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Fish (Reserve Price)

Volume 888: debated on Monday 17 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what consultations took place between her Department and the Hull trawler owners before the new reserve price for fish on the Hull market was raised by 70 per cent. to a minimum of £13 a kit, an increase of £5.

None. The matter was raised with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the sponsor Department for the fish industry in England and Wales. The new reserve price remains below the average level of prices at the quayside, so the increase should not affect retail prices. My right hon. Friend is proposing to ask the Price Commission to undertake a study of prices and margins in the distribution of fish. An announcement will be made shortly about the scope of the study.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Department of Fisheries is kept constantly informed in all these matters? The price of £13 a kit is below the average for last year, which was from £17 to £19. We all deplore the fact that some fish goes to the fishmeal plant and some which is sent to the plant is not the worst fish, or else it would have been condemned by the inspectors. Does not my hon. Friend appreciate that if we are to sell at quayside prices of £7 to £8 a kit, it means that vessels will be tied up, and that this in turn, will mean unemployment for our people—both deckhands and skippers?

I am aware of the points to which my hon. Friend refers. It must be made plain that the trawler owners are not raising prices but are simply increasing the price levels below which they will not offer their fish for sale for human consumption. My hon. Friend is also correct about the fish being removed from the market, but I think he will agree that it is a small quantity.

Is the Minister aware that the price of fish at the quayside is now considerably lower than it was in 1966? How does he explain that the price in the shops is considerably higher? Is that part of his Minister's planning?

The fall in the quayside price of fish is due, in part, to exceptionally large stocks being held in deep freeze, and, in part, to the diversion of Norwegian fish to this market. The difference between quayside prices and the prices that the housewife has to pay in the shops will be the subject of the study by the Price Commission, which I have announced.