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Volume 655: debated on Thursday 8 March 1962

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in the interests of the taxpayer, the consumer and the producer, he will set up a meat working party.

No, Sir. I have considered the possibility of arranging to give guidance to consumers about retail meat prices, but have concluded that the difficulties are overwhelming. Retail prices vary very widely from district to district and from shop to shop. I have discussed with the National Federation of Meat Traders' Associations how to keep consumers better informed. During recent months they have instituted a weekly news service in which they issue to the Press statements indicating the best buys in the butchers' shops each week in different parts of the country.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the steps that he has already taken. Does not he agree, however, that consumer resistance plays a very important part in helping to prevent the sort of muddle we had during last year over meat prices? Will he put this point to the new committee on meat marketing which he is setting up?

The differential between wholesale and retail prices will certainly be one of the factors which the new committee will be considering. I know what is going through my hon. Friend's mind. I sympathise with his aim, but as the price of meat varies so much throughout the country it would not be possible to stipulate an overall price.