HC Deb 25 July 1962 vol 663 cc1457-8
8. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in view of the continuing high prices of meat and the failure of the predicted increase in summer supplies to materialise, if he will make a statement on the present position and the prospects for the next three months.

Mr. Soames

As I explained to the House on 2nd July, I expect that during the later summer months there will be a considerable increase in the number of cattle and sheep coming on the market and that this will be reflected in price movements both at wholesale and retail level. The poor spring and late grass season this year have retarded marketings, particularly in the case of sheep and so tended to keep up prices in the late spring and early summer.

Marketings of pigs have been higher than a year ago and prices have been substantially lower both at wholesale and retail level.

Mr. Dodds

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when he made that statement he implied that the butchers were to blame for the high prices when, in fact, the wholesale prices were going sky-high? Is he further aware that last week the president of the National Federation of Meat Traders' Associations accused the Minister of sheer electioneering for the by-elections and of hoodwinking the housewife by that statement? Since none of us in this House believes that the right hon. Gentleman would descend to such sordid practices, will he make a statement denouncing that suggestion of the Federation?

Mr. Soames

The hon. Gentleman has completely misinterpreted what I said. The statement to which he refers was made in May and not in July. I said that we saw a considerable increase in marketings during the summer months, that at the moment prices were high in the wholesale markets, that we envisaged these prices would fall when the cattle came forward in greater numbers and we expected the fall in wholesale prices to be reflected in a fall in retail prices in the shops.

Mr. Darling

As I understand that the Minister has now been converted to the view that he cannot operate a deficiency payments scheme satisfactorily in a free market, and as there are obvious dangers in prophesying price movements, will he undertake to publish a price schedule week by week showing what retail prices of meat ought to be, based on the F.M.C. price list, which would be of great benefit?

Mr. Soames

Retail prices vary considerably up and down the country. Wholesale prices are readily available. Significant movements in wholesale prices are frequently recorded in national organs and many people see them.

Mr. Dodds

The Minister talked about a cut in the summer—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must get on.

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