HC Deb 09 November 1953 vol 520 cc571-3
1. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Food what assurances he has received that on the decontrol of condensed milk, dried milks and the decontrol and de-rationing of butter, margarine, cheese, cooking fats, bacon and meat, the prices of these basic foodstuffs will not rise in price: and what action he proposes to take to ensure that the poorer-paid sections of the population will still be able to purchase at least the equivalent of the present basic rations.

The Minister of Food Major Lloyd George)

It is impossible to forecast precisely the prices of the foodstuffs to which the hon. Member refers, after decontrol, but it is probable that some will go down while others will go up. Her Majesty's Government believe that these measures of decontrol will enable efficient private trading and effective competition to serve the best interests of all consumers in respect of quantity, quality and price.

Mr. Lewis

Is the Minister not aware that experience has already proved that where these foods have been derationed and decontrolled prices have risenrapidly? Poorer people cannot afford their basic rations while those who have more money are able to get more of these foods. Surely it is not going to be the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's policy to continue this rationing by the purse instead of by the book.

Major Lloyd George

The actual figures do not bear out what the hon. Gentleman says.

Mr. Lewis

Of course they do.

Major Lloyd George

One fact that should be borne in mind is that prices, which were rising under control, have been steady from the first day of decontrol.

Mr. Willey

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say what will be the policy of Her Majesty's Government regarding food subsidies when we have de-rationing and decontrol, and, in particular, what will be the policy of the Government respecting milk?

Major Lloyd George

The hon. Gentleman will be told in due course.

7. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Food the number of items of food for which his Department are responsible which have fallen in price since October, 1951, and publish in HANSARD a detailed list showing the rise and fall in food prices for which his Department are responsible from October, 1951, to the latest convenient stated date.

Major Lloyd George

The only satisfactory measure of general changes in food prices is provided by the Interim Index of Retail Prices.

Mr. Lewis

That may seem a good way of getting out of a difficult Question, but will the Minister be prepared to meet real housewives—who are due to come to the Grand Committee Room on Thursday—and try to tell them some of the stories which he tries to put over to us?

Major Lloyd George

I do not think I need do that, because my story follows up the stories which were told by the hon. Gentleman and his friends, except that theirs were much worse stories.

Mr. Dodds

But will the Minister meet the housewives on Thursday?

Miss Ward

Can my right hon. and gallant Friend tell the House what Sir Stafford Cripps did for housewives when he devalued the £?

9. Mr. Gibson

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware of the growing volume of protests among wage earners at the high price of foodstuffs; and, in view of the hardships which this is causing in working-class homes, what steps he proposes to take to ease these burdens on the housewives of Britain.

Major Lloyd George

No, Sir. The policy of removing controls and restoring competition has enabled the public to buy the food they want at prices which are already becoming more stable than in any period since the war.

Mr. Gibson

Is the Minister aware that a really serious volume of protests is arising in connection with this matter? I have in my hand a protest from one corner of my constituency—quite unorganised—with nearly 400 signatures, about the high price of food. Surely he realises that working women all over the country are violently protesting, and that he has become the subject of considerable detestation in working class homes.

Major Lloyd George

If I am the subject of considerable detestation, I also have a lot of friends on that side of the House, because, for a very long time, this sort of thing went on under the late Administration, but I never heard any protests from that side of the House then. I would tell the hon. Gentleman that the Food Section of the Interim Index of Retail Prices has dropped since April.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We are having a debate on this matter tomorrow, and these general considerations can be discussed then. This opportunity should be taken for eliciting information.

25. Mrs. Mann

asked the Minister of Food what proposals he intends to make to safeguard housewives from rising prices when rationing ends.

Major Lloyd George

Her Majesty's Government believe that housewives are better safeguarded by efficient private trading and effective competition than by controls.

Mrs. Mann

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that there is no such thing as competition today, and that although there are 20 different names of stores they are really part of one big combine? Is he further aware that since decontrol prices have constantly been rising—tea, for example, which he prognosticated would not rise in price?

Major Lloyd George

The hon. Lady must forgive me from saying that the rise under control was greater and steadier.