asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Soft Fruit) Order (Statutory Rule and Order,. 1943, No. 684), dated 7th May, which came into operation on 10th May, was not available to hon. Members in the Vote Office until 15th May; and will he indicate the date on which the Order could be purchased by the public?
Exceptional weather this year delayed the fixing of growers' prices for soft fruits. Accordingly, with fruit coming on to the market early the new prices had to be brought into operation on 10th May before printed copies of the Order could be made available to the public and to hon. Members. The prices, which were fixed after the fullest discussion with the trade, were announced on 6th May, and, following the usual practice of my Department, copies of the Order were available for inspection by any member of the public at any food office from the day of its operation. Printed copies could be purchased by the public on 13th May. I am informed that copies were sent to the Vote Office on the morning of the 14th, but apparently did not arrive until the 15th.
Does not the Parliamentary Secretary think it most unsatisfactory if the public are placed in a position where they may commit offences which they do not know are offences because copies of the law are not available?
My hon. Friend will appreciate that the soft fruit crop is a ticklish one to deal with, and we have to move very quickly when the crop is coming on to the market.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Carrots) Order (Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 686), signed on 8th May, which came into operation on 10th May, was not available to hon. Members in the Vote Office till 14th May; and will he indicate the date on which the Order could be purchased at the Stationery Office by the public?
This is a case in which it was desirable to give immediate effect to a decision to remove a restriction before printed copies of the Order could be made available. These copies were on sale to the public on 12th May, and I am informed were available in the Vote Office on 13th May.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that there are no fewer than seven Questions on the Order Paper to-day relating to Orders made by his Department, and does he not think that, together with the Questions asked yesterday and on previous days, they disclose the unsatisfactory position of his Department in regard to the manner in which Orders are brought into operation?
The House will appreciate that the Ministry of Food is dealing in many cases with highly perishable commodities, and action has often to be taken within 24 hours. The alternative is that I should have to explain waste of food in many instances if we did not make these Orders very quickly.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary look into the machinery of his Department that deals with this matter?
In view of the fact that the Order came into operation on the 10th and was available to the public on the 12th, can my hon. Friend explain what would be the position of a person who infringed the Order on the 10th or 11th?
There could not be any infringement, because the Order allows a person to sell carrots which he could not otherwise sell.
Are any steps taken to use the wireless to bring Orders to the notice of the public?
Every effort is made to use the wireless, with, I think, success.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Green Vegetables, etc.) General Licence (S.R. & O. No. 691 of 1943), which involves for its interpretation reference to one Order of 1942 and two Orders of 1943, did not contain any explanatory memorandum?
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Newport (Sir R. Clarry) and the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Etherton) on 26th May, but I may add that in appropriate cases my Department has now adopted the practice 'of adding explanatory notes to its Statutory Rules and Orders in accordance with the undertaking which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department gave to the House on that day.
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that tens of thousands of firms had to search back through two or three years of Orders, with the result that an enormous waste of time was entailed? Will he see that Orders are written and printed so that they may be understood without further research?
On this occasion there was a Press notice which was widely circulated indicating that the people concerned could sell their produce by count instead of by net weight.