HL Deb 22 May 1840 vol 54 cc494-5
The Duke of Richmond

presented a petition from a numerous body of market-gardeners who supply the London market with fruit and vegetables, complaining of the great injury which they sustain in consequence of the low rate of duty imposed on the importation of fresh foreign fruit. When his noble Friend, at the head of the Government, was formerly applied to on this subject, he said, that he would take the matter into consideration. But, taking the subject into consideration, and granting relief to those who suffered from the existing state of the law were two very different things. The present low or nominal duty on the importation of foreign fruit, operated very injuriously with respect to those agricultural labourers who had small gardens attached to their cottages, from which they formerly derived much benefit. They felt that, by the reduction of the duty on foreign fruit, the Legislature had committed an act of injustice towards them. They naturally enough said, "You will not take off the protection granted to the farmers and landowners, and why should you not also protect us, the agricultural labourers?" Those persons, he contended, had an undoubted claim on the Government for protection, and he hoped that her Majesty's Ministers would take the statements contained in the petition, which was most numerously and respectably signed, into their serious consideration.

The Earl of Winchilsea

thought that this was a subject of very great importance; and, therefore, he should say a few words in support of the prayer of the petition, which was well worthy the consideration of her Majesty's Ministers. The present state of the law with respect to the importation of foreign fruit inflicted on the labouring class —on the poorer class—a very severe injury, and ought to he amended. He hoped, therefore, that his noble Friend would bring the subject distinctly before their Lordships.

Petition laid on the Table.