HC Deb 23 April 1951 vol 487 cc12-3
25. Mr. Odey

asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the need for effecting a reduction in the cost of living, he will instruct his Department not to withdraw hides from public auction on the grounds that the prices bid are too low.

Mr. F. Willey

During the past four weeks the average price of hides sold at Ministry of Food auction sales has fallen by over 25 per cent. and considerably reduced prices have, therefore, been accepted. Prices offered at two recent auction sales, according to the best advice available, were not considered to reflect the current price levels and certain lots were withdrawn in accordance with the published conditions of sale.

Mr. Odey

When considering this matter will the Minister bear in mind that in the past 10 months, since hides became a Government monopoly, the Government have made a profit of £6 million out of the sales of hides, which has been reflected in the increasing cost of leather and boots and shoes? Is it not the business of the Government to get prices down and not to maintain them?

Mr. Osborne

Even if it is true that hides have come down in price by 25 per cent. in the last month, is it not also true that the price went up from 19d. to 49d. in 10 months, during which the Government had a full monopoly? Is it not an abuse of monopolistic powers to refuse all supplies to the market?

Mr. Willey

The Government, like anyone else, have to look at the price level, and if it appears that there are buyers' rings which are bringing down prices below reasonable levels they must act in the same way as private traders would act.

Mr. Odey

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter again at he first opportunity.