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Food Supplies

Volume 388: debated on Wednesday 7 April 1943

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Fish Retail Sales (Favouritism)

56.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction of many consumers caused by certain fishmongers showing undue favouritism to selected customers and by other back-door methods of selling prime cuts of controlled fish; and whether, upon receipt from his officers of authentic proof of such practices, he will take steps to terminate the supplies of fish to such retailers?

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." As regards the second part, my hon. Friend will, I am sure, realise that it is very difficult to obtain "authentic proof" of an allegation of "undue favouritism," but my Noble Friend is in sympathy with the object which my hon. Friend has in view and wherever satisfactory evidence is forthcoming that a retailer is deliberately disposing of his supplies in an unfair manner such action will be taken as lies within the power of my Noble Friend.

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for his statement, which will please the mass of the people who are writing to him and other Members, may I ask whether he will make it clear that anybody who cheats or does not play fair with the people's food will be dealt with severely and immediately?

They will be dealt with, as I say, within the powers of my Noble Friend.

Milk

59.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the break-down of milk supplies to consumers in an area of Bedlington owing to a retailer's refusal to deliver in the zone allocated to him, and that for nearly a week adults, children and babies were deprived of milk; and whether this zone has now been adequately provided for?

Yes, Sir. I am aware that a retailer failed to deliver milk to customers transferred to him under the scheme for the rationalisation of retail milk deliveries in the Bedlington area. Immediate steps were taken to provide supplies for these customers, as I think my hon. Friend is aware.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that for six days babies and children were without milk?

I thought that the hon. Member saw the local officer on 20th March and that since then the distribution has been working satisfactorily.

63.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why large retailers supplying milk are given progressively higher rebates per gallon than the small man, while the bigger firms are entitled to charge 2d. a gallon extra if they sterilise the milk?

With regard to the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply on 21st October to the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major York). As regards the second part, no specific extra charge of 2d. per gallon has been prescribed for sterilised milk. All distributors, large and small, may sell sterilised milk at the same price as they charged for such milk in the same area in the corresponding period of 1941, plus any increase that may have been authorised in the price of ordinary milk.

Are the Government aware of the widespread feeling that there is discrimination against the small man?

64.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether all tuberculin-tested milk is sold unmixed with other milk?

Ministry Of Food (Fish Division)

60.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will state the number of persons em- ployed in the fish division of his Ministry; how many have had previous experience of the trade; and the present approximate amount of money being expended on the fish division of the Ministry?

The number of persons employed in the fish division of my Department at Headquarters is 172, and the number employed locally is 38. 17 officers have had previous experience of the industry. The salaries of Headquarter personnel are at the rate of approximately £40,000 a year; other figures of cost are not available.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that he is getting full value for that expenditure?

Fish Zoning, Merseyside

61.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, in view of the unsatisfactory system of zoning for Merseyside, whether he is prepared to receive a deputation of interests concerned to suggest a better method of co-ordinating distribution in this area?

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Bootle (Squadron-Leader Errington) on 17th February. Since then further modifications of zonal boundaries and of distributive arrangements have been made in consultation with the Fish Industry Joint Council and will shortly be put into force, and my Noble Friend proposes to obtain experience of the effect of these changes before entering into discussions such as my hon. Friend suggests.

I asked in the latter part of my Question whether the hon. Gentleman is prepared to meet the deputation of people from Liverpool who know something about the difficulties of the situation. Is he aware that the anomaly in Liverpool is that fish supplies are not being received by the public but that draper shops can get them?

That is rather a complicated supplementary, but, as I said in my reply, modifications have been made which I think will meet the difficulties. When we have had experience of the working of these alterations, we can consider further discussions.

I have seen people in queues this week-end, and is not the Minister prepared to meet a deputation and go into the pros and cons of the position?

I have indicated that my Noble Friend wishes to see how the modifications will affect distribution and he will if they are unsatisfactory be prepared to consider receiving a deputation.

Parcels From Abroad (Investigations)

62.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he has considered the statement sent him showing that, within the fortnight ended 25th March, a single well-off family of three persons in Salford received 14 parcels from Cape Town, each weighing about four lb., and containing fats, tea, sugar and other foods; that the local food office declined to interfere, and ordered the postal authorities to continue delivering me parcels, although some months earlier, when the same household was receiving about 12 similar parcels weekly from Cape Town, Bombay and Mauritius, the food authorities had instructed him to tell the senders not to send any more; and will he take steps to prevent such abuses of the privilege of receiving gifts from abroad?

From preliminary inquiries which have been made there appears to have been an abuse of the regulations in this case. I am having further investigations made and will communicate the result to the hon. Lady.

Does not this one case, brought to light by the public spirit of a single person, who was in a position to know the whole of the facts, suggest that there may be hundreds or even thousands of other cases where this privilege of getting an unlimited number of food parcels from abroad is being seriously abused, and could not the regulations be tightened up?

I am sure the hon. Lady will appreciate the danger of arguing from the particular to the general.