HL Deb 19 February 1839 vol 45 cc584-5
Lord Hatherton

presented six petitions from the borough of Wolverhampon and its neighbourhood, signed by nearly 9,000 persons, praying for a total Repeal of the Corn-laws. The immediate object of the petition was a total and unqualified repeal of the Corn-laws. If he (Lord Hatherton) had no other alternative than either a total repeal of those laws, or a continuation of the present law, he should be disposed to take the total repeal. He was of opinion it would be better for all parties to amend the present law rather than to adopt either alternative, by fixing a very small importation duty, and he believed that opinion had gained much ground throughout the country. The present laws were most obnoxious to the maritime interests of the country, to our intercourse with foreign states, and to the best interests of the institutions of this country. These were no new opinions of his. He had expressed them in the other House of Parliament, and had acquired them from a connexion of more than twenty-three years with a manufacturing part of the country, The manufactures of this country had for a long time been undergoing a great depreciation, and this was a very alarming state of things; and when it was recollected, that the prosperity of the country depended entirely on the prosperity of our manufacture, he could not justify to himself the existing Corn-laws. Cotton, woollens, earthenware, hardware goods—none of them had any fiscal duty as a protection to an extent of more than twenty per cent., some not more than three per cent. On what principle, there fore, could he justify to himself a Corn-law protecting duty frequently amounting to fifty, sixty, and sometimes to one hundred per cent.? He hoped, that nothing that passed last night was to be considered as an expression of their Lordships' opinion against interfering, arising on this subject. The proposal then rejected was merely to hear evidence, and he apprehended their Lordships' judgments as to the laws themselves remained perfectly unfettered. He could not think so ill of that House as not to believe, that if any well considered measure on this subject, operating a change somewhat of the nature he had mentioned, were sent up by a considerable majority from the other House their Lordships would be disposed to receive it favourably.

Petitions to lie upon the Table.

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