§ On the Order of the Day for the House being put into Committee being read,
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
rose to present a petition from the silk manufacturers and silk weavers of Macclesfield, and said he would state the substance of it, as a part of his case. The petition stated that figured and fancy goods were constantly imported at from 60s. to 70s. a pound. That silk was as much a luxury as sugar, coffee, &c., which had now become necessaries of life, and which were highly taxed; and they therefore prayed that this branch of trade should be thought worthy of protection. He had also a petition from the Spitalfields weavers, praying to be heard by counsel at the bar of the House. Their Lordships must feel how difficult it was for any Member of that House to make himself master of a complicated question of this kind; there were technical terms to be used, and a great deal had to be stated, of which it could not be expected that a Peer requested to present a petition could make himself master, but a learned counsel received full instructions, and could make himself acquainted with every detail. As a proof of this he might mention that the proposed Bill held out the promise of a protection of 15 per cent, whereas the petitioners stated they could prove that on several articles the protection would be but 9 per cent. The petitions from Macclesfield did not say they were opposed to free trade, but that upon inquiry it would be found their trade would be an exception to the general rule. He must confess that he had now no hope as to the Government 776 measures not passing; but if they were prepared to place in jeopardy the landed interest, that was no reason for abandoning the operatives, and he for one should be always as eager to obtain protection for them as for those who dealt in corn. He had always looked on the Corn Laws as the keystone to the arch of protection; but he, for one, should never forsake the domestic industry of the country. Could any man deny that silk was an article of luxury? And who would grudge to pay a little more for such an article, if by doing so he felt he was supporting a large class of the operatives of this country? But he was told that smuggling would be the consequence of retaining the duty, and the same ground was taken as to the spirit duty. Let the Government look after the Custom-house officers, and there would be no fear of smuggling; let not the servile followers of Ministers be alone appointed to situations in our Customs; let the best men be appointed, and he answered for it not half the smuggling which had hitherto been practised would occur. Even now there was little or no smuggling in the maritime districts, because officers of the royal navy were there appointed—men who would disdain to take a bribe. He should ask them to allow the petitioners to call witnesses—not to offer any long obstruction to the passing of this measure, but merely to give them an opportunity of stating their case through counsel. He asked only for what had been granted in the case of municipal corporations of England or Ireland. These men had not the power of the corporations; but they were entitled to equal respect, for they honourably earned their bread with the sweat of their brow: they had a right to expect, aye, to demand, a fair hearing. The noble Duke then cited a number of instances in which counsel had been heard when a particular class was affected by legislation. There had been great distress among the Spitalfields weavers; but during most trying circumstances, they had borne heavy afflictions with as much credit to themselves as good subjects, as members of a Christian community. He therefore moved, that these petitioners be heard by counsel at the bar.
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
, desiring to echo most sincerely and heartily the testimony of respect which the noble Duke had paid to the character and past conduct of the Spitalfields weavers, and to add a similar testimony to the character of all 777 in the country engaged in the silk manufacture, felt that it was but an ungracious task that he had to discharge, in endeavouring to persuade the House not to accede to this proposal. It was true, that counsel had very frequently been heard at the bar upon various measures under consideration, and heard in Committee on Bills affecting particular trades; but the noble Duke was asking the House to hear counsel for parties interested in a general measure of customs law, whereas in all those precedents the measure was either one affecting one particular trade, for which trade counsel was heard, or it was a Bill regulating that trade, and sometimes in a particular locality only. The latter was the case in 1821 he thought, when there was a Bill for regulating, not the whole silk trade, but that trade in the particular district of Spitalfields. With regard to precedents, too, the House must remember what took place in 1808, when the Earl of Derby presented a petition from Liverpool, submitting that certain clauses in the Orders in Council Bill were injurious to the petitioners' interests, and praying to be heard. To this it was objected that it was contrary to the usages of the House to hear counsel against a Bill for aid and supply. The present Bill, he begged to remind their Lordships, was a Bill for aid and supply. In 1815, with respect to the Corn Bill, the same principle was adopted; and in the present case the House ought not, according to those precedents, to hear counsel with respect to individual or special interests, when a question of general policy was before the House. The present was a measure of general policy; and if their Lordships were to consent to hear the weavers of Spitalfields by counsel on the present occasion, they could not refuse to hear other parties, and it would be impossible, under those circumstances, to carry on the public business. He trusted the noble Duke would not press the Motion that the petitioners be heard by counsel, because it was not to be supposed that there were not noble Lords in that House perfectly capable of stating the case of the petitioners.
said, if it was so contrary to principle, so contrary to the forms of their Lordships' House, and so contrary to the usage of Parliament, as his noble Friend had described it, to hear counsel against a Bill, he would be the last to give his vote in favour of it. There was, however, the greatest difficulty in 778 even slightly understanding the details of the question—the petitioners stating that the 15 per cent left by the Bill would be practically only 9 per cent; and therefore he thought that not only would the speech of counsel be of great service in elucidating the facts, but he should not tie down the petitioners' hands so as to preclude the examination even of witnesses. The great question that had been so long before their Lordships was now nearly at an end; but he would do the noble Lords who advocated protection the justice to say, that though human passion was unavoidable in the course of the debates that had ensued upon its introduction, and during its progress through the House, never was there a case of the kind conducted to an issue with greater candour and more fairness than this had been by the noble Lords in question: and though he freely admitted that they had had many temptations to create delay through what occurred in another place, they had nevertheless abandoned their chance without reluctance, to allow the business of the country to be sped onwards. He felt the most unbounded confidence in the assertion of his noble Friend, that the request of the petitioners was not made for the purposes of promoting delay. He differed, no doubt, from his noble Friend in respect to the merits of the general question; but that was no reason why information should be shut out upon it. The petitioners distinctly stated that there were certain points in connexion with their trade, and the effect of the measure upon it, which could not be understood without professional assistance. That was a reason why their prayer should be granted. It was not a sufficient ground to refuse it because only one out of several trades affected by the Bill sought to be heard: the others might not have the same grounds as they had. With respect to the precedents cited by the noble Earl, he could not conceive how the facts of one case could have been so utterly perverted as were those of the great case of 1808. He had appeared at the bar of the House as counsel in that case, and had not alone spoken against the Orders in Council, but had examined between forty and fifty witnesses during the three weeks it lasted. On that occasion, too, he had argued not only against the particular matter complained of, but against the whole system. He, therefore, marvelled how any one could for a moment have a doubt upon the subject. Counsel was also heard in the 779 case of the Municipal Corporations Bill on the part of particular corporations; and as far as he was concerned, he would freely admit, not without advantage and information. When great alterations were making in the general policy of the country, it would not be wise on the part of their Lordships to press them on to the exclusion of information, on the ground of the necessity of hurrying on the measures proposed. As an enemy to commercial restriction of all kind, and a friend to free trade, he should feel exceedingly grieved at any act of their Lordships which would have the effect of excluding information upon the subject under discussion. If any class of men deserved the kind consideration of the House, it was the numerous, the ingenious, the industrious, and the hard-faring people engaged all their life long in the silk trade. It was a trade the most precarious in its nature, and the most liable to be affected by any change; and no branch of industry was more subject to the visitation of severe distress. He had known them in prosperity, and he had known them in adversity; but he had never known any body of men more patient under privation than they were, and therefore more justly entitled to their Lordships' sympathy. If, therefore, his noble Friend pressed his Motion to a division he should support him; but he trusted that the Government would not reduce him to that necessity, but would accede to it.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
said, that if the Motion of the noble Duke were adopted by their Lordships, they would be adopting a principle which, if carried into effect, might prove an obstruction to the transaction of public business in reference to any Bill repealing or imposing duties. If persons on behalf of the silk trade were heard by counsel, there would be no reason why persons on behalf of the linen, cotton, timber, and other trades should not be heard. The noble Duke had said that if their Lordships would allow counsel to address them, he would pledge himself that they would not speak at length. He (the Earl of Ellenborough) feared, however, that those learned Gentlemen would make long speeches; and he had suffered under such inflictions in that House and elsewhere. The noble Duke also proposed that witnesses should be heard; and if the House acceded to his suggestion they might have to hear speeches avid evidence, not only with reference to the silk trade, but every other trade which might be 780 affected by this Bill. If this were to be the case, any further legislation on this subject during the present Session would be effectually obstructed. He gave the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) full credit for not having thrown obstructions in the way of proceeding with the Corn Bill; but, if they once admitted lawyers to the bar, the noble Duke would have no power to restrain the mischief he would thus have introduced. He (the Earl of Ellenborough) had heard something about precedents; but he thought it more desirable to make good precedents than to follow bad ones; and he was satisfied, if their Lordships sanctioned the noble Duke's proposition, they would establish a principle fatal in many cases to the progress of legislation on the most important matters.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
Before you proceed, my Lords, to divide upon this point, I wish to remind your Lordships what the question for your decision is. It is that counsel shall be heard in Committee upon this Bill in favour of the petition of the Spitalfields weavers. Now, I beg your Lordships to recollect, that in Committee you will have to examine and consider the details of the Bill, the schedule of which provides that certain duties shall be levied upon silk goods. Now, my Lords, I beg to recall to your recollection that you cannot, consistently with the common practice, make any alteration in these details in Committee, without an infraction of the settled rules of proceeding which have existed for more than 200 years, as between the two Houses. Your Lordships have been pleased, in your late discussions in the Committee on the Corn Bill, to adhere strictly to this practice; and you refused to agree to Amendments which, it was admitted, would have the effect of losing the Bill. But the consequence would not be only the losing of the Bill. The consequence of making alterations in Committee in the money clauses of Bills of Supply and of Customs has invariably been, not only the loss of the Bills, but afterwards, in point of fact, entirely to paralyse the proceedings of Parliament. If your Lordships are desirous of avoiding these inconveniences—inconveniences which would be felt by the public, and particularly by your Lordships, most severely—I conclude you would have the same feeling upon this Bill as you displayed upon the Corn Bill—that whatever might be the effect on your Lordships' opinions of the arguments of counsel, you 781 would not consent to make any alteration in the details of the schedules of this Bill, as to the duties upon silk, but that your Lordships would persevere in passing the Bill as it now stands. If your Lordships should consent to hear counsel in Committee against the details of a Bill, the alteration of which may be attended with the greatest possible inconvenience to your Lordships and to the public, by impeding the progress of public business, you will only listen for a considerable time to arguments upon which, you will be sensible at the time, you cannot act, and which will not induce you to make any alterations in the Bill. By this course your Lordships will establish a precedent which may be useless as to yourselves, and most injurious to those who will avail themselves of this precedent, and employ counsel to come here and plead their cause, while your Lordships must know that their arguments can have no avail in inducing you to make any alteration in the details of the measures they object to. What I beg particularly to draw your Lordships' attention to is, that the object of the noble Duke's Motion is to induce you to listen to counsel in Committee on a Bill which levies duties upon customs, and which you cannot alter without infringing the ordinary usages of Parliament.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
said: I had not intended to reply upon this question; but after what has been said by the noble Duke, I must protest against the principle he lays down. If this is to be the constitution of Parliament, I would ask your Lordships whether it is not a mere farce, that we are to be called on here, night after night, to go through the stages of a Bill, and then, forsooth, we are to be told that we cannot alter it? I contend that these petitioners have a right to be heard at your Lordships' bar. I will not detain your Lordships by saying more on that subject; but I will only add, that if this is to be the course to be pursued by the Government, I hope they will alter your Standing Orders, and that they will determine that the Queen's consent and the Commons' is sufficient to pass a measure. This must be the result, if the argument of the noble Duke is to have any weight in this House. If that argument had been used by a young man who had just come from school, I should have taken no notice of it; but when it comes from my noble Friend, the noble and gallant Duke, I am bound to protest against it, and I shall 782 certainly feel it my duty to take the sense of the House on this Motion.
§ On Question, House divided; Contents—Present 43; Proxies 31: Total 74. Non-Contents—Present 42; Proxies 36: Total 78. Majority against the Motion 4.
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Bangor||Willoughby De Broke|
expressed his regret at the result of the division, and particularly at the manner in which it had been carried. He should very cheerfully have supported the measure, if his adversaries had had an opportunity of stating their case; as it was, he should tender the measure his support very reluctantly. The question was rather a judicial than a legislative question; and yet it was decided by the votes of persons who were absent—persons who were in Ireland, or on the Continent, or even at Madras. This being a quasi judicial question, where parties came before their Lordships craving redress from an apprehended injury, and respectfully and humbly begging to be heard 783 by counsel, who, they said, could give explanations to their Lordships which no person could give without being professionally instructed, those Peers who were present resolved—by a narrow majority, indeed, but still they did resolve—that counsel should be heard. In this state of things some one called for proxies. He was very sorry that such a call should have been made. He was not, of course, at liberty to protest against it; but he knew that some of those who, in obedience to the call, had exercised their undoubted right of producing the proxies, would have been the last to call for proxies themselves. He thought this decision dealt a serious blow on the right of voting by proxy in their Lordships' House. He doubted if proxies would stand such a case as this much longer. If a noble Lord, who was not now alive, had been present (the Marquess of Westminster), how greatly would he have been rejoiced at this proceeding, and justly; for it would have advanced the cause for which he contended—of the abolition of proxies—by half a century. He had no recollection of such a case as this ever happening before, where the proxies of those who were absent overruled and reversed the decision of those who heard the case. There might have been such a case; but, at any rate, this was one of a most grievous and crying nature; because it was a refusal of the petition of parties who petitioned to be heard at their Lordships' bar.
The EARL of GLENGALL
protested against this decision, and on this ground, that a few years ago he had been placed in a position in the House which rendered it impossible for him to hear the question which was put to the House. After the division, a noble Marquess put it to him, upon his honour, whether he was in the House and heard the question? He replied that he was not; and the same being the case with other noble Lords, their votes were not taken. Now, as he knew that there were noble Peers on this occasion in the same position, he must enter his protest against the decision on that ground.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, as he was the person referred to, he could confirm the statement which the noble Earl had made; and he would add, that no person who was not in the House when the question was put was entitled to vote.
The EARL of GLENGALL
then put the question to the Duke of Buccleuch—on his 784 honour as a Peer, whether he was in his place at the time and heard the question put?
The DUKE of BUCCLEUCH
stated, that he was not only in the House, but that he heard a considerable portion of the noble Duke's (the Duke of Richmond's) reply.
The EARL of GLENGALL
But was the noble Duke within the House according to the usual interpretation of "the House?" He saw the noble Duke enter the House along with the Earl of Home, and his impression was that the noble Duke was not within what was usually called the House.
The DUKE of BUCCLEUCH
If you come to the strict meaning of the House—[Loud cries of "Hear, hear!"] Perhaps noble Lords would be so good as to hear what he had to say before they cheered. He would not be put down by any clamour. If the noble Lord meant to ask him whether he was so many inches—
The DUKE of BUCCLEUCH
When the noble Lord is in order, I shall answer the question which he has put; but I will not state my answer in any other words than those in which I choose to state it, and not in the words of others. I have to state that whether I was actually in front of what is technically called the Woolsack, or in any other place, I cannot at this moment recollect; but I know that according to all the rules observed in your Lordships' House with respect to Peers being present at debates, I was actually within the House, though I was not in my seat at the moment. I heard the question distinctly put from the Woolsack; and I was standing in the House with my noble relative who has just been alluded to, though I was present some time before he entered the House.
The EARL of GLENGALL
disclaimed any intention of personal discourtesy to the noble Duke; and he would leave it to their Lordships to say whether the noble Duke was sufficiently in the House at the time to entitle him to vote.
The LORD CHANCELLOR
thought that if a Peer was within the four walls of the House at the time a question was put, he was entitled to vote.
The EARL of GLENGALL
would now put the same question to the Earl of Home, and ask him, upon his honour, whether he 785 was in the House, and heard the question put?
The EARL of HOME
had no hesitation in saying that he was in the House, that he heard the question, and that he had been in the House some time before the Duke of Richmond concluded his speech.
§ LORD REDESDALE
confirmed this statement, as he saw both noble Lords in the House before the question was put. The only observation which he was disposed to make on this extraordinary discussion was, that the majority of those who were present in the House were anxious to hear counsel on the subject, but were prevented from doing so by those who were not present, and who did not care whether counsel were heard or not.
The EARL of WICKLOW
said, the noble and learned Lord opposite (Brougham) expressed his belief that this was the only occasion where a Motion had been overruled by the votes of those who were absent. Now he might remind his noble and learned Friend that when he sat on the woolsack, he (the Earl of Wicklow) brought forward a Motion on the subject of Irish Education, which he carried by a majority of those present; but the Motion was overruled by the Government of which the noble and learned Lord was a member calling for proxies. He must say, that though he had voted against the Motion, he thought this was an injudicious use of proxies. He did what he could do to prevent the abuse; and he wished he could see some noble Peer of weight and experience, rise to propose their abolition altogether; and in these reforming times, he did think that a few more such injudicious uses of proxies on the part of their Lordships, would lead to their abolition altogether.
§ EARL GREY
entirely agreed with the noble Earl, that they could hardly adopt a more judicious course than to abolish the use of proxies; and if the noble Earl would make such a proposition, he could ensure him of his hearty support. But while proxies existed, he thought parties were entitled to use them. His noble and learned Friend had called this a judicial question. Why he might as well have called it a geographical question, or a geological question, or a grammatical question—for it had no more resemblance to a judicial question than any other which came before their Lordships.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
was bound to submit to a majority of their Lordships, though he was afraid the decision would greatly lower them in the eyes of the country, who would feel their decision to be injurious because it was unjust. All he could now say was, that it was out of his power then to enter upon the case of the silk weavers, and, therefore, at whatever time it might come on, he should move that it be postponed till he had made himself in some degree master of the case. All he could now do would be to read the brief which had been given to a learned Serjeant, who would not have taken up half the time which he (the Duke of Richmond) would do; but he was resolved that their Lordships should hear the whole truth.
My Lords, I do not rise to complain of this decision, but simply to say, that if ever there was a question where the voice of those who were present ought to have ruled the decision of your Lordships' House, it is on a question where, with a view to influence the judgments of those who are present, in a matter where persons who are deeply interested appeal to your justice, and desire you to hear what they have to say in an authentic and authoritative manner. Your Lordships who are present, and who have to decide this question in Committee, have decided that you will hear what the petitioners have to say; but your verdict has been overruled by those who are not present, and who cannot be present in Committee; and after you have declared that in your Committee you desire to hear the arguments of the parties interested in this question, the names of those who are in other parts of the world have been put in for the purpose of saying, that, in the Committee which they do not mean to attend, you shall not hear the statements which you desire, in order to form your judgment on the question to be submitted to you. My Lords, I cannot conceive a stronger case, especially when you recollect that the object is not to decide either for or against the petitioners; but simply, shall the petitioners be allowed to state the case in a manner which they think most conducive to their interests. But I do not rise to prolong discussion, nor to interpose delay; still less do I object to your Lordships' going into Committee to consider the various articles which are to be brought under your notice. But I think it will tend to the saving of your Lordships' time, if I now, on the question of going into Committee, 787 make a few observations on the general tendency of the Bill, in respect to certain articles enumerated in it, rather than afterwards call your Lordships' attention to these individual articles at the time they respectively come under discussion. My Lords, if I were desirous to find fault with Her Majesty's Government, and to contrast their conduct on this Bill with their conduct on the other Bill, I should have no difficulty in showing that this Bill is utterly inconsistent with the principles of free trade and of condemnation to protection, which my noble Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, pronounced, ex cathedrâ, to be the future rule and principle of Her Majesty's Government. Having taken away all protection from agriculture—that is to say, from corn—you proceed in this Bill to lay down a system of protective duties—duties levied, not for the purposes of revenue, but levied exclusively on the principle and for the purpose of protection. You draw a distinction between the raw material and the finished article, which is a direct encouragement and protection of our native industry—you draw a distinction in every one of the articles in this Bill of a differential duty in favour of the produce of your Colonies—articles in themselves very immaterial; but, so far as the distinction goes, recognising the principle, first, of protection to domestic industry, by exempting the raw material from the duty to which you subject the finished article; and, in the next place, recognising the principle of a differential duty in favour of articles the produce of our Colonies, against articles of the same kind the produce of foreign countries. It is because I find the principle of protection recognised and upheld in this Bill, that I consent to go into Committee to discuss its provisions in detail. I know it has been calculated and said, that if once you sweep away what noble Lords opposite call the "monopoly of the landowners,' you will find them the confederates and coadjutors of those who would attempt to remove protection from all other articles. I hope experience will falsify that prediction. I hope the landowners and the agricultural interest will not consent so far to stultify the cause in which they have been engaged — a cause in which, let me tell you, they are still engaged—a cause in which they will continue to be engaged—as to say, that because you may succeed in taking away from them that protection which they have 788 hitherto enjoyed—they will spitefully extend to others a principle, the application of which they say, as regards agriculture, is unjust. To act on such motives, would be acting in a spiteful mood, visiting upon others those injuries which they have themselves experienced. I say, my Lords, we have not abandoned, and that we do not mean to abandon, the principle of protection to the domestic industry of this country; and I am much mistaken if many years elapse before we have the manufacturing interest of this country thoroughly sensible of the mistake they have committed, and earnestly requesting of the Legislature to give them that protection which they have been so desirous you should withdraw from others. I might object that the principle of protection is not fully and fairly carried out in this measure, but I shall not dwell upon this point. I am anxious to draw the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to some details of the measure in which reductions have been made, which I think I can prove to your Lordships are not consistent with the true interests of this country. But I must again observe, that the principle of protection is recognised in this Bill, and it is therefore only with regard to the details of the measure that I wish to address a few observations to your Lordships. It will be for your Lordships to decide, after you shall have heard the explanation, which I hope will be given on the part of Her Majesty's Government—it will be for your Lordships to decide whether or not you are satisfied that they have made out a case, either on the principle of protection or on principle of revenue, for the alteration of duties which they propose. I did not expect this Motion to come on to-night, and I regret I have not had an opportunity of referring to some Papers which have been recently laid upon your Lordships' Table. I am about to deal with this measure chiefly on the score of revenue, for I beg your Lordships to observe that you have at this moment a calculation of only a very small surplus revenue, even with things as they are, for the service of the current year; and if the calculations respecting the revenue which I have made are accurate (and I have taken every pains they should be so), those who are in office this time twelvemonths, whoever they may be, will be in great danger of experiencing a deficiency in the revenue. Yet, my Lords, it is under these circumstances that the Government think it wise and politic 789 to introduce a Bill for the purpose of reducing or repealing the duties on numerous most important articles, which last year produced to the revenue 2,739,187l.; and in this reduction you only take credit for a diminution of 357,000l. on the article of corn—an amount much lower, I believe, than the average of late years. Then there are articles on which duties are to be altogether repealed, to the amount of 55,879l. It is proposed that we shall reduce by one-half the existing duties on articles which produce a revenue of 2,326,000l.; and, with the exception of such a portion of that revenue as may be made up by an increase of consumption, the loss to the revenue on those articles alone will be, according to the calculation I have made, no less than 1,338,000l.; to which, if you add 400,000l. for corn, you will have a positive loss of revenue under the operation of this measure to the amount of more than 1,738,000l. I am aware that a certain increase in the consumption will make up a part of the loss; but that there will be a serious defalcation of revenue arising from the reductions proposed by this Bill, will readily be admitted on the part of the Government themselves. That there will not be a very serious defalcation of revenue, has not even been contended for by the Government. Now, I believe that, if there be one financial maxim more universally recognised than another, and which is perfectly consistent with sound sense, it is this, that the articles which a Government should select for a reduction of duty should not be those which were yielding a progressively increasing revenue; for thereby you are not only depriving yourself of large and profitable resources, but you are doing that which is not needed; for the progressive increase of duty shows that the duty already existing does neither press in an undue degree upon the consumer at home, nor restrain the foreigner from entering into competition with the home producers. Therefore, I say, in whatever way you regard it, there is no political reason for the abolition of such a duty. Now, tried by this test, let me take a few of the articles in the Tariff. I will take the duty upon butter and upon cheese. In 1842, in the general revision of the Tariff, the duty upon those articles was left unaltered. Does it appear that, in consequence of the duties upon butter and cheese, the imports of these articles have fallen off very considerably? If such appears to be the fact, then a primâ facie case is made out 790 that there is an undue exclusion of these articles from entering into competition with our domestic produce. But if on the other hand it can be shown that so far from there being a decline, there is a positive and progressive increase in the imports, then I say the charge of monopoly and undue exclusion falls to the ground. But let us go to the figures. In 1843, immediately after the passing of the late Tariff, the duty levied on butter was 151,953l.; in 1844, 186,000l.; in 1845, 247,000l. Now with respect to cheese: in 1843, the duty levied on this article amounted to 91,000l.; in 1844, to 117,000l.; in 1845, to 141,000l. On these two articles, therefore, you realized in 1843 a revenue amounting to 243,000l.; yet under the pressure of this duty the revenue upon them in 1845 increased from 243,000l. to the sum of 389,000l. I must, then, ask what ground you have, either on the score of revenue or of an undue pressure on the foreign producer, for the reduction of duty on these articles which is now proposed, and for making the large sacrifice of revenue to which that reduction would necessarily lead? Again, let us look at the case of live animals, on the importation of which a moderate duty was imposed in the year 1842. Has that duty excluded them from our markets? You did not expect that they would be largely imported; and I do not say that I apprehend any serious competition in those animals from the foreign producer. The amount of the duty on live animals in 1843 was 1,500l., in 1844 it was 5,300l., and in 1845 it was 18,500l. What ground, then, is there for depriving your revenue of the moderate amount derived from that source, and putting it into the pockets of the foreign producer?—for that I believe will be the effect of the proposed change. Again, let us look at the silk duties. I believe that our exports of silk goods have been of late years nearly stationary. I do not mean to say that our exports were not more this year than last year; but I mean to say that if you look to the Papers laid on the Table by Her Majesty's Government, at an early period of this Session, you will find that in the course of the last ten or fifteen years the exportation of British silk manufactured goods has not made any considerable progress. I believe even that there were three or four years, some six years ago, in which the exportation of British silk goods was greater than it is at the present 791 moment. But in the meantime the importation of foreign silk goods has very largely increased under the existing duties. In the year 1843 the amount of duty on foreign silk goods was 241,000l.; in 1844 it was 286,000l.; and in 1845 it was 323,000l. Thus your Lordships see there has been a large increase in the importation of the foreign article; and a revenue was derived from it, with no loss whatever to the home producer, of 320,000l. Yet, in the face of this fact, you are about to lower by one-half the duty on the introduction of foreign silk goods. I ask your Lordships, is not this a wilful and a wanton sacrifice of revenue, without any corresponding good to the British consumer? Now I come to the article timber. In 1842, the duty upon foreign timber was very considerably lowered—it was altogether removed from colonial timber. The effect of this lowering of the duty on Baltic timber has been that since 1842 there has been a very large increase in the amount of Baltic timber brought into consumption in this country. I beg leave to remind your Lordships that this is no trifling article of revenue. In 1843, foreign timber produced 713,000l.; in 1844,916,000l.; in 1845, 1,046,000l. Is there any proof in this article that the duty pressed unduly on the consumer, or excluded the foreigner? And yet, for no conceivable reason that I can see, my noble Friend proposes to reduce two-fifths of the duty upon foreign timber, which yields, as I have said, 1,046,000l. To sum up these articles I have enumerated, which in the aggregate, in 1843, yielded a revenue of 1,199,000l., increased so, that in 1844 they brought in 1,500,000l., and in 1845, 1,770,000l., being an increase of above 600,000l. in two years. So that neither for the relief of the consumer at home, or of the producer abroad, you are about to sacrifice 1,777,000l. of revenue. I will now pass to articles which, though not very important in themselves, are important inasmuch as they involve the interest of great numbers of our operatives. The next articles I will call your Lordships' attention to are boots and shoes. And here allow me to observe that whatever advantage the consumer derives from the reduction of the duty in this article, that reduction will not in any way operate to the advantage of the lower classes: the advantage will be solely derived by the higher classes—those who are best able to afford the loss of that which the revenue would 792 otherwise gain. Well, but what else will this reduction do? I say, my Lords, it will displace a large quantity of labour—it will throw out of employment a great number of persons who are now usefully engaged in this manufacture. Before the year 1842 the duty on foreign boots was 54s. per dozen. You lowered it in 1842 to 1l. 9s. 4d., and the importation immediately rose from 4,820 pairs in 1842, to 8,353 pairs—I mean of boots—no alteration has taken place since then, and 1l. 9s. 4d. has stood as the duty since 1843. Now, I beg your Lordships to observe that from 4,821 pairs, in 1841, the importation increased to 8,353 in 1842; and from that to 12,220 in 1843; and from 12,220 in 1843 to 13,261 pairs in 1844; and thence to 14,387 in 1845. I repeat that persons in the higher class and best able to pay for luxuries, are the chief buyers of French boots. I declare I am at a loss to conceive upon what grounds the Government have interfered with this article, and propose to reduce the duty from 1l. 9s. 4d. to 11s. per dozen. On the article shoes and boots, I spoke only of boots before. There were imported in 1841, 39,000 pairs of shoes, whilst in 1845 there were 82,000 pairs imported. The existing duty, therefore, does not prevent the foreign producer from entering our markets on fair and reasonable terms. There are two other articles to which I wish to refer—I mean stained paper and pillow lace. The duty on the first of these articles was not changed in 1842. The duty on stained paper is now 1s. 3–5d. per dozen yards. In 1841, there were imported 13,479 yards, and in 1845 there were imported 30,000 yards. So that there was a progressive increase of the foreign manufacture in our market. Yet we are now called upon to reduce the duty from 1s. 3–5d. to 2d. Now, with regard to pillow lace, I must observe that this is an article which is almost entirely produced by manual labour, and principally by female labour; and as the article is one of luxury, the reduction of the duty can only benefit the rich in this country at the expense of a very humble and helpless class of our operatives. Before 1842, pillow lace was subject to a duty of 30 per cent; but in 1842 the duty of 30 per cent was reduced to a duty of 13l. 2s. 6d. per cent. In the year 1843, under that altered duty, the revenue derived from the importation of pillow lace was 6,486l., and in 1845 it was 12,000l.; and yet not content with 793 that large increase, you are now about still further to reduce that duty from 13 to 10 per cent. Now, I do not say that I shall call on your Lordships in Committee to strike all these articles out of the Bill; but I do say that before your Lordships consent to alter the duties on these articles, you ought to have an explanation from Her Majesty's Government of the principle on which they propose these alterations. If Her Majesty's Government can show that under the present law there is not a fair and reasonable competition in these articles between the foreign and the home producer, and that the home producer practically enjoys a monopoly, then I shall not for one moment object to the reduction or even the repeal of these duties. But as it appears that the importation of these articles is every day increasing, and that the competition in them between the foreign and the home producer is every day becoming more and more brisk—I say that your Lordships ought to receive some explanation from Her Majesty's Government before you consent to sacrifice a large amount of revenue, and to give a further encouragement to the foreign producer, which it is obvious he does not require under the present state of things. What are the calculations upon which they intend the revenue shall be recompensed for these deficiencies? I protest, my Lords, I know not how these wants are to be supplied. I have thought it would be more convenient that I should make these observations before going into Committee, in order to give my noble Friend the President of the Board Trade an opportunity of entering, if he pleases, into an explanation on the part of the Government of the principle on which the Bill is founded; of the calculations into which they have entered; of the results which they anticipate from the measure; and of the reasons which have induced them to sacrifice an amount of revenue which I doubt whether the country can at present safely afford to lose.
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
said, that his noble Friend seemed to think that Her Majesty's Government had introduced that measure as an entire free-trade measure, and had at the same time been guilty of the inconsistency of recognising in the Bill the principle of protection.
said, that what he had stated was that there was an inconsistency on the part of the Government in introducing a measure like that in which they recognised the principle of protection, 794 after they had renounced that principle in their Corn Bill.
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
said, that the Government did not propose that measure as a measure departing altogether and at once from protection. The principle they desired to follow was that of removing from all articles of food—from all articles of first necessity — all duties whatsoever; while upon all articles which were not of first necessity, but which entered largely into the consumption of our population, they were desirous of reducing the duties as far as considerations of revenue would allow. They did not stop there; but they proposed to reduce the duties on all articles of general clothing. The duties upon the articles of cotton, woollen, and linen manufactures, had been entirely repealed; but the duties on several smaller items had been retained, not for purposes of protecting the larger manufacturers, but the poorer classes of the working people. Further than this the Government had had no other intention than that of reducing the duties not only on all manufactured goods, but also on the raw produce; and they accordingly had proposed to reduce the duties on fully manufactured articles a certain amount, on half manufactured articles a certain amount, and to do away altogether with the duty on the raw material. The duty of 20 per cent on manufactured goods they proposed to reduce to 10 per cent, and that on half manufactured goods to 5 per cent, while they removed the whole impost from the raw material. They did not propose to throw away at once the principle of protection altogether; and therefore his noble Friend had no right to accuse them of not fully carrying out the principles of free trade, since they had never professed to do so. But when his noble Friend asked them what was the difference between the raw material and the manufactured article, he asked a question the answer to which was so obvious that it seemed strange it could have been asked by him. Was it not essential to the best interests of the manufacturers of this country that they should have a cheap, and a constant, and good supply of that which would keep them employed, without entering into considerations of revenue on this subject? But with respect to articles in a state of half or whole manufacture, he was prepared to state that this duty of 10 or 5 per cent was a perfectly just one, and defensible on considerations of revenue. The Government were also asked 795 how they proposed to make up the deficiency of revenue likely to result from the carrying out of their present proposition? The noble Lord had stated the computed loss to be about 1,400,000l. Now, he was not disposed to question the accuracy of his noble Friend's figures; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the other House of Parliament, in alluding to this subject, had estimated the diminution of revenue from these reductions at about only 700,000l. But his noble Friend asked them how they proposed to make up this deficiency? They did not hold out any hopes, or at least they gave no guarantee, that the revenue would be made good; but looking to the experience of the past they had every reason to believe that in consequence of the increased consumption of the country, the stimulus given to its commercial resources, and the progressive improvement of its social and manufacturing condition, the revenue would not be lost to the amount stated, but rather be increased. The large reductions of former years, and the increased amount of revenue which followed, gave them every reason to hope that a similar result would again follow. In the year 1842 the entire of the amount of the Excise and Customs duties of this country had amounted to 32,100,000l.; while in 1845 they had increased to 33,400,000l., although during that period Customs and Excise duties had been repealed to the amount of not less than 5,100,000l. The Government, of course, could not give a guarantee that the revenue would be replaced; but they were fully justified from the experience of the past in expecting that it would be so. He would then briefly refer to the several articles alluded to by his noble Friend. The first two articles touched upon were those of butter and cheese. He fully admitted the correctness of his noble Friend's statement, that, under the existing duties, the consumption and importation of these two articles were increasing. But the Government could not profess to act upon the principle upon which they were acting, unless they introduced these two articles of butter and cheese into the present proposition, seeing that they were two which entered so largely into the consumption of the poorer classes of the community, and ought to be, therefore, subjected to the same reductions which were intended for other articles of a similar sort. His noble Friend who had just spoken, and indeed other noble Lords who 796 thought and acted with him, seemed to think that the duties on these two articles were of long standing, and that they had been imposed and should be retained for purposes of protection. Now the fact was, that these duties were of modern origin, having been only recently imposed. There had been no duty on butter up to the time of the end of the late war, similar to that which was now imposed on it. On this matter, then, they were doing no more than placing the duty on the article in the same state in which it formerly was. With respect, therefore, to the reduction of the duty on butter and cheese, they were doing no more than carrying out the principle by which they were regulated in the entire of these proceedings, of reducing the duties on such articles as entered largely into the consumption of the poorer classes, and that too without reference to the immediate revenue which they yielded. His noble Friend also had entered into the case of the reduction on the import duties on live cattle. But he at the same time said that he did not entertain any apprehensions as to this going to a dangerous extent. On this point, too, it would be only necessary to say that the Government had been influenced by the same principle as that to which he had already alluded, as being that on which the whole measure of the Government was based. His noble Friend had next taken the silk trade; but as a noble Duke on the cross benches was to bring this case specifically before them in detail, he would abstain from anticipating what might be said on that subject. His noble Friend laid stress upon the increasing imports of this article, and therefore increasing yearly additions to the revenue. Now this was strictly correct; but it did not therefore follow that either the importation or the revenue was increasing as it ought, or as it would do if there were no smuggling. He would say, however, that with respect to this article the reduction of the duties on silk had not been made so much with reference to the question of protection as to that of revenue. The duty was said to be 30 per cent universally; but, in point of fact, it ranged from that up to about 250 per cent. Now this was an anomalous state of things. Twenty-five years ago, a Committee of that House had taken this subject into consideration, and they had then recommended a duty of 15 per cent to be established instead of that then in existence. To show, however, to what an extent the 797 revenue of this country was defrauded by the system of smuggling carried on in this article, it would be only sufficient to state from authentic and official returns, that from the year 1827 to 1843, the amount of silk goods entered at the Custom-house of France for exportation to this country had been 6,332,000 lbs.; while the amount entered here in England, upon which duty had been paid, was only 3,100,000 lbs., not one half the amount that ought to have come in. These returns, he maintained, fully justified the course which the Government proposed to take with respect to this article—to put a fixed duty of 15 per cent on it, instead of that which was formerly placed on it. He had no doubt they would see in future years a very considerable increase in the importation, to the prevention of the illicit trade, and the great increase of the revenue. His noble Friend, also, had alluded to the increase which had taken place in the importation of foreign timber from 1842 to 1845; and he had accordingly asked why the duties were proposed to be changed on this article? His answer was, that the same principle which had been applied to other articles had been applied to this, the consumption of which had so much increased, and become so much a better of necessity in this country; and, moreover, it was an article, the consumption of which was closely connected with the consumption of other articles which increased the revenue largely. Having relieved colonial timber of all duty, they had considered it right to reduce the duty on foreign timber to 15s. a load. His noble Friend had next alluded to the question of boots and shoes. Now the Government had never put this reduction forward as a measure calculated to be beneficial to the poorer classes of the community; they had never put it on grounds either of revenue or protection. It had been done entirely on the equal application of the principle by which they had dealt with all other manufactured goods, as iron and the like; and they did not think it right to exclude manufactured leather from the operation of the same principle. His noble Friend also alluded to the case of stained paper. Now this grievance of the paper stainers, attempted to be put forward by his noble Friend, was the weakest that ever was relied on. At present there was a duty of 1s. a square yard—a duty which he maintained to be monstrous. It was said that the manufacturer here had to compete with the foreigner, 798 under the disadvantage of an excise duty. Now the excise duty in question was only about half a farthing a square yard. He knew of no reason why the paper stainers in this country should not be able to compete with the foreigner at a duty of 2d. It was said by the paper stainers that they had to labour under a disadvantage arising from the superior designs of the French manufacturers. Now he could see no reason why the paper stainers of this country should not rival foreigners in design as well as in those qualities so essential to superiority; and he anticipated great success to result from the exertions which had been made to establish schools of design in this country. The only other article to which the noble Lord had alluded was pillow lace. The noble Lord said that pillow lace was an article in the manufacture of which the poorer classes were engaged, and yet the Government had proposed to reduce the duty. The present was an ad valorem duty of 12l. 10s., which it was proposed to reduce to 10l., in order that the workmen employed might be placed on the same footing as those engaged in other branches. He did not pretend that the present measure was one of complete free trade. It was only following up the course which the Government had been pursuing for the last four years, which was the removal of all duties on articles of food and clothing—the reducing of duties on articles that entered largely into the consumption of the people, more especially of the poorer classes—the taking off of all duties whotsoever on raw materials, and the reducing of duties on manufactured articles to as near as possible an ad valorem duty of 10 per cent. That was the principle on which the measure was based, and it was for their Lordships to say whether that principle was sound or not. All he could say was, that, as far as might be, the details of the measure would be found to work out that principle.
§ EARL STANHOPE
thought the noble Lord who had just sat down had overlooked the real gist of the question, which was the effect which the former reductions in the Tariff had had on the productive industry of the country. If their Lordships would only consent to hear evidence at the bar upon that point, they would learn that the effect of former reductions had been to throw numerous bodies of industrious workmen out of employment, and almost to ruin them. It was quite true, as the noble Earl had said, that the measure was not 799 one of complete free trade. It was still a measure of protection—but of diminished protection—of protection diminished without any just cause, and at the expense of the industrious classes of the country. Upon that point they were entitled to every information; and he wished to know from the noble Earl whether he was willing to lay on the Table copies of all remonstrances received by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, and by the Board of Trade, against the reduction of duties now proposed?
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
could not answer for all the remonstrances sent to the First Lord of the Treasury, though he believed that the remonstrances received by him had been communicated to the other Members of Government; but, with regard to those remonstrances which he (the Earl of Dalhousie) had received, he was ready to lay the whole of them on their Lordships' Table; and it would perhaps be satisfactory to the noble Earl to know that it would be an extremely small collection.
§ EARL STANHOPE
said, it would appear that whatever remonstrance there might have been to the Government, it was needless to attempt to petition that House after what they had heard that night. Did he understand the noble Duke to say, that not a single article of the Tariff could be altered according to the constitutional rules of Parliament?
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
said, that their Lordships had not been in the habit of altering, and could not alter, any money clause in a Money Bill. The present being a Money Bill, which specified certain duties or customs, their Lordships could not, according to the practice of the House, alter those duties or customs.
§ EARL STANHOPE
thought it would be well if they sent the measure back to the Commons, and thus rejected it. For it would now be asked all through the country, "of what use was the House of Lords?" He would say that the essential point to be considered was the effect which the measure would have on the industrious classes. A great deal of hypocritical pretence of care for those classes had been put forward in another place; but he contended that the direct effect of the Bill would be to reduce the value of the productive industry of the labouring classes, for which reduction no compensation would be made by any of its enactments. He was opposed to the measure, because it was another step in the progress of that free trade which he 800 thought could not be carried further without danger, and which if persisted in, would, he was convinced, lead to the absolute and irremediable destruction of the whole industrial and commercial interests of the country. There was another question which he was desirous of putting to the noble Earl near him.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
begged to explain. Their Lordships, he begged to remind them, had uniformly recognised the principle of not altering money clauses in Bills of Supply, and that uniform principle had been acknowledged in the discussion on the Bill which had been lately under discussion in that House.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
The Corn Bill; and he begged also to remind their Lordships that they had for 200 years recognised that mode of doing business between the two Houses. He would further beg to remind their Lordships, that the consequences of their altering money clauses in Bills of Supply would be productive of great inconvenience to the country, and would amount, in fact, to a negative and a discontinuance of all the business of Parliament.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
begged to remind the noble Duke that he had himself voted with the noble Duke in opposition to the Corn Bill brought in by Mr. Huskisson in the other House, and which had been thrown out in that House.
§ EARL STANHOPE
resumed: The question he wished to ask the noble Earl was (as we understood the noble Lord)—in what quarter had the Government sought for advice upon their measures?—who were the parties, not belonging to the Government, with whom they had consulted?—and what opinions had been expressed by them thereon?
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
said, that it certainly was rather amusing to hear the noble Earl thus catechising the Members of Her Majesty's Government, and calling them up one after another to answer questions. On all matters of a public nature, he was quite ready to answer the noble Lord; but when he extended his inquiries so far as to ask who those persons were, not being Members of Her Majesty's Government—who those individuals, other than official, were—who had been consulted by the Government, he might have himself known that it would be a breach of propriety for any Member of the Government to answer him. It would be neither more 801 nor less than shifting the burden of responsibility from the shoulders of Her Majesty's responsible advisers to those of other and inferior persons, who were altogether irresponsible. The measures brought in by the Government had been proposed upon their own responsibility, after a long and anxious investigation, and much inquiry. They pressed them forward upon their own responsibility, and upon their own responsibility they were now offered to their Lordships' consideration.
§ EARL STANHOPE
only wished to know whether Her Majesty's Government had taken the opinion of any impartial, intelligent, and well-informed persons as to these measures? The late Lord Liverpool was in the habit during the war of consulting every day an eminent capitalist. But it was in vain to argue about this Bill any more than the Corn Bill, such a strange conversion of opinion had taken place on both sides of the House. Their Lordships must take the consequences. There would be a general reaction of public opinion; the principle of free trade would become odious even among the manufacturers; and they would be amongst the first to solicit Parliament to restore that system of protection under which the country had so long flourished, and had acquired such prosperity.
§ The EARL of RIPON
must say, that judging from experience, if eminent merchants had been consulted on this occasion, the result would have been but a collection of contradictory opinions. When the Tariff of 1842 was framed, he and the Vice President of the Board of Trade were occupied for many weeks in hearing the representations of parties upon various points; and some of the results in those instances would show that the noble Earl (Earl Stanhope) might well doubt the accuracy of his views. Among those who were expecting to be ruined were the glovers of Worcester and Yeovil; and he (the Earl of Ripon) in vain told the deputation from that body, that they were chiefly injured by the then high duty, which made it impossible to prevent smuggling, the truth being that the only way to beat the smuggler was to make the trade unprofitable to him; however, the duty was lowered, and in two or three months one of that very party came to him and stated that he had been over to France, and found upon thorough inquiry that they had been quite wrong. Then there were the persons concerned in the Irish provision trade, 802 one of whom was overheard to say as he left the office, "I wonder how the devil those two gentlemen could know so much about salt pork?" The Tariff certainly did that trade no harm. So with the boot and shoe trade: the experiment was said to be a dangerous one; but the whole quantity of boots that came in last year was 14,000 pairs—a quantity that practically made no difference: there was not less leather used here in the manufacture. Then there was the milling interest: they wanted the duty on flour increased; but, if they were ruined, it must have been in years when there was little or no flour imported at all. Therefore, his (the Earl of Ripon's) experience had led him to receive with great doubt all these prophecies of ruin. If all such prophecies made since he had been in office had been fulfilled, there would not be a single branch of national industry that would not have been ruined.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
thought the House had a right to hear something from the Government upon a subject to which the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) had alluded—the connexion of the present measures with the question of finance—in what condition they expected the finances of the country to be placed when their measures should be carried? Were they prepared to say that after carrying those measures, they anticipated the possibility of the removal of the property tax? In diminishing to such an extent the indirect taxation of the country, was not Parliament making it a matter of inevitable necessity that that heavy burden, for the first time imposed in a period of peace—imposed under an exigency of circumstances, and somewhat in consideration of existing difficulties, and for a definite period, could not be removed at the time specified? He was not saying that it might not be wise and just to continue it; but let the fact be understood; let it be known that in gaining a great commercial good, they were entailing financial difficulties upon themselves. There was but a surplus of 70,000l., and that was shown only by altering the mode of taking the Estimates, and estimating the expenditure in some cases, not for the whole of the year, but for a portion only. The increased consumption had been something of an equivalent for the revenue sacrificed in the reduction of duties: but only a quack could connect this large increase of consumption exclusively with that reduction; it was to be traced to the enormous activity 803 in trade; the enormous amount of wages paid to the labouring classes; and unless we could rely upon that as a continuing cause, it was clear that, with the present surplus, we could not expect an easy state of the finances. In short, with the reductions now making, there seemed no escape from a continuance of the property tax. He confessed that he was anxious to see these principles of free trade carried out as rapidly and as fully as circumstances would permit; and he grieved that his noble Friend opposite (Lord Stanley), with his great ability and authority, had put himself at the head of the opposite party. The position taken by his noble Friend might weaken his own power, but it could not impede the course of commercial freedom. His noble Friend had said, that repealing the duties on raw materials, whilst a duty on the importation of the manufactured produce was maintained, involved the principle of protection. That was a great fallacy. Their Lordships were bound to repeal the duty on the raw material; because, if a duty was taken on the raw material, a duty was then laid on in the first instance, which became aggravated as the article passed through all its various stages of manufacture; and the amount received by the Exchequer fell infinitely below the amount paid by the public. That was a reason for a repeal of the duty on the raw material, wholly separate and distinct from any consideration of protection; and a repeal of the duty on the raw material was besides only a matter of justice to our manufacturers, who exported the article in a manufactured state. The manufacturers of this country required no protection, and demanded none. His noble Friend had, on a former occasion adverted to the evidence of Messrs. Ashworth and Greg, who he observed had told a Committee that they would be exposed to the competition of America. That was true; but what did Mr. Ashworth add? He said that he was not afraid of the Americans in any market of the world; that there was nothing in the position or skill of British manufacturers to make them afraid of any competition; the British manufacturer had the advantage of railways, canals, coal, iron, skill, industry, and of every element necessary to make cheap goods, and he might rather challenge competition than otherwise. The evidence of Mr. Greg was equally conclusive: he said that America, from her water power, might upon her own soil beat the British manufacturers 804 in some articles; but when the capital and skill of the British manufacturers came into operation with respect to the finer goods, they might then beat America in every country in the world, and in her own markets likewise, if she only opened her ports. Under these circumstances, he (Lord Monteagle) thought it was most extraordinary that the evidence of these gentlemen should be appealed to as establishing that the English manufacturer would be under a free system of trade beaten by the foreign manufacturer. He was ready to admit that there were some faults in this Tariff—some very absurd discriminations kept up between colonial trade and foreign trade; but all the advances made in the direction of freedom of commerce, only proved the necessity of proceeding onward steadily and equally. When they repealed the duty on the export of machinery, in respect to which this country was preeminent, and when by so doing they exposed the British manufacturers to a more active competition on the part of their foreign rivals, such a step involved in its consequences everything else that had been done in the way of relaxation of duties. He concurred in what had fallen from the noble Earl (Earl Dalhousie) as to the impossibility of checking and preventing smuggling, whatever amount of vigilance might be used, so long as they held out to the smuggler the inducement of high duties. When, with respect to spirits, for instance, they imposed a duty of 22s. a gallon on an article not worth much more than 3s. a gallon, could they hope to prevent smuggling? It was said, that by this Tariff they were asked to reduce the duties on luxuries, such as carriages, &c. But it was not a fair and just representation of the case to state the reduction of the duty as a mere benefit to the consumer, for whom the foreign article was imported. How was that article paid for? By British labour, which had been employed on every bale of goods and on every portion of British manufactures sent out of the country to pay for the foreign article. Any attempt to talk of these luxuries of the rich as contradistinguished from the labour of the poor, was just one of those fallacies which might answer very well in poetry, or provoke a cheer when sympathy was appealed to; but which, when the real material interests of mankind were gravely and seriously considered, must go for nothing. It was by labour that those luxuries 805 were purchased, and that labour procured wages for our countrymen.
The MARQUESS of SALISBURY
said, that the noble President of the Board of Trade had stated certain things as the result of the Tariff of 1842, which appeared to him the (the Marquess of Salisbury) problematical. He could state, that when the Tariff was altered in 1842, American provisions were used by several of the shipowners of Liverpool for provisioning their ships. By way of experiment, they were used for short voyages; but it was found they did not keep, and the crews returned in a wretched state for want of provisions. What did the shipowners then do? They sent out Irish curers to America, and the American provisions were now cured in the same manner as Irish provisions, and were very generally adopted for ships; and, until Irish provisions could be obtained at as cheap a rate as American, there could be no doubt the latter would continue to be used. The milling trade in the neighbourhood of London had also been entirely destroyed by the operation of the Tariff. He thought there could be no doubt, that if they diminished the revenue derived from duties, they must resort to direct taxation; but did their Lordships believe that, at a time like the present, considering also the war which would be commenced throughout the country against a system of direct taxation, they could afford to relinquish the revenue accruing from protective duties? Those duties, in his opinion, had not only been most effectual in producing a good revenue, but also in affording encouragement and protection to British industry. He conceived that the measures of Her Majesty's Government were tending very materially to reduce the revenue of the country, and would be injurious to its best interests; and on these grounds he objected to the present Bill.
§ LORD COLCHESTER
said, it had been stated that the diminution of revenue occasioned by the reductions of duty proposed by the Government would be made up by the increased importation and consumption of those articles on which the duty was to be reduced. He had not objected to the Tariff of 1842; but the experiment then tried had not been attended with very favourable results with regard to the increased importations anticipated from a reduction of duties. It was true that there had been an increase, but that increase had not been at all in proportion to the increase 806 under the old Tariff. He took from the Parliamentary returns the following facts:—Our exports were, on an average of the five years preceding 1836, 203,000,000; 1841, 250,000,000; 1846, 268,000,000. So that the increase of five years, under the old Tariff, was 47,000,000; under the new, only 18,000,000. Again, the duties imposed by the Tariff of 1842, averaged 20 per cent on manufactures; now 10 per cent was the average proposed, although the American Secretary of State had recommended 20 per cent, as calculated to produce the greatest amount of revenue.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
said, that the measure now before the House would cause so great a reduction in the revenue, that an income tax, which ought to have been reserved for a period of war, would be rendered indispensable in this country during a time of peace. He believed—though he hoped he might be mistaken—that the theory of perpetual and unwearied prosperity of the country, upon which so much reliance had been placed, was entirely fallacious. He did not concur in the broad and general principle—that discovery which seemed to have been made in the present generation—that free-trade principles ought to be indiscriminately applied. He considered that they might be fatal to the industry of this country, and that our policy might not be reciprocated by other nations. He considered that the only justification for the reductiou of duties was when they arrived at such a point that the smuggler came in and deprived the State of its revenue; for he thought it far better that the duty should be reduced, and that the public should obtain the advantage, than that it should be gained by the smuggler. He could not conceive on what ground it was not considered good policy to raise a revenue upon French cambrics or any other article, so long as they could keep the smuggler out of the market; but it must be remembered that much of the extensive smuggling which had recently taken place had been carried on with the connivance of our Custom-house officers.
§ The Order of the Day for going into Committee, read.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ On Clause 2,
said: I will not repeat what I have so recently stated on this subject, but I shall content myself with stating that this proposed reduction of the duties on foreign timber appears to me to be absolutely throwing away a considerable 807 portion of revenue. The duties were reduced within the last three years from 55s. to 25s. per load; and colonial timber was reduced at the same time to a mere nominal amount, for the purpose, as it was avowedly declared in 1842, of keeping up some relation between foreign and colonial timber. The consequence was, that while the consumption of colonial timber has increased in a very slight degree, that of foreign timber has increased in a very great degree from 700,000 loads to 1,700,000 loads in last year; and now the House is asked in the present state of the revenue to sacrifice, upon the article of foreign timber, 400,000l. out of the million which is now brought in. He thought that no serious injury would be done to any one, but great good to the nation, and therefore he would move that this clause be omitted.
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
said, the noble Lord was under a misapprehension as to the increased import of foreign timber as compared with Canada timber. If he would look to the Papers on the Table, he would find that of hewn timber there was imported from the Baltic in 1841, 136,000 loads; in 1842, 108,000 loads; and in 1845, 282,000 loads. Of deals, in 1843, 229,000 loads; and in 1845, 342,000 loads. On the other hand, a reference to the accounts of the imports of colonial timber would show that in 1841 the import was 619,000 loads; in 1842, 418,000 loads; and in 1845, 797,000 loads. Of deals there were imported, in 1842, 170,000 loads; and in 1845, 498,000 loads. He could not, therefore, understand how the noble Lord could say that there had not been relatively an increase in the import of colonial timber. With regard to the motives which had induced Her Majesty's Government to propose this reduction of duty, he would not fatigue their Lordships by going into the arguments he had before urged. It was sufficiently shown that the increased import of foreign timber did not prevent the increased import of colonial timber; and as regarded the revenue, all experience in similar cases led to the belief that, notwithstanding the reductions, the increased consumption would ultimately produce at least as much revenue as was received before the change.
§ EARL STANHOPE
observed that the noble Earl had said nothing of the loss of 600,000l. of revenue occasioned by the reduction of these duties.
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
said, he had already admitted the loss to the revenue; but the consumer had received the benefit of it.
§ The EARL of GALLOWAY
said, the reduction of duty would be a great boon to the agricultural interest.
§ On Question, that the Clause stand part of the Bill:—Contents 54; Not-Contents 52: Majority 2.
§ On Clause 6 being put,
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
rose and said: My Lords, after what has occurred this evening—after the manner in which the petition of the silk weavers has been treated—after calling in proxies to vote on that important question—I cannot think of proceeding with a clause to-night which so materially involves the welfare of the silk trade. I will not be a party to proceeding further with this clause to-night. I do not think I am very unreasonable in asking your Lordships to postpone the discussion upon this clause. I have not had time to prepare the case which I could wish to lay before your Lordships this evening.
§ The Committee then went through the Bill as far as the Table of Duties.
§ House resumed, and adjourned.