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Food Supplies

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 23 July 1947

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Processing (Cans)

49.

asked the Minister (it Food to what extent food supplies are being wasted owing to the fact that food processing firms are short of cans; and what action he is taking to remedy such a shortage.

If my hon. Friend knows of any case where food is being wasted owing to shortage of cans, I shall be glad to look into it. So far, no such case has come to my notice.

Publications

50.

asked the Minister of Food if he will make a reduction in the purchases by his Department of the publications of the Bureau of Current Affairs, proportionate to the reductions in newsprint imposed by His Majesty's Government on the daily newspapers.

There will be no immediate reduction. I cannot say yet what we shall do when our present order for one year's set of posters is completed.

When that time comes, will the hon. Lady bear in mind the desirability of equality of sacrifice?

Is the hon. Lady aware that this publication is full of Socialist propaganda and sometimes propaganda of a pro-Russian and anti-British character, of which the Carnegie Trust would not approve; and when possible would she refrain from spending any public money in this way?

The answer to the first part of the supplementary question is in the negative. I must remind the House that there are 18 Government Departments who avail themselves of these publications.

Argentine Wheat (Purchase)

52.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will make a statement regarding the delay in shipping 500,000 tons of wheat from the Argentine to this country, bought under bulk purchase; whether the price was free on board; and what is the nature of the dispute over this contract with the Argentine.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Members for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) and Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) on 21st July.

Does the contract specify an f.o.b. price, or is the House to understand that the Minister omitted to include such a clause in the contract?

Citrus Fruit Imports (Prices)

55.

asked the Minister of Food what price has been paid for citrus fruit imported from the U.S.A. during the past six months as compared with the prices paid for similar fruit from the British West Indies.

As I informed the hon. Member on 21st May, I am not prepared to disclose the prices paid by my Department for particular purchases. It is not in the national interest to do so.

Am I then to understand that money can be used in this way, and that there can be a differentiation against a British Colony without any figures whatever being revealed?

I have told the hon. Gentleman before that any business man would regard this disclosure as detrimental to negotiations.

Imported Tomatoes

56.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that Dutch tomatoes have recently been sold by the London Tomatoes Distribution Association at 131s. 6d. per cwt., instead of 121s. 4d. as laid down in the Tomatoes Order; and whether this variation was with the permission of his Department.

Yes, Sir. As the London Tomato Distributing Association carries out in the London area the functions which the secondary wholesaler performs in the provinces we have authorised the Association to sell at the secondary wholesale price of 131s. 6d. per cwt. applicable in other areas.

Is this strictly in accordance with the terms of the Order? In any case, do not such variations cause considerable dislocation in distribution? Are they wise?

The hon. Gentleman, I think, is a little confused. The figure in the Order, of course, which he will agree is the same for the primary wholesaler, is there in order to deter secondary wholesalers from infringing Article 19.

Will the hon. Lady use that as little as possible? Does she not agree that these sudden variations throw the whole scheme badly out of balance, involving severe losses in some elements of it and corresponding excessive profits in others?

57.

asked the Minister of Food whether imported autumn and winter tomatoes from North Africa and the Canaries are to be freed from control; and whether he will now adopt this policy in reference to Dutch tomatoes.

Yes, Sir. An announcement was made on 17th July that the price and distribution of winter tomatoes imported from the Canary Islands and North Africa during the 1947/8 season will not be controlled, provided that selling prices remain at reasonable levels. The season for Dutch tomatoes coincides with our home crop and different considerations apply. The open general licence under which Dutch tomatoes are now being imported expires on 31st July, after which it is expected that the home grown supply will be sufficient to meet the demand.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the decision made already is generally considered most sensible? I hope the same thing will be done in regard to Dutch tomatoes.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the quantities of Dutch tomatoes which, even now, are being received, are so large that the present distribution scheme is liable to break down immediately, and would it not be possible, in order to avoid this, and to give the consumers the benefit of these large supplies, to consider removing the present price control?

The hon. Gentleman knows that the open general licence expires in a week and we shall certainly then look at the matter again.