilty should not escape, and that negligence or impropriety of conduct on the part of shipowners, railway directors, and others, should not go unpunished, or be glozed over by friends whose sympathies were excited by local connections or by a community of interest. It was this view of their duty which explained all the proceedings of the Board of Trade in relation to the Liverpool local Marine Board. In 1854, Parliament gave to the Board of Trade the option of appointing two courts for inquiry into wrecks—one, the local Marine Board, composed of local shipowners on the spot; and the other consisting of two magistrates, to whom, in the event of matters of nautical skill being involved, the Board of Trade might add an assessor. In 1854, as now, the hon. Member for Liverpool objected to the Act giving that option, and contended that inquiries into wrecks should be referred to the local Marine Board only; but Parliament gave the Board of Trade the option, and the Board had exercised it; and he thought that it was rather too bad to complain now that they merely exercised a power which, after full deliberation and debate, had been conferred upon them by Parliament so recently as 1854. It was not because a man belonged to a particular interest that he was therefore the best judge when a question arose between that interest and the public. It was said that a peer and a lawyer were unfit to preside over the trade of the country. His noble Friend Lord Stanley and himself did not pretend to any such position. Where there was a conflict between a great interest and the public, they saw that justice was done not only to that interest, but also to the public; and where there was a probability of matters being hushed up from local causes, whatever unpopularity they might incur in performing their duties, they would never hesitate to use the means which the wisdom of Parliament had placed in their hands for carrying out the great objects it had in view. In the exercise of their discretion the Board of Trade thought, and justly, that many cases of wrecks ought to be inquired into by the magistrates with an assessor, believing, that if tried by a marine board, that board, which was composed of shipowners, would naturally deal tenderly with their fellow shipowners. That was the head and front of their offending with regard to the Liverpool Marine Board. They heard of great theoretical complaints of the Board of Trade; but was it not strange that after the exercise of this jurisdiction for so long a period, not a single case of injustice was brought forward? He would not discuss the abstract theory, which the House, after hearing Mr. Cardwell and the hon. Member for Liverpool, settled in 1854; but he was ready to admit that if gross injustice had been done by condemning innocent men, case, would be made out, not for a reconstitution of the Board of Trade, but for a revision of the clauses of the statute which intrusted them with those powers. The number of certificates withdrawn, either temporarily or permanently, from officers of the Mercantile Marine was 195. The number restored by certificates of the same or an inferior grade was 58. Was it not strange that none of the 195 had lodged with the hon. Member—no unwilling receiver—any complaint against the Board of Trade? He challenged the hon. Member to bring forward any case in which injustice had been done, but to do so in a proper manner and after due notice. He did not say that they might not have erred in judgment, like others, but anything like gross miscarriage of justice could not be alleged. The number of certificates withdrawn for drunkenness was no less than 116. For loss and damage to ships the number was only 20. The number for other offences was 59. The number of cases tried by the Liverpool Marine Board, who complained of being excluded from jurisdiction, was 96. The number tried by naval courts of law, against which there was no complaint, was 57. The number disposed of by magistrates, assessors, and others was 48. The number of certificates of competency withdrawn was 71. The number of certificates of service withdrawn was 124, in all 195. Those were the statistics, and he thought they were enough to show the House that if there were any substantial grievance ample opportunity had been given to prove by one out of so many cases that the Board of Trade had done wrong. The next charge was, that whereas the 448th section of the Act gave the Board power to ask any necessary questions when a wreck took place, they had presumed to ask whether the vessel was insured, when it was insured, and for what amount? The report of the Committee of 1837 which sat upon the subject of wrecks enumerated the causes, and one of the most prominent was stated to be maritime insurance. Who did not know that maritime insurance engendered at least carelessness in the owners as to the manner in which ships were sent to sea? And it very often happened that they were purposely cast on shore when insured above their value. Ho was speaking to a gentleman the other day, who told him that maritime insurance was "the mother of wrecks." The Board of Trade were to inquire into wrecks, but they were not to ask whether there was a motive for allowing the ship to be cast away or for making every effort to prevent her being cast away. He said they would have been blamable if they had not asked the very questions for which the hon. Member censured them, and he might add that those questions were Compiled from the Report of the Receivers Wrecks, which was superseded by the Mercantile Marine Act, so that it was not the invention of the Board of Trade, but the practice before those powers were intrusted to them. The next, was rather a more delicate question—the hon. Gentleman told the House that during last Session the Liverpool Marine Board were so galled at the insolence of the Board of Trade that they resigned in a body. He never got at the rights of that quarrel, but he believed the reason to be this. There was a tried and excellent officer connected with the Liverpool Marine Board, who discharged his duties so well that the Board of Trade added £50 a year to his salary by way of gratuity. He had then £300 a year. The Mercantile Marine Board thought he should get £50 a year more. The Board of Trade consented to this, but as a matter of favour. The Marine Board said it should be done as a matter of right; and because the Board of Trade insisted on giving this £50 a year additional as a matter of favour, and not as a matter of right, the Mercantile Marine Board resigned, like independent Britons, in a body. The hon. Gentleman had wisely said he would not allude to the Liverpool town dues, but it was worthy of notice that the remarkable touchiness of the Liverpool Marine Board happened, casually, of course, to be contemporaneous with a considerable stir being made about the Liverpool town dues. The hon. Gentleman censured the Board of Trade, in the next place, for reporting upon private Bills. They did that in obedience to the orders of the House, and if any censure were passed it should be passed upon the House of Commons, and not upon those who complied with its orders. It was, however, absolutely necessary that in matters between private individuals there should be some one to speak for the public. No one who had not looked into the subject could conceive the extent to which, for want of an intervening power, the public interest had been prejudiced. He would point out an instance. The Corporation of London had the power of taxing seaborne coal, but not landborne coal. When railways were being introduced, the corporation opposed every Bill for a railway with a terminus in London, and withdrew its opposition upon each company submitting to pay the same duty on coal brought by their line as was payable on seaborne coal. Thus one by one the railway companies fell into the same net, and by a series of private Acts of Parliament, of which the public knew nothing, their private interests were sacrificed. It was to prevent the recurrence of such proceedings that the Board of Trade presented Reports on private Bills, and those on whose toes they trod resented it, and visited the Board with their censure. The next sin charged against them was that of obstructing Liverpool in forming docks, and putting the commerce of the country to inconvenience. It was a very heavy charge, but it was perfectly demonstrable by Acts of Parliament and Reports of Committees that it was utterly unfounded. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere) was Chairman of the Committee on the Liverpool and Birkenhead Docks in 1855. For twelve years previously Liverpool had engaged in a conflict, with all the energy, intelligence, and resources at its command, to prevent docks being made at Birkenhead. That long contest came under the jurisdiction of the Committee of 1855, and in granting certain advantages to Liverpool the Committee stipulated that in the next Session Liverpool should come to Parliament for a reconstitution of its dock trust. They had made default in doing so, and they were in default at this moment. The Board of Trade had pointed out year after year, when those persons came to Parliament, that they had not complied with conditions upon which former powers had been conceded, and if by doing that they were obstructing the Liverpool dock trust, he hoped the Board of Trade would never cease to obstruct them until they had learnt to obey Acts of Parliament. With regard to the corn returns, he need not say anything after what had been urged by his right hon. Friend, but would merely remind the House that these were not properly statistical, but taken for the purpose of the tithe average. Then he came to the question of the guano, and upon that the hon. Gentleman the Member for a great commercial city, which flourished so much by its trade and commerce, had read a letter from the Chairman of the Committee of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, who accused the Board of Trade of permitting the Government of Peru to charge so large a sum for its guano. He (Mr. Lowe) would remind the hon. Gentleman that the Board of Trade was a pacific department, and that it would have been much more to the purpose if he had shown how the Board of Trade were to coerce the Government of Peru in a matter like that. He came next to the question relating to the importation of guano from the Kuria Muria Islands. The hon. Member for Liverpool stated that the Board of Trade refused to comply with the request of the Liverpool Shipowners' Association, to relinquish the royalty of 2s. a ton on guano imported from those islands into the United Kingdom, on the ground that no duty was payable on Peruvian guano. It was considered unworthy of the Board of Trade that they did not consent to that proposition. But the ground on which the Board declined to do so was, that as the price of the Peruvian guano always regulated the market, the remission of that 2s. a ton would not in the slightest degree have benefited the agriculturists, but, on the contrary, would merely have gone into the pockets of gentlemen who had already got a monopoly of the article in question. They had acted then, on the soundest commercial principles. The hon. Gentleman further said that the Liverpool merchants had proposed that guano should be imported in the ships of all nations, and yet that the Board of Trade had most unfairly charged those merchants with seeking to obtain for themselves a special advantage in the matter. He (Mr. Lowe) had sent for the papers, and he found, on referring to the proposed agreement, that it commenced by a flourish about ships of all nations; but the third clause provided that all ships should be obliged to obtain licences from the lessees at Liverpool; so that the whole scheme was a device for the benefit of the Liverpool shipowners. Again, the hon. Gentleman had accused the Board of Trade of very great misconduct with regard to the inspection of railways. He (Mr. Lowe) could only speak of the short time that he had known the Board of Trade, and he could conscientiously state that the Board had taken the utmost precaution to secure the services of gentlemen in every way competent to perform the duties of Inspectors. They had now two lieutenant colonels and captains of engineers, and at the head of that department was Captain Galton, a gentleman whose very admirable Report on American Railways showed his complete mastery over the subject of Railway Inspection. The case of the viaduct on the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway had been cited as one against which an officer of the Board of Trade had reported, who, it was contended, was unequal to the functions he had to discharge. If the Board of Trade had erred in acting on that Report, they had erred on the right side, and probably they were actuated in what they did by the fear of serious consequences to the public, such, for instance, as happened the other day from the dreadful railway accident in Canada. But it so happened that the officer who inspected that line of railway was not appointed by the Board of Trade at all, but by the Railway Commission, which was afterwards put an end to, and its powers transferred to the Board of Trade. Then the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsfall) adverted to the; case of the Norfolk Railway, and read a Report from a gentleman who had a very bad opinion indeed of the Board of Trade. He (Mr. Lowe) asked the date of that Report at the time the hon. Gentleman was reading it, and for this reason. The House might perhaps remember that some time ago the Board of Trade caused a strict inspection to be made of the Eastern Counties Railway. In that case the Corporation of the city of Norwich had represented to the Board of Trade that the Eastern Counties Railway was in a dangerous state. Under the powers vested in the Board an inspector was sent down, who reported that some bridges were rotten, and the line altogether in a bad way. The company had since put it in proper order, but no doubt that Report did not suit the feelings of the Norfolk Company, and he thought the House might fairly trace the bad opinion that had been expressed of the system of inspection pursued by the Board of Trade to the engineer of that company. He (Mr. Lowe) believed he had now gone through all the charges which had been brought against the department with which he was connected. The hon. Gentleman had disclaimed all personal feelings in bringing this subject before the House. He did not accuse the hon. Member of being actuated by such motives; but if he had not been personal on this occasion, he had been, at all events, extremely local. He (Mr. Lowe) would not attempt to weaken what had been so well said by others in the course of this discussion; but this he would say, that if there were any department of the Government that deserved well of the country, it was the Board of Trade. This, at all events, he was entitled to say, for almost every one of the exploits alluded to by the hon. Member for Liverpool had been performed long before he (Mr. Lowe) had anything to do with it. He should now state in a concise way the benefits for which the community was indebted to the Board of Trade. The right hon. the Member for Oxford University, had, when Vice President of the Board of Trade, framed the calculations on which the tariffs of Sir Robert Peel were based. From that department had emanated the repeal of the Navigation Laws. Since then it had been engaged on less showy but not less useful measures. It had adopted a system of registration of ships, the effect of which had been to put the title to every vessel in the kingdom on the simplest, clearest, and most intelligible basis; and he cordially concurred with what had fallen on that subject from the right lion. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle, when he said he hoped in that Act was contained the germ and the nucleus of what would eventually become the mode of transfer with respect to all the landed property throughout the country. The Board of Trade had also been instrumental in settling the question of the measurement of tonnage in the most satisfactory manner. It had introduced an examination of masters and mates with the greatest success. It had likewise established the agency of shipping offices, the object of which was to manage the affairs of the sailor in a perfectly trustworthy manner, and one that was exceedingly advantageous to his own interests. It had also introduced a system of money-orders, by which the sailor on receiving his money, instead of yielding to temptation and squandering it away on shore, was enabled to transmit as much as he liked of it to his wife and family at home. The result of that step was, that during the last nine months of 1855 no less a sum in the aggregate than £77,000 had been remitted by seamen in that way to their families and relatives; and in 1856 the whole amount so remitted was so large as £140,000. He was sure that was a statement which would be received with the greatest satisfaction by the House. Again, the Board of Trade had established savings banks with the view of assisting seafaring men to save their money. Those banks, however, had been as yet so short a time in operation that he could not give any very decided opinion upon their ultimate result; but so far as the plan had been tried, it appeared to work well. The Board had also undertaken the charge of the wages and effects of deceased seamen, formerly collected by the Mercantile Marine Fund, which afforded no very trustworthy security—with the view to distribute them equitably among their next of kin; and in that way the Board collected, in 1856, £33,000, and distributed it without any expense whatever to the parties. It had also issued, at great pains and labour, elaborate instructions to consuls to be followed in all matters of difficulty relating to shipping, and which it was hoped would be of very considerable value. The Board had likewise, at the suggestion of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell), introduced a clause into the Mercantile Marine Act which altered the doctrine of salvage. Salvage was formerly paid, as the House was aware, only for the saving of goods, but by the clause in question it had been extended to the saving of human life. The number of lives lost by shipwreck of vessels belonging to the United Kingdom was, in 1852, 922; in 1853, 689; in 1854, 1,549; in 1855 (when the change in the doctrine of salvage took place), 469; and in 1856, 521. He thought that considering the great increase in our shipping these results must be very gratifying to the House, and that his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell), who had been instrumental in bringing them about, was entitled to the gratitude of every humane man. Again, great improvements had taken place in lifeboats all round the coast. Then the Board of Trade had received from the Trinity House the management of the lighthouses, and on that subject the Board had remitted duties to the amount of £170,000,and had built twenty-two new lighthouses, while twenty-four others were now under consideration. He believed that he need not trouble the House any further. The House had now heard both sides, and he submitted that no case for a Committee had been made out. Of course the Board of Trade was liable to make mistakes, but no establishment was better seconded by its subordinate officers than that Board, and every one conversant with business knew what an important matter that was. The hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) declared that the hon. Member for Liverpool had made out his case, but it was very strange that the hon. Member, coming here to make a formal attack on the Board of Trade, should not have based it on any great principle, but on single instances of misconduct, carefully culled out, and occurring at various times and places, every one of which he (Mr. Lowe), unless he were greatly mistaken, had succeeded in answering. Upon the whole he submitted, unless he should be proved to be wrong in his statement, that he had entirely an- swered the hon. Member; but if he had not, that might be a reason for withdrawing confidence from those who had the management of the Board of Trade, but it was no reason for breaking up the constitution of the Board itself, by the means of which the country had obtained such enormous benefits, and intrusting its business to the care of any body of gentlemen, however respectable, who would be the representatives of particular interests. The effect of such an arrangement would be that which was always the effect of guilds, that they would look at matters from the point of view of their own particular trade. Though the interest of each particular trade was involved in the general interest, yet the guild never saw that, but tried to get something incompatible with the general interest, and formed a narrow oligarchy within the trade, until at last, by the combined opposition of the trade and the public, the guild was overthrown, and the true principles of commerce rendered triumphant. The Board of Trade had fallen into no such fault. Its fault was, that it had not conciliated particular interests at the expense of the public, but had endeavoured, by doing its duty manfully, to carry out properly the functions intrusted to it by Parliament, being quite convinced that under such circumstances it would receive the support of the House.


said, the House had been assured by competent authority that the objections made by the hon. Member for Liverpool had been entirely answered, and therefore he would not go very fully into the subject. He thought it must be satisfactory to the public to have an administrative department so near perfection, and, as it would appear from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that nearly every benefit the country could boast of was to be traced to the Board of Trade, he was only suprised that the right hon. Gentleman had not among other things claimed for the Board of Trade the credit of abolishing the Corn Laws. The right hon. Baronet, after highly praising the Board of Trade for its statistics, deprecated any attempt to give the country the benefit of agricultural statistics. Now, it appeared I to him that nothing could be of greater advantage to the country than satisfactory statistics with respect to the great agricultural interest, and he was satisfied that they might easily be obtained, for he did not believe that the farmers would hesitate to give information for the purpose. It would be for the hon. Member for Liverpool to decide whether, after the discussion which had taken place, it would be advisable to press the Motion to a division, but he for one thanked the hon. Member for bringing forward the subject.


said, that if the business of the Board of Trade had been carried on as it was in the days of Mr. Huskisson no complaint would have to be made, but since that time, they had improved most vexatious rules and regulations, which had acted as a sore and blister upon trade. Though he confessed that he thought no person connected with trade ought to be a member of the Board, yet he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) whether the Board ought not to have Gentlemen intimately associated with the Board who from past experience understood the trade of the country. Whether his hon. Colleague divided the House or not, he (Mr. Ewart) believed that the debate would result in great benefit to the trade and commerce of the country.


said, that at the last general election the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade had been invited to stand for Manchester, and if he had done so would have been returned. The reason of this was the quarrel raging between Liverpool and Manchester and the other manufacturing towns of the north. The House would have no rest until the quarrel was settled. It was an injustice and a wrong that Liverpool should draw £150,000 a year from the towns of the north for her police, lighting, and halls. When such a question was pending it was no time to make a change in the Board of Trade; let it exercise all its influence to settle this great question.


in reply said, that in reference to an observation which had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, he denied that he had made any attack on Mr. Huskisson. He had been a strenuous supporter both of Mr. Huskisson and Mr. Canning, and he wished it could be said that the right hon. Baronet had been as consistent a supporter of those great men. [Sir J. GKAHAM said, he had uniformly supported them.] His impression was that the right hon. Baronet, who had represented so many places and held so many opinions in this House, had been both a supporter and opponent of their policy; but of course, after the assurance of the right hon. Baronet, he must be mistaken on that point. He thanked the Vice President of the Board of Trade for the good humour with which he had replied to his observations, but he was incorrect in saying that he (Mr. Horsfall) had sneered at the noble Lord the President of the Board. He had particularly guarded himself against such a charge, by observing that he should refer to that noble Lord, as well as to the right hon. Gentleman himself, with the utmost respect. The right hon. Gentleman said that no case of injustice had been brought forward. He would, however, bring forward many if the Committee were granted, though he did not choose to take up the time of the House by detailing every case at the present moment. There were, however, a few of the general observations of the right hon. Gentleman, which he felt bound to notice. The captains of merchant ships conceived that they were not tried by a proper tribunal; and he thought the Government and the Board of Trade ought to endeavour to remove that feeling. He regretted that when a question was put to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) on this subject the other evening, he said he was not aware that any intention existed on the part of the Government of proposing an Amendment of the Mercantile Marine Act. It would have been much more satisfactory had the right hon. Gentleman stated that if a substantial case of injustice could be established the Government would give the subject careful consideration, with a view to the amendment of the law. With reference to the guano traffic the right hon. Gentleman assumed that because the leslees resided at Liverpool the shipowners at that port were endeavouring to monopolize the trade. That argument was most absurd. It was true that the lessees, to whom a monopoly had been improperly granted, were a Liverpool firm, but there was no desire on the part of the Liverpool shipowners to exclude from the trade vessels sailing from London or any other port. He (Mr. Horsfall) had been accused by the right hon. Gentleman of making this a Liverpool question. It would doubtless have been considered somewhat extraordinary if he had entered into the complaints which were made at Southampton and other seaports of the kingdom, and he had thought the proper course was to confine himself to circumstances which had come under his own observation. This was not a local question; it was a national question; and whatever the decision of the House might be that night, the matter could not rest as it was. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken with some degree of contempt of the local Marine Board of Liverpool, and had intimated that that "guild" was not a fitting tribunal to decide upon the cases to which reference had been made; but the right hon. Gentleman's objection seemed somewhat disrespectful to his colleague the Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Labouchere), by whom the Board had been established. He (Mr. Horsfall) thought no answer had been given to the case he had submitted to the House. It was true they had heard from the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) a long argument in favour of free trade, which might have been very appropriate ten years ago, but which had little bearing upon the present question, as free trade was now a settled fact. The right hon. Baronet claimed for the members of the present Board of Trade the credit of the measures which had been proposed by Mr. Huskisson, Mr. Cardvwell, and others of their predecessors in office. Why, with just as much propriety, he (Mr. Horsfall) might, as the successor of Mr. Huskisson in the representation of Liverpool, claim credit for the measures of that right hon. Gentleman. It had been assumed that he wished to place the Board of Trade under the control of a man of business engaged in commerce. Such an idea never entered his mind, but he certainly was of opinion that a gentleman of some commercial experience should be connected with that Board, and he hoped the House would support him in asking for a Committee upon the subject.

Question put, and negatived.