§ Mr. Denison
presented a petition from several merchants and importers of Barilla. The hon. member stated, that previously the duty on the importation of barilla had been 11l. per ton, but last session an act was passed which reduced the duty to 5l. 5s. The kelp manufacturers of Scotland had sent a memorial to the Treasury, praying that the duty might be raised again, and he was sorry to understand that the Treasury was inclined to lend a favourable ear to the request. The petitioners prayed that the question might be referred to a committee, to inquire whether it was expedient to raise the present duties on barilla. It was but fair that those traders who had sent out orders for barilla, on the supposition that the duty would continue at five guineas, should be allowed time to revoke their orders. He could not help observing, that nothing tended more to distract the principles of commerce, than the frequent changes which occurred in the policy of ministers on subjects relating to trade.
Lord G. Somerset
vindicated the conduct of government, and said that the distresses of the petitioners had been much exaggerated.
§ Mr. Ricardo
said, that whatever the distresses of the kelp manufacturers might be, ministers were bound to have taken that circumstance into consideration before they lowered the duties on barilla. He 739 believed that those distresses were caused rather by the reduction of the salt tax, than by the competition of the barilla merchant.
Mr. C. Grant
said, that if the intended increase of the barilla duties was unjust, the towering Of those duties last year was a gross act of injustice to the kelp manufacturers; because it was provided in the salt tax repeal bill, that no alteration should take place in the barilla duties; and yet, in a month afterwards, a bill was introduced which had the effect of reducing them one half.
§ Mr. Hudson Gurney
said, that this did seen a measure of most crying injustice, as well as of impolicy. The kelp manufacturers, on their own shewing, would reap little benefit from it, and all the advantage they appeared to hope to reap from it, was the compelling the purchase of their bad articles, which they found unsaleable when better was to be had. He was informed that good kelp still sold readily, and with no greater reduction in price than had taken place in barilla. But, in fact, the barilla was chiefly necessary to the soap manufacture in London, where kelp never had been used; and it was most monstrous to tax the soap of the people of England—an article of the first importance to the health, the cleanliness, and the comfort of the community, because bad kelp, from certain parts of the coasts of Scotland and Ireland would not sell.
§ Mr. E. Ellice
said, it was matter of regret to see regulations affecting trade brought in one day and repealed the next—a policy which embarrassed commercial transactions; It had been admitted, that the advantage of the measure to the kelp manufacturers was doubtful: but the injury to merchants and importers of barilla was positive. It had latterly been the policy of ministers to place restrictions on importation—a policy which was most injurious. The measure, if carried, would be fraught with injustice.
§ Ordered to lie on the table.