HC Deb 22 March 1956 vol 550 cc1448-9
20. Mr. Hunter

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the shortage and high prices of vegetables, he will remove the tariff on vegetables imported from abroad.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

No, Sir. I understand that the present shortages are purely temporary and largely due to the recent severe weather. The tariff is not intended to be used as a short-term instrument to remedy temporary shortages or gluts due to natural causes.

Mr. Hunter

Arising out of that Answer, I wish to ask the President if he is aware that there is a serious shortage of fresh vegetables which many families cannot afford to buy at their present prices? Would not lifting the tariff enable families to buy fresh vegetables at prices they can afford? Why is the right hon. Gentleman so bitterly opposed to housewives paying reasonable prices?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I am aware that both in this country and, more particularly perhaps, on the Continent of Europe, there has been difficulty in this matter, due to the severe weather, but the tariff instrument is not suitable for quick adjustments of supplies in the varying conditions of different months.

Commander Agnew

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the growers of vegetables in the Vale of Evesham and other districts have suffered very great losses in the last winter, due to the unusually severe weather conditions, and are relying on this tariff as a means of protection for the industry?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I am aware that both consumers and producers have suffered from the severe weather and the shortage of vegetables.