HC Deb 12 March 1941 vol 369 cc1289-90
64. Mr. Robertson

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the reasons for the continued delay in controlling fish prices, which are much too high and beyond the purchasing power of the majority of the people; and, having regard to the shortage of rationed foods, will he fix maximum fish prices forthwith?

Major Lloyd George

My hon. Friend will be aware that, as I said in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) on 26th February, the control of fish distribution and prices presents special difficulties partly owing to the perishable nature of the commodity and partly owing to the nature of the trade. While I entirely agree with the views expressed in the last part of the Question, I cannot, at present, add anything to the reply which I gave on 26th ultimo.

Mr. Robertson

Is it not a fact that a similar problem had to be faced during the last war, and that the Maximum Prices Order then introduced solved the problem, with the result that there was a fair and square distribution of this essential food, and does my hon. and gallant Friend not realise that the Government policy is being defeated by the failure of the Department to control the price of fish?

Major Lloyd George

I am afraid I cannot agree with my hon. Friend about the success of the policy of control in the last war. I say again that it is a most difficult problem to define maximum prices. As I pointed out in a reply I made a week or so ago, my Noble Friend considers that prices are far too high.

Mr. Garro Jones

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the difficulties of controlling the prices of fish vary greatly in the different classes of fish, and will he therefore do as much good as he can by fixing maximum prices in the case of those fish which can easily be controlled in regard to price?

Major Lloyd George

That is one of the difficulties before us at the present time. There are over 40 different kinds of fish, and we are contemplating controlling those more easily dealt with.

Mr. McGovern

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that fish ranges from 2s. 6d. to 5s. a 1b. in Glasgow, and that the Minister has asked the merchants themselves to fix a price; and is it not ridiculous that no action should be taken while the fish is mounting in price and people are discontented at the way in which the Ministry of Food is acting?

Major Lloyd George

My Noble Friend considers the price of fish far too high, but this is the most difficult problem of all and fixing a maximum price is not a solution of this problem. My hon. Friend knows that fish are in short supply at the moment, and the fixing of a maximum price alone could not ensure equitable distribution.

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