§ 3 Mr. Dodds
asked the Minister of Food (1) what special action was taken by his Department to prevent the deterioration of nearly 1,000 tons of Cheshire cheeses held in store in 1954 which became unfit for human consumption;
(2) the total weight of Cheshire cheeses under the control of his Department in 1954; what weight of Cheshire cheeses became unsuitable for human consumption; at what price per lb. it was sold as animal feedingstuffs; and the total loss to his Department in this connection;
(3) the total weight of all types of cheeses in 1954 which, under the control of his Department, became unsuitable for human consumption; how they were eventually disposed of; what was the average price per lb. realised; and what was the loss to his Department in this respect.
As regards Question No. 4, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him by my hon. Friend on 14th February. Of the170,000 tons of cheeses of all types which my Department had to buy up to September, 1954, 1,400 tons—less than 1 per cent.—became unsuitable for human consumption, in spite of continuous efforts to clear it quickly by price reductions. The average price realised was about Id., and the loss about £200,000, or less than 1 per cent. of the value of the cheese bought by my Department in 1954—£28½ million.
§ Mr. Dodds
In regard to Question No. 3, can the right hon. Gentleman deny that some of the Cheshire cheeses were stored in old cotton mills, and that the Department was warned what would happen to them? Would it not have been possible to have got rid of some of the cheese by using it in hospitals or in old people's homes rather than see it deteriorate in the way it did?
In connection with Question No. 4, does the Minister appreciate that the abject confession of losing nearly £250,000 on cheese will be noted with deep interest in many districts like northwest Kent, where Cheshire cheese was very difficult to come by?
As far as the first part of that rather long supplementary question is concerned, I would remind the hon. 861 Gentleman that I said that during the period in question every effort was made by price reductions to dispose of the lower-quality cheese. It was stored in a variety of places because we had not enough cold storage space, but it was inspected regularly throughout the period. As regards the last part of the supple mentary question, I would say that, according to the best of my information, it was ordinary commercial experience before the war that of these rather perish able cheeses some proportion was disposed of as animal feed. If the hon. Member considers the proportion here, he will see it is extremely low——
The proportion was extremely low, and I do not think, though I regret any loss, that it can be regarded as at all abnormal.
§ 21. Mrs. Mann
asked the Minister of Food why he permitted an increase on the price of cheese sold by his Department of l0d. per lb. in December, 1951, and thereafter permitted cheese priced at 1s. 2d. in October, 1951, to rise to 2s. 6d. per lb. during 1952 to 1954, when the stocks of his Department were so high that they had to be disposed of at a substantial loss.
The controlled price of cheese never rose above 2s. 4d. Of the actual increase of 1s. 2d. per lb. under control l0d. was imposed in pursuance of the policies of the late Government.