HC Deb 27 May 1954 vol 528 cc598-9
29. Mr. Remnant

asked the President of the Board of Trade for what fruits from the United States of America he is now considering the grant of import licences; what are the values; and what period the licences will cover.

Mr. Amory

None, Sir. Licences have recently been issued for limited quantities of prunes, fresh and canned grapefruit and fresh oranges under the Mutual Security Act. Because of our balance of payments position, we cannot at present afford private imports for free dollars.

Mr. Remnant

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a recent issue of "Fruit Intelligence" contained invitations for applications for the issue of licences for the import of fruit? Does he understand that the Empire is willing to supply all the fruit we require and should not preference be given to them in the markets of this country?

Mr. Amory

The first part of that supplementary question has reference to the statement I have already made, that licences have recently been issued. Regarding the second part, by hon. Friend will remember that traditionally we were big buyers of fruit from the United States. This fruit I have mentioned is not costing dollars.

Mr. Beswick

Although this fruit does not cost dollars, what are the implications of the Mutual Security Act? Is it not a condition that we should use equivalent sums of money in this country for the purchase of arms?

Mr. Amory

Yes, Sir, broadly speaking the effect is that the sterling equivalent of the cost of the fruit in question will be added to our defence expenditure.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is it not the case that the fruit is a free gift, and that the money we pay for it is given back to us in aid of the defence programme? Will the right hon. Gentleman make that plain?

Mr. Amory

Yes, Sir, what the right hon. Gentleman has said is exactly the fact. It is given conditionally on an equivalent amount of sterling being added to the defence expenditure.

Mr. Beresford Craddock

In considering this matter, will my right hon. Friend bear fully in mind the position of the citrus industry in the West Indies?