HC Deb 18 June 1951 vol 489 cc18-20
14. Dr. King

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that beer has recently increased in price although there has been no increase in taxation on beer; and whether, since brewers are already making large profits, he will introduce legislation to control the price of beer.

15. Mr. J. Hall

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that a co-operative brewery on the North-East coast, without raising prices, has given a rebate of £196,000 to its customers and declared a profit of £200,000 on the last six months' period; and if he will introduce legislation to compel brewers either to increase the strength of beer or lower the price.

Mr. Webb

I understand that many brewers have increased the retail price of beer as a result of increases in costs. But I do not think that it would help to impose control. I know that a Co-operative brewery in the North-East is trading successfully, but the conditions of its trade differ in some respects from those of other breweries.

Dr. King

Is my right hon. Friend aware that last year the average dividend of ordinary shares of the leading brewers in the country was 19½ per cent., among them being Bass 25 per cent., Guinness 28 per cent., Younger's 30 per cent., and Strong's 85 per cent.? Is he also aware that, despite these profits, the bulk of the new increase is going not to the licensed victuallers but to the brewers; and does he not think that the Government ought to stand up to the brewers on this question?

Mr. Webb

Dividends are, of course, a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer and are not my responsibility. All I would say in general answer to those submissions is that, if the Co-operative breweries are such a good idea, why not go ahead and develop them and beat the brewers at their own game?

Mr. Hall

Will my right hon. Friend consult with the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to controlling the actions of private brewers who waited until after the Budget statement before they raised their prices?

Mr. Webb

I am in constant consultation with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. H. A. Price

Is it not a fact that a reduction of a penny a pint on beer would completely wipe out the profits of the brewers?

Mr. James Hudson

What does my right hon. Friend mean when he says that he has no responsibility? Is it not through the permission of his Department that the brewers are provided with the raw materials out of which these profits can be made?

Mr. Webb

My hon. Friend must be slightly intoxicated. I did not say that I had no responsibility. I have a responsibility for supplies to the brewery trade. What I said was that I have no responsibility for the taxation of dividends. That is the responsibility of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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