HL Deb 08 September 1887 vol 320 cc1638-9

presented a Petition from members of the Denbighshire and Flintshire Agricultural Society. The Petition pointed out the grievous state in which the agricultural interests of this country were placed by the very low prices that had prevailed for some time. Should that condition continue, a very large proportion of the land of Great Britain would be thrown, out of cultivation. The Petitioners also called attention to the fact that 50 per cent of the food of the people was derived from foreign sources, and that in the event of war with any of the Great Naval Powers the food of this country might be raised to famine prices. In conclusion, they prayed that their Lordships would give their serious attention to the condition of agricultural affairs, and expressed a hope that steps would be taken to avert the danger which had been pointed out of land going out of cultivation. He wished to express his entire concurrence with the words of the Petition, and to ask their Lordships' attention to the reasonable views it expressed. He would remind their Lordships that no measure had been passed in the course of this protracted Session with the view of giving any relief to agriculture. He must also add that no attempt, so far as he was aware, had been made by Her Majesty's Government, or by Parliament, to solve the difficult question of foreign and Colonial competition, which was striking a deadly Wow at the interests of agriculture. On the contrary, early in the Session the noble Marquess at the head of the Government (the Marquess of Salisbury) stated that he did not entertain any hope of being able to cope with an evil of this kind by any form of legislation. He (Earl De la Warr) ventured to think that the view which was taken in this Petition was in no way akin to the view expressed by the noble Marquess. The Petitioners said, that if it was inadvisable to impose an import duty on foreign produce, it was possible to relieve the agricultural interest of many rates and taxes that now pressed so heavily upon that industry. This surely fell within the scope of legislative action. Notwithstanding the discouraging declaration of Her Majesty's Government, he thought there were unmistakable signs that the country was awakening to the necessity of something being done, and that promptly, to relieve the agricultural interest by a reform of the fiscal system and the incidence of taxation, and by a readjustment of foreign and Colonial tariffs as far as it was possible.

Petition read, and ordered to lie on the Table.

House adjourned at Six o'clock, till To-morrow, a Quarter past Four o'clock.