HC Deb 15 May 1950 vol 475 cc840-1
30. Mr. Bossom

asked the Minister of Food how many hundredweight, in total, of plums, including fresh, bottled, tinned, preserved, etc., were imported from Czechoslovakia last year or are being imported now.

Mr. Webb

When the hon. Member asked me on 27th March about imports of plums from Czechoslokia, I assumed he referred to fresh plums and I am sorry if the information I then gave was inadequate.

We have imported no fresh plums from Czechoslovakia during this period. During 1949, 1,693 cwt. of tinned and 40 cwt. of bottled plums (including greengages, damsons and mirabelles) were imported. During the first three months of 1950, 2,832 cwt. of tinned and 137 cwt. of bottled plums, plus 4 cwt. of crystallised plums and figs, were imported.

Mr. Bossom

While thanking the Minister for this rather belated explanation of a totally inaccurate and misleading answer to a Question, I think it very unfortunate that he did not do this and give the information nearly a month—certainly three weeks—ago. Is he aware that, as a result of his policy of importing plums of all sorts from other countries outside the Empire, many of the farmers in Kent had to leave their plums on the trees because they could not afford to pick them and lose money on them?

Mr. Webb

We have to balance all these considerations, but I am quite sure that our controls over the import of foreign plums are adequate.

Captain Duncan

Were these plums imported under open general licence or by his Department?

Mr. Webb

I should like to have notice of that question.

Mr. Mellish

Can the Minister arrange with the farmers in Kent who are suffering great hardship to let the people of Bermondsey know, and we will come down and pick the plums ourselves?

Mr. Bossom

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that this does not occur again? He imported 13,000 tons of plums last year and did the damage to our Kentish farmers on which I have remarked. Please do not do it again.