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Food Supplies

Volume 439: debated on Monday 23 June 1947

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Imported Canned Meats


asked the Minister of Food whether any long-term contracts have been made for regular supplies of imported canned meats; and why is there such a decline in present and future immediate deliveries.

The answer to the first part of the Question is, "Yes, Sir." Distribution over the next few months will be higher than prewar but below the rate of issue in the past year, when we had the benefit of war surpluses.


asked the Minister of Food the amounts of imported canned meats to be allocated to the trade during the present allocation period and in the two following periods.

The quantity of imported canned meats to be distributed, apart from canned corned meat which is issued against the meat ration, will be 5,000 tons for the four weeks which began yesterday and 4,000 tons for the four weeks commencing 20th July. The amount for the following four-weekly period has not yet been fixed.

Could I be told the amount for the previous period, as there has been a new period since I put down the Question?

I think that in the period before this one, which commenced yesterday, the amount was about 9,700 tons.

Stocks, Isolated Areas


asked the Minister of Food if he will ensure that it shall be made more widely known, by advertisement in the Press and announcement through the B.B.C, that families in isolated areas may secure permits from local food offices to lay in stocks of food by using coupons in advance, so that these facilities may be more fully utilised in time to prevent a recurrence of the hard ships experienced by so many people during last winter when communications with sources of supply were cut for long periods owing to heavy snow.

My right hon. Friend proposes to give publicity to these arrangements later in the year, when it will be most effective

Spring Onions (Prices)


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that a considerable quantity of spring onions remains on the arms in Norfolk for which there is little demand with the ruling low wholesale prices and the retail prices charged in all parts of the country continues at I0d. Per lb.; and whether he will take steps to reduce retail prices so that consumers can have the benefit of available supplies.

There have been difficulties in marketing spring or green onions in some parts of the country and certain districts are faced with surplus supplies. My information is that during the past few weeks the most usual wholesale price at the main markets, has ranged from 3d. to 6½d. per lb. The maximum retail price was reduced on 15th June to 8d. per lb. There is nothing to prevent retailers from selling below this price. Reports I have received show that an increasing number of retailers are selling below the maximum. The maximum retail price will be further reduced next month to 5d. per lb.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware, so far as selling below the maximum price is concerned, that in all the shops I have noticed the maximum price has been charged, and that many of the producers in the Eastern counties are unable to sell their onions at any price?

I find it difficult to reconcile the supplementary question of my hon. Friend with the information I have given.

Bacon, Butter And Cheese (Subsidies)


asked the Minister of Food why he has reduced the prices of bacon, butter and cheese to the public at a time when his Department has had to pay more for these commodities; and how this action relates to the expressed policy of the Government to make prices more commensurate with the actual cost of foodstuffs and thus reduce the amount of the subsidies.

The reductions were made to keep the cost-of-living index stable. For the Government's policy in this matter, I would refer the hon. Member to the Budget speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 15th April last.

Independent Buying


asked the Minister of Food whether he will now allow independent buying of certain food commodities in place of the present bulk buying by his Department in order to permit a greater variety in the food of the people.

No, Sir. The lack of variety in the nation's diet results from the present world shortage of foodstuffs, combined with the difficult balance of payments position of the United Kingdom. For the great majority of essential foods, bulk purchase is the only practicable method to secure the maximum quantities available from abroad and their equitable distribution in this country. In an effort to provide as much variety in the diet as possible, we are already permitting certain private imports of less essential foods, but it would be extremely difficult to maintain the close control of import expenditure which is at present essential if independent buying were permitted-to extend over a wider range of foodstuffs.

Is the Minister aware that there are from time to time considerable parcels of foodstuffs which could be purchased outside the bulk buying Commission, and which would add considerably to the variety of diet in this country, without endangering sterling balances, if permission were given for their purchase?

We are guided by the decisions of the International Emergency Food Council, and we cannot indulge in what might be considered to be international "under the counter" methods.