HC Deb 29 June 1953 vol 517 cc17-9
39. Mr. Murray

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that, after all their registered customers had been served in the butchers' market, Newcastle, on Saturday, 20th June, notices were posted to the effect that meat was on sale to all; that, after selling to unregistered customers, when the market closed, butchers still had meat left on their hands; and what action he is taking to remedy this inequality in distribution.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Charles Hill)

I understand that a notice to this effect was put up by a trader in the Newcastle-butchers' market, although, shortly after, his employer ordered its removal. As my right hon. and gallant Friend announced on 26th June, butchers will be allowed to sell, free of ration restrictions, any meat which they may hold surplus to their ration requirements, as from 5th July.

Mr. Murray

Is the Minister aware that this is an example of the gross inefficiency of the Ministry of Food? Does he not realise that what he is now ordering to be done will only leave the poorest quality of meat on the market, which nobody will care to buy? What is he going to do about that?

Dr. Hill

It is an inevitable part of rationing and control that it should fall to the Ministry to dispose of all the meat available. The only assurance of a free exercise of public choice is the end of rationing and control, which will be brought about at the earliest possible moment.

Miss Lee

Can the Minister tell us at what time in the week the butcher will be able to release extra supplies, and what provisions are made to see that those who are buying their rationed quantity may be able to get the better meat? Have we got to buy on the Monday, or can we postpone buying until later in the week and still have a reasonable opportunity of getting top quality meat?

Dr. Hill

It will be an obligation on the butcher to serve his registered customers with their full rations. When there is a surplus—and only when there is a surplus—he will be free to sell the surplus.

Captain Duncan

Is the Minister aware that on this side of the House we welcome the relaxation of control and may I ask him when this relaxation can be made permanent?

Dr. Hill

When the supply of meat is regarded as sufficient over the whole of the year, and when a plan has been evolved for satisfying the requirements of the Agriculture Act, 1947, in respect of guaranteed prices and markets, full de-rationing will take place.

Mr. Lewis

Is it not the case that the Minister of Food has now introduced the abolition of rationing by the book and introduced rationing by the purse, and is it not a fact that those who have enough money can now get all the meat they want?

Dr. Hill

To both those questions the answer is, No, Sir.

Miss Lee

On a point of order. I do not think that my supplementary question was heard on the other side of the House, Sir. I was asking about the quality of meat and at what time in the week one must buy one's ration to ensure getting the better quality meat.

Mr. Speaker

There is no obligation on a Minister to answer a question. There is nothing I can do about it.

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