HC Deb 28 February 1917 vol 90 cc2000-2
74. Mr. W. THORNE

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the. Ministry of Food whether he has any official information showing that a number of potato growers are refusing to send the usual supply to the various markets because they will get an extra £1 per ton for them in April; and if he can see his way clear to at once send a telegram to the large potato growers in the different parts of the country to insist upon the usual supply of potatoes being sent to the markets so that the potato merchants will have them, by Saturday?


The additional allowance of £1 per ton on the maximum price of potatoes was intended to give the holders of stocks an incentive to keep a sufficient supply till later in the year. This was necessary in view of the general shortage of the potato crop. The Food Controller has the situation with regard to potatoes under close observation, and if he is satisfied that supplies are being unreasonably held off the market, he will be prepared to take action.


Has the Food Controller recently sent an inspector to the Liverpool area to investigate the charge that the farmers are deliberately holding back potatoes, and if he has received a report from the inspector will he state what is the nature of that report?


I believe that an inspector has been sent to that area, but, so far as I am aware, the report has not yet been received.


Can the hon. Gentleman say whether his Department will, issue an Order preventing holders and sellers from refusing to supply potatoes unless other articles are purchased?


That point is raised by another question.

75. Mr. THORNE

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food if he is aware that Mr. Smith, one of the chief greengrocers in the High Street, East Ham, and several others in the same neighbourhood refused to sell potatoes on Saturday unless the purchasers bought a certain amount of other vegetables; whether he is aware that this seems to be the common practice among greengrocers; and if he intends taking any action in the matter?


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether his attention has been called to the fact that certain greengrocers are refusing to sell potatoes unless other articles are purchased at the same time: whether he has sanctioned the practice; and, if not, what action he proposes to take in the interests of poor consumers?


Article 8 of the Potatoes 1916 Main Crop (Prices) Order No. 2, which came into force on Saturday last, provides that no person shall, in connection with the sale or proposed sale of potatoes, enter or offer to enter into any fictitious or artificial transaction, or impose or attempt to impose any condition relating to any other article, or make or demand any unreasonable charge. Action such as that described in the question is therefore illegal. The case referred to by the hon. Member was inquired into yesterday, and has been the subject of further inquiries to-day. I understand that the allegations in the question are denied by the dealers concerned. I shall be glad of any further information on this matter which the hon. Member can furnish.


Will the same order be applied to sugar?


Special difficulties apply to the case of sugar, as I have already indicated to the House.


Will the hon. Member consider the suggestion to strike an average price for the next few months, so that it will not be worth the while of the traders to charge a higher price than the average price so struck?


That does not arise.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that on 22nd February a shipment of 200 tons of potatoes from Ireland arrived in Glasgow; whether he will state if the embargo on the export of potatoes from Ireland still exists; if so, under what conditions this shipment was permitted; and whether facilities will be given for further shipments?


The Ministry of Food have asked me to reply to this question. The Department of Agriculture are aware that 180 tons of potatoes unsuitable for seed purposes were consigned under licence to Glasgow recently from Ireland. The embargo on the export of potatoes from Ireland except under licence is still in force. I am using all possible means to accelerate a decision as to whether and when enlarged facilities for export can properly be given.


Under what circumstances are licences being granted, and to whom?


In answer to questions from below the Gangway I promised to prepare lists of persons to whom licences have been given, and I can send the hon. Member a copy, but I must tell him that they are not licences to those persons to export what potatoes they think fit, but they are licences limited to a specific panel of potatoes for export, and for other purposes a separate licence must be obtained.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is likely that export of potatoes will be allowed to be exported from Ireland to this country in a little larger quantity?


I am using every possible means to ascertain whether a larger export can properly be allowed.

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