§ Sir H. Parnell
said, he should have contented himself with merely moving for copies of ail memorials that had been presented to the Treasury, relating to the Butter Trade of Ireland, if the extraordinary interest which this subject had excited in that part of Ireland with which he was connected, had not appeared to require of him a few observations upon the matter. It might be remembered, that he had been before called upon to present a petition on this subject; and he would now beg to assure the House, that it was a subject of much greater importance than it might be at first supposed. The butter trade was carried on in Ireland to such an immense extent as to form an export of the annual value of about 2,000,000l. When he stated that this trade was principally carried on by a great number of small farmers and merchants, the House would see that the matter became one still more important for their consideration. In the year l8l2, the trade was unfortunately put under a number of very vexatious and mischievous regulations, specified in an act of parliament then passed. Before that act of 1812, other acts had been made, also of a prejudicial nature in themselves; but then, they had not been enforced. In 1812, a bill was introduced—notwithstanding his utmost opposition, and the necessity he felt himself under of repeatedly dividing the House upon it—which subjected the butter trade to a whole series of such vexatious regulations, of which the principal ones were these; that every cask of butter should be sold in a public market; that a public officer, called a taster, should taste the butters, and mark, in open market, their respective qualities. The result of this arrangement was, that if the taster chose to mark a cask, "second quality", he dimi- 1046 nished its value as much as ten shillings per cwt. If he marked it "third quality", &c. he reduced it five shillings per cwt. more. Now, hon. gentlemen would observe how serious a difference this must make in the price of a cask, which on the average was about 4l. sterling. And they would see, too, what a dangerous sort of power this was to vest in one officer; whose office, by the by, hardly any respectable person could be found to take and the consequence was, that it fell, usually, into very unworthy hands. To make up the large amount of this export, equal in value to nearly 2,000,000l. worth of butter, no less than 700,000 casks must undergo this operation of tasting. It was impossible for him to describe to the House the extent to which gross corruption and practical oppression took place under a system thus requiring every cask of butter to be publicly tasted by the tasters. Upon this tasting there was a fee of two pence per cask to be paid, which two pence the merchant deducted from the proceeds in his account-sales, and undertook to recover again of the buyer. But under various pretences of weighing, branding, &c. this charge occasionally rose to 5d., 7d., 11d., and even as high as five-and-twenty-pence per cask;—a loss which the poor farmer, on whose account it was sold, had to sustain. There was an officer also appointed, under the act of 1812, to mark and brand on the casks their capacity and weight. But he had discovered, from various sources of information, that it frequently happened that the officer, whose duty it was so to brand the casks, accepted bribes from interested parties, and left his brands in the hands of the coopers themselves. In short, both in this matter, and in respect to the weighing in the market, the greatest corruption prevailed in the markets in Ireland. He did trust, therefore, that the Treasury had already made up their minds as to what course they would take in respect to this important subject, after the memorials which had been already presented to them, and especially after the notice which had been given by the hon. member for London to introduce a bill for the better regulation of this trade. The hon. baronet concluded by moving, "That there be laid before the House copies of all memorials that had been presented to the Treasury, or the Board of Trade, respecting the butter-trade of Ireland, since the 1st of January, 1824."
Mr. C. Grant
thought the hon. baronet had stated quite enough to convince the House, that the present regulations of this important trade had led only to fraud and collusion. They had been, as might be expected, discovered to be quite inefficient for the purposes which they were intended to effect, and productive of much mischief that had never been anticipated. He could not help thinking that these regulations were quite of a piece with the system of marking and branding the Irish linens, which had been so utterly ineffectual to advance the welfare of that trade.
Mr. S. Rice
suggested that, after the admission of the right hon. gentleman, it might be quite enough for his hon. friend to apply directly to the Treasury and the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Dawson
hoped, that the linen trade of Ireland, which was going on in an extremely gratifying manner, would be suffered to remain as it was.
§ Mr. Grattan
hoped the House would not hastily adopt any measure, but give all parties a fair trial.
§ Mr. T. Wilson
was inclined to think the subject before the House was a proper one for inquiry before a committee.
Mr. M. Fitzgerald
argued, that there was an absolute necessity for an alteration in the act. By one of its clauses, butter could not be sent to the Cork market, except in a firkin which had been made in Cork. The consequence was, that the whole province of Munster must have firkins manufactured in Cork.
§ Sir H. Parnell
replied. He contended, that it was not necessary to go into an inquiry on this subject. The absurdity and evil of the system were too manifest to require any investigation. Was the House, in 1825, to be called upon to inquire, whether the value of a cask of butter ought to be fixed by a public officer? He should fail in doing his duty if he did not impress on ministers the necessity of granting relief to hundreds, nay, thousands of people in Ireland, who were oppressed by the present system. Those persons in Cork, Limerick, and Dublin, who supported the present system; were interested individuals 1048 who derived large incomes from weighing butter. As interested parties, their opinion ought to be received cautiously. In 1812, the existing measure was carried by the then chief secretary for Ireland. It was an act of government; and that being the case—the government having imposed on the country this extensive system of corruption and oppression—who were the parties to be consulted for the purpose of getting rid of it? Certainly, the government. He therefore cast it on his majesty's ministers to remove immediately this obnoxious measure.
§ The motion was agreed to.