HC Deb 18 September 1950 vol 478 cc1524-7
5. Mr. Hurd

asked the Minister of Food if, in view of the heavy home crop of apples, he has set any limit to the importation of eating apples from Italy and cider apples from France.

Mr. Webb

No arrangements have yet been made for imports of eating apples this season from any source, but, in considering what should be done, the position of the home crop will certainly be kept in mind. Cider apples are imported by private traders under licence, but no licences have so far been issued this season.

Mr. Hurd

How, then, does it happen that Italian eating applies are being offered by greengrocers today at a time when there are ample supplies of good quality English eating applies?

Mr. Paton

Does my right hon. Friend realise that any limitation on the importation of eating apples would be strongly resented by consumers unless the distribution of home stocks can be made more effective, and their prices maintained at reasonable levels?

Mr. Gerald Williams

Will the Minister say why Italian apples are, in fact, being offered in the shops at the present time?

Hon. Members


Mr. David Renton

In considering his policy, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the mistakes made in previous years and the great losses suffered as a consequence?

Mr. Webb

There is no need for great excitement about this. We are working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, and are aware of the crops of apples from home producers. All the time we are endeavouring to arrive at arrangements which on balance, I think, are fair to both producers and consumers.

Miss Horsbrugh

Would the Minister not agree that there would be less excitement had he not started this mystery by refusing to say why Italian apples are in the shops?

11. Brigadier Rayner

asked the Minister of Food what quantities of apples, apple pulp and apple juice have been imported during the last six months.

Mr. Webb

The figures are as follows: cider apples, none; other apples, 90,089 tons; unsweetened apple juice, 110 gallons concentrated, 9,215 gallons unconcentrated. There are no separate figures for apple pulp and sweetened apple juice.

Brigadier Rayner

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that in Devon we have been encouraged to plant cider apple trees over a long term of years; that this year apples are the one good crop we are able to harvest, and that owing to the Minister's importation policy we cannot sell any of them?

Mr. Webb

I cannot think—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is a cheap joke. I am just as capable of thinking as anyone on the other side. That is a silly joke to make. I repeat that I cannot think that the figure of 9,000 gallons of apple juice is really a considerable amount when we consider that 22 million gallons of cider were produced last year.

Mr. Bossom

As, unfortunately, several thousand tons of good apples have been blown down recently throughout Kent, will the Minister not purchase those apples before they rot? Otherwise, in another week or two they will rot, and we shall lose those thousands of tons of apples.

Mr. Webb

There is another question down on that point. I am not sure whether it is down today, but I have notice of it, and will answer it.

Mr. Lambert

Can the Minister say how much apple juice there was in the country at the beginning of this year?

Mr. Webb

Not without notice.

Major Legge-Bourke

As the Minister has said that he cannot afford to allow more sugar to go to cider manufacturers, what is the use of importing apple juice?

Mr. Mitchison

Does not my right hon. Friend think that the British farmer would be a little more successful in this free competition if he packed, graded and marketed his apples rather better?

Mr. Nabarro

Where can he get the timber?

13. Mr. Lambert

asked the Minister of Food what regulations he has made with regard to the importing of French apple juice and the mixing of it with home-produced apple juice and the selling of the mixture as Devonshire cider.

Mr. Webb

Apple juice and raw cider may be imported from France under open general licence and there is no restriction on their use in making cider in this country. Whether cider made in Devonshire wholly or partly from imported apple juice can properly be described as Devonshire cider could only be decided by the courts.

Mr. Lambert

Will the Minister take steps to see that cider made out of foreign apple juice is sold as made from foreign apple juice and not under a Devonshire name?

Mr. Webb

It is up to the private traders to be honest in their definitions and their trade marks.

14. Brigadier Peto

asked the Minister of Food what steps he proposes to take to encourage the production and sale of cider apples in this country and to protect home producers against foreign imports.

Mr. Webb

I understand that the present production of cider apples is sufficient to meet the demand. Sales are not controlled in any way but the amount cider manufacturers can take up depends partly on the amount of sugar we can afford to let them have. No cider apples have been imported so far this season. I am afraid, however, that the limiting factor here is the falling off of public demand for cider. There are no steps I can take to alter that situation.

Brigadier Peto

Will the Minister take steps to limit the amount of foreign imports of apples and cider apples?

Mr. Webb

I have already said that there are none. How can I limit nothing?

Brigadier Peto

Will the Minister now say why foreign apples are on the market in this country?

Mr. Deedes

Can the Minister give an assurance that the allocation of sugar to manufacturers will not be conditional, as it has been in the past, upon their taking up some of these surplus and unwanted foreign imports?

Mr. Webb

Sugar for manufacturers is determined solely by the amount of sugar available.

Mr. Douglas Marshall

Is the Minister aware of the great anxiety about this in some parts of the country, and does he propose to do anything about it at all?

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