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Independent Buying

Volume 439: debated on Monday 23 June 1947

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asked the Minister of Food whether he will now allow independent buying of certain food commodities in place of the present bulk buying by his Department in order to permit a greater variety in the food of the people.

No, Sir. The lack of variety in the nation's diet results from the present world shortage of foodstuffs, combined with the difficult balance of payments position of the United Kingdom. For the great majority of essential foods, bulk purchase is the only practicable method to secure the maximum quantities available from abroad and their equitable distribution in this country. In an effort to provide as much variety in the diet as possible, we are already permitting certain private imports of less essential foods, but it would be extremely difficult to maintain the close control of import expenditure which is at present essential if independent buying were permitted-to extend over a wider range of foodstuffs.

Is the Minister aware that there are from time to time considerable parcels of foodstuffs which could be purchased outside the bulk buying Commission, and which would add considerably to the variety of diet in this country, without endangering sterling balances, if permission were given for their purchase?

We are guided by the decisions of the International Emergency Food Council, and we cannot indulge in what might be considered to be international "under the counter" methods.