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Food Supplies

Volume 411: debated on Wednesday 6 June 1945

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Fish

47.

asked the Minister of Food what arrangements he has made to ensure that catches of herring for which there is no possibility of immediate sale fresh shall be kippered and not wasted.

All possible arrangements have been made to kipper any herrings that cannot be sold fresh to the full capacity of the smokehouses.

In view of the reduction in the quantity of protein-containing foods, is it not important to increase the supply of fish?

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend make representations to the Admiralty to release, before October, the buildings and grounds at Lowestoft and Yarmouth which are required for kippering the large herring catch?

That is a question which should be put to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty.

48.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will take the necessary steps to improve the distribution of fish in the rural areas of the North Riding of Yorkshire.

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that rural areas suffer a great disadvantage compared to urban areas in the matter of fish distribution, because they have no fish shops? Will he make representations to his colleagues that travelling fish merchants should have every facility to make fish rounds?

If it is merely a question of getting a fish licence, in any area where there is a consumer need there would be very little difficulty in getting a licence from my Department to sell fish.

49.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that John Donnelly, of 211, Hilton Road, Sunderland, is hawking herring in the township of Crook, and travelling over 40 miles each day to do this work; and if he will arrange for a better distribution of herring in the Crook area and thus cut out this waste of time and petrol.

This man is carrying out useful work in distributing fish, and I see no reason to put him out of a job.

Is the Minister aware that business men in Crook cannot understand why a man should be allowed to travel 40 miles to sell fish on their doorsteps, when they are already selling fish?

I like to see fish sold on doorsteps if we can get the facilities to do it.

But is not the Minister aware that this man is travelling 40 miles to sell fish on the doorsteps of men who are in the trade? [Hon. Members: "Why not?"] Surely the people in business ought to get better distribution which would give them a chance to sell.

This man is also in the trade as a distributor of fish. In regard to other facilities there, there are one fishmonger, 11 fish fryers, and nine fishmonger fryers to serve the Crook and Willingdon area, so there are plenty of "inlets" for fish.

Will the Minister make the amenities of Crook available to the whole country?

Potatoes

50.

asked the Minister of Food if his attention has been drawn to irregularities in the supply of potatoes reaching the Merseyside area; and what steps he proposes to remedy the existing shortage.

Yes, Sir, and all possible steps are being taken to ease the position, but I fear that some shortages are likely before the new crop is available in adequate volume.

Would the Minister care, without notice, to make a statement with regard to the prospects of the new potato crop?

The old crop potatoes are now coming towards their end. We knew from the beginning of the year—and I said so frankly to the House—that because of the difficulties of last autumn we should have difficulties at this period with our potatoes. The new Cornish crop is now coming in, and we are deflecting supplies to the areas where there are the least supplies of the old crop potatoes.

63.

asked the Minister of Food why Shropshire has been excluded from those areas to receive an allocation of Cornish early potatoes; whether he is aware that Shropshire as a producing county has exported all its potato surplus under instructions of his Ministry; and whether he will take steps to see that Shropshire shall share with other counties in receiving a reasonable allocation of early potatoes.

The stock of old potatoes in Shropshire is still sufficient to meet a fair proportion of the demand and I do not, therefore, propose to allocate Cornish new potatoes to that district at present.

Returning Foreign Visitors (Food Parcels)

53.

asked the Minister of Food what quantity of food raised in this country a Belgian or a Frenchman coming to this country on business can take back as part of his luggage.

Does that mean that a farmer cannot give to a Belgian friend, who is starving, a bit of ham or bacon?

Fruit

54.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the extreme shortage of fruit reaching retailers; to what extent this is due to the diversion of supplies through other channels in which exorbitant prices are obtained; and what steps he is taking to deal with this matter.

Yes, Sir; because the sale of soft fruit has only just started. I have no evidence of sales through any but the normal trade channels, and when we have sufficient evidence that a sale contravenes our maximum price order a prosecution is instituted.

If the Minister has no information what are his enforcement officers and the police doing?

I regret to say that we have had quite a number of prosecutions, mainly of street fruit hawkers, for charging above the maximum prices.

Can the Minister tell us why it is possible to buy British strawberries in expensive restaurants at 2s. 6d. per dish or portion, and it is not possible to buy them in ordinary shops, through the normal channels?

Strawberries are only to be found in restaurants; they cannot be found in the ordinary markets.

Can the Minister assure the House that his lack of information is not due to any reluctance on the part of the Government to enforce adequate control?

I can certainly inform the hon. Member of that, and tell him that the policy I have pursued as Minister of Food is just the same to-day as it was a year ago.

Tomatoes

55.

asked the Minister of Food whether there is any prospect of tomatoes being available for retail in the shops in the County of Durham and the North-east area; whether he is aware they have been obtainable in London for the past month, and, having in mind the recent cut in rationed foods, whether he will endeavour at an early date to have some of the available tomatoes sent North where demand is very large.

Yes, Sir; supplies have already been sent to Durham and the North-east area and as more tomatoes become available more will go.

What steps is the Minister taking to control the distribution of over-ripe tomatoes during the next month?

Food Lists

56.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will put up in hotels, eating-houses, schools and council houses, lists of those foods which contain carbohydrates, fats, proteins and vitamins.

My Department already supplies a list such as my hon. and gallant Friend mentions to schools, domestic science colleges and lecturers.

May I ask my right hon. and gallant Friend whether there is any such list in the House; whether there are only two Cabinet Ministers who know what the list is, and whether man-power does not come before weapon power?

Certainly there is a list in the House, because I have one here. I also have a poster, a copy of which I shall be delighted to send to my hon. and gallant Friend if he knows any place which would like to exhibit it.

Shop Queues

57.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will in- crease stocks in retail shops and take other steps calculated to reduce the length of queues in the interests of the health of the people.

61.

asked the Minister of Food whether he can introduce some arrangement which will reduce the amount of queueing which now has to be done.

So far as the main rationed foods are concerned, the increase of stocks in retail shops would not reduce queues which are caused almost entirely by shortage of staff. As regards those foods which it is impracticable to ration, I regret that shortage of supplies prevents my taking action at present of the kind suggested by my hon. Friends.

Wheat

58.

asked the Minister of Food what steps he is taking to relieve the present glut of wheat in storage in the Southern area of England as, in view of the impossibility of accepting further deliveries, all his storage facilities for the use of. the millers being exhausted, farmers are compelled to keep the wheat in their barns, etc., subject to rat and mice attack; and, as further arrivals of Canadian wheat are making the sitution worse, if he will ship more wheat to the Continent to relieve the scarcity in France, Belgium and Holland, etc.

60.

asked the Minister of Food whether in connection with wheat for milling, he will give an explanation in respect of the difficulties farmers in many parts of the country are experiencing in selling their wheat, the difficulties the public are experiencing in many parts of the country in purchasing cereals, such as wheat flakes; and why, in view of the heavy stocks of wheat available, wheat flakes and other cereals are still to remain on points.

Recent heavy threshings of wheat have caused a temporary surplus in some areas which cannot be immediately absorbed by millers. My Department is purchasing and storing the surplus. Substantial quantities of wheat have been and are being supplied to the liberated countries of Europe. The reason why wheat flakes and other breakfast cereals have to be rationed is not shortage of wheat but shortage of labour in the processing factories.

As I have said, the Ministry have now undertaken to purchase and store the surplus.

Meat Ration (Offal)

62.

asked the Minister of Food whether he can do anything to bring about a more equitable distribution of offal, in view of the smallness of the meat ration.

Issues of offal are based on the allocations of ration meat to butchers who, generally speaking, spread their supplies fairly among their customers. I shall be glad to look into any specific complaint of which my hon. Friend may be able to give me particulars.

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend really believe that offal is at present fairly distributed? Is he inviting householders to communicate with him?

I shall send my right hon. and gallant Friend a large number of communications.

Home-Killed Meat

64.

asked the Minister of Food to what extent the meat produced in this country is sent to prisoner-of-war camps and foreign or frozen meat supplied to British people; and will he take steps to see that all the meat produced in this country is consumed by British people.

Home-killed meat is only supplied to prisoner-of-war camps in districts where imported meat is excluded at the request of the Agricultural Departments. The amount of meat involved is infinitesimal.

Ration Reduction (Petition)

65.

asked the Minister of Food whether he has considered a Petition from the inhabitants of Wattsville, Cross Keys, Monmouthshire, protesting against the reductions in rations and asking that they may be restored, or in creased, especially to men engaged in hard manual work; and what reply he has made.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." The answer to the petition is that the reductions would not have been made had supplies been sufficient to maintain rations at their previous levels.