asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport what forms of transport are still being used to bring the large stocks of spring flowers from the growers to the wholesale markets and thence to retailers; and, as the defects in the recent Defence Orders have provided facilities for an extensive system of black-market trading, will he revise them?
So far as railways are concerned, the Order recently made is considered adequate to prevent the carriage of flowers by rail. Flowers are being moved by road for short distances only to local markets, except in a few cases where they may move over longer distances as incidental or return loads on vehicles having space not required for more essential traffic. Flowers may also be carried by coasting vessels where space is available, but the quantity carried is small. The restrictions have tightened up control, and my hon. Friend thinks the present arrangements deserve a fair trial.
Will my hon. and gallant Friend convey to the Minister the information that at least 20 lorry-loads of flowers—or at least 20 lorry-loads of goods, consisting largely of flowers—arrived in Covent Garden this morning, which means the use of transport, and that taxicabs were used there this morning, which means the use of petrol? Will he inform the Minister that reputable people in the trade believe that the Department have handled the matter in a clumsy fashion?
I will convey that to my hon. Friend.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport what instructions have been issued by his Department to the officers administering the Emergency Powers (Defence) Railways (Transport of Flowers) Order in order to safeguard ordinary passengers from being exposed to delay and inconvenience through the right to search their luggage, which is established by the terms of the Order?
No such instructions have been given. My hon. Friend may rest assured that it is not intended to inconvenience ordinary passengers unless there is reasonable ground for suspecting that they have committed an offence under the Transport of Flowers Order.
How can a police officer reasonably suspect that luggage contains flowers without using the right of search, and does not that right of search mean Gestapo methods, which are resented by the majority of passengers using the railways?
The Regulations, I understand, give a police constable power to arrest any person whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to have committed an offence against the Order. Obviously, he will have to ask the individual to open the bag.
How can any police officer see whether there are flowers inside the luggage or not without searching?
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he will give consideration to some amendment of the Order recently introduced which prohibits flowers or plants, connected with trade or business, being consigned or conveyed by rail; and, in particular, whether permission will be granted for bona fide travellers to carry with them cut flowers, the value of which is not in excess of £1?
As my hon. Friend said in reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) on 23rd February, he would not, in present circumstances, feel justified in relaxing the requirements of the Order. My hon. Friend's proposal would be open to a number of objections, about which, with his permission, the Parliamentary Secretary will write to him.
Why were only a few miserable days' notice given to the growers before this Order was imposed? Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware of the very great hardship to growers throughout the country; and can he tell me where the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport is, and where the Minister is? Mr. Deputy-Speaker, should not a representative of the Ministry be here to answer? Has it not been said that the bud of liberty opens with an English spring?
My hon. Friend, I understand, is ill, and the Minister, of course, cannot attend.
Would not anybody who travels long distances agree that, hard as it is on the growers, considering the appalling amount of traffic it is not an unreasonable Order?
It is all a question of degree. My Noble Friend is not always right.