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Food Supplies

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 27 May 1943

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Favoured Customers

44.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that preference is being given to certain favoured customers in the supply of food at some large stores and restaurants; and whether he will, with a view to securing equal and fair treatment to the general public, consider making regulations prohibiting these practices?

If my hon. Friend will be good enough to let me have particulars of the preferences given to favoured customers to which he refers, I will gladly have inquiry made and communicate with him.

Rabbits

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture want rabbits destroyed irrespective of any consideration of their food value and that the Ministry of Food, by controlling the price of rabbits, has discouraged their destruction; and will he, in view of this conflict of policy, give instructions for the decontrol of rabbit prices?

There is no conflict of policy. Price control for wild rabbits was introduced by the Ministry of Food in full agreement with the Agricultural Departments. There is no evidence that the present maximum price is discouraging rabbit destruction where trapping can be effectively used. Complete extermination normally involves gassing during the breeding season under arrangements made by the Agricultural Departments. Decontrol of prices would conflict with the extermination policy and might lead to the retention of a nucleus of breeding stock, apart from the risk of exploiting consumers of rabbit flesh.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider organising the poachers in order to get rid of the rabbits?

Cake And Biscuit Manufacturers' War Time Alliance

50.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what percentage of the voting rights of the Cake and Biscuit Manufacturers' War Time Alliance, Limited, is controlled by his Department?

The Articles of Association of the Cake and Biscuit Manufacturers' War Time Alliance, Limited, presently provide that the Minister of Food or his duly authorised representative shall have on the Committee a number of votes exceeding by one the total number of votes which could be cast by all the other Committee men entitled to vote. It is expressly stated, however, that the Minister or his authorised representative may not vote upon any resolution fixing the amount or basis of a contribution to be made by members or affecting the finances of the Alliance nor upon a resolution whereby any recommendation is made to the Government or any Minister or Department thereof.

The Minister's voting powers have not, so far, been exercised at any time and notice was given to the Alliance on 11th December, 1942, that in accordance with my Noble Friend's policy in regard to the relationship between my Department and "War Time Companies" it was proposed to relinquish such powers and to retain only the right of veto at a General Meeting of members of the Alliance. The Articles of Association are now in course of revision with the object of giving effect to this and other changes on the occasion of the next General Meeting of the Alliance.

Would it be permissible to ask the Minister to read that answer over again and to read it more slowly, so that we can get to know what he says? Nobody knows what he says.

As the Question was simply, What percentage of the voting rights of the Cake and Biscuit Wartime Alliance, Limited, is controlled by his Department, will my hon. Friend say what the percentage is?

I am sorry. It was rather a long answer, and I thought I had better not go too slowly, as the House is sometimes a little impatient at long answers. It is not possible to state a precise percentage because there are complicated conditions governing the exercise of voting rights which I have set out in my reply; and further, there is shortly to be a material change in the exercise of control, and that is clearly set out too, and I think that my hon. Friend will appreciate this.

Do I understand the Parliamentary Secretary to say that the Government representatives have rights of voting they are now giving up?

Shop Assistants (Tipping)

51.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to. the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the widespread complaints about the tipping of shop assistants in some areas; and whether he intends to take any further steps to stop this practice?

I would refer by hon. Friend to the reference I made to this practice during the Debate on Thursday, 13th May, 1943.

I am aware of that reference, but as there are such widespread complaints about this and peculiar annoyance at the unfairness that arises or may arise from tipping, cannot the Minister take some definite and quantitative action to stop this abuse?

I indicated that it is an offence, particularly in connection with price-controlled goods, but I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate the difficulty of getting complete evidence, because neither the tipper nor the tippee is likely to reveal the offence.

In view of the very serious position to shop assistants, has the Minister actually any evidence that there is any tipping of shop assistants in this country, and would he be good enough to take it from me that there is no tipping among Co-operative employees?

I do not know about that, but I am afraid that there is undoubted evidence which appears to have very substantial foundation in fact that the practice of tipping is employed by certain members of the public and in certain establishments.

Is it possible to have notices displayed in all the big stores that this practice is illegal and that penalties can be inflicted for indulging in it?

I would be glad to consider that, but there is the disadvantage of calling attention to an abuse though it exists.

Is not a great deal of this tipping in kind and not in cash?

Bombing Policy

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance that no representations made to His Majesty's Government by neutral countries suggesting the abandonment of air-bombing will be considered and that it is the policy of His Majesty's Government relentlessly to pursue all forms of military attack upon the enemy?

The destruction Of the Axis war potential by air bombing is a vital and indeed major feature of our strategy, and neither the enemy nor anyone else will divert us from it. Nor shall we relax the vigorous prosecution of the war by this and other legitimate methods until the complete victory of the United Nations is achieved.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is an ever-growing volume of opinion in this country which considers the indiscriminate bombing of civilian centres both morally wrong and strategic lunacy?

There is no indiscriminate bombing. As has been repeatedly stated in this House, the bombing is of those targets which are most effective from the military point of view.

Can we have the kind of thing that the hon. Gentleman calls public opinion on this matter?

On a point of Order. Is there any way of preventing statements like this being made in the House?

Does my right hon. Friend realise that his answer will be appreciated by all sensible people in this country?

Will the right hon. Gentleman at least give consideration to any representations made by Christian Churches on this matter?