HL Deb 04 July 1845 vol 82 cc6-9
The Marquess of Londonderry

called the attention of the Government to the danger in which the coasting trade of the country was placed by the increase of railways, more particularly in the coal trade of the north, and hoped the subject would receive the earnest consideration of the Government. The noble Marquess moved for certain Returns connected with the subject.

The Earl of Dalhousie

thought the noble Marquess had overrated the danger. The charge for coals per railway would be 15s. a ton, irrespective of the charges in the port of London, while by sea it was only 7s. There appeared to be no present danger of railways competing with the coasting trade.

Lord Hatherton

thought the apprehensions of the noble Marquess were not altogether unfounded. In the Great North of England Railway many of the directors were coal owners, and they had made a contract to supply their coals from Durham to York at three farthings a ton up to a given quantity, and beyond that at a farthing a ton. The practical result had been that coals had been delivered from Durham to York at five-eighths of a penny per ton. He had no doubt that in time coals would be delivered from the midland counties at all the great marts of consumption per railway at a halfpenny a ton per mile. He fully agreed that the support of the coasting trade was a great national object, to which much ought to be sacrificed.

Lord Ashburton

said that the coasting trade, which was one of the vital interests of the country, ought not to be sacrificed to any abstract notions of political economy.

Lord Brougham

said, that no one felt more deeply than he the necessity of supporting the maritime defensive strength of the country; but he was for supporting it by the true and legitimate mode of increasing the commerce of the country, by the removal of its restrictions, by removing the fetters which bound up trade, and by giving every possible facility to the employment of capital, and by these means increase the already vast amount of the commercial resources of England. The coasting trade was a most Valuable branch of those resources, and the nursery of our seamen. In estimating the state of the coasting trade, his noble Friend opposite totally forgot the increase of the coal mines, consequent on the increase of the metropolis; in the last sixty or seventy years the consumption of coals had been doubled. He totally dissented from the position that they were bound to discourage the inland trade for the sake of encouraging any other branch of commerce.

Lord Stanley

stated, with reference to the number of ships and men engaged in the whale fishery, that the decrease which had taken place was not attributable to the reduction of duty on foreign whale oil. It was true that a great decrease had taken place between 1832 and 1842; but this was concurrently with the maintenance of the highly protective and almost prohibitory duty of 26l. 10s. per tun on foreign oil. In 1832, the price of whale oil in this country was 61l. per tun; in 1840, it had risen to 104l.; in 1832, 81 ships, of 26,393 tons, and employing 3,645 men, were engaged in the northern whale fishery; in 1842, the duty remaining the same, the number had fallen to 18 ships, of 5,400 tons, and employing only 810 men altogether. But since the reduction of the duty on the foreign article, on the contrary, a great increase in the trade had taken place; for, since 1842 to the present time, the number of ships had arisen from 18 to 32, the tonnage from 5,400 to 8,955, and the number of men employed from 800 to 1,440.

Lord Colchester

called the attention of the Government to the great importance of maintaining the coasting trade, and particularly the sea-borne coal trade; because the seamen who were brought up in it, were formed in the very best school of their profession; and it was almost the only nursery left. If it should be destroyed, there must necessarily be an increase in the Estimates. He had no wish to see coals dear; but he trusted the Government would look seriously at the question with a view to keep up our maritime superiority.

The Earl of Haddington

said, a greater blow could not be struck at our naval power than by the loss of the great nursery of seamen offered by the coal trade, from any considerable diminution of the number of ships engaged in the carriage of coals from the north of England. It would be satisfactory to their Lordships to know, that the coasting trade was now in the most vigorous condition, and increasing rather than diminishing. The general shipping of the country was also on the increase. The opening of the trade in the interior of the country was not at all likely to diminish the coasting trade. On the contrary, the cheapness that would be so caused, would create a greatly extended market; and if coals could be brought from the north to the other parts of the coast more cheaply than by railway, the demand would be supplied from that quarter. But of course the interior could be supplied direct by railway more cheaply than if they were brought round by sea to some part of the coast, and then sent overland.

Lord Kinnaird

said, the quality of the Newcastle coals was superior to all the inland coal; and they always commanded a preference. The noble Marquess need be under no apprehension on that account; but he would recommend the noble Marquess to break up the monopoly at the coal pits. At the time of his visit to the district, coals were being shipped to France at 2s., which, when sent to Dundee, were charged 6s. The coal owners were bound by regulation to produce only a certain quantity.

Lord Wharncliffe

thought the monopoly was now entirely broken up, and that the trade was perfectly free.

The Marquess of Londonderry

did not regret that he had brought forward this Motion; his sole object in doing which was to call their Lordships' attention to the importance of maintaining the coasting trade. There could be no doubt that the coal owners would prefer to send their coals to London by land carriage, if they found it the cheaper mode of conveyance. With regard to what was called the monopoly, an immense number of new collieries had lately been brought into the field to extend the supply, owing to railroads and other causes, which had lowered the price in London considerably; the new concerns not having so heavy rents to pay, or so great capital invested. The price of a ton of coals at the mouth of the pit was 7s. 6d., while the freight to London consumed an equal sum, and the difference between 15s. and 26s., the price at which they were delivered to the consumer, went to pay the port dues and corporation taxes of London. He thought it a great hardship that the individual coal owners should only have one-third of the price; and the fact was, that the best coals were sold in London at a loss.

The Duke of Wellington

would say only one word in favour of a corporation with which he felt it an honour to be connected, he meant that of the Trinity House. He entreated their Lordships, in their resolution to maintain the coasting trade, not to lose sight of the lights on the coast of England, and of their immense importance to navigation.

Returns ordered.