§ 19. Mr. Arthur Lewis
asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that with the removal of food subsidies on the basic rationed foods and the increase in petrol tax, the prices of unrationed foods will inevitably rise in price; and whether, to prevent profiteering, he will introduce price control on these foods, especially such foods as fish, rabbits, poultry, fruit and vegetables and tinned meats.
§ 33. Miss Elaine Burton
asked the Minister of Food what action he is taking to control the prices of fruit and vegetables, bearing in mind particularly the increased petrol tax.
Tinned meats are already subject to a wide measure of price control. My right hon. and gallant Friend does not consider that price control over the other foods mentioned would be in the best interests of the consumer.
§ Mr. Lewis
But is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the housewife has become fed up with the continual rise in the price of foodstuffs, particularly since the reduction of the subsidy; and does he not think it is about time the Government did something to implement their promise of reducing the cost of living?
In the case of perishable commodities, and those subject to wide fluctuations of supply and demand, a system of price control is undesirable for manufacturer, consumer and producer.
§ Miss Burton
Does the Parliamentary Secretary not realise that in my Question the increase is an increase in the cost of distribution, and why is it that this Government are determined at all costs to prevent an inquiry into the cost of distribution which is continually sending up the prices of fruit and vegetables?
The hon. Lady is aware of the inquiries that were made by the predecessor of my right hon. and gallant Friend, and she is aware that no valid conclusions can be drawn from those inquiries.
§ Miss Burton
Might I ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he is aware that this side of the House had definite plans for looking into the profits of the middlemen 10 in this industry, and why is it that the present Government are determined to do nothing about that?
The present Government are not convinced that in the case of such perishable commodities the institution of a system of price controls would be beneficial to the consumer.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle
Is it not a fact that the hon. Gentleman's Department has recently removed some price controls on certain types of tinned meat, and how does he reconcile this with the answer which he has just given?
The general effect of the Order recently made in the field of canned meat and other products is to extend, consolidate and bring up to date the price controls. Although a few items are released from price control, others formerly uncontrolled are now included.
§ Mr. Lewis
Is the Minister aware that since the Government have been in office—a very short period of time—prices have done nothing but rise, and rise rapidly? Is he not aware that that is entirely contradictory to his party's promise at the time of the Election, and will he not do something or advise the Government to resign?
I am aware of the gross exaggeration contained in the hon. Member's supplementary question.
The standard maximum price for the English 1¾ lb. loaf is 7½d., which is equivalent to 4 2/7d. per lb.
§ Mr. Crouch
Is my hon. Friend aware that flour that is unfit for human consumption is manufactured into dog biscuits and sold at 1s. 2d. per carton of 14 oz., which includes the weight of the carton?
The flour which goes to the manufacture of dog biscuits, the quality of which is unknown to me, is unsubsidised. It is, further, believed that dog biscuits contain certain other nutritious elements.
§ Mr. Robens
Is it not a fact that bread is at a higher price today than at any period in this century?
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that soon, by the way we are going on, we shall all be eating dog biscuits?
§ 32. Mrs. Jean Mann
asked the Minister of Food if he can now state the increased prices of food items affected by the Budget.
My right hon. and gallant Friend cannot at present add to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer when opening his Budget.
My right hon. and gallant Friend will announce the increases of price at the appropriate time, in accordance with the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Sir W. Smithers
May I ask the Minister if, in regard to this and several other Questions, he will remember the principle that if you restrict consumption you restrict production and that rationing and controls are the main reason for the increase in prices?