HC Deb 29 January 1948 vol 446 cc1179-80
26. Mr. M. Philips Price

asked the President of the Board of Trade what percentage of Turkish or East Mediterranean tobacco is being used in tobacco blends in this country.

Mr. H. Wilson

Turkish and East Mediterranean tobacco is at present being used in manufacture in this country at the rate of about 5 million lb. per annum. This represents approximately 2½ per cent. of our total tobacco usage for home consumption. I cannot say what percentage is used in any particular blend.

Mr. Philips Price

Can the President of the Board of Trade say whether there is any likelihood of that percentage being increased, and whether there is sufficient blending machinery available to make an increase possible?

Mr. Wilson

I am advised that the real difficulty is a technical one, arising from the differing moisture absorption rates of different tobaccos, which limits the extent to which Oriental tobacco can be blended with Virginian tobacco.

Mr. Molson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this difficulty arises out of certain Customs regulations going back nearly 100 years? Will he consider the possibility of amending these regulations to enable Oriental tobacco to be used?

Mr. Wilson

I should be prepared to look at anything like that, but I am advised that at the moment the difficulty is a technical one. I do not think we should be prepared to make any change in the adulteration laws.

Mr. H. D. Hughes

Is it not a fact that in the United States blends contain a much higher percentage of Oriental tobacco and are regularly marketed, which seems to indicate that they have overcome the technical difficulties? Is my right hon. Friend aware that if it is a choice between an inadequate supply of Virginian cigarettes, or an increased supply of blended cigarettes, the public would greatly prefer the latter?

Mr. Wilson

Yes, Sir. But the American cigarettes contain a large proportion of miscellaneous commodities, including apple-peel, glycerine, honey and various other things in short supply in this country, which on grounds of our adulteration laws, we should not choose to see included in our cigarettes.

Mr. Beechman

If tobacco is in such short supply, is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is quite possible to grow Oriental tobacco in this country?