HL Deb 25 March 1830 vol 23 cc832-4
The Earl of Malmesbury

rose to move for certain returns respecting the averages taken of the price of Corn. Those returns he considered of great importance in ascertaining how far the present mode of taking the averages was correct. Their Lordships would recollect, that when the Corn-laws were in progress through the House, it was said that a great been was given to the English farmer by including Irish wheat in the averages; but he had reason to believe that a very small portion of the wheat from that country was actually so included. The first return for which he should move was an account of the quantity of Corn imported into Liverpool from Ireland, and the quantity imported coastwise, from July, 1828, to January, 1830. The second Return would include an account of the weekly averages sent from Liverpool and Manchester to the Inspector of Corn-returns in the same period. By the correspondence between these, it would be seen how far the wheat imported from Ireland was brought into the general averages. In wishing that such Returns should be laid before the House, it was not his intention to found any motion upon them which would re-open the discussion of the general question of the Corn-laws. He had no such wish, and to do so he was sure would not be in accordance with the inclination of their Lordships; but it did not follow, because they did not like to have the question re-opened, that they should not have an opportunity of judging how far the present mode of taking the averages was correct. The object of the Corn-laws was, to give protection to the British Corn-grower; but, in his opinion, it did not afford it to him to a sufficient extent, or to the extent contemplated by the Act. It was a great misfortune that the bill had not been divided into two, as had been suggested by himself and others. If it had, the question of the averages, which ought to have been the object of one bill, might be reconsidered without any danger of reopening the whole question; but without intending any such course, he thought Parliament was bound to adopt such measures as would best tend to carry its original object in passing the bill into effect. There was, at this very moment, a considerable rise taking place in the Corn-market, which be had reason to believe was the result of artificial operation. Some parties seemed desirous of creating an opinion that there was not a sufficient quantity of Corn in the country, but he had no doubt that such an opinion would be found erroneous, as the stock on hand was very considerable. By artificial means Corn might be raised to such an average price as would greatly diminish the import duty on foreign corn. This was the case last December, when a rise on the general average of 2s. 4d. per quarter had the effect of diminishing the duty 11s. and the consequence was, that 400,000 quarters of foreign Corn were at once poured in on the market. Had this rise been the result of a really diminished stock, insufficient to meet the demand, he would not object, but it ought not to be permitted when it was not the result of the actual quantity of Corn in the country. The Corn-law was passed for the benefit of the consumer as well as the grower, and it was right, that if by the present mode of taking the re- turns an error was let in in calculating the averages, that error should be corrected. He thought the duty of the inspector of Corn-returns should not be confined to the mere casting up of figures, but that this officer should be satisfied of the manner in which the returns were made, and of the correctness of the data on which the weekly averages were calculated. The noble Earl concluded by moving for the Returns he had specified.

The Earl of Limerick

supported the Motion. It was right, if the quantum of protection to be given to the British Corn-grower were to be measured by the averages, that the mode of taking those averages should be as correct as possible, and they could not be so if the returns did not include the whole of the home-grown Corn brought into the market.

Motion agreed to.

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