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Food Supplies (Distribution)

Volume 414: debated on Monday 15 October 1945

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15.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that much of the food supplies sent by this country through U.N.R.R.A. is finding its way in Balkan countries, especially in Yugoslavia, into the hands of the military forces in those countries instead of to the civilian population; that it is popularly supposed to be coming from Russian sources; and what steps U.N.R.R.A. is taking to ensure that supplies reach the persons for whom they are intended.

I have been asked to reply. I have consulted the European Director of U.N.R.R.A. and I understand that it is the Administration's policy to ensure that their supplies are made available to civilians only, and that they are justly distributed. To this end, the Administration appoints observers to supervise distribution, and to assist the local Government. It also appoints other special officers to inform the public about its work, and about the sources of its supplies. It has occasionally been alleged that the principle of equitable distribution has not been observed. Such complaints are always investigated by the Administration acting in co-operation with the Government concerned; hitherto, most of them have proved to be unfounded. The Administration has already received the report to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, and an investigation is now going on.

Does this not emphasise the desirability of having representatives of a free Press, as in countries like our own and the United States, present to be able to substantiate or deny these allegations?

I think they can only be substantiated or denied by responsible U.N.R.R.A. officials inquiring into the matter. They have full facilities for making inquiries, and I think the hon. Member may trust the results they obtain.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether in all the countries where these U.N.R.R.A. supplies are being distributed, U.N.R.R.A. is properly represented, that is to say if its representatives have the fullest right of investigation without interference by the local Government?