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Rations (Reductions)

Volume 411: debated on Wednesday 13 June 1945

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53.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will make a statement regarding the reason for the recent cuts in rations; and the possibilities of increases in rations at a future date.

The reductions in rations upon which the late Government decided, and which I announced in May, were due to a decline in world food production and an increase in demand. The fall in production is attributable to the continuing shortage of man-power in producing countries, to lack of fertilisers and to abnormal conditions of drought in the Southern Dominions, South Africa, South America and the Caribbean area. There has also been a decline in the pig population of North America. The increase in demand is due, in part, to the increased requirements of the liberated countries of Europe. With the return of men to food production throughout the world, output will increase, and with the demobilisation of men from the Services, military requirements will decline.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that very little attempt has been made to explain to the housewife the reason for this grievous reduction in her rations; and will he take steps to explain, in popular language, the reason for the change?

I am very sorry about that. I did my best. I gave a very long Press conference which was reported in practically every newspaper. It was also on the radio. I am doing, and will continue to do, my best.

Was it not remarkable that this cut in rations took place immediately after the change of Government?

That was not so at all. It was decided by the old Government, as any of the hon. Member's colleagues who were in that Government will inform him. It was decided by that Government and announced about a week after it had been decided, because of certain technical arrangements. It was a genuine decision. Any Government would have had to come to it, and I do hope that this really serious food question, with which the Ministry of Food has always tried to deal quite impartially, will not enter into the political arena, and that people will not make promises to consumers which, if they were fortunate enough to take my office, they know full well they could not perform.

May I assure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that the public as a whole quite understand the position in Europe and this country, and rather resent the position being exploited?

Would my right hon. and gallant Friend take steps to satisfy himself that the explanation he has given will have adequate publicity for the benefit of our troops overseas who are anxious about the effect of these on their families at home?

Is the Minister able to say when he thinks it may be possible for him or his Department to review the food situation? Can he give us any idea how long it will take before any new factors can be brought under review?

In regard to any livestock products it is rather a long-term business, especially in meat. Chickens and things of that sort can be reared as soon as more ships can be devoted to bringing feeding stuffs for them. We hope to do that. The oils and fats position will depend largely on how soon we can get back Malaya and the Dutch East Indies from whence large supplies of copra came before the war.