asked the Minister of Food if, in view of the representations made by the tea trade to increase the tea ration from 2 ounces to 2½ ounces, he will now increase the ration.
asked the Minister of Food whether he is yet in a position to make a further statement about the de-control and de-rationing of tea.
The withdrawal of the subsidy on tea announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take effect from 15th June.The trade has undertaken that blends of sound quality tea will be on sale at 3s. 8d. a lb. in sufficient quantities to meet any foreseeable demand. This is the same as the present average price and only 4d. more than the present low priced tea. This means that although the subsidy is withdrawn the existing weekly ration of low priced tea will cost only ½d. more. Also, in view of the improvement in supplies the tea ration will be increased from 2 oz. to 2½ oz. a week from 10th August. This is a first step towards the complete de-control and de-rationing of tea, which I hope will be possible by the end of the year.
Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether that decision has been taken at the request of the tea trade and not in accordance with the general interests of the community?
That is a most extraordinary question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer it."] I will give the answer, as I always do. I take full responsibility—of course I do. This was in the national interest and was not done for any one section.
Does my right hon. and gallant Friend's encouraging reply mean that, in the case of the cheaper grades of tea, only 'half the present 8d. subsidy which is being removed will be passed on to the consumer, and that the trade will bear the rest?
Yes, Sir. That is so.
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that the housewives appreciate that cheap tea is always the most expensive in the end and that this is a trick which will not deceive them? Will he also read today's "Financial Times," which confirms everything I said last Monday, that this ration ought to have been increased weeks ago?
If the hon. Gentleman will do me the honour of looking through the figures for the time when he was at the Ministry, he will see that this might have been done about two years ago.
Has my right hon. and gallant Friend received any assurance from the exporting countries that they will not increase their export duties, and does his announcement mean that London will be permitted to re-export teas on the London market?
I should be very glad if my hon. Friend would put that question down.
How long does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman expect to take in replacing the present rationing system for all foods by this new price rationing system?
On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory replies by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, I beg to give notice that I shall take further steps to raise this matter at the earliest opportunity to explain to the House the full facts of the case.