HC Deb 26 March 1942 vol 378 cc2150-3
74. Sir J. Lamb

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he has any statement to make about the future marketing of carrots and onions?

Major Lloyd George

With my hon. Friend's permission, I will make a statement at the end of Questions.


Major Lloyd George

My Noble Friend has had under consideration the arrangements for marketing next season's crop or carrots and onions, and has decided upon certain modifications of the existing schemes designed, in the case of carrots, to give his Department a closer and more direct control over distribution. The scheme of control for the marketing of next season's crop of carrots is generally on the lines of the Potato Control Scheme which has operated successfully since February, 1940. There will be fixed growers' prices and a guaranteed market for carrots of standard grade. The proposed prices and other conditions will be discussed with representatives of the growers and distributors at an early date.

Responsibility for controlling the marketing of main crop onions will also be assumed by the Ministry of Food. Maximum growers' prices will be prescribed and the Ministry will, so far as practicable, arrange for the equitable distribution of the crop. In this case, also, the Government proposals will be the subject of an early discussion with the growers' representatives and with representatives of the trade interests concerned. In view of these proposed developments of policy, my Noble Friend has decided that it will be more convenient if Government control over the marketing of these crops is exercised by his Department direct, instead of through the agency of the National Vegetable Marketing Company, Limited.

If it had been decided to continue the existing forms of control, my Noble Friend would have been glad again to avail himself of the assistance of the company, which has discharged its difficult task during the past year with efficiency and success. Since the original establishment of the company, however, the Ministry of Food has extended its activities in the acquisition and marketing of potatoes, and the necessary machinery now exists within the Ministry for operating the proposed scheme of carrot control with comparatively small increase in the administrative costs incurred directly by my Department. Steps will be taken to wind up the company on com- pletion of its operations in connection with last year's carrot crop. My Noble Friend wishes to place on record his warm appreciation of the public service rendered by the chairman of the company, the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens), by the board of directors, and by the staff, whose hard work and good will have been evident from the outset.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

On a point of Order. Would it not help to save the time of the House if Answers to Questions, such as the answer which has been so brilliantly read by the Parliamentary Secretary, could be published in the OFFICIAL REPORT?

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

In view of the recent statement made by the Minister in another place that we are likely to become more vegetarian in the next few months, cannot we have greater control over the prices of many of the green vegetables which working-class families cannot now buy because of their high prices?

Major Lloyd George

That is a matter which is constantly engaging the attention of my Department. The hon. Member will appreciate that at this moment the supplies of green vegetables are extremely small.

Mr. Walkden

Does not the Parliamentary Secretary appreciate the hardship which this is causing in working-class homesteads, and cannot something be done in the matter right away?

Major Lloyd George

I appreciate that, but I also appreciate the difficulties of supplies. My hon. Friend must realise that the last few weeks have been exceptionally severe. At this time of the year large crops are not normally available, and the early summer crops have not yet come on the market.

Mr. Buchanan

Why should these green vegetables be available, because of their price, only to a very limited section of the population? If they are scarce, why should not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman take steps to see that they are available to those whose need is possibly greater?

Major Lloyd George

I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate the difficulties in view of the time of year, and the perishable nature of greenstuffs.

Mr. Levy

Is there any reason why these prices cannot be controlled, and are not the exorbitant prices which are being charged due to the fact that there is no price control?

Major Lloyd George

It is not really a question of exorbitant prices. There are great difficulties for growers at this time of the year, and also at the end of the season. It is not an easy problem, but, as I have said, we are examining it closely.