HL Deb 17 March 1815 vol 30 cc249-51

The House then went into a Committee on the Corn Bill.

The Earl of Liverpool

spoke in favour of 80s. as the best protecting price.

Lord Grenville

proposed as an amendment 72s. instead of 80s. as a price preferable to the other.

The Earl of Lauderdale

said, that the evidence before the committee was from men of almost every county of England, who had all spoken to 80s. or a higher price, as proper for a protection.

Lord Grey

said, the value of money was a question, which, according to his noble friend's own principle, should be attended to. In the last year the price of gold was 5l. 11s. now it was only 4l. 8s.; the nominal sum of 80s., if gold, would be of much greater real value when gold was 4l. 8s. than when gold was 5l. 11s. Besides, according to the evidence before the House, if 80s. was the sum at which the farmer would be remunerated, it was not necessary that the protecting price should be so high. Because the evidence was, that the Baltic wheat could not be imported at less than 63s., and it was at least twenty shillings worse than good English wheat. The Dutch wheat, which the witnesses had seen, was much worse, and it was to be recollected, that from Holland half of the late importations had taken place. There fore there was no necessity at all events for so high a protecting price as 80s.

The Earl of Lauderdale

remarked, that not one witness beside Mr. Mant had spoken for a price below 80s.

Earl Grey

said, that before the Commons committee not only Mr. Mant, but Mr. Maxwell had stated that 72s. would protect the farmer; and Mr. Driver being closely questioned, made an admission to the same effect.

The amendment was rejected, and the original clause carried without a division.

Upon the clause respecting the averages being read,

Lord Grenville

rose and said, that nothing had been urged which reconciled his mind to the mode of taking the averagea for the purpose of fixing the price of bread. He wondered, indeed, how any thing so absurd could be adopted, as to rest a great practical measure upon the method of estimating the average value of corn from the average returns of twelve districts so differently situated. His reason for alluding to this subject was, that he meant to propose as a substitute a clause to the following effect, viz. that whenever the price of the quartern loaf shall have been for six successive weeks above twelve-pence, then it shall be lawful, for the next six weeks to import corn into the port of London, for home consumption, or take it out from warehouses for the same purpose. He confined it to the port of London, because in that port alone facilities existed for rendering it the standard of all other ports in the kingdom.

The Earl of Harrowby

took a review of the different plans which at various times had been suggested and employed for fixing the average price of corn, and contended that the present mode of taking the average from the returns of the twelve districts was, of all others, the least liable to objection or fraudulent abuses. He did not think it worth while, therefore, for the sake of any speculation, to change a system with which the country was acquainted; and it was proved from the papers before their lordships, that very little difference existed between the prices of the maritime districts and the London market, upon the average of the last ten years. He denied that the price of the quartern loaf would be 16d. if wheat were at 80s. a quarter. With regard to the clause, it was altogether unknown to attempt to regulate the introduction of foreign corn by the price of the quartern loaf; and if it were adopted, it would put it into the hands of half a dozen individuals to determine whether they would have foreign corn imported or not.

Lord Grenville

said, that the whole speech of his noble friend only proved that the measure itself, upon which they were then legislating, was an attempt to do that which it was impossible to do, viz. to regulate the importation of foreign corn by the prices of home corn. He still contended, however, that the price of 80s. in the maritime districts would inflict upon the interior of the country a price considerably higher. The object of his clause was in reference to the peculiar condition in which London stood as to the price of bread. All he wished was to secure the consumer from the operation of the intended law, when it did not operate to his benefit.

The Earl of Lauderdale

said, that of all modes of fixing the occasion under which foreign corn should be admitted, that of determining it by the price of bread was most objectionable. With regard to the assize, he thought it would be better if it were wholly removed.

The Marquis of Buckingham

supported the clause, as the only mode of preventing the price of bread from rising beyond what the quartern loaf ought to be when the quarter of wheat was at 80s.

The Earl of Darnley

objected to the clause on account of the very defective manner in which the assize was fixed in the city of London.

Lord Grenville

said, that the clause did not rest upon the assize as now taken, but had reference to future legislative provisions upon that subject, which he hoped would be adopted.

Earl Stanhope

observed, that they who objected to the clause did not know the difference between bread and flour, and wanted to throw dust into their lordships eyes.

The clause was then negatived without a division, and the third reading of the Bill was fixed for Monday.