§ 19. Mr. Russell
asked the Minister of Food why he refuses to disclose the price paid for food bought by his Department from overseas even when the sellers have revealed it.
§ Mr. Webb
It is generally not in the public interest to disclose prices currently being paid by my Department for purchases from overseas. The disclosure of this information may sometimes prejudice negotiations with different sources of supply; but I have never refused information about past prices unless it was clear that it would prejudice trading operations. Where sellers reveal prices currently being paid, I must reserve freedom to take whatever action is in our best interests. The information given by the sellers may be incomplete or misleading and may often have been put out in the hope of drawing official comment.
§ Mr. Russell
If the seller gives the correct price, what is the point of denying it? Surely the trade in general knows the correct price?
§ Sir Waldron Smithers
Does it not become necessary, when the Government are engaged in Government trading, to suppress all criticism because they cannot stand up to it?