HC Deb 12 May 1947 vol 437 cc1073-4
58. Colonel Ropner

asked the Minister of Food what steps are taken by his finance department at Oxford to check the accuracy of claims submitted by potato merchants in respect of subsidy; and, in particular, whether he is satisfied that there is any satisfactory check on claims with regard to variety, grade, class and weight.

Mr. Strachey

Merchants' subsidy claims are scrutinised at Oxford before payment; and afterwards a proportion of them is closely checked in all material particulars, comparison being made with growers' records in selected cases. There have been prosecutions in several cases where wrongful claims have been discovered on subsequent checking.

Colonel Ropner

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is commonly believed by honest merchants that there are others who receive large sums of public money to which they are not entitled? Is he also aware that in cases where a bona fide mistake is made, merchants are paid without question?

Mr. Strachey

I cannot say what the common belief amongst merchants is but I must point out that the potato merchants are a carefully controlled body and licences are only issued to merchants whom the Ministry believe are reputable. On the other hand, I agree that it is of the greatest importance that a sufficiently large number of these returns should be checked, and I am looking into the matter.