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Food Supplies

Volume 462: debated on Monday 7 March 1949

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Enforcement Officer, Barking

27.

asked the Minister of Food what action he proposes to take in regard to Samuel Groves, food enforcement officer for Barking, who was rebuked on 23rd February by the chairman of Stratford magistrates for improperly compelling a housewife to disclose the contents of her shopping bag.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) on Monday, 28th February.

While the right hon. Lady will no doubt appreciate that I put this Question down before she gave her answer to the previous Question, may I ask her to see that this man's activities in future will not bring him in direct contact with the public, in view of his previous activities?

Can the right hon. Lady tell the House where the housewife can be informed what are the duties and privileges of these enforcement officers?

I think that if the housewife goes to the local food office, she will be able to obtain that information.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that in my division the local food officer has been asked to give that information and to address a public meeting on his duties, and has refused?

Tea

28.

asked the Minister of Food what prospects there are of securing more tea from the Dutch East Indies, with a view to the abolition of tea rationing.

We hope to obtain increased supplies of tea from the Netherlands East Indies this year, but not, I fear, on a scale which will enable us to abolish tea rationing.

Imported Grain (Storage)

29.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the fact that there are at present over 50 aerodromes being used for the storage of imported grain, he will give an assurance that there will be no further aerodromes used for this purpose, and that every endeavour will be made to reduce the numbers during the present year.

I can give the assurance asked for in the second, but not in the first, part of the Question.

I am not quite clear what that means. Could the right hon. Lady be a little more lucid?

If the hon. Gentleman cares to look at his Question, he will see what the answer means.

Eire Salmon

30.

asked the Minister of Food how much fresh salmon has been brought from Eire in the past three months; and what is the average price per pound paid by his Department.

Thirty-eight tons of fresh salmon were bought from Eire for delivery in the three months ended 26th February, at an average price of 4s. 6½d. per pound.

If the hon. Gentleman will look at the Maximum Price Order, he will find that these prices are graduated according to the season. I think the first-hand sale price per pound, from January to June, 1948, was 6s. and then 5s.

Blood Donors

31.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will give an extra food ration periodically to blood donors.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Silvertown (Dr. Comyns) on 22nd September last.

Fishermen, Annan

32.

asked the Minister of Food why Annan trawl fishermen do not receive seamen's ration books in the same way as fishermen from Cumberland ports; and whether he will take steps to ensure that the practice in Dumfriesshire is brought into line with that in Cumberland in this respect.

I am advised that there are no fishermen who can properly be classified as trawl fishermen operating from Annan: nor have any weekly seamen's ration books been issued to any such fishermen at Cumberland ports.

Would the right hon. Lady look into this again? According to my information the Annan trawl fishermen fish in exactly the same waters as the Cumberland trawl fishermen and are actually out longer than they are.

If the hon. Member would like the Port Arbitration Committee to look into it, I am prepared to make the necessary arrangements.

Ice Cream (Sugar Allocation)

33.

asked the Minister of Food what conditions as to the fat content of ice cream are made when allocations of sugar are made to the manufacturers.

No such conditions are attached to normal allocations of sugar; but an extra allowance of 15 per cent. is granted to manufacturers who undertake to maintain a minimum fat content of 2½ per cent.

Does the right hon. Lady realise what dreadful stuff is now being sold as ice cream and how small is the fat content in a great deal of it?

Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend knows that I would like to prescribe a standard, but he must realise that the shortage of milk and milk powder makes it impossible for us to prescribe a satisfactory product, and that is why we have hesitated to do it.

Would it not be possible to let the public know when a satisfactory product is being sold and when one is not?

I think that my hon. Friend will agree with me that this is a small advance towards solving the problem.

South African Oranges

35.

asked the Minister of Food what profit his Department are making from the sale of South African oranges in this country.

Domestic Preserving (Sugar)

36.

asked the Minister of Food if he will permit the increased allocation of sugar forthwith so that existing supplies of oranges may be used for marmalade making.

No, Sir. I have already announced the release of seven bonus issues of 1 lb. each for domestic preserving, and regret it is not possible to commence this increased distribution before the four-week period commencing 24th April.

Is not the information of the right hon. Lady that there are large stocks of these oranges now available, many of which are being wasted because there is no sugar available, and cannot her Department, not give more sugar, but expedite the allocation of that which is coming?

I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong. There were large stocks, but there is only a small amount left now.

Bakers (Profit Margin)

37.

asked the Minister of Food what is the bakers' margin of profit for the last convenient year and for 1938; and what is the relative gross turnover for the same two years.

My Department only has information about the profit margin on bread: we hold the net profit per sack of flour at about the pre-war figure of 5s. But bakers make many other things besides bread, so I am afraid I cannot estimate their gross turnover.

French Pork

38.

asked the Minister of Food what quantity of pork he expects to import from France this year

Discussions are to begin soon between officers of my Department and of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries with a French delegation. It is hoped that these talks will result in agreement on health regulations which will make it possible to negotiate for the purchase of pork.

Will the Minister bear in mind, in regard to the importing of pork, whether at the same time we can get any from East Africa?

Potatoes

39.

asked the Minister of Food how the monthly consumption of potatoes for human consumption and for stock-feed, respectively, in 1947–48 compared with that of 1946–47 month by month; and what are the corresponding figures to date this year.

As the reply is a table of figures, I will, with the hon. and gallant Member's permission, circulate the information in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Will the right hon. Lady say whether the 1947–48 ration has resulted in a reduced consumption this year and, if so, whether the estimate, which is for a surplus of five million tons, is correct?

Does the hon. and gallant Member mean consumption by humans or by animals?

The overall consumption. Is the right hon. Lady aware that the overall consumption will obviously be affected if the human consumption is cut down?

As I have already explained to the House last year's crop was so great that human consumption, while it has been heavy, has not been sufficient to take up the surplus this crop year. Animal consumption is much higher.

And the surplus of five million tons which is estimated is in fact correct?

Following is the information:

Thousand tons
CalendarMonthSales for human consumption in Great Britain Sales for stockfeeding (raw and processed) in Great Britain
1946–471947–48From 1.7.48 to 31.1.491946–471947–48From 1.7.48 to 31.1.49
July428423402452
August41135937624
September5875605012161
October549661431883
November5345134678189
December5634114624107
January605387512*3148*
February380459
March52341611
April64337426
May488296530
June396343219
Total6,1075,2023,1513963514

* Provisional figures.

40.

asked the Minister of Food how many factories are now processing potatoes; what is the total weekly output; how many tons of potatoes have so far been processed; how many additional factories will be in operation before this season's crop has been processed; how many weeks processing will be necessary in all; and what is the total tonnage likely to be processed.

There are 26 processing factories in the United Kingdom which are converting each week approximately 17,000 tons of raw potatoes into 3,500 tons of dried potatoes. Up to 19th February this year 94,000 tons of raw potatoes had been processed into 15,566 tons of dried potato. Two further small drying plants may become available to deal with this season's crop. Processing will continue so long as there are potatoes to be disposed of. I cannot say therefore for how many weeks the factories will be needed. The present estimate is that the total quantity likely to be processed will be about 300,000 tons.

Would the right hon. Lady say whether these factories are now working seven days a week or only five?

Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman would put that Question on the Order Paper.

Dried Bananas

41.

asked the Minister of Food what imports of dried bananas he is now arranging for.

Arrangements have been made to allow the import under licence of 500 tons of dried bananas from the British Cameroons during the first six months of this year. I am prepared to ask my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to license further supplies, if available, from the British Cameroons or other easy currency areas if the prices asked are reasonable.

Flour Deliveries

42.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that, in Eastleigh, Hants, a flour restriction scheme is being operated which results in a reduction of 50 per cent. in the supply of bread to retail shops; and whether he will increase the flour allocation to bakers there.

No, Sir. Flour deliveries in all parts of the United Kingdom, including Eastleigh, are in general limited to the quantity delivered in the year ended 26th June, 1948. My inquiries have not revealed that there is any shortage of bread at Eastleigh, but if my hon. Friend will send me details of any case he has in mind I will be willing to look into it.

Meat (Illegal Sales)

43.

asked the Minister of Food to what extent his officers check farmer-dealers' stock sheets; whether they try to trace beasts taken to the grading centre and brought away again; what checks are made on pig clubs, when excessive numbers of pigs are killed, to ascertain if they actually feed all their stock, and on butchers' buying permits, when such permits have increased to a considerable extent over short periods; and how far these efforts have been successful in stopping illegal sales of meat.

As this Question calls for a very long answer, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the statement:

I will answer this Question point by point. First, local authorities are responsible for enforcing and checking the registers which farmers are required to keep under the Ministry of Agriculture's Movement of Animals (Records) Order, 1925, but our officers consult them where necessary. Secondly, inquiries are made about the disposal of animals withdrawn from grading if it is suspected that they are to be sold for slaughter illegally for human consumption. Thirdly, pig clubs are subject to the same regulations about registration and slaughter as other self-suppliers, and the same procedure is followed in both cases to see that the conditions of the scheme are observed. Fourthly, meat authorisations to butchers are completed weekly or on the basis of registrations and other requirements, and are drawn up by our local officers who, with their local knowledge, report any irregularities. Fifthly, I am satisfied that these and the other measures which we take help to curb illegal sales of meat.