HC Deb 31 July 1946 vol 426 cc952-3
60. Sir W. Darling

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that, following on the withdrawal of controls in the U.S.A., New York prices of butter have been reduced from 3s. 3d. to 3s., of roasting beef from 2s. o½d. to Is. 9½d., of sirloin steak from 2s. 1½d. to 2s. 0½d. and of lamb chops from 2S. o½d. too Is. II½d.; and if he is prepared to experiment by withdrawing controls in selected foods with the intention of lowering prices in Great Britain.

Mr. Strachey

The price changes in the United States have been as follows: Butter —before decontrol, 3s. 4½d. per lb., after decontrol, an average of 3s. 8½d. Roast beef—before decontrol Is. II½d. per lb., after decontrol, an average of 2s. 8½d. Sirloin steak—before decontrol 2S. 9d. per lb., after decontrol, an average of 3s. 8½d. Loin Jamb chop—before decontrol 3s. 2d. per lb., after decontrol, an average of 3s. 8½d. Recent American experience is, therefore, not encouraging, On the other hand, as and when a foodstuff comes into really plentiful supply price control, as such, will become unnecessary, and will be removed.

Sir W. Darling

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will thank me for the opportunity I have given him, but has he not before him a longer range of food policy than that implied in the answer to the Question? Is he not aware that high prices for food, as in the case of any other commodity, tend to attract competition into the market, and ultimately bring down prices?

Mr. Collins

Is the Minister aware that in 1920, when the controls had been removed from foodstuffs, prices of foodstuffs mentioned in the Question were very much higher than they are today? Will he give an assurance to the people of this country that no steps such as are mentioned by the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling), will be taken until there are sufficient supplies for all?

Mr. Strachey

I can readily give an assurance on those lines, because I cannot subscribe to the view that high prices are a panacea for food shortage.

Sir W. Smithers

Is the Minister aware that his self-satisfaction costs the country £334 million a year?

Major Cecil Poole

Is the Minister aware that with the slight corrections he has made, the terms of the Question by the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) are perfectly correct?

Mr. Stokes

Is it not perfectly clear from the hon. Member's question that he either did not listen to, or did not understand, the statement made by the Minister?