HC Deb 10 August 1838 vol 44 cc1157-60
Captain Wood

called the attention of the House to the state of the import duties on foreign grapes cherries, pears, &c., brought for consumption into this country and dwelt upon the injustice which would be done the English market-gardeners and growers of fruit for sale, if the reduction to a five per cent. ad valorem duty were to take place as contemplated in the Customs Duties Bill. He asked for a fair protection for the industrious and highly-burdened class who embarked their capital in gardening, which he conceived would be affected by imposing a duty of 30 or 40 per cent., on all foreign table-fruits. This would be doing no more than placing this portion of the community on a footing in point of protection with the manufacturing and agricultural interests. He moved, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, in order to take into consideration the Customs' Acts.

Mr. P. Thomson

said, that in point of form, the hon. Gentleman could not proceed in the way he proposed doing, inasmuch as the Customs Duties Bill, which had been passed during the present Session, had not yet received the Royal Assent. The existing duties, therefore, with which the hon. Gentleman could deal, were those of which he himself approved. But even if there were no objection in point of form, he should resist the motion; and for this reason, that the Legislature had already this Session determined to reduce the duties on these articles. The object of the Legislature was to allow these kinds of fruit to be imported at the same rate of duty as other fruits and vegetables, viz., five per cent. He believed there was no real ground of alarm, that the new scale of duties would at all injure the hon. Gentleman's constituents—the market-gardeners in and about London; at all events he was convinced, that their fears were greatly exaggerated. If, however, it should ultimately appear that their interests were injuriously affected by the new rate of duty, he should have no objection, in the next Session of Parliament, to interfere on their behalf.

Mr. Alderman Thompson

agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that the House ought not to entertain this bill; but if it did entertain it, still the hon. Gentleman would not obtain his object, which was to give his constituents a monopoly of the London market, unless he went further and introduced a measure to prevent fruit being brought from distant parts of the country to London by the railways.

Mr. Wallace

said, that he thought an address ought to be presented to her Majesty, to call the House together in the month of November, to take the subject of the corn-laws into consideration; for he believed, that the corn harvest would be of a nature that would require very considerable attention on the part of the Legislature. And when the subject of corn was taken into consideration, they might perhaps look into the question of apples and pears at the same time. He thought the Government would soon have to consider, rather whether the people were likely to have anything to cover their pies with, than apples to put in them.

Mr. Villiers

agreed with hon. Members, that the corn-laws had answered the purposes for which they were passed, and he thought that the hon. Member had well chosen the moment to make that observa- tion. What was that purpose? To raise the price of food, in order to raise the rent of land, with the view to a profitable monopoly to the owners of land, in utter disregard and neglect of the wants and interests of the rest of the community; and this was the moment to call their attention to that object, when wheat had sold in some places, as he was informed, for 80s. a-quarter, and when most men expected, with the prospects of a bad harvest, and the known scarcity on the continent, that it would reach 100s. before the end of the year. The corn-laws were, indeed, then answering their purpose, and working well as it was called. And this was the time when a county Member came forward to ask them to raise the duties on other artiticles of necessary consumption, to afford further protection to the produce of land. He hoped the public would ponder well upon this attempt, and consider the prospects which were offered to them by this House. The hon. Member complained, that his constituents were unjustly treated, because they had not the same protection as other interests; and he said, that all he demanded, without reference to the principle of free trade, was, that while there was to be protection, that it should be extended equally to all, and that one interest should not receive more protection than another. Why, did the hon. Member know, that it was of that very inequality of the protection given to landowners which he supported, as compared with every other interest, that the public had so much reason to complain, and that while no interest received a protection of more than 30 per cent., and many not more than 10 per cent., that the landowners were enjoying a protection of 80, 90, or 100 per cent.? Let him, then, tell his constituents, who have urged him to moot this matter, why the House give no credit to his advocacy of the principle of equality of protection, when it is known that he is a supporter of the corn-laws. Let his constituents tell him to vote for an alteration of those laws, and, if he succeed, then they will have little reason to complain of the reduction of duty on foreign fruit, and will at least be in a situation to demand equal justice for themselves; but as a supporter of a monopoly of the very worst kind, he came with a poor face to demand favour against the public for his constituents. Be was astonished that the hon. Member should, at this particular moment, have thought it right to propose anything so prejudicial to the community, oppressed and suffering as they were from the corn-laws. He hoped, however, it would have the effect of increasing the interest which that subject was at this moment necessarily exciting in the public mind. He was glad to think, that the forms of the House prevented the hon. Member persevering in his schemes, which must be so injurious to the public at large.

Mr. M. Philips

thought it would have been just as reasonable to have called for the imposition of a higher duty on foreign corn, as on the articles mentioned in the hon. Gentleman's motion.

Captain Wood

briefly replied, and said, that all he required was, to put the market-gardeners on the same footing as the manufacturers, by affording them a protection of 30 per cent. duty on the importation of foreign fruit.

Motion negatived.