HC Deb 14 July 1947 vol 440 cc12-3
21. Mr. Bramall

asked the Minister of Food what function is performed by first-hand salesmen which entitles them to a margin of 1s. 6d. per package on imported tomatoes; and what proportion of these first-hand salesmen are also wholesalers or importers.

The Minister of Food (Mr. Strachey)

The first-hand margin on a 26 lb. package of imported outdoor tomatoes was reduced from 1s. 6d. to 1s. 1½d. on 10th July. First-hand salesmen are entitled to the full margin only if they are also the importers. By arrangement they share it with importers who are not first-hand salesmen. Their function is to sort the packages according to condition and arrange for their distribution to wholesalers all over the country. A survey made about a year ago showed that 15.3 per cent, of the total imports were handled by first-hand salesmen who also acted as wholesalers.

Mr. Bramall

Can my right hon. Friend say whether in fact this duty of sorting the packages is done by the first-hand salesman individually or by the association?

Mr. Strachey

I think in some cases by one, and in some by the other.

Sir W. Smithers

Is it not a fact that when tomatoes are imported the dealer who imports them has to hand them over to control and has no responsibility for their distribution?

Mr. Strachey

No, Sir, I cannot accept that.

22. Mr. Bramall

asked the Minister of Food what functions are performed by primary wholesalers, secondary wholesalers and wholesale depot-holders in the marketing of home-grown tomatoes which entitle them to margins of 1s., 1s. 3d. and 2d. per package, respectively.

Mr. Strachey

The margins prescribed by the Tomatoes Order for primary and secondary wholesalers were 11d. and 1s. 4d. per 12 lb. respectively until 13th July and are 9d. and 1s. 1d. per 12 lb. from today, out of which the primary wholesaler has to pay 4d. for the use of the container. There is no provision in the Order for a margin of 2d. to wholesale depot-holders. The primary wholesaler buys tomatoes from the grower and usually sells in bulk to a secondary wholesaler whose position is too remote or his trade too small and fluctuating to justify direct connections with growers. A secondary wholesaler, therefore, buys from a primary wholesaler for re-sale in small parcels to retailers. Both types of wholesaler have to bear the ordinary risks which occur in the normal course of trade, including loss of weight by evaporation, wastage and pilferage.

Mr. Walkden

Is it not the case that a good time is being had by all who are handling tomatoes, and is it not time that we took a risk in view of the excellent supplies of tomatoes and demobilised this out-worn machinery altogether to the benefit of the Minister and of the country?

Mr. Strachey

As the House knows, I am, on the whole, sympathetic to the decontrol and the opening up of trade in vegetables to newcomers, but whether we are in a position to do that now is doubtful.

Mr. Walken

Will not the Minister take the risk during the next six months?