§ Order of the Day read; Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Mr. Hogg
said, that before he drew the attention of the House to the Motion of which he had given notice, he must first discharge the agreeable duty of expressing to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government his grateful thanks, and the grateful thanks of every person connected with India, for the great boon conferred upon that country, upon the West Indies, and upon the country at large, by the reduction of the Sugar Duties; and it was not without much reluctance that he offered any objection to the details of the measure. The Resolution laid upon the 211 Table by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, imposed a duty of 16s. 4d. upon white clayed sugar, or sugar rendered by any process equal to white clayed, not being refined; and a duty of 14s. on brown sugar, being Muscovado, or clayed, or on any other sugar not being equal to white clayed. Now, neither he, nor those on whose behalf he appeared, made any objection to the abstract justice of classifying sugars; it was perfectly fair and perfectly just that sugars of a higher quality, and commanding a higher price, should be subjected to a higher duty. He objected, not to the principle, but to the proposed application, which would operate most unjustly towards sugars the produce of India. Hon. Members who had not turned their attention to the subject, might not be aware that anterior to the year 1836, there had always been a discriminating duty of 10s. on East India sugar, in excess of the duty on West India sugar. While the East India Company had the exclusive right of trading with India, there might have been some reason for that duty; but after the year 1833, when the trade to India was thrown open, there no longer remained any excuse for continuing the additional duty on East India sugar. The noble Lord, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when in office, in 1834, declared that upon principle there was no ground for maintaining a differential duty between East and West India sugar; and the right hon. Baronet now at the head of Her Majesty's Government, expressed the same opinion in language equally strong. But although it was thus admitted, that upon principle these discriminating duties could not be supported, it was urged, and he (Mr. Hogg) thought fairly urged, that the then peculiar state of the West Indies required their continuance for a short period longer. In 1836, Lord Monteagle, then Mr. Spring Rice and Chancellor of the Exchequer, stated, that the time had arrived when justice to India required that there should be an equalization of duties on sugar from the East and West Indies; and when that measure might be introduced without injury or danger to the West Indies. Since that period the duties had been the same, and all that he contended for was, that such equality should not be disturbed. His objection to the proposed discriminating duty was, that colour, and not quality, was the standard; and the results would be, that the poor and weak East India sugars would 212 be subject to the high duty; while the rich, strong sugars of the West Indies, superior in grain and saccharine matter, and bringing higher prices, would come at in the low duty, because they were brown. To make this intelligible to the House, he must beg their attention to the peculiar mode of manufacturing sugar in the East Indies. In order to remove the impurities, it underwent a process of filtration through wet grass, which, while it improved the colour, detracted from the strength, and diminished the quantity of saccharine matter, thus rendering the sugar intrinsically less valuable. Speaking generally, the sugars from the West Indies underwent no process to remove the impurities—he was aware that sugars were sometimes clayed in Demerara and Barbadoes; but he was correct in stating, generally, that the West India sugars underwent no process to improve their colour, and would, therefore, all come in at the low duty. The proposed discriminating duty would, therefore, subject to the higher duty the poor weak East India sugar, because it had the misfortune to be white; while the rich, brown, West Indian sugar, superior in grain, strength, and saccharine matter, and fetching a higher price, would come in at the lower duty. So completely was colour rendered the test, that the West India sugars, though clayed, might come in at the low duty, if the planters managed to retain their brown colour. In fine, the proposed scheme seemed to him equivalent to an enactment that all sugars from the East Indies should be subject to a duty of 16s. 4d., and all sugars from the West Indies to a duty of 14s. He might be told, "You call the East India sugar weak and poor, but with all its poverty it bears a good price." Now, there was some truth in that; it bore a price beyond its intrinsic value, and he would explain why. The East India sugar from its colour was in demand among the grocers, for the purpose of mixing with the strong, but dark, sugars from the West Indies. He understood that every grocer had a mill, for the express purpose of mixing the rich, yellow, West Indian Muscovado sugar, with the poor, but white, East Indian sugar, and that the compound formed the article of general consumption. The whole of the East Indian sugars were thus used for general consumption; none of them went to the refiner. Now, mark the operation of the proposed discriminating duty. The West Indian sugars, which, from their abundance of saccharine matter, 213 were used by the refiner, and consumed by the rich, would be admitted at the low duty; while the East India sugars, which went into general consumption among the middling and poorer classes, would be subjected to the higher duty. He would tell them what would be the result of such a measure. Orders would be sent out from this country, to those engaged in the manufacture of sugar in India, "Don't send us any longer a pure white sugar, that will be subjected to the higher duty, but send us a black, dirty, impure Act-of-Parliament sugar, that will be admitted at the lower duty." Such a discriminating duty, so imposed, would have the effect of holding out a bounty for the production of impure and inferior sugar, and would check the improvements which experience and an increased knowledge of chemistry would otherwise introduce; there would no longer be any encouragement for the production of sugar which, without further process or expense, was fit for general consumption. Those who could not afford to purchase refined or lump sugar, would be compelled to use a very inferior and impure article. Now, he contended that this ought not to be the case; and that the competition among manufacturers ought to be, who would produce the best and cheapest sugar in a state fit, without further trouble or cost, for general consumption. The only ground upon which he could conjecture that his right hon. Friend could defend the proposed discriminating duty, was upon the principle of imposing a duty on the manufactured article, and allowing the raw material to come in cheap; but that principle did not apply. Brown or Muscovado sugar was not the raw material — it was the manufactured article; and the competition that ought to be encouraged by Government was, who could make the purest and best sugar fit for use, and not who could introduce the greatest portion of saccharine matter in a state unfit for general consumption. He might be told that his argument was founded on the assumption that colour, and colour alone, was the criterion established by the Resolution on the Table. He admitted that, and contended that such assumption was strictly correct. Before he gave notice of his Motion he had mentioned to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the fears entertained by himself and the East India merchants. He had said. "We don't object to the principle of your measure; but its application will be most unjust as re- 214 gards the East India sugars; remove our apprehensions, and instead of saying 'equal to clayed sugar,' introduce the word 'quality,' and say 'equal in quality to clayed sugar;' and then define quality as consisting of the elements of colour, grain, and saccharine matter, and we shall be perfectly satisfied." His right hon. Friend refused to make that alteration, and he was therefore compelled to bring the subject before the House. It is true, that his right hon. Friend assured him that his fears were groundless, that colour alone would not be the criterion, and that instructions to that effect should be issued to the Custom-house officers. It was very satisfactory to him, individually, to receive such an assurance; but interests of such magnitude could not be permitted to rest on the verbal assurance of any Member of the Government, or upon instructions about to be issued to Custom-house officers. He had said to his right hon. Friend, "Put what you now say within the four corners of an Act of Parliament, and give the East India merchants the security of the law before they invest their capital." Those interested in the importation of sugar, were the best judges of the meaning and probable result of the proposed measure. A few evenings ago he had presented a petition on the subject from the East India and China Association, comprising, he believed, all the mercantile firms in London, connected with the trade to India. That association was managed by a Committee of twenty; and he was authorised to state that the petition had been seen and approved of by eighteen out of the twenty. He told them that the objections they raised and the arguments urged in that petition, would probably lead to doing away with any classification of sugars, and the admission of all sugars, not being refined, at the same duly. He explained to them fully, that if sue were the result, the East India sugars would have to compete with the sugars of Java and Manilla, with a protection of only 9s. 4d., instead of 11s. 8d. as afforded by the proposed measure. They, one and all, said, that they would rather give up the additional protection against the sugars from Java, Manilla and China, than submit to the injury and injustice of a scheme that would impose a higher duty generally on sugar from the East, than on those coming from the West Indies. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), when intimating the quantity of sugar likely to be imported this year, said that he expected 215 70,000 tons from India; and it was strange, that when estimating the entire quantity likely to come in at the higher rate of duty, he stumbled on the same amount, viz. 70,000 tons. Indeed it was obvious, that unless nearly the whole of the sugars from the East Indies were subjected to the higher duty, the amount of revenue expected by the right hon. Baronet could not be realised. He would proceed to show that he was not idly speculating upon dangers to be apprehended. The East India merchants wished to avoid difficulties and disadvantages to which they had before been subjected, under similar, though less injurious provisions. In 1819, a duty of 5s. per cwt. was imposed on white or clayed sugar of the West Indies, in excess of the duty imposed on brown or Muscovado sugar. No distinction was then made between the sugars from the East Indies, all of which were subjected to a discriminating duty of 10s. This distinction between the clayed and Muscovado sugars from the West Indies, gave rise to endless difficulties and complaints, and was finally abolished in 1825. In 1821 a like distinction was made between the sugars from the East Indies. The words were "Sugar clayed, or otherwise refined, so as to be equal to the quality of clayed, were to pay a duty of 2l. 5s., and the brown or Muscovado sugar, a duty of 2l." But Parliament was then more honest, and distinctly stated, that the intention was to increase the duty generally on East India sugars. The Preamble was as follows,—Whereas it is expedient to increase the duties of Customs payable on sugars, the growth, produce, or manufacture of the East Indies.Now, he begged the attention of the House to the words used in this Statute. The additional duty was imposed on clayed sugar, or sugar equal in quality to clayed, introducing the word "quality," which was omitted in the proposed Resolution, and which his right hon. Friend persisted in refusing to introduce. He would show, from official documents in his hand, that although the enactment he had referred to made quality the criterion, yet that the Custom-house officers, when carrying the provisions of that Statute into execution, made colour, and colour alone, the criterion; and that the Board of Trade and the Lords of the Treasury supported the Custom-house officers in so acting. [The hon. Member here referred to a correspondence between the Lords of the Treasury, the Board of Trade, and the Committee of 216 the East India Trade Association, as to what ought to be the standard.] He had referred to this correspondence, to show the difficulty and discussion to which the discriminating duty had given rise; and he would now proceed to read the result as communicated in a letter addressed to the Secretary to the East India Trade Committee, and which, with the permission of the House, he would read at length:—Having laid before the Board, your letter of the 19th ulto., transmitting a letter from sundry merchants connected with the East India Trade Committee on the subject of the new duty and classification of East India sugar, and stating that as the Act 1 and 2 Geo. IV. c. 106, has now come into operation, it is important that a fair and indisputable standard should be speedily adopted, to decide what sugars are justly liable to the higher duty attached to clayed sugar. I have it in command to acquaint you, for the information of the said Committee, that the standard on which the duties on East India sugars are now charged, viz., colour, was adopted, in the opinion of the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade, and confirmed by the Lords of the Treasury, as the best criterion by which to judge of the comparative quality of sugar, as far as regards the degree of refinement it has undergone. I am at the same time to add, that the matter is now again under the consideration of the Board of Trade, and until the Commissioners receive their Lordships' further directions thereon, it is not in their power to make any alteration in the mode of charging the duty.Here, then, was an Act of Parliament, imposing an additional duty on sugar of a particular quality, the word 'quality' being introduced into the enactment. And here was an order from the Lords of the Treasury, declaring that under that enactment colour, and colour alone, should be the standard. Surely, then, he was justified in apprehending that colour would be declared the criterion under the proposed Resolution, where the words bore that obvious meaning, and where the word "quality" was intentionally omitted, and its introduction when suggested, refused. He believed, that under the Act he had referred to, colour was declared to be the standard, from necessity, because it was the only criterion by which it was possible to judge. He repeated that in the abstract he did not object to a classification of sugars, if practicable; but if it could not be introduced without working injustice, it ought to be abandoned. The proposed alteration, so injurious to India, had not been called for by any new facts or information. The 217 peculiar mode of manufacturing sugar in India was fully known in 1836, when the duties were equalized, and has frequently been urged since, as amounting to a partial refinement, because it improved the colour. It was proved and dwelt upon before a Committee, where his right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Member for Newark sat with him many a long and dreary day and month, with regard to sugar, as to tea, wine, and every other article, an ad valorem duty would be the fairest, if it were possible to levy it. He felt it very difficult, indeed he believed it would be impossible, by any average or price current, to convey a correct impression as to the prices of the different sugars. No judgment could be formed, unless the samples of each kind were laid upon the Table of the House. He would, however, read the average prices taken from the Gazette for the years 1843 and 1844, the only two years in which the prices of the East India sugars were gazetted. In 1843, the average price of West Indian sugar was 33s. 9d. per cwt., of Mauritius sugar 33s. 8d., and of East India sugar 36s. In 1844, the average price of West Indian sugar was 33s. 8d.; of Mauritius sugar 32s. 10d.; and of East Indian sugar 35s. 1¼d.; thus showing, that on the average of these two years, the East India sugars sold 1s. 10d. above the West Indian. The House would observe, that the average included all sugars, high and low, and therefore afforded no information as to the relative value in the market of the different qualities of the East and West India sugars. He would not trouble the House with any of the comparative statements with which he had been furnished, as they might appear to have been prepared for the occasion. But he would ask permission to read the Broker's return of an actual sale, on the 24th of this month—Fine white Bengal (Benares) 68s. per cwt; fine Mauritius 68s.; very fine Jamaica 68s. to 69s.; fine Antigua 68s. to 69s.The Mauritius, Antigua, and Jamaica sugars, all come under the denomination, yellow sugars. When adverting to the general impression, that the intention of Government was to make colour the standard, he had omitted to refer to a communication with which he had been favoured by a gentleman in Liverpool, who sent him the following extract from the Liverpool Times. After adverting generally to the advantages to be derived from the Government scheme, it proceeds thus:— 218It is desirable that colour alone should be the standard of quality—we mean, that every sample below a certain degree of whiteness, should pass at the lower duty, whatever be the beauty of its appearance, or the perfection of its manufacture.The gentleman states in his letter—That refiners are quite agreed as to the perfect facility of such a standard.Now he (Mr. Hogg) thought that the refiners were the very last persons that Government ought to consult, as it was obviously their interest that the sugars imported into this country should not be in a state of purity, to render them fit, without further process, for general consumption. He might add, that he held in his hand a Broker's report, published the day after the Government measure was announced, in which it is assumed that colour is the standard, and that the East India sugar will consequently be subject to the higher duty. He was aware that in 1841 a proposal had been made by the then Government to introduce a classification of sugars. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he first made his statement, proposed a duty of 12s. on Foreign sugars generally; but he afterwards announced his intention of imposing a duty of 18s. on the higher classes of unrefined sugar; and he (Mr. Hogg) thought he was right in so doing, because it was then the intention to admit the sugars of the Brazils and Cuba. This was the view taken by his right hon. Friend the Member for Newark in the discussion on the Sugar Duties last year. Adverting to the differential duty proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth in 1841, he said—There was a very good reason in 1841 for adopting such a course, because the great bulk of the sugars of Cuba, although they cannot technically be called refined, are yet much more so than the British sugars, and coming in at a duty rated by weight, would enjoy a great relative advantage. This does not hold good of Java and Manilla sugars, in which the refined sort forms a very small and almost imperceptible portion of the quantity produced.He regretted that he had not been able to obtain the Papers for which he had moved, as he had reason to believe they would show the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of practically working out a system of discriminating duties. In the absence of those documents, he must cite the authority of his right hon. Friends the Chan- 219 cellor of the Exchequer, and the hon. Member for Newark, both of whom declared last year, on the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, that it was impracticable, or at least inexpedient, to introduce the discrimination now proposed. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer then opposed any discriminating duty, and he founded his opposition on the statement of the Custom-house officers, that such discrimination was impracticable. He now proposes discrimination, and founds his proposal on an assurance from the same officers, that such discrimination is not only practicable but easy. Was he to be told, that interests of such magnitude were to be determined by the varying opinions of those subordinate officers? But he would ask permission to read what was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 14th of June last on this very subject:—It had been said by the hon. Member for Dumfries, that the time had been when a distinction was made as to the duties imposed on the different classes of British sugars. The hon. Member for Dumfries had therefore contended that there should be such a distinctive duty; but the difficulty of drawing the line between the various descriptions of British sugars had been the reason why it had been abandoned. Now the difficulty, whatever it might have been formerly, must be enhanced by the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman said, let there be a light duty upon brown Muscovado, and upon white clayed a duty of 34s. Now he had consulted, during his examination of this subject, many of the most experienced officers of the Customs, and they had informed him that there was the greatest difficulty in drawing the line between white clayed sugar and a description of sugar slightly refined, which was not admissible. Commercial Members would know that many cases had occurred in which certain sugars had approached so near refinement, that a question had been raised whether it was or was not admissible. The white clayed was a new distinction, and the new difficulty would arise of drawing the line between the clayed and the white clayed. There was a risk to the British grower that refined sugar would come into competition with Colonial sugar, and there was a risk to the Revenue that the one would be substituted for the other. But with respect to the risk as to the introduction of white clayed sugar in great quantities from countries which the Resolution admitted, he had made inquiry with the view of ascertaining whether the general quality of sugars in Java and Manilla was such as to give a superiority over those now introduced into the British market. Now there was no commodity from the East equi- 220 valent to the fine sugar of the Havannah, and therefore, having laid down the principle that the medium duty on British sugar ought to apply to Foreign, he did not see the necessity for this additional item in the Tariff, creating, as each additional item necessarily would, doubt and difficulty, and with them injury to the buyers and sellers of the article.That was the opinion of his right hon. Friend last year, and it was his (Mr. Hogg's) opinion then, and now. He had already told the House that in 1821 a discriminating duty was imposed on different qualities of East India sugar. But so great was the vexation and injustice occasioned by that measure, that in 1823, only two years afterwards, the discriminating duty was removed; and in 1825 all discriminating duties on sugars the produce of the British possessions were abolished; and all sugars, not being refined, have from that period been admitted at the same duty. He had been informed that, in 1825, when all the Acts relating to the Customs had been submitted to the revision of Mr. Deacon Hume, it was by his advice that the discriminating duties on British-grown sugars had been abolished. The present proposal of Government was in fact a revival, in a more objectionable form, of the Motion made last year by the hon. Member for Bristol. It was true, that hon. Member proposed a discriminating duty of 4s. 2d., and he limited that duty to Foreign sugars. He did not attempt to subject the East India sugars to any disadvantage, or in any manner to disturb the measure of equalisation passed in 1836. The hon. Member was perfectly fair in his proposal and in his argument. He said, it might be right to impose discriminating duties on the different qualities of British sugars, but that such duties ought to be imposed with reference to the quantity of saccharine matter which the sugars contained. That was perfectly fair. If such a plan were adopted, and if there existed any means of ascertaining the grain and strength of the sugar, and the quantity of saccharine matter it contained, he (Mr. Hogg) would not have a word to say against such duties. But, however fair the principle, he feared that the application was impracticable, and he therefore thought it better to have no discriminating duties at all. In that debate the same hon. Member took no narrow view of the West Indian interests. He coupled together the East and West Indies, and identified their interests. He (Mr. Hogg) maintained, that nothing could tend 221 more to the interests of the West Indies, than the abundant supply of sugar from India. He hoped that the reduction in the duties would lead to a great increase in the consumption; and if the East and West Indies together could meet that increased consumption by supplying in abundance good and cheap sugar, the great experiment now in progress would be worked out, and the anxious hopes of the Government, and of the great mass of the people of this country, for the exclusion of slave-labour sugar, would be fully realised. But if the sugar produced by them was not fully adequate to the consumption, no power on earth could keep out slave grown sugar. In the West Indies there was some limit to the production of sugar; but he believed he was not speaking the language of exaggeration, when he said that in India the capability of production was almost unlimited. He believed the statement made by Mr. Trevylian before the Committee to be strictly correct. He believed it to be true, that the vast tract designated by that gentleman as the Valley of the Ganges, was competent to produce sugar enough for the consumption of the world. Yet the hon. Member for Stockport had told the House that India had no claim to protection. What, India no claim to protection! An Empire, equal in extent to nearly the whole of Europe, and containing a population four times as great as that of the United Kingdom. An Empire, founded, maintained, and extended, without subjecting the mother country to the cost of one shilling—defraying, from her own resources, the whole of her expenses, civil and military, and paying annually to this country a tribute of upwards of 3,000,000l. He termed it a tribute, because it was remitted for the purpose of paying the home expenses, and India received no commercial return for it. India, besides, poured into this country an annual stream of wealth in the fortunes of public servants, who, having completed their career in that country, sought to pass the remainder of their days in their native land. India, too, takes 6,000,000l. of our manufactures, including 7,000,000 of pounds of cotton yarn and twist, and 3,500,000 pieces of piece goods. Thirty years ago India was a great manufacturing country, clothing her own population, and exporting to England annually cottons and muslins to the value of 3,000,000l. sterling. The manufactures of England had displaced and supplanted those of India, even in the markets of India 222 itself; and this, not in the fair and natural course of trade, but aided by the maintenance of unequal duties; for, while the manufactures of England were admitted into India at a duty of 3½ per cent., the duties in this country on articles the produce of India, varied from 10 to 30 per cent. Dacca, and other manufacturing districts, within his (Mr. Hogg's) recollection, rich and flourishing, had been reduced to a state of destitution unknown in this happy land. Her manufactures ruined, India was driven to the culture of her fertile soil, and when in this state of transition, was he to be told by a British manufacturer, and by a British statesman, late President of the Board of Trade, that India had comparatively small claim to protection? At present, the greatest difficulty existed in obtaining returns from India. Indigo and sugar were the great staple productions of that country; the cultivation of indigo could not be increased, as the quantity now produced was equal to the consumption of the world, and the present prices very little exceeded the cost of production. The cultivation of sugar might be increased almost without limit, if not checked by injudicious legislation. So great at the present moment was the difficulty of obtaining returns from India, that the Court of Directors had been compelled to open the home treasury for bills at the exchange of 1s. 9d.—a rate that scarcely yielded a bullion remittance; and yet this was the time selected for the introduction of a measure that had excited the greatest alarm among all whose capital was embarked in India. Idle and loose statements were sometimes made as to the cost of the production of sugar in India. The best answer to such allegations was a statement of the actual price of sugar in the Calcutta market since the equalisation of the duties—he spoke of the shipping qualities of Benares sugar. In 1837, it was 9 rupees per Bayar maund; in 1838, 9 rupees; in 1839, 10 rupees 12 annas; in 1840, 11 rupees 6 annas; in 1841, 11 rupees 2 annas; in 1842, 10 rupees 4 annas; in 1843, 10 rupees 10 annas; showing an average, for the seven years, of 10 rupees 4 annas per Bayar maund. The Bayar maund was equal to 80lb., so that the average price of sugar in Calcutta, during the time specified, had been 14 rupees 5 annas 7 pice, or about 28s. per cwt. And he believed that hon. Members present, connected with the trade to India, would bear him out when he said that, 223 generally speaking, those who had shipped sugar to this country had not gained by the transaction. While he thus stated his belief as to the result of the commercial speculation, the House would be happy to hear that the increased cultivation of the sugar cane in India had tended greatly to the benefit of the ryots, or native cultivators of the soil, who grew the cane and sold the juice to the manufacturers. He had no intention of imputing to Government a disposition to act unfairly towards India; but had felt it his duty to point out, as strongly as he could, how very injurious to that country the operation of the proposed measure would he. Judging from past experience, he must confess he was opposed to any discriminating duties; and feared they could not fail to occasion the same frauds, vexations, and injustice, that had formerly been complained of. He had omitted to state, that so great had been that vexation, that the Lords of the Treasury had been compelled, of their own authority, to suspend the operation of the measure, and to authorise the Custom-house officers to admit the high class sugars at the low duty, taking bonds for the excess; and these bonds were never put in force. He would, notwithstanding, have abstained from urging his objection to discriminating duties, if Government had consented to render the proper measure fair in principle, and equal in its application, by adopting his suggestion to introduce the word "quality" into the Resolution, and then to define quality as consisting of colour, grain, and saccharine matter. As his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had declined acceding to his proposal, he would conclude by moving the Resolution of which he had given notice:—That it is the opinion of this House, that there ought not to be any discriminating duty between sugars, Muscovado and clayed, not being refined; and that any such duty would interfere with the measure of equalisation between sugars the produce of the East and West Indies.
§ Mr. Hume
seconded the Motion. He had never heard a case brought forward more clearly than this had been by the hon. Gentleman, and he hoped it would produce its proper effect upon Her Majesty's Government. India deserved favour, if favour were to be shown to any one particular interest. He objected to the Government plan; he objected to this constant meddling from year 224 to year, as it certainly was not the way to produce an increase in the quantity of sugar. He said, too, that he did not expect from the comprehensive view of the commercial state of the country of the right hon. Gentleman, that he would have proposed such a plan as this. What Government ought to do was to give due notice to the East and West Indian interests, both of what they were going to do now, and for the time to come. If this were not done, a change might yet take place in that House, when parties might be driven to an abrupt termination of their duties. It would be much better to fix a period to which the discriminating duties should continue, and no longer. Better, far better, to make a settlement — one which would be known, one that would be recognised — than thus to change from year to year. What he wished them to do was, to take an example from Holland. The question, it ought to be remembered both by that House and the Government, was one of great national importance. To the Motion of the hon. Member he gave his most cordial support.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
could assure his hon. Friend who sat behind him, that there were many parts of his speech in which he concurred. He was perfectly sensible of the value of their East India possessions, for he had a full knowledge of their capabilities for extensive commercial intercourse with other countries. Having complimented the hon. Member, he proceeded to say, that his hon. Friend would believe him when he said, that if any proposition were to be made injurious to the sugar of the East Indies, he would not be a party to it. He knew that he was under the imputation that because he had a connexion with the West Indies he made such a proposition; but that was the very circumstance which would make him most unwilling, of all other men, to propose a measure calculated in the slightest degree to be injurious to the East Indies. Last Session it had been proposed, that there should be a general duty, applied to all sugars the produce of all British posses-sessions, and discriminating duties applied to different degrees of sugar the produce of Foreign countries. On that occasion he had stated—and by that statement he was prepared to abide—that the mode proposed was not the just manner for arranging the question. He then stated, that in the then existing arrangement as to East and 225 West India sugar, which imposed the same duty on all British sugar without reference to quality, he would not propose that a discriminating duty be imposed on sugar from foreign countries, the produce of free labour. He had never presumed to doubt that there was a difficulty as to the proposed discriminating duties. What he desired was to give to the community a cheaper sugar; and he desired also to give to the East and West India sugars a protection, not an excessive protection, but still protection, against Foreign sugar, and for these purposes he proposed discriminating duties. An argument had been used against discriminating duties that they gave a benefit to inferior sugars, in comparison with superior sugars, but that objection did not apply to his proposition alone. It applied equally to every case of ad valorem duty. The real difficulty was to decide upon a test of quality, and to decide which sugar should pay the higher and which the lower duty. His hon. Friend (Mr. Hogg) supposed that the Government assumed that colour was the test. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) said that colour alone was not assumed as the basis of the discrimination. The Government had consulted those who were well acquainted with the subject, and were assured by them that the white clayed sugar of Java was the best, because it was a known standard below which in quality all sugar admitted should pay the lower duty, and above which in quality all should be subject to the higher duty. He did not deny that difficulties might arise in correctly defining the quality of the sugar in some few cases, but difficulties of this sort existed even under the present arrangement of the sugar duties. It is now impossible, in all cases, to determine what is refined sugar and what is not refined. By the proposed plan, it would be for those whose duty it would be to judge of the quality, to say whether the sugar brought in was equal in quality to the white clayed sugar of Java, and to levy the duty accordingly; the Resolution also providing that sugar which, by any process of refining or otherwise, was rendered equal to the standard, should pay the higher rate of duty. He objected to the introduction of the words proposed to be introduced by his hon. Friend, because it was considered, on inquiry and consideration, that multiplication of words in the Resolution would rather tend to obscure 226 the intentions of the law, than to make them more clear; and therefore he declined to encumber the Resolution with words which he did not think necessary, with the view of giving effect to that equal administration of the law which if was the object of the Government to carry out. His hon. Friend had said that the discriminating duties that had been formerly in existence were abandoned, because they were found to be unfair towards our East India possessions, and at the same time impracticable in their operation. It was true that, for a long time previous to 1825, the duty on sugar had been imposed on the principle that brown or Muscovado should pay one duty and white clayed sugar another; and during a very long period, that mode of levying duty was liable to no objection. It was true that East India sugar was then but little known in this country, it being the policy of England at that time — most unwisely as he thought — to exclude East India sugar from the home market. But in 1821, in addition to the higher rate of duty to which East India sugar was subject, a differential duty was also imposed on the white clayed sugar, as distinguished from the brown and other inferior qualities. It was found, however, that as the East India sugar growers made all their sugars equal to clayed, the distinction operated unjustly to the East Indies, and consequently Mr. Huskisson brought in a Bill to abolish that distinction, and in lien imposed on East India sugar a differential duty of 10s. a cwt. But the question then, as far as the East Indies was concerned, was simply clayed or not clayed; while now the object is to fix a standard for ascertaining the quality by the best test that could be adopted. He was quite sure if the House adopted the Resolution proposed by the Government, and took the quality of while clayed sugar as the test of what should be subject to the higher duty, they would adopt a test which would, in its result, do justice to all parties, give the most extended consumption to the country, and at the same time afford the best prospect of recovering the Revenue. He believed too that as the East Indies produced a large quantity of low-priced sugar, as well as a large quantity of high-priced sugar, that they would be even greater gainers by the proposed arrangement, than even those Colonies for whose benefit it was supposed to be made. He assured the 227 House that the Government, in proposing this arrangement, did so not in reference to the advantage of any particular possession of the Crown, but in the full belief, founded on the best information, that its operation would be equal and just to all the possessions of the Crown.
§ Mr. Hawes
did not approve of the proposed standard. He thought there would be great if not insuperable difficulty in determining by such a test the quality of various kinds of sugar. Could it be expected that a Custom-house officer in London, Cork, or Liverpool, would be qualified to give an opinion on the qualities of sugar? How could he judge of the granulation, power, and other qualities of sugar? If the Custom-house officer was not qualified to make those distinctions, how could the distinctive duties be levied? The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the white clayed sugar of Java as the standard of quality; but if he took that standard, the great bulk of the sugar of the East Indies would come in at the lower duty. The Custom-house officer, then, was to be the sole judge, and every merchant and port in the United Kingdom was to be dependent on his judgment. If the right hon. Gentleman had made the quantity of saccharine matter the test of quality, then he (Mr. Hawes) could understand him. By that test the amount of duty might be determined by the variation shown by the saccharometer; but endless mistakes would result from depending on the taste or judgment of a Custom-house officer. Why not let the quality depend on the skill and ingenuity of the manufacturers in different parts of the world, and let the consumer have the benefit? Now, with respect to the proposed discriminating duty, how would the right hon. Gentleman insure uniformity of judgment on the part of the Custom-house officers? He had taken pains to ascertain the opinions of persons connected with the trade—of the best practical experience—and they told him that the system would not succeed. When practical men took this view he felt that he had a right to ask the right hon. Gentleman to make inquiries of persons connected with the trade, and let them give their opinions as to how far his plan was practicable. He would have expected the right hon. Gentleman to have told them whether the Customs' officers had reported in favour of this plan. Now, 228 if this plan was attempted, it would be attended with the greatest practical difficulty. It would be impossible to insure uniformity of judgment; and the merchant in Glasgow would have to pay one rate of duty, whilst the merchant in London would have to pay another. This would cause a great inequality of duty in the different parts of the kingdom, and would hold out an inducement to fraud. He (Mr. Hawes) represented many persons largely connected with the sugar trade, and on their behalf he asked the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his plan. The right hon. Gentleman's experience of the total failure of his former plan to levy an ad valorem duty ought to have warned him against a plan of this kind. He would be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman whether any persons of eminence in the trade had sanctioned his plan. Whatever general objections he might have to the plan of the right hon. Gentleman respecting sugar, he wished now to confine himself to the mercantile grounds of objection. He entreated the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his plan, which would be unjust and unequal, unless he could devise some means by which the Customs' officers throughout the kingdom could form the same conclusion as to the qualities of sugar, and the duties that ought to be imposed.
§ Sir R. Peel
thought it would be difficult to come to a satisfactory conclusion that night. There was much practical difficulty in the question; and he thought, without reference to party, and whatever opinions hon. Gentlemen might entertain on the Budget as a whole, they had only one object in discussing the present question, and to adjust this matter of detail. He was sure hon. Gentlemen would admit that the position of the Government was one of difficulty, because they were not at liberty before announcing their plan to make very extensive inquiries; and it was necessary to limit their consultation to a very small number of persons. The object of the Government was not to subject East Indian sugar to any disadvantage; they did not desire to favour the West Indies at the expense of the East Indies. In point of population, the East Indies were not subject to the same difficulties, in some respects, as the West Indies; but the House had, as he apprehended, decided that with reference to our own Colonies they would not take 229 these differences of advantages into account, and the question really was, "shall we take one uniform duty of 15s. or 16s., which shall apply to all our Colonies, or shall we make an attempt, which all admit to be a good one if it can be carried out, to distinguish between sugars of different qualities?" The hon. Gentleman says, that we have no authority for making any such experiment, and that we have no practical testimony in its favour; but we have had communications from the Custom-house officers that nothing is more easy than to make the distinction. They all expressed a strong opinion on this point, though shades of distinction might occasionally cause some difficulty. If, however, they made no discriminating duties between the sugar of our own Colonies, there must be no discriminating duties with respect to Foreign sugars. He would decidedly object to any such discrimination; if it were impossible to apply any distinction in respect to the sugar of our own Colonies, he must object to any discriminating duties between Foreign sugars. Although the Amendment of the hon. Member for Beverley was directed against discriminating duties generally, the hon. Member did not think them unjust, provided they could fetter the discretion of the Custom-house officers, and he proposed words to effect his object. He did not object to the principle, but he suggested that the Resolution should be worded as "white clayed, or sugars rendered equal by any process to white clayed sugars," to be admitted at the duty of 16s. 4d. The hon. Member said that they must put it out of the power of the Custom-house officers on their own authority to define the quality. The best course, if the forms of the House would allow them, would be to apply themselves to the consideration of the question, whether they could impose a mere power of discrimination upon the Custom-house officers, and should accurately define what should constitute quality. With further consideration they might be able to determine whether they could introduce particular words. If, therefore, the forms of the House would allow, the Resolution might now be passed on the understanding that in Committee on the Bill, unless they should adopt a satisfactory definition of what should be the quality, in the sense in which it was generally understood, his hon. Friend should be at liberty to object 230 to it, and make a Motion on the subject, and to limit the power of the Custom-house officers. They might allow the Resolution then to pass, on the understanding that no one should be bound by it not to make an objection to the clause in the Bill.
§ Mr. B. Hawes
wished to know what effect the course recommended by the right hon. Baronet would have upon the ultimate disposal of the Resolution.
§ Sir R. Peel
said that, as his only object was to do justice by all parties, no unfair advantage would be taken of the temporary withdrawal of the Amendment. The Government could now communicate freely with the officers of the Customs and other persons conversant with the qualities of sugar, and thus obtain information which the nature of the question wholly precluded them from doing previously to their intentions becoming known.
§ Mr. F. Baring
expressed his concurrence in the right hon. Baronet's proposal, and he had come down to the House prepared generally to approve of the scale which the right hon. Baronet had drawn up. At the same time, he must observe that he had been sorry to see that the scale which had been drawn out, nominally upon the principle of an ad valorem duty, would operate very seriously against the East Indian sugars. The right hon. Baronet appeared to be somewhat in a hurry to pass his Resolution that night, but he could hardly expect to do so, as there was another Amendment to be brought forward by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets.
§ Sir R. Peel
stated, that his suggestion merely referred to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Beverley; he had no expectation of passing the Resolution that evening.
said, that he had been referred to as having spoken lightly of the East Indies. That was a severe remark. What he had really said was, that the plea of necessity, which had been urged on the part of the West Indies as a justification of a differential duty in their favour, was a plea totally inapplicable to the East Indies. He did not add to that in the slightest degree, nor did he in the slightest degree recede from it. The right hon. Gentleman also explained that he had been misunderstood, probably on account of rapidity or indistinctness in a passage of his speech the other night, in 231 which he had made reference to the laws of the United States in regard to the introduction of slave sugar. He had in that speech refered to the Economist newspaper, and a Gentleman connected with that journal had written to him complaining of what he then said. He would, therefore, take this opportunity of stating, that nothing was further from his intention than to ascribe to that Gentleman anything in the least degree inconsistent with personal honour. He admitted that the hon. Member for Lambeth had raised the question fairly. But there must be always a difficulty in working any system of classification, but the hon. Gentleman himself was not perhaps aware of the full extent of the difficulty. If they wanted to get rid of classification there was but one way—that was to say, that all sugars, from the coarsest up to double refined, shall pay the same duty. If they did that, they would get rid of the difficulty; but while there was any classification, the question was where to draw the line. He should object most strongly to classify Foreign sugars, when there was no classification of British sugars. On a former occasion he had contended that there was no necessity for introducing a classification in the Act of last year, because it was a temporary Act, but at the same time he had said that classification, though attended with difficulty, would be the means of removing still greater difficulties.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ The House in Committee of Ways and Means. Clause considered pro formâ.
§ House resumed. Committee to sit again.
§ House adjourned.