HC Deb 24 July 1939 vol 350 cc1007-8
29. Sir George Mitcheson

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, before empowering the Potato Marketing Board to buy and hold off the market for in definite periods an unlimited quantity of potatoes in addition to regulating what potatoes may be marketed at any time, he can state what steps he proposes to take to impose a reasonable maximum price to which the Board can thus force up the price of potatoes in order to provide reasonable protection for the consumer?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

The object of the particular amendment of the Potato Marketing Scheme, which my hon. Friend evidently has in mind, is to clear up a certain ambiguity in regard to the Board's power to buy and sell surplus potatoes, which they already exercise under the Scheme. I see no reason, therefore, for taking any action such as is suggested, particularly in view of the natural safeguards against excessive prices which consumers already possess and of those provided under the Agricultural Marketing Acts.

Mr. J. Morgan

These powers do not include any fresh attempt to restrict supplies either to the consumer or from the producer?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

No, Sir.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large quantity of last year's crop of potatoes has been left in the hands of the farmers and they have been unable to sell even at 15s. a ton, and does he not agree that those potatoes could have found a market among men who are unemployed or on low wages?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

I shall be very glad to have any information from the hon. Member about those large stocks.