HC Deb 02 March 1954 vol 524 cc996-7
36. Mr. Dodds

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what approval has been given for the purchase of Californian peaches; how many cases are to be bought; and what steps he has taken to satisfy himself that the cost per case compares favourably with the prices ruling for Australian and South African peaches.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I assume the Question refers to purchases under Section 550 of the U.S. Mutual Security Act, 1953. I am not in a position to disclose details of negotiations still in train for purchases of commodities under this Section, apart from the information already published.

Mr. Dodds

When is the right hon. Gentleman likely to get this information, as there is a good deal of interest in the fact that these peaches are being offered at two-thirds the prices ruling for South African and Australian peaches?

Mr. Butler

The present Government's policy has resulted in a good many price decreases. In these negotiations every consideration is given to the level of prices in trying to make a reasonable bargain. I hope to give further details when we are further on in the negotiations.

Commander Donaldson

When considering the importation of peaches, would my right hon. Friend keep in mind that equally good peaches are grown in the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario

Mr. Butler

Certainly. It has to be remembered that this arrangement is one of generosity towards the United Kingdom on the part of the United States of America, and we should look at the negotiations in that light. We should also remember that we have done our best to increase our trade with Canada recently.

Mr. Gaitskell

As I understand that this so-called purchase of fruit amounts to a free gift from the United States to ourselves, would it not be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to fix the price at which it is sold here at any level he likes?

Mr. Butler

I must have some regard to world levels, and also to the convenience of the categories in the United States of America. It is in relation to this that we have to have regard to the price level in general.