§ 23. Sir R. THOMAS
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that, in consequence of an agreement between eight great British and Continental meat firms, who between them control a large percentage of our national supply, an early rise in the price of chilled meat is anticipated; and whether, in view of this, the Government will set up a Committee of Inquiry into the position of the meat trade?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Burton Chadwick)
My attention has been drawn to reports that an agreement is likely to be reached between the large meat-importing firms as to the quota to be allotted to each for chilled beef imports from South America. The Food Council are at the moment engaged on an inquiry into retail meat prices and profit margins, and if, as a result of the agreement, any considerable increase in retail prices occurs, the Council will no doubt give the matter careful consideration.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
Will the hon. Gentleman take into consideration the desirability of withdrawing the embargo on fresh meat from the Argentine via Zeebrugge?
§ Mr. HARRIS
Is it not most undesirable that there should be these Trusts and Combines in restraint of trade, and will the hon. Gentleman consider the promotion of legislation to deal with them?
§ Sir B. CHADWICK
That does not arise out of the question. The matter the hon. Member referred to is under consideration now by the Food Council.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
Am I not entitled to an answer to my supplementary question? Surely the importation of fresh meat from abroad affects prices in this country; and am I not entitled to ask whether he will take this question into consideration?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member did ask that question, but I have no power to compel an answer. I should advise the hon. Member to put a question to the Minister of Agriculture who, I think, is responsible for the matter.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Would it not be better if the hon. Gentleman would pay more attention to see that we give a preference to Australia and not to the Argentine, so far as imported meat is concerned?