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Food Supplies

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 6 May 1943

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Soft Fruit Prices

68.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is now in a position to make a statement in connection with the fixation of soft-fruit prices?

Yes, Sir, An Order prescribing maximum prices for soft fruits will, it is expected, be made this week and will operate as from Monday next, 10th May. A statement is being issued to-day as to the maximum growers' prices and maximum wholesale and retail prices which will be prescribed in the Order. I am sending my hon. Friend a copy.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the needs of the small producers, in view of the difficulties they found last year?

Aged People (Rations)

69.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that numerous resolutions arc being passed by local authorities, food committees, old age pensioners' associations and other bodies requesting price concessions and increased supplies to old age pensioners in respect of milk, tea, sugar and tobacco; and whether the Government is prepared to give further consideration to any of these requests?

A number of resolutions have been sent to my Department urging that some classes of consumers, including old age pensioners, should be allowed increased rations. I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Ealing (Sir F. Sanderson) on f4th April, to which I have nothing to add. As regards price concessions, no representations have been received except in regard to the National Milk Scheme, but as has been explained on several occasions my Noble Friend feels bound to restrict the benefit of the National Milk Scheme to the mothers and young children.

Iron Ore, Northern Ireland

73.

asked the Minister of Supply whether, in view of the pressing need for iron required for war purposes, he will order a fresh survey to be taken of the Dromara and Dechomet districts of County Down, where iron-ore is available to meet many of our war needs?

The iron-ore deposits in these districts were examined by experts two years ago. The results of this examination were given to my hon. Friend in reply to a Question on 16th October, 1941. I do not feel that any fresh information would be obtained by holding a further investigation.

In view of the most unsatisfactory answer and the fact that I have visited the Dromara mines and have formed my own opinion, I wish to ask my hon. Friend whether he is aware that what is required to make the Dromara mines a paying proposition and useful in the war effort is the installation of a thorough pumping system, and that electricity is there awaiting it? Will he do that, as it is a shame and a crime that this state of affairs should exist?

What is needed is a higher grade ore in the ground. These deposits have been examined by experts, and the bulk of the deposits have been found to contain a high measure of impurities and not to be suitable for steel making. We have plenty of low grade ore all over the country.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House the percentage of iron in this ore, or give any indication of it?

Mine Accidents

72.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the number of fatal and non-fatal accidents in the mining industry during this year in each district and the comparative figures for 1942 and 1938?

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power
(Mr. Tom Smith)

As the answer involves a tabular statement, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

ACCIDENTS AT MINES UNDER THE COAL MINES ACT
(Excluding the Stratified Ironstone Mines in Cleveland, Lincolnshire and Northampton).
DISTRICT1938.1942
No. of Persons killed.No. of Persons seriously injured.*No. of Persons disabled for more than 3 days.No. of Persons killed.No. of Persons seriously injured.*No. of Persons disabled for more than 3 days.
Northumberland441787,34831110Not yet available.
Durham8841818,834122331
South Yorkshire9930418,378114319
West Yorkshire391356,55243167
Lancashire and Cheshire552008,93160165
North Wales6481,500632
North Derbyshire1212617,48035221
Nottinghamshire251398,25441166
South Derbyshire123484727
Leicestershire8401,3741341
Cannock Chase13842,5791873
North Staffordshire271423,31676136
South Staffordshire and Worcestershire917727914
Shropshire412440213
Warwickshire8763,2711154
Cumberland10211,375719
Forest of Dean421571519
Bristol431
Somerset1943456
Kent5161,521116
South Wales and Monmouth-shire15457825,564149543
Fife and Clackmannan27892,8512765
Lothians (Mid. & East)15731,7891550
Lanarkshire, etc.611835,93857154
Ayrshire and Dumfries27681,7541445
Great Britain8513,135131,3088692,786

* Injuries which, because of their nature or severity are, under the terms of Section 80 of the Coal Mines Act,1911 required to be reported to His Majesty's Divisional Inspectors at the time of their occurrence.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether there has been an increase in the number of accidents or a decrease in the period mentioned in the Question asked by my hon. Friend?

I have had two complete years got out—last year and 1938—and the figures are somewhat similar. If you take the figures for this year and compare them with the figures for the same period of last year, there is a decrease. If my hon. Friend has any particular period in mind, I shall be glad to get out the figures for him.

The statement as follows:

Housing, Scotland (Re-Conditioning)

74.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he proposes to take to recondition condemned houses in the urban districts of Scotland in order to relieve the urgent prevalent shortage of houses for the wage-earning classes?

My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the limited supplies of building labour and materials at present available can be used to the best advantage in the completion of the houses which local authorities have under construction and in the building of the 1,000 new houses to be provided under the new Scottish interim programme. In the special cases where it is urgently necessary to find accommodation for bombed-out families the Defence Regulations give local authorities power, with my right hon. Friend's consent, to license the temporary reoccupation of condemned houses made-reasonably fit for occupation.

While I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, does he not realise from the Debate which took place last Tuesday that, despite all these pious aspirations, the houses do not exist and that the houses this House decided upon have to be provided? Will his right hon. Friend take steps to bring to the notice of the War Cabinet that Scotland demands these houses and the reconditioning that may be necessary?

We are taking all the steps that are possible to deal with this problem at the present time.

Food Supplies Conference

76.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make any statement about the agenda and objectives of the forthcoming food conference at Hot Springs?

The agenda of the Conference, which has been published, is rather long, and I am therefore circulating it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The primary object of the Conference is to give the United Nations an opportunity to exchange information and views on longer term problems concerning the production and consumption of foodstuffs and other essential agricultural products. The Conference will devote particular attention to the production and imports of the various countries, with an eye to the general improvement of levels of consumption, and the extent to which productive resources can be made to match the needs of consumption. The Conference will no doubt also consider what international arrangements would be required to improve the efficiency of production and distribution, with due regard to the interests of both producers and consumers. Relief is not included within the scope of the Conference.

In view of the enormous importance of this Conference, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has been given sufficiently wide powers by the Government and will be in a position to make considerable commitments on our behalf?

My hon. Friend can be assured that the War Cabinet have given very close attention to the agenda of this Conference, and my right hon. Friend has been given a very full brief of instructions and a very expert staff to help him.

Can my right hon. Friend give any indication of how long this will take?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport, who is in the United States, will be present at this Conference?

I presume that we are not in any way committed to the decisions that may be reached by this Conference and that this House would be consulted particularly as regards exports, production and the like?

My hon. Friend may be assured that the ordinary constitutional procedure will be very strictly observed.

The following is the Agenda

  • 1. Consumption levels and requirements.
  • (a) Food.
  • (1) Character and extent of consumption deficiencies in each country.
  • (2) Causes and consequences of malnutrition.
  • (3) Measures for improving standards of consumption (education, etc.).
  • (4) Reasonable national and international goals for improved food consumption.
  • (b) Other essential agricultural products.
  • (1) Pre-war consumption levels in various countries as influenced by prosperity or depression and by buying power of the population.
  • (2) Reasonable national and international goals for improved consumption with sustained employment and expanded industrial activity.
  • 2. Expansion of production and adaptation to consumption needs.
  • (a) Measures for direction of production toward commodities, the supply of which should be increased.
  • (b) Measures for shifting production out of commodities in chronic surplus.
  • (c) Measures for improving agricultural productivity and efficiency.
  • (d) Measures for development and conservation of agricultural resources.
  • (e) Opportunities for occupational adjustments in agricultural populations.
  • 3. Facilitation and improvement of distribution.
  • (a) Relation of national and international economic policies to agricultural problems with special reference to the facilitation of the movement of agricultural products in commerce.
  • (1) Expansion of international trade.
  • (2) Broad policies for assuring increased production and consumption in general.
  • (b) Improvement of agricultural marketing, processing and distribution.
  • (c) Special measures for wider food distribution.
  • (1) Improvement of consumption of low income groups.
  • (2) International dispossession corn-modifies in over supply.
  • (d) Buffer stocks and commodities arrangements to assure equitable prices and adequate supplies.
  • 4. Recommendations for continuing and carrying forward the work of the Conference.