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Ministry Of Food

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 9 April 1952

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Tea Ration (Increase)

51.

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.

55.

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 This means that although the subsidy is withdrawn the existing weekly ration of low priced tea will cost only ½d.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?

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.

Price Increases

52.

asked the Minister of Food if he can now give the food items with increases affected by the Budget.

I cannot add to the reply which my hon. Friend gave to the hon. Lady on this subject on 24th March.

One commodity at least was mentioned in the announcement made earlier by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. Can he say whether the ½d. per week extra which he has announced is arrived at by comparing the highest prices with the lowest? If the highest price is 4s. 8d., and the lowest 3s. 8d., how does he arrive at a ½d. per week extra?

The average price is 3s. 8d., as I said in my answer to the last Question, and, as I pointed out, the actual increase on the lower-priced teas will be ½d. per weekly ration.

One can, of course, buy teas at very high prices. What will be happening is that those who are paying the higher prices for tea will be subsidising those who are paying the lower prices.

Cheese

53.

asked the Minister of Food what is the estimated amount of cheese which is expected to arrive from New Zealand during 1952.

The present estimate is 80,000 tons. But, as the hon. Member is aware, no very precise figure can be given so early in the year.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that this is a serious reduction on last year's figures?

Certainly, Sir. That is one of the troubles we are up against. The dollar trouble has something to do with it; if it had been handled better we should not now have been in all this difficulty. The other trouble is the shortfall from New Zealand.

Can my right hon. and gallant Friend say what he expects the total supplies from all sources to be this year compared with last year?

Surely the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will admit that his own party said that there was plenty of food in the world and that all they had to do was to let the private buyers go and buy it? Why does he not do that?

That is perfectly true, but it must be recollected that we have to get the money with which to do it, and it will take more than the time that we have had to make up for what has happened in the last six years.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the Government's inability to buy New Zealand cheese when available may eventually affect our market there?

That really is not so. The amount available in New Zealand is less than it was last year.

Meat Ration

54.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the improvement in supplies and the prospect of further supplies, he will now restore the meat ration to 1s. 5d.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman pay some attention to the views of the meat trade, who believe that it is quite possible and proper to raise the meat ration now?

I must also pay attention to the figures which I know, and therefore I am acting on the information which I have, upon which I prefer to act.