HC Deb 07 May 1951 vol 487 cc1582-5
39. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Minister of Food the wholesale and retail price of fish over the last 12 months during the period of price control; and whether he will now reintroduce price control.

43. Mrs. Mann

asked the Minister of Food if, in view of his undertakings dating from the time of the decontrol of fish prices to continue to keep these prices under review, he will now give the prices of fish landing, wholesale and retail for the last three months of control; and for the same period since.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Mr. Frederick Willey)

The prices of fish at all stages of distribution during the last year of price control were set out in the schedules to the Fish (Maximum Prices) Order, 1948, S.I. No. 2610). I have sent copies of this Order to my hon. Friends. As regards the first hand wholesale and retail prices during the past three months, I am circulating a table in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

On the question of reintroducing price control I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) on 2nd May. I am glad to state, however, that there were increased landings of fish last week, and landings today are again heavy. This has brought down prices generally and the average price of cod at Hull is now, in fact, below the level under control. Retail prices last week reflected this fall and our reports indicate that the prices of cod fillets and haddock are falling sharply towards the former control prices.

Mr. Lewis

I do not know where the Parliamentary Secretary gets his information about falling prices, but if he will consult his wife and any housewives on this side of the House, he will find that prices have not fallen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] Will my hon. Friend now reintroduce price control of all types of fish as speedily as possible?

Mr. Remnant

And weather control?

Mr. Willey

The prices upon which we rely are based on samples covering large numbers of towns in different parts of the country.

Mrs. Mann

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a report today that 700 tons of white fish were landed at a port last week, about two-thirds of which was from foreign boats? Can he explain how it is that whenever a Question is asked about the re-imposition of controls there is always a big landing and prices fall, which situation is reversed again immediately we forget all about it?

Mr. Willey

I can assure my hon. Friend that as far as my researches show there is no relationship between Questions and increased landings.

Air Commodore Harvey

Will the hon. Gentleman inform his hon. Friends that as a result of landings by German trawlers last Saturday and this morning hundreds of tons of white fish have gone for manure?

Mrs. Braddock

Has my hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the statement on the front page of the "News Chronicle" this morning that very many tons of fish are to be destroyed because there is no way of getting the price which those who are bringing in the fish need? Is it not time that his Department had some machinery to prevent private enterprise from throwing fish back again into the sea or sending it for manure because they cannot get the price they require?

Mr. Willey

I have seen the report to which my hon. Friend draws my attention, but I have no further information.

Mr. J. J. Robertson

Is my hon. Friend able to tell us that in all cases where the landing price of fish is low that is reflected in retail prices in the shops?

Mr. Willey

It is impossible to give an assurance in all cases because it is impossible to trace different parcels of fish, but general inquiries show that the average prices in the retail shops do reflect the average prices of landings.

Mr. Leslie Hale

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that it is authoritatively stated in the Press today that in view of heavy landings it is impossible to pass on the reduction in price to the consumer? If we are to have what is called economic prices in times of glut and inflated prices in times of scarcity, is that not an obvious argument for the re-imposition of control?

Mr. Willey

As I have already informed the House, as far as our limited inquiries show retail prices at present are reaching about control prices.

Mr. Douglas Marshall

In view of the supplementary questions which have been asked, can the Minister say whether any fish have been thrown back into the sea?

Mr. Willey

I have no further information, apart from that to which my attention has been drawn.

Mr. A. Edward Davies

From the experience of many housewives in the country, and from a good deal of the ex-experience of the Ministry, would my hon. Friend not agree that the prices now running are very much more than they were last year when we had control? Has my hon. Friend given up all idea of controlling the prices of fish?

Mr. Willey

With regard to the latter part of that supplementary, this matter is still under review. With regard to the first part, if we have competitive retailing then we must expect price variations.

Mr. McAdden

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether there is any obstacle being placed by his Department in the way of Co-operative societies purchasing the fish and selling it at a lower price?

Mrs. Mann

Would it help my hon. Friend to do a little tracing if I tell him that 1,000 cwt. were landed at Aberdeen on Saturday and realised 21s.—that is, 2d. per lb.? Would my hon. Friend try to trace what the housewife paid per lb. on Saturday?

Mr. A. Lewis

Can my hon. Friend tell us where we can go to find this fish—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Savoy."] Those frequenting the Savoy do not care what it costs. Can my hon. Friend tell us where housewives can go to find the fish that is supposed to be cheaper than it was last week?

Following is the reply:

(January 14th to April 14th, 1951)
First-hand Inland Wholesale Retail
(a) (b) (c)
per lb. per lb. per lb.
Cod, whole 3¼d. to 6¾d. 4¾d. to 1/- (e)
fillets 6½d. to 1/6¾d. 1/3½d. to 1/9½d
Haddock, whole 3¾d. to 9¾d. 3½d. to 1/3½d. 1/3d. to 1/6d.
Hake, whole 1/2¼d. to 1/8½d. 5¼d. to 2/6d. 2/9½d. to 3/2½d.
Plaice, whole 1/0½d. to 1/6¾d. 4¼d. to 2/3½d. 1/10d. to 2/1½d.
Herrings, whole 2¼d. to 4½d. (d) 3½d. to 9d. 7½d. to 10d.
(a) Average of first-hand prices reported from Aberdeen, Hull, Grimsby, Fleetwood and Milford Haven.
(b) Range of prices at Billingsgate, Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester inland markets on Tuesday of each week.
(c) Average retail prices based on samples collected in certain towns in Great Britain weekly, usually Tuesday.
(d) British—caught herrings only.
(e) No retail price available for whole cod.