House Of Commons
Monday, 14th July, 1947
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Japanese Phosphate Industry, Angaur Island
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, if the Far Eastern Commission sanctioned the scheme allowing the Japanese to develop a phosphate industry at Angaur Island in the Palau Group, near New Guinea; and if the Australian or British Government representatives objected to this scheme.
The subject has not been discussed in the Far Eastern Commission. The second part of the Question does not, therefore, arise.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the estimated number of deaths directly attributable to malnutrition in the British zone of Germany since June, 1945.
No estimate is possible of the total number of deaths directly attributable to malnutrition since no scientific records exist.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, how many textile firms, spinning, weaving, bleaching, dyeing and finishing, respectively, exist in the British zone of Germany: how many spindles and looms are involved; of such firms how many, in each category, are operating; and how many spindles and looms, respectively, are idle.
As the reply can be most clearly given in tabular form, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Will the Minister give an assurance that all the facts asked for in the Question will be supplied?
I am doing so to the best of my ability. I can assure the hon. Member that it is a long and comprehensive reply.
Following is the reply:
|Industry.||Firms operating.||Firms idle.||Capacity available.||Capacity operating.||Capacity idle.|
|Spinning||…||…||248||14||2,504,683 Spindles.||1,399,813 Spindles.||1,104,870 Spindles.|
|Weaving||…||…||887||152||93,313 Looms.||28,857 Looms.||64,465 Looms.|
|Narrow Weaving||…||…||498||51||6,424 Looms.||2,749 Looms.||3,675 Looms.|
|Yarn Processing||…||…||210||80||16,875,000 Kgs. per annum.||3,600,000 Kgs. per annum.||13,275,000 Kgs. per annum.|
|Cloth Bleaching||…||…||95,635,000 sq. m. per annum.||16,000,000 sq. m. per annum.||79,625,000 sq. m. per annum|
|Cloth Dyeing||…||…||111,250,000 sq. m. per annum.||30,000,000 sq. m. per annum.||80,250,000 sq. m. per annum|
|Cloth Printing||…||…||87,500,000 sq. m. per annum.||17,000,000 sq. m. per annum.||70,500,000 sq. m. per annum.|
|Cloth Finishing||…||…||96,000,000 sq. m. per annum.||15,000,000 sq. m. per annum.||81,000,000 sq. m. per annum.|
Whaling Fleet (Decision)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what grounds the application of the Bizonal Economic Office at Minden for permission to prepare a whaling fleet has been turned down; and whether, in the light of the acute food shortage in Germany, he will reconsider this decision with the object of reversing it.
For security reasons, the Potsdam protocol prohibits the construction in Germany of sea-going ships; the considerations which led to this decision still hold good. The British authorities in Germany and their American colleagues accordingly agreed to reject this German proposal. The answer to the second part of the Question is. "No, Sir."
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the fact that it is inconsistent to allow Japan to operate a whaling fleet and to deny, at the same time, similar facilities to Germany?
Is it not quite absurd to continue wallowing in the Potsdam Agreement in view of the attitude recently adopted in Paris by one of the signatories to it?
Interned Officers, Allendort
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when Colonel General Halder and Colonel von Bonin, at present in the internment camp of Allendorf, will either have charges preferred against them and be tried or be released.
Since these Germans are in the hands of the United States authorities in Germany, my right hon. Friend has no responsibility in this matter, nor has he the information asked for.
My Question may not apply to these two individuals, but will the right hon. Gentleman see that individuals in this category are in fact brought to trial as quickly as possible, so that they can play a useful part, if they are innocent, in the reconstitution of Germany?
There is great difficulty in moving the judicial machine along as quickly as we would like, but we are actively studying this matter.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement about the increasingly serious position regarding rolling stock in Western Germany; and whether he will explain the reasons for this and say what steps are being taken to improve it.
The present shortage of rolling stock in Western Germany has come about because German industry cannot provide the materials necessary for current repairs. It is even less able to deal with war damaged rolling stock still awaiting repair. Stocks of materials and of equipment which could be used for cannibalisation are now exhausted and the railways are dependent on current production of materials, so that there has been a decline in the numbers of serviceable rolling stock. There has also been a fall in the number of wagons available in consequence of the restitution of rolling stock to Allied owners. Military Government are fully aware of the urgent necessity for improving the supplies of materials for repairs.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the fact that Czechoslovakia particularly hangs on to the wagons which go over the border, and will he make representations to them that we want these wagons sent back to Germany to ease the position there?
While we have a difficulty with certain Powers, I must say that we have found the behaviour of Czechoslovakia in this matter to be exemplary.
Is not the shortage of rolling stock due to the fact that there is a pool agreement, and that Russia has failed to keep her agreement to return the empty wagons?
The primary reason for the shortage I have already given in a rather long reply.
Belgian Artillery Range, Westphalia
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that approximately 20,000 acres of arable land in Kreis Brilon in Southern Westphalia have been requisitioned for an. artillery range for the Belgian army, which will result in the loss in production of 10,000 tons of potatoes and 1,000 tons of grain, as well as other animal fodder; and whether he will take steps to have this requisitioning cancelled.
I greatly regret that I am not yet in a position to answer this Question. I will, of course, communicate with my hon. Friend.
When considering this matter, is it not a fact that the Belgians have quite adequate artillery ranges at home without occupying foreign territories like Kreis Brilon, and why cannot they go home to practice instead of destroying valuable arable land?
I will consider the matter when I have all the facts. I apologise to my hon. Friend for not having them.
Krupps Works, Essen
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will give an assurance that no part of Krupps' works normally engaged on locomotive production will be blown up, even though part of such works may have from time to time been engaged on armament production.
No part of Krupps Gusstahlfabrik at Essen which was normally engaged on locomotive production and which is required for the locomotive repair programme or which ultimately may be required for building locomotives has been scheduled for demolition at present. Other sections of the factory which were normally engaged on locomotive work and which are required for locomotive repairs are also exempted from the present demolition and reparatior programme.
Is my right hon. Friend quite sure about this because some of us have information which is to the contrary? Would he be of the opinion that this is the wrong moment to blow up anything? What purpose can be served two years after the war in indulging in this belated bombardment?
If my hon. Friend has any information on the subject I will be glad to consider it, because I am most anxious to ensure that there is no loss of potential plant for locomotive production, but I should not like to commit myself to the general statement that this is not the moment to blow up anything.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that a large part of these works are capable of use in the construction and repair of locomotives for which there is such an urgent need in Germany, and, indeed, in Europe, and why cannot construction and repair of locomotives take place where the rails are already laid dawn and where the lathes and milling machines are?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that almost any war plant can be converted to peacetime uses and that efforts should be concentrated on such conversion rather than on further blowing up.
I was asked about locomotive production plants, and I do not think any plant in Germany could be adapted for this purpose. The plants available for the purpose are being used.
In view of the importance of the matter will my right hon. Friend ensure that there is no more blowing up until really competent people with practical experience review the whole situation. I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.
Dutch Vegetables (Delivery)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that Holland can deliver 200,000 tons of vegetables to Germany between the beginning of this month and next February; and what arrangements have been made for their exchange for German industrial products.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which my right hon. Friend gave to his similar Question on 11th June. Negotiations are progressing, but are not yet concluded.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that that is precisely the answer which I received about a year ago and that after that answer nothing happened, so that vast quantities of vegetables were lost? Is he further aware that vegetables rot if they are not dealt with at once, and will he get a move on in his Department?
I promise my hon. Friend that, so far as my Department is concerned, I will see that something is done.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that considerable scope exists for trading between Holland and Germany, and that if it is allowed it will save the British taxpayers' money?
Hm Ambassador, Greece (Diplomatic Uniform)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the British Ambassador, Sir Clifford Norton, wore evening dress at the presentation of his credentials to His Majesty the King of the Hellenes; whether it is now the custom for His Majesty's Ambassadors to dispense with diplomatic uniform on such occasions; and since when has this been the rule.
His Majesty's Ambassador to Greece wore evening dress because he had been unable to replace his diplomatic uniform, lost through an accident of war.
Does the right hon. Gentleman really feel that it is not possible to provide diplomatic uniforms fairly quickly for our ambassadors? The war has been over for some time, and is it not, after all, slightly insulting to courts abroad not to provide uniforms when other countries can do so?
At the risk of seeming to be offensive to the hon. Gentleman, whom I usually find most reasonable, I feel inclined to say that I have to occupy myself with more important matters than this, and I hope and believe our Ambassador is similarly occupied.
British Legation, Finland (Staff Salaries)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs which members of the British Legation, Helsinki, and those working under the Minister in Finland have had increases in salary and/or allowances since 1st January, 1947; how many have not had such an increase; and why have they not received such an increase.
All the official-paid staff working under the Minister who were at the post on 1st January last have been granted increases, with the exception of one officer who had not furnished the report for which he had been asked. The post was visited by inspectors last month, and their recommendations covering all staff are now under examination and will be put into effect shortly.
Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that these increases are satisfactory in view of the recent rise in the cost of living in that country?
I am glad of the opportunity of saying that I am indebted to the hon. Gentleman for the help and interest which he has given in connection with this question, and I think that our adjustments are rather satisfactory.
Syria (Government Attitude)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement regarding the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards the "Greater Syria" movement.
My attention has been called to the spreading of reports that His Majesty's Government favour the "Greater Syria" movement, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me this opportunity to affirm most strongly that these reports are quite unfounded. His Majesty's Government consider that this subject is one which essentially and exclusively concerns the inhabitants of Syria and of the other States in that area. British officials in Middle Eastern countries have definite instructions that the attitude of His Majesty's Government on the subject is, therefore, one of strict neutrality. His Majesty's Government's one desire is the maintenance of stable and tranquil conditions in the Middle East.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask of he is aware that the terms of his statement should have a very reassuring effect throughout the Middle East?
Bulgaria (General Stanchev And M Petkov, Trial)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Bulgarian Government has been able to give to His Majesty's political representative on the Control Commission in Sofia any further indication as to how soon the necessary investigations will be completed in order to bring to trial General Stanchev and M. Petkov. respectively.
The British political representative has received no information about the date of either of these trials.
Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that in the case of General Stanchev, 13 months should be sufficient time to formulate charges in order to bring him to trial, and that in the case of M. Petkov the longer the trial is postponed, the greater the growth of suspicion of the circumstances in which he was arrested?
I do not disagree for a second. My conclusion is that no civilised country behaves as this country behaves towards both of these men, against neither of whom a charge is being prepared.
Is it not possible to call the attention of this Government to Article 3 of the Treaty which it has signed, for this is a flagrant violation of that Treaty?
That is so, but, unfortunately, the Treaty is not yet ratified and, therefore, not operative.
In view of the assurance given by the Foreign Minister of Bulgaria that this trial will be a free and open one and will be open to inspection by outside journalists and other interests, is it not a piece of unwarrantable presumption on the part of my right hon. Friend to infer in his remarks that this is an uncivilised country?
The point is not whether the trial is open or not, but whether there should be a trial or not, and until we have the charge it will make it impossible to come to any conclusion on that subject.
Spain (Uno Membership)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what negotiations are in process for the inclusion of Spain in U.N.O. at an early date.
How long is this state of affairs going to continue? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Spain has been fighting for 10 years to keep back Bolshevism, and why exclude it now?
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that if he is referring to membership of the United Nations, no discussion can take place until Spain itself has initiated such a discussion by making application? She has not yet done so.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Foreign Office, in discussing the standard of civilisation, applies the same standard in Eastern as in Western Europe.
Precisely, and if Spain should make such an application His Majesty's Government will oppose it.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what possible economic or political gain this or any other country gets by ostracising Spain in this direction.
I think the answer is that His Majesty's Government, as a member of the United Nations, continues to be bound by the resolution passed by the Assembly of the United Nations against the Franco regime last December.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will bear in mind the evidence given in Count Ciano's diaries in view of his having made such an astonishing statement?
There was a great variation of evidence in that remarkable book.
In view of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that His Majesty's Government will oppose any application from Spain for membership of the United Nations, I will take the earliest opportunity of raising this matter.
British Goods, Port Said (Transit Delay)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that British goods being unloaded at the present time at Port Said for transshipment are being held up on the Customs shed for periods of up to 18 months; and whether, in view of the shortage of shipping and the need for stimulating the movement of goods in world markets, he will make representations to the Egyptian Government about this matter.
The fact that certain British firms are meeting with difficulties in this respect has already been brought to my notice. All such cases have been referred to the British Embassy in Cairo and are already being discussed with the Egyptian authorities.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether he made representations to see if the arrangements which prevailed before the war with regard to transshipment might be brought into effect and so considerably shorten this delay?
I think the difficulty has mainly arisen from the fact that there has been a change of regulations in relation to unsold goods in transit. I would prefer to confine myself to saying that these specific goods and any further specific goods will be dealt with in time.
Tomatoes (Wholesalers' Margins)
asked the Minister of Food what function is performed by first-hand salesmen which entitles them to a margin of 1s. 6d. per package on imported tomatoes; and what proportion of these first-hand salesmen are also wholesalers or importers.
The first-hand margin on a 26 lb. package of imported outdoor tomatoes was reduced from 1s. 6d. to 1s. 1½d. on 10th July. First-hand salesmen are entitled to the full margin only if they are also the importers. By arrangement they share it with importers who are not first-hand salesmen. Their function is to sort the packages according to condition and arrange for their distribution to wholesalers all over the country. A survey made about a year ago showed that 15·3 per cent, of the total imports were handled by first-hand salesmen who also acted as wholesalers.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether in fact this duty of sorting the packages is done by the first-hand salesman individually or by the association?
I think in some cases by one, and in some by the other.
Is it not a fact that when tomatoes are imported the dealer who imports them has to hand them over to control and has no responsibility for their distribution?
No, Sir, I cannot accept that.
asked the Minister of Food what functions are performed by primary wholesalers, secondary wholesalers and wholesale depot-holders in the marketing of home-grown tomatoes which entitle them to margins of 1s., 1s. 3d. and 2d. per package, respectively.
The margins prescribed by the Tomatoes Order for primary and secondary wholesalers were 11d. and 1s. 4d. per 12 lb. respectively until 13th July and are 9d. and 1s. 1d. per 12 lb. from today, out of which the primary wholesaler has to pay 4d. for the use of the container. There is no provision in the Order for a margin of 2d. to wholesale depot-holders. The primary wholesaler buys tomatoes from the grower and usually sells in bulk to a secondary wholesaler whose position is too remote or his trade too small and fluctuating to justify direct connections with growers. A secondary wholesaler, therefore, buys from a primary wholesaler for re-sale in small parcels to retailers. Both types of wholesaler have to bear the ordinary risks which occur in the normal course of trade, including loss of weight by evaporation, wastage and pilferage.
Is it not the case that a good time is being had by all who are handling tomatoes, and is it not time that we took a risk in view of the excellent supplies of tomatoes and demobilised this out-worn machinery altogether to the benefit of the Minister and of the country?
As the House knows, I am, on the whole, sympathetic to the decontrol and the opening up of trade in vegetables to newcomers, but whether we are in a position to do that now is doubtful.
Will not the Minister take the risk during the next six months?
Olympic Games (Competitors' Rations)
asked the Minister of Food if foreign countries who are taking part in the Olympic games next year will be allowed to bring foodstuffs to this country for their competitors or if all competitors will be limited to the scale of British rations.
All travellers entering this country are allowed to bring with them 25 lb. of food of which not more than 5 lb. may be of any one kind. I see no reason to vary this concession for Olympic competitors.
If Olympic competitors coming from foreign countries are allowed to bring in food will not the Minister seriously consider giving our own athletes extra rations in order that they may justify themselves?
Like anyone else, our own athletes can go to a restaurant as often as they wish.
Grocery Trade (Profit Levels)
asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that whilst the cost of wages, overhead expenses and rates, lighting and heating charges to the grocery trade have greatly increased during recent months, the increase in the price of various commodities has resulted in a reduced percentage of profit on turnover; and if he will review the margins of profit laid down for the grocery trade.
We do not fix margins on a percentage basis, since this would give a disproportionate increase in net profits when prices have to be raised. Our policy is to adjust prewar margins to allow for changes in costs, including any expenses which vary with the price of the goods. I have no reason to doubt that the average grocer is at least as prosperous now as before the war, but we are, of course, always ready to consider any representations from the trade on the adequacy of margins or profit levels.
Is the Minister aware that in the case of dried eggs, whereas the price has doubled, the margin has gone up by only 2d. on 3s., and as this involves very much more capital being laid out by the grocer will he consider the matter again?
As I say, we are always open to representations on this matter, but we are also open to representations as to the great need for minimising distribution costs.
Will the Minister bear in mind in this connection the position of the trader in a small way of business who often has to cover a large area and on whom these rising costs bear very hardly?
asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that a lorry load of lettuce on 4th July and 300 boxes on 7th July were returned from Covent Garden, there being no sale for them; and, in view of the retail prices of lettuce, what steps is he taking to remedy this breakdown in distribution.
I control neither the price nor the marketing of lettuce. I am, of course, concerned at any breakdown in the distribution of lettuce by private enterprise which the hon. Member has, he believes, detected. From the beginning of July, very heavy supplies of lettuce have reached Covent Garden. I am glad to say that these heavy supplies have caused an appreciable drop in retail prices. The average retail price for round lettuce in London during the week ended 28th June was 8d., and this fell to 5d. in the following week, while in the Westminster area prices of 2d. and 3d. have been offered by retailers.
Is the Minister aware that in the case of the returned lorry loads referred to in the Question, the farmers were willing to agree to a price of one penny a lettuce; and is he not also aware that, whether this comes within his purview or not, every time he pokes his nose into the distribution of food there is the inevitable result of shortages and increased prices?
I was endeavouring to explain to the hon. Member—
The right hon. Gentleman cannot.
I know, but I was endeavouring to explain that if there is anything wrong here it is an example of the effects of non-interference with the ordinary channels of trade.
Isolated Areas (Emergency Winter Stocks)
asked the Minister of Food whether he will take steps before next winter to install emergency food supply dumps in isolated districts in order to prevent a recurrence of the difficulties created through severe winter weather in the past.
I am afraid that the maintenance of a number of small dumps would be wasteful in both food and manpower. My local officers already have discretion to allow people who live in isolated areas to lay in a month's stock of food in advance during the winter months, in addition to the normal four weeks' supply—thus they would have eight weeks' supply of food in the house at the beginning of each rationing period. This scheme will be well publicised later in the year to give householders in isolated areas ample time to prepare themselves against hard weather.
Would the Minister amplify his statement by making it clear whether it is shops and stores which will be allowed to carry these stocks or individual farmers and householders?
The Question refers to individuals.
Dried Fruits (Allocation)
asked the Minister al Food if he will make a statement as to the system of allocation of dried fruits, with particular reference to what percentage thereof is issued to multiple shops as compared with the small individual grocers; and what conditions are attached by his Department to the sale of such fruits.
Allocations to grocers, whatever the number of shops they control, are based on sugar registrations; and to other retailers on their prewar trade. We do not know what percentages of each allocation go to the various classes of traders, and to extract this information would, I am afraid, take too much time and labour. Dried fruits are subject to maximum prices and Points rationing.
Channel Islands Produce (Cargo Space)
asked the Minister of Food why cargo space on the ships of the British Channel Islands Steamship Company is not being used for bringing potatoes to this country during the present shortage.
Whenever possible, cargo space on the ships of the British Channel Islands Steamship Company has been used to bring potatoes to this country, but the Channel Islands crop is now finished, and so I am glad to say, is the shortage.
Is the Minister aware of the general belief in the Channel Islands that the arrangements made by the agents for the stevedoring and chartering of ships from the Channel Islands were far from satisfactory? As this is a matter which affects other markets, will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries to satisfy himself that everything is in order?
Certainly, Sir, but I would point out that we succeeded in moving the whole crop.
Is the Minister aware that considerable quantities of potatoes are now rotting in the ground in West Cornwall?
Ceylon Tea (Purchase)
asked the Minister of Food to what extent have estates owned by the English and Scottish Joint Cooperative Wholesale Society supported his Department's purchase of Ceylon tea this year.
I am glad to say that the English and Scottish Joint Co-operative Wholesale Society have offered, and I have accepted, the whole exportable production of their tea estates in Ceylon.
Milk, Catering Establishments
33 and 34.
asked the Minister of Food (1) if he will give figures of the total amount of milk allowed to restaurants and caterers; and whether the sale of liquid milk as a beverage is permitted in catering establishments;(2) whether the sale in catering establishments of milk-shakes containing fresh milk is permitted by his Department.
Milk is allowed to catering establishments at the rate of 7½ pints per 100 hot beverages served, or, if they prefer, 5 pints per hundred hot beverages, main meals and breakfasts. Fresh milk may be served alone or in a milk shake, but no special supplies are allowed for this purpose.
Can my right hon. Friend give the total amount of milk supplied?
Not without notice.
That is the Question which I asked my right hon. Friend.
I can give my hon. Friend some information. The approxi- mate weekly consumption of milk in all catering establishments is 1,760,000 gallons.
Does not my right hon. Friend think that it is a much more satisfactory way to distribute milk to individual householders? Would he consider cutting off milk supplies for such things as milk shakes and allowing householders a little extra?
Only 750,000 gallons of that total is taken by restaurants and hotels. The rest goes to canteens and for purposes which we should be most unwilling to cut off.
asked the Minister of Food if he will give an estimate, as at the most recent date, of the percentage distribution of the nation's total food supplies, including unrationed as well as rationed foods, as between civilian ration-card holders, the Armed Forces in the United Kingdom, schools, works canteens and catering establishments, respectively.
I regret that this information is not available, as unrationed food can be purchased freely in the markets and shops and its precise destination is unknown.
asked the Minister of Food if he will give, as at the most recent date, the percentage distribution of rationed meat as between civilian ration-card holders, the Armed Forces in the United Kingdom, schools, works canteens and other catering establishments, respectively.
The distribution of rationed meat expressed in terms of percentages is as follows:
|Armed Forces in the United Kingdom||…||2·3|
|School Canteens, Boarding Schools, Colleges||…||3·5|
|Hotels restaurants, cafes, etc||…||3·0|
|Other catering establishments||…||1·1|
|Institutions other than Boarding Schools and Colleges||…||1·6|
asked the Minister of Food if he will give, as at the most recent date, the percentage distribution of rationed foodstuffs as a whole, as between civilian ration-card holders, the Armed Forces in the United Kingdom, schools, works canteens and catering establishments, respectively.
The hon. Member will appreciate that the Question involves adding together the tonnage of such different foods as tea and meat and the answer must to this extent be unreal. But if this is done the approximate percentage distribution of straight rationed foods taken together is:
|School canteens, boarding schools and colleges||2·2|
|Hotels, restaurants, cafes, etc.||3·4|
|Other catering establishments||1·0|
|Institutions, other than boarding schools and colleges||1·8|
|Armed Forces in the United Kingdom||4·0|
Fruit And Vegetables (Controls)
asked the Minister of Food if in view of the price anomalies which exist and of the inability of certain producers to sell their produce, he will remove all controls from the more perishable fruits and vegetables and allow the law of supply and demand freely to operate.
Within the last 18 months the great majority of home grown fruits and vegetables have been freed from price control. As I recently informed the House I am also considering whether we cannot now usefully open up both the wholesale and retail trade in fruit and vegetables to new entrants. On the other hand, I am still concerned at vegetable prices and if these do not come down and stay down now that main crop supplies are coming in, I may have to re-impose price control.
Is the Minister aware that the release from control of soft fruits is entirely due to my influence? [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh but is that not true? Does the Minister realise the elementary principle that when we restrict consumption we automatically and inevitably restrict production?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that vegetables from the very small producers never get to the stands in Covent Garden Market at all, so that retailers do not have a chance of buying them cheap? Will he see to it that everything that goes to Covent Garden Market is put up, so that retailers get a chance of buying them as cheaply as possible and selling them?
I am far from supposing that everything is well in the retail and wholesale distribution of fruit and vegetables.
Usa Canned Shrimps
asked the Minister of Food why dollars are expended on tinned shrimps from the U.S.A.
Canned shrimps began to be imported privately from the U.S.A. under an open general licence. As soon as it became evident that a small but appreciable amount of dollars were being expended in tills way the open general licence was withdrawn as from 14th May.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him why, in view of the fact that any purchases from the United States must mean the spending of dollars, a licence was granted?
The answer is that it was done under a general licence which covered a lot of other things as well, and included a few canned shrimps.
Fried Fish Shop Licence, Muskham
asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that the villages of North and South Muskham have been denied a fried fish shop; and, since the population of the area is approximately 900, if he will consider giving these rural people the same treatment as people living in towns, and grant the necessary licence.
I am aware of the facts but very much regret that, owing to the acute shortage of oils and fats, I cannot grant this licence.
Is the Minister aware that I sent him a protest signed by a large number of the adult population of these villages, which he refused? What is his policy with regard to the rural areas in this respect?
We have to restrict fried fish shops to those which serve an area of 3,000 population, or something in that neighbourhood. In this case the figure was only about 900, and I am afraid a licence was impossible.
In that case, will the Minister give a licence to a travelling fish shop?
That is another possibility. I am extremely keen to increase to the maximum possible degree the sale points of fried fish. We are limited by fats, but I will certainly consider the suggestion.
Home-Killed Meat (Distribution)
asked the Minister of Food if he will arrange for a more even distribution of home produced meat, as between productive and non-productive areas.
Although during the war, in the interests of transport economy, home-killed meat was largely used in the producing areas, my Department has since tried to make distribution increasingly fairer. This policy will be pursued so long as it does not involve any unreasonable movements of livestock or meat.
Does not my right hon. Friend consider that there is a very great disparity among these areas, particularly with large industrial districts?
I think the tendency is decreasing, but we will do our best to make it decrease still further.
asked the Minister of Food if he will make arrangements that all imported quarters of beef shall arrive in this country bone-in; and that the system of telescoping imported sheep and lamb shall cease.
We shall do both these things as soon as we have sufficient refrigerated tonnage.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this position is frightfully uneconomical and wasteful? Will he try as quickly as possible to put it right?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that lack of this food is a severe handicap to mothers?
We are well aware of the desirability of this form of importation, but we cannot consider it until we have considerably better supplies of the appropriate tonnage.
Canned Corned Beet
asked the Minister of Food if the reduction in the ration of canned corned beef entails any cut in the permits of catering establishments from 13th July.
Yes, Sir. Changes in the allowances to catering establishments are always made in parity with changes in the domestic ration.
Allocations, Seaside Resorts
asked the Minister of Food whether he will give the percentages of all rationed foods allocated to, and consumed in, catering establishments throughout the country; and whether in seaside resorts the amount consumed is greater than the national average and during which months and by how much.
The proportion of the civilian consumption of rationed foods consumed in catering establishments varies from one food to another but overall is about 10 per cent., of which about one-third is used in hotels, cafes and restaurants. I regret that I have no information on the relative amounts going to catering establishments in seaside resorts.
In view of the feeling among many housewives that too much is being consumed in these catering establishments, and the fact that the catering establishments themselves do not consider that they are consuming too much, would the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in his opinion, at the present moment catering establishments are taking a reasonable and not too great an amount of the rations?
Yes, Sir, I am very willing to say that I consider 10 per cent. is a reasonable figure. It would be hard not only on the catering establishments, but on the population generally to cut down the allowances given to catering establishments in seaside resorts
Food Offices, Posters
asked the Minister of Food if it is proposed to continue the issue of posters published by the Bureau of Current Affairs to local food offices; what has been the cost of such issues in the last year; and what instructions have been issued to local food officers regarding the use to which these posters should be put.
I cannot yet say what we shall do next year, but this year we have ordered 1,300 sets at 15s. per set of 26 copies. The posters are intended to make food offices and waiting roams more interesting to visitors.
In view of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, does he consider that it is advisable in a Government-run establishment to exhibit posters saying, "How right is Bevin?"—[An HON. MEMBER: "Telling the truth."]—and "Bevin's Foreign 'Affaires,'" and does he not consider that that would only tend to cause dissatisfaction with His Majesty's Government's foreign policy?
I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member dislikes these posters because they are critical of the Government, or too favourable to the Government. I think it shows that they are very impartial.
Would my right hon. Friend send two copies to each food office so that the public can see both sides of the posters at the same time?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that although there may be hon. Members opposite who do not wish for thought to be provoked by these posters, most people will appreciate the stand my right hon. Friend has taken in refusing to be panicked by questioning from the other side in the same way as the Secretary of State for War?
May we have an assurance that the right hon. Gentleman is in agreement with what the Prime Minister told us a short time ago?
Certainly, the right hon. Gentleman can have that assurance.
Then why did he not say so?
The Prime Minister accepted the criticism of one particular poster in this series.
Would the right hon. Gentleman care to look at Poster No. 17 which gave some figures and pictures bearing on rationing that are statistically inaccurate and definitely misleading?
No, Sir, I passed the poster most carefully myself. It is statistically correct.
Brewing Barley (Exports)
asked the Minister of Food how much grain suitable for brewing was exported and diverted from this country to Germany, Holland, Denmark and Czechoslovakia during 1946 and the first six months of 1947; how much beer was imported from these countries in the same periods; and what was the net trading result of such exports and imports.
I assume the hon. and gallant Member is referring to exports and diversions of barley. During 1946 and the first five months of 1947, 141,165 tons of barley were provided for use as bread grain in the British zone of Germany and 2,912 tons were sent to Denmark to replace some malt which we borrowed for brewing beer for British troops on the Continent. No beer was imported from the countries concerned during the same period, so the third part of the Question does not arise.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this does not tally with the answer which his Parliamentary Secretary gave me last week?
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not time we killed this fairy tale altogether, since it has been trotted round by Members of the Opposition for months past, including the Housewives' League, and it has got whiskers on?
Foods And Beer (Permitted Exports)
asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the need for promoting exports and in order that markets should not be captured by foreign competitors, he will allow the export of beer to be revived.
On 16th April, 1946, my predecessor made a statement in this House in which he said that because of the serious food situation it had been decided to prohibit, with certain exceptions, the export of manufactured foods and drinks containing scarce ingredients, such as sugar, fats and cereals.Our food situation remains difficult but, as I endeavoured to explain when I had the honour to address the Cornmittee of Supply on 1st July last, our difficulties are changing in character. Apart from the difficulty of finding the actual food to buy we must now seek to maximise in every possible way the amount of foreign currency at our disposal with which to buy it. It is increasingly to this "double problem," as I venture to call it, that we must address ourselves. Therefore, everything which increases our exports is of direct assistance to us in obtaining essential food imports. In these circumstances His Majesty's Government have decided to allow the export of certain carefully selected manufactured foods—such as beer, biscuits and chocolates—which are of very high money value in relation to the quantities of foodstuffs which they contain. We shall aim at selling—as much as possible in hard currency areas—£10 million worth of these specialities a year. In order to do this we shall have to use about one half of one per cent. of our total supplies of sugar and about ·4; of one per cent. of our supplies of fats, and a still smaller percentage of our cereals. But with the foreign currency which we hope to receive from these exports we should be able to buy, when they are available, nearly half a million tons of additional feedingstuffs, for example. I feel sure that the House will agree that in these circumstances this, at first sight paradoxical decision, is correct. I therefore appeal confidently to the Members on all sides of the House to help to explain it. What it amounts to is that we are going to use our processing and manufacturing facilities and skill, plus a very little of our sugar, fats and cereals in order to earn foreign currency which will pay for much bigger quantities of basic foods. I ask our friends overseas to realise this when they see small supplies of foods from Britain, such as high-quality biscuits, jams, etc., in their shops and not to slacken their efforts—efforts which we greatly appreciate—to sell us the maximum quantities of meat, dairy produce and the like—which we need. The full details of this policy, for example, the foods to which it will apply and the administrative arrangements will be announced after consultations with the food industries concerned, by my Department at an early date.
While acknowledging with thanks the right hon. Gentleman's reply, which seems to be the longest answer I have ever had to a Question, may I ask when this new arrangement is to come into effect, and when exports will be permitted?
As soon as we can make administrative arrangements.
Will my right hon. Friend make sure that we sell these exports at the highest possible prices?
We were interested in the right hon. Gentleman's long answer, which seems to be a maximising of "Yes, Sir," but, in view of its importance, could he not have told us this last week in the Food Debate?
The matter has only just been decided, and administrative details are not yet arranged.
Does my right hon. Friend realise the well-known fact that good food is destroyed in all the beer that is produced, and that there cannot be any compensation in the form of dollars for the deliberate destruction of food in order to secure this thing, which is not necessary?
My hon. Friend can, at any rate, be assured that this particular beer will be drunk outside this country.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to this as a "double problem," and is he not aware that as he has failed in almost every single problem with which he has dealt he will certainly be unable to deal with a double one?
While almost all the beer might be used outside the United Kingdom, is it not a fact that good food materials which will be wasted by this policy, are produced in this country?
Some of the materials are, and some are not. Barley is, and sugar is not.
But we need the sugar.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that drinking beer is a very valuable aid to good work at harvest time, and will he ensure that no austerity is imposed at harvest time?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is nothing very new in this policy, that Lord Woolton did this when we were fighting for our life in 1942, and that, therefore, it is quite sensible to do it now?
Tea Ration (Temporary' Reduction)
The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Major WISE:
67. To ask the Minister of Food if he will make a statement on the future level of the tea ration.
At the end of Questions—
The House will recollect that on 3rd April I warned hon. Members that, mainly owing to a dock strike in Calcutta, our stocks of tea were decreasing. The Calcutta strike ended after twelve weeks on 3rd May, but a subsequent strike in Colombo which lasted four weeks and ended on 20th June meant that for a whole month no shipments of tea from Ceylon were possible.The Ministry loyally assisted by the trade, have done everything humanly possible to maintain our supplies, but these two consecutive interruptions in shipments have now reduced our stocks to a point at which we must take action in order to safeguard orderly distribution. As the House knows, we distribute the tea ration at the rate of 2 ozs. and 3 ozs. per week in alternate months. I regret to say that the above two interruptions in our supplies will mean that we cannot make the usual increase for the next 3 oz. month, namely 20th July to 16th August. The ration will, therefore, remain at the rate of 2 ozs. a week over the next two months. I cannot yet definitely say whether we can ship, sort, blend and distribute sufficient tea to make the increase to 3 ozs. in the next due month, namely, September. But it should be definitely possible—if there are no further strikes or interruptions of shipments—,to rebuild our stocks to a level which will permit us to make the usual increase to the 3 oz. rate in the next due month after that, namely November. I am glad to say that it will not be necessary to make this temporary reduction in the case of people of 70 and over and seamen
The right hon. Gentleman will realise that this statement will be a disappointment to a great many people? When was the right hon. Gentleman in a position to make this decision? Was it really not possible to tell the House about it so that it could be discussed last week in the Food Debate?
No, Sir, it was only made a few days ago—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—when shipments were resumed, I am glad to say, after the strikes.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what was the determining factor? It is rather inconvenient to the House to have these sudden statements of further reductions just after we have concluded a Food Debate.
It is not the case that the tea is not available. It is available, but it cannot be blended, sorted and distributed, in time to make the usual increase in the ration at the moment, without risk of distribution difficulties and shortages in the shops, which we think is worse than not increasing the ration.
Does the right hon. Gentleman really mean that he could not have told us this last Tuesday?
Yes, because now the strikes have ended we have made the very greatest efforts to pre-ship supplies to this country, and only in the last day or two did we come to the conclusion that we cannot risk it during the next month. There would be disappointment to housewives in the shops, which I think much worse than reducing the ration at the present moment.
Is it not a fact that the Government have allowed reserves of tea to fall to a dangerously low level?
It is true that these long strikes in Calcutta and Colombo much reduced the stocks so that this action became necessary.
Is it not a little odd that in the Food Debate last week when the Minister made a long statement of an hour and 20 minutes, going over many future arrangements, he was unable to give an indication that he would have to reduce the ration?
The House will recollect that I gave the House a clear warning as long ago as 3rd April, that we might have to reduce the ration.
I am not asking about 3rd April, but about last week?
The right hon. and gallant Member was asking about an indication.
Soap Ration (Children)
asked the Minister of Food whether he will consider extending the extra soap ration for babies to children up to the age of two years.
I am afraid that, with the present shortage of fats, I am unable to adopt my hon. Friend's proposal.
Is the Minister aware that mothers find it at least as difficult to keep their children clean in the early walking stage as in the earlier napkin and crawling stage?
It is a concession I would very much like to make.
Since I asked this Question just a year ago and received precisely the same answer, would the right hon. Gentleman say whether in the meantime he has taken any steps to discover what is the dirtiest age of a child?
Art Gallery Trustees
asked the Prime Minister whether, when appointing new trustees for the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Tate Gallery, he will consider the desirability of ensuring that the trustees as a whole will represent the views on art of all classes of the population of this country.
I do not quite understand what my hon. Friend has in mind. It is, of course, desirable that the trustees of these bodies should be composed of persons who are acquainted with the various trends of opinion on art. I feel sure they are conscious of their duty in this respect and also of their duty to make the best use of the national heritage entrusted to them for the advantage of the community in general.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask whether he would appreciate that there has been a certain amount of dissatisfaction in respect of art opinion, and if that is brought to his notice, will he look into it?
I am not quite sure. In art matters there seem to be a great many opinions and a great deal of feeling. I cannot exactly say the strength of any one case or whether it belongs to any particular class of the community.
asked the Minister of Agriculture how many fat-stock farmers have changed over to dairy farming during the five years ended 31st March, 1947.
I regret that the information is not available.
I would like to ask the question, "Why?" Another question I would like to ask is: Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the serious effect of this switch-over on the home grown beef supplies of this country, which is obvious to everyone who knows anything about the countryside?
Yes, Sir, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be aware that the switch-over affects farms in different degrees. It would be quite impossible to reply to the hon. and gallant Member's Question as it is on the Order Paper.
Tractor Tyres And Spare Parts
asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will secure delivery of tyres for tractors and spare parts for agricultural machinery in Wiltshire, where the Wiltshire branch of the National Farmers Union assert that orders for tyres have been held up for periods exceeding six months.
As I informed the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford-Holt) on 7th July, tyre manufacturers are endeavouring to increase their output to meet the greatly increased demand and available supplies are being distributed as fairly as possible. As regards spare parts, agricultural machinery manufacturers have been asked to give priority to them and, although some individual parts are in short supply, I am not aware of any general shortage of parts for British-made machines. There is rather more difficulty over spare parts for machinery of American make, but all possible steps are taken to expedite shipment of parts from the United States.
Barley Disease, East Anglia
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will make a statement on the hitherto unknown disease affecting barley in East Anglia; and whether any steps can be taken to counter the disease either for this harvest crop or in future years.
The condition to which the hon. Member refers has appeared only this month and its cause and extent are now being actively investigated. I cannot usefully make a statement at present.
Will the right hon. Gentleman see that early steps are taken to deal with this disease because what is happening is causing great uncertainty in East Anglia? The right hon. Gentleman will agree that it would be wise to allay the fears in the minds of many farmers.
I can assure the hon. Member that the problem is being actively investigated by the National Agricultural Advisory Service.
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will consider using a more up-to-date and more equitable method of allocating supplies of feedingstuffs for pigs and poultry than the 1939–40 figures of consumption, especially when ex-Service men are claiming allocations.
asked the Minister of Agriculture what action he is taking to issue new permits for feedingstuffs for poultry to enable individuals to start keeping chickens before the winter sets in.
I recognise the need for a change in the present basis of pig and poultry rationing and although plans are being prepared I am not yet satisfied that supplies of feedingstuffs will be sufficient to enable such a change to be made in the near future. Ex-Service men who were keeping pigs or poultry before joining up are eligible for rations on the same scale as they would have received had they remained on their holdings.
Is the Minister aware that this failure to recognise that there is a constant change going on—it has been going on for the past eight years—has caused a very great deal of injustice to people who have tried to settle in farming since the war? Will he recognise that fact and not let the grass grow under his feet any longer than is necessary?
I can assure the hon. Member that we are fully aware of the demand on the part of certain people to become poultry keepers, but I am also aware that the commercial poultry keepers, whose rations were reduced down to one-eighth of those required to maintain their 1938 numbers, must have first consideration as and when increased feedingstuffs supplies are available.
asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will now give some guidance to farmers on the supplies of feedingstuffs that will be available for pigs and poultry; and if he has formed an estimate of the increase in the home production of bacon and eggs which should be attained in 1947.
I am not yet in a position to announce the scale of rations for livestock, including pigs and poultry, for the forthcoming winter rationing period, but the subject is under active consideration and I hope to make an announcement before the end of this month. It is unlikely that there will be any material increase in the output of bacon and eggs in 1947, but I cannot form a reliable estimate of production in the latter half of the year until the results of the June census become available.
Does the Minister's statement mean that the British housewife must now abandon all hope of getting additional bacon and eggs from home sources next year?
Colorado Beetle, Bedfordshire
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that holiday campers in Bedfordshire recently found a number of Colorado beetle larvae on some self-sown potatoes in a cabbage field at Cotton End; and whether, in view of the importance of this area for potato growing, he will make a statement as to the action taken by his Department to deal with the pest and prevent its spreading in this predominantly horticultural district.
Yes, Sir. A small number of Colorado beetle grubs was found on two potato plants in a cabbage field. The remainder of the field and neighbouring potato fields have been thoroughly searched without any further discovery. The grubs and the plants on which they were found have been destroyed and the surrounding soil injected. These measures should result in the extermination of the colony, but the district will be kept under close observation.
Does the right hon. Gentleman think the colony is descended from beetles that wintered in this country?
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will give the approximate percentage of farms throughout the country the size of which is 150 acres or less and the percentage of farms of 1,000 acres or over.
The percentages for agricultural holdings in England and Wales are 87·3 and 0.1 respectively. A substantial proportion of the smaller holdings are not farms.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that those figures as regards farms of 150 acres or less not only support, but confirm the very figures I gave him last Monday which he would not accept?
If the hon. Member accepts 87·3 as being as accurate as 80 per cent., and it gives him any satisfaction, I shall not disagree.
1948 Harvest (Cropping Programmes)
asked the Minister of Agriculture if farmers have now been notified of the acreages of tillage crops, par- ticularly wheat and potatoes, which they are expected to grow next year.
In most counties the agricultural executive committees are now obtaining from farmers their proposed cropping programmes for the 1948 harvest. These will be considered in the light of the county targets for the more important crops, which are being sent to committees today. Where necessary farmers will be asked to modify their programmes accordingly.
Will every farmer know by the end of this month what is expected of him in the way of wheat to be sown during the coming autumn?
That is, of course, a matter between the county executive committees and each farmer, and since county programmes are being dispatched today, I hope they will be in time to enable all farmers, if not by the end of July, certainly at a very early date, to know exactly what will he expected of them.
Is the Minister aware that if he wants an increased production of wheat from the English farmer the best way of getting it is a fair price comparable to that which the Ministry of Food are paying to the dollar countries, and that the price incentive—
That has nothing to do with this Question, which concerns acreage.