HC Deb 30 April 1956 vol 552 cc13-4
19. Mr. Coldrick

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is aware that Majestic potatoes cost £17 per ton last year when prices were Government-controlled, compared with £40 per ton at present; and if he will therefore take steps to see that there is more consumer representation on the producer-controlled Potato Marketing Board to prevent the community from being overcharged.

Mr. Amory

The present high prices of potatoes are due to the shortage of supplies resulting from last year's light crop, for which the Potato Marketing Board is not responsible. In any case, the members of the board appointed by Ministers under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1949, are not representatives of any particular interest.

Mr. Coldrick

Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Potato Marketing Board has no responsibility for policy in the sale of potatoes? Would he not agree that the enormous increase in the price demonstrates that the board, as at present constituted, has not sufficient consumer representation?

Mr. Amory,

No, I do not think so at all. The Potato Marketing Board has no control over the price of potatoes to the consumers.

Mr. Coldrick

Who has?

Mr. Amory

Nor has the board restricted output in any way. I would also remind the House that the present Potato Marketing Board began to function only on 10th May, 1955, before which date, of course, the past season's potato crop was mainly in the ground.

Mr. Remnant

Would my right hon. Friend inquire from the Opposition whether they can tell him what the yield per acre will be in 1956, so that we can see whether the right acreage is being sown?

Mr. Amory

I would forgive the Opposition a great deal if they could tell me that.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

How does the Minister know what is happening at all if the figures on which he answers Questions in the House are seven or eight weeks out of date, as he admitted the other day?

Mr. Amory

Short of asking every producer in the country to send me a telegram every few days about how things are going, I think there must be some limit to the number of census demands which we can impose on the producers.