HC Deb 22 November 1954 vol 533 cc753-5
10 and 11. Mr. Grimond

asked the Minister of Food (1) why a stock of Californian raisins, offered to British traders by his Department at a minimum price of £85 per ton, has been sold in Holland for £41 per ton on terms advantageous to the buyers; and

(2) why a stock of Australian Lexia raisins, bought by his Department at £85 per ton in 1953 and offered to British traders at around £70 per ton, has been sold to foreign traders at £30 per ton.

Mr. Amory

This fruit was old stock and, in accordance with sound commercial practice, was sold in bulk for the best price obtainable.

Mr. Grimond

Will the Minister answer two questions: first, was it offered to British traders at a price comparable with that at which it was eventually sold; and secondly, what was the total loss?

Mr. Amory

It was known in the trade that offers would be received for these stocks. I understand, however, that no offers for bulk quantities were received from traders in this country. In this case, it was important to clear the stock, and my Department was therefore anxious to sell it in bulk as quickly as possible. I am afraid I have no figure of the total loss, but if the hon. Member puts down a Question, I will try to obtain it.

Mr. Willey

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen Press references to these transactions in which it was alleged that no offer was made to British merchants at these prices? Will the Minister explain how this has happened? If the Ministry is to make a loss, why should it make it in favour of foreigners and not in favour of our own people?

Mr. Amory

No offer was made by the Ministry at the particular prices, but the Department made it clear that bids would be received; but in fact no bids for bulk quantities were received from traders in this country. This method of disposing of the stock was chosen in the best interests of the taxpayer and of the consumer, bearing in mind certain obligations which the taxpayer had incurred for the fresh supplies coming along for the current year.

Mr. Bottomley

Why do the Government oppose bulk purchase when they are prepared to sell in bulk to the disadvantage of the taxpayer?

Mr. Amory

Unfortunately, these stocks were bought in bulk.