HC Deb 23 June 1948 vol 452 cc1355-7
51. Mr. Collins

asked the Minister of Food what steps he is taking to encourage the utilisation of converted imported fruit containers for the conveyance of homegrown horticultural produce.

Mr. Strachey

The Fruit and Vegetables Organisation, representing the Agricultural Departments and my own Department, is now carrying out trials to test the cost of re-making imported fruit boxes into containers for home-grown fruit and vegetables. The success of these trials will largely depend upon the co-operation of retailers, and I am glad to note that this proposal is receiving the wholehearted support of the trade associations.

53. Major Legge-Bourke

asked the Minister of Food what percentage of the fruit and vegetable canning programme submitted to him by canners has been approved by his Ministry; and what steps he is taking to ensure adequate supplies of tinplate to enable the maximum amount of home grown strawberries to be canned.

Mr. Strachey

For fruit about 58 per cent. and for vegetables about 77½ per cent. There will be sufficient tinplate to can all the strawberries we are able to spare for canning.

Major Legge-Bourke

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that tinplate is being exported and that it will come back into this country containing various products of a quality lower than that which could be produced at home? Does not he realise that the strawberry crop this year is far greater than it has been for about 10 years and that his Ministry's explanation of the reason why this tinplate is being refused is because the fresh fruit market can absorb the crop? [Interruption.] Does he realise that those areas producing this fruit which are some distance from dense populations will suffer very greatly—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

I have asked that supplementary questions should be short and snappy.

Major Legge-Bourke

Would the Minister consider trying to allow canners to can a good deal of the present strawberry crop, rather than force it on to the fresh fruit market? It will be wasted otherwise.

Mr. Strachey

I am sympathetic with the questioner's objective, but the canning programme for strawberries this year is more than double that of last year.

Major Legge-Bourke

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

54. Major Legge-Bourke

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware of the concern with which growers view the possibility of unlimited imports of fruit and vegetables; and if he will make a statement of His Majesty's Government's policy in respect of home production and its protection.

Mr. Strachey

Our imports of fruit and vegetables are limited to what we can afford to buy and they are likely unfortunately, to be so limited in the foreseeable future. Such imports provide a most valuable and necessary supplement to our diet.

Major Legge-Bourke

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the present moment the Ministry of Agriculture is asking growers to produce 30,000 acres more soft fruit, 10,000 acres more dessert apples, and 5,000 acres more pears? Does he realise that this is asking home growers to commit commercial suicide, unless he gives some assurance to prevent dumping from abroad?

Mr. Strachey

I believe there will be plenty of markets in this country for both products.

60. Mr. Price-White

asked the Minister of Food if he is now in a position to institute a regulation whereby all licences issued to wholesalers in the fruit and greengrocery trade should be conditional upon weight tickets accompanying all deliveries to retailers.

Mr. Strachey

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetables (Restriction of Dealings) Order, 1945, already requires anyone selling fresh fruit and vegetables otherwise than by retail to furnish to the buyer within seven days an invoice showing the quantity of each kind of produce sold. The possibility of further measures is under consideration.

Mr. Price-White

Would the Minister say what is the use of an invoice delivered seven days later in respect of a delivery which is short weight, for various reasons, seven days before?

Mr. Strachey

This is partly a matter for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade under the Weights and Measures Act. We are in consultation with the Board of Trade, and are looking at the problem.

56. Mr. Turton

asked the Minister of Food what quantity of Canary tomatoes has been imported during the last four months; whether he is aware that a proportion of tomatoes so imported are of such inferior quality as not to be fit for sale to the public; and what action he is taking.

Mr. Strachey

Some 47,000 tons, I believe: all through the normal commercial channels. The question of quality is one for these traders, who, I may say, have been able to sell almost all the fruit.

Mr. Turton

Is the Minister aware that tomatoes are arriving in my constituency in a condition such as those in this container? If he looks at them, will he reconsider the second part of his reply? Is he aware that only 2 lb. out of the whole "boat" were saleable?

Mr. Strachey

The hon. Member is obviously advocating the reimposition of most stringent controls on private enterprise. I do not know whether it is justified or not.

Mr. Piratin

On a point of Order. Is it permissible for the hon. Gentleman opposite to act as a barrow boy and display his goods in this House?