HC Deb 29 May 1924 vol 174 cc597-8
58. Mr. B. SMITH

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that prime fish is being sold as low as a farthing a pound in Hull for making cattle food, and that this practice has the effect of reducing the earnings of fishermen and removes the possibility of cheap fish to poor people; and whether he is prepared to take such action as will ensure that all fresh fish shall be placed upon the markets and thus reach the consumer?


I am aware that fish is occasionally landed at the principal ports in such quantity that it is difficult to dispose of all of it for human food. Sometimes, also, especially during the summer months, its quality is such as to make its disposal for food purposes undesirable. In such cases, the surplus fish is usually sold to the local fish meal and manure works, or, if there are no such works or other corresponding means of disposal, is taken out to sea again and thrown overboard. I have no information which would suggest that any fish, which could properly be described as prime fish, has been sold at such a price as the question suggests. All fish is sold at the ports in open auction. I have no authority to take such action as is suggested in the second part of the question, even if such action were practicable.


Is it not a fact that the organisation of buyers in the fish markets are definitely limiting the amount of fish to be purchased and keeping the prices up, and, as the fishermen are paid on a share basis, automatically bringing down the fishermen's wages to such an extent that the men are often in debt as a result of a trip and cannot the State undertake to sell the fish to the people?


There is no reason to doubt the facts given by my hon. Friend, but under the present law the action he suggests is not possible.


Will the Government consider if it is desirable to provide cheap food for oxen?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Ts the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the whole of the trouble is caused by the difference between the price given to the fishermen and the price charged to the consumer, and will he look into that matter?


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is the intention of the Government to alter the law so as to bring it in accordance with the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. B. Smith)?


It is beyond my scope to say.


Is it not a fact that the high railway rates make the widespread distribution of this surplus fish almost impossible?


That is another question.