Mr. William Brown
asked the Secretary for the Colonies whether he can make any statement about the food situation in Malta?
As the answer is necessarily long, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Following is the answer:
Yes, Sir, when the siege of Malta was raised at the end of last year the first task of the Government was to increase the rations of basic foodstuffs available to the people who had for many months been suffering from progressively severe privations. The early arrival of additional supplies which had been held in readiness made it possible to authorise substantial increases in the main articles of diet without delay. For example, during November, December and January last the ration of bread and sugar was increased by one-half, of paste was trebled and of fats was increased nearly four times. Further adjustments have been made in the ration scales during the year and while the rations in some respects still fall short of the estimated prewar level of consumption, they are not unsatisfactory.
Apart from increasing the basic rations the Government have been endeavouring to introduce variety into the diet by increasing the range of available foods. Considerable progress has been made in this direction and more will, I hope, be accomplished as a result of consultations which an officer of the Malta Government has recently had in this country, and of the efforts which are being made to obtain supplies for Malta from North Africa and Sicily. Cargoes of wines, citrus and almonds have already been received from Sicily and it is hoped to maintain regular shipments. Negotiations are being opened for the supply from North Africa of such commodities as dried dates, figs, apricots, peaches, tunny and sardines in brine. A further step which has recently been taken is the reopening of restaurants in which meals, necessarily limited to certain classes of food, may be served. The sale of local produce apart from fresh meat, vegetables, wine and cheese in the restaurant is prohibited.
Special arrangements have been made for children and invalids and it is particularly satisfactory that the Malta Government were able, as early as February last, to provide a ration of milk for children between the ages of 5 and 14. The ration which consists of half a pint of milk on six days a week is open to all children between the ages of 5 and 14 and more than 14,000 children were reported in July to be registered for this ration. Special measures have been taken to provide for the equitable distribution of fresh vegetables for which the Colony has to depend on its own resources. The system is working effectively and supplies are adequate although potatoes are, at present, short. This shortage should, however, be remedied when the new crop comes on the market in the spring.
I attach a full statement of the ration scales at present in force in Malta.