§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
observed, that some time ago the usual annual returns respecting Trade and Navigation had been laid before their Lordships, which had no doubt attracted the general attention of their Lordships, as they had his own. He confessed he had looked through them with any feeling but that of satisfaction. What he wished to propose—as he believed there would be no objection at all on the part of the noble Marquess opposite, or of his noble Friend at the head of the Board of Trade—was, that they should have additional returns made out from the first and last six months of 1845 and 1846, in order that they might have the means of comparing the two periods of the two years. That would enable their Lordships to see more clearly than they could from the annual accounts, whether we were in a progressive state, whether we remained stationary, or had unfortunately begun to retrograde in our navigation and commerce. It would be very satisfactory if it should appear that the falling-off had been in the earlier period of the last year, and the improvement in the latter. That would afford us more hope of doing well in the course of the coming year than they could derive from the accounts as they now stood. As the justification for proposing any change in the form of the accounts, he would request permission to state to their Lordships two or three items which appeared on their face. There appeared to be a considerable falling-off in the exports of British manufactures for the past year; in cotton manufactures, to the extent of 1,429,000l.; in woollens, to the extent of 1,358,000; in linens, to the extent of 197,000l.; in woollen yarn, to the extent of 159,000l.; in linen yarns, to the extent of 185,000l.; amounting altogether to 3,329,000l. The great falling-off unfortunately was in the great branches of manufactures; on the other hand, the increase in the exports of cotton yarn had been very considerable; but that was an article not so highly manufactured, and, therefore, not requiring the application of 823 so much skill and labour as some others, and tending, likewise, to encourage the manufactures of other countries. On this head there was an increase to the extent of 910,000l.; and there was an increase in the exports of silk manufactures to the amount of 71,000l. Deducting these two items from the sum before mentioned, it appeared that the total falling-off in cottons, linens, and woollens, was not less than 2,348,000l. But, unfortunately, we had not from these accounts, as they now stood, any very satisfactory view of what was likely to take place in the following year, because he found that the import of the raw materials of our manufactures had very materially decreased. The diminution in the import of cotton wool was enormous, and amounted to almost 30 per cent on the total import of 1845, being not less than 2,269,000 cwts. The diminution in the import of sheep's wool was more than 11,500,000 lbs.; that in the import of flax was 271,000cwts. There was a diminution also in the articles necessary to complete our manufactures, as dyes and dye stuffs; it was true, there was a small increase on cochineal, logwood, and madder; but there was a falling-off on indigo and other dyes amounting to two-ninths of the whole amount of the imports. In barks, there was a falling-off of 97,000 cwts.; in barilla and alkalies, there was a falling-off of 1,901 cwts.; in undressed hemp, of 51,000 cwts.; there was also a falling-off in the import of untanned hides to the amount of 201,000; whilst there was a small increase in cocoa-nut oil, but a falling-off in the other kinds of oils. Therefore, not only had the export of manfactured articles decreased, but the import of the raw materials and every thing necessary to complete the manufacture. There would be some consolation if we were informed of very considerable imports from the view given of the navigation of the United Kingdom; but it appeared only to have continued stationary. The impression it left was not very satisfactory; there was a small increase in the amount of tonnage entered inwards, and a small decrease in the amount of tonnage entered outwards; but the one counterbalanced the other, and, on the whole, our navigation was in a stationary condition. He did not wish at present to draw any inferences from these facts; though concurrently with them, it was not very satisfactory to see a very large increase in the export of machinery, as well as in the exports of metals, 824 which was intended undoubtedly to assist the construction of railroads, and the manufactures of other States. He would confine himself to the great branches of our manufactures; there was not one of them—with the single exception of silks, which appeared to be, if not progressive, certainly not going back — neither linens, woollens, nor cottons, on which there was not a material decrease. Under these circumstances, it was not unreasonable to ask their Lordships to call for a return which might show what the imports and exports of those articles might have been in the first and last six months of 1845 and 1846, so that it might be seen whether they had been in a progressive state in the last six months, or whether our trade during that time was declining. He begged to move that the accounts relating to Trade and Navigation in the year 1846 be rendered for the first and last six months of 1845 and 1846. If his noble Friend should desire it, there could not be the least objection, but would probably be an advantage in requiring a similar return for the year 1844, the first and last six months.
§ The EARL of CLARENDON
thought there could be no objection whatever to providing the returns asked for by his noble Friend opposite. So far from there being any objection, there would be an advantage in furnishing the returns in the shape he suggested, because there was not the least doubt that it would enable them to institute a more minute comparison between the different years, than the form in which, as usual, these returns had this year been presented. Indeed, he thought, it would not only enable us to institute those comparisons, but he thought that anything which could tend to throw greater light on those important subjects, and enable us more correctly to understand both our present position and future prospects, as well as the results and tendencies of our recent legislation, could be only beneficial to the public in general, as well as to those interests more immediately concerned. Perhaps, as his noble Friend had said, this was not the time for entering into any discussion with respect to those returns to which he had drawn their Lordships' attention; but still he did hope that when the time for discussing the matter should arrive, their Lordships would agree with him that we were upon the whole in a progressive, and a satisfactorily progressive state. Fluctuations and vicissitudes would always 825 happen in every branch of trade, and more particularly in periods like last year, when disturbing causes had arisen that could not have been foreseen, and against which no human foresight could have guarded. He would take that article to which his noble Friend had more particularly alluded—that of cotton. His noble Friend was aware of the great failure that had taken place in the cotton crop of America, and the great rise in price which had necessarily ensued, that rise having been largely increased by the extravagant rates of freight occasioned by other causes. This circumstance had, of course, most injuriously affected our cotton manufactures. Our woollen manufactures were also affected, and this at a moment when distress generally prevailed throughout England, and of course disabled our accustomed consumers from purchasing as much as usual from us. With respect to sheep's wool, also, to which his noble Friend alluded, he believed that one cause in the falling-off in that article, was the necessarily large quantities of wool accumulated in this country, awaiting a reduction of duty; and there consequently was, in the course of 1845, a much larger quantity of wool entered. As to barilla, his noble Friend must be aware that it was now nearly superseded, and the use of barilla gradually diminishing, because the article had been replaced by soda. Without following his noble Friend through the other articles to which he alluded, he believed that with respect to the greater part of them, reasons, more or less satisfactory, could be assigned for those fluctuations in the amount of imports to which he had alluded. Taking all these disturbing causes together, looking also at the total amount of exports and imports, the manner in which the revenue was sustained up to the present moment, he really thought we might look with satisfaction to our present condition, and with confidence to our future prospects.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
was apprehensive that no good reason could be pointed out for the immense falling-off in the exportation of our manufactures, especially woollens. He had heard that Belgian cloths already came into this country in considerable quantities; and he wished to ask if his noble Friend could inform them whether foreign manufactures were not now largely imported for our consumption. The papers before their Lordships, spoke of diminished exports of British manufactures to foreign countries; but if it should be also true that 826 our own consumption was interfered with by the introduction of foreign manufactures to the extent asserted, he could not help thinking that was a very serious test of those favourite principles of free trade upon which they had, in his opinion, so unfortunately legislated.
§ The EARL of CLARENDON
was not exactly able to give his noble Friend the information he asked for. He had heard in the course of last summer that a certain amount of Belgian cloth was imported; but he had not heard any more of the subject since, and he had heard no complaint from any of the woollen manufacturers. He would, however, make inquiry on the subject.
§ Motion agreed to.