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Polish Bilberries

Volume 531: debated on Thursday 29 July 1954

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43.

asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent he proposes to issue import licences this season for Polish bilberries; and to what extent the British firm which has contracted for the total exportable quantity of these bilberries will be enabled by such import licences to implement its contract.

As an interim measure, licences to a value of £125,000 for the import of Polish bilberries have already been issued this year and arrangements are now being made for the immediate issue of a further interim quota of £75,000. As regards contracts, no firm should enter into binding contract to act as importer without first ascertaining whether the goods will be admissible.

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that there is something incongruous in the fact that the firm which secured the contract for the whole of the Polish bilberry crop has been granted import licences for only one-quarter, whereas a firm which was unsuccessful in tendering has an import licence for the remaining three-quarters? If the Department continues by granting licences on a repeat performance basis, will it not lead, in the long run, to a complete monopoly by one firm? Would it not be better to open the whole thing to free competition, as exists in many other imports?

There is something incongruous about all forms of import licensing, but so long as it is necessary to maintain licensing one must have some system for distributing the licences. Up to the present we have tried to do it upon the basis of previous trade, but I shall be happy to discuss with my hon. and gallant Friend the problems to which he refers.