HC Deb 26 July 1960 vol 627 cc1273-4
14. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Pre-sident of the Board of Trade what was the quantity of new potatoes imported from Belgium in the month of June, and the first two weeks in July; and how this compares with the quantity imported in the same period in 1959.

Mr. Maudling

I regret that details of Belgian imports for the month of June are not yet available and that weekly figures are not collected.

Mr. Hughes

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise what damage he is doing to the new potato trade in the west of Scotland where the farmers say that they have never had it so bad? Is he aware that I would invite him to see for himself if I could guarantee his personal safety? The Secretary of State for Scotland is going there next week, and will the right hon. Gentleman consult him before the same thing happens next year?

Mr. Maudling

The invitation is tempting, but I hope that the qualification is unnecessary.

Mr. Bullard

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, though he may not have the figures, growers of early potatoes are very conscious of the presence of Belgian imports? Will he bear in mind also that the consumer really does not get any improved conditions as a result of these imports? They dislocate the trade. They hang over and complicate the market of main crop potatoes, for which, in the end, the Government have to provide a guarantee. Is he satisfied that the anti-dumping provisions are quick enough in operation to cover all cases of this kind?

Mr. Maudling

I will certainly look into the question of the anti-dumping provisions if I am given any evidence on that point. The imports from Belgium up to the end of May were not on a significant scale, and there is a protective seasonal tariff which rises to £9 6s. 8d. between 16th May and 30th June.

Mr. Manuel

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has allowed a 12 per cent. increase in potato imports recently, and that, in fact, there has been rather a storm of indignation about it in Scotland, especially in the west of Scotland? The Tory chairman of the Ayr County Council, himself a farmer, writing in the Scottish Farmer, says that the industry is sick of being overloaded with home supplies. If that is so, ought not the right hon. Gentleman to tell those concerned in sufficient time for them to reduce their potato acreage and to get on with growing something else that will sell?

Mr. Maudling

I will certainly look into the question of dumping. There is a substantial seasonal protective tariff, and I am not prepared to accept that the fact that imports of a commodity have gone up is a bad thing in itself.