HC Deb 26 January 1956 vol 548 cc364-5
58. Mr. Russell

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food why large quantities of maize are being obtained from the dollar area when there is a surplus of maize in the Union of South Africa.

Mr. Amory

Following the ending of Government control, the import of maize is a matter for private importers who are free to obtain supplies from any source. Substantial quantities of South African maize are, however, being imported.

Mr. Russell

Is it not a fact that last year much more maize was imported from the United States than from South Africa? Is that not unwise in view of the shortage of dollars? Will my right hon. Friend undertake to consider using the tariff weapon to increase the import of maize from the Empire?

Mr. Amory

The amount of maize we are importing from South Africa appears to be steadily on the increase. I think it is best to leave it to the importers to decide where they can get exactly the qualities they need at the most advantageous prices.

Mr. H. Wilson

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that our gold and dollar reserves fell last year by 700 million dollars to a dangerously low figure? Is his approach to this question and his laissez faire answer symptomatic of the lack of urgency which the new Chancellor is to show in this problem?

Mr. Amory

I think I can leave it with confidence to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to have due regard to that aspect of the matter.

Mr. Osborne

Can my hon. Friend say what the comparable prices are of dollar and Empire maize?

Mr. Amory

I cannot do that without notice, but I think the bulk of the South African maize imported is white maize, more suitable for industrial purposes than for animal feeding.

Mr. Holt

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that putting up the tariff merely puts up the cost of living? Will he not give in to any reactionary elements or suggestions from whatever side of the House they may come?