HC Deb 01 March 1954 vol 524 cc829-31
29. Mr. Remnant

asked the Minister of Food if he will cause representations to be made to the Indian, Pakistan and Ceylon Governments that they should not restrict the exports of sound tea made from the 1954 crop, subject only to their internal requirements.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Charles Hill)

Since there is in practice no restriction of exports of tea from India, Pakistan and Ceylon, my right hon. and gallant Friend does not feel that general representations are necessary at this time.

Mr. Remnant

But does my hon. Friend not appreciate that the unilateral action of the Indian Government about this time last year in advance of the recommendation of the International Committee, whereby they reduced the export quota from that country, has contributed to the short supply and high price of tea in this country now?

Dr. Hill

The fact is that the ceiling figure of limit of exports is 125½ per cent. of the pre-war normal, and that this figure is not being reached at the present time.

Mr. T. Reid

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, if the price of tea goes up considerably, it will be open to those countries producing tea to put on an export duty which will enable them to increase their revenues at the expense of the British consumer? Will he do everything in his power not to allow the price of tea to go up?

Dr. Hill

I will take note of the point.

Mr. Remnant

Will not my hon. Friend re-examine this question and accept my assurance that if the figure is announced early in the year the tea growers of India can exceed 125 per cent, of the standard year's quota?

Dr. Hill

I will look into that further point.

35. Mr. G. Jeger

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the guarantee given to him by the Tea Buyers' Association of ample supplies of tea at 3s. 4d. per lb. has not been fulfilled; and, in view of this, if he will now reimpose price control.

Dr. Hill

The undertaking concerned the availability of blends at 3s. 10d. and 3s. 8d. per lb. after de-rationing. In spite of the rise in world prices in 1953 some blends are still being sold loose at these prices. The answer to the second part of the Question is "No, Sir."

Mr. Jeger

May I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the OFFICIAL REPORT for 18th May in which the guarantee given by the Minister related to tea at 3s. 4d. and 3s. 8d., which are very different figures from those which he has just quoted? Did the Minister at that time deliberately mislead the House and the country, or was he misled by the tea trade?

Dr. Hill

The guarantee given is as I have stated. I would ask the hon. Member to bear in mind that in the light of an increase in the price of common tea from Is. 11d. per lb. to 4s. 4d. per lb. a guarantee of this kind cannot be observed in perpetuity.

Mr. F. Willey

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I am informed that over Luxembourg Radio one of the largest tea firms is offering free samples of tea and that if he does not do something about this I will follow the excellent example set by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland)?

Dr. Hill

When one bears in mind that the average price of tea at the Calcutta auctions has gone up by 1s. 3d. and the average price at the London auctions by 1s. 1½d. and the average retail price has gone up by only 8d., I suggest that hon. Members opposite should have some consideration for the prosperity of the tea gardens.

Sir R. Acland

Is the Minister aware that when the party opposite were in Opposition changes in prices in world markets were thought to have no relation whatever to home prices?

Dr. Hill

I am aware that when the party opposite were in power there were increases in the controlled price of tea for precisely the same reason.