HC Deb 01 November 1939 vol 352 cc1926-9
50 and 51. Mr. A. Jenkins

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1) whether he is aware that large quantities of Irish separator butter, in a condition unfit for consumption, have been released from storage and supplied to retailers; and what quantities of the butter have been returned as unfit for sale;

(2) whether he is aware that quantities of foreign butter purchased and stored in 1938 have been supplied to retailers in South Wales and Monmouthshire in a condition unfit for consumption; and whether he will adopt the necessary measures to prevent that happening again?

58. Mr. E. J. Williams

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster the reason for sending butter unfit for human consumption to South Wales; what steps are proposed to prevent its recurrence; and whether, in future, he will undertake that the regional food controller shall have authority over depots and disposals?

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. W. S. Morrison)

The position in regard to the despatch of butter to South Wales is that immediately prior to the outbreak of war, it was decided, as a precautionary measure, to disperse stocks of butter from London cold stores to various parts of the country. This step inevitably resulted in departures from peace-time practice for butter distribution, and certain areas, including South Wales, received butter of a type to which consumers in those areas were not accustomed. On receipt of complaints, the Ministry of Food replaced returned butter with other butter which subsequently became available. So far as I am aware, there is no foundation for the statement that butter unfit for human consumption was released for consumption in South Wales, and, whilst in times of emergency exceptional steps are bound to be taken, I can see no reason for modifying the present organisation for the distribution of butter.

Mr. Jenkins

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the last part of question 50, as to the quantities of the unsuitable butter that were returned?

Mr. Morrison

I have not been able to get that figure in time. I was informed that the butter that was returned was not unfit for human consumption, but was of a different character from that to which the locality is accustomed.

Mr. Radford

Is there not too much storage of butter taking place, and would it not be better for the country if more were released?

Mr. Morrison

I cannot say that.

Sir Percy Harris

Is there a standard quality of blended butter, and how is it made up?

Mr. Morrison

There is no blending of butter at all.

Mr. E. J. Williams

Would it not be better for the divisional food controller in South Wales to have control over supplies in war time?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir; it is the intention to allow the divisional officers to have a great deal of control, but very often butter has to be shipped from London.

52. Mr. Jenkins

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster the price per hundredweight of requisitioned butter; the price at which it is sold to retailers; and the profit per hundredweight realised?

Mr. Morrison

The price of requisitioned butter varies according to circumstances, and no one figure can, therefore, be given. Under the Butter (Maximum Prices) Order of 23rd September, 1939, the maximum price on a sale first-hand "ex store" is 145s. per cwt. in bulk and the maximum price on a sale by wholesale delivered to buyers premises is 152s. per cwt. sold in bulk. The margin between the price "ex store" and the price delivered to retailers is, therefore, 7s. per cwt. a figure which represents the maximum gross profit of the wholesaler. As the maximum retail price is fixed at 1s. 7d. per lb., the maximum gross profit of the retailer is 25s. 4d. per cwt.

Mr. Jenkins

What is the profit obtained by the Food Ministry on this butter?

Mr. Morrison

That question would have to be answered after the compensation payable for requisitioned butter has been determined in accordance with the terms of the Compensation Act.

Mr. T. Williams

What machinery is in existence to ensure that no buyer is paid more than the maximum price fixed for butter?

Mr. Morrison

If the hon. Member refers to consumers, that matter is carefully watched. As regards retail traders also it is being carefully scrutinised.

69. Mr. Cocks

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he is aware that the supplies of butter to the Hucknall Co-operative Society, Nottingham, have been restricted to 50 per cent. so that they can only supply ¼ lb. per week per member, whereas other shops in the town have been able to secure ample supplies and one tradesman, whose average sales have been 28 lbs. per week, received last week four cwts., 448 lbs., of butter; whether he is aware that this discrimination is causing great discontent and is calculated to cause serious injury to the society when the time comes for registering customers; will he state the cause of this discrimination and whether he will take immediate steps to have the matter remedied?

Mr. Morrison

Inquiries which I have caused to be made lend no support to the suggestions of the hon. Member. If he will give me further information including the name of the trader who is alleged to have received an excessive allocation I will gladly have; the matter investigated further.

Mr. Cocks

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that since the question was put down supplies have been decreased to 40 per cent., that butter is being distributed and sold in the streets by bakers and greengrocers, that this affects over 8,000 people in Hucknall, and that the view locally is that it is a deliberate attempt to injure the co-operative society, which has 75 per cent. of the retail trade in the area?

Mr. Morrison

No, Sir. I am not aware of these facts, but I should like to take the opportunity of saying that there is no desire in my Department to make any differentiation between co-operators and other traders.

Mr. Buchanan

May we take it that co-operators will not be penalised in the rationing scheme?

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