Under a contract with the Icelandic Government made in April, 1949, we have agreed to buy 10,000 tons of cod fillets and 4,500 tons of other varieties of frozen white fish for delivery between April and the end of this year. It would not be in the public interest to state the prices paid.
As this country is practically the only one concerned in the supply of frozen fish to this country, what conceivable reason can there be for withholding the price? If the right hon. Lady will not tell us the price, is she prepared to say that the price is no higher than the maximum controlled price for fresh fish landed in this country?
The hon. Gentleman, who knows a great deal about this trade, should know that we get frozen fish also from Denmark. That is one reason why we do not wish to disclose the price.
Would the right hon. Lady answer the second part of my question, which was whether she would give an undertaking that the price paid is not higher than the maximum price for fresh fish of a similar kind landed in this country?
British producers of quick frozen cod and other white fish buy and sell at market prices, subject to the provisions of the Fish Maximum Prices Order, and there is no guaranteed price. We assist quick freezers by payment of storage and certain transport charges and by a direct contribution to their operating costs.
If my assumption is right that the right hon. Lady is paying Iceland higher prices than the price of fresh landed fish, on what principle does she guarantee to a foreign country a price which she refuses to guarantee to a British producer?
It is a little difficult to make any contract with a foreign country unless we specify the price. The hon. Gentleman will know, if he reads my answer, that we are being very generous to this quite new industry. Surely he is not asking for more control?
Whatever justification there may have been for this exceptional contract, will the right hon. Lady give the House an assurance that she will not give to a foreign producer a higher price than is guaranteed to any British producer of a similar product.