HC Deb 21 April 1955 vol 540 cc343-4
25. Mr. Collins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the cost to Government funds arising from the difference in the average retail price for home-produced hen eggs of 4s. 2d. per dozen for the financial year 1954–55, compared with 4s. 6d. per dozen in 1953–54.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Harmar Nicholls)

The precise cost is not ascertainable but the additional cost of the subsidy in 1954–55 is estimated at just over £4½ million. About £2½ million of this is due to increased throughput.

Mr. Collins

May I congratulate the Minister on his baptism at the Box, particularly a baptism with fresh eggs? May I further ask if he is aware that his answer indicates that when the cost of eggs and subsidies are taken together the consumers and taxpayers paid more for their eggs in 1954 than in 1953? Will he consult his right hon. Friend to see whether some better system can be evolved so that consumers pay less and not more?

Mr. Nicholls

I thank the hon. Member for his kindly comment. As for the remainder of his supplementary question, his views are not in accordance with the facts. The extra eggs and the lower retail prices for eggs have caused the increased subsidy, but with eggs at 4d. a dozen cheaper, and the contribution of the taxpayer in the form of subsidy being one penny per dozen, the consumer benefits in the end by being approximately 3d. per dozen better off.

Mr. Stokes

Will the Minister define "food"? If we exclude the products of agriculture and fisheries, what is food?

Mr. Baldwin

Is it not a fact that in few countries can consumers buy eggs so cheaply as here?

Mr. S. Silverman

Would the Minister accept my congratulations on his progress since the days when he unsuccessfully tried to take my seat at Nelson? Arising out of his experiences in Lancashire, will the Minister bear in mind that the subsidy he is now talking about is more than double what the Government propose to give to relieve the needs of the Lancashire cotton industry?