HC Deb 09 December 1958 vol 597 cc203-4
45. Mr. V. Yates

asked the Prime Minister if the speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Saturday, 29th November, at Dunsford, Devon, regarding the high price of potatoes, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

My right hon. Friend tells me that he did not say, as reported, that the price of potatoes is higher than it ought to be; but rather that due to the weather it was higher than he would like to see it.

Mr. Yates

Is not the Prime Minister aware that the Chancellor was reported to have said, "Will you ladies stop feeding your families potatoes until I tell you to start again?"? Does this mean that when the prices of essential food are higher than the Government would like them to be, it is now the Government's policy to request British housewives to stop feeding their children with essential food?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member must not read too much into a lighthearted aside at an informal gathering

Mr. H. Wilson

Is not this simply a case of the gentleman in Whitehall knowing best? Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether it was with his authority that the Scottish Education Department sent out a circular in similar terms asking local authorities, in view of the high cost of potatoes and of meat, to cut down the supply of potatoes and meat to school children?

The Prime Minister

I think that this Question arose from one of those occasions at which my right hon. Friend speaks. It is perfectly clear that what he was deploring was something over which we have no control—the fact that owing to the bad summer and the bad weather there has been a bad potato crop.

Mr. Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we welcome the recognition by the Conservative Party, eleven years afterwards, that, as in 1947, at the time of the Gravesend by-election, bad weather can affect the supply of potatoes?

The Prime Minister

It certainly can, but it is undoubtedly the fact that the general situation about the cost of living—although there are always one or two items which may upset it—is that it has been remarkably steady for the last twelve months.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will the Prime Minister assure the House that there is no question of going back to 1947 and telling the people to eat snoek again?

Mr. Yates

On a point of order. The Question which I put to the Prime Minister does not concern these points. It concerns a Minister asking people not to feed their families.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point for me.

The Prime Minister

I can point out that at any rate the great shortages of those days are over and that freedom has paid hand over fist. Although I find it difficult to follow all the policy statements, I understand that it is not the intention of the Labour Party to try to restore rationing if they win the next election.