42. Mr. J. T. Price
asked the Minister of Food the annual tonnage of unrationed cheese at present available in the home market; and the average price per pound, compared with the average price per pound of rationed cheese.
Imports in 1951 amounted to 33,000 tons and 700 tons of Stilton was also produced. The value of imports this year will be less than in 1951 owing to currency restrictions, but I cannot give the tonnage for the year.
Prices per lb. of unrationed cheese vary from 3s. 4d. per lb. to around 6s. 6d. per lb. compared with 2s. per lb. for ration cheese.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that these rations are totally inadequate and that the prices for unrationed cheeses are quite excessive? Will he tell the House when his Department are sending battalions of high-powered business executives overseas to search for these rare commodities which, we were 855 told not long ago, were only being held back by an incompetent Socialist Government?
The fall in the cheese ration is due to the fact that we cannot now afford to buy the 47,000 tons of cheese that we bought last year for dollars, and the reason for our being unable so to afford is the financial condition in which we found this country.
§ Mr. Maurice Webb
Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House how far we are getting supplies of cheese now from the Continent, Denmark and Holland, where the disability to which he quite rightly refers, of dollars, does not arise?
As I stated in my main answer, the amount of speciality cheese coming from the Continent was, last year, some 33,000 tons, about 16 per cent. of the total quantity of cheese available last year.