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Volume 524: debated on Monday 1 March 1954

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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?