asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether arrangements can be made for larger supplies and a better distribution of fish so as to obviate the necessity of long shop queues in London and other centres and give a fair share to rural areas, as in Wiltshire.
My Noble Friend, in cooperating with my right hon. Friends who are responsible for Fisheries, makes every endeavour to secure the maximum possible quantity of edible fish, but supplies, whether landed by British vessels or imported, are much below the pre-war quantities and cannot be increased appreciably under present conditions. Subject to the over-riding consideration of transport economy, distribution in all areas is on the basis of population and over a period every area has its fair share.
How does it come about that we cannot get any fish in Wiltshire?
Is it not a fact that a large number of rural areas have never seen fish for a considerable period?
That is entirely contrary to the facts. Rural areas are much better off for fish than they have been in any other period of the war.
How can this be when fish supplies are prevented under the rationing of petrol and rubber from being delivered in country districts, and there are no shops?
In many rural areas the fish available to the fishmongers is so great in quantity that they are refusing it.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why the best kinds and cuts of fish are not available in shops; and to what extent this is due to pre-emption by luxury hotels and blocks of flats, such as Grosvenor House, in the West End?
The quantity of prime fish landed is greatly reduced as compared with pre-war, but I have no reason to think that the proportion of such fish acquired by catering establishments is greater to-day than before the war.
Can my hon. Friend explain why it is not to be found in the shops?
Because really it is not there. The amount of brill, soles, turbot and halibut is less than 1 per cent. of the total catch.
Does not the recent case in the courts affecting Grosvenor House indicate that some establishments are getting more than their fair share of supplies of fish, and is it not likely that other establishments are doing the same?
I think it indicates also that the enforcement division is showing considerable vigilance in this matter and does its job when too much fish goes to these places.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a good deal of under-the-counter trade and that some people get fish two or three times a week while others cannot get it at all?
Has the hon. Member completed his investigations concerning the markets and their inclination to favour the hotels and restaurants despite any Regulations or Orders which he has made, and is he satisfied that they are really acting in accordance with the spirit of what is laid down by his Department?
We are very well aware of the problem, and, as the hon. Member knows, we have restricted the amount of fish going to catering establishments, which has just been put up to 3 lb. for every 100 main meals served, and that is very little. It is proportionate to the quantities available to the general population. We are extremely anxious to see that catering establishments do not get more than their proper share, and more than their proper share of the high quality fish, and that is really all we can do.