HC Deb 09 May 1951 vol 487 cc1952-4
45. Mr. Dodds

asked the Lord Privy Seal what steps have been, and are being, taken to ensure that reasonable prices are charged for food, beverages and drinks at the South Bank Exhibition.

46. Mr. Driberg

asked the Lord Privy Seal what steps were taken in advance to control the prices charged by the concessionaires to whom the catering arrangements for the South Bank Exhibition were entrusted; what steps have now been taken to check the high prices of which there was widespread complaint on the opening day; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. H. Morrison

I have been asked to reply. The prices to be charged for the principal items of food and drink were fixed prior to the opening of the South Bank Exhibition, after consultation between the Festival Office and the catering concessionaires. These agreements were in some cases departed from on the opening day. Immediately this became known, the caterers were reminded of the agreements, and certain prices were reduced. The Festival Office are satisfied that the prices now being charged are fair and reasonable, having regard to the need for providing a range of choice to suit all tastes and all pockets.

Mr. Dodds

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that there were some caterers who took liberties on the opening days? Is it not vital to the success of the Exhibition that prices should be reasonable, particularly at the snack bars? Is my right hon. Friend further aware that I saw some of the official price lists being altered in pencil to higher prices, to match up with customers complaints about the amount they were being charged? These people need to be watched very carefully.

Mr. Morrison

There were some unhappy experiences, but we took prompt action. We shall keep the matter under examination. There are, of course, varied classes of restaurant, about which people will no doubt discriminate, because their prices vary.

Mr. Driberg

May we take it that the Festival Office did not know in advance that one restaurant would have the effrontery to charge 5s. for a light afternoon tea—1s. more than the Ritz Hotel charges? Was the Festival Office simple enough to trust these racketeers not to grab all they could in the way of profits?

Mr. Morrison

The 5s. charge was wrong. The maximum arranged was 3s. Directly it came to the notice of the Festival Office it was put right.

Mr. Henry Strauss

How does a beverage differ from a drink?

Mr. Dodds

Try it, and see.

Mrs. Castle

Is it still true that it is impossible to get a cup of coffee anywhere in the South Bank Exhibition for less than 9d.? If so, does my right hon. Friend think that that is a reasonable charge?

Mr. Morrison

I do not think that is true, but I will look into it.

Mr. W. Robson-Brown

Will the tariffs of the various restaurants be displayed outside quite clearly, so that people will know exactly what the charges are before they go in?

Mr. Morrison

We will consider that point. I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman.

Miss Burton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that on Friday I was asked 8d. for a very small banana?

Mr. Morrison

That is the kind of concrete information that we like to get hold of.

Mr. Nabarro

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House why it is not possible to buy a glass of good, strong English ale at the Festival of Britain?

Mr. Morrison

I am not sure that the process of cross-examination had better be carried much further, because the witness is beginning to break down in his knowledge of the details.

Mr. Eden

In view of the extremely anxious state of international affairs could not the Foreign Secretary have found a colleague to reply to these questions for him?

Mr. Morrison

I happen to be here on my own business. I formerly had a responsibility for this matter. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, who is now away, has been helping me, and I do not see why I should not help him. I do not take the superior view of the Foreign Office which the right hon. Gentleman seems to take.

Mr. Eden

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept it that I was not seeking to rebuke him—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] No, I was not. I was merely expressing the view that is widely held that the right, hon. Gentleman, having taken over responsibilities of unparalleled importance, might want to concentrate upon them.

Mr. Morrison

Now we know that the right hon. Gentleman's remarks were directed as a political attack. I do not mind being politically attacked, but I am not going to accept the view that because a person is Foreign Secretary, he has to be too superior to answer Questions about the Festival of Britain.

Mr. Eden

I am thinking of the peace of the world.

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