§ 59. Mrs. Jean Mann
asked the Minister of Food the average weekly amount of fish sold in the Glasgow fish market, the source of supply and the average freight charges.
§ Mr. F. Willey
I am informed by the market authorities that in 1950 the Glasgow market handled on an average about 600 tons a week of fresh and cured white fish and herrings. In 1950 about 23 per cent. of the fish came from Aberdeen, 46 per cent. from Granton, 25 per cent. from other Scottish ports and 6 per cent. from England, Northern Ireland and other sources. In August, 1950, the freight charges ranged from 2s. to 10s. 5d. per cwt.
§ Mr. F. Willey
My right hon. Friend is aware of the concern of housewives at the prevailing prices of fish and shares their anxiety, but in the present condition of the industry price controls are likely to have serious repercussions. Pending the outcome of our long-term plan for this industry, which alone can provide a satisfactory solution, we can adopt a policy of price control only when, on balance, it is evident that the ensuing advantages are greater than such inevitable disadvantages as the restrictive effects on quality and supplies. We are watching the situation continually and had hoped that the recent fall in prices, which, despite increased costs of fishing, brought the bulk of our supplies to about the old controlled prices, would continue.
Unfortunately, it has not done so and my right hon. Friend has now asked for a special and urgent survey of the position to ascertain how far the increases are due to inescapable factors such as bad weather and how far they are due to exploitation of shortage.
§ Mrs. Mann
Is my hon. Friend aware that we are a little tired of the constant reply about watching the situation. We have been watching the situation since January, and the prices keep going up. Can he explain how it is that when eggs and meat are scarce, fish appear very reluctant to come to the surface and charge more for dropping themselves into the net? How long are these high prices to continue?
§ Mr. Willey
As I have indicated, this is a matter we are reviewing. On the question of the disposition of fish to enter the net, that is affected by such matters as gales.
§ Captain Crookshank
Is not the inescapable factor in this case the law of supply and demand arising out of the shortage of meat?
§ Mr. Willey
It may be partly supply and demand, but supply has been adversely affected during recent months by heavy gales.
§ Mr. J. J. Robertson
Is my hon. Friend aware that the price which the housewife 1186 pays for fish is about three times more than that which the fisherman gets for the fish when he lands it; and will he consult with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries with a view to speeding up the machinery to bridge this wide gap between the producer and the consumer?
§ Captain Duncan
Will the Parliamentary Secretary hear in mind, when making this inquiry, that the costs to the fishermen for gear and other necessities such as fuel oil have increased by 700 per cent. compared with pre-war figures?
§ Mr. Willey
In answer to the supplementary question by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Robertson), we are in consultation with the new Sea Fish Authority designate. In reply to the question by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I would say that that is one of the factors which we have to consider. I regard it as one of the inescapable factors to which we must give due weight.
§ Mr. Somerville Hastings
Can my hon. Friend say when the House can be told about the long-term policy to which he referred?
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
Is not it a fact that the situation would be considerably improved if flat rate charges were instituted for transport in Scotland which is one of the main reasons for high prices?
§ Mr. Osborne
Would the Parliamentary Secretary agree that the fishing industry has done its best to bring increased supplies into the country and that they have gone to such lengths that even German trawlers have brought in large quantities of fish to Grimsby market in the last two months to help in the matter?
Mr. I. O. Thomas
Would my hon. Friend agree that this uncontrolled rocketing of retail fish prices is a classic example of private enterprise?