HC Deb 16 June 1954 vol 528 cc1924-7
1. Lieut.-Colonel Schofield

asked the Minister of Food the general policy of his Department with regard to the importation into this country of fruit and foodstuffs which are subject to some form of subsidy in the country of origin; and what particular difficulties have arisen with regard to the subsidisation of the fresh citrus fruit imported from the United States of America under Section 550 of the Mutual Security Act.

3. Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

asked the Minister of Food what reason was given to Her Majesty's Government by the Government of the United States for the deletion of the United Kingdom from the list of countries eligible to receive the subsidy on citrus exports from the United States; what representations have been made to him from other countries normally exporting citrus fruit to this country; and whether he will give particulars.

The Minister of Food (Major Lloyd George)

Our general policy is to admit imports without restriction wherever we can afford to do so. Imports under Section 550 of the M.S.A. are, however, subject to special arrangements agreed between the U.S. Administration and H.M. Government. The subsidy on citrus fruit imported into the United Kingdom was withheld by the U.S. Government at our request, in the interest of citrus growers in Colonial Territories. Representations about the decision to take this fruit have been received on behalf of the citrus growers in the British West Indies and in Israel.

Lieut.-Colonel Schofield

I thank my right hon. and gallant Friend for his answer. Does he not agree that the trade figures show that the Colonies are unable at present to supply our requirements of citrus fruits? In such circumstances, would it not be better to take advantage of the United States offer?

Major Lloyd George

As a matter of fact, as regards oranges, if the amount allowed was taken it would be only about 2.6 per cent. of our last year's total, but in addition we have to take into consideration the question of price.

Mr. J. Griffiths

What reply have the Government made to the representations made by the delegation from the West Indies, where a very serious view is taken of the situation?

Major Lloyd George

We are only too anxious to do anything we can to help here, but the fact is that the season for exports of citrus fruits from our Colonies is the time when there are practically no effective exports from the United States. The fruits happen to come into harvest at different times in the two producing countries.

Mr. Bottomley

We acknowledge the anxiety of the British Government to help our Colonies in regard to their exports, but would it not be well, in view of the declared policy of Her Majesty's Government, to make some objection to this subsidisation of exports.

Major Lloyd George

I am not sure if I have understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly, but we did ask the United States Government not to subsidise the exports and they agreed. The view we take—and I take it very strongly—is that it is not fair that our colonial producers should be faced with competition from heavily subsidised products.

Mr. Bottomley

I acknowledge that viewpoint, but is the Minister aware that, as a country, we are very concerned about the subsidies given to these exporters? It is against our best interests. Would not Her Majesty's Government agree that in this case the United States ought not to subsidise these products?

Mr. Janner

With regard to the representations made by Israel, will the Minister give an assurance that no unfair advantage is taken in respect of these subsidies, particularly in view of the established market existing?

Major Lloyd George

I think that the hon. Member has not understood the answer. The United States Government have agreed not to subsidise.

2. Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

asked the Minister of Food what is the agreed period for the importation of United States fresh citrus fruit with funds made available under Section 550 of the Mutual Security Act; and to what extent fruit would normally be available from Colonial Territories during that period.

Major Lloyd George

Import licences became available in the latter part of May and are valid until 31st October, 1954. During this period negligible amounts of citrus fruit are available from Colonial Territories.

6. Lieut.-Colonel Schofield

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that, but for delay in completing the necessary formalities in connection with the recent United States offer to supply citrus fruit to this country under Section 550 of the Mutual Security Act, United States oranges could have been imported at a c.i.f. cost of $4.85 per box, as against the present average cost of over $7; and whether he will now make a full statement about Government policy on this matter.

Major Lloyd George

I am aware that prices of oranges in the United States rose sharply, as a result of heavy Continental demand, before the necessary arrangements to enable United Kingdom importers to buy could be completed. As regards the last part of the Question, I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer which I have just given to him.