§ Order for Committee read.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE:
It is not my intention to detain the House long from going into Committee; but I wish to offer one observation on a statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the course of the debate the other night, and at the same time to ask for some explanation of one of the papers mow on the Table, referring to the paper duty. I do not wish now to enter into any discussion of a question which we shall no doubt have ample opportunity of discussing in full—I mean the general question of the repeal of the paper duty; but the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman is, I think, likely to raise a false impression in the mind of the House upon a very material point; that statement, therefore, ought not to pass unchallenged. The right hon. Gentleman said it had been contended that in past years the paper duty had been an increasing tax as a source of revenue; but this, he asserted, can be said no longer, as the return of the amount received last year from the paper duty now before us shows that the Revenue from this source is not largely increasing. The net amount received in 1859 he stated at £1,291,769, the amount received in 1860 at £1,305,991, showing an increase of less than £15,000—or £14,222. This, the right hon. Gentleman said, is but a small increase in the productiveness of the duty, and is an important fact, as showing that its increase has been arrested. But there are one or two observations which are important to make on this point. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman, in considering the duty in reference to the amount of revenue to be sacrificed by giving it up, only took the amount yielded by the Excise duty; he altogether omitted to notice the amount derived from the Customs' duty on foreign paper. Now, by adding the amount of the Customs' duty to the Excise duty, the result, as to the total revenue from paper, is different. It is quite true that the amount received from the Excise duty stands nearly the same; but the amount received from the Customs' duty has nearly doubled. The result, adding the Excise and Customs' duty on paper together, is 1770 a total increase of £33,998, instead of £14,000. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman must, therefore, be received with a considerable qualification. The right hon. Gentleman says the small increase in the revenue from paper justifies his statement that the duty has arrived at a stationary point. I want to know whether that is really the case? To show that the increase in the revenue from paper in 1859, as compared with the preceding year, was £154,000; while in 1860, as compared with 1859 it is only £33,000, does not prove that the duty is stationary. We have heard a good deal of the elasticity of the Revenue from Excise, but I venture to say that if any one item of the Excise revenue is elastic it is paper. Looking to the progress of the paper duty I think the House will find that during the last thirteen years there has been no duty that has so steadily increased as the duty on paper. I have here a Return of the net produce of the paper duty for thirteen years from 1848 to 1860, and I find that it was £745,795 in 1848 and £1,305,991 in 1860. This is an increase beyond the proportion of the increase in other branches of the Excise. But if you were to look to single years in the series and judge by them, as my right hon. Friend now judges by the results of a single year, you might come to a conclusion that the progress of the revenue had been stopped long since. We are told that the productiveness of the duty is checked, because the last year's increase in the amount derived from it is only £33,000; but on many of these years I find the increase is inconsiderable, if only giving sums of £12,000, £8,000, or £20,000, while on two occasions, there was an actual decrease, in one case to the extent of £25,884, and in the other case £6,114. The fact, therefore, this year's increase being inconsiderable in amount proves nothing as to the duty being stationary. What kind of year was that of which the right hon. Gentleman was speaking? Had there been a marked increase in everything else, some inference might have been drawn from the slight increase in the Revenue from the paper duty; but in the last year everything declined, and the paper duty was the only item of the Revenue that did not decline. What inference should be drawn from that? Look at the condition of all the rest of the Revenue; on the whole it was £2,000,000 below the Estimate; on the Customs the loss was £135,000; on 1771 malt the deficiency was nearly £800,000; on hops it was £300,000; on spirits, £900,000. On all these articles the consumption was checked; yet we are told that the paper duty, because it increased so little as £33,000, is an exception to the elasticity of all other duties, and as a source of revenue must be considered stationary. These are facts that materially modify the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and it is desirable that these facts should be known to the House before we come to the discussion of the general policy of the Budget. There is another feature in this case to which I wish especially to refer, and on which I should be glad of explanation. The returns from which my right hon. Friend has quoted are returns laid on the Table of the House showing the quantity of paper manufactured and of duty received thereupon within a period of three years. Now, it is true that the Revenue from paper has been what I have stated it to be. But the House will, perhaps, be surprised to find that, although the duty has increased to so small an amount, the quantity of paper manufactured has largely increased, and I want to know how it is that the increase of duty has not kept pace with the increased quantity manufactured. In 1858–59 200,000,000lbs. of paper were manufactured; in 1859–60, 2l4,000,000lbs., showing an increase of nearly 15,000,000lbs. That is the time when the increased revenue from paper was nearly £150,000, and when the duty was progressive. Now, the increase in the quantity of paper manufactured between 1860 and 1861 was greater than that between 1859 and 1860; for, instead of being under 15,000,000lbs., it was 15,555,000lbs.; yet, although there is this increase in the quantity manufactured, the increase in the duty is comparatively trifling. Why is that? How does it happen that a large quantity of paper which ought to have added some £70,000 or £80,000 to our Revenue has not produced any such amount of duty? The only light upon the subject is thrown by my right hon. Friend in some observations which fell from him on the 16th of July last, when he was bringing forward his second Budget. In estimating the position at which he stood at the close of the year he had to consider the probable amount of duty on paper; and this is what he said—The loss which would have arisen from abandoning that duty, according to the terms of the 1772 Bill which passed this House, would have been £800,000. I cannot say how much of that will be recovered in consequence of the rejection of the Bill. I doubt whether the whole of it will; but I think it very possible that £600,000 may be recovered. Perhaps we may take it at £700,000."—[3 Hansard, clix. 1969.]That was natural. My right hon. Friend considered that on account of what took place last year, and the derangement of the trade created by the Bill, the paper duty would certainly yield less than it was expected to yield; and he thought it might fall off by £100,000 or by £200,000. Now, what was the extent of his disappointment in other sources of revenue? The Customs fell short of his estimate by £135,000; malt, by £800,000; spirits, by £900,000; hops, by £300,000. But the paper exceeded his estimate by £114,000. This was in a year when everything else was falling off; and yet we are told that the paper duty is not now an increasing one. I have thought it right to call attention to these facts, though there may be a perfect answer with regard to them. When a Minister says to the House of Commons," I told you a short time since that this was a valuable and a rising duty, but now I can assure you, from official data, that that is no longer the case," such a statement must have great weight with the House, and we are bound to look into it. Of course, if my right hon. Friend can show us that, in spite of the statement I have made, the paper duty is a declining one, I shall own my mistake; but I think that, under the circumstances, the mistake is pardonable. If, however, my criticisms are correct, and the paper duty is not declining, I say that the arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this question weaken instead of strengthen the case of the Government; because if such statements can be broken down the House will necessarily suppose that other statements made by him would also break down if we had the means of criticizing them. I do not wish to pursue the subject, but think I have adduced sufficient reasons for calling attention to it. All I desire is information, and that we should not legislate in the dark on this question.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before he answered the question of the hon. Member for Stamford, whether his attention had been called to a paragraph in the newspapers of this day reporting a conversation which occurred in the French Chambers yesterday, and in which the Protectionist 1773 members of that Assembly were represented as grumbling at the conduct of the French Government in reference to certain provisions of the Franco-Belgian Treaty, recently concluded, respecting the export duty on rags and drills? Could the right hon. Gentleman state to the House the nature of the arrangements which had been entered into between these two Governments, and whether the result would be in any way favourable to the papermakers of this country?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER:
In answer to what has been stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote), I entirely repel his charge of unfairness. I was speaking of the Excise duty; I was understood to be speaking of that duty; I was speaking not upon official authority or credit at all, but was referring to figures in the hands of every hon. Member at the time when my hon. Friend said I practised an unfairness on the House of which he feels it his duty to complain. I did not deal also with the Customs' duty because that was a totally different question. What I said, was strictly, literally, and accurately true, and it involved nothing whatever relating to official authority. My hon. Friend says he desires information. In that desire he entirely forgets the rule which, so far as my knowledge of this House goes, is established, not less by a regard to courtesy than to public convenience—namely, that when an hon. Member wishes to question a Minister upon some statement embodied in a public Return which did not proceed from the Minister, but from others, to whom he has to refer, that hon. Member, before going into minute and detailed criticism, shall give some notion of his intention, so that the Minister may be in a condition, at least to hold the paper in his hands and to understand the statement made. The desire of the hon. Baronet for information leads him to pursue an opposite course, and without making any previous communication to me he asks me what is the meaning of an apparent discrepancy in certain figures. That is not the best mode of obtaining information, inasmuch as it compels me to give to the House a hypothetical answer upon a paper which is not in my hand at the moment, and which I do not carry in my recollection. My hon. Friend says that the increase in the paper duty during the last year is an exceedingly remarkable one, in a smuch as the duties 1774 upon hops, malt, and spirits, instead of increasing, actually fell off. He there entirely confounds, as it appears to me, two classes of questions which are absolutely distinct. Happily for our Customs' laws, and happily for the country, the paper duty is an entirely exceptional one. Thanks to the policy which has been so stoutly resisted on one side of the House and so warmly supported on the other, every Excise duty at all analogous to paper has disappeared from our tariff, and this industry is the only one, being of the nature of a trading industry, which is burdened with Excise. The hon. Baronet commits the gross error of confounding paper, by an entirely false analogy, with those articles immediately dependent on popular consumption. What does it signify for the illustration of the matter in hand whether the duty on malt, which depends immediately on the harvest, has fallen off considerably? Upon what does the paper duly depend? One-half of the whole paper manufacture depends immediately and directly upon the export trade of the country. My hon. Friend in his desire for information has forgotten that, thanks to the measures adopted by this House last year in face of his opposition, the export trade of this country was the largest recorded in history, and as long as that trade increases no doubt the paper duty must increase in some way or other, if not from Excise from Customs. Paper is a commodity which is almost entirely an accessory to other articles of consumption. Nearly one-half the paper manufactured is sold in connection with our manufactures. I see present my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham (Mr. Paget), who was at one time connected with Coventry, and he will know to what a degree paper enters into the production of manufactures in both those cities. As long as our export trade increases a large branch of the paper manufacture subject to duty must increase also. What is the case also with regard to the other branch of the consumption of paper—cheap literature and the press? What has the House done with regard to the consumption of cheap literature and the use of letters? It has sacrificed a revenue of nearly £2,000,000 for the purpose of promoting literature, which necessarily had an effect in raising the proceeds of the duty on paper, On postage we sacrificed £1,500,000, on advertisements £200,000, and on stamps half or three quarters of a million. We 1775 have given that stimulus to the production of paper, and my hon. Friend thinks it is advanced in a wonderful degree, drawing therefrom an inference favourable to the continuance of the Excise. But considering that our export trade has increased three or fourfold, considering that the postage has increased five or six-fold, it is no great triumph to me to discover that in the same period the proceeds of the paper duty have increased only between two and three-fold; in fact, it appears to me to be marvellous that the paper duty can have increased so little considering the stimulus which has been given to it. At the present moment the Excise duty on paper is actually—I will not use the epithet which was used opposite, but I will say, is not making progress. I do not deny it. Either through the Excise or through the Customs, by home or foreign productions, it must he got—it is impossible to do without it—but the increase is not in proportion to the increase in the purposes to which it ought to be applied, and I read in that the oppressive effect of the Excise. I never stated that the paper duty was not a continually progressive duty—on the contrary, it must, under whatever pressure, force itself forward. It would have been just as ridiculous to pretend that the consumption of corn did not advance before the corn laws were repealed. Of course it advanced with the advancing wealth and population of the country, in spite of the corn laws; and so will the consumption of paper, but it will advance in a much less degree than it would under a system of freedom of trade, and it will do so with great distress and suffering to those concerned in the production of paper. If my hon. Friend doubts the correctness of that statement, let him consult a considerable number of those who are concerned in the trade and they will tell him what they told me—that with regard to a certain portion of the trade, who are exposed in a particular degree to foreign competition, it is a fact that, with the foreigner on the one side and the Excise on the other, they are compelled to employ a larger capital than would be the case if they enjoyed freedom of trade. I have been assured by a gentleman who took an active part in opposing the remission of the duty last year that their trade has fallen off from 10 to 20 per cent. I think, therefore, I was perfectly accurate and fair in the statement which I made.
With regard to the question asked by the noble Lord opposite (Lord H. Lennox) 1776 I cannot give the noble Lord opposite any full and clear exposition of the very succinct allusion conveyed in the form of a telegram, nor am I able to say absolutely and positively what is the present condition of the negotiations between France and Belgium on the subject of a treaty of commerce; but what I understand to be their condition is, that whether the instrument has been finally signed or not there is no difference of opinion between them as regards that article in which so much interest has been felt on this side the Channel, the exportation of rags. I cannot pretend to give any official information, but I understand that the French Government were perfectly willing to establish entire freedom of trade with Belgium—which, of course, would extend to England—in the article of rags. But the Belgian Government not being prepared to go so far, the export duty upon rags has been reduced from the prohibitive point to 12f. per 100 kilogrammes, or between £4: and £5 per ton—being a rate ad valorem of 20 per cent. That will be a great and material reduction of the duty which now prevails. I also believe that there would be no disposition on the part of the Belgian Government to establish any exceptional system, or to withhold from England and other countries the privileges which she has afforded to France by this treaty. I certainly, therefore, do cherish a hope that both this arrangement and its effect upon other countries will be beneficial to the paper trade of England.
§ MR. DISRAELI:
The right hon. Gentleman has mistaken the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford. He was controverting an authoritative statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the paper duty was a falling and failing branch of our revenue, and he gave reasons and adduced facts and figures which I think entirely disposed of that assertion. If there were any doubt on the matter it would be entirely removed by the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for his address consisted entirely of ingenious illustrations of the fact that the paper duty was not a failing branch of our revenue, and he gave a number of practical reasons why there must be necessarily an increase. The right hon. Gentleman says there is no analogy between the paper duty and the duty on malt and hops. There is no analogy between them. These duties do depend on the harvest; but my hon. Friend drew quite a dif- 1777 ferent inference from that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer drew. My hon. Friend said is it prudent to part with a branch of our revenue which is a rising branch of the revenue, and which, in a moment of distress and difficulty, when other great branches of Excise have been affected by the badness of the harvest and the diminished consumption of the people, bad continued to be a progressive one? My hon. Friend would prefer that you should continue to have two strings to your bow. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has given no explanation of the discrepancies to which my hon. friend called his attention.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER:
I beg pardon, I quite forgot it. If the figures spoken of were in one column—the weights of the paper made, and in the other the net revenue received—I entertain no doubt that the difference must be accounted for by that portion of our paper on which drawbacks are allowed.
§ MR. DISRAELI:
I think the right hon. Gentleman was quite wrong in the complaint he made of want of courtesy in my hon. Friend's proceeding. Certainly, when an hon. Member wishes to obtain information from a Minister, it is our custom to give notice of that intention, and of all Members in this House, my hon. Friend, I think, would be the least likely to fail in that courtesy. But this is not the case of an hon. Gentleman rising and asking for information. We are in a debate on the Report of Resolutions, and it is not in debate the custom of this House before you make a speech to go over and tell the Minister all the facts and arguments you are going to rely upon against him. There never would be an end to our debates, adjournments would be perpetual, if that fatal frankness were to prevail. The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, is not justified in complaining that my hon. Friend has broken the salutary rule which always regulates our proceedings.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
wished to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, before proceeding to further legislation in respect to the Customs' duty on foreign paper, he would consent to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the operation and effect of the system of export duties on foreign rags upon the paper-making trade of Great Britain and Ireland?
§ MR. NORRIS
begged permission to give an answer to one of the questions of the hon. Member for Stamford, which has 1778 escaped the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Baronet referred to a paper which be held in his hand, from which it appeared that a proportionate increase of duty had not Mowed from the increased quantity of paper that had been made; and he (Mr. Norris) could explain how that arose. All the paper made came under the observation of the exciseman, but it did not all pay duty. From time to time, during the development of their manufacturing industry in various branches of trade, there had been good reasons urged upon the Board of Inland Revenue to exempt from duty the paper used by them is consequence of the restrictions thus imposed on the operations of trade. That remission was made to certain trades in Birmingham, to the clothiers in Yorkshire, and to many other persons; so that a large increase was going on in the manufacture of paper that did not pay duty, while there had not been a similar increase in the proportion that paid duty. That was an answer to the hon. Baronet, and was an incontestible reason that certain persons should not bear the weight of the duty from which those who were exempted had escaped.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had alluded to the trade of a portion of his constituents—namely, the inhabitants of Coventry, and had stated that the remission of the paper duty would be a great relief to them:—He would, therefore, with the permission of the House, lay before them a statement with which he had been favoured. He would premise that he would not have voted the other night for a reduction of the tea duties in preference to the repeal of the paper duties could he have believed for one moment that the remission of the latter would have conferred on his distressed constituents the benefit which the Chancellor of the Exchequer intimated would be its result. He had in his hand a statement drawn up by a person well qualified to form an opinion on the subject. He stated that the weight of the slips of white paper of the quality used in making up six pieces of riband, of 36 yards each, of a 3-inch wide riband, including the waste in cutting into slips, would be 1lb. 14 oz., which, at 8d. per lb., came to 1s. 3d. The weight of a white paper box made to contain six pieces of 36 yards each of a 3-inch wide riband, including the waste in making up, would be 14oz., costing 9d. each. The brown 1779 paper and paper for rolling up ribands and packages for six pieces, 4oz., which, at 6d. per lb., would be l½ d. The average price of six pieces of 36 yards each of a 3-inch wide riband, at 27s. per piece, would be £8 2s. That riband would be worth that package of riband would be worth £8 2s. The cost of the paper used in packing it would be 2s. and 1s. 2d., that is 3d. on each £1. value in silk (of which the duty is 1s. 2d.)—the remission of duty would be just ½ d. in the pound. He thought it due to his own position, and to the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he should state to the House that the effect of this remission would be an almost infinitesimal part of the value of the package; and when he heard it spoken of as a measure of relief to a trade that was suffering this deep depression, he really felt it to be his duty to state to the House that the relief was less than infinitesimal. He did not wish to undervalue the advantage the remission might be to other trades where the articles were bulky, such as cotton yarn; there the remission of the duty would amount to a considerable sum. In order to inform himself as to what branch of manufactures would really benefit by this remission, he inquired into the case of the cotton spinner. Now, the cotton spinner—a man having a large mill—would reap a very considerable advantage from this remission, and, with permission of the House, as the subject was now before it, he would state how this advantage would be gained. He had no ill feeling to the cotton trade, but, at the same time, there had been such a marked favouritism towards that trade that when he was told that relief was to be given to his depressed constituents—and he knew it was infinitesimal and really scarcely worth their notice—but that a great advantage was to be given to another trade, in favour of which everything had been hitherto done by the House, he wished them to understand that if this remission was to affect any trade it would be cotton, not silk. He was sure the House would forgive him for making this statement. The House ought to have it before them before they passed to division. He had two statements before him from Liverpool. He was not at liberty to name the authors; but this he might state, that his first informant stated the case of a cotton spinner with large mills, which turned out 20,000lb. of cotton yarn a week, which 1780 made 1,040,000lb. of cotton yarn in a year. This would be made up in 208,000 bundles of cotton of 5lb. each. Each of these 5lb. bundles bad a thick piece of paper at the top and bottom, and was tied with string. Suppose the paper to weigh 1oz. each bundle—each bundle according to the regulations of the trade was considered to contain 4lb. 15oz. of yarn net—and with the paper and string weighed 5lb. 1oz., and was charged as 5lb. of yarn; so that 1oz. of paper per bundle was charged for as yarn. The average value of yarn was 1s. a pound, and of paper 4d. Thus the ounce of paper cost a farthing, but was charged as yarn, or at ¾ d. to the buyer, bringing in, therefore, a profit of 200 per cent. His informant went into a calculation to show that the profit on this system of charging 1oz. of paper in each bundle of the 208,000 made in the year as yarn, gave a profit of £434 per annum; and that the remission of the duty of 1½ d. per lb. would give an additional profit of £81, making the profit from these two sources £515 per annum. But his second informant—who was, he believed, the best informed—stated that 2oz. of paper were used in each bundle, and he made the profit on the first part of the transaction—that was, charging the paper as yarn—£218; and he stated that the remission of duty, as it affected the 2oz. of paper per bundle, would afford a profit to the spinner of £162 per annum—making the whole profit on the two transactions £380 a year. He thought the House would now understand that it was the cotton-spinner who would derive the advantage of the repeal of the paper duty, not the distressed weavers of Coventry. The ribbon manufacturers would receive a farthing in the pound on the value of their goods, not on the profits; but the cotton spinner would receive a sum, according to these the first of these two statements, £80 according to the second statements £160. The cotton-spinner was not distressed; he was not suffering; and, therefore, when one spoke of this remission of the paper duty as a remission made to a suffering industry, let the House remember it scarcely reached Coventry, but it was a considerable bonus to the manufacturers of Lancashire. The House would perhaps pardon him for adverting to another statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman had seemed to infer that the importation of riband had scarcely increased since the 1781 French Treaty bad come into operation. With the permission of the House he would show them how very material had been that increase. He really was scarcely prepared to enter into the subject; but in a very short statement he thought he could place the House in possession of facts which would show that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer said last year he had known no trade suffer from the remission of the duty brought about by the Treaty with France he made a sorrowful exception to the trade of Coventry. He hoped he was not wearying the House; but these were facts on which the House would have to found its legislation. The quantity of riband imported into England in the month of February, 1860, which was before the treaty, was 15,576lbs.; the importation for the month of February last—February, 1861—was 36,187lbs., considerably more than double. From the 1st of March, 1859, to the 1st of March, 1860, before the treaty, the importation of rib and was 439,204lbs. Well, now take the year under the treaty, and remember that we were told that the suffering was all produced by the change of fashion, by an absence of demand. He granted that those circumstances did depress the trade. There was a change of fashion; there was a slackness of demand; and it was from the very circumstance that the change was made when the market was slack that it fell with terrible weight upon his unhappy constituents. Every hon. Gentleman who was at all cognizant of commercial affairs would know that when a market was depressed—when the demand was slack, if a premium of 16 per cent was given on foreign importation, we were sure to have the whole sweepings of the foreign market sent over in consequence of that change, and the market has been completely glutted. He wished to show that, notwithstanding the flatness of the market, the importations had increased, and the proof of it was that while there had been an importation of 439,000lbs. of foreign goods in the year ending March 1, 1860, there was an importation of 551,409lbs. up to the same period of the year that had just passed. And this increase bad taken place in the face of a slack market. It was, therefore, of no use to ask him to believe that the changes made in the state of the law during last year were not mainly instrumental in producing that state of things in Coventry, which kept 20,000 of the townspeople living on alms 1782 for the last nine months, and which was now obliging the more wealthy among the people to seek for their poorer neighbours new homes in the colonies, or at least in other parts of England. He did not wish to reflect on the conduct of the House in these matters, he hoped he had shown by his conduct that it was in no spirit of revenge he acted—but when he heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer laud a system that had deprived so many of his constituents of their means of subsistence—when he heard an attempt made to delude Coventry into the belief that it would receive a boon by the remission of the duty on paper—a boon which was really not worth mentioning, he could not refrain from laying before the House the condition of that district, and warning the House not to proceed with reckless haste in the course indicated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to be cautious how they accepted assurances, that the recent abolition of import duties had been fraught with great advantage to all the different interests in the country, for a glaring and lasting proof of its destructive effects was daily brought before his eyes in his own neighbourhood. He thanked the House for having heard him with so much patience. He would have been glad if they bad given to these people some relief in the remission of duties on an article which was almost a necessary of life to them. He had shown that the boon that they would receive by the remission of the duty on paper would be not worth consideration. Let the question of the paper duties stand on its own merits, in other respects its effect in relieving the distress in Coventry could not be worth their attention.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he wished to make an observation upon something which had fallen from the hon. Member in reference to the effect of the paper duty on the Coventry manufacturers. The hon. Member had treated the burden of that tax upon the Coventry manufacturers as something hardly worth mentioning. But he (Mr. Milner Gibson) wished to state that a most urgent appeal was made some short lime time ago by the mayor and authorities of Coventry urging upon the Government to grant a special exemption from the paper duty to the silk manufacturers of Coventry.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he ought to have explained that the duty on the cardboard used in packing had already been 1783 remitted but there had bean some misapprehension at Coventry on the subject.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that there had been application for a further exemption, which the Government had been blamed for refusing, and it was even hinted that they had done so with a view of making the paper duty still more unpopular. But there was a very great difficulty, if they meant to maintain a duty, in carrying on a system of exemptions. This system of exemption from the paper duty had already been carried to a very considerable extent, and the principles involved in the exemptions that had been granted must carry any Government much further if they were to be acted upon. It would be extremely difficult to refuse granting to a particular trade some exemption that had already been granted to another. They had at the present time some seven or eight statutory exemptions from paper duty; they had some dozen exemptions from paper duty by Treasury order; and at short intervals of time applications were made to the Treasury for exemptions from the duty, the parties founding themselves in support of those applications upon the precedent of former exemptions. It appeared to him, therefore, that if the paper duty was to be maintained—and that seemed to be the policy of the Opposition—they must grapple with the question of these exemptions; and his belief was that, if they were to maintain the paper duty, it would be much better, instead of granting from time to time unjust exemptions from this tax to particular trades, to extend that tax equally to all. He would task the House, could there be any reason for exempting books in the Latin, Greek, Oriental, and Northern languages, printed in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, from the paper duty? Yet, there was a statutory exemption, which was mentioned in the Act of Parliament which imposed the paper duty, "for the encouragement of learning," and he supposed it was in consequence of that expression in the Act of Parliament that the duty on paper was called a tax on knowledge. He asked whether, in these days, it was reasonable to exempt this particular class of books and not exempt English school books? The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Buckinghamshire, made an observation about the increase of Excise duty upon paper, which, perhaps, he would allow him (Mr. Milner Gibson) to remark upon in this, way—that if they were to keep the Excise 1784 upon British made paper, and at the same time allowed free trade in foreign paper, he (Mr. Milner Gibson) thought it was very likely the Excise duty on British paper would not increase as a head of Revenue. The supply of paper might increase from foreign countries, and, no doubt, the Customs' duties would be increased. He trusted the Opposition would consider the present situation of the paper trade in that respect. They had allowed the principle of free trade in paper, and it behoved them well to consider whether they were at the same time determined to keep the paper manufacturer of this country under the pressure of Excise restrictions. It was extremely difficult to estimate the general and indirect effects of an Excise upon a manufacture; therefore, he thought this was a matter which ought to enter into their consideration, and must have a very strong bearing upon the future yield of the Excise duty upon paper.
§ House in Committee; Mr. MASSEY in the Chair.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that he wished to take the earliest opportunity of referring to a point which had been brought under his notice in the form of an inquiry as to the intentions of the Government on a matter of some interest to the paper trade, or, at all events, to a portion of that trade, who had felt most seriously the inconvenience occasioned by the restrictions imposed by foreign countries on the exportation of rags. He had been asked by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) whether it was the intention of the Government "to consent to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the operation and effect of the system of export duties on foreign rags upon the paper-making trade of Great Britain and Ireland?" The sentence is somewhat ambiguous. The Government were perfectly willing to consent to the appointment of that Committee, but if the proposal was that the Government should agree to take no measure with respect to the present state of the law on the importation of foreign paper until such a Committee should have sat and reported, to that he must answer entirely in the negative. He did not know whether that was the proposal of the hon. Member (Mr. Maguire). Well, then, I must meet it with an absolute negative. The House of Commons last year disposed of the whole question of protection in relation to foreign 1785 paper. The argument was two-fold. It arose partly under the French Treaty, and it was contended by the Government, with the authority of their law officers, that the French Treaty bound them to the admission of paper from France at a duty not exceeding the Excise duty leviable upon English paper, plus an allowance for the charges entailed by the indirect operation of the Excise. So far they were carried by treaty obligations; but the treaty obligation terminated when they had provided for the importation of paper from France. But, besides that, the House of Commons determined the whole question without reference to treaty at all, or to one country or another, and passed a law under which foreign paper was imported at a duty substantially equivalent to the Excise. Therefore, so far as paper was concerned, and he was thankful to say so far as all other articles were concerned, protection was substantially done away with. It was now proposed, not to inflict any blow upon the paper manufacturer, but to relieve him from restrictions, the effect of which he had no doubt were very injurious, although not stated in money. The paper manufacturer would be far better off when both the Excise duty and the Customs duty were abolished than he was now when both these duties were in operation. But, then, what was the proposal of the hon. Member? If he understood him rightly his proposal was that they should abolish the Excise duty, and they should retain on the statute book a Customs' duty somewhat more than equal to that of the Excise. That certainly would be an astonishing measure, unless it was to be the first retrograde step towards a complete and integral protective system. He could not suppose that in 1861 the House of Commons would seriously set up a new protective duty. And what kind of a protective duty? A duty that would be prohibitory as regarded the great bulk of paper. The average value of paper he took to be about 6d. per pound, and he tested the operation of this proposed duty of the hon. Member by reference to the average value of paper. The hon. Gentleman proposed to retain a duty of 16s. per cwt. upon an article worth 56s.; so that foreign paper coming to this country would have to pay 16s. duty on an article of 40s. value. The proposal was, that they should at this time of day proceed to constitute a new duty on foreign paper of 40 per cent. Could the hon. Member seriously think the House of Commons would agree to that? What they 1786 abolished last year was a duty of about 10s. per cwt. They thought that in principle was wrong, and they removed it, and now was it to be supposed that they were both to replace that duty, and pretty nearly to double it? Would the hon. Member allow him to point out that they had been using exertions with respect to foreign countries which had not as yet taken full effect, but had taken some effect; because France had evidently proceeded in perfect good faith to act upon the assurances she gave last year, and she either had concluded, or appears to be upon the point of concluding, an arrangement with Belgium, which probably might have the effect of opening the Belgian and German markets to the papermakers of this country? He could well understand that when we should have ceased to levy Excise duty, and should have abolished all legislative restraints upon the trade in paper they should be in a very favourable condition for urging foreign countries to remove all restrictions upon the export of the raw material. He must say that their condition for urging this on foreign countries would be a very bad one indeed, if they were now to set the example of a great retrogressive measure, and to constitute a protective duty on paper nearly double that in existence before the French Treaty, and the passing of the measure of August last. The hon. Member may say, "You may impose a duty of 16s. per cwt. and make its removal a matter of bargain with other countries." That is a proposal to revive a doctrine which experience has exploded, and to resort to a practice of founding a commercial treaty upon a theory of exchanges which has now been entirely abandoned. It was not because commercial treaties were bad in themselves, but it was found altogether impossible to proceed on that principle, and, therefore, the commercial treaty with France was negotiated upon a principle entirely different. They never held the language for one moment that they were making a concession of British interests to France when they removed these protective duties. Therefore, they had completely put themselves out of court, and it would be impossible for any Gentleman, even the Gentleman who had the largest stock of audacity, to go with this 16s. duty and say to France," We will take this duty away if you will take away some other duty." It would place the country in a position entirely false, and he should 1787 very much regret if the hon. Member made that demand upon the Committee. He trusted if he did do so the Committee would decline to accede to it, and would pass the Resolution.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Duties of Customs chargeable on the articles undermentioned imported into Great Britain and Ireland shall cease and determine on and after the 1st of October, 1861, namely—
Paper, as denominated in the Tariff.
Books, as denominated in the Tariff.
Prints and Drawings, as denominated in the Tariff.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, that he did not think that the question which he put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer was at all ambiguous, and, indeed, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have perfectly understood it. The questions of the Excise and Customs' duties upon paper were very different ones, and had, to a certain extent, no relation to each other. Although the House should free the paper trade from the fetters of an Excise, still, if they placed the papermakers in unfair competition with those who adopted a system of prohibition against the British manufacturer, they did an injustice and a wrong. The right hon. Gentleman had asked what was destroyed last year. A great part of the paper trade of Great Britain and Ireland was then destroyed, and he, therefore, hoped that there would be some delay before the right hon. Gentleman went further in the same course. Let not the House be carried away by the delusive promises of the right hon. Gentleman. Last year, when the papermakers were justly alarmed, it was stated from the Treasury bench that the French Emperor was determined to give them free rags; but only a few days afterwards the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had to inform the House that although the Emperor was prepared to act in the spirit of a Manchester Free-trader, the Corps Legislatif was determined to maintain not only protection but prohibition. He stood up for an endangered interest, and implored the right hon. Gentleman, by every motive of patriotism and humanity, not to carry out his own determination in spite of the wishes of the trade, and the feelings of a large portion of the Members of the House. He spoke in no hostile spirit; he supported the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman last year, and the main proposition of that of this year; but when he gave the 1788 former vote he had no idea that Mr. Cobden, who had shown so much wisdom in regard to other matters, had made a practical blunder with regard to the papermakers of this country. He could not depend, nor did the right hon. Gentleman in his heart place dependence, upon the delusive promises which were now made; and, therefore, he was anxious that a Select Committee of that House should be appointed, should examine half a dozen, or even two, delegated witnesses, and should make a report, not to prevent Legislation, but to arm the right hon. Gentleman for the negotiations which were necessary for the salvation of the trade. Last year, the right hon. Gentleman said that the opposition to the abolition of the penny Customs' duty on paper arose from unfounded alarm. He would now show the House what evil consequences the removal of that duty had produced. There were two houses in Dublin, one of which used to send six tons, and the other nine tons of paper per week to the London market; and now, since the change of the laws, neither of them sent a single sheet. Thus these two houses alone had lost a trade which amounted to £47,000 a year. His right hon. Friend the Member for Lisburn informed him the other night of a paper-maker in the north of Ireland, who had been compelled to work half time, because he could not compete with the foreigner; and there was now in London a manufacturer from the south of that country, who had informed him that he used formerly to send a large quantity of paper to London, but that he now did not send one shilling's worth, because the foreigner had beaten him out of the market. These were the results of the change of the law in Ireland; now let them hear what had taken place in England. One of the largest manufacturers had declared to him that he and others were working at a loss. The Manchester Guardian consumed annually about l,000,000lbs. of paper, or nearly one two-hundreth part of the whole quantity manufactured in the United Kingdom. The connection which had subsisted for thirty-two years between that influential journal and the house which supplied them with paper had been broken since the change in the law, and the advantage transferred to the foreigner, every sheet on which that paper was printed being now procured from Belgium. At a meeting of manufacturers, the other day, he made this inquiry—if a journal 1789 consumes l,000,000lbs. of paper yearly, bow many persons would be engaged in its manufacture? The question went round the room; some said 80, others said 90, and some said 100; but it seemed to be agreed that at least 80 persons would be required for the purpose. Here were 80 hands sacrificed to a fanciful notion of free trade, and in order to benefit the foreigner. It had been said in the course of the debate last year—"Oh, but the manufacturers can supply the colonial papers." Now, what were the facts? The Melbourne Argus, an enormous paper, was formerly supplied by the very same gentleman to whom he had alluded; but now Belgium had beaten him out of the Colonial market, and he no longer sent a sheet to the Melbourne Argus. At the present moment twenty-five journals in different parts of the United Kingdom were supplied from the Continent, and he knew one gentleman in London who represented twenty Belgium paper mills—twenty screws for crushing the unfortunate operatives of this country, and depriving them and their families of employment. Free trade, in his opinion, consisted in a struggle between two men on a footing of equality; but it was no longer free trade when one of the parties had his hands tied and his feet manacled, and in that condition invited his adversary to trample upon him, and crush him to the earth. It had had been said that this was a paltry matter—a mere question of the importation annually of 15,000 tons of rags. But if only 1,000 tons of the 70,000 annually consumed were imported, the amount of duty paid to the foreign country from which they were brought would rule the whole market. The Customs' duty raised the price of rags, and, in fact, the rag exchange was the foreign Custom House. Moreover, the Americans also required rags, and finding a difference in price between England and the Continent, came into an already restricted market and thus sent up the cost. France would not allow an ounce of her rags to come into this country; Belgium acted in precisely the same spirit; and in Germany, where in some places the duty mounted up to £12 10s., and in others sank to £5, the average duty charged was £9 per ton. At the same time that they asked an unlimited command over our market, these countries also imposed a high prohibitary duty on English paper. Was this fair? Could the struggle be said 1790 to proceed on equal terms? If otherwise, was he not justified in asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer to employ the influence of the House of Commons in his negotiations to procure for the people of this country something like equitable terms? To exhibit the rapid increase in the importation of foreign paper, he might state that last year, and the year before, the average importation of foreign paper was about 800,000lb. or 1,000,000lb. Within seven months and a half, notwithstanding that trade in the early part of the year was in a very depressed state, and many of the foreign ports were frozen, the importation had increased to 5,000,000lb. At the present moment it was at the rate of 1,000,000lb, a month. But supposing it was only 10,000,000 a year, it would still be a serious matter, as 1,000 persons would then be deprived of employment. The right hon. Gentleman might imagine that foreign importation would not continue to the same extent. But the fact was that the foreigner was adapting himself more and more to our requirements. At present, he might not be in possession of the mills and machinery equal to the demand, but he was rapidly acquiring them; and in proof of the advantageous terms which he was able to hold out he might refer to the statement made by a newspaper of commanding influence, which he need not name, that it would be compelled to give the benefit of its enormous circulation to the foreign paper manufacturer, and would thereby gain £18,000 a year. It was utterly impossible that this state of things could continue. The home manufacturer, by his energy, his industry—he might almost say, by his despair—would, perhaps, for a time be able to contend against the foreigner; but if the struggle were at all doubtful, what was to hinder the foreigner from putting on the screw a little tighter, and by raising the price of the raw material 15, 20, or even 40 per cent higher, thus effectually putting an end to any further competition? Without violating any principle of free trade, he might surely ask the right hon. Gentleman to pause before dooming a branch of trade to destruction. The Chancellor of the Exchequer met the paper manufacturers a short time since, and he would ask an hon. Member who invariably supported the Government whether the facts which were then laid officially before the right hon. Gentleman did not warrant the appeal that he was now engaged in 1791 putting forward? The Chancellor of the Exchequer would probably meet him with the assertion that the question had already been determined by the House of Commons, and that it would be; impossible to set aside their decision; but what he asked him to do was to elicit an expression of opinion on the part: of the House, fortified by which he could go to the Emperor of the French, and to others whose decisions were all-powerful in the matter, and request them to do justice to the trade of England. The French people really cared very little about this question, but others; who were not contemplated by the treaty came in and took advantage of it; and if Belgium had been enabled in so short a time to gain such great advantages, what might be expected three or four years hence? He had heard it said that English paper makers, would not submit to loss, but would go over to Belgium and carry their trade with them. Such a result was very possible, but would the English paper makers carry over those in their employment as well; or rather, might they not expect that Belgian operatives would be employed, while the ratepayers of England would be called on to support the miserable victims of this frantic policy? His admiration for the genius and enterprise of Manchester would lead him to employ extravagant language if he attempted to give expression to it; but he should like to put a home case to those representing: that great hive of industry. Assuming that the cloud of war did not overshadow the States of America, but that the same harmony prevailing last year were still in existence, and that the Americans, with a view, on the one hand, to increase their Customs' duties, and on the other to foster the manufactures of the Northern States, determined to levy an export duty of 5 per cent on cotton, at the same time that they imposed a protective duty on articles of British manufacture, he wished to know what would be the state of feeling in Manchester. Would they be disposed to acquiesce tamely in this injustice; or was it not more likely that clamour would be raised, and, perhaps, that a disbanded army of mechanics would threaten to march up to London, and coerce Parliament to take some steps in their favour? He did not ask the right hon. Gentleman to take his statements on the matter. Let him have evidence given before one of the ablest Committees that could be selected, and the opinion of that Committee would 1792 enable the Government to negotiate on the matter. The right hon. Gentleman knew that he spoke in no hostile spirit. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman was aware that if the question of the repeal, of the paper duty came before the House the next day he would vote; with the Government in favour of that repeal; but in; making his present appeal he was asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to doom the extinction of one of the last, and. most important of the trades: of Ireland, and a. trade by which vast numbers were, employed in other parts of the British Empire. With, a view of bringing forward his proposition in a formal manner he would now move that the; Chairman report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, that he had heard with extreme surprise the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the removal of all Customs' duties; on foreign paper—that by the abolition of the Customs' duties they would be in a, better position to treat with Foreign: Governments, and to impress upon, them the propriety of removing the export duty, on rags, Ten years ago they repealed the navigation laws, and admitted French vessels to all the advantages, both in the home and. colonial ports, their which own; vessels enjoyed. They had waited for ten years, and he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether a single English vessel? had been relieved from any single burden in any of the French ports? Up to that moment the French had not reciprocated, but had kept all their advantages to themselves. How, then, could the right, hon. Gentleman say that they would be in. a better position to obtain from the French Government terms in regard to the export duty on rags if they at once abolished the Customs' duties on foreign paper; The English papermakers did; not ask for protection, but for what he understood was the principle of free trade—that all parties should be allowed to get the raw material duty free, or on the same terms.
§ MR. BUXTON
said; that it was a; mistake to suppose that those who asked for the appointment of a Committe entertained the slightest idea of asking for, any protection for the British papermaker. The paper manufacturers had not the least desire that any vestige, of protection should be retained in their favour. All they asked ed for was that their position should be equalized to that of the foreigner. In- 1793 deed, they did not, in the Motion before the Committee, ask even for that. All they asked was for an inquiry as to whether such an equalization was possible. They simply asked that an inquiry should take place before a final step was taken which would entirely close the whole case. He believed that the paper manufacture of this country was to a great extent sinking into ruin, and that a larger portion of it would be seriously affected if it should turn out that it was impossible to do anything to help the manufacturers. Still they would feel that they had been treated with kindness by the Government of the country if the right hon. Gentleman consented to the appointment of the Committee. They would have the satisfaction of knowing that if nothing had been done for them it was because nothing could have been done, if a Committee of that House came to the conclusion that there was no means of assisting them. He thought he might pledge himself that this Committee need not sit for more than ten days or a fortnight. It could investigate the subject within that time, and he believed that the Government would be doing a great service to an important branch of manufacture, in a state of distress and alarm, if they consented to an investigation before the whole question of paper duties was brought to an end.
§ MR. PULLER
believed that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer very much exaggerated what was asked for by the papermakers. They did not ask that the existing Customs' duty should continue on paper when the Excise duty was abolished, as he hoped it would be. He believed that the abolition of the Excise duty would be a boon to the paper trade; but the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire), in whose hands the case of the manufacturers now was—and it could not be in better—asked that such portion of the Customs' duty as might be considered equivalent to the disadvantages sustained by the British paper-makers, in consequence of the legislation of other countries, might be retained. They did not seek to be compensated for the natural advantages which those other countries possessed, but for their artificial advantages arising from their restrictive legislation. Some hon. Gentlemen argued that the treaty of last year bound us to take a particular course in reference to the Customs' duties on paper; but the article of the treaty which they had in their mind had no application to the case under dis- 1794 cussion. That article as construed last year by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the law officers of the Crown, provided that in respect to merchandize which paid an Excise duty in this country foreign manufactures of the same kind should be admitted on a Customs' duty not exceeding that Excise; but from the moment when we should remove an Excise duty from paper we should be unfettered by the French Treaty and at liberty to impose whatever Customs' duty we might think fit upon foreign paper. The legislation of last year, it should be remembered, took place without inquiry and without any statistical information being laid before the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of the abolition of the Excise duty on paper as likely to lead to a great extension of the manufacture; but if the Customs' duty was taken off, and if the foreigner enjoyed the benefit of a duty on the export of the raw material from his own country, it was impossible that any great increase could take place in the manufacture of the superior kinds of paper used for printing in this country. The abolition of the Excise duty on paper was not to take effect till October, and the amount of the Customs' duty involved was a mere bagatelle; so that there need be no haste in legislating on this matter. In these circumstances, he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would consent to a Committee of Inquiry.
§ MR. TURNER
said, the hon. Member for Dungarvan asked what the manufacturers of Manchester would have done had the United States of America placed an export duty on raw cotton. His answer was, that so long as their hands were unfettered, the manufacturers of Manchester would endeavour to defy the competition of the world; and if they found themselves unable to do so they would confess, on the principles of free trade, that they were beaten, and that other countries must supply our markets with manufactured goods. He repeated that, so long as their hands were unfettered, they would willingly be exposed to competition; but, if the Government were to lay an import duty on raw cotton, they would claim an equivalent on the importation of manufactured cotton goods. If our Government were to levy at Dover and the other ports in the Channel a duty of £9 per ton on rags, the paper manufacturers would be entitled to protection against the importation of foreign paper; and when, instead of our Government 1795 having the benefit of that £9 per ton on rags, it was levied as an export duty at the foreign ports, and yet it was expected that the paper manufacturers in this country should compete with foreigners on the principles of free trade, he could not but characterize it as unjust. The manufacturers of this country must succumb to foreigners if the latter were able to produce better and cheaper goods; but they were not bound, and should not be asked, to contend against such enormous advantages as were given to foreign countries in the case of paper. He was convinced that the paper trade of this country would in such circumstances be ruined—that the import of foreign paper would continually increase, and that distress and desolation would be the consequence wherever the paper manufacture existed; for it was impossible that the trade could bear up against such an enormous advantage as £9 per ton on the exportation of rags given to the foreigner.
said, it was quite edifying to listen to the addresses of the three or four last Gentlemen after they had voted for a repeal of the paper duty. He agreed with the hon. Member for Dungarvan, that the paper trade of Ireland must be ruined under the policy adopted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by his negotiator in Paris; but he (Colonel Dunne) protested against any class of the people being taxed on account of the blunder of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year in the matter of the financial treaty.
§ MR. FRANK CROSSLEY
said, he was surprised at the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Member for Manchester. They had only to do in this country with the making of their own laws. They could not go into other countries and demand the enactment of laws which they might think would suit them best. Paper was manufactured from cotton and linen waste, and a variety of articles which were to be had at home; and was it because a foreign country put a duty upon the exportation of rags that they were to pay a penny a pound more for paper than it was worth? He had paper manufacturers among his constituents, and deputations had waited upon him to state their views upon this question. He told these gentlemen that if they were ruined their workmen would be able to get employment elsewhere, and that it would be far cheaper to send for their income tax papers and pension them off at the expense of the State than to make the public pay a penny per lb, for paper more than it 1796 was worth for the sake of finding them employment. If he were going to establish paper-mills he believed that there was no country in the world where he could do so with greater advantage than in England, after the Excise and import duties had been removed. Paper manufacturers would not be bound to make that kind of paper which they could not make as cheap as foreigners; but they did and could manufacture paper as cheap as foreigners, and, moreover, do a large export trade. He thought the proposition a great mistake. According to the argument used to support it, we ought to put an import duty on paper imported from all countries where they had an export duty on rags. Why, in doing that, we should be going back to the old system of protection which was urged on behalf of our sugar producers, who manufactured free-grown sugar, and which we found to result in those very countries importing cheap slave-grown sugar for their own use, and sending us the whole of their own free-grown produce. That system, in effect, was sought to be introduced in the case of paper by levying a duty on paper coming from foreign countries where they had an export duty on rags. He hoped that House after its recent legislation would not stultify itself by any such a scheme as placing an importation duly on paper from any country.
§ MR. NORRIS
said, he had reason to believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not oppose the Select Committee for which he should move next Tuesday, a Committee to inquire into the operation of the law as it now existed, under which foreign paper was imported duty free, while the papermakers were subjected to a heavy export duty on rags coming from foreign countries. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire), however, had imported into the debate the additional question whether the House ought to delay its legislation on the Customs' duty until the Committee had inquired and had made its Report. He had been in communication with persons who had been engaged in the paper manufacture since the treaty with France; and they had instructed him to say that the state of competition to which they were subjected under the circumstance of an export duty on rags coming from abroad was such that they were not in a condition to enter into unlimited competition. He (Mr. Norris) repudiated protection, and he did not understand the papermakers to ask any 1797 favour; but he understood that the question was simply one regarding the raw material, the supply of which the paper manufacturer could not stimulate in this country, and which the laws of foreign countries prevented his importing. If he thought he should be considered an advocate for the revival of protection, he should hasten to repudiate any such proposition; but he maintained that the paper manufacture had, by the legislation of other countries, been taken out of the ordinary rules regulating manufacture. He believed that if the Committee for which he was about to move were granted, it would be shown that after numerous experiments and the expenditure of thousands of pounds there had not yet been discovered any raw material other than rags for the manufacture of paper. With regard to straw, that was an article of annual produce, but paper was one of continual consumption and production. But in cases where straw had been used it had so risen in price, in consequence of the demand for it, that the manufacturer was unable to continue its use, and the price of rags was not in consequence lowered. The same thing would happen if the attempt were made to substitute for rags the fibres or grasses of tropical climates. He believed that the Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) did not mean to decide the question of the extent or amount to which a Customs' duty should be maintained, but when it was remembered the facilities that Ireland possessed for the support of paper mills, it was a sufficient justification for his asking and the House granting this Committee to inquire whether anything could be done to amend or alter the law, or whether a treaty could be effected with foreign countries, so that there should be established an equality in free trade.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER:
I am very desirous that this question should be understood. There is no intention on the part of the Government of opposing themselves to an inquiry into the condition of the papermakers, if they think they can show that there is a system of legislation in foreign countries by which they suffer. That will be a proper subject for inquiry, with a view to representations being made in the proper quarter. Her Majesty's Government do not anticipate much advantage in allowing a matter of this kind to pass into the hands of a Committee of the House, since the very appointment of such a Committee is likely to 1798 raise jealousy in foreign countries. Still, if any portion of the paper manufacturers have a strong opinion in favour of such inquiry, we are bound not to resist it, and much less to resist the wish of this House. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) says he does not propose to maintain the Customs' duty on paper. Then what is it he proposes? He has made no proposal except that the Chairman report Progress. He declines to entertain the subject, and says that after a Committee has been appointed and has inquired, the Chancellor of the Exchequer may propose a change in the Customs' duty on foreign paper. The hon. Member speaks of the paper duty as not being remitted until October; but it will be impossible to obtain the means of forming a judgment upon the matter referred to the Committee, except after careful and elaborate inquiry into the condition of foreign countries. You have voted to abolish the Excise duty on paper of 14s. 8d. per cwt.; you have now to deal with a Customs' duty of 16s. per cwt., and it is proposed to maintain the latter duty until a Committee has been appointed, has inquired, and has reported, and until time has been allowed for the House not only to consider the recommendation of the Committee, but the evidence on which those recommendations are founded, and is prepared to legislate upon some principle on the Report of that Committee. And on what principle is the House, then, to legislate? Why, on a principle that has been excluded from our legislation for twenty years. I entreat the House of Commons to remember in what manner it has dealt with every other class of the community. The hon. Gentleman said the right understanding of free trade was that it should secure fair play for every man. [Mr. MAGUIRE: Hear, hear!] Therefore, the meaning of free trade is that you are never to change the restrictive laws of your own country until you have ascertained that the corresponding restrictive laws have been abolished in other countries. But that was not the policy which we adopted in our recent commercial legislation. Let us clearly understand what we are about. When it was proposed to repeal the Corn Laws the potent English landlords did not say," We want an unfair advantage over our own countrymen." What the landlords said was that the Legislature had imposed burdens on them right and left, and required them to bear a mass of taxation not 1799 borne by the trading classes, and that, they added, was the act of the English Legislature. Therefore, they asked for a compensation to be given them by an extra price of corn. That is much the same doctrine as that of the hon. Member for Dungarvan; for it is argued by him that if some foreign country chooses to alter the price of an article unnaturally by the imposition of an export duty that export duty is to be an apology for the imposition of an import duty here, which the British consumer must pay. In reply to that argument I might really travel over the whole ground of our legislation of past years. What, according to the view of the hon. Member, are we to say to the producer of British colonial sugar? Surely, of all men dealt with he had the strongest ease for the equality now contended for in opposition to the principle on which we have proceeded for the last twenty years. The hon. Member's principle is that this House in its own commercial legislation is to be regulated by the legislation of other nations; if foreign countries adopt good legislation then we are to follow, but if they adhere to bad legislation then we are to adhere to bad legislation too. What said the producer of sugar? He said," I am for free trade, but give me equality," and I think that his was the strongest case possible. Was it not the fact that human flesh was imported into the countries which he had to compete with, while he was bound to free labour under peculiar and disadvantageous conditions. But we answered these planters by our legislation that we could not pay regard to those circumstances, and that, though we might endeavour to do what we could by influence and example, it was our duty, at all events, to do justice to the British nation. The hon. Member spoke of some particular paper-mill failing to send to this country some tons of paper a week which it formerly sent, and he thought that a case for the interference of the House. If so, then this House has been guilty for the last twenty years of the grossest injustice; and I do not believe that there is a single instance in which those who were subjected to foreign competition for the first time could not show a stronger case. It is admitted that by far the greatest bulk of paper made in this country stands in no fear of foreign competition. What is the meaning of the fact that we are the exporters of the best paper? It means that our papermakers can purchase raw ma- 1800 terial of the best kind, can manufacture it into paper, send it to neutral markets, and meet the foreign papermaker after paying the cost of transport. Of all the applications for protection made to this House and defeated, I know none in respect to which such an answer as that could have been given. I have spoken of the potent landlord interest and of the West Indian interest, but they must have been treated with cruelty and injustice if the doctrine of the hon. Member for Dungarvan be correct—that we should pause in our legislation, in order to allow foreign legislation to regulate ours. The hon. Member has spoken of an immense quantity of paper coming from Belgium; but is there any primâ facie case of distress in the paper trade? The importation is not 4 per cent of the amount made in this country.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER:
Well, does the hon. Member propose to limit his legislation to that particular kind, or does he not mean to impose it on all? In order to secure the interest of some narrow portion of the trade, it is thought convenient to exclude the whole from the beneficial influence of competition. He says that an immense quantity of paper is to come from Belgium. How are the Belgians to make it? Is not the raw material limited there as well as here? At this moment the Belgians are importers of foreign rags. How, therefore, are they to make that great increase of manufactured paper which is to drive the British papermaker out of his own market? In what has fallen from the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller) I cannot concur. After referring to the opinions of the legal advisers of the Government, I believe that the most serious embarrassment would arise from the course proposed by the hon. Member. Of course, if I were to state the arguments on which that opinion is founded, I should only be putting weapons into the hands of foreign Governments; but, if we are rightly advised, the greatest embarrassment would result from the adoption of the hon. Member's suggestion, in consequence of the obligations contracted under various treaties with foreign Powers. If, however, Parliament has been wrong for twenty years in applying to all interests the principle of regulating first of all its legislation in reference to the consumers in this country, then adopt the pro- 1801 position of the hon. Member for Dungarvan, which in effect invites the House to refer this matter to a Select Committee, in order to compare foreign legislation with our own, and to regulate our own accordingly; but if you adhere to the principle which has been admitted, no doubt, with sincere conviction, by a great number of Gentlemen belonging to all parties, do not now in effect reverse a system of legislation which has proved so beneficial to the country. I deny that in the manufacture of paper the resources of science are yet exhausted; and an excellent paper for printing purposes has been tonight put into my hands, produced in America from straw and cotton rag without any admixture of that linen rag of which we have heard so much. Though the Motion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan may seem a small matter, yet in effect it declares that Parliament has hitherto been proceeding on a fundamentally wrong principle, and that we are to reverse the legislation of twenty years.
§ MR. BUXTON
suggested that, as it was not likely that the Motion would be carried against the Government, the hon. Member for Dungarvan had better rest satisfied with the discussion which had taken place.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
intimated that he should go to a division, as he had not intended to trouble the Committee with a sham Motion.
§ Whereupon Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided: —Ayes 54; Noes 100: Majority 46.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. HENNESSY
asked whether it was proposed to insert the Resolution in the Bill which the Government intended to bring in?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the regular course was that the Resolution should be reported to the House. When such had been done it would be competent for him to move its insertion as a clause of the Bill.
§ House resumed; Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.