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Ministry Of Food

Volume 524: debated on Monday 1 March 1954

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.



asked the Minister of Food if he will cause representations to be made to the Indian, Pakistan and Ceylon Governments that they should not restrict the exports of sound tea made from the 1954 crop, subject only to their internal requirements.

Since there is in practice no restriction of exports of tea from India, Pakistan and Ceylon, my right hon. and gallant Friend does not feel that general representations are necessary at this time.

But does my hon. Friend not appreciate that the unilateral action of the Indian Government about this time last year in advance of the recommendation of the International Committee, whereby they reduced the export quota from that country, has contributed to the short supply and high price of tea in this country now?

The fact is that the ceiling figure of limit of exports is 125½ per cent. of the pre-war normal, and that this figure is not being reached at the present time.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, if the price of tea goes up considerably, it will be open to those countries producing tea to put on an export duty which will enable them to increase their revenues at the expense of the British consumer? Will he do everything in his power not to allow the price of tea to go up?

Will not my hon. Friend re-examine this question and accept my assurance that if the figure is announced early in the year the tea growers of India can exceed 125 per cent, of the standard year's quota?


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the guarantee given to him by the Tea Buyers' Association of ample supplies of tea at 3s. 4d. per lb. has not been fulfilled; and, in view of this, if he will now reimpose price control.

The undertaking concerned the availability of blends at 3s. 10d. and 3s. 8d. per lb. after de-rationing. In spite of the rise in world prices in 1953 some blends are still being sold loose at these prices. The answer to the second part of the Question is "No, Sir."

May I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the OFFICIAL REPORT for 18th May in which the guarantee given by the Minister related to tea at 3s. 4d. and 3s. 8d., which are very different figures from those which he has just quoted? Did the Minister at that time deliberately mislead the House and the country, or was he misled by the tea trade?

The guarantee given is as I have stated. I would ask the hon. Member to bear in mind that in the light of an increase in the price of common tea from Is. 11d. per lb. to 4s. 4d. per lb. a guarantee of this kind cannot be observed in perpetuity.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I am informed that over Luxembourg Radio one of the largest tea firms is offering free samples of tea and that if he does not do something about this I will follow the excellent example set by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland)?

When one bears in mind that the average price of tea at the Calcutta auctions has gone up by 1s. 3d. and the average price at the London auctions by 1s. 1½d. and the average retail price has gone up by only 8d., I suggest that hon. Members opposite should have some consideration for the prosperity of the tea gardens.

Is the Minister aware that when the party opposite were in Opposition changes in prices in world markets were thought to have no relation whatever to home prices?

I am aware that when the party opposite were in power there were increases in the controlled price of tea for precisely the same reason.

Off-Ration Pork, Cardiff


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the resentment caused among butchers in Cardiff and elsewhere by his decision to restrict the off-ration sale of pork to pork butchers; and whether he will end this discrimination against other butchers.

I am receiving a deputation from the butchers this week. I will write to the hon. Member after the meeting has taken place.

Is the Minister aware that the butchers of Cardiff are very much upset with him and that I learn with dismay that they have little confidence in his handling of this problem? Since Nottingham, which is roughly the same size as Cardiff, has 80 of these shops, whereas there are only 20 in Cardiff, and 90 per cent, of butchers' shops in Cardiff will have no off-ration meat, will he take that into account?

It is true that pork butchers' shops are unevenly distributed throughout the country, no doubt in relation to the demand for their products, but I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that pork butchers were put out of business 13 years ago, and therefore it is necessary to approach their problems sympathetically. Secondly, there is no increase in the amount of pork allocated to the pork butchers involved, and any sales in the form of joints will mean a corresponding reduction in the pork available for their pies and other products.

Would my hon. Friend reconsider this problem? Is it really desirable to resuscitate a type of butcher selling one kind of meat? Has it not been the case for many years that most butchers have been selling all meats? Is there really a strong case for limiting these sales to pork butchers?

There is a case, but I should prefer not to reply further until I have met the butchers' representatives this week.


asked the Minister of Food the number of pork butchers in Cardiff who will be entitled to sell off-ration pork; and what is the number of butchers to whom this privilege will be denied.

Will the Minister bear these important figures in mind tomorrow when he is considering this question?

I will bear in mind figures relating to Cardiff as to the rest of the country.


36 and 37.

asked the Minister of Food (1) why, between 1st October, 1951, and 1st January, 1954, the price of butter rose from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 4d. per 1b., the price of margarine rose from Is. 2d. to 1s. 6d. per 1b., the price of cooking fat rose from Is. 4d. to 1s. 8d. per 1b., the price of National bread rose from Is. to Is. 3d. for 3½-1b. and the average price of all cuts of bacon rose from 2s. 7d. to 3s. 8½d. per 1b.; and what action he proposes to take to restore the price of these articles to the level of 1st October, 1951;

(2) why the price of various cuts of bacon rose in price between November, 1951, to December, 1953, from 2s. to 2s. 10d. per 1b., 2s. 1d. to 3s. per 1b., 2s. 7d. to 3s. 6d. per 1b., 3s. to 4s. 10d. per 1b., 3s. 1d. to 5s. per 1b. and 3s. to 4s. 6d. per 1b.; and what action he proposes to take to restore these prices to the November, 1951, level.

Apart from the increases necessary in December, 1951, to keep food subsidies within the ceiling of £410 million set by the late Administration, most of the price increases were made in order, by removal of consumer subsidy, to make possible the de-rationing which has or will shortly take place. As to the second part of these Questions, the return to the October, 1951, level of food prices would, largely as a result of increased food consumption, mean an increase of food subsidies by over £400 million and a return to rationing and control.

Are we therefore to take it from that reply that de-rationiug and de-control have meant higher prices and will mean higher prices? If I introduce a Bill like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland), to bring down the prices of these commodities and thus implement the Tory promise at the last Election, will the Parliamentary Secretary support it?

It is an essential prerequisite of de-rationing and de-control that the consumer subsidy should be removed. As to the second part of the hon. Member's question, I am sure that he would not seek to imitate the performance of his hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland).

Has my hon. Friend taken steps to consult the Co-operative Wholesale Society, who are not only the largest growers of tea but the largest sellers of tea in the United Kingdom?

As the hon. Gentleman has just said that freeing the price is a prerequisite of de-rationing, can he explain how it was that the Labour Government in 1950 took 90 items off the ration but pegged a ceiling price at that period?

But the Labour Government did not essay de-control and de-rationing except in the case of one commodity— sweets—and it was an appalling failure.

Is my hon. Friend aware that during 1953 there were no changes in the prices of cheese, milk and bread, while mutton, bacon and eggs came down in price?

In view of the fact that the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has challenged these figures, would I be in order, Mr. Speaker, in pointing out that my figures are taken from the Minister's own statement?

Fatstock Purchases


asked the Minister of Food the number purchased, and the price paid by his Department during the last 12 months, for steers, heifers, special young cows, intermediate cows, cows, bulls and casualties in the grade fat cattle; for sheep, lambs, ewes, rams and casualties in the grade fat sheep and lambs; and for baconers, porkers, sows and boars and rejected by bacon curers in the grade fat pigs.

As the reply contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the information:

Complete figures for the calendar year are not yet available but the following table shows, for the year ended 30th September, 1953, the number and the cost of fatstock purchased by the Ministry of Food in the United Kingdom and analysed in the main classes. My Department's records of costs are kept by broad classes of Livestock and a more detailed financial estimate by grades than is given below is not therefore available.

Number '000Cost£'000

Fat Cattle

Steers, Heifers, Special Young Cows, Intermediate Cows, Bulls purchased on live grade1,615110 372
Fat Cows purchased on live Grade34912956
All class bought on dead weight (i.e. casualties, etc.)1294,626

Fat Sheep and Lambs

Bought on live grade7,75352,355
Bought on dead-weight (i.e. casualties, etc.)115457

Fat Pigs

Porkers, Sows and Boars1,64834,116
Pigs rejected by curers1,07322,226



asked the Minister of Food how the saving of £880,000 in administrative costs regarding eggs was made; and what is now the estimated net saving for 1953–54.

Because since de-control the accounts of the eggs division do not have to bear a share of the cost of regional and local food offices. The net saving for 1953–54, compared with 1952–53, is now estimated at £975,000.

Can the hon. Gentleman explain whether he is now misleading his hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) or me? [HON. MEMBERS: "Both."] No. Can he say whether he agrees with his right hon. and gallant Friend that the eggs division must not be abolished or agrees with the hon. Member for Kidderminster to whom he replied that these considerable savings had been made in his Department in the administration of egg distribution?

The hon. Member knows very well that for the purposes of the interim scheme the continuance of the eggs division is necessary. Furthermore, in the light of further economies, the figure of £880,000 has been revised to make it now £975,000.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the outstanding result of his policy has been to make eggs abundant, cheap and readily available without a black market, whereas the policy of the previous Government resulted in one stale egg per ration book per week?

Will the hon. Gentleman kindly refer the hon. Member for Kidderminster to the figures published by the Ministry which contradict all he said? Will the hon. Gentleman realise how foolish he has been in making these administrative economies at the expense of the substantial losses that are being made in the administration of the egg subsidy?

This Question refers to savings as a result of the ending of egg control. The hon. Member in his general statements really must not fall into the habit of believing everything he says.

Sugar (Storage Cost)


asked the Minister of Food the estimated cost of the storage of his Department's stocks of sugar during the year 1953–54, made for the purposes of his original estimate, H.C. 92.

Can the hon. Gentleman explain why his right hon. and gallant Friend could not give this figure last week? Is he aware that it is really disturbing that a Minister should administer his Department in such appalling ignorance of what is happening about his Department and that otherwise I should not have asked this Question this week? Does the hon. Gentleman realise what a considerable loss the storage of sugar alone is causing to the taxpayer?



asked the Minister of Food if he will publish in HANSARD details of the type and category of foodstuffs that are now available in greater quantity and variety than was the case on 1st October, 1951; and the price of these commodities on 1st February, 1954, in comparison with 1st October, 1951, in so far as they come within the control of his Department.

No, Sir. But I will answer now that, comparing 1953 with 1951, there was eaten more beef, mutton, pork, bacon and ham, sugar, sweets, eggs, tea, fresh and dried fruit, and various types of milk products. To the second part of the Question, the answer in terms of the Interim Index is 16 per cent.

Am I to take it, therefore, that those items mentioned by the hon. Gentleman in part compensate for the non-take-up of basic rations such as bacon, cheese, butter, margarine and others?

The hon. Member will not realise that the higher a ration goes and the greater the extent to which off-ration sales are permitted, to that extent the percentage take-up is bound to fall, and that the one way of achieving the high take-up for which he sighs is lower rations and more rationing.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the basic foodstuffs in the list he has read cost the people of this country an extra £400 million compared with when we were in office and place an intolerable burden on lower income groups?

But the increased cost on the 2¼ years—which is the basis of the Question—was less than the increased cost during the previous 12 months under the party opposite.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment.