HC Deb 02 December 1942 vol 385 cc1155-8
55. Sir Leonard Lyle

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the increase in the number of container boxes and the reduction in the cubic capacity of their edible contents owing to the abandonment of the peace-time system of beheading or filleting fish before it was sent inland from the coast; and the reason for this change of policy?

Mr. Mabane

The peace-time system of heading or filleting fish at the coast has not been abandoned. On the contrary the first Fish Maximum Prices Order, made in June, 1941, provided a larger remuneration to coastal wholesale merchants for fish sent away filleted or headed than for fish sent away whole. In the revised Fish Maximum Prices Order, made in October, 1942, the financial incentive for filleting was substantially increased.

58. Sir L. Lyle

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the gross profit allowed on the chief different cheap types of fish which form the staple food of the people; and how these profits compare with those on tinned food and sweets?

Mr. Mabane

As the reply is long and includes many sets of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

1. FISH.—The gross profits of selling prices for the species of white fish included in item 9 of Part I of the First Schedule to the current Maximum Prices Order, which, I presume, includes the fish referred to by my hon. Friend, when the fish is bought and sold at the maximum permitted prices and follows all stages in the chain of distribution are as follow:

For the primary wholesale merchant. 9 per cent. when the fish is sold whole and a somewhat higher rate when it is sold headless or filleted.
For the secondary wholesale merchant. 7 when the fish is sold whole.
For the retail fish-monger. 29 per cent. when the fish is sold whole.

The gross profits on herrings, mackerel and sprats are:

Per cent.
For the primary wholesale merchant 14
For the secondary wholesale merchant 10
For the retail fishmonger 37

Carriage on both white fish and herrings is normally paid by the Ministry on the first journey from the port of landing and the charge is met by a levy on all fish landed. Consequently no allowance for carriage is included in either wholesale margin but provision is made for carriage in the retailers' margin.

2. SWEETS AND TINNED FRUITS.—The following are the gross margins of profit on selling prices allowed in the other commodities referred to by my hon. Friend:

Sweets Per cent.
Chocolate block 33⅓
Sugar confectionery 38 to 44
(including wholesalers' and retailers' margins)
Canned fish imported Per cent.
First-hand distribution 3
Retailer 15
Canned meats
Wholesaler 8
Retailer 15 to 16
Canned, fruits, beans and vegetables
Retailer 15 to 16

60. Mr. Lipson

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he has considered the communication sent to him on 23rd November by the National Federation of Fishmongers protesting against the fish zoning and distribution scheme on the grounds that it had resulted in chaos and maldistribution; and what action he proposes to take on the communication?

Mr. Mabane

I read in the Press the resolution passed by the National Federation of Fishmongers which, I assume, is the communication to which my hon. Friend refers but which was not sent to my Department on 23rd November and has not yet been received. It will certainly receive consideration, but my Noble Friend is of opinion that the interests of consumers would best be served by the distributors doing their best to operate the zoning scheme rather than by passing resolutions in extreme terms in regard to it.

Mr. Lipson

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree it is most unfortunate that the retail fishmongers and his Department should be at cross purposes, and with a view to removing the differences would he be willing to receive a deputation representative of the National Federation?

Mr. Mabane

That request would be considered by my Noble Friend, but I think that if honest and careful attempts were made to work the scheme, it would be a lot better in the general interest.

Mr. Levy

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in my own constituency deliveries are taking place only once a week, whereas previously they took place every day and therefore does he conceive that there is proper and fair distribution?

Mr. Mabane

I should like to have full details of conditions in my hon. Friend's constituency, and I should be glad to examine them.

Mr. Higgs

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that supplies of fish this year are slightly in excess of those last year?

Mr. Mabane

I am very glad my hon. Friend has asked that question. Supplies of fish in November were slightly higher this year than in November last year. That fish has been distributed.

Mr. G. Griffiths

Where has the fish gone to, then? We cannot get any.

Mr. Mabane

I am glad that question also has been asked. If merchants secured that it did go to the persons to whom it should go, we should have better distribution.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Does not the hon. Gentleman think his Department has had a bad Press, due to the fact that the Department has not stated frankly and honestly the shortage of trawlers, the small amount of the catch, and the limited supplies for the nation? Does he not feel that we ought to have a proper statement issued so that the country shall know exactly what the position is?

Mr. Mabane

I should be very glad to do so at any time.

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