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Food Supplies

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 21 May 1947

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Ice Cream Licence

46.

asked the Minister of Food, why Miss Oram, 4 High Street, Pangbourne, Berkshire, has been refused a licence to manufacture ice cream when this business was carried on satisfactorily for many years before 1940 when Miss Oram volunteered for work of national importance.

Local food offices have now been authorised to consider applications from people who claim to have been established as ice cream manufacturers before the war, and who have not hitherto qualified for allocations of controlled ingredients because they did not apply for them earlier. If Miss Oram will now apply to her local food officer he will be able to consider her case.

Milk Strike (Points Expenditure)

47.

asked the Minister of Food if he will consider making a points bonus to those customers registered with the London Co-operative Society for milk who, during the strike of roundsmen, were obliged to expend their points on tinned and dried milk.

I have given careful and sympathetic consideration to my hon. Friend's proposal but I regret that the practical difficulties are insuperable.

Is the hon. Lady aware that a large number of families who were unable to go to Walthamstow for milk had to spend the whole of their month's points on tinned milk for their children who had no fresh milk at all during this strike, and does she realise that they have had to do without points food all this time?

I fully realise that, but I must remind the hon. Lady that it is impossible to distinguish between those who had to go to fetch their milk and those who did not.

Dominion Apples

48.

asked the Minister of Food why the export of apples from New Zealand to this country has been stopped; and, in view of the urgent demand for apples in this country, if he will arrange to import the largest quantity obtainable.

As my right hon. Friend explained in a reply on 2nd April. I am afraid we shall not be able to import any apples from New Zealand this season as there is no refrigerated tonnage available for this purpose after providing for the refrigerated space required to import meat, dairy products and other commodities. The import programme for the second half of the year has not been settled yet, but we shall certainly try to get all the apples that we can.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a shortage of doctors as well as of apples, and will she endeavour to increase home supplies so that there are sufficient to provide us with one a day?

Why is it that there are refrigerator ships available to bring in from the Mediterranean luxury fruits which we could really manage without, but none to bring apples—which are sold at a controlled price—from New Zealand and Australia?

We need much more refrigerator tonnage for apples than for the small amounts of the other fruits which my hon. Friend has mentioned. May I remind him that there has been a strike in the Argentine, a strike in Sydney and a go-slow movement in New Zealand?

But why do we import five times more fruit from the Mediterranean than from New Zealand?

Maize Allocation

50.

asked the Minister of Food if he has pressed the United States Government for a further allocation of maize to Britain, in view of the announcement that 150,000 tons from current stocks are to be made available to France compared with only 25,000 tons to Britain.

I have no reason to suppose that the substantial quantity of maize which we are hoping to obtain from the U.S.A. in the July-September period will not be forthcoming. I understand that the emergency allocation of 150,000 tons to France is to be used as bread grain to supplement the inadequate supply of wheat and flour.

Will the Minister say whether this allocation was made by the International Food Emergency Committee and, if so, whether our representatives on that Committee made due representations to see that we have a proper share of maize?

All allocations to this country are made by the international committee. I cannot speak for France.

Oranges And Grapefruit (Prices)

51.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that growers of oranges and grapefruit in Jamaica receive only approximately 6s. and 5s. per box, respectively, for oranges and grapefruit; that the price at which this fruit is sold to the public is approximately 50s. per box; and if he will give figures showing at each stage of the purchase of these fruit by his Department how the difference is made up.

Supplies of oranges and grapefruit imported into the United Kingdom from Jamaica are purchased from the Jamaican Government on an f.o.b. basis and I have no information about the price received by the grower. As I have stated on previous occasions, I am not prepared to disclose prices paid by my Department for particular purchases, but with permission, I will arrange for the other information for which the hon. Member asks so far as it relates to sales within the United Kingdom and to the types of container most commonly used for oranges and grapefruit imported from Jamaica, to be printed in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

What justification is there for the hon. Lady not producing these figures, since whatever mandate she may have to subject the people of this country to bulk purchase there is no reason why the people of Jamaica should not be given the information?

My Department is the biggest trading concern in the world, and we have the same justification as any astute business man for withholding the prices we pay.

Can the hon. Lady say whether the Colonial Office intervenes in any way between the price paid here for grapefruit and that which the grower receives?

When making bulk purchases of these commodities, would not the Minister consider using the Co-operatives for the purpose of distribution and thus cut out a whole lot of other people?

Is the hon. Lady aware that the analogy she uses is not in the least a fair one because the growers have no

SWEET ORANGES.

Type of package. F

Weight Group. 79-83 lbs. net.

Average Weight. 81 lbs. net.

Grade 1st Condition

s.d.
First-hand selling price410 per package
Wholesale margin26 per package
Wholesale selling price436 per package
Retail margin106 per package
Retail selling price540 per package

GRAPEFRUIT

Type of package. G

Weight Group. 70-74 lbs. net.

Average Weight. 72 lbs. net.

Grade 1st Condition

s.d.
First-hand selling price360 per package
Wholesale margin26 per package
Wholesale selling price386 per package
Retail margin96 per package
Retail selling price480 per package
NOTE.—The above prices are for containers of the size most commonly used for oranges and grapefruit imported from Jamaica.

East African Groundnuts Scheme

52.

asked the Minister of Food if employees of the United Africa Company working on the groundnuts project will receive pay and work under conditions not less favourable than comparable Colonial civil servants; and whether they will in due course have opportunities for study leave and a sabbatical year.

The salaries and conditions of employment of the staff of the East African groundnuts scheme are being fixed after consideration of the salaries and conditions attaching to comparable appointments in the Colonial Service and elsewhere. The appointments are for the present being made on a short-term basis and the question of the eligibility of staff for study leave and a sabbatical year does not therefore arise.

Destroyed Food, Roxton (Replacement)

53.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the destruction by fire of the local store in the village of Roxton, Bedfordshire, he will take immediate action to arrange for

other market to which they can sell their grapefruit?

Following is the information:

the foodstuffs destroyed to be replaced and made available to the villagers so as to safeguard them from all avoidable hardship.

Farm Workers' Rations

54.

asked the Minister of Food what arrangements he has made for the issue of supplementary rations to farmworkers during hay-time when many will be working a 14-hour day away from home.

When a canteen or pie scheme is not available allowances are granted at the following weekly rates per head: tea 2 oz., sugar 5 oz., margarine 4½ oz., cheese 2½ oz., preserves 4½ oz., points 3, bread units 12.

May I point out to the hon. Lady that she has not answered the Question I put to her? We understand that the present arrangements are to come to an end on 30th May and I should like to know what arrangements have been made to take their place.

The arrangements made are those I have just read out to the hon. Gentleman.

By the farmer or, as the hon. Member well knows, the foreman or one of the workmen can distribute them.

Tomato Prices

55.

asked the Minister of Food why he authorised an increase of over 60 per cent. in the mid-June retail selling prices of home-grown and Dutch tomatoes as compared with a similar period in 1946; whether he is aware that substantial margins of profit were afforded to all sections of the trade which handled tomatoes on the control price list of 1946 and that these 1947 prices are comparable to an advance of 110 per cent. on the mid-June prices of 1938–39; and, in view of the importance of tomatoes to the dietary of the average consumer and his purchasing power, whether he will again review the net effect of this new control price.

The increase in the mid-June price amounts to 11s. per 12 lb. chip of which 8s. 9d. is payable to the grower and the balance to the distributive trades. The increase to the grower was made because of increases in wages and other costs of production. Owing to the lateness of the season, the proportion of the crop marketed at these early high prices will be smaller than usual. As regards the distributive trades, the increases are due to increased costs including the higher costs of wastage.

Does not the Minister realise that, whether it be for breakfast, lunch, tea, or supper, tomatoes play a more important part in the dietary of the average citizen than any other commodity; is she not aware that the action of the Minister means a big step up in the cost of living of such people; and what action does she propose to take to deal with those who, by their representations, have brought about this fanciful and fantastic increase?

I recognise the consumer need, although I would not necessarily accept my hon. Friend's dietetic dictum. He must remember, however, that we have also to consider the producer and to see that he is properly remunerated.

Holiday Resorts

56.

asked the Minister of Food for what reasons he is planning to allot to boarding house and private hotel owners in some parts of England, during the holiday season, basic permits for rationed food, insufficient for the full number of persons covered by the catering licences concerned, especially when the boarding houses and private hotel owners have, to the knowledge of the local food offices, received bookings for the total number on their catering licences; and whether he will at once instruct local food offices to issue full permits and abandon the present wasteful practice which requires so many supplementary applications and supplementary permits.

Catering establishments in seaside resorts are granted permits to cover expected fluctuations in consumer needs based on the best estimates available.

Does not the hon. Lady agree that the best estimate of the requirements is likely to be the actual bookings made, and if they have been made surely she can issue full permits? That is the point of the Question.

Certainly, and Blackpool is being given an allowance on the actual bookings made.

Will the hon. Lady consider withdrawing all permits and licences altogether from hotels, such as the Burlington at Margate, which attempt to discriminate against prospective customers on racial grounds?

May I ask the hon. Lady not to discriminate against any particular hotel, since if she does she may well prevent the Foreign Secretary completing his holiday in my constituency. where he is welcome?

I have replied as to the situation in Blackpool, but I should require notice concerning Margate.

The question was not about Blackpool, but about "some parts of England."

Sarawak (Officials' Resignations)

59.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that more than 300 officials have lost their employment as a result of the enforcement of the provisions of Secretariat Circular No. 9/1946 in Sarawak; and if he will make a statement.

The officials in question resigned their appointments in circumstances which were fully explained in my reply to a question on 22nd January last. I have nothing to add to that reply.

Does my hon. Friend realise that what has happened in the case of these 300 officials is nothing more nor less than a form of political victimisation so far as their employment is concerned?

Surely these persons resigned entirely on their own responsibility and they were immediately replaced by other Malays.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 58 out of 60 teachers here are not in schools, and what is being done to give the children their schooling?

I understand that there are 73 teachers but endeavours are being made to fill the appointments.

Malta (Emigration)

62.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if, in view of the fact that the population of Malta is much greater than the islands are able to support, he will encourage emigration to this country to relieve domestic help and other manpower shortages here.

There is no obstacle to the entry of any Maltese British subject into this country, and many Maltese have in fact come here on their own initiative to take up employment. Inquiries are proceeding regarding the numbers of Maltese willing to come to this country for employment in occupations which are suffering from shortage of labour, but who have not the resources to do so unaided. Should the results of these inquiries justify it, consideration will be given to the making of special arrangements.

But is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the surplus population of Malta is said to be in the region of 100,000 and that Malta has a very high birth rate; and is it not therefore necessary for him to take more active steps than he appears to be taking to deal with this problem?

It may possibly appear that I am taking very few steps, but I can assure the hon. Member that I have been very active in this matter.