HC Deb 23 April 1952 vol 499 cc384-5
20. Miss Elaine Burton

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the high and greatly increased price of fish immediately prior to the Easter week-end; and, as landings were heavy at most ports, if he will consider the introduction of price control.

Dr. Hill

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. and gallant Friend to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) on 21st April.

Miss Burton

I am not familiar with that answer—I expect it was "No"—but may I ask if the Minister agrees that it is time that the Easter fish ramp was stopped? Is he aware that in the Northern ports the week before Good Friday the price of fish was double that of the previous week?

Dr. Hill

I am aware that the landings in Holy Week were greater than in the week before and that the demand in Holy Week is the highest of the year. It is customary in circumstances of such high demand in Holy Week for prices to be rather higher than in the week before or the week after.

Miss Burton

Although that may be Conservative economics, may I ask the Minister why the present Government are so adamant about refusing to do anything about distribution costs? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the retailers blame the wholesalers for this rise in price and that when supplies are plentiful prices should not go up?

Dr. Hill

In the circumstances of this industry, with landings of varying size due to hazardous conditions of various kinds, the present system is the best suited to the consumer and to the fisherman.

Mr. Douglas Jay

Is it not a fact that fish prices have been consistently higher than the previous controlled maximum prices for many kinds of fish, and has not the hon. Gentleman any proposals for getting them down to a reasonable level?

Dr. Hill

The price of some fish in some ports is lower now than it was in the days of control, notwithstanding the growth of costs.

Lady Tweedsmuir

Is it not also a fact that since fish was de-controlled its quality has been very much better?

Dr. Hill

Under a system of control fish is merely fish, and prices are fixed regardless of quality.

Mrs. Barbara Castle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that whatever the hon. Lady may say, people have been sickened by the cynical profiteering—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I do not intend to shout to be heard above the voices of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that people have been sickened by the cynical profiteering out of a religious festival? Are the Parliamentary Secretary's friends of private enterprise insisting on turning Holy Week into un-Holy week? Has the hon. Gentleman so soon forgotten his broadcast that it is his duty to protect the housewife?

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I think we have had enough fish.

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