§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee on the Brewing from Sugar Bill.
§ The EARL of CLARENDON
My Lords, before I proceed to move that you go into Committee on the Bills now on your Lordships' Table, I will take leave to say a few words with respect to what fell from my noble Friend (Lord Stanley) the other evening, and also with respect to what fell from my noble Friend to-night, with reference to the permanent character of the measures for permitting the use of sugar in breweries and distilleries. My noble Friend thought that these measures ought to be of the same temporary character, and for the same reason, as the Bill which was introduced in Parliament for permitting, till the 1st of September next, the free importation of foreign corn. My noble Friend stated the other night, that these measures were all mentioned together in the Queen's Speech from the Throne, as intended for the relief of existing distress. A limited duration was, however, confined to the Bills for the suspension of the Navigation and the Corn Laws; and my noble Friend opposite, on the first night of the Session, remarked on the different character of the present Bills, and, assuming that they might be permanent, commented on the danger which might threaten the agricultural interest from their adoption. Now, my Lords, although these Bills may serve to prevent a rise in the price of barley, and to mitigate the present distress, yet I am bound to say, that even if Ireland had not been afflicted by famine, the Bill for permitting the use of sugar in breweries would have been introduced, in redemption of a pledge given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the close of the last Session of Parliament, and as an act of justice to our fellow-subjects in the colonies. The West India interests were distinctly promised that their claims, which were put forward, I must say, on irresistible grounds, to have their productions placed on fair and equal terms of consumption with all other productions, should be considered at the earliest period of the present Session. They claimed that consideration of us not only as an act of justice, but as their right; and they referred to those arguments which were used with so much force and eloquence by my noble Friend opposite, when he brought forward his measure for the admission of Canadian 213 corn into this country, insisting that Canada should be treated as an integral part of the British empire, and asking a British House of Commons whether it was wise, or just, or generous, that fiscal regulations should be allowed to stand in the way of such an object. My Lords, the West India interests had some cause of complaint that their reasonable claims were not taken into consideration earlier; and it was nothing but the late period of the Session at which the Government measures were introduced, and the pressing nature of the business which devolved upon Ministers, owing to all measures having been postponed by the length of the corn law debates, as well as the necessity for making elaborate calculations before any step was taken, that prevented earlier legislation on the subject. Under these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government were bound to be prepared with a measure of a fair and liberal character, as well as permanent in its operation; and that obligation was all the more pressing because we had reason to expect that it might afford some temporary relief to the existing distress at home. To make this measure a temporary one, so far from being an act of justice towards the West Indies, would be an act of injustice, and they would prefer to be without it. It would give rise to agitation for the renewal of the measure, and lead to much gambling and speculation, and to much disappointment and annoyance, if this measure were only to last till the 1st of September next. No man would venture to embark his capital in the trade while such a state of things existed; it would neither afford security to the colonies, nor to the brewers and distillers at home. These, my Lords, were the reasons which induced Her Majesty's Government to bring forward this measure as a permanent one. And I think that, even as regards our own interests, reasons equally cogent may be given for investing the measure with a permanent character. If we bear in mind the course which legislation has taken for some time past, I think it may be concluded that restrictions of any kind whatever cannot be maintained upon articles of food. I think that when Parliament has subjected the producer of malt to competition with foreign barley growers, we cannot exclude them from competition with the productions of our own colonies. I think that we can no longer allow a penalty of 200l. to be levied on our brewers for having the productions of our colonies in their brewhouses. And, 214 my Lords, it must not be kept out of sight that this proposed change in the law will affect only public brewers, and not private brewers. The private brewer, brewing for the consumption of a large establishment of workmen or servants, may use as much sugar as he pleases; though I am bound to say that I never heard of sugar being used to any extent. At the same time I must say, my Lords, that we are bound to show some good reasons, founded upon public utility, before we impose any restriction on the use of sugar in breweries. Now, with respect to revenue, it is a matter of indifference whether malt or sugar be used in the making of beer. The duty on a quarter of malt is 21s. 8d. a quarter, and 22s. 6d. is the duty on 180 lbs of sugar, which is considered to be equal to a quarter of malt, at the very lowest calculation. My Lords, I believe this calculation is too low; it is taken at 200 lbs. in the Bill, and I believe that the latter calculation is very nearly correct. I believe that formerly 180 lbs. would have been a correct calculation; but owing to various circumstances, particularly in consequence of the greater skill attained in brewing, I believe 180 lbs. of sugar is no longer equal to a quarter of malt: 200 lbs. is as nearly correct as may be, though I have heard within the last few days the calculation made at 210 lbs. I will, however, take the calculation at 180 lbs., because that is the point at which the agriculturists consider that this measure is likely to affect their interests. If, therefore, 180 lbs. of sugar, paying 22s. 6d. duty, displaces a quarter of malt, paying 21s. 8d. duty, the revenue certainly would be a gainer. But sugar never can be used as a substitute for malt, except when the price of sugar is extremely low, or that of malt is extravagantly high. An admixture of a certain portion of sugar, however, in breweries, is very advantageous; it facilitates fermentation, and expedites the whole process of brewing; and if the beer be improved by the effect of this measure, the demand for it would be improved also, and the agricultural interest will be in that sense a gainer. Now, for some time past barley has risen in value, and for some time it has maintained a price quite unparalleled. The quarter of malt has been as high as 87s., 88s., and 89s., and the price of beer has been raised 1d. a pot; and let me tell your Lordships that an addition of 20 per cent on the price of his beer, is no trifling consideration to a poor man. This price of malt was so extrava- 215 gantly high, that while it kept up to this point, some of the first houses in London actually suspended their malting operations. Now, if the use of sugar had been allowed at that time, the price of beer would not have been raised. It is, therefore, I say, that in times like these this measure will not be of that absolutely nugatory character which my noble Friend seemed to suppose it would be. Taking malt at 84s. the quarter, which it is worth now, and deducting therefrom 2s. 6d., as an allowance to the trade, the quarter of malt would stand at the price of 81s. 6d. to the purchaser; and again, taking sugar at 47s. per cwt., 180 lbs. would be worth 75s. 6d. There is, therefore, at present the difference between 81s. 6d., and 75s. 6d. in favour of the use of sugar above that of malt—a difference which I think may safely be afforded at such a moment as this. To whatever extent this may act upon the price of grain, your Lordships would find in the present circumstances of the country, in the failure of the potato crop, and the apprehension of still greater distress before the summer was over, sufficient reason to leave nothing undone that may have the effect of reducing the prices of grain. At the present time, therefore, this measure would serve to mitigate in some degree the existing distress; but in ordinary times, when malt is at 60s. the quarter, sugar at 75s. 6d. will be too high for the purposes of brewing. And, my Lords, even if it were not too high, we have the evidence of Mr. Whitbread, and other eminent brewers, given before a Committee of the House of Commons, which shows that, under no circumstances, could a proportion of more than one-fourth or one-third of sugar be used in breweries, without greatly deteriorating the quality of the beer. Upon the whole, the tendency of this measure, I confidently believe, will be to benefit the brewer as well as the grower of barley. It is contended by the West India interest that the use of molasses should also be permitted; but we do not think it expedient to agree to this proposition. The duty on molasses at this moment is 5s. 9d.; and if 250 lbs. of molasses are equivalent to a quarter of malt, the duty on molasses must be raised to 9s., in order to make the duty on sugar and molasses equal. But further, molasses vary very much in saccharine strength; and though some persons consider 250 lbs. may be equal to a quarter of malt, others consider 260 lbs. a fair equivalent. This 216 would lead to the necessity of having an excise duty imposed equal to the difference between these rates of duty. Now the excise duty would occasion as much inconvenience to the brewer in the prosecution of his business, as if the beer duty were to be reimposed. I must say that I believe that the admission of sugar on those terms would not benefit the West Indies, because the more the cultivation of sugar is attended to in the colonies, the less there will be of molasses sent over to this country. I now come to the introduction of sugar into distilleries. I must remind your Lordships that at present sugar is not permitted to be used in distilleries. A revenue of 5,200,000l. is raised from British spirits, the duty being imposed on the principle of getting the greatest possible amount that can be raised. Many attempts have been made to raise the revenue by increasing the duty on spirits. I need hardly remind your Lordships that those attempts have always failed, and that it was found necessary to reduce them in order to prevent fraud on the revenue. It is not thought right to mix the duty on grain and sugar, and it is therefore proposed to admit the use of sugar duty free in distilleries, only calling upon the distiller to pay an amount of duty equivalent to the duty which would be paid on the corresponding quantity of malt. Spirits produced from grain are composed of two parts of oats, two parts of malt, and eighteen parts of barley, and the result of this distillation is charged with a duty of 7s. 10d. per gallon, plus the duty already paid on the two quarters of malt. It is proposed that the spirit produced from sugar shall pay the same duty as spirit produced from grain, plus a sum equal to that which has been paid on the malt. It is proposed also that the distiller shall be permitted to take the sugar out of the bonding warehouse, paying the duty on it, and when he comes to pay the spirit duty, he shall have an allowance made him equal to the difference between the duty he had paid on the sugar, and that which he would have to pay on the malt. That difference was calculated at 14d. per gallon, consequently an allowance of 12s. 10d. on the quantity of spirit which would be produced from 1 cwt. of sugar would be received, back leaving it charged (as we understood) with the duty paid on the malt. The question, therefore, is what is the amount of spirit which can be produced from sugar. From 1799 to 1812, the temporary use of sugar in distilleries 217 was at various times allowed. Calculations were then made that 11½ gallons of spirit were produced from 112 lbs. of sugar. In 1812, when the Bill was passed permitting the general use of sugar in distilleries, and again in 1831, when the question was investigated before a Committee of the House of Commons, it appeared that 11½ gallons of spirit were produced from 112 lbs. of sugar. The Board of Excise have also made experiments through the agency of most experienced officers, and they have no hesitation in stating that 11½ gallons of spirit at proof is the result of distilling from that quantity of sugar. Even since that time fresh experiments have been made by one of the most eminent chemists in London, the results of which show the exactness of former experiments. Now, in times like the present, when distilling barley is about 54s. the quarter, sugar, which is 47s. per cwt., is just on an equality with barley. But in ordinary times, when barley for distillation is at 30s. the quarter, which I think the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) will admit is a good price for ordinary times, sugar must be at 17s. to compete with barley—a price at which it never has been, and never is likely to be. The competition, therefore, between the two articles must depend on their relative prices, and therefore, though these Bills are permanent in their nature, they must always be temporary in their operation. I do not think that the agriculturists will regret this, for I am sure that I can do the agricultural body no greater injustice than to suppose that they wish to turn to their own individual profit the distress of their fellow-countrymen. I have now, my Lords, endeavoured to state, without the least exaggeration on either side, the reasons which have induced the Government to bring forward these measures, and I have endeavoured as briefly as I could to make the subject clear to your Lordships. I can assure my noble Friend, that if I thought any light could be thrown upon the question, or if any fresh data could be obtained, I should not object to his Motion for referring the Brewing from Sugar Bill to a Select Committee. But convinced as I am that the calculations on which they are founded are quite correct, and that no further information can be required or obtained, and thinking that some good may be produced by passing the measure without further delay, I trust that your Lordships will allow the Bill to be con- 218 sidered in a Committee of the whole House.
§ [Moved—"That the House do now resolve itself into Committee."]
I hope, before I proceed to offer any comment upon the observations which have been just made by the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon), that it will not be considered disrespectful in me, if, in reference to the noble Earl's commencing observations, I once again call your Lordships' attention to the Speech which was delivered by Her Majesty from the Throne at the commencement of the Session. In that Speech, as I stated the other night, we were informed it would be the duty of Parliament—To consider what further measures are required to alleviate the existing distress. I recommend to you to take into your serious consideration whether, by increasing, for a limited period, the facilities for importing corn from foreign countries, and by the admission of sugar more freely into breweries and distilleries, the supply of food may be beneficially augmented.I think it cannot be denied that when Parliament met, the natural and necessary inference which was to be drawn from that passage of the Speech from the Throne was, that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers to advise Parliament to adopt such measures as were best calculated to alleviate the existing distress—measures which, in the first place, would permit the freer admission of corn into this country, as well as the freer admission of sugar into breweries and distilleries. I cannot however, but repeat the expression of my regret that what I consider the wise and judicious recommendations of my noble Friend behind me (Lord Ashburton), namely, to keep quite distinct and separate those measures which were introduced for the amelioration of the existing distress, from those which were founded on a more general and permanent character, have not been followed by Her Majesty's Ministers. I am quite certain, at all events, that Her Majesty's Government will do this House and the other House of Parliament the justice to say, with respect to those measures that have been laid before them for the purpose of the alleviation of the existing distress, that they have not been embarrassed by any factious opposition—nay, more, that they have not even been subjected to those questions which, under ordinary circumstances (and as they confessed themselves), they would be liable. I think Her Majesty's Government must also admit that 219 there has not been the slightest disposition manifested to interrupt, not even for a single moment, the passing of those measures which were introduced with the expectation of mitigating or alleviating the existing distress. Although it has not been contended that these measures as a whole are not temporary, but rather permanent measures, yet I do say if the Government had been prepared to produce them as temporary measures, there would be no occasion for any discussion whatever respecting them, nor would it be necessary to raise the question of referring them to a Committee. I am satisfied as respects them, and all the other measures which had for their object the alleviation of the existing distress, there would not have been a dissentient voice raised against them in either House of Parliament. I can assure your Lordships that I did not intend the other night to give any offence when I used the expression "under cover;" still my opinion is, while those measures are introduced to alleviate the general distress, they will rather effect a complete alteration in every portion of your commercial policy. I think, therefore, that I do not go too far in saying that that slight examination which your Lordships would have felt justified in giving to a measure which was intended to be temporary only, will not be sufficient to justify you in passing it without a sufficient, nay, the very fullest, examination and information, when it is brought forward as a measure which, it is admitted, will have an immediate effect on the sugar growers in our colonies and in foreign countries, and on the barley growers also, both here and in other countries. On former occasions there has not been any difficulty experienced in passing temporary measures of a similar kind. In 1797, in 1803, as well as upon several subsequent occasions, with a view to this very case, measures were introduced for the purpose of sanctioning the temporary use of sugar in breweries and distilleries; and if, for the alleviation of the present distress, the noble Earl had said, "We think it expedient, for the next six months, to allow the admission of sugar into breweries and distilleries, for, as the stock of barley is small, it will be important to economise the stock of grain (though I doubt that they would under such circumstances have been able to effect their object)—even were the noble Lord to propose a still stronger step, and to prohibit the use of grain in distilleries until the next harvest, which 220 would be infinitely a more effectual means to promote their purposes than the present; if, I say, such a course had been adopted, there would be no difficulty in obtaining the sanction of Parliament to it. The noble Lord talked about a pledge that had been made to the West India colonies last year. What is that pledge? For what purpose was it made? And by whom? How was the Parliament made a party to that pledge? We were told it was made at the close of the last Session of Parliament; but are we, at the commencement of this Session of Parliament, to be debarred from the full and close discussion of measures which will affect the permanent and commercial policy of this country by the anwer that Her Majesty's Government had made a certain promise at the close of the last Session of Parliament? If Her Majesty's Government did enter into any such pledge, it was impossible that they could do anything more than to say to the West Indian colonists that their claims would be taken into consideration. That is all the Government could do. I do not object to the fulfilment of that pledge. I also say let those claims be taken into consideration; but let us not accept these measures on the mere declaration of Her Majesty's Government. Let us inquire whether that which we are told was asked as a boon, be a boon; let us inquire whether the tendency, in point of fact, might not be, as the noble Earl has, in my opinion, proved—that the supposed boon will be nugatory and ineffectual as regards our interest; let it be ascertained by inquiry whether what will be considered as a boon to the West Indian colonists, will not be rather a boon to foreign producers; for it is my strong impression, that whereas the West Indies will really gain very little at once by these measures; on the other hand, as the diminishing weight of the duty reduced the pressure of that duty on the foreign producer, so, more and more, will these measures prove advantageous to the foreign producer, by enabling him to enter into competition with the West Indian colonists; while, at the same time, they will operate mischievously to the barley-grower in this country. The noble Earl has cited the instance of the Canadian Corn Bill, and quoted a speech which I am supposed to have made in support of that measure, in which I remonstrated against the injustice of placing the colonists on a different footing from the British grower. Upon 221 that occasion I stated that I had given, on the part of the Government, a pledge to the Canadians; and that I did so in the face of Parliament, and that Parliament did assent to the arrangement. On the specific declaration so given, the Motion then before the House to raise Canadian wheat to the same footing as British wheat, was withdrawn, on the understanding that that measure should be adopted; but it was only to be adopted, provided certain measures should also be carried out by the Canadian Parliament, which was afterwards done. But when and how was this pledge given to the West India interest?
In the House of Commons; and sometime, I suppose, towards the conclusion of the month of August last?
I must remind the noble Earl that there is a wide difference between the principle of a measure like the Canadian Corn Bill, and a measure which, by introducing the produce of foreign countries in rivalry with the produce of our own colonies, by so much tends permanently to exclude the produce of those colonies. But I desire to protest against that most dangerous line of argument which Her Majesty's Government appear to have adopted on this question—against that dangerous chain of argument, of one step following upon another step, though the one might not be contemplated when the other was allowed—a mode of proceeding which it becomes your Lordships to watch. First, a measure was introduced to destroy protection to British agriculture and to home-grown corn. To procure support to that measure, some of the producers of this country, and the agriculturists amongst them, were told that they should have sugar cheap in return. Then, when the Sugar Bill was brought forward, a negotiation came on with the West India proprietors, and then the Government came down with a pledge, and asked from them a promise not to resist these measures, because they were told that if carried, they, the West India interest, would have their sugar introduced into the British market to an extent they had never had before. I have watched this measure with increased jealousy from what has occurred within the last few weeks. At the commencement of the Session, we were told 222 that certain measures of a mere temporary nature would be brought before us, intended solely for the purpose of facilitating the introduction of corn into this country; and to effect that, we were also told it would be expedient to relax the navigation laws. Not a dissentient voice was raised against those temporary measures. But within one week of that time what followed? A Motion was made in the other House, in which it was urged that all other restrictions having been taken off, the shipowners had no claim to protection on their part—that the foreign producer had a right to send, and the British consumer had a right to receive, on equal terms, in the ships of any nation they pleased, what they required. It was then affirmed that restrictions on trade could not be permanently maintained. That it followed as a necessary consequence from the admission of the principle of free trade, that the restrictions which so long protected the British Navy by the navigation laws, must be swept away from our Statute-book as the lumber of former times. And what did the Government do? Did they consider it to be a question which ought to be delegated to a Committee of the House of Commons? Was the maintenance of the navigation laws one on which the Government had or had not made up their minds? Did they require information; or had they it not in their power to say, "We intend to resist the repeal of the navigation laws; we will not therefore consent to put in the small end of the wedge by giving the sanction of our authority to an inquiry professedly instituted for the destruction of those navigation laws?" But when that inquiry was moved for with these avowed objects, Her Majesty's Government not only gave their assent, but they gave their prompt assent, to the proposition for an inquiry having that result. Sometimes, I know, it may be convenient and proper to promote inquiry: when questions are brought forward by Motions for Committees of Inquiry, when the real object is to sift a measure, and to have an examination of the facts and figures on which it is founded, a very different course may be properly pursued by the Government. The experience of to-night shows, that in such a case as this it is convenient to the Government to refuse inquiry; although, in other cases, they can grant it, where the objects to be gained by the assent to an inquiry were open and notorious, and where, in- 223 deed, it was for the Government to decide whether they had not arrived at a point where they ought to stop; or whether, on the other hand, they should not follow what some might consider their legitimate course, that of carrying out the doctrines of free trade. But, with all the leaning of Her Majesty's Government in favour of free-trade doctrines, it seemed that they could get rid of them even in these Bills, when the revenue was concerned. Although the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon) has announced to us that it is impossible that restrictions on trade should continue; that you could not exclude the produce of your own colonies, and much more that of other countries; yet, I find, notwithstanding this doctrine of free trade, a prohibitory clause in this Bill. I find in the third clause of the first of these Bills a provision—That if after the passing of this Act, any brewer shall make use of molasses, sugar, honey, syrup, or extract of sugar, except sugar on which the duty has been paid as aforesaid, and made use of in the manner hereinbefore allowed; or if any such person receives or takes into his custody or possession any quantity of molasses, honey, syrup, composition, or extract of sugar, every such brewer shall forfeit and lose for every such offence the sum of 200l.I do not say but that this may be a very proper restriction for the purpose of revenue; but bear in mind that we must conclude from that clause, as well as from its introduction by the Government, that those free-trade principles are to be taken up, or to be unceremoniously thrown down, if there be any fear that either to adopt them or to maintain them would at all interfere with the revenue. The doctrines of free trade, no matter how destructive to private interests, to those who may have embarked their capital in commercial enterprise, must be maintained; but if the principles of free trade interfere with the revenue, free trade must yield. If the principles of free trade be sacred, more sacred is the revenue. I beg it may be understood, that if the doctrine of free trade can be so unceremoniously laid aside from the fear of injury to the revenue, is it not the duty of Government also to sanction and to encourage those interests which increase the capital of the country, and, as a necessary consequence, augment its revenues? The noble Earl, when he entered on this question, went into the discussion of the probable results of the measure he proposed; respecting which, the facts and figures have gone a great way to convince me—so far, 224 at least, as the agricultural interests of this country are concerned—that the whole affair is neither more nor less than waste paper. So far as the West India colonies are concerned, the boon is a mere nullity; and as to the present state of distress, if the noble Earl's facts and figures be correct, the introduction of sugar is barely possible (if it be possible at all) even at the present price of malt and barley.
I am not only arguing against the proposition of the noble Earl, but I also argue that, before your Lordships adopt this principle of general policy, you ought to satisfy yourselves by instituting that inquiry which was granted on many former occasions, whether the facts and figures adduced are correct, and whether they are the sole basis on which the noble Earl has proceeded. I almost despair on so intricate a subject of making myself intelligible to your Lordships, in detailing the calculations upon which the measure was founded. But, from what I have to show you, there is hardly a point on which there is an agreement as to the proportion between sugar and malt, or between sugar and barley, with the view to the production of spirits or beer; so that there was no real agreement about that upon which the whole of the measure depends. The noble Earl assumes that 112lbs. of sugar will produce 11½ gallons of spirits; but he goes on to say, that, to find an equivalent in barley or malt, you must examine into the quantity of spirits that barley or malt will produce: now, upon the fact of what quantity of spirits a certain quantity of barley or malt will produce, depends the correctness of the calculations of the noble Earl. The noble Earl says, that it is undecided whether a quarter of malt will be equal to 180lbs. or 200lbs. of sugar; and with that great difference, amounting to two gallons out of twenty gallons, one-tenth of the whole, he yet says you will be able to come to a close computation between these different articles. Moreover, the noble Earl added, that he assumed in the Bill 200lbs. — but he argued upon 180lbs. If the noble Earl will look back to the evidence which was taken before the Committee in 1831, he will find the most contradictory statements made on this subject. One gentleman stated, that 180lbs. was equal to a quarter of malt, and that it ought to produce 18 gallons of spirit, or the same proportion of 11½ 225 gallons to 112lbs. Upon that inquiry, many questions arose as to the quantity of spirits which a quarter of malt would yield. One gentleman said, that 18 gallons might be produced from a bare quarter of the best malt—that he had been engaged in the trade to a large extent, and that the highest amount he succeeded in obtaining, was 18 gallons from a quarter, and that the lowest amount was 14 gallons from a quarter—the average being 16 gallons from the quarter—exhibiting a difference of one-fifth of the whole amount of the price of the article. Next, a gentleman stated, that he believed 18 gallons of spirits might be produced from superior barley. Again, it was stated by another, that he produced 18 gallons of spirits from a quarter of malt, but it was superior malt—it contained 80lbs. of pure saccharine matter; and, finally, it was stated by another, that he believed the whole amount of spirits which was produced from a quarter of malt, was not 18 nor 16, but 15.84 gallons, or nearly 16 gallons. The result is, that instead of comparing with 200lbs., you will have to compare with 160lbs.; and then there is a difference of 40lbs. weight in the computation upon which this question is to be decided. I have endeavoured to make this statement as intelligible as possible, and I hope I have succeeded. I have not taken upon credit any statement that has been made on one side or the other of the House; but I have carefully examined into the facts that were alleged by the noble Earl, and I ask if they were borne out by the evidence? Here, then, is a positive difficulty—a difference sufficient to justify me in calling on your Lordships not to take on credit any statement made on the other side, but to examine into the facts; and I am convinced that, when they come to be sifted into, and examined, it will be found that the matter will be of little consequence to the colonists or the agriculturists here, but that they will find themselves much affected by the stimulus which this measure will afford to the increased importation of foreign sugar. I find, also, that when the Government experiments were made which served as the foundation for these measures, the price of Havannah sugar was 49s. Suppose, then, that which the noble Lord did suppose to be the fact, and which he believed to be the fact, that a quarter of malt is equal to 200lbs. of sugar, look at the result. The calculation which excise officers will give, is, that 226 sugar at 50s. 4d., which is only 1s. 4d. below the present price, is equivalent to the price of malt at 90s. the quarter; it is evident that until malt reach the price of 90s. a quarter, sugar cannot be brought into competition with malt. If that be true, it completely disposes of the remedy now proposed to alleviate the present distress, because at the present exorbitant price, sugar cannot be brought into consumption at the present price to compete with barley and malt. But, my Lords, the noble Lord appears strenuously to contend, that at some time or other the introduction of sugar for the use of breweries and distilleries, must be attended with advantage. That doctrine, whether true or false, is an admission of the principle of the sliding-scale—it is an application of the sliding-scale to sugar—it is saying that the quantity of sugar introduced into this country did bear a certain proportion to the rise or fall in corn. This from the opponents of the sliding-scale, or those who have heretofore been the opponents of the sliding-scale, is a novelty—their doctrine now appears to be, that the course which they recommended with respect to colonial sugar must be adopted, in order to prevent uncertainty in the price of colonial produce. I will not enter into the noble Lord's calculations, because they are not proper matter for discussion in this House, but in a Committee, where they can be examined, tested, and sifted; and this forms the strongest possible ground for the appointment of such a Committee. If before such a Committee it should be found that Her Majesty's Government are correct in their statements, I am quite sure there will be no disposition on the part of those who advocate the principles of protection to oppose the measure. They will then adopt the proposal without the least fear as to the result; but with a diminished doubt as to the benefits the colonists are likely to derive from it. I should wish to call attention to the manner in which the noble Lord thinks the colonists are to be benefited by this measure. The greatest benefit which it could confer upon the colonists, would be a considerable rise in the price of sugar; but if a rise takes place, according to the hypothesis in the argument of the noble Earl, it is impossible that colonial produce can come into consumption at all. The noble Earl said, that a very large increase in the consumption of sugar in this country, must materially benefit the West Indian interest. 227 I very much doubt that fact. I much doubt whether any increase in the consumption of sugar here, will benefit the West Indian interest in the present state of your law, and the duty on your produce remaining fixed, while the duty on foreign slave-grown sugar has been diminished. On the contrary, any increase in the consumption must be an increase in the consumption of slave-grown and not of colonial produce. In the course of the year 1844, the consumption of sugar in this country was 206,000 tons. In 1845, the consumption was 240,000 tons of British, and 3,867 tons of foreign sugar; making altogether, in round numbers, 244,000 tons as the consumption of 1845. Now, supposing the consumption of the last month of 1846 to be on an average with the remainder of the year, the total consumption of sugar in 1846 would be from 244,000 to 260,000 tons. Was that increase for the advantage of the colonial grower? Certainly not. In the first year—1845—of a consumption amounting to 244,000 tons, 240,000 were British; in the second year, of the 260,000 tons consumed, the British produce was less by 2,000 tons than that of the previous year; while the foreign and slave-grown sugar had increased from 3,867 to 8,192. Now, my Lords, unless I am misinformed, the same thing is going on in the present year. There has been an increase of about 1,500 tons of British sugar as compared with the corresponding period of last year, while there has been an increase of 7,072 tons of foreign slave-grown sugar. It appears, then, that any increase in the consumption under the proposed arrangement, will be an increase of slave-grown and not of colonial sugar. In four years' hence the whole of the benefit of increased consumption will be conferred on the producers of slave-grown sugar. In four years time estates will be improved, cultivation extended, slaves imported, and production immensely increased; and what then? Why, those increased productions will not come in on the same footing, in competition with the colonial grower in the colonies and the agricultural grower here, but with the additional advantage of 7s. a quarter in favour of the foreigner, and against your own colonists. Now, can it be doubted that if the increased consumption of sugar here, be it for beer or anything else, have any effect, it must be for the benefit of slave-grown sugar, and not of colonial? The noble Earl referred to the question of the distil- 228 leries, and told my noble Friend that malt at 60s. requires sugar to be at 36s., in order to render it possible to bring the latter into competition. Now, I think that position depends altogether upon the question, not only of the quality of the spirits which are to be derived from sugar—a circumstance which appears to have been altogether omitted from the consideration of Her Majesty's Government—but of the amount of spirits which can be extracted from a quarter of malt. This should have been one of the great elements in the calculation, and yet it is one upon which we are left entirely in the dark. But when the noble Lord speaks of sugar being sold in the market at 36s. he should recollect that it will be introduced into the distilleries of this country, not at that price merely, but at that price with the immense drawback of 12s. 10d. While the malt is taxed to a heavy extent, the sugar is to be introduced, and the whole, or nearly the whole, of the duty paid, received back in the shape of a drawback. All this complexity of detail only proves the necessity for investigation of the whole subject by a Select Committee. The noble Earl has stated that sugar was never so low as 35s. or 36s.; but he has forgotten to state that never till now was the duty so low as it is now, and that that duty is to be still lower. But when he states that sugar never was so low as 35s., I beg to remind him that in 1830 Jamaica sugar was brought into the market of this country and sold for 40s., paying a duty of 24s. In 1835, Jamaica sugar was, not at 35s., but at 19s.; and a short time ago Havannah sugar, 3 per cent better than the ordinary run of brown sugar, was sold, minus the duty, at the rate of 21s. per cwt. Now, sugar, selling at 35s., and admitted to the distillery on the terms proposed, would be only 22s. 2d. to the distiller—that is, after deducting 12s. 10d. for the drawback. I hope your Lordships will not infer, from the remarks which I have felt it my duty to make, that I desire to see the Bill rejected; on the contrary, I wish it to undergo a fair and impartial investigation by a Committee. If the measure were merely proposed as a tempory arrangement, with any prospect of relief to the suffering portion of our fellow-subjects, I would say, "Adopt it at once;" but if it is to be taken as a portion of a free-trade policy, it may, and it must, lead to still further changes affecting the trade, and influencing the most important interests, of this country. 229 If, after careful investigation, Parliament shall think it best, on the whole, to pursue that course which the Government recommends, let them do so; but let it not be followed blindfold. Let not the whole matter be taken upon the mere declaration of the President of the Board of Trade. Parliament, in a case like that, is bound to call before them competent witnesses, and, by examination and cross-examination, get at the real merits of the case. The facts with which they ought to make themselves acquainted, are not to be elicited during a short discussion in this House, but by the active and continued labours of a Select Committee; and let not a permanent measure be brought forward upon grounds which ought only to be rendered available for purposes of temporary legislation. The agriculturist, the West India colonist, and the slave-owner of Cuba, are the parties principally interested; let all these, and all other parties concerned, be fairly heard, and then your Lordships can proceed to legislate with your eyes open—then you can satisfy yourselves as to the probable effect of that which you are about to do. Examine not only the officers of excise, who are honourable people undoubtedly, but make inquiries of other independent parties, and satisfy yourselves that, in passing this measure, you will not be doing mischief—that you will not be injuring the agriculturists or the colonists, under the plea of relieving temporary distress in one part of the kingdom, and under the plea of conceding as a boon to the colonists, that, which, in my opinion, will be no boon at all. But even if adopted, I fear that the measure would effect neither the one object nor the other. I can assure your Lordships that I have made these observations without any intention of opposition or hostility towards Her Majesty's Government. I invite your Lordships to refer the subject, not to a Committee of the whole House, but a Select Committee, where all the facts may be fairly and carefully investigated, and where a probable judgment may be formed of the effects of the intended plan. The noble Lord concluded by moving that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.
§ Amendment moved—"To leave out all the words after the word 'that,' for the Purpose of inserting the Words, 'the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.'"
§ EARL GREY
said, it was clear, from the beginning to the end of his noble Friend's speech, that the noble Lord felt that he 230 had a very bad case, because his noble Friend had carefully avoided, throughout the whole of his speech, coming to the actual question at issue; but had resorted to the most ingenious and acute arguments upon points that had nothing whatever to do with the measure. In the beginning of his address, his noble Friend read a passage from the Queen's Speech at the opening of the Session, for the purpose of showing that this measure was announced as merely a temporary one, for the purpose of relieving a temporary distress. He (Earl Grey) had only to say, that, whatever construction the words of Her Majesty's Speech were capable of bearing, the intentions of the Government upon the subject were perfectly certain; because some explanation upon the subject was asked upon the first night of the Session; and it would be in the recollection of their Lordships that his noble Friend the President of the Council had stated that this measure for the admission of sugar into breweries and distilleries was intended to be permanent, although others of the measures were not. His noble Friend opposite had, at that time, made a comment at some length, taking objections to such a course. He admitted that the noble Lord's criticism then was perfectly correct; and even if he admitted that the noble Lord was equally correct in the conclusion he drew from the words he referred to in Her Majesty's Speech, it would only come to this after all—that the Government, in writing Her Majesty's Speech, had not shown themselves very skilful in composition. This fact would, therefore, only tend to show the truth of an observation made by the late Mr. Cobbett—namely, that the King's Speeches were not good models of the King's English, and that he would take all his examples of bad grammar from that department of literature. After his noble Friend had disposed of this portion of his argument, he observed that this measure was a link in the dangerous chain of their proceedings which he called upon their Lordships to oppose, because the doctrines of free trade could not fail to be deeply injurious to the interests of the country; and the noble Lord referred to some pledge which had been given by the Government, by which they had felt bound to bring those measures before Parliament; and the noble Lord then adverted to the course pursued by the Government of which he was a Member, in respect to the Canadian Corn Bill. The pledge given by the pre- 231 sent Government was given openly before Parliament, precisely in the same way as that given by the late Government upon the question referred to, in the course of their discussions last year upon the introduction of the Bill for an alteration in the sugar duties in the other House. It was then stated by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his noble Friend at the head of the Government, that, although it was impossible at that late period of the Session, to enter fully into a consideration of the whole question, no time should be lost in the endeavour of the Government to put sugar upon an equality with malt and corn used in breweries and distilleries. The noble Lord said that this pledge, however, did not bind Parliament—who said it did? Parliament consented last year to subject British colonial sugar to unrestricted competition with that of foreign nations. When that subject was under consideration, it was argued that the measure was undoubtedly right and just in itself, but that the colonies should have a right to corresponding advantages. This argument was used, and contributed, with others, to induce them to pass the Bill that was then before them. Then, to a certain extent, the pledge was implied of removing every restriction that could prevent the use of sugar in breweries and distilleries. This, however, his noble Friend said, formed a part of a dangerous chain of their proceedings—that the Government were taking these insidious steps, first by repealing the corn laws, and then by telling the agriculturists, that, inasmuch as they obtained none of the advantages of monopoly, they ought to help the Government to get cheap sugar for the people. Now, the noble Lord might call this measure dangerous if he pleased; but at all events there had been no disguise whatever about it on the part of the Government. They began when they sat upon the other side of the House to call attention to the subject. They had never concealed their conviction that the principle of legislation they recommended for adoption was, to impose duties for the sake of the revenue, and not for the sake of protection. The principle of legislation they recommended, was not such as was calculated to divert capital from its natural channels, but simply to raise such an amount of revenue as would meet the wants of the public service. In pursuance of that pledge, even when they were on the other side of the House, they had sup- 232 ported the late Ministers in altering the corn laws. In pursuance of the same pledge, when they were called to the councils of their Sovereign, they asked Parliament to consent to the passing of a measure by which, in a few years, their colonial sugar would be exposed to unlimited competition with foreign sugar; and last year they had passed an Act by which the colonies would be enabled to relieve themselves from the payment of differential duties upon the importation of British produce imported into their colonies; and they had considered what ought to be done in respect to the restrictions that were imposed upon the use of sugar in breweries and distilleries. So much then for this dangerous chain, and their insidious proceedings. They had openly and boldly avowed what their plan was to be. He believed that they were pursuing but a sound system of legislation, by honestly following that system out to its legitimate consequences. His noble Friend had thought it expedient, before the question came properly under their consideration, to refer to the navigation laws, and said that they were getting the fine edge of the wedge into that sacred palladium of the country, for the purpose of ultimately destroying it. He could not help thinking that the noble Lord and his Friends had a worse opinion of the navigation laws than the Government had, inasmuch as his noble Friend thought that an impartial inquiry would decide against these laws. The noble Lord thought that the appointment of a Committee to inquire into those navigation laws would only be making a mine to blow up that ancient system, Now, if a Committee, reported these laws to be bad, he hoped that they would be destroyed; but upon that point he wished to reserve his opinion until they had obtained the report of the Committee. He, for one, would never consent to support the navigation laws upon commercial grounds. As to their operating with advantage upon their Navy, he thought that, after what had passed upon that subject, such an assumption was out of the question. But it was argued that the navigation laws were to be viewed in a different light from other cases of protection—that they were merely the means of maintaining the defences of the country safe. If that point were made out—if they were proved to be really essential for the maintenance of their commercial marine—if they were shown to be necessary for their maritime naval force—if that case was made out, he admitted that 233 the principle of free trade did not apply to them, and that it would not be necessary to make any alteration in respect to them to ensure such. But, until the Committee had made its report, he would not venture to pronounce an opinion upon the subject. His conviction was that their navigation laws did not ensure the ends that were intended by them. The noble Lord said, in effect, that the navigation laws were so utterly bad it was impossible that a Committee could support them, the arguments against them would be so strong.
observed, that what he did say was, that he thought the Government, upon great national grounds, should have expressed a decided opinion themselves upon the subject, and that they were not a question for inquiry before a Committee.
§ EARL GREY
would admit that the noble Lord had stated that the Government should have made up their minds upon the subject, and have given a decided opinion respecting these laws. He (Earl Grey) did not think the Government were called upon to do any such thing. The operation of the navigation laws depended upon matters of fact, which were hitherto very imperfectly ascertained. The practical operation of these laws, particularly in their colonies, was little understood by their Lordships or the public. There were facts connected with the operation of these laws in their colonies which, until lately, when they were brought under his notice, he was unacquainted with; and he firmly believed that a Committee appointed for an inquiry into them, before whom their merchants, and all other persons who were capable of forming an opinion upon the matter, could be examined, would be able to throw the most important light upon the subject. He understood his noble Friend to say that the appointment of the Committee was the introduction of the fine end of the wedge. He inferred from that that the noble Lord's meaning was, that it was to aid in destroying the navigation laws, and that he had heard something of the intent of a Committee appointed with a hostile intention, and might anticipate the result. His (Earl Grey's) noble Friend near him had at the same whispered to him that they might therefore judge what would be the result of a Select Committee, appointed to consider the Bills now actually before the House. Now, what were the grounds that were urged for the inquiry? The principle of the Bills, as he understood, was simply 234 this, that they considered that the sugar of their own colonies ought to come into consumption for any purpose for which it was capable of being used, subject to no restriction except that which was necessarily imposed for revenue. That if it were capable of being used in breweries or distilleries, they ought, as to their revenue laws, so to manage matters as to produce no bias on the mind of the distiller or brewer, but that he should be left to use sugar or not, precisely as he would do if they were in the fortunate circumstances of not being compelled to lay on any tax at all. They did not want to go into a Select Committee to inquire whether that principle was good or not—it was a principle for that House to decide upon. But their Lordships must have observed, that his noble Friend mentioned several points for inquiry upon which his noble Friend was not very clear; for he could not help remarking, that his noble Friend had made a curious confusion between malt and raw grain, and between sugar and molasses; and at last, although he had listened most attentively, his noble Friend had got completely beyond his depth, and he was unable to follow his noble Friend's argument—in fact, there was some little confusion in the mind of his noble Friend himself. He (Earl Grey) said, that the question whether the price of sugar should suit the brewer to use sugar or not, had nothing whatever to do with this Bill: that was for the brewers or distillers themselves to determine. All that Parliament had to do was so to frame the revenue laws as not to prevent those whose business it was to manufacture, to manufacture in any manner most profitable to themselves, and most advantageous to the public. Now these measures would be of very considerable importance, not only in relation to the present scarcity, but to any future scarcity whenever it might come, by sparing the consumption of corn in breweries and distilleries, and also in periods of a very great abundance of sugar, to prevent the price falling to a ruinous sum. The tendency of these measures, as of all measures of commercial freedom, was towards an equalization of price. He believed that, as far as practical purposes were concerned, the quantity of sugar equal to a quarter of malt not less than 180 lb. And how was the question as to taxation? A quarter of malt paid a duty of 1l. 1s. 8d.; whilst the duty on the 180 lb. of sugar was 1l. 2s. 6d. So that, according to the most moderate calculation, the use of sugar would not 235 give the smallest advantage in point of taxation. But he believed that the quantity of sugar which was more nearly equal to a quarter of malt, was 200 lb., and the duty upon that was 25s. That question, therefore, was so clear that it was not necessary to refer it to a Select Committee. With respect to spirits, he did not think that it had been maintained by any man, that the proposed drawback on sugar was more than was necessary in order to put the distiller from sugar on an equality with the distiller from grain; and he believed there was no reason whatever to doubt that the duties had been fairly calculated. He thought the effects of the measure would be to put sugar and grain, as fairly as it could be managed, upon an equality. Now he did not think his noble Friend had followed the usual precedent in the course he had adopted. If they appealed from any measure proposed by the Executive, the appeal should be to one of the Houses of the Legislature, and not to a Select Committee. There would be very serious inconvenience in referring the details of a measure like that before their Lordships to a Select Committee; they were much better left to be dealt with by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The ordinary practice of Parliament was, he contended, infinitely better and fairer than the proposition of the noble Lord. The Government submitted what they believed to be upon the whole best for the interests of the public, and by that proposition they would stand. If they were to be overruled, it was not to be by a Select Committee, but by the decision of a branch of the Legislature. If his noble Friend thought the conduct of the Government wrong, or the Bill improperly drawn, let him propose one of his own, as an amendment, and they would be prepared to discuss it fairly. He had no hesitation in avowing that he was firmly persuaded the calculations of the Government were right. Their Lordships ought to bear in mind that his noble Friend wanted to go into something like a fishing committee, as to some calculations which did not appear to be quite clear to his noble Friend. The noble Lord told the Government that they were wrong, but he did not tell them what was right. He trusted their Lordships would not consent to a proposition so unusual and inconvenient. There was one observation of the noble Lord that had occasioned him so much surprise that he must be pardoned for adverting to it before he sat down. His noble Friend 236 said—"These are supposed to be measures for the benefit of the West Indies and our colonies generally. I entirely repudiate that supposition. I will show you that it will do nothing for the colonies—that it will be no advantage to them. I will show you, on the contrary, that the measure will be altogether for the benefit of the slave sugar grower." His noble Friend had told them that the duty on foreign sugar was in the course of a progressive reduction, and that at the end of five years it would be totally extinguished and equalised. Then he said it was clear that the increased consumption which the measure of the Government would produce, would go to the benefit of that particular sugar. But he (Earl Grey) was surprised it had not struck his noble Friend, that if the present Bill had not been proposed at all, foreign sugar would be yearly reduced in duty; and there was no doubt the effect of the increased consumption of sugar would be advantageous to the colonial grower, who availed himself of the present high rate of differential duty to command the market. He believed, therefore, his noble Friend was very much in error in supposing that the great increase in the consumption of sugar would be for the benefit of the foreign slave-grower. He believed exactly the reverse would be the case. He believed the foreign slave-grower could not further reduce the price of his sugar; while he confidently believed that the British colonist could reduce it, and was at that moment adopting measures which would unquestionably reduce it. He could not help expressing his satisfaction at witnessing what had been done during the last few months in the Mauritius and the West Indies for the purpose, and the tendency on the part of the planters to exert themselves vigorously to introduce better modes of cultivation and improved machinery, with other resources, from which the slave-grower as a slave-owner was excluded, and which would inevitably increase the amount of the produce. He believed the crop now about to be forwarded from their colonies was much greater than that of the slave-growing countries, and that the increase for the last two years was most gratifying and convincing as to the result of the exertions of the colonists. In the year before last, the produce of the Mauritius was estimated at 45,000 tons; the last year it had amounted to 50,000; and the crop which was at present in the course of being saved, and the greater part 237 of which was already safe, had been estimated both by the Governor and the colonial planters at 60,000 tons. With these facts before them, what right had their Lordships to assume that the benefit of the measure would be to the slave-grower instead of their own colonies? He repeated again, that it was his conviction that the very reverse of his noble Friend's assertion would be the case, and that the colonial planter alone would be benefited by the measure. For these reasons he confidently appealed to their Lordships to reject the Amendment of his noble Friend.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
felt that he could not occupy a seat in their Lordships' House if he did not express his unqualified dissent to the entire course of the Legislature with respect to these subjects. His noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) had said, upon introducing the measure, that it was done in order to redeem a promise made, or a pledge given, to the West Indian planters. He did not recommend the adoption of any deceptive course with respect to those interests; but he did think that the subject was one into which Parliament ought to make full and deliberate inquiry. If the promise to which his noble Friend opposite had made allusion, were a promise made by Parliament, and not that of an individual Member of it, he did not think it was one which they were bound to redeem. But since allusion had been made to promises, he would ask whether no promises had been made to the barley growers of this country? Had they not been promised three or four Bills from which they were told they would derive considerable relief; and what had been heard of them? Why, with the exception of two or three, the tendency of which was rather to injure the agricultural interests than to serve them, the promised Bills had not been heard of. In point of fact, nothing had been done for the landed interests. His noble Friend had said that the real merit of the measure was, that it was a part or an extension of those free-trade measures which were lately introduced to the country; and that, moreover, it would be the means of affording relief, to a certain extent, in the present period of scarcity. Nothing could be fnrther from his desire than to oppose any measures that might be brought forward on the part of the Government to mitigate the distress which prevailed in another portion of the kingdom; but surely, if the object were indeed to effect so desirable an end, the mea- 238 sure might be made of a temporary and not of a permanent character. His noble Friend said also of the navigation laws, that he was ready to listen to any proof of their advantage to our mercantile marine; but that, so far as they embraced the principle of protection, they must be given up. Now, if those laws were abandoned, we should see the Swedish and other sailors of the north, who were accustomed to a hard fare, engrossing all the coasting trade of this country, and retaining it till our own sailors could manage to live on the same low diet; and, as the consumers would benefit very little, he would ask whether for a mere difference of half, or one, or even one and a half per cent to them, the country was to carry out in trade, in shipping, and in manufactures this new rule, and whether this small advantage was to be weighed against the injury done to the large masses of the people of this country? He held the principle of free trade to be an entire misconception, and that the Legislature, while seeking to introduce it, were studying only the interest of the consumer, while they were totally regardless of the hundreds of thousands who would lose their employment, and on whom heavy injuries would be inflicted by reduction of prices. He was most anxious to have the calculations and deductions involved in the measure now under discussion, submitted to the consideration of a Committee; for if there ever was a subject fit for such consideration, or on which their Lordships might wish for information, it was precisely the present, the merits of which depended so much upon evidence and minute calculation. They ought not upon any account to hesitate sanctioning the measure as one of temporary relief; but when they were called upon to approve of measures of a permanent character, the question assumed altogether another aspect. They ought also to bear in mind the consequences of letting in an unwholesome beverage; and he believed the measure was nothing more nor less than a contrivance to give the public a spurious article made upon a different principle to that which they had been accustomed to use. It must be remembered also that the proportions between sugar and malt were taken at a time when the duty on foreign sugar was 21s. a cwt.; and that at the end of four years it would be only 14s.; so that the proportion which suited the present purpose would not hereafter be sufficient; this ought to be in- 239 quired into and settled. But there was another consideration which he hoped would not be lost sight of. If they passed this measure, they would be taking their sugar, not only from countries in which the slave trade existed, but from countries where the slave trade was carried on in its most atrocious character. This ought to be no slight consideration with their Lordships in passing a measure which would give increased impetus to the odious traffic in flesh and blood. And what advantage were the colonies, which were kept up at such an enormous expense to the mother country, if it were not to provide her with markets for her own commodities, and at the same time ensure her a supply of other commodities in exchange? There was, in his opinion, an irresistible mania in favour of free trade; but many years would not pass away before the country would awaken to a sense of its error, and acknowledge that that pernicious principle was fraught with the most injurious consequences. For his part, he could not refrain from entering his protest against the entire of that absurd and useless change from the old and approved principles of commercial legislation.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, that if he viewed the Bill as part of the chain of the measures of free trade, he would have been induced to give it more support than he was now inclined to do; but he wished to explain the vote which he was about to give, as other measures were about to be introduced, and he would be sorry that it should be misconceived. His noble Friend opposite (Lord Stanley) had not argued the question of the temporary or permanent nature of the measure as a subject for a Committee, but had put it upon other grounds, which, if made out, would have afforded perfect justification for his Amendment. He (Lord Monteagle) held that if a case had been made out by noble Lords opposite, it was a legitimate subject for a Committee. Upon former occasions, when it appeared to their House that a fitting case was made out, Committees were appointed; for instance, the malt tax and the question of the drawback on malt had been made the subject of such inquiry. He would not argue the case as being an improper subject for parliamentary interference, but what he would submit to the noble Lord who had moved the Amendment was, whether it had not been demonstrated by the arguments on both sides, that he matter was scarcely worthy of inquiry? He believed the effect 240 either upon the colonies or upon the barley-growers at home, would be infinitesimal. If it were intended as a measure of relief, it was a very small one; and in any case he did not think the subject worthy of the time it took in discussing. It reminded him strongly of a parliamentary representation of "Much Ado about Nothing." When they came to discuss the question of reducing the duty on rum, he would support any Motion that might be made for an inquiry into the subject; but he would be sorry, in giving his vote to-night in favour of the measure at present submitted for their consideration, to be precluded from voting for an inquiry into the other question; inasmuch as he considered the Irish and Scotch distilleries had made out a very good case against the Bill.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
said, it had not been his intention, in rising upon the previous occasion, to trouble their Lordships with any lengthened observations; but he was now glad he had given way to the noble Lord who had just down. His noble Friend had said the matter was one of very little importance — indeed not worthy of an inquiry; but if such were really the case, and that the measure would have no possible effect one way or the other, he thought that circumstance was an additional reason for inquiry; for he considered nothing could be more dangerous, or more likely to lead to mischief, than the passing of measures which the very projectors of them admitted could not be of any service to any one. But he contended that the present case was a subject for a Committee, inasmuch as there existed a great diffence of opinion with respect to the figures stated by his noble Friend. His noble Friend near him (Lord Ashburton) had urged the necessity which existed for a Committee, upon the ground that there was a Bill about to be brought into their Lordships' House involving questions of figures, and that he was anxious for an inquiry into the subject, because he knew the figures were wrong. Now, did not the two Bills come from the same shop? and had they not a right, as they came from the same place, to suppose that the noble Lord near him was right, and that the noble Lord the President of the Board of Trade was wrong? It was the bounden duty of those of their Lordships who were unfortunately beaten last year, upon the question of those free-trade measures, which he hoped were fast disappear- 241 ing from among the reflective class of the community, to cause an inquiry to be made into the tendency of the proposed measure now under consideration. They last year suffered a defeat from circumstances of which he would not then remind them; but, since they had now the open and manly declaration of his noble Friends at present in the Government—and he owned he preferred much a manly and candid opponent to an insidious and deceitful enemy—it was a duty they owed to the agricultural interests not to allow any Bill to pass through their House, without inquiring into the details, and, if possible, preventing those agricultural interests from being again deceived. He did not mean to convey that he thought his hon. Friend opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) had wilfully made an error; but he could not help saying he thought he was deceived. There was, however, one judicious part of the noble Lord's speech, in which he entirely agreed. He agreed with the noble Lord it was highly important that the people should have a cheap and wholesome beverage; and he would tell the noble Lord that to get good and cheap beer, the way to do it would be to get rid of the malt tax. It was no prejudice in the labourers of the country that they liked to have their beer made of good malt and hops. But what was the stuff they were going to give them, even according to the evidence of one of their own friends, a partner in the house of Whitbread and Co., the brewers? He would read an extract from the evidence of that gentleman, taken in Committee:—You have some experience of sugar as applicable to brewing purposes?—I have.What kind of beer was undertaken at your brewery?—We thought it right to separate all the strong sugar, and we made a very fair trial. Our object was to buy the strongest sugar, but we found it so indifferent that it was an experiment and no experiment.You did brew some?—Yes.Was it good?—No, very bad, though we brewed in the best seasons, and took all necessary precautions to make the article good. This was in 1807, when malt was enormously dear.The Government would then go to the hustings and say, "We proposed to give you cheap bread, but you have not yet got it—and now we promise to give you cheap beer." And some unfortunate fellow would taste the bad beer, and find himself half poisoned, and that the Government had again deceived him. The truth was, that Parliament passed these measures without sufficient inquiry; and then could they 242 expect in another year the country would pay the slightest respect to the decisions of Parliament? He certainly did not oppose this measure, and he should not vote for a Select Committee with a view of defeating it. He was sure the noble Lord (the Marquess of Lansdowne) would do the Opposition the credit to believe them when they said their real object was not to get rid of the Bill; and if his noble Friend (Lord Stanley), on the appointment of a Select Committee, should not prove the case he had stated that night, he (the Duke of Richmond), for one, certainly would not vote against the Bill. He should, however, like to know that by voting for it he was not poisoning half the population of the country. Every speaker who had addressed the House in behalf of the Bill, had agreed that it would do little or no good at all, as far as relieving the present distress was concerned; and as it was probable that some of the other remedial measures would be put off until the 6th of March, surely there could be no great harm if this, the least beneficial of these measures, were delayed for two or three days or a week. He had always been an advocate for inquiry, when it did not unsettle for a length of time any great branch of trade, manufactures, or agriculture; it satisfied the public mind, and was in every way advantageous. The advocates of this Select Committee did not say, as the mover and seconder of the Committee of Inquiry into the Navigation Laws in the other House did, that they were hostile to it. They were not hostile to this Bill, yet the Government refused them an inquiry, and at the same time granted an inquiry to a set of free-traders, who wished to destroy the navigation laws of this country, and thereby render England a secondary power amongst the maritime nations of the world. He warmly concurred in the Amendment of his noble Friend.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
agreed with most of the Peers who had addressed the House, that the Bill could not produce much good, and he believed, at the same time, that it could do no harm whatever. Every argument that had been adduced, had gone to show that it would injure no interest whatever; and the most conclusive speech against the necessity of an inquiry had been that of the noble Lord who had asked for a Select Committee. He believed that the introduction of sugar into breweries, would cause the consumption of inferior sorts of barley, which now could not find 243 a market for malting purposes, and thus it would benefit the barley grower. The evidence taken before the Committee which sat on the burdens of land, showed that only the finest qualities could be sold for malting, and, therefore, the using of the inferior sorts by the admixture of sugar was an undoubted benefit to agriculture. This Bill was a consequence of the recent free-trade measures; and he always had maintained that when Parliament made so great a step in that direction by repealing the corn laws, it would be an injustice to stop short the course of free trade. If they adopted a principle, they were bound to carry it out; and he felt certain it must be carried out to the fullest extent with respect to manufactures as well as agricultural produce. He was certain that as soon as the state of the revenue would permit, the Government must take into consideration the malt duties. Those duties were a great burden on land; it would be a great injustice not to revise them now that Parliament had destroyed that protection which was a sort of compensation for those burdens.
The MARQUESS of SALISBURY
remarked that although the Committee for inquiring into the burdens on land had made some inquiries as to the effect of the malt duties, its existence was cut short before those inquiries were completed. He had not observed that the noble Marquess, the President of the Board of Trade, or any of the speakers in favour of the Bill, had touched upon the important question of the introduction of sugar in reference to the malt tax. He had no doubt malt could be produced at a much cheaper rate if it were not subject to the excise regulations. There was evidently a vast difference of opinion as to matters of fact, and he thought a sufficient case had been made out for a Select Committee.
§ LORD REDESDALE
had heard this called a measure of free trade; but he held that the principles involved in the Bill were contradictory to the principle of free trade, and brought to bear against the home producer in a manner as injurious as well could be devised. In certain circumstances the Bill, instead of promoting free trade, would operate as a prohibition against the British producer of barley. The duty on sugar was to be remitted, in order to enable it to come into competition with barley; but since the duty on malt was to remain, it would amount to a prohibition of that British produce when it raised the 244 price of that article to a certain amount as compared with sugar.
The MARQUESS of WESTMEATH
would vote against the Amendment, because he could not offer any discouragement to the Government under the difficult circumstances in which they were placed.
§ On Question, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Motion, House divided:—Contents 35; Not-Contents 27: Majority 8.
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|List of the NON-CONTENTS.|
§ Resolved in the Affirmative.
§ House in Committee accordingly. Bill reported without Amendment.
§ The House then went into Committee on the Distilling from Sugar Bill, which was reported without Amendment.
§ House adjourned.