§ 10. Dr. Marshall
asked the Minisier of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement about the prices of British beers.
§ Mr. Anthony Stodart
There were very few increases in the price of beer in 1971. There have been reports that some increases are in prospect, but my right hon. Friend has at present no formal notifications under the arrangements agreed with brewers of forthcoming price increases. At least one major brewer has publicly announced that it has no plans to raise prices in the near future.
§ Dr. Marshall
Will the Minister give an assurance that when applications for price increases which may be in the pipeline come before him he will resist them, in view of the inflationary effect which they might have on the cost of living of a large section of the population?
§ Mr. Evelyn King
Is it not better to take an independent view on this subject? Did not the National Board for Prices and Incomes consider this in depth and recommend in writing, after prolonged thought, that the margin of profit was insufficient? Is it not strange that hon. Gentlemen opposite interested in beer should impugn the conclusion of their own creature?
§ 11. Mr. Harper
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how the present strengths of British beers compare with those of 10 years ago.
§ Mr. Anthony Stodart
The average gravity of all beer brewed in the United Kingdom has fallen by just over half of one degree in the course of the last 10 years.
§ Mr. Harper
Is the Minister aware that that reply will be received with scepticism by the people of this country? I have in my pocket a Christmas card from an old gentleman who says that the beer 200 today is rubbish and has lost a lot of weight since the First World War. In view of this, will the Minister consider introducing legislation providing for bottled beers to be labelled with the weight and, where beer is sold by pump, to give this information on the pump? If there were any deviation in the relative strength of beers, the vendors could then be prosecuted under the Trade Descriptions Act.
§ Mr. Stodart
I am not entirely clear whether the hon. Gentleman's friend or the beer has lost weight. The average gravity of all beers in 1960 was 1037.25 degrees and in 1970 it was 1036.65 degrees. That is a loss of only 0.6 degrees in a figure of over 1,000. For reasons I have already given to the House, it would not be practicable to put on the bottle the specific gravity of the beer because this alters after the original bottling.
§ Mr. John E. B. Hill
Will the Parliamentary Secretary acknowledge that his figures for the national average exclude privately brewed beer not for sale, which is often considerably stronger?