HC Deb 02 December 1957 vol 579 cc1-2
1. Miss Burton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, in an effort to bring down the cost of living in so far as food is concerned, he will initiate an inquiry into the profits of middlemen, commencing with vegetables.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. J. B. Godber)

The Committee on Horticultural Marketing, whose Report was published last January as Cmnd. 61, examined the profits of middlemen and came to the conclusion that, The costs of distribution, having regard to the services performed, are not excessive; and the profits of distributors, compared with those in other trades are not high. My right hon. Friend sees no purpose, in initiating a further inquiry.

Miss Burton

Is the Minister aware that that information is completely at variance with the majority of opinion in the country, and, I should have thought, with opinion on both sides of the House? Would it not be feasible to have an inquiry into the costs of distribution with a view, for example, to cutting out the very heavy transport charges which are certainly prevalent in the distribution of vegetables?

Mr. Godber

The Runciman Committee went into this matter most carefully and published a full Report on these things. The Committee pointed out some of the difficulties inherent in the vegetable trade, and I really would commend to the hon. Lady what that Committee said.

Mr. Wiley

The Parliamentary Secretary should be aware that the Runciman Committee made certain recommendations. Can he say when we are to have some action by the Government on those recommendations?

Mr. Godber

My right hon. Friend made an interim statement on proposals with regard to that. I hope that we shall be able to say something more before very long.