HC Deb 09 July 1941 vol 373 cc169-71
42. Mr. Jackson

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he can give an assurance that the distribution of tomatoes is now working satisfactorily?

Major Lloyd George

No, Sir. The Tomato (Maximum Prices) Order was carefully designed by means of a system of differential prices to secure even distribution, but supplies are at present insufficient to meet the demand which has increased greatly since price control came into force. The position is improving daily, and further measures are now under consideration. There are, however, bound to be difficulties until supplies more nearly balance demand.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware of the unequal distribution throughout the country, that in some towns there are only moderate supplies while in other towns and districts there are none at all? Has his Department any plan whatever to deal with this matter?

Major Lloyd George

Yes, Sir. If the hon. Gentleman will look at my answer, he will see that I made it clear that we are not satisfied with distribution. I am sure he will forgive me for saying so, but it is not always as easy as some people think. The fact is that the whole of our outside supplies have been cut off, and I believe this country is producing more tomatoes this year than ever before in its history. We are doing our best to distribute them throughout the country. It is hardly the fault of the Ministry if the season is some weeks late, but we are aware of the unequal distribution in some parts of the country, and steps are being taken to try and avoid it.

Mr. Thorne

Could the Parliamentary Secretary come to Covent Garden Market with me and see that tomatoes are properly distributed?

Miss Cazalet

Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that a great many shops sell tomatoes only on the promise that the buyer will take other things as well?

Major Lloyd George

That, of course, is a punishable offence if brought to our notice, but unfortunately we do not get these things brought to our notice. If people would be good enough to take action themselves, it would be of great assistance to the Ministry from the point of view of a prosecution.

Mr. John Wilmot

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that insufficient allowance appears to have been made for the migration of population and that there are abundant supplies in migration areas and a shortage in the reception areas?

Major Lloyd George

That is not really so. A cross-section survey taken the other day showed that over 65 per cent. of retailers had tomatoes.

62. Mr. Denman

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food with what object the Ministry asked tomato growers in Worthing and other places not to consign tomatoes direct to Leeds but via the London market; whether he is aware that the consequent destruction of an old-establshed direct trade has unnecessarily aggravated the shortage in Leeds; that obtaining tomatoes via the London market converts a primary into a secondary wholesaler and prevents him from continuing to offer supplies to secondary wholesalers in neighbouring districts; and whether he will cease from destroying legitimate and useful processes of trade, thereby causing supplies which would otherwise have been accessible to the Leeds area to be artificially reduced?

Major Lloyd George

No such request, as is implied in the first part of the Question, has been made to growers by my Department. The latter part of the Question therefore does not arise.