HC Deb 19 April 1956 vol 551 cc1170-1
44. Mr. Hunter

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the shortage and high price of potatoes, if he will reconsider his decision to place 1d. per pound tax on new potatoes next month and cancel this import duty.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Import duties are not designed to be varied to meet short-term exceptional conditions of the present kind.

Mr. Hunter

I know that the right hon. Gentleman gives a good deal of thought to this matter. The price of old potatoes is now 6d. per lb., which causes hardship to many families. When the new ones come in next month, he will put a tax on them, which will prevent many families from buying them. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman make an exception this year, in view of the shortage?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The tariff is designed to meet the circumstances at the present time. When the home crop is not available, the tariff is very low, and it is higher when the home crop becomes available. That is a permanent arrangement.

Mr. Wade

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the whole question of import duties on spring vegetables? As it is clear that the home growers are not able to supply anything like the home demand, does the Minister not agree that these import duties are in fact a tax on food and are not merely protective, as was alleged when they were imposed?

Mr. Thorneycroft

These tariffs have been very carefully considered and are especially designed to be low when the home crops are not available and then to rise when the home crops come on to the market.