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Food Supplies

Volume 441: debated on Wednesday 6 August 1947

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Bread Rationing


asked the Minister of Food if he will make a statement about the future of the bread-rationing scheme.

No longer being connected with the meteorological service, I cannot satisfy my hon. Friend.

Fish Sales (Levy)


asked the Minister of Food what was the total sum collected by the levy on the first sale of fish, excluding herring, in the United Kingdom during 1946; and, what was the total sum expended in transport of fish in the United Kingdom, excluding herring, during 1946.

I am sorry that I cannot give the hon. Member the exact information for which he asks, but for the financial year 1st April, 1946, to 31st March, 1947, the levy collected on fish, excluding herring, amounted to £4,881,000 and the cost of transport to £4,331,000.

Milk Foods (Infant Welfare Centres)


asked the Minister of Food why he has found it necessary to cut down the quota of tinned milk foods supplied to infant welfare centres; and at what date he expects to be able to restore the previous allowance.

My Department does not control the distribution of proprietary brands of milk-based baby foods. Owing to the reduced production of milk in the first four months of the year—because of the great frost—there was a reduction in the output of milk powder and as a result manufacturers have had to restrict their sales of these proprietary foods. I cannot say when it will be possible fully to restore the old rate of sales.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have here a letter saying that a restriction was imposed by the Ministry of Food? It is signed by one of the managers of a firm distributing tinned milk food.

I take it that the writer of the letter, for which I am not of course responsible, is referring to the restrictions on the production of milk powder which had to be imposed for the reasons I have just given.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the main cause of the restriction on production was not the frost but the Government's failure to acquire adequate feedingstuffs.

Consumption Statistics


asked the Minister of Food what was the total weight and value of all principal foods consumed in this country in 1946; and the corresponding details for foods sup- plied to restaurants and canteens, separately.

As the reply includes a large number of figures, I shall, with permission, circulate it in, the OFFICIAL REPORT.

——Quantity. '000 tons.Value (a) £'000.Quantity (b) '000 tons.Value (c) £'000.
Cakes and Biscuits1,113150,10410713,201
Meat and Offal (d)1,814211,34718221,140
Canned Meat17232,229152,667
Bacon and Ham (e)30657,255213,416
Fresh fish1,07281,591
Margarine, lard and cooking fat50439,877584,292
Fresh milk (e)6,700207,79898928,799
Canned milk16614,026171,337
Dried milk428,2053224
Eggs in shell (e)20127,054
Dried egg3717,71952,274
Jam and Marmalade28333,591282,801
Chocolate and sugar confectionery23249,529244,136
Potatoes5,50260 225
Canned and dried vegetables34925,660
Fresh fruit98595,518
All other foodstuffs178,87569,582
(a) These values are the totals of the estimated expenditure in the following five categories:
(i) Domestic purchases of food by households at retail prices, together with the value at farm prices of produce consumed on farms, and the value at the cost to the consumer of welfare foods provided under the National Milk, Milk-in-schools, and vitamin schemes.
(ii) Purchases by Category A catering establishments (restaurants, hotels and all residential establishments, together with institutions such as services hospitals, orphanages, hostels, etc., and school canteens and feeding centres, war-time nurseries, and public and private day schools) valued at the prices paid by these establishments.
(iii) Purchases by Category B catering establishments (voluntary service canteens, fire and police canteens, Industrial "A" and "B" canteens, Youth Service centres, workers' recreational clubs, and all other Cadet clubs, etc.) valued at the prices paid by these establishments.
(iv) Purchases by the Services of food for the Armed Forces in the U.K. valued at the prices paid by the Services.
(v) The quantities of ingredients used for the production of manufactured foods and their value at the prices paid by manufacturers are included against the ingredients where these are given separately in the above table. The value of other ingredients and the added value resulting from manufacture are shown against "All other foodstuffs."
(b) The quantities of unrationed foods consumed in catering establishments are unknown. An estimate of their value is included in the total.
(c) These values represent the totals of groups (ii) and (iii) noted in (a) above.
(d) Including canned corned meat and pork self-suppliers.
(e) Including self-suppliers.

Can my right hon. Friend say how these figures compare with those during and before the war?

Following is the statement:

Milk Distribution (Report)


asked the Minister of Food whether he has now received the Report of the Committee on Milk Distribution; when this will be made available; and what action he proposes taking to implement the recommendations.

Extra Sugar Ration, Oxford


asked the Minister of Food, whether his attention has been drawn to complaints by Oxford traders of the difficulties in which they have been put in honouring the extra sugar ration by the failure of his Department to secure the supply of sufficient stocks in time; and what action he is taking to meet their difficulties.

No Oxford traders have complained to my Department about sugar deliveries, but it is true that the two recent bonus issues and the increase in the ration have placed a strain on transport. My Department has dealt with such difficulties as promptly as possible, and I feel certain that housewives would rather have their extra sugar a few days late, if this is unavoidable, rather than be deprived of it.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that no Oxford traders have complained to his Department, can it be that he has not received the letter of complaint which I myself sent on to him from an Oxford trader?

I suppose the answer is intended to imply, other than the complaints on which this Question is based.

Cattle Purchases, Eire


asked the Minister of Food whether it has been brought to his notice that British cattle buyers are being forced out of the Southern Irish meat market by Continental agents making direct purchases off the land; and whether, in the light of this fact, he will investigate the position and, if necessary, revise the prices paid by this country for fat and store cattle from Eire.

I know that substantial numbers of cattle have been bought in Eire by Continental countries recently. His Majesty's Government are at present considering what can be done to increase supplies of agricultural produce, including cattle, from Eire to this country; it is hoped to open discussions shortly with the Government of Eire on this and other subjects of mutual interest.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware of the fact that this matter is extremely urgent, and that unless very rapid action is taken about it, he may find eventually that he can get no meat whatever from the South of Ireland?

Venison (Controlled Prices)


asked the Minister of Food whether he will so revise the shippers' and retailers' controlled prices of 9d. and Is. per lb., respectively, for venison, as to encourage its importation from Eire and other sources of supply.

The maximum prices for venison are in line with those for similar types of meat and I see no reason for increasing them.

Tomato Order (Restrictions)


asked the Minister of Food for what reasons it was decided to announce over the wireless that, owing to the large influx of Dutch tomatoes, licensed wholesalers selling in the London area were released from the obligations imposed by the Tomato Order, 1947; whether he is aware that this announcement has caused great inconvenience to the trade; and whether arrangements will be made under similar circumstances in future to deal with matters of this kind through the appropriate trade channels.

During the week which began on 20th July very heavy arrivals of Dutch tomatoes coincided with peak marketings of the home grown crop. By Friday, the 25th, the depots through which these tomatoes are distributed in the London area were overloaded and arrangements were therefore made to relax the restrictions imposed by the Tomato Order in order to avoid delay in distribution and consequent wastage. I think that far greater inconvenience would have been caused by failure to take prompt action.

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the confusion that was also caused to the growers, and is he not aware that the growers in this country forsaw this glut coming, and why did his Department not foresee it and take earlier action than was done by the wireless broadcast?

It the hon. Gentleman feels that a supply of tomatoes which allows distribution under the controlled price is a glut, I cannot altogether agree with him—or that it is the kind of glut which we welcome very much in this Department.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this made practically no difference at all to the growers, that the implications in the Question are grossly inaccurate, and that if the action had not been taken, it would have resulted in far greater inconvenience to traders and a huge loss of food?

Cheese Ration (Building Workers, Maldon)


asked the Minister of Food if he will modify his definition of rural building-trade workers in order to overcome some of the anomalies which have attended his recent concession of an extra cheese ration; and, in particular, if he will authorise the issue of such a ration to employees of Messrs. S. Hardy-King, 35, Market Hill, Maldon, Essex, who are to be engaged for several months in building work at a site slightly less than two miles from the town of Maldon, but on an island.

I am afraid I cannot agree to modify the regulations to meet this case. The test must be whether the workers are regularly employed under the qualifying conditions.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that various food offices interpret his regulations in various ways, and interpret the definition of a town quite differently? Some seem to apply the word "town" to quite a small place which has no canteen or meals facilities of any kind?

We always knew that this concession would land us into difficult questions of demarcation, and that is why we were rather reluctant to make it, but we shall have to work out these qualifying conditions as carefully as possible.

African Groundnut Scheme


asked the Minister of Food how many Africans are now employed in the groundnut scheme; and in what capacities.

At the end of July about 2,500 Africans were employed in the groundnuts scheme, of these about 1,600 were engaged in relatively unskilled work as field labourers, camp attendants and hospital attendants. The rest were employed as motor drivers, tractor drivers, clerks and artisans or were being trained for these more highly skilled jobs.

Will my right hon. Friend see that, when this scheme is in full working operation, the minor specialised categories will be staffed solely by African labour?

I could not give my hon. Friend a guarantee, but the whole object of the scheme is to train Africans to the most skilled jobs possible.

Surplus Mackerel (Processing)


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that a consider able number of mackerel have recently been dumped into the sea at Peterhead; and what steps he has taken to find a market for mackerel which are surplus to the requirements of a particular port, or, alternatively, to process them into oil.

We are seeing whether we can arrange to use mackerel for processing into oil and meal.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that he had better see to it fairly quickly, or the mackerel will have gone away?

Unfortunately, at present the factories say there are technical difficulties about using mackerel for this purpose.

Kippers (Export Licences)


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that many kipperers have found it necessary to close down, or work short time, owing to lack of home demand; and, in view of the growing demand for kippers from foreign markets, particularly Australia and South Africa, whether he will increase the export licences to those who are willing and able to meet this demand.

I am aware that many kipperers have not been working to capacity. At the start of the season I authorised exports up to 2,000 tons, about the same quantity as the total 1938 export, and I recently increased the quota by 500 tons. But I am now considering whether we cannot dispense with this whole export licensing system at any rate during the flush herring season.

Is the Minister aware that the home market will decline further unless he does something to stop the dyeing of kippers, instead of curing them by the proper process?

Will the Minister consult with the Minister of Transport with a view to transporting fish more rapidly from Aberdeen fishing ports to the inland consuming centres where the food is badly needed?

I think the transport of fish this year has been considerably better than it was, and we have provided a lot of dry ice and other refrigerating facilities for that purpose. One of the difficulties this year is that the herring have been of low quality.