Butter and Margarine

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th February 1972.

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Photo of Mr George Grant Mr George Grant , Morpeth 12:00 am, 29th February 1972

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his estimate of the increase in, respectively, butter and margarine consumption in the United Kingdom over the past 12 months.

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

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.

Photo of Mr George Grant Mr George Grant , Morpeth

In contradiction to television advertising, would the Minister agree that the majority of the British people can tell butter from margarine? Would he also agree that the reason for the high consumption of margarine is that under the present Administration poorer people cannot afford butter?

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

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.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry

What will be the impact upon this trend of membership of the Community?

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

A very, very much smaller rate of increase spread over five years compared with what has been our lot as a result of weather conditions this year.

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.

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

I am perfectly well aware of what dripping is. What the hon. Gentleman is suggesting does not come within the remotest bounds of possibility.

Photo of Mr Edward Garrett Mr Edward Garrett , Wallsend

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the amount of imported butter held in the United Kingdom on 31st January, 1972, compared with the preceding 12 months.

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

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.

Photo of Mr Edward Garrett Mr Edward Garrett , Wallsend

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?

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

It would be a scandalous situation were it true; it is not.

Following is the information:

Butter in public cold stores in the United Kingdom
1971Tons
31st January30,100*
28th February40,000*
31st March50,600
30th April64,800
31st May68,200
30th June69,300
31st July62,900
31st August51,700
30th September36,900
31st October24,700
30th November23,600
31st December22,400
* Estimates—no returns due to postal strike.