HL Deb 19 August 1833 vol 20 cc751-3
Lord Ellenborough

presented a Petition of considerable importance, from a number of merchants in the city of London, interested in the trade to China, which it was the object of the Bill under their Lordships' consideration to open. The Petition might fairly be taken, not merely as the petition of those by whom it was signed—a most respectable body of persons—but the petitioners might be considered as the representatives of all persons connected with the mercantile and shipping interests in Liverpool, Glasgow, Cork, and elsewhere, whose intention it was to engage in the trade in question, as well as those who were engaged in the country trade in India. The petitioners prayed to be heard by Counsel at the Bar, against a provision which had been, most unexpectedly to them, introduced into the Bill. Instead of the establishments in China for the protection and regulation of the trade, being placed on the same footing as our consular establishments all over the world, the petitioners found, to their great disappointment and surprise, that the trade itself was to be burthened with the expense of those establishments. It was their understanding (although of course they were in error) that his Majesty's Ministers had acquiesced in the omission of the clause by which the trade was to be so burthened. He (Lord Ellenborough) shared their feelings, and could not recollect any provision in any Act of Parliament more deserving of reprobation than the provision of which the petitioners complained. From a reformed House of Commons, and one in which the member for Leeds was the Secretary of the Board of Control, and the member for Manchester Vice President of the Board of Trade, such a proposition was not to have been expected. He had no doubt, however, that their Lordships would relieve the petitioners from the grievance in question. The provision in the Bill was contrary to constitutional principles, and contrary to the practice of the House of Commons. To their Lordships, as their last resort, the petitioners applied for redress; and he was sure, that there was not one noble Lord who would not agree with him, that they were entitled to it. Not only had the petitioners to complain of any charge being levied upon them, but they had also a right to complain of the amount of the charge: 27,000l. or 30,000l. a year was an excessive charge. It was out of all proportion to any other charge for a consular establishment. If, instead of salaries, the superintendents were allowed to act as agents, he was convinced that the charge might be reduced to 5,000l. Of all the individuals whom he had described as identified with the petitioners in interest, none had so great reason to complain as those who were engaged in the country trade in India. Hitherto they had been subject to no charge whatever; and now this heavy burthen was to be imposed upon them. Of this he was persuaded, that neither the trade from this country to China, nor from India to China, would, under any circumstances, be for some years attended with much advantage to those engaged in it; so that the proposed burthen would be exceedingly injurious.

Lord Auckland

had listened to the noble Lord's speech with surprise. The Committee was the proper place in which to go into such details as those on which the noble Lord had entered; and in the Committee, and not till then, he (Lord Auckland) would meet the noble Lord's statements and arguments. All he would say on the present occasion was, that he regretted that those who were about to receive so vast a boon as the opening of the trade to China should shrink from bearing their proportion of the burthen which the due protection of that trade required to be imposed.

Petition laid on the Table.