Most recent indications are that United Kingdom consumption of butter fell from 19·3 lbs. per head in 1970 to an estimated 17·9 lbs. per head in 1971, while consumption of margarine per head rose from 11·8 lbs. in 1970 to an estimated 12·7 lbs. in 1971.
With the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, he cannot hold my right hon. Friend responsible for the fact that prolonged droughts in New Zealand and shortages of supplies in Denmark have caused an acute shortage of butter in Britain and, accordingly, high prices.
Mr. J. T. Price:
Having indulged in these excuses about people eating margarine instead of butter, can the hon. Gentleman indicate when he expects that the poorer end of the community, including old-age pensioners, will be called upon to eat dripping instead of margarine? If he does not know what dripping is, I will tell him.
Stock figures do not distinguish between imported and home-produced butter but the quantity of home-produced butter in store is usually small. On 31st January, 1972, total stocks in public cold stores in the United Kingdom were 39,300 tons. As the statement of stocks for the preceding 12 months is lengthy, I am circulating it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
I thank the Minister for those figures. Is he aware that there are strong rumours that stocks of butter, bacon, cheese and other commodities from the Commonwealth and our traditional sources of cheap supply are being stored in deep freeze, so that when the time comes a higher price for them can be charged to British consumers? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this is a scandalous situation?
Following is the information:
|Butter in public cold stores in the United Kingdom|
|* Estimates—no returns due to postal strike.|