Mr. Stuart Worthy
presented a petition from the worsted manufacturers of Nottingham, against the duty imposed during die last parliament on the importation of Foreign Wool. The same feeling pervaded, he well knew, the West Riding of Yorkshire; but as the question would be most probably brought before the House in a definite shape for its repeal, all he would say at present was, that he considered the imposition of that duty as a most impolitic and cruel measure.
§ Lord Milton
said, that he also had a petition to present from the merchants, manufacturers, and others interested in the wool trade of Leeds and its neighbourhood, against the wool tax, and praying for its repeal. The character and respectability of the signatures to that petition were the best evidence of the pressure of the evil against which they petitioned. The petition had not originated at a public meeting, because the persons who were most solicitous to press the repeal of that impolitic duty, wished to avoid any course likely to increase the ferment and agitation which existed on this subject in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The tax of which they complained, was not only in contradiction of every principle of political economy, but was directly contrary to that fundamental system of policy which for years had prevailed in this country, and to the continuance of which the faith of parliament was pledged—pledged, he would say, by the immemorial policy of its government—a policy which every statesman who viewed the question would see was the unfailing source of wealth and power. When he reflected also that that duty was imposed on the raw material, the manufacture of which constituted the employment of a great population then suffering under the severest pressure of distress and penury, he must add, that such a measure was not alone impolitic, but cruel and unfeeling. He could moreover state, that as a measure of revenue, it had alto- 73 gether failed—as fail it must, when it was considered that a very great proportion of the article on which it was laid, must, by that operation, be altogether excluded from the markets of the country. He assured the House, that a very important contract for the clothing of a great part of the Russian soldiery, was actually lost to this country in consequence of the operation of that impolitic measure. He knew the house to whom the contract had been offered under certain stipulated terms which, in consequence of the late tax, they assured him they were compelled to decline. If it was a measure for the protection of the wool growers, it was for them to look at such effects, and to calculate what must such a system eventually produce. By the authenticated returns from Yorkshire it appeared, that the woollen manufacture there had diminished to the extent of one-sixth, and other branches of trade connected with it were equally depressed.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that when the question was brought before the House in the definite manner to which allusion had been made, he was sure it would receive the fullest consideration. He had, however, in answer to the argument of the noble lord, who contended, that as a measure of revenue, it had wholly failed, to say, that it had not yet been fairly tried. It came partially into operation in October last, was only extended in January, while at the time there was a large stock of foreign wool in the market.
§ Ordered to lie on the table.