asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what action has been taken on the review of the working of the house charges under the last order affecting hotels and restaurants; what withdrawals and reductions have been made as a consequence where the costs now charged for restricted meals are equal to or greater than the prices prior to the limitation; and whether he will direct that in no case can the additional charges by way of premium be as much as the price of the meal?
My Noble Friend has made certain amendments to the Meals in Establishments Order in the light of experience since the Order became operative. In addition the provisional licences granted to certain establishments permitting house charges to be made have been reviewed, and revised licences will be issued to take effect on 1st October. In six cases a house charge for dinner of 6s. Will be permitted. In all other cases the house charge permitted will be lower than 5s., and will vary between 6d. and 4s. In general, the effect of this revision will be to secure the object my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Leicester (Major Lyons) has in mind.
Despite these valuable changes, is the hon. Gentleman not aware that as a result of these charges the consumer will still often be paying more for what he does not want to eat?
I would draw the attention of my hon. and gallant Friend to the fact that there are 26,663 catering establishments in London. These orders affect only 146 of them. I do not think it is really important in the whole matter of food.
The hon. Gentleman said it only affects a limited number, but does he realise that hundreds of places with no house charge have taken advantage of this order to put up their charges to the ceiling price of 5s.? Will he reconsider the question of doing something to stop what is the biggest racket his Ministry has permitted?
In view of the figures I have given, I do not think that this is quite the biggest racket. I know it is commonly said that other restaurants without house charges have put up their prices. I would be glad if my hon. and gallant Friend would give me evidence on that. I am trying hard to get evidence, but it is not easy to find cases.