asked the Minister of Food why he refused an offer of fresh eggs from France on 9th and 10th April at a time when eggs are scarce to the consumer in this country.
The price asked for these small lots was much too high.
In view of the Minister's statement at Blackburn, on 10th March, that in two or three weeks there would be a free, unrationed supply of eggs, and the fact that this month the supply to the public is 50 per cent. lower than it was a year ago, why did he make no counter offer to the French offer of eight million eggs, since the price asked per egg was less than that which the home consumer is paying for eggs today?
First of all, I do not agree with the last submission. Secondly, the total amount, even if we could have been certain of it, would have provided one-thirteenth of an egg per head of the total population. The reason for the delay in the freeing of eggs from the ration, I should have thought, would be apparent to everybody, but if not it will be announced in answer to a later Question.
Would it not have been worth making a counter offer of some description to this offer of eight million eggs, which is the point of my Question?
I do not understand what is meant by a counter offer.
The Minister turned down the French offer without making a counter offer, which the French asked him to do.
That is not true. The price was negotiated, and in the end we could not arrive at an agreeable price.
Does the Minister turn up his nose at one-thirteenth of an egg?
asked the Minister of Food why it is still necessary to ration eggs and why they still appear to be scarce in certain areas when they are usually more plentiful at this time of the year.
Eggs have been less plentiful so far this year mainly because of the bad weather both here and in our principal supplying countries. This has delayed our plans for freeing eggs from rationing, as we did in spring last year, but I am hopeful that supplies will shortly permit us to have free sales again, at least for a time.
When does the Minister think that eggs will come off the ration?
I am not Clerk of the Weather but, on present estimates, it looks as if in two or three weeks' time it will be possible to free eggs from the ration.
Is it not a fact that during the last 12 months the supply of eggs from Ireland has decreased by 50 per cent. in spite of the fact that the Irish are willing to sell us all the eggs we want?
The answer is a very short one—it is not a fact.
asked the Minister of Food when he proposes to permit unrationed supplies of eggs to the public; and how many rationed eggs have been supplied to the public on each ration book since 1st January, 1951.
As soon as supplies are sufficiently plentiful I intend to permit the free sale of eggs, but bad weather has seriously delayed the usual spring increase. So far this year there has been an average of 34 eggs per ration book.
Does the right hon. Gentleman contend that he was misreported when he was reported as having said at Blackburn, on 10th March, that in one or two weeks' time a supply of unrationed eggs would be available, particularly in view of the fact that the report appeared in the "Daily Herald"?
I do not complain about being misreported. If I said that, I was wrong. The weather has beaten me; that is all.
Will my right hon. Friend take immediate steps to improve the weather?
asked the Minister of Food why the egg trade in the London area have been informed by his Department that after 19th April no second quality English eggs will be made available for sale to the public in shell form.
I think my hon. Friend has been misinformed. My Department has issued no such statement to the egg trade in London or anywhere else.
May we take it, then, that the Minister will not proceed with any scheme of breaking down English eggs into powder form until the public have had every opportunity of buying them in shell form?
asked the Minister of Food whether he will buy fresh eggs abroad this month to supplement the present egg supply to the consumer in this country.
I am always ready to consider offers.
In view of the fact that the Minister said earlier that he had negotiated for eggs from France on 9th and 10th April, would he tell the House what offer he made? Is it not a fact that he made no offer? If he made no offer how can he claim to have negotiated?
But the offer was made to us. I am quite prepared to consider offers and to make a counter-suggestion.
Is it not a fact that the Minister made no counter-suggestion and that he turned the offer down completely on 13th April?
We cannot conduct commercial transactions across the Floor of the House.
In view of the fact that the Minister of Food has 40 Oral Questions to answer today, does he not realise that the basic reason for them is the principle that if one restricts consumption, one also restricts production?
As the Minister's statement does not appear to correspond with the facts, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.