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Food Supplies

Volume 438: debated on Monday 9 June 1947

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British Sugar Corporation (Staff)


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the British Sugar Corporation are refusing to negotiate with the appropriate trade union to which many members of its staff belong; and whether he will consider withholding the subsidy until the refusal has been withdrawn.

No, Sir. I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service that there is established negotiating machinery on which the appropriate trades unions are represented. The question of the constitution of the workers' side is for the trades unions

Cakes And Pastries (Prices)


asked the Minister of Food what was the reason for the recent substantial increase in the prices charged by confectioners for cakes and pastries.

The maximum price for cakes of a defined quality was raised from 1s. 6d. per lb. to 2s. 6d. per lb. on 16th February, to enable bakers to meet recent increases in the cost of many ingredients and to make use of some of the more expensive ones, which are now becoming available again.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that housewives do not find that the increase in prices is reflected in the increased quality of the cakes; secondly, does he know that it is credibly believed that the bakers are already making higher margins of profit than most other retail traders?

In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, we only allowed this increase in prices under a defined list of ingredients which must be contained in the more expensive cakes in a defined amount. We shall certainly endeavour to enforce that. I should very much like to hear of any case where that is not being complied with. With regard to the second part of the question, this means a diminution and not an increase in confectioners' margins.

New Catering Licences, Cardiff


asked the Minister of Food how many licences have been granted to new cafés and restaurants in Cardiff in the last 12 months; and on what principles the grant of a licence is decided.

Twenty-two new licences were issued in the 12 months ended 15th April, 1947. Licences are granted on priority grounds to ex-traders who had to close businesses in Cardiff because of the war. The Food Control Committee also recommend the grant of licences where there is a public need and particularly to reduce queuing and congestion in existing catering establishments. In these cases preference is given to suitable disabled ex-Servicemen and ex-traders from other areas.

Inshore Fishermen's Catches (Prices)


asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that, owing to the price rise in all gear, particularly nets, the catching of mackerel, skate and ray at today's prices is uneconomical; and if he will consider an adjustment in the maximum price of these fish which are caught by our inshore fishermen.

I know that the cost of fishing gear has increased, and will take this into consideration together with other relevant facts if and when price schedules are revised.

When the Minister uses the expression, "if and when", can he give any indication when the "if and when" is likely to come about, and will he also take into consideration the price rise in coal apart from the question of gear?

Prices of fish have been changed in the past, I am glad to say in a downward direction. We should be reluctant to increase maximum prices in this or any other respect. Another possibility, of course, would be to take this class of fish out of price control altogether. There are some advantages but also some difficulties in that.

Is the Minister aware that this state of affairs is affecting the livelihood of all inshore fishermen, and that unless something is done, we shall lose them?

In view of what I consider to be a most unsatisfactory reply, I give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.

Imported Cheddar Cheese


asked the Minister of Food whether he will arrange, as soon as possible, for imported cheddar to be matured after importation in order to make it more palatable to those who acquired a taste for other cheeses before restrictions on their manufacture or importation began.

I am afraid that, under present scarcity conditions, the time we can hold cheese in store before distribution depends entirely on the volume of stocks and arrivals

Does not the Minister realise that it is just as important to improve the quality of cheese as to improve the quality of cakes, and that to do so would do not a little to cheer people up and stop them from calling this cheese "mousetrap"? Would he look into the matter again?

Calorie Intake


asked the Minister of Food the average calorie intake per person per day for the year 1946, including all consumption of food whether at home or outside.

Is the Minister able to say how these figures support the oft-repeated boast that we are better off than before the war?

I do not know to which boast the hon. Member refers. What I have said repeatedly is that, on the way we calculate the calorie intake—that is, per capita of the population—it is 6 per cent. less than before the war. I have added that there is now a far better distribution of foodstuffs, which means that the poorer section of the people are undoubtedly better fed.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how those figures compare with the estimates of a certain calculation given in another place the other day?

Naturally, they are the same. [Interruption.] Yes. The figure was given as 2,880, and the actual calculation comes out at 2,887, to be exact.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, obviously, the housewives of this country must think that they are fed well, hence the falling flat of the great demonstration which took place in Trafalgar Square?

Surely, it is a question of the food coming into the country, as against the total number al persons, and not in any way the individual intake of the consumers, which is what matters?

As I understand the point put by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman it is that certain individual consumers are obviously consuming less and certain others are consuming more. The figure I have given is an average, and that must be true of any average figure.

But the fact is that these high figures are given for the total intake, which, of course, takes into account every single thing brought into the country, whether eaten or not. Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the matter again? Will he agree that the result of his own dietary survey has been to show an intake of nothing like that, but a very much smaller intake?

I could not possibly agree with any of those statements. Of course, the figure is calculated on the total amount of food available, and the most careful allowances are made for wastage in distribution and other factors of that sort, and use for other than food consumption. That is always most carefully taken into account, and it is an average figure, and, of course, it must be true of any average figure that certain individuals were above that figure and certain other individuals below it. That is the only qualification.

Does not the Minister agree that the figure of 2,900 is very much higher than the figure of 2,300, which he gave as the result of the dietary survey?

I agree that 2,900 is a higher figure than 2,300. That is undoubtedly true, but the 2,300, of course, leaves out certain things, such as foodstuffs distributed to catering establishments, canteens and the like.

Fruit And Vegetables


asked the Minister of Food whether he will take steps to eliminate the profit margins on the sale of fruit and vegetables which are accruing to certain classes of middlemen who have ceased to perform any useful function.

I share my hon. Friend's anxiety to reduce the price of foodstuffs wherever possible, but I do not think that profit margins are provided under the fresh fruit and vegetable price orders for middlemen who are not performing a useful function.

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that the profit margins, indeed, any profit at all, should be determined by the functions performed today, and not those performed before the war and before the very considerable degree of bulk buying and selling was introduced?

I take my hon. Friend's point, but we believe that, on the whole, the middlemen engaged in the trade at the moment—I do not say in every instance, but by and large—are performing a useful function.

Will my right hon. Friend look into the position regarding certain commodities, where it appears that payments are made to wholesalers who are performing no function at all, even though they may have performed some function before the war? Will he look into this point, with a view to rearranging the system or bringing this pernicious system to an end?

I am not suggesting that the present system will do as a permanent basis of distribution for the long-term future. That is certainly another matter.


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the supply of fresh fruit in Croydon is inadequate and compares unfavourably with other areas; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy this situation.

Fruit is not plentiful anywhere at this season, but Croydon has had as many allocations of the fruits controlled by my Department as the rest of the South of England.

In view of the fact that that statement would not be agreed to by any person in Croydon, will my right hon. Friend look into this matter again, because I think there is a definite inequality now?

Condemned Meat, Croydon


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that approximately 5,388 lb. of offal, together with 3,579 lb. of beef, 978 lb. of corned beef, 440 lb. of pork, as well as other items, were condemned by the public health department in Croydon from 17th March to 19th April last and destroyed; what were the reasons for this loss of foodstuff; and what steps he proposes to take to avoid similar wastage in future.

These condemnations were mainly due to disease which could not be detected in the live animals. The quantities condemned represented a very small proportion of the meat and offals handled. The loss of canned corned meat was due to the blowing of tins. The proportion condemned was one quarter of 1 per cent, which is not abnormal and would not indicate any undue deterioration because of the time or conditions of storage.

Linseed Oil


asked the Minister of Food whether his Department has made any attempt to secure surplus linseed oil in Holland.

Recent reports that Holland had some surplus linseed proved to be untrue when we tried to buy it for sowing. Holland is short of linseed oil herself.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the allocation, as between Holland and this country, is fair in all circumstances?

I am seldom, if ever, satisfied with an allocation, and we are always pressing to get a higher one.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a report in a newspaper this morning that bulk purchasing arrangements had enabled us to buy linseed oil much more cheaply than our competitors?

I have not seen the report to which my hon. Friend refers, but it is perfectly true that many of our competitors consider that we have purchased a very much larger share of the linseed oil available and at a very favourable price.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman always mistrust what he reads in the Press?

Special Diets Advisory Committee (Decision)


asked the Minister of Food for what reasons his Department over-ruled the recommendation of her family doctor that Mrs. Ward, 93, Turnpike Lane, N.8, shoud receive extra meat and butter by substituting milk which, in her case, was actually harmful; why this decision was taken without consultation with her medical attendant; why two months' delay took place between the issue of the certificate and its refusal by the divisional food office; and what steps he proposes to take to prevent a recurrence of such a delay with its possible harmful effects.

This case was considered twice during the two months by the Special Diets Advisory Committee, on different certificates from the family doctor, but she was unable to produce any reasons for the suggestion that the usual allowance of milk would be harmful' or that there were any special reasons for an allowance of butter and meat for this particular patient. In these circumstances, I am unable to overrule the decision of the eminent medical authorities of the Special Diets Advisory Committee.

Is the Minister denying that his Department did, in fact, overrule the recommendations of the family doctor, and did take two months before they actually gave a decision?

Yes, Sir, in the sense that my Department did it apart from the advice of the Special Diets Advisory Committee. They, of course, made the decision and the recommendation on which we acted. But they did not take two months to do it. During the two months mentioned, they twice considered recommendations from the family doctor, but these eminent medical specialists were unable to agree with her.

Did the eminent medical specialists, on whom the right hon. Gentleman relies, ever see the patient?

No, Sir, they asked the family doctor to provide reasons why this case should be treated differently from the rules laid down for cases of this condition. In their opinion, the family doctor was unable to produce any prima facie evidence why it should be treated differently.

Is not this the second occasion on which this particular Committee has bungled—the first being that on which a man died—and should not their operations be closely watched?

I distinctly resent that imputation. How does the noble Lord suppose that he can judge whether this Committee has bungled or not?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, if he were to give way in the slightest degree on this matter, 30 to 40 per cent. of the people who claim to be sick would all be producing certificates in order to get extra rations, when the whole thing would become fantastic?

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to certain rules which bind the Special Diets Advisory Committee; will he say what those rules are, and who makes them?

If the hon. Member will look up the answer I gave on Wednesday, 22nd January last, he will see a very full statement as to exactly what these rules are, that there is a right of appeal from these rules to the Special Diets Advisory Committee, and the members and composition, together with their qualifications, of that Committee.

Has the Minister made any inquiry as to whether this lady was benefited or injured by the treatment of his Committee?

The Committee did not treat the lady; the Committee made her a special allowance of milk and fats, and no doubt she benefited by that allowance.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I feel compelled to give notice that I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment.