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Food Supplies

Volume 411: debated on Wednesday 13 June 1945

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Wheat Surplus, Scotland


asked the Minister of Food what steps he is taking to remedy the difficulties of fanners in the South of Scotland who are finding it impossible to market wheat owing to the conditions of surplus which have arisen.

This surplus is now being purchased and stored by my Department.

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend not aware that the moment chosen for unloading this stock of wheat on to the Scottish market was a singularly unfortunate one, because it was at precisely the moment when Scottish farmers had an increased amount of wheat for sale, and will he see that it does not occur again?

I understand that we had an abnormal number of threshings by farmers which put additional wheat on the market, and because the millers themselves could not take it, my Department stepped in and stored it.

Co-Operative Society Tea Party, Hitchin


asked the Minister of Food if any additional allocation of food was given to the Letchworth, Hitchin and District Co-operative Society for a special tea party given at Hitchin town hall on 9th June; and, if not, whether he will have inquiries made as to where the food was obtained.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." The normal supplies of food available to a catering establishment were used on the occasion to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers.

Has my right hon. and gallant Friend had any protest from the local traders on this subject.

It is the ordinary practice that catering establishments provide teas if they are allowed to do so. That is why they are catering establishments.

Does this Question not demonstrate that if you want more food you should join the local co-operative society?

I do not think it demonstrates that at all. What it demonstrates is that this co-operative society was working completely within the rules, but it does not mean that other caterers could not have provided this tea.

Was there any tinge of propaganda attached to that supplementary question?

Rations (Reductions)


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.

Local Holiday Weeks (Food Allocation)


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that some local authorities during Holiday Weeks at Home instituted by them in their districts, were in the past able to utilise the food from the works canteens of factories closed for those weeks; that those local authorities who have followed the recent advice given to spread these holiday weeks over a two-monthly period can no longer take advantage of this canteen food arrangement; and whether, in the special circumstances, he will make a special allocation of food to these local authorities.

The request to local authorities to extend the period of their summer entertainment programme was coupled with a request to industrial undertakings to stagger their workers' holidays. Where this is done it will be possible to utilise food from the works canteens under the arrangements to which my hon. Friend refers.

Where this arrangement has not been possible, will it be possible for the Minister to authorise local authorities to borrow small quantities of food from these canteens, which have these stocks?

I am afraid not, because the stocks are there against future demands.

Infant Welfare Foods (Cheltenham)


asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that large stocks of orange juice and cod liver oil are going bad in Cheltenham; and will he agree to the request of the local food committee that these infant welfare foods should be sold at the food office for cash instead of by the present system of postage stamps.

The answer to both parts of the hon. Member's Question is "No, Sir."

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that under the present arrangements harassed and tired mothers are expected to wait in two queues, one at the post office and one at the food office, and that if he will adopt the suggestion in the Question, more children will benefit from these infant welfare foods?

I do not know anything about the post offices, but there are not normally queues in any of these welfare food sections of the food offices. The reason for payment being made in stamps is to save a vast accounting procedure. If we had to have accounting officers in the 12,000 distribution centres it would mean a tremendous increase in staff. Moreover, as soon as dried milk came under the same system the demand, in fact, increased.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman have another look at this matter to see if he can find another way in which the waste of these infant welfare foods can be obviated?

There is no waste. In Cheltenham there is only five weeks' supply of orange juice and rather more of cod liver oil. Both keep as long as that.



asked the Minister of Food if he can now report on the recent glut supplies of herring; and the steps taken to avoid repetition of wasted catches.

The comparatively small quantities of herring landed so far this season cannot be regarded as glut supplies, and I am not aware of any wasted catches. We have made considerable arrangements to kipper or cure surplus herrings.



asked the Minister of Food if he is aware of the shortage of oatmeal in various parts of Scotland; and what steps he has taken to prevent supplies leaving the country and to ensure larger production in the future.

Arrangements have been made to meet any temporary shortage of oatmeal by allocating supplies from Ministry stocks of imported oat products. Supplies are not being exported other than for the use of our Forces. The capacity of the industry is sufficient to meet requirements.

Will the Minister explain this rather surprising shortage? Why did it happen?

There was a pretty bad oat crop last year. We have not been able to make as much of this oatmeal as normally because of this shortage. We took steps to get oat products from Canada to make up the required amount, and we are now putting them on the market.

When oatmeal is exported from Scotland to England, and other foreign countries, will the Minister try to make sure that proper instructions are sent with it in order to see that it is properly cooked? In view of the shortage of supplies will the Minister try to see that English people do not add sugar to their porridge?

I quite agree, in reply to the latter part of that question, that sugar does spoil it. But I do not think we had better draw a line between Scotland and England as to exporting because Scotland would come off very much the worse if that line were drawn.

Will the Minister take care that where there has been a temporary shortage of what I am told is called porridge oats, which forms a large part of infant dietary, provision is made to remedy that situation?

If the hon. Member has any information as to any place where there is this particular shortage, I will try to see that it is overcome.

Soap Supplies, London


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the continuing hardship caused by shortages of soap in London shops at the present time; and whether he will take steps to remedy this situation.

The reply to both parts of my hon. Friend's Question is "Yes, Sir."

Manufactured Paper (Imports)


asked the Minister of Supply why manufactured paper is to be imported from Sweden; and if he will consider instead making paper from materials at present in this country or importing the raw material.

Our first endeavour is to secure supplies of materials to enable production in this country to be increased to the maximum extent, but it is also necessary to take the opportunity of importing certain quantities of paper to supplement home production.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that this is the thin end of the wedge? We want work in this country not imported manufactured materials.

Is the Minister aware that paper mills, through restriction of raw materials, have only been working up to 15 to 50 per cent. of their output during the war, and that there are hundreds of thousands of tons of wood pulp in Sweden ready to be shipped? Why does the Minister want to ship paper instead of the raw material?

We have made contracts and arrangements for shipping the pulp from Sweden, and as soon as shipping facilities are available the pulp will be shipped.

Is it not a fact that farmers find great difficulty in selling their straw for the purpose of making paper?

Will the Minister take note, and pass the information to the Prime Minister, that his supporters want State interference and State control?

Is it not a fact that there are a large number of industries in this country which require manufactured paper, and which have not been able to work at full capacity for many years; and will the Minister remember that it will help the provision of civilian requirements if we get this manufactured paper in quickly?

It is because of the need for getting this paper in quickly that we are importing now.

War Factories, Merseyside (Demonstration)

I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question, of which I have given him Private Notice: Is he aware that today, in Liverpool, a demonstration of war factory workers of Merseyside is being held; that men and women workers, after years of service in the interest of the nation, are fearing dismissal, and they are anxious to know from the Prime Minister what security of employment the Government can offer them?

With all due respect, the notice was handed to officials last night at 6 o'clock, addressed to the right hon. Gentleman by me, after I had referred the matter to Mr. Speaker.

I certainly have not had it. I am not in any way prepared to deal in detail with the very difficult, delicate and also immense questions connected with the function of women in the immediate post-war world. I imagine that many will seek release to retire to their homes. The arrival of the demobilised Army men will make great changes. I remember being much worried about this when I was Minister of Munitions at the end of the last war, when I had, I think, over 1,250,000 women under the direct control of that office. It all worked out quite all right for the actual moment; when men came back, the women, in many cases, gave up their jobs. My misfortunes did not begin until a year after that.

In the first place, my letter was addressed to the Prime Minister. I take it that the Prime Minister is in the House and that officials know the Prime Minister. Therefore, I cannot understand why this letter should go astray. The subject of the question I now ask the Prime Minister ought, as a matter of policy, to be in the mind of the Prime Minister, and he ought to be able to answer it, even though a letter has not been addressed to him. Having conformed to the rules of the House, and wishing to meet the desires of the people now meeting in Liverpool, may I ask the Prime Minister if he will attempt to allay their anxieties?

The hon. Member must remember that he himself was alone responsible for seeing that the notice went to the Prime Minister.

If I hand a letter to the duly accredited representative who takes letters, is not that sufficient?

I do not understand what the hon. Member means by "the duly accredited representative."

On a point of Order. This question is not one of women in industry, but of redundancy.

That is not a point of Order; it is a point of argument. A point of Order must relate to the procedure of this House, and to nothing else.

The question is about a demonstration of 3,000 Liverpool workers, men and women, who are afraid of being dismissed. Surely the Government have a policy on redundancy.

The hon. Gentleman is one of the greatest employers of the policy of using a point of Order without any relation whatever to the rights of Members in that respect. I have watched him for a long time. He thinks he can always get in by saying that it is a point of Order. I would like to answer my hon. Friend the Member for the Toxteth Division of Liverpool—[Hon. Members: "No, Scotland Division"]—well, I was not far away; I should have said the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) by saying how very sorry I am that the accident occurred. I take no responsibility at this stage for the accident, but the fact that it has occurred is patent. How it can be remedied is also patent. If my hon. Friend will put down this Question to-morrow, as a Private Notice Question, and if the Chair allows it, I will take steps now to receive from him particulars of the Question which he wishes to ask. He has only to repeat it, and I shall be, as ever, at his service.

Is the Prime Minister not aware that this ogre, unemployment, is beginning to rear its head in many parts of the country?

If this demonstration was arranged yesterday, as we are informed, would it not have been the proper procedure to put the matter to the Minister of Labour for arbitration?

That is not a matter for me. My duty is to see that the Question is in Order. That is as far as I am concerned.