HL Deb 26 April 1855 vol 137 cc1781-4

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the Government had any means of supplying a return of the number of horses exported from this country within a certain period to be specified? because, if so, he should move for a return on the subject. He was induced to ask this question as the subject had a not unimportant bearing on the war now going on in the East. It had come to his knowledge that within the last six months an immense number of horses had been exported from this country to France, and that during the last three weeks 1,000 horses had been exported from Folkstone alone to that country. It was Well known that one of the most im- portant elements in the service was the supply of horses, and so large an exportation must prove extremely detrimental to the supply of our cavalry, which was already more than deficient; and he wished to ask the Government whether, under the circumstances in which the country was now placed, they thought it wise that an unlimited export of horses from this country should be allowed to take place? He should not object to the export of stallions to France; but, under present circumstances, he thought we should, as much as possible, keep brood mares and young horses in this country. He believed that the price of horses had risen as much as 10 and 15 per cent, and surely nothing could be so absurd as that the French Government should be bidding against us for the horses which were wanted for the service in which the two countries were engaged. It was like a man and his commissioner going into an auction room, and bidding against each other. He should, therefore, like to know whether the information he required could be furnished, as in that case he would move for returns.


replied, that there would be no objection to the return desired by the noble Earl. The attention of the Government had been called to the fact, but he was not aware that a larger number of horses than usual had been exported except to France. He was not prepared to say that the Government had any intention of limiting the exportation of horses at present.


said, that some years ago, when he was Attorney General, there was a great exportation of horses, and the question then arose whether or not the Government could prevent the exportation; it was his duty to examine into the law on the subject, and he found that there had formerly such a power been given by ancient statutes; but that such statutes had been repealed, and the Government had now no power to prevent the exportation.


said, that when Secretary of State for War his attention had been drawn to this subject, and he had procured a return from the Custom House, showing the number of horses exported during the first nine months of last year. He did not find, however, that that number, though considerable, was much greater than during the corresponding portion of 1853. Of course he could not state what had been the case during the last three or four months.


imagined, after what had been stated, that there could be no objection to his moving for a return of the number of horses exported from this country from the 1st of January, 1854, to the present time. The number exported in time of peace had no bearing upon the number exported now, when the price for cavalry horses had risen 20 per cent, and there was considerable danger of a scarcity. He reminded their Lordships, also, that the disasters with our army in the East had experienced last year might be traced mainly to the inefficiency of the land transport.


presumed that the Government would consent to the Motion; but, at the same time, he could not help expressing his great satisfaction at hearing from his noble and learned Friend the Lord Chief Justice, that the Government had no power to prohibit the exportation of horses without passing a law for that purpose, and he hoped that no law would be introduced which would throw any impediment in the way of the due profits of exportation. That was a course which he hoped Parliament would not be induced to adopt; for it was impossible to conceive a more short-sighted policy than that of attempting to throw difficulties in the way of owners of horses turning them to the best advantage. The supply which the noble Earl desired would best arise from that very rise of price of which he now complained. Indeed, he believed that such a course would tend to increase the scarcity, for their Lordships would remember that this was not the only country in want of horses, and, probably, if the Government restricted their exportation, other nations would follow their example, and we should have great difficulty in procuring such a supply of horses and mules as was absolutely necessary, for it must not be forgotten that we were purchasing horses and mules in other countries.


did not wish in the least to interfere with the freedom of trade in the exportation of horses, but he did not conceive that keeping brood mares in the country would have any other effect than to encourage the breed of horses. He very much doubted whether horses in any number were imported into this country; but in order to ascertain the fact he would also move for a return of the number imported as well as exported within the period he had mentioned. He believed that while the number exported would be found to be very large, the return of the number imported would be nil. With respect to free trade, he had opposed it, but he had no wish to interfere with it again. The question was settled, and there was an end of it.


observed, in explanation, that he did not mean that horses were purchased in large numbers for this country, but for the use of the army in the East.


reminded the House that the extra price given by the Government for horses was to be accounted for by the fact, that whereas before the war, they purchased animals of three and even two years, they now bought only those that were from five to eight years old.


said, he had as little wish as his noble Friend could have to interfere with free trade; but it was important to consider whether it would not be carrying free trade too far to permit the exportation of horses at a moment when this country was at war. What did France do? France would not permit horses to be exported from her shores. Throughout Europe and the whole world it was found that the animal was not produced in sufficient quantities to enable the purchasers of horse flesh to obtain it at a moderate price. We were notoriously the first breeders of horses, and we had the best blood of horses; and all his noble Friend (the Earl of Malmesbury) said was, that we should so far preserve our brood mares as to maintain our improved breed of horses. Although a good free trader, he could not see in what way the restriction, so far as his noble friend proposed, would interfere with its beneficial operation.

Returns ordered.