HC Deb 07 February 1956 vol 548 cc1482-4
13. Miss Burton

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the refusal to renew the bulk buying agreement between Denmark and Britain for the supply of bacon to this country and the imposition of a duty on future imports will raise the price of bacon to the consumer; and if he will reconsider his decision concerning bulk buying in this particular instance.

26. Mr. Willey

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now make a statement on the negotiations between representatives of his Department and the Danish Government about the import of Danish bacon.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. A. R. W. Low)

I am not yet in a position to add to the answers given by my right hon. Friend on 2nd February to Questions on this subject.

Miss Burton

Is the Minister aware of the great discontent among Danish agriculturists about this proposed import duty? Is he further aware that they say it will cost them £5 million a year? Are we to take it from his reply that the Conservative Government have become so doctrinaire that they are not prepared to consider bulk buying to reduce prices, even though they have no alternative?

Mr. Low

All I hope the hon. Lady will take from my reply is that while negotiations are still going on I am not in a position to answer her Question. This matter was made quite clear by my right hon. Friend last week, and I think the House accepts the practice that while negotiations are going on it is unwise to make statements.

Mr. Willey

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that an early and satisfactory reply would be most reassuring? Meanwhile, will he assure the House that the Government have abandoned the project for a 10 per cent. tariff on Danish bacon?

Mr. Low

The hon. Member is asking me to go contrary to the Answer I have just given to his hon. Friend.

Mr. Baldwin

In view of the adverse balance of payments with the European Payments Union, does not my hon. Friend think that a tariff on bacon and other commodities would be a better way of regulating imports than having a quota?

Mr. Low

I cannot answer my hon. Friend any more than I can answer the hon. Lady.

Mr. Bottomley

Whilst recognising that we cannot press the Minister with regard to tariffs when negotiations are going on, may I ask if we are to understand that there are hopes of satisfactory negotiations in respect of bulk purchasing?

Mr. Low

The practice is that while negotiations are going on—and, as the right hon. Member knows, they are going on—I cannot make any statement.