HC Deb 16 June 1927 vol 207 cc1186-8
Sir G. WHELER (by Private Notice)

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that cherries infected by the maggot of the cherry fruit fly are coming in to the London markets, and what action he proposes to take?


Yes, Sir, the examination of samples taken on the markets by the Ministry's Inspectors recently has revealed the presence of somewhat heavy infestations. I have, therefore, decided that the importation of raw cherries grown in France must be stopped for the remainder of the season. An Order is being issued to-day, which will come into operation on the 24th June giving effect to this decision.


May I ask if it is not a fact that these cherries have been coming in to the certain knowledge of same of the Inspectors for some days, and therefore will he expedite the Order?


I am afraid if we apply the Order immediately it would impose a very great lose on a, large number of British traders who have contracts outstanding in France. Action has been taken for some days past through the representatives of the French exporters, and they are holding up a great many consignments, as we understand, at the ports of shipment.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Was not the same action taken last year with regard to French cherries, and is it not a fact that it caused great inconvenience in Hull? I would like to ask why longer notice has not been given this year to the British importers who will have to bear the loss?


We could not give notice of our intention to prohibit the importation of cherries before we reached a decision. We hoped that the machinery which had been set up by the French Government to examine the cherries, and not to sanction the exportation of any infested samples, would prove effective.


Is it not a fact that these cherries are only paid for by the British merchant after they actually get delivery; and, in view of that fact, cannot the right hon. Gentleman take steps to make the closing order before the 24th June, so as to do away with the difficulty of these maggots to which he has referred?


May I ask if the action of the British Government in connection with cherries had anything to do with the action of the French Government in regard to the importation of coal?


Our action is entirely on the ground of the reputation of British cherries which will shortly be coming on the market, and which we do not wish to suffer from any confusion with these imported cherries. We are also taking this action with a view to preventing any possibility of infecting our British cherry orchards.


Will the right hon. Gentleman give a reply to my question as to whether it is not a fact that it is not necessary to pay for these cherries until after they have arrived?


I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend represents the attitude of the trade, because last year, when I issued an Order without a few days' notice, they came to me with great complaints of heavy losses, and I believe that such prompt orders as the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggests, so far from helping, would cause very grave inconvenience.

Colonel DAY

Had the Minister of Agriculture any facilities for obtaining the reports of the French authorities on these cherries before the infection was brought to his notice over here?


The French authorities told us they were only sending us clean cherries, and we, by our independent examination, found that in the last few days cherries with heavy infestation had been landed.


May I ask whether the position is that for the next eight days the British public are to be exposed to the introduction into this country of maggotty cherries from France, and what steps have been taken to prevent that?


As I have already explained, steps are being taken by the French Government, and they assure us that numbers of these consignments are being rejected at Boulogne under the machinery set up by the French Government. I admit that that machinery does not appear to have been very effective, but I do not think it would be reasonable, in view of the action that has been taken, to impose a heavy loss on British traders.


Surely those people who have bought cherries and have been supplied with cherries containing maggots are not bound to pay for them.