HC Deb 02 June 1943 vol 390 cc199-200
51. Sir H. Williams

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he now has any further statement to make as to the effect of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Shell Fish) Order on the supply to retail fishmongers of the classes of shell fish covered by the Order?

52 and 53. Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (r) whether any lobsters have been caught since his new Order; and, if so, who were the principal ultimate buyers;

(2) whether he is aware that lobsters lose approximately 20 per cent. of their weight when boiled and, as there is no difference between wholesale and retail prices, alive or dead, no fishmonger can afford to sell them and the public cannot buy them; and whether he will take action to remedy this state of affairs?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Mr. Mabane)

During last winter and the early part of this year, the price of lobsters, crabs and crawfish became so high as to place these shellfish beyond the reach of the ordinary consumer. The price also tempted the inshore fishermen to neglect fishing for the more useful white fish in favour of fishing for lobsters and crabs. Maximum prices, which gave a fair return to the producer and were reasonable to the consumer, were consequently introduced. These shell fish are normally sold on, commission, and the consignor takes the risk of loss by reason of dead specimens or other casualties in each consignment, as it reaches the market. The extent of this loss varies considerably, and the fixing of a series of maximum prices which would be reasonably fair to the producer and wholesale merchants in all cases was not considered practicable. Only one maximum price for each species was, therefore, prescribed. This, in practice, becomes the maximum price of the boiled shell fish to the consumer. The effect of the Order has been to reduce substantially the price at which shell fish are being sold, but it has also disturbed the normal channels of trade through which these commodities, especially lobsters and larger crabs, passed to the consumer. Consideration is, therefore, being given by my Department to the steps which can be taken to direct a larger proportion of the supplies to fishmongers' shops, but my Noble Friend has no intention of raising the price to the high level reached earlier in the year.

Sir H. Williams

Is it not the case that the Minister of Food has so disturbed supplies that there is no supply at all?

Mr. Mabane

It is important to remember that the wholesale price of lobsters reached a figure of about 600 per cent. of the pre-war price.

Sir Irving Albery

Is my hon. Friend aware that fishmongers are refusing to take delivery because shell fish declines in weight when cooked and they have a great deal of trouble in cooking it, with the result that it all goes to restaurants?

Mr. Mabane

I do not think that is wholly true. A great deal of crab is going to fishmongers, though perhaps not many lobsters.

Mr. Stephen

Has the price of shell fish been taken into account in the cost of living?

Mr. Mabane

That question should be, I think, addressed to the Minister of Labour.