HC Deb 04 November 1948 vol 457 cc1089-90

Motion made, and Question proposed That the Seed Potatoes (Export) (Charges) Order, 1948 (S.I., 1948, No. 1994), dated 31st August, 1948, a copy of which was delivered to the Votes and Proceedings Office on 31st August, 1948, in a former Session of Parliament, be approved."—[Dr. Summerskill.]

6.50 p.m.

Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food has not given us an explanation of the order, and there are one or two points on which I should like to have some information. The acreage payments to farmers for growing potatoes has been the practice now for at least seven or eight years—at any rate, since early in the war—and they have been paid on a higher rate in England and Wales than in Northern Ireland. As I understand the order, it is intended to recover from the overseas buyers of seed potatoes the amount paid out by the Ministry in acreage payments to the farmers. The order is made under the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, which was an emergency Measure to continue for the duration of the emergency.

The questions which I wish to put to the hon. Lady are these: First, I assume that potatoes can only be exported under licences made under the principal order of the Board of Trade, and that it is only seed potatoes whose export will receive such licences. Secondly, am I right in saying that this is the first season in which the export of potatoes has been licensed or is intended to be licensed; or is it a fact that the export either of seed potatoes or ware potatoes has taken place in past years without the amount of the acreage payments having been recovered from the overseas buyers? Thirdly, I should like to know whether the seed potatoes the export of which is contemplated under this order are sold at controlled prices, or whether the overseas buyer is charged whatever he is prepared to pay. I hope that the hon. Lady will give us some information on these points which will satisfy us that this order is a good one.

6.53 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Edith Summer-skill)

I did not rise to explain the order because I thought that it was non-controversial. The matter has been discussed with the trade, and the National Farmers' Union agree with the provisions in the order, so I thought that I was not playing any kind of confidence trick by allowing it to pass "on the nod." I can quickly reassure the right hon. Gentleman that this is the first time that this procedure has been adopted, because we have now decided to allow private exporters to resume their pre-war trade. The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in thinking that the potatoes will be exported under licence. My Department, the Agricultural Departments and the Board of Trade will agree as to the amount and the varieties to be exported.

Mr. Peake

Only seed potatoes?

Dr. Summerskill

Yes. We shall, of course, in the interests of the trade, get as much as possible from the importers abroad, but the acreage payments will be recovered from the amount which the exporters get.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)

The hon. Lady has mentioned the National Farmers' Union. Does she mean that the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales and of Scotland were consulted on this matter, and did they agree?

Dr. Summerskill

It is usual for both the National Farmers' Union of Scotland and of England and Wales to agree before I am given such an assurance by my Department, but if the hon. and gallant Gentleman likes, I will confirm that tomorrow.

Question put, and agreed to.