HC Deb 15 June 1954 vol 528 cc1895-912

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Additional Import Duties (No. 2) Order, 1954 (S.I., 1954, No. 642), dated 14th May, 1954, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th May, be approved.

11.12 p.m.

Mr. George Brown (Belper)

Are we not going to have a Ministerial explanation about the extraordinary situation in which we are being invited to more than double the duty on a large range of items? There is no Minister here, either from the Ministry of Agriculture or the Board of Trade. I do not want to exhaust my right to speak before I have heard the explanation. Now that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has arrived, perhaps we could have a statement on the Motion before we proceed to the debate.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

This Order, to increase the tariffs on cut flowers, and a certain range of nursery plants and certain fruits, continues the range of tariff revision, the greater part of which was approved by the House last December. The House then had a considerable debate on the principles involved, when it decided upon this upward revision of tariffs which took place at the same time as the quantitative restrictions, which had been the emergency arrangement existing in the years subsequent to the end of the war, were removed.

In December, arrangements were not complete on this particular part of the Schedule, and for certain technical reasons as well in connection with G.A.T.T., these particular items were left to be dealt with subsequently. The broad effect is to revise the specific duties which existed pre-war to a more realistic level—not a revision which would bring them to the same money value as prewar, but nevertheless a revision to a level which will bring them, in our judgment, to an effective level and to a level which will give the growers a reasonable protection and stability without injuring the consumers' interests.

It should not be thought that such produce as flowers and nursery stock are not of particular importance to the horticultural trade. Hon. and right hon. Members who are familiar with the horticultural business will recognise that for part of the year growers are producing vegetables and fruit and during the other part many of them are undertaking, as a complementary part of their business, the growing of flowers. Therefore, the production of flowers must be regarded as an essential part of the production of horticulture. It is on these grounds that we bring the Order before the House and ask for its approval.

Mr. G. Brown


Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I was under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman had already spoken.

Mr. Brown

What I did was to ask whether a Minister was going to move the Motion. When the Minister arrived he moved it at the beginning of his speech.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The Chancellor of the Exchequer nodded, and I proposed the Question.

Mr. Brown

I could have moved to report Progress since we had no Minister present. I asked a question instead—at some length it is true—to provide time for a Minister to arrive. I did not attempt to argue my case or to continue my speech.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

If the right hon. Gentleman has the leave of the House, it is quite all right for him to speak.

11.18 p.m.

Mr. Brown

If I may, I will continue by leave of the House, having performed a useful function for everybody by intervening at the beginning, as quickly as I could think about it.

We on this side do not propose to divide the House on the Order, but one reason why we were not willing to let it go on the nod without a speech from a Minister was that there seems to be some question here whether we are not chasing after increased tariffs now without any regard to the function which they perform. I have said before, both here and outside, that we on this side regard the horticultural section of the great agricultural industry as important as any other section. In so far as it produces crops which we must have, which our people need and which play a part in maintaining the life of our community, it is as entitled as any other section to the support without which horticulturists cannot do their job.

I have said that, and I do not go back on it now. It is one thing to argue that for tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, plums and cherries and things like that, but I am not at all sure that it is the same thing to argue it in the case of things which the grower is not bound to produce. When I see snowdrops, gypsophila, marguerites, marigolds and all sorts of other somewhat exotic plants are now being given—

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

The marigold is not an exotic plant.

Mr. Brown

I mentioned the marigold in a general statement, bringing in others which I thought were exotic plants.

The point is that these flowering shrubs, bushes and bulbs are hardly in the same class as other horticultural produce to which we have sought to attach tariffs, and the increase in tariffs proposed in this Order is extremely steep. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary said with some assurance that this was being done to protect our growers. It so happens that I have spent today with horticultural growers, and I found nothing of unanimity among these growers for this Order.

I was visiting the small growers, not the larger ones in Surrey, and they said that as small growers raising their own plants they depended heavily on fulfilling some of their orders on being able to import. What is happening here is that a steeply increased tax is being put on which will be very much to the benefit of the large grower but which will hamper the trade of a large number of small ones. They were not at all pleased about this.

Although as far as I can judge the Order does not act as the previous one did about the new tariff, we can see the size of the increase from the Board of Trade Journal of 22nd May. It is an increase which seems intended for the most part to bring the new tariff into line with the value of the incidence of the old tariff at pre-war prices. But the important factor which freight rates have on importations, which have gone up considerably, should be a continual protection and discouragement. So, it would appear that we are being invited to slap on for no very good reason a heavy tariff increase over a large range of nonessentials which growers do not have to grow.

Could the Minister of State, Board of Trade, if he is to speak—and it is his Order—tell us how many of the items mentioned in the Order we produce in this country compared with the amount we imported last year, so that we can see the size of the production we are being asked to protect and the extent to which we are being asked to do it. I suspect that those figures will make the case for the Order look much weaker. It is so easy once the House has agreed to a general tariff Order, for which there are good reasons, to assume that one is free to increase the tariff on everything, making it costly and more difficult for the small merchant, and interfering, I should have thought slightly needlessly, with our trade with European nations. That ought not to be done lightly or freely. I suspect that we are doing it.

The part of the Order relating to strawberries surprises me a little. I see that the only change being made is to put a tariff up from 1½d. a lb. to 4d. a lb. from 1st June to 9th June. No other change is made except to shorten the period by taking away the specific duty from 1st April to 1st June. There will be no specific duty before 1st June, though there used to be. There will be an increased duty for a period of eight days only and we revert to the old pre-war figure from then on. I am surprised at that. That does not seem to be giving the strawberry growers greater protection. If the argument for the rest of the increased duties is that the old rates are out of touch with present realities when measured in terms of selling prices, then that must also be true of strawberries.

Since strawberry duties, if I am right, are not to be increased over the bulk of the year, I should have thought that here with a crop where we have a genuine growers' interest and something ought to be done, the growers could claim that the Government are not doing anything whereas over the rest of the field where the interest of the growers is altogether different we have smacked on a heavily increased duty.

We shall not vote against the Order. I cannot say that we support it with any enthusiasm. I think that it is pointless and might even do some damage. Personally, I very much regret that we should have these rather steep increases in the duties on all these not very important but very delightful and desirable commodities introduced, so far as I can see. for no very real reason.

11.26 p.m.

Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)

So far as plums are concerned, I welcome the proposed duty and the timing of it. With other hon. Members, I have stressed for several years that so that an import duty may be effective to protect the home crop it should come into operation well in advance of the home crop, and with plums it is a good thing to have introduced the tariff with effect from 1st July. The tariff of 16s. 9d. per cwt. works out at approximately 1½d. per lb. I should have thought that, even in a fairly prolific year such as this year promises to be, that would be about right for most of the period. However, one should issue the warning that for some of the early part of the period the foreigners will have little difficulty in climbing over that tariff; but that remains to be seen. It should be borne in mind that this looks as if it will be a very heavy plum year. Certainly the trees in my constituency are already beginning to look very heavily laden.

I cannot raise any enthusiasm about the new tariffs on these exotic flowers, and I sincerely regret that there is not a much greatly improved protective tariff for potatoes, carrots and onions. The position is extraordinary. I trust that I am in order in talking about items which could have been included in the Order. The position is that there are still in the clamps large quantities of home-grown potatoes in very good condition. At the same time potatoes have been coming in in no better condition. Some of those imported recently are luxury potatoes but—

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will help me. I see nothing about potatoes in the Order.

Mr. Renton

No, Sir. There is no mention of potatoes, as I said, but I submit that as the Order amends the consolidating Order it is in order for me to discuss the way in which the amendment has been, and might have been, carried out.

Mr. Speaker

Debate on an amending Order is confined strictly to what the amending Order does. It is not in order to refer back to the other Order.

Mr. Renton

If you please. In that case, I will not pursue the point I was about to make.

11.30 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

As the Minister of State, Board of Trade, is going to reply, perhaps I could briefly put three points to him. First of all, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to explain how some of the provisions of the Order can be justified on the grounds that they provide protection. What possible protection do the new provisions provide for strawberries? It is common ground that this Order can only be justified this year as providing a protective tariff, but what earthly protection has been afforded to the British strawberry growers by this provision from the 1st to the 9th June? The second point I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman—and the Parliamentary Secretary did not deal with this —is that last year we had a No. 3 Order and a considerable point was made that there had not been proper consultation with the trade. I think it is incumbent upon the Government to explain whether there has been free and proper consultation with the trade this year, because when the last Order was laid the retail and distributive trades generally complained, first of all, that the Order went beyond the strict protective purpose of the Order; and, secondly, they bitterly complained that the President of the Board of Trade had not honoured his pledges to the trade. I hope on this occasion we shall have an assurance that there has been full and proper consultation. We know that the Minister is very sympathetic to all questions of consultation.

Finally, can the Minister give any indication of the Government's policy towards the Import Duties Advisory Committee. Do they intend to rely upon the Committee or not? That subject is relevant to these import duties, and if the Minister can, within the rules of order, inform the House of the Government's attitude on this matter, I am sure we should all be obliged to him.

11.33 p.m.

Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

Very briefly, I should like to congratulate the Government on introducing this Order and to touch on one or two of the points mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). I endorse what the right hon. Gentleman said about the date, and I am quite certain that there will be a big plum crop this year and that this Order will go some way to protecting the home grower from what one hopes will not be quite as big a problem as he had two years ago.

The commodity which particularly interests my constituents is strawberries, and my own feeling is that nothing will ever give the growers of strawberries the protection they had when this Government first came into power, because then they found it necessary for an unfortunate reason virtually to reduce imports to nothing. The trouble with that was that sooner or later we found ourselves in danger of losing markets for our manufactured goods.

There is no doubt that both these tariffs will to some extent be an improvement on last year, though they will not give the protection that the growers had when imports were cut so substantially a few years ago. I think the growers accept the fact that the consequence of cutting imports completely is apt to be so damaging to our national economy that we growers simply cannot afford to put that argument forward.

There is no doubt about it we shall find as these strawberry tariffs work out that they do not give really adequate protection to our home growers. That is my own feeling, although I think that what is happening in this Order will result in an improvement on the state of affairs which we had last year. My feeling is that it all comes back to this everlasting question, how much longer are we to suffer under the terrible conditions which G.A.T.T. imposes on us? Or are we going to face it, and ask for the Treaty to be revised or abolished?

On the strawberry issue, to which I think I had better, for the sake of order, return, I would call attention to the pulp aspect. Pulp strawberries are not, unfortunately, included in this Order, but we ought to face the fact that a great many of our strawberry growers are not going to get much protection simply because we propose to protect fresh strawberries. The great criticism which the growers in my constituency will have is that, while welcoming the rules about fresh strawberries, there is nothing about pulp strawberries.

I must say that I thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper used a most astonishing argument on the subject of flowers. His view seems to be that there is something slightly wrong about growers wishing to produce flowers on vegetable or fruit land; or that, anyway, they should grow them completely at their own risk, despite the fact—and I emphasise this—that they have to pay the minimum wages to their workers. They are bound, as are other growers, to pay what the State as a whole considers to be a fair wage, and if we are going to tell them that because their land grows flowers they must not do it because roses are not so important as, say, strawberries, it does seem to me that we are seeing once again a perfect example of something which we on this side of the House so often criticise, namely, that fantastic belief that the man in Whitehall knows best.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the cost of transport has gone up and, therefore, the cost of transport is some more protection to these growers than existed in the past. But does not that argument apply to flowers and vegetables, as well as to fruit? It is, I think, a very dangerous argument for the right hon. Gentleman to have used, because what he implies is that these increases in tariffs are not necessary since the protection is obtained through increased transport costs. But the increased transport costs have not protected fruit or vegetable growers, and I am pretty certain that they have not protected the florist, or rather the "floriculturist," if there is such a word.

Probably the people who are growing on the land know what their land will grow best, and they probably know how to run their holdings as efficiently as they can. It seems to me that hon. Members should not suddenly criticise these people who are trying to earn an honest living by producing things which the British public wants; these people should be allowed to do so.

I hope that when the Minister comes to reply he will support me in what I have said, rather than that he should support the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper, because we in this House ought to encourage a bit of enterprise, and something which gives pleasure to other people; and there are few things which give pleasure, in a little way, more than flowers—be they exotic, or be they marigolds.

11.40 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Gooch (Norfolk, North)

I do not agree with the observations of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) with regard to the attitude of hon. Members on this side to the Order now under discussion. It is not by any means our desire to say that people shall not derive pleasure from the growing of flowers. While I do not agree with it completely, I think that generally speaking, the criticism offered to the Order is legitimate.

A few months ago the House gave approval to several Orders of this kind. I supported them then, and I see no occasion now to depart from that course in regard to this present Order. The big and valuable horticultural industry is entitled to practical encouragement from the State, and whilst I do not altogether like the method of protection embodied in the Order, I concede that, in the absence of other proposals, they will be helpful to the British grower. Nor do I think that the methods will be harmful to the British housewife. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that, whilst the Government are creating conditions of instability in agriculture, they are prepared to make concessions towards a more stabilised market for the horticultural grower.

I should like to see the horticultural industry make more progress than hitherto towards putting its own house in order. I wish to assist both the producer and the consumer, and I think that that can be done by clearing up the present wasteful and costly system of marketing and distribution which creates unrealistic local shortages and surpluses and calls upon the housewife to pay more than she should for the goods.

Whilst I am concerned to see that the horticultural industry gets fair play and that the grower is properly rewarded, I am also concerned to see that the 150,000 workpeople in this industry get their share of the additional income accruing to the grower. Yesterday was a black day for farm and horticultural workers. The Agricultural Wages Board refused to give even 6d. increase on the national minimum wage. The independent members on the Board could have adjudicated on the case before them, but I am afraid that the independent members were influenced by considerations outside the Board.

Mr. Speaker

I think that the hon. Member is going far beyond the Order. He is introducing the whole question of agricultural wages, which is surely not covered by this Order.

Mr. Gooch

I am saying I support the Order on various grounds. One is that I think that the grower is entitled to the protection of the Order. Further, I think that the industry makes a real contribution to the welfare of the State. Thirdly, I want the industry to be able to pay a good wage to the people for whom I speak. I merely point out, with great respect, that the hopes of those people for improved wages and working conditions in the agricultural and horticultural industries were dashed to the ground yesterday by the action of the Agricultural Wages Board.

I support the State helping farming and horticulture industries to enable them to prosper and to serve national needs, but the prosperity circle in the horticultural industry should include the men who do the work in it. I hope that the operation of the Order will stabilise the market, benefit the grower, and provide the workers with a further opportunity of pressing for a reasonable reward for their labour.

11.45 p.m.

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)

The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) expressed some views on the effect of the protection of the industry in which he is interested, and seemed to be having second thoughts about the value of the protection that had been given. I should have liked to encourage him to continue those second thoughts, and if it had not been so late I should have done my best to pursue that argument. But it is late, and I shall desist.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman, however, seemed to go very much astray in his remarks about the fantastic belief that Whitehall always knows best. What does this Order do if it does not indicate that Whitehall does know best what prices should be charged for strawberries, plums and a whole series of plants, including the innocent holly and mistletoe? Whitehall is making clear, in the form of an Order presented to the House, that it knows best what prices should be charged. consistent with protection.

Mr. Renton

The hon. Member should be told that these prices are not fixed or suggested by gentlemen in Whitehall. It is true that they take some part in arriving at a decision, but that decision is taken mainly upon the advice of various people who are not civil servants.

Mr. Hudson

The gentlemen throughout the country give their advice, which is all considered, but the gentlemen in Whitehall—either those who sit on the Front Bench or their advisers in various offices—know a great deal about the matter. In view of the developments we have made in protection by means of various Orders in the last few years, the argument that it is fantastic to believe that Whitehall knows best is without any weight.

Major Legge-Bourke

What the gentlemen in Whitehall can never know best is what grows best on the land of the man who owns the holding.

Mr. Hudson

The hon. and gallant Gentleman persists in that view, but the encouragement given to the man who works on the smallholding is finally represented by a certain weight of taxation or tariffs which are imposed in order to help him. Whitehall imagines that it knows precisely what weight the industry and its commodities can bear.

It is at that point that I want to put my point of view, as representing the consumers. The Board of Trade Journal announces that the consumer interests were carefully consulted about all matters which affected them in the various tariffs mentioned in this Order, and the Minister repeated that statement tonight. It may be so, but I did not hear very much from the consumer interests about the nature of the consultations. I should like to know who were actually brought in.

It may be that a number of important people in the organisations dealing with retail trade were consulted, and their views taken into account. However, I wonder whether the organisations of the women Who buy the strawberries have been consulted. I mean such organisations as that the party opposite used to pay so much attention to when prices were considered when that party was in Opposition—the Housewives' League. Has that organisation been consulted? To what extent have the women been consulted who belong to the Co-operative Guilds associated with a great organisation with 10 million members?

To what extent were they consulted about the price of strawberries in the first week of June? In that week we had more rain than sunshine, and I do not know how many homegrown strawberries could have been expected to have been on the market that week, but this Order provides for a tariff of 4d. lb. on imported strawberries. Perhaps the strawberries covered by that tariff are strawberries grown in pots under glass, or cloches in the fields, and are so expensive that, apart from the few most fortunate people, few could be expected to buy them, but I do not know why the tariff should be 4d. instead of l½d. a lb. as it used to be. When the English strawberries come on the market, what will be the protective price then? According to the Order, 6d. lb. for the whole strawberry season.

I agree with my hon. Friend that the men who grow strawberries and who pay wages for assistants with their work must have encouragement, but I feel that the general rise in the price of strawberries has discouraged the demand for them among the poorer elements of the population to such an extent that that price, and the protective element, have not been of any assistance to the producers in the long run. It has certainly been of none to the women buyers.

Consider another case, that of bulbs. I am very interested in that. The hon. Gentleman said that work on bulb production in the winter and spring complemented other horticultural production the year round, and that the total horticultural production in the horticultural counties had increased because of bulb production. I admit that is the case, but part of that process is to get people in increasing numbers to buy bulbs. It is one of the interesting things that has happened in London in recent years that more and more people are planting snowdrops, crocuses, hyacinths and daffodils in window boxes and small gardens. Perhaps this is a wasteful process in London where people tend to buy every year or every alternate year, but if that is so it is bad policy to make bulbs expensive for it is doing nothing but harm to the producer by making it impossible for large numbers of people to purchase them. So I criticise this Order because the prices laid down will ultimately stand against the interests of the grower and the consumer.

Damsons are a fruit very much sought after by the wise housewife who knows their value as a preserve in September and October. It has been said that the higher price under this Order will be equivalent to l½d. a lb, but it will be much more like 2d. a lb. by the time the fruit reaches the consumer. That ought not to be. It is bad policy to discourage the additional sale of damsons. Mirabelles are also mentioned in the Order and are subject to an additional 2d. a lb. import duty. In any Lorraine town you can be served with this fruit very cheaply, and there is no reason why this fruit should not be available cheaply to British housewives. It would encourage the French without doing any damage to the British producer who does not cultivate this fruit to any great extent.

The more one looks at this Order the more suspicious one becomes of it, and the more objectionable it appears, and although we do not intend to divide on it, some of the points I have raised deserve more attention from the Government than they have given them hitherto

12 midnight.

Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)

The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) has forgotten the advantage that comes to the consumer from being able to obtain at a reasonable price an adequate quantity of fresh British-grown fruit. I am sure that that is something for which the consumers in the towns would be prepared to pay the small additional prices which are implicit in this Order. I welcome the measures which are being taken under the Order to provide some reasonable security for horticulture. That part of the agricultural industry was not included in the security and stability which was provided by the 1947 Act. It deserves as well of the British public as any other part of the agricultural industry as far as both growers and workers are concerned.

This is perhaps a belated but nevertheless welcome measure to give a reasonable deal to many of those who try to provide the highest quality horticultural production for the large urban populations of this country. Representing a constituency which produces the best strawberries in the country and at the same time the best roses, I am particularly concerned to see that the growers of both have a very proper mention in one of the Schedules attached to the Order. The strawberry and rose growers in my constituency will be very glad of the provisions of the Order.

12.2 a.m.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Heathcoat Amory)

Last November the Government issued a White Paper describing proposals for increased duties on certain horticultural products. Subsequently a short debate took place on 10th December on the Additional Duties (No. 3) Order, 1953, which gave effect to those increases. The House approved that Order with general agreement. At that time it was stated that the examination of other applications in the same field was still proceeding. This Order gives effect to the changes in Duty in respect of most of those other applications that were still under consideration at that time.

There are one or two still under examination, for instance in relation to bulbs and dead poultry. Bulbs do not come under this Order, but the Order is really parallel with the one which we debated on 10th December. It deals with a further range of horticultural products according to the same principles. It represents another step in substituting a tariff for quantitative restrictions and affording our own horticultural industry a moderate and fair rate of protection in the light of today's price level. A moderate tariff may be more favourable to the consumer than a strict quantitative restriction by quota.

I do not think that hon. Members will want me to go into the general argument for adopting the course which we have taken, but I should like to answer one or two points which have been made about the details of the Order. The Order deals with fresh plums and strawberries and with flowers, foliage and nursery stock. It increases duties on some items and it removes specific duties on others, leaving them subject to the general ad valorem duty of 10 per cent. It simplifies the tariff structure in a good many cases in relation to flowers and nursery stock.

Mr. J. Hudson

It may be that I am wrong, but the Order states that, with regard to hyacinths, narcissi and tulips, from 1st December to the last day of February they will be 2s. 10d. a lb.

Mr. Amory

That is for flowers and not bulbs. In the last Order we dealt with strawberries from 10th June to 31st July and a new duty of 6d. a lb. was fixed for that period. At that time, for technical reasons concerned with our agreements under G.A.T.T., we could not deal with the period 1st June to 9th June, and under this new Order we are merely dealing with the limited period, and there the duty is 4d. a lb. Therefore, the position is that for strawberries from 1st June to 9th June the duty will be 4d. a lb.: from 10th June to 31st July it will be 6d. and for the rest of the year it will be 10 per cent. ad valorem.

Mr. Willey

I appreciate the reasons for the changes, but I would ask what protection that offers to the growers of that in this country.

Mr. Amory

It has afforded that protection already, because it came into effect in May.

Mr. Willey

But in practice?

Mr. Amory

I should have thought the increase from 1½d. a lb. or 10 per cent. ad valorem duty, whichever is the lower, to 4d. a lb. is something of a protection.

Mr. Wiley

But surely strawberries during these particular few days are sold at high luxury prices?

Mr. Amory

This year, I agree. But the Board of Trade are not responsible for the weather, and the season is late, and only a few strawberries will come along in the first period. The important period is from 10th June to 31st July which was covered in the previous Order.

I now come to trees, plants and flowers. Flower production is an integral part of the horticultural industry and complementary to food production. It does enable staff to be employed the whole year round, and I do not think the changes proposed are likely to lead to a significant expansion of that section of the industry to the detriment of food production. We cannot look on flower production as an unimportant part of the industry. Applications were put forward by the National Farmers' Union in the case of trees and plants; for flowers, it was supported by the British Flowers Association which represents not only the growers but distributors, and, in the case of nursery stocks, by the Horticultural Trades Association. In respect of the increased rates of duty, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), compared the set-out of this Order unfavourably with the last Order in that matter. But he was confusing it with the White Paper. Order No. 3 of 1953 was set out very much as this one. It is true that the specific rates which have been increased have in general been raised by 2¼ times their previous level, but it is true also that prices have in general risen since the war by more than that. Consequently the ad valorem incidence of the new rates are in general below the pre-war level. Higher freight and transport charges have been taken into consideration in these figures. It must be conceded that in all the circumstances those increases are not out of the way. Really, they are quite moderate.

The opportunity has been taken to simplify the tariff structure a good deal in the process of getting out this Order. I should have been sorry to have been pressed to comment in detail, because some of these names are very alarming lo one who is not an horticulturist. I might have pronounced them but I certainly could not have elucidated the characteristics of them.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper asked about the proportions of home-produced trees, plants and flowers. The quotas which we have had since the war have been fairly strict and they allowed only very limited amounts of imports. Something like 90 per cent. represents the proportion of home-grown produce. It may be that, as a result of the substitution of this tariff for the severe quantitative restrictions, the proportion of imports may go up a little but not to a significant extent.

I assure hon. Gentlemen that the fullest consultation has taken place. When the applications were received they were advertised. Representations were invited, a number were received and the observations of the applicants were invited. Then, in every case where they were desired, consultations took place with those who had made the representations. To give an idea of the scale, I would mention the names of a few of the organisations consulted. They included the Fruit and Vegetable Trade Association of Importers, Distributors and Salesmen, the Retail Fruit Trade Federation Ltd., the Parliamentary Committee of the Cooperative Union Ltd., the Fruit and Vegetable Trade Association of Importers, Distributors and Salesmen, and, on the question of nursery stock, the National Union of Manufacturers and the British Flower Industry Association which represents distributors as well as producers.

We have taken very great trouble over this matter and an immense amount of time has been spent on it. We have had no complaint that we have not entered into adequate consultation. I hope that there is no ground for anybody to feel that there has not been full consultation.

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey) asked about our future plans for the Import Duty Advisory Committee. I must not go into that question at any length but I can say that we have the future under consideration and at the moment we do not envisage any immediate change in our present plans.

I should like to emphasise that in the case of the previous Order every care was taken to make sure that we invited every possible representation from every possible interest, both for and against, and that has been done with this Order to an even greater extent. As a result of the representations, we have in fact changed the proposals in a number of cases. The changes have been suggested as the result of careful consideration after every possible step to investigate the matter had been taken, and I believe that the proposals will commend themselves to the House as being reasonable, wise, moderate and fair to the interests both of the industries and of the nation at large.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Additional Import Duties (No. 2) Order, 1954 (S.I., 1954, No. 642), dated 14th May, 1954, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th May, be approved.

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