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Enemy-Occupied Europe (Food Supplies)

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1943

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35.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he will permit dried milk and vitamin concentrates to be sent to Greece, France, Belgium and Poland to provide children under 16 years of age, nursing and expectant mothers with a daily ration sufficient to ward off the worst deficiency diseases; and is he aware that the money, supplies and shipping are available and that the International Red Cross would be able to pro. vide for full control of the distribution?

As regards the shipment of milk and vitamin concentrates to Greece, I would refer my hon Friend t0 the answer which I gave on 11th May to my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey). Otherwise the policy of His Majesty's Government remains as laid down by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 20th August, 1940. After the fullest consideration, and with the deepest sympathy for the Allied peoples of Europe in their sufferings under German rule, His Majesty's Government are convinced that a general action of the kind described would inevitably be exploited by the enemy for his own advantage. Moreover, such action could hardly be confined to the countries named in the Question, and the provision of foodstuffs for children and nursing and expectant mothers throughout Occupied Europe would involve a very serious breach in the blockade. I regret, therefore, that except in the case of Greece the answer to the first part of the Question must be in the negative. As regards the second part of the Question, no information has been received by His Majesty's Government to show that money, supplies and shipping are now available for this purpose. Nor does there exist in France, Belgium or Poland any machinery of control which we could possibly accept as adequate. As I have frequently pointed out in answers to Questions on this subject, neutral control of imported foodstuffs is an insufficient guaranfee unless it is accompanied by control over the domestic food supplies of the countries in question.

In view of the fact that vitamins and dried milk could only be used for expectant mothers and children, is it not a fact that they could be of no value to the enemy?

I do not agree. Local supplies of milk are one of the commodities which the German occupying troops are most liable to seize, and if we sent in any substantial quantities of dried milk we should merely be adding to the pool of foodstuffs available to them.

In view of the fact that the Minister made an exception in respect of control as far as Belgium is concerned, is it not possible for this action to be taken experimentally with Belgium in order to do something at least to alleviate this very serious position?

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the original answer he will see that I made no exception as regards control in Belgium.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his reply will be 'read with very great satisfaction by many people who do not sympathise with the humanitarian agitation against the enforcement of the blockade?

Is there any evidence that the Germans have actually seized any of these foods which have been allowed in?

The only case in which they have been allowed in is that of Greece. For a considerable time throughout last summer when the first emergency shipments were going to Greece the German and Italian occupying forces were laying their hands as hard as they could on Greek domestic produce.

Will the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the best service we can do to the people in the occupied countries is to win the war as quickly as possible and that, to achieve that end, it is desirable that we should apply the very potent weapon of blockade? Further, is it not significant that just at the time when the weapon of the blockade is becoming most effective there is the strongest possible agitation to lift it?