HC Deb 18 September 1950 vol 478 cc1521-4
2. Mr. H. L. D'A. Hopkinson

asked the Minister of Food what losses were incurred by his Department on the shipment of Russian crabmeat from the United Kingdom to the United States of America, which American dockers recently refused to unload from the s.s. "Parthia."

Mr. Webb

I cannot say what the profit or loss will be until the goods are sold.

3. Mr. Hopkinson

asked the Minister of Food the total value of the Russian crabmeat shipped by his Department from the United Kingdom to the United States of America during the current year.

Mr. Webb

Just over £400,000.

Mr. Hopkinson

Can the Minister say how he reconciles this transaction, which, according to American papers, amounts to far more than that sum, with the Prime Minister's recent declaration that the machinery going to Russia was being used for the import into this country of valuable feedingstuffs and timber, whereas in point of fact it seems to be used for the shipment to America of crabmeat which is not wanted, and on which we shall have a loss?

Mr. Webb

The larger part of this trade took place a long time ago—long before the considerations the hon. Gentleman has in mind arose.

Mr. Hopkinson

Is it not a fact that there have been three shipments of crabmeat to the United States in the last three or four weeks?

4. Sir John Mellor

asked the Minister of Food how much crabmeat has been purchased by his Department from the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics during the past two years; and to whom it has been sold.

Mr. Webb

Two thousand four hundred and seventy tons. Some has been sold in this country and some has been re-exported, mainly to America.

Sir J. Mellor

Why does the Minister deal in Russian crabmeat?

Mr. Webb

Because at one time there was a very large trade for it in America.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

How can the right hon. Gentleman reconcile the reply he has just given with his reply to an earlier supplementary question, when I understood him to say that this crabmeat transaction took place years and years ago, long before there was any question of orders from Russia?

Mr. Webb

Not years and years ago: much earlier this year.

Mr. Hudson

In that case, when the right hon. Gentleman looks at his answer again he will find that he definitely misled his hearers in the House.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the attention of the United States' authorities has been drawn to the fact that this attempt to conduct foreign policy by strikes is doing harm to this country and none to the Soviet Union?

Sir William Darling

Was any of this crabmeat offered to the Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons?

Dr. Barnett Stross

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House how one can distinguish between Communist crab and capitalist crab?

18. Mr. Roland Robinson

asked the Minister of Food how often in August were shipments of Russian crabmeat made by his Department to the United States of America; in how many cases did the American dockers refuse to unload this cargo; what was the value of the shipments and the losses incurred; and, in view of the resentment caused in the United States of America, if he will give an assurance that no further shipments of this sort will be made.

Mr. Webb

Five shipments worth just over £95,000 were made during August. All have been or are being returned. I cannot say until the goods are sold what profit or loss will result. In reply to the last part of the Question, I can only say that I have no immediate intention of resuming shipment to America of this crabmeat.

Mr. Robinson

Is it not particularly unfortunate that, during the war in Korea, American public opinion should be further disturbed by this abortive attempt on the part of the Ministry of Food to ship Russian goods to the United States in British disguise?

Mr. Paton

Can the Ministry say if these particular shipments of crabmeat were bought by American importers?

Mr. Webb

Yes, they were.