HL Deb 13 June 1827 vol 17 cc1259-61
Lord Goderich

said, he had been asked last night to explain what course government meant to pursue with respect to the Corn bill, in consequence of the decision which had been come to by their lordships. He had been asked, if it was his intention to propose, in any other stage of the bill, that the amendment should be rescinded; and on what day he meant to move the third reading. He did not then feel himself at liberty to answer those questions; but it was fit he should now do so. He felt that, after the decision which the House had come to, for the second time, on the amendment, any attempt on his part to induce their lordships to depart from that decision would be quite out of the question. He must now consider that the bill, as amended, had received the sanction of their lordships; and he had last night stated the grounds on which he thought the clause not only objectionable, but fatal to the measure. Under these circumstances, it was not possible for him to undertake to propose the third reading of the bill; and he, therefore, wished it to be understood that it was not his intention to proceed with it.

The Earl of Malmesbury

could not regret that the measure had been abandoned; but he was still ready to meet his noble friend in furthering any project for amending the existing system. He should be glad to see the act of 1822 brought into operation, by doing away the clause which prevented foreign corn from being imported till the price rose to 80s.

Lord Ellenborough

thought that this suggestion of his noble friend deserved the serious attention of government. He feared, however, that the bill of 1822 was purposely kept suspended over them, to force parliament to adopt a worse and more objectionable measure.

Lord Goderich

said, that the bill of 1822 was so much opposed to the present measure, that government could not bring it into operation.

The Duke of Wellington

wished to know if there was any motion before the House? Though his noble friend had expressed his intention not to bring on the third reading on Friday, still the order was not discharged.

Earl Grey

was desirous to state the motives by which he was actuated in the course which he had felt it his duty to pursue. It was perfectly at the option of the noble lord, if he thought the amendment vicious, to abandon the bill; but he wished to observe, that he did not support the amendment, as being opposed to the principle of the bill. He would never lend himself to the unworthy purpose—and he was quite sure the noble duke would not—of opposing indirectly that which he supported directly. He had voted for the amendment, thinking it to be an improvement; as tending to check the abuses which arose under the bonding system. Thinking, as he did, that the manner in which the bill was introduced, in a season of clamour, was highly objectionable— thinking, also, that the government was much to blame in listening to that clamour—thinking, too, that for the last six years corn had never risen too high—it appeared to him, that no case was made out for the immediate interference of the legislature. But, while he felt that many objections might be urged to the manner and time in which the bill was introduced, it became a question with him, whether he could give it his sanction, without too great a sacrifice of that interest which he was anxious to uphold. However, he acquiesced; but never with the most remote idea that, in any of the stages of the bill, the deliberative powers of that House should not be exercised; and, therefore, it was that he voted for the amendment of the noble duke. There was danger of a glut of corn in the market, and the amendment was intended to guard against it. An alteration had also been made, by which bonded corn was to be brought into the market, not at 63s., as originally proposed, but at 66s.; and this he thought a great improvement. Every other part of the bill remained unchanged. It was simply this alteration with regard to bonded corn that was objected to by noble lords opposite; and he did not think that, in their view, such alteration could be supposed so far to vitiate the bill, if they considered it beneficial in other respects, as to make them feel it their duty to abandon it. That the amendment (added the noble earl) is a partial contradiction to the principle of the bill, I admit. But I have, of late, heard much in this House of distinctions, where I can see no difference. I do not see any difference between absolute prohibition and a duty which shall be so high, under the name of a protecting duty, as to amount, in fact, to a prohibition. The amendment is in opposition to the technical principle of the bill; but are there no other parts of the bill which are contradictions of this principle? Is not the reciprocity clause a contradiction? Does not that give to ministers the power of stopping the introduction of corn? There can be no question of the sincerity of the noble lord in the course he has pursued: and I have no doubt that he pursues that course from a sincere conviction that he is only discharging his duty; but it is not a little extraordinary, that the amendment should be thought so to alter the bill as to make it necessary that it should be abandoned. I do not think that any noble lord who is held worthy of taking part in his majesty's councils, can act so unworthily as to abandon the bill for the purpose of exciting the discontent of the country. All I shall say is this, that if it should produce that effect, I shall be ready to meet it. I stand here one of a body which will always be ready, firmly and honestly, to resist such effects—which always considers anxiously and feelingly the interests of the people, even when it must oppose the people themselves—and which will never consent, under the influence of fear, to give way to clamour [cheers]. If I am told, that we run the risk of having a worse bill, I shall never suffer myself to be intimidated by any such threat; and, if a worse bill should be sent up, I am sure your lordships would pursue the course you have pursued by the present bill. You would consider it; and you would amend it; and if you could not make it good, you would reject it. I am sure that any such measure shall be met by me with a firm opposition, and that I shall be prepared to do my duty to myself. I have said thus much, and I might say a great deal more. If there should come a contest between this House and a great portion of the people, my part is taken; and, with that order to which I belong, I will stand or fall. I will maintain to the last hour of my existence, the privileges and independence of this House [cheers].

The Marquis of Lansdown

rose merely to answer the question of the noble duke. There was no question now before the House, and therefore any discussion on the subject was irregular. His noble friend had only wished to state his reasons for not moving the third reading of the bill on Friday; but as the order was not discharged, it was competent to any other noble lord to move it if he thought proper.