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Food Supplies

Volume 415: debated on Wednesday 31 October 1945

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Vegetables

54.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that vegetables grown in the East Lothian area in Scotland and now surplus to market requirements are likely to be ploughed back into the ground; what immediate steps he proposes to take to avoid this waste; and if he will consider the establishment of de hydrating facilities for market garden produce in this part of Scotland.

I am aware that some cabbage is available in excess of present requirements in the East Lothians as in other producing areas. I regret that so far as the crop exceeds the total demands of consumers and of the processing plant, it may have to be used for stock feeding or be ploughed in as green manure. The reply to the last part of the Question is "No, Sir."

Pigeons (Feeding Stuffs)

55.

asked the Minister of Food how soon it will be possible to issue food coupons to pigeon fanciers other than those who are members of the National Pigeon Service.

58.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the fact that pigeon fancying and racing form a principal hobby of miners in remote parts of the country, as well as of the usefulness of pigeons for communicating purposes in an emergency, he will extend the ration of pigeon food now allowed to members of the National Pigeon Service and to other members of pigeon clubs.

I am afraid that there is no immediate prospect of rations being made available for pigeon fanciers other than those who are members of the National Pigeon Service.

While appreciating the right hon. Gentleman's possible difficulties in this matter, may I ask if it is the case that much more generous treatment is given to greyhounds and other animals which race, and does he not think that if this is so, comparable treatment might be given to persons who go in for pigeon racing?

I am not competent to give an answer with regard to greyhounds. It already takes 6,200 tons of food to supply the birds covered by the National Pigeon Service, and on the pre-war estimate of 2,500,000 birds it would need 45,000 tons to maintain them.

Will the right hon. Gentleman do his best to keep the dove of peace alive?

Sugar (Shipments To France)

56.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the reluctance of farmers to maintain the war-time acreages of sugar beet, believing that the recent shipments of sugar to France do not indicate any shortage here; and whether he has any statement to make on the matter.

The feeling to which my hon. Friend refers is based on a misapprehension. The recent shipments of sugar to France were by way of loan and are being repaid out of allocations made to France by the Combined Food Board. On the best estimate that can be made, world supplies of sugar in 1946will be no more than sufficient to maintain the present rates of world consumption. Home production from war-time acreages has provided this country with about 30 per cent. of its total requirements. In view of the world supply outlook it would be premature to contemplate a reduction in sugar beet acreage.

Grain Storage, Norfolk

57.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the difficulties in Norfolk since harvest in the storing and transport of grain; whether he has been able to obtain additional storage facilities from the Air Ministry; and whether he is making ample arrangements for next year's grain crops by acquiring the use of hangars and equip ping them where necessary with drying apparatus.

As regards the first and second parts of the Question, sufficient storage space has so far been secured during the present season to enable forwarding instruction to be given to sellers of home-grown grain. Such difficulties in moving grain as have arisen were due rather to transport problems than to shortage of storage accommodation. Every effort is being made to overcome these transport difficulties. As regards the last part of the Question, consideration is at present being given to the arrangements for storage of grain from the crops to be harvested in 1946.

Eggs And Poultry

59.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the black market in eggs and poultry has consider ably increased and that his enforcement officers find it almost impossible to enforce the various price orders; and what steps he proposes to take to combat this evil and to ensure fair distribution of the limited supplies available.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." As regards eggs, the present Regulations provide for the equitable distribution of the available supplies, and in the enforcement of those Regulations satisfactory results have been and are being obtained. As regards poultry, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given on 29th October to the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Lieut.-Colonel Walker-Smith).

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the answer he has given is not in accordance with the general opinion among the farming community?

I am not here to bolster up the opinion of any particular or peculiar section in the country. I have given a statement of the facts as I find them.

Meat Trade Employees (Class B Releases)

60.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the Manchester and Salford Meat Traders' Association asked for the support of the divisional food officer in regard to 50 applications for Class B release and that in each case they were informed that they had no claim, being distributors not producers; and will he cause clear instructions to be issued to the divisional food officer.

I am informed that of 48 cases put forward by this association seven were sponsored by the divisional food officer on industrial grounds, and some of these men are already back in their occupations. I think that the instructions issued to the divisional food officer in this matter are adequate.

Retail Shops (Re-Opening)

61.

asked the Minister of Food how many food-retailing shops have been re-opened under the scheme announced by his Ministry last July; and what is the total number of applicants to re-open at present on the register kept by Food Control Committees.

During the period 16th July, 1945, to 15th September, 1945, 892 retail licences were granted to returning ex-traders to re-open businesses which they closed because of the war. I regret that the information requested in the latter part of the Question is not available.

Cannot the Minister increase it; is not 892 a very small number?

My Divisional Food Officers are of course always susceptible to inquiries.

Gas Workers (Cheese Ration)

62.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will consider the granting of the special cheese ration to stokers in the gas industry where the number of such workers is small and the employer makes no provision for canteen facilities, as in the case of the gas company at Market Harborough, Leicestershire.

No, Sir. I am advised that in general it should be possible for the gas industry to provide canteens or packed meals for its employees. I regret that I cannot see my way to make special arrangements for workers at individual plants where the employer does not make such provision.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that many of these men live in the surrounding villages and that their shifts extend over a seven-day week, so that when the employer does not provide a canteen great hardship is inflicted upon a very fine body of men?

The obvious reply to that is that they can get packed meals whatever their working days are. It is quite impossible for me to put in an organisation to meet every request from every quarter.

Imports And Exports

63.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will issue a comprehensive statement on the quantities of food being received in this country from overseas at the present time; the quantities stored; and the quantities being exported to ex-enemy territories and former occupied territories in Europe.

I regret that I am not able to give details of imports and exports of food other than those which are given in the accounts relating to the trade of the United Kingdom issued periodically by the Board of Trade. I do not propose to disclose the levels of stocks of food held in this country.

Could the right hon. Gentleman make a statement of the amount of food we are exporting to Europe at the present time, as considerable disquiet exists on that subject?

That will appear in the documents to which I have already referred the hon. Member.

Short Weight (Complaints)

66.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will take steps to safeguard retailers against short weight by wholesalers; and whether he is aware of the prevalence of this practice during recent months.

Complaints by retailers of short weight supplies by wholesalers have been confined almost exclusively to the fresh fruit and vegetable trade; they have not increased during recent months. My officers are always prepared to investigate any such complaints and to take suitable action, but experience has shown that it is most difficult to secure evidence in this type of case owing to the reluctance of the retailer to give information or evidence. I am however looking into this matter.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the retailer is reluctant to give this information for fear of being black-listed by the wholesalers?

That does not reflect the sturdy independence we expect from a Britisher.

Orange Juice

67.

asked the Minister of Food why orange juice is not made available for children over five years of age who have been released from Japanese prison camps.

I am advised that children over five years of age obtain an adequate supply of Vitamin C from their ordinary diet. Where, for any reason, this does not apply, rose hip syrup, blackcurrant puree and synthetic Vitamin C tablets are available.

Yes, Sir. I have tried them. I think they are excellent as a hot drink in the winter.

Turkey Supplies, Blackburn

69.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the Blackburn Co-operative Society has had no allocation of British, Northern Ireland or imported turkeys during the whole period of controlled distribution; and whether, in view of the fact the Society had a large sale of Northern Ireland turkeys before the war, he will take steps to see that they receive an allocation this Christmas.

I understand that the Blackburn Co-operative Society received a small number of imported turkeys last year from the Co-operative Wholesale Society, and that a similar supply will be provided again this year. I do not control the distribution of home-produced turkeys and it would not be practicable to increase the number of towns receiving Northern Irish supplies by the inclusion of Blackburn.

Is the Minister aware that the allocation made last year amounted to one dozen turkeys among 20,000 customers, and is he satisfied with the allocation of Northern Ireland turkeys to the eight big towns of this country, leaving out the smaller towns which have equal rights to enjoy this elusive delicacy?

I can only repeat that the allocation is made by the Co-operative Wholesale Society, from which Blackburn gets its allocation. On the other hand, I have agreed, in an endeavour to attract turkeys to towns such as this, that home-produced turkeys can be sold at 2d. per lb. more.