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Food Supplies

Volume 395: debated on Wednesday 1 December 1943

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Milk Traders' Registration, Warsop

48.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that in the area of the Warsop Food Control Committee his Department announced on 8th October, 1943, that in consequence of a change of ownership persons registered with Mrs. A. Chamberlain, Assarts Farm, Welbeck Colliery village, for milk would have their registrations automatically transferred to the new proprietor, Mr. B. W. Maddison, Castelle, Sherwood Street, Warsop; that consumers affected who could prove that they were members of a co-operative society could have their registrations transferred to the co-operative society delivering milk in the area, but that no other transfers of milk registrations would be allowed; and why local food committees are permitted to make such a differentiation?

Yes, Sir. An announcement in the terms described was published in the Warsop Food Area and was in accordance with instructions issued by my Department. In cases of changes of ownership of retail milk businesses in areas where a scheme of rationalisation is in force certain transfers of consumer registrations may be made. When a private trader sells his retail milk business to another private trader the registrations held by the seller are automatically transferred to the buyer with the exception of those consumers who can prove that they are members of a co-operative society and who wish to obtain milk from a society delivering in the area. The advertisement referred to was in accordance with this arrangement. Similarly in cases where a co-operative society purchases a private trader's business, consumers who are not members of a co-operative society are permitted to have their registrations transferred to a private dairyman distributing in accordance with the rationalisation scheme.

Are we to take it that henceforth it is the considered policy of the Ministry of Food that no other transfers of milk shall be allowed but to the co-operative society?

The hon. Gentleman may take it that the considered policy of the Department is as indicated in the reply.

Intoxicating Liquors (Labelling And Advertising)

50.

asked the Minister of Food whether the Regulations concerning Foods (Labelling and Advertising), issued on 9th November, apply to intoxicating liquors to prevent advertisements which were de- scribed by the Royal Commission on Licensing as containing palpable scientific untruths?

The Regulations to which my hon. Friend refers do apply to intoxicating liquors.

Is it very wise to permit this advertising of intoxicating liquor to go on when the whole country is really distressed about the increased drinking among juveniles?

I do not think the Noble Lady's question is relevant to the Question on the Paper.

Milk (Self-Wholesaling Allowances)

51.

asked the Minister of Food what amounts in respect of self-wholesaling allowances were paid, or will be paid, for the period 1st November, 1942, to 31st October, 1943, to co-operative societies in different parts of the country, to the Express Dairy and to United Dairies; and if any estimate can be given for the same payments for the 12 months ending 31st October, 1944?

It has not been the practice to disclose, in relation to particular firms or trading organisations, information of the character suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend, and I hope he will not press me to do so.

In view of the fact that this money comes out of the taxpayer's pocket, does the Parliamentary Secretary not feel that I am justified in asking this Question?

I would be very willing to give the total figures, but the hon. and gallant Member is asking for figures which there is no obligation on companies to disclose under the Companies Act. I think it would raise a difficult matter of principle.

Is it not the case that co-operative societies did not wish for this allowance, and is it not obviously a waste of public money?

As the producer-retailers do not get the same as bigger concerns, is it not a matter for the public to know the reason why?

I am very willing to give the total figures, but this is a Question which asks me to segregate particular firms and particular co-operative societies and to give information which discloses facts about their businesses which are normally not made public.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary really take up the position that this House is not entitled to have information about money paid from public sources? If so, it is an entirely novel one.

I precisely did not take up that position. If the House wants the information, it must have it. What I did was to ask the hon. and gallant Member not to press me. I would like to have an opportunity of presenting in considered form the question of principle involved to the House but of course if the House wants the information it must have it.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell me how I can get the information?

52.

asked the Minister of Food the amount payable in respect of self-wholesaling allowances to milk producers for the 12 months from 1st November, 1942, to 31st October, 1943; and by how much per gallon the price to producers could have been raised if this same sum of money had been paid to the producers?

The allowances to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers are not payable to producers. A few producer retailers are eligible for them, but the amount involved is negligible and would make no difference to producer prices if spread over the whole of milk production.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell me what sum of money is in fact being paid throughout the country for this self-wholesaling allowance?

The hon and gallant Member asked what was the amount payable in respect of producers. There is no allowance in respect of producers.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell me what sum of money is being paid out of the taxpayer's pocket in respect of this self-wholesaling allowance?

The hon. and gallant Member's Question gave me some trouble. I thought he had made a mistake, but I answered the Question. I thought he meant distributors, and I think he does, but he did not so notify me. If that is what he does mean the figure for the year ended 31st October, 1943, was approximately £2,400,000. I cannot give an exact estimate for the year ending the 31st October, 1944.

Christmas Turkeys

53.

asked the Minister of Food why a central commission at Smithfield has been entrusted with the distribution of turkeys for Christmas; why they propose to do this on the basis of retailers' pre-war orders; whether he is aware that this is very unfair as populations have altered owing to bombing and evacuation; and whether he will institute a fairer scheme of distribution?

The arrangements for the distribution of turkeys from Northern Ireland, to which I assume my hon. Friend refers, were explained in detail in my reply on the 23rd November to the hon. Members for Edinburgh West (Lieut.-Commander Hutchinson) and Reigate (Mr. Touche). The allocation of supplies to traders in each area by a committee chosen by the local trade organisations concerned, acting under the guidance of my Department should, in my view, ensure equitable distribution amongst retailers. Moreover, arrangements are being made in each area for the setting up of an independent body to which retailers may appeal if they are dissatisfied with the decision of the local committee on their application for a share of the supplies. The proportion of the total supplies of Northern Ireland turkeys allotted to each of the five selected areas was determined by my Department, on the basis of the latest available estimate of civilian population in each Food Area. The equitable distribution of the supplies allotted to each centre among the retailers there is more likely to be achieved by reference to their pre-war trade than in any other manner.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that a large part of my constituency has been told that it is to have no turkeys at all? Would he look into that matter?

I think that turkeys are not yet on general sale, and I think that the hon. Member's constituency will find itself rather better placed than some others.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in most working-class areas butchers purchased foreign turkeys in 1938 and will not participate in this scheme of distribution, but the West End shops, which catered for better-class trade, will get the bulk of the supply from Northern Ireland and English turkeys as well?

That is not quite right. Eire turkeys are a far larger supply than Northern Ireland turkeys, and any butcher who purchased imported turkeys before the war from wholesalers who are now members of the distributing association will, wherever they may be, be entitled to have a share in these Eire turkeys, and of course there are the home produced turkeys as well.

Will they have a contrasting quota for the foreign turkeys they purchased in 1938?

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether he has been able to make effective provision in this distribution for the Armed Forces?

Yes, Sir. I should like to say that the Armed Forces have co-operated by issuing an order prohibiting the purchase of turkeys by messes, and General Devers, the General commanding the American forces in the European theatre of operations, has with great consideration issued an order prohibiting the purchase by units or individuals of the American forces of turkeys in the open market or direct from producers.

In working-class areas where turkeys are not available will the Parliamentary Secretary consider arranging for a supply of geese?

54.

asked the Minister of Food whether it is his intention to allocate to Hull a quota of Irish turkeys; and, if not, why not?

Poultry retailers and caterers in Hull who, before the war, purchased imported turkeys from wholesalers who are now members of the Association of Wholesale Distributors of Imported Poultry and Rabbits, Limited, should receive a fair proportion of Eire turkeys under the arrangements referred to in my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) and the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Touche) on 23rd November. As was explained in that reply, it has not been found practicable at the outset of the new scheme to make arrangements for the direction of Northern Ireland turkeys to Hull.

Is my hon. Friend not aware that supplies of poultry in the immediate countryside are very small, and that his reply probably means that turkeys will not be available in Hull at Christmas-time?

It is perfectly correct that the supply of turkeys is very small indeed. There are approximately 1,500,000 for the whole country; hon. Members will appreciate that that cannot work out better than one for every 10 families. We cannot make more.

Will my hon. Friend see that no Member of Parliament eats turkey at Christmas?

Will there be any turkeys for consumption in Hull? Can the Minister reply to that?

Having regard to the widespread famine on the Continent, among our Allies, would the hon. Gentleman agree that the less we discuss these matters in public the better it will be?

Why has my right hon. Friend refused to allocate supplies to his own city of Leeds, where there are 500,000 people?

Will the hon. Gentleman arrange to sink all the turkeys in the Irish Sea?

56.

asked the Minister of Food whether he realises that the system of distribution inaugurated by his Department for turkeys from Northern Ireland results in the South Staffordshire industrial area, hitherto largely dependent on supplies from that quarter, receiving supplies neither direct nor through the Birmingham wholesalers from whom they regularly buy, whereas the Birmingham consumer receives both a privileged supply and the right of drawing through wholesalers from the common pool; and whether he will immediately rectify this inequality?

64.

asked the Minister of Food whether adequate provision has now been made for an allocation of turkeys to retailers in the Stretford area, equal in proportion to that made to Manchester and other areas?

The number of turkeys from Northern Ireland will be small, and is expected to be no more than one-fifth of the total supplies available in Great Britain. To create special machinery for a precisely equitable distribution over the whole country would not be justifiable on man-power grounds, even if it were practicable. Arrangements for fair distribution amongst retailers in the five areas which, before the war, bought a large proportion of the Northern Ireland supplies have, however, been found practicable. Whilst this will result in some concentration of the Northern Ireland supplies in a limited number of areas, this is considered preferable to permitting a repetition of the conditions which prevailed last year. Although poultry retailers in South Staffordshire and those parts of Lancashire outside Liverpool, Manchester and Salford will not receive Northern Ireland turkeys, they will be entitled, under the arrangements referred to in my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh and the hon. Member for Reigate on 23rd November, to a share of Eire turkeys if they bought imported poultry from a member of the Association before the war.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, when he speaks of the equitable distribution of these turkeys, he is referring much more to an equitable distribution among wholesalers than among retailers, and that places like Hull and Coventry are penalised very much indeed?

Fish Distribution, Manchester

57.

asked the Minister of Food what steps he has taken to implement the undertaking given by Lord Woolton to Members of Parliament representing Manchester Divisions on 26th May, 1943, when he agreed that Manchester had been receiving less than the per capita allowance of fish to which it would have been entitled on an arithmetical basis, and promised that he would see that the present grounds for the complaint that Manchester was not receiving its fair share of the country's fish supplies were removed?

A revised distribution scheme effecting certain adjustments in the supply of fish to Manchester has been in operation since 16th October last. While preliminary returns for the subsequent tour weeks indicate that the city is now receiving its per capita entitlement, it will not be possible to give a conclusive reply to my hon. Friend's Question until final figures are available in a few weeks' time.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this position might be met in Manchester by permitting more Icelandic trawlers to land fish at Fleetwood, thereby enabling them to make more voyages and saving four to six days, as against the present practice of landing the major portion of the fish at East Coast ports? It would also save a substantial amount of coal on each voyage.

Rural Areas (Rations)

58.

asked the Minister of Food what steps he proposes to take to give rural populations access to a fair share of additional rations which urban residents can consume at various public and private catering establishments?

As it is not practicable to provide British Restaurants in rural areas to the same extent as in urban areas, my Department has instituted the rural pie scheme and provided the special cheese ration for agricultural and other workers for whom canteens cannot be provided. In addition, farmers may obtain supplies of rationed foods for the provision of meals to their workers during harvest time and certain other periods of special seasonal activity.

While allowing those slight concessions to a limited number of people, will my hon. Friend agree that the rural population get a smaller share of rationed foodstuffs than the urban population?

Is it not true that the rural population get much less variety than the urban population?

Confectionery And Chocolate, Northern Ireland

61.

asked the Minister of Food whether the quota of confectionery and chocolate per week to which Northern Ireland is entitled is being supplied; and whether it has been provided in full during any rationing period?

I have no evidence of any failure to meet personal points coupons in Northern Ireland.

Is the Minister aware that I have heard to the contrary? Is Northern Ireland receiving the same amount of confectionery and chocolate proportionately to population as other parts of the United Kingdoms, and has Northern Ireland received its quota of 1¼ tons per week during any rationing period?

Northern Ireland receives its supplies of sugar confectionery in accordance with the personal points presented. There has been no failure.

62.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in order to obviate transport difficulties and overcome shortage of labour, he will transfer a largely increased quantity of sugar and other raw materials to manufacturers of confectionery in Northern Ireland where the required labour is obtainable and machinery available for producing a much larger output of confectionery?

I am informed that the spare production capacity in Northern Ireland in this industry is relatively small, and that the savings in labour and transport which would result from transferring production from Great Britain to Northern Ireland would also be small. The wartime associations in this industry have, however, arrangements for the transfer of production from one manufacturer to another in suitable cases on standard terms, and manufacturers in Northern Ireland desiring to use capacity not at present in use should get into touch with the association.

Is not the Minister aware of the great advantage that would accrue if we had more confectionery manufactured in Northern Ireland?

Potatoes, Northern Ireland (Price)

63.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will give due weight to the figures bearing on the cost of growing potatoes in Northern Ireland which have been placed before him, in fixing the price of potatoes grown in that part of the United Kingdom from 1st January, 1944?

All relevant facts will be fully examined before the level of Northern Ireland potato prices from 1st January, 1944, is determined.

Control Order Violations, Glasgow (Penalties)

65.

asked the Minister of Food whether his attention has been drawn to the disparity in the penalties imposed for violations of the various Food Control Orders in Glasgow; and will be take steps to have such offences dealt with by the Food Control Committee?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is becoming profitable to violate these Orders in Glasgow, by reason of the scale of penalties imposed by the Sheriff Court?

National Flour (Rope)

66.

asked the Minister of Food whether there is any evidence in the possession of his Department to show that there is any increase in the prevalence of rope in bakeries as a consequence of the use of national flour; and have any reports been received from master bakers or their associations on the subject?

My Department has no evidence that rope has been more prevalent since the introduction of national flour than in previous years. We have received no complaints on this subject recently from master bakers or their associations.