HC Deb 09 June 1953 vol 516 cc27-8
42. Sir D. Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has considered the letter, dated 21st April, from an Edinburgh company, which has been sent to him, reporting heavy cancellations of orders for Majestic seed potatoes and that they are unable to find any buyers who will pay the freight which British Railways charge to send Caithness seed to English potato growing districts; and if he will make a further statement.

Mr. J. Stuart

I have made further inquiries and am informed that the sale of Scottish seed potatoes has, in general, been satisfactory this season, and that the letter from the company referred to does not reflect the general state of the trade. If the company consider that rail charges are unduly high, their proper course is to endeavour to negotiate a more favourable rate with the Railway Executive. Should they be unsuccessful in this, it is open to them to place the evidence before the Transport Users' Consultative Committee for Scotland.

Sir D. Robertson

Does my right hon. Friend realise that Caithness seed is wanted by the English farmers, but the trade cannot stand the penal freight rate from station to station, which is now £7 per ton? The result is that the traffic does not move at all, the British Transport Commission lose the freight, and the taxpayer loses £7 per ton, while the potatoes have to go for pig food.

Mr. Stuart

It is not entirely due to that. There has been some cancellation of orders due to flooding. In addition, the potato acreage in England and Wales declined by 24 per cent. between 1950 and 1953, therefore, of course, causing some falling off in the orders.

Major Legge-Bourke

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that sometimes it is far cheaper to move these seed potatoes by sea to a port on the Wash, such as King's Lynn?

Mr. Stuart

Yes, Sir.