HL Deb 29 April 1842 vol 62 cc1249-50
The Earl of Winchilsea

presented a petition from East Kent, against the proposed duty on foreign fruit in the tariff. Where it was clear that an act of injustice was about to be committed by the Legislature, it was its bounden duty, when the evil was pointed out, to retrace their steps. The only ground on which, in his opinion, protection should be given to any interest, was, when it could be fairly shown that individuals had been induced by legislative interference, to invest their capital in a particular branch of trade. The average price of culinary apples for the last eight or nine years was 3s.4d. the bushel, and for the last two years, since the reduction of the duty, 2s. 6d. The expense of bringing this fruit to market was not less than 1s. 6d., which left 1s. 10d. for gathering, tithes, and all the other expenses. He asked, whether the public had any right to complain of such a price. The best proof they had not was, that no petition was ever presented against the price at which apples were sold. If foreign fruit were let in at 6d. a bushel, the greater part of the orchards in Kent must be thrown out of cultivation, and men who had invested their capital under Government security, that the protection to it would be continued, must be ruined. The petitioners did not ask for prohibition, but for a fair return on the capital which they had expended. The increase of smuggling under the new law must be immense.

The Earl of Radnor

had a word or two to say on the subject of apples. Protection was reduced four years ago, and the noble Earl opposite was labouring for the reim-position of that protection. The very same predictions were indulged in by the central committee of the apple trade, in a circular which they issued at that time, as those which the noble Earl now so vehemently enforced. Yet, by this document, it was shown that the price of apples had fallen under the former high duty, from 10s. 6d. to 2s. 4d., and the noble Earl had stated that the price, under the reduction of duty, had risen to 2s.6d. This certainly was no strong inducement to place implicit credit in all the assertions which the parties interested made, as to the effects which a reduction of duty must have on their trade. He did not think the Government had gone far enough with regard to this article; for their measure must have the effect of trebling the protection in some cases. He could only account for this departure from the principle of the tariff by the reasons given by one Gentleman to another, as they recently travelled in a diligence in Holland, and which had been told him by a gentleman who did not belong to either House of Parliament. "I can't understand," said one of these gentlemen, "the principle on which this tariff is framed. You have taken the duty off onions and raised that on apples." "Oh," replied his companion, "the reason of that is, that there is a gentleman, named Knatchbull, in the Government, who lives in a part of the county called Kent, where a great many apples are grown."

Petition laid on the Table.