HC Deb 29 November 1951 vol 494 cc1704-5
33. Mrs. Barbara Castle

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give an assurance that the House will be given an opportunity of debating the National Farmers' Union's demand for higher tariffs on imported fruit and vegetables before any administrative action is taken by the Government.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Orders made under the Import Duties Act, 1932, imposing or increasing Customs duties, cease to have effect 'unless, within a period of 28 days from the date on which they are made, they have been approved by Resolutions passed by this House. There is already provision, therefore, for discussion by the House of any increase in duties chargeable under that Act.

Mrs. Castle

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the N.F.U.'s proposal is to increase substantially the tariffs levied under the Act, which is now over 20 years old, and in view of the promises made by the right hon. Gentleman's party during the Election that steps would be taken to bring down the cost of living, whereas increased tariffs would put it up, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this matter ought to be discussed most seriously by the House before any Orders are made under this out-of-date Act?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The Question, of course, refers simply to the machinery for discussing Import Duty Orders generally. It is as I have stated.

Mr. Gerald Nabarro

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the grievous losses sustained by the British fruit growing industry as a result of the promiscuous dumping of foreign canned and fresh fruit in the United Kingdom, which was the policy of the late Socialist Government?

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there has been no dumping in that sense and that the difficulties experienced by growers arise from the chaos of the distributive system, and in view of the grave importance—

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Mrs. Castle.

Mrs. Castle

Thank you, Mr. Speaker—and in view of the great urgency to the British housewife of not increasing the price of fruit and vegetables, will not the right hon. Gentleman see that a debate takes place in the House on all the ways of helping the grower as well as the housewife—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."]—before steps are taken—

Mr. Thorneycroft

If the hon. Lady desires a debate on a specific subject, facilities for suggesting it are open through the usual channels and there are facilities for Private Members' Motions, but the Question does not refer to that. It refers to the technical arrangements for debating Import Duty Orders.

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