HC Deb 02 December 1946 vol 431 cc13-4
32. Mr. Piratin

asked the Minister of Food if, in view of the high prices being changed for imported fruit and nuts, he will consider imposing a definite rate of profit, as is operated in the case of clothing and furniture, and thus bring down the prices to within working-class purchasing power.

Mr. Strachey

I do in fact fix maximum prices which limit the profits on the more important fruits. With regard to nuts and the less important fruits, I have great sympathy with the hon. Member's object, but, on the whole, I have come to the conclusion that it is better not to attempt control, but to let the ordinary play of the market operate.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I face the fact that this may mean all sorts of anomalies and possible profiteering while demand exceeds supply. But it will produce, and in this case has produced, increased supplies. Government buying and control is really not suitable to these small, miscellaneous, and perishable foodstuffs. Needless to say, the hon. Member need have no fear that we shall put any of the great staple foodstuffs at the mercy of the market, so long as demand exceeds supply.

Mr. Piratin

Did the Minister take note of the applause on the opposite benches in favour of profiteering? Would he not introduce the same methods of control for these less important foods as for the more important foods? Can he state whether there is an administrative difficulty? If not, why not introduce them?

Mr. Strachey

Yes, Sir, there are grave administrative difficulties in attempting to control a lot of miscellaneous and highly perishable foodstuffs, and we think that private enterprise can occupy itself with the nuts.

Mr. Osborne

In view of the fact that the Minister used the word "profiteering" so many times, can he define it?

Mr. Speaker

That is another question.