§ LORD PORTMAN moved, that there be laid before the House, Accounts of the total Quantities of each kind of Corn, returned by the Corn Inspectors as having been sold in the markets of England and Wales in the year 1854; and also the Total Quantities of each kind of Corn and Flour and Meal, reduced to quarters of corn which had been Imported from abroad into England and Wales in the year 1854. These returns were most important. They had been obtained from Ireland in an inefficient state—from Scotland very efficiently; but from England in such a restricted and incomplete form as to be comparatively valueless for the purpose for which they were 1404 procured. Some step must be taken to get these returns fully, or the system must be given up. It was most desirable to get better information relative to the yearly average of the area of wheat in cultivation, and he hoped measures would be taken to get at what was wanted. The returns would be useful as showing a comparatively small quantity of corn brought into market.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
said, the subject was one of great importance to the interests of the country. Though difficulties had occurred in procuring the returns from some of the counties by means of the only machinery they had been able to set in motion, yet a great deal of very useful information had been collected, more especially in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and in Cambridgeshire. All the Poor Law inspectors concurred in saying, that it was impossible to obtain more satisfactory returns without the passing of a compulsory law, many occupiers objecting to make returns on the ground that if they did so, some of their neighbours would refuse. As to the noble Lord's suggestion, that returns should be obtained from the seller instead of the purchaser, the same difficulties would occur under that arrangement, in the absence of compulsion. Feeling the importance of obtaining accurate returns, it was with great satisfaction that he had heard a noble Lord, who had been elected to fill the important office of President of the Royal Agricultural Society, giving the sanction of his name to the object, and expressing a wish on the part of the agriculturists of this country that such information should be secured. He was inclined to think that the best course he could pursue under the circumstances was, to ask their Lordships to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into all the circumstances attending the attempt to obtain this information. He thought it important to have brought under the notice of their Lordships the successful manner in which the object had been carried out in Scotland, and the imperfect manner in which it had been carried out in England, and especially in Ireland, and he also considered it desirable to include in the inquiry the present mode of taking the corn averages, with the view of ascertaining whether some better method could not be devised.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
said, the great point was to ascertain what was likely to be the result of the harvest, so as 1405 to enable commercial men to engage, without such risk as they had hitherto incurred, in the importation of corn from foreign countries. He did not see why his noble Friend (Lord Stanley of Alderley) should not take upon himself the responsibility of introducing a Bill to carry out the object. Such a measure would probably meet with very little opposition in either House. He perfectly agreed with him as to the desirability of obtaining accurate returns in spite of the inexcusable prejudices which induced some persons to oppose the object, and their suspicions as to the motives of those who wished for them.
§ LORD PANMURE
could not help saying that the success which had attended the inquiries in Scotland resulted mainly from the fact, that those inquiries were carried on through a body in whom the farmers had confidence; namely, the Highland Society of Scotland, whereas the inquiries in this country were carried on principally by persons who were not particularly connected with agriculture. Not more than a dozen farmers in Scotland refused to make returns when first applied to, and in consequence of representations which were made subsequently that dozen was reduced to one.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, another reason which operated, he thought, rather powerfully in Scotland was, that in that country the farmers all held under leases, and therefore the making returns could not prejudice their interests. The extreme reluctance of many English farmers to make returns was not, in his opinion, considering the terms of their tenure, so unreasonable as some noble Lords seemed to think.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
observed, that as respected the last harvest the returns were at present so slow as to be of scarcely any practical utility.
§ LORD BERNERS
had long been of opinion, that it was very desirable that accurate returns should be obtained of the gross produce both of corn and meat. He had never apprehended that any evil result would arise from the truth being known; on the contrary, he had always felt that it would be a great advantage to the country if information on the subject were generally diffused. As regarded the taking the averages from the seller instead of the buyer, he thought it very desirable that such an alteration should be carried into effect.
§ Motion agreed to.