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Food Supplies

Volume 436: debated on Wednesday 30 April 1947

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asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the difficulty which many butchers throughout the country are experiencing in providing the meat ration, he will now state if the Government have been able to make arrangements for an adequate supply of meat to be available for the remaining months of 1947.

I am satisfied that the trade have sufficient meat from which to cut the ration and also to make some sausages. We shall import as much meat as possible but it remains to be seen whether we can get enough to fill the gap made in home production by the great frost.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there were exceptionally heavy killings of livestock at home in the autumn? Is he further aware that our cold storage position is very bad in this country, and does he intend to allow us to drift into a meat crisis without giving any warning?

No, Sir. I have given warning of the difficulties caused by the gap in home production on many occasions, and I am doing so again this afternoon.

But does the right hon. Gentleman intend to do something constructive to help?


asked the Minister of Food the average monthly weight of beef consigned from Aberdeenshire to other distributing centres during the last six months, and the average monthly weight retained for local consumption.


asked the Minister of Food when he will restore the cut which general butchers were called upon to make by relinquishing their total manufacturing meat allocation, in order to enable the meat ration to be maintained at 1s 4d.

As soon as supplies permit, but I cannot accept the hon. Member's implication that butchers have lost the whole of their manufacturing allowance.

Is the Minister aware that in actual fact the general butchers have no manufacturing meat left and often have to issue unsuitable meat for the ration, and as the present shortage may continue, would the Minister consider allocating a small proportion of the domestic meat ration for processing in the interests of feeding people better and also so that the housewives may have something to buy in the middle of the week?

Some meat is, of course, used for manufacturing purposes. It is not entirely used for the ration. Apart from any meat which the butchers can spare for manufacturing, other meat goes direct to the manufacturers, but I do not think that anything would be gained by adding to that proportion.

Is the Minister aware that the test for cutting a carcase proved that the butcher could not get the number of rations out of the carcase which the Minister has told him to do?

No, Sir. I am quite satisfied that that statement is without foundation.

Herring Industry (Control)


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the present system of partial and divided control over the herring fishing industry between his Department, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Scottish Office and the Herring Industry Board is leading to increasingly unsatisfactory results; and whether he will take immediate steps to give the Herring Board the powers necessary to exercise an effective control over the industry.

The Herring Industry Board is responsible to the Fisheries Ministers, not to me. Any important change in the present arrangements will involve legislation—and there is, I am afraid, no chance of that this Session.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that while arguments may be advanced in favour of Socialism or of free enterprise there is very little to be said for controlling an industry by four separate authorities no two of whom agree on any single subject?

Conditional Sales


asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that attempts are being made to evade the provisions of the Food (Conditional Sales) Order by some greengrocers selling to customers only a very small quantity of fruit or vegetables which are in short supply and only increasing that quantity in proportion to the amount purchased by the customer of other commodities not in short supply; and, in view of this practice, if he will lay down minimum or maximum quantities of fruit and vegetables in short supply which may be sold to any one purchaser.

Any such form of conditional sales is illegal. I am always ready to take action against anyone who contravenes the Order and if my hon. Friend and others can help me by supplying particulars I will gladly have them investigated.

Is the Minister aware that the kind of thing that is happening is that if a customer wants apples he is offered 4 oz., which amounts to one apple, but that if he buys other goods he is allowed two or three lb. of apples, which are in short supply? Does not the Minister agree that this is imposing a condition of sale and is illegal?

I agree entirely, and I should be very grateful for any help which would lead to successful prosecution in these cases.

Will my right hon. Friend watch particularly the activities of the British Housewives League in this connection?

Milk Surpluses


asked the Minister of Food what is the daily difference in quantity between the liquid milk supplied to retailers and the liquid milk supplied to consumers; and for what purposes the difference is used.

I am unable to give figures of the average difference. Retailers receiving more milk than they need to meet the authorised requirements of their registered customers must declare their surplus to the regional milk supply officer, who arranges for it to be transferred whenever practicable to other retailers wh3 are short of supplies. If this is not practicable the retailer is permitted to dispose of the surplus as equitably as possible amongst his registered customers.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the latter half if that alternative provision is either not communicated to the retailers or is not practised by them because, generally speaking, any such surplus milk is poured away because it has gone had before the retailer is authorised to deal with it?

No, Sir. This has been a long-standing arrangement made by my predecessors long before my time, but I reiterate it here today in case any hon. Member doubts it.

Domestic And Catering Allocations


asked the Minister of Food what quantities of meat bacon, sugar, butter, margarine and cooking fats were, respectively, allocated to domestic consumers and to catering establishments in March, 1946, and March 1947.

As the answer involves number of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the allocations for the domestic consumers are greater or less than they were a year ago?

They vary in different cases. In meat they are slightly larger, in bacon slightly smaller and in sugar slightly larger and so on, but the hon. Member had better look at the list.

Following is the answer:

The quantities of meat, bacon, sugar, butter, margarine and cooking fats allocations to domestic consumers and to catering establishments during the four-week periods ended 30th March, 1946, and 29th March, 1947, were approximately:

Domestic Consumers.Catering Establishments.
Cooking Fats:

Catering establishments include schools, works canteens, hotels, boarding houses, cafes, restaurants and all other establishments holding catering licences.

Cooking Fats


asked the Minister of Food what does standard cooking fat consist of; whether he is aware that it has a tendency to turn blue and explode when used for cooking; and what steps he proposes to take to improve its quality.

Standard cooking fat consists of soft vegetable oil, palm kernel oil and hardened whale oil. The palm kernel oil makes it a little more liable to spit in the pan but has to be included because of the extreme shortage of soft oils. The hon. Member may rest assured that everything possible is being done to improve the supply of soft oils, for instance, by the East African Groundnut Scheme.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider this most unmannerly conduct on the part of standard cooking fat? Will he take steps to try to improve it so that it does not spit in the pan?

Is the Minister aware that the hon. Members on the other side are likely to turn blue and explode tonight?

Would the Minister say whether he can guarantee any cautionary interval between the fat turning blue and starting to spit?

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that a little palm oil is a feature of all Socialist administration?

May I ask my right hon. Friend, in the interests of good cooking, whether the vapour that comes up in the pan between the fat turning blue and spitting in the pan is a real indication of the heat of the fat, or is it a spurious vapour?

Fruit And Vegetable Order


asked the Minister of Food the number of persons engaged in administering the Fresh Fruit and Vegetables (Restriction on Dealings) Order, 1945; and whether he is satisfied that its retention at the present time serves a useful purpose.

I should like to free the entry into this trade and hope to do so when supplies improve.

Flood Workers


asked the Minister of Food why his Department were so slow in making available permits for supplies of food for firemen pumping floodwate in South Lincolnshire.

The regional catering officer of the N.F.S. responsible for feeding the men has expressed his satisfaction with the help given by my Department. I shall be glad, however, to investigate any suggestion of delay the hon. Member will let me have details

Price Variations


asked the Minister of Food if he will make a statement showing all the increases in the price of food since 1st January this year.

I will send the hon. Member a detailed list of all price-controlled foods, the prices of which have varied since 1st January.

If the right hon. Gentleman's reply requires it to be sent in the form of a list and if this list appears to be so extensive, can the Minister say whether it is now the policy of the Government to increase the prices of foodstuffs?

No, Sir. The hon. Member heard my reply. I said I would send him a list of all the price-controlled foods, the prices of which have varied. They have varied in both directions.

Can the list be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT? The matter is one of great public importance.

It is a very long list, but it can be circulated if the hon. Member desires it.

Tinned Milk


asked the Minister of Food whether he will make a statement regarding the proposed increase in the charge for tinned milk: and why this is necessary.

the retail prices of condensed milk were increased on 27th April by amounts varying from 1½d. to 3d. per tin according to variety. The increases are made to bring prices into line with costs.

Unstoned Dates


asked the Minister of Food whether the unstoned dates mentioned in the notices of his Department are dates with stones in them or dates without them.

Unstoned dates are dates which have not been stoned, dates which have not, that is to say, had their stones removed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the meaning which he gives to the term "unstoned" is the opposite to that given in all reputable dictionaries?

May I ask my right hon. Friend why Scotland has been excluded from the advantages of this scheme?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a directive has been sent to all Scottish grocers informing them that owing to the difficulties of transport—and I think that is a jolly poor excuse—the scheme cannot apply to Scotland?

The Question is whether dates are stoned or unstoned and has nothing to do with Scotland.

Basic Rations


asked the Minister of Food whether in connection with the present distribution of food and the difficulties experienced by those who have no opportunity of obtaining meals out, and are solely dependent on the basic ration, every endeavour will be made to increase the basic ration with special regard to those in the country districts who cannot obtain meals in British Restaurants and works canteens.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the basic ration is not really sufficient for many people who cannot get any additional benefits from British Restaurants or works canteens, and that it is particularly hard on many people in the rural areas who have no advantages of that sort?

Agricultural workers do, of course, enjoy appreciably higher rations in some respects.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that they enjoy no ad- vantages in regard to increased rations of meat although they are working up to 12 hours a day or more?