Skip to main content

Food Supplies

Volume 462: debated on Monday 14 March 1949

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Chocolate And Sweets


asked the Minister of Food whether he intends to abolish price control in respect of chocolates and sugar confectionery when rationing of these comes to an end.

No, Sir.

Would my right hon. Friend agree that, with the supplies that people will demand, there will be a probability that prices will fall if they are de-controlled? Would that not be of great benefit to everyone?

My hon. Friend will agree that it would also be wise for us to wait to see what does happen.


asked the Minister of Food what effect the fall in the world price of maize has had on glucose at home for sweet manufacturers; and whether the benefit of the fall in price will be passed on to the public, bearing in mind the greater the reduction in prices which are passed on to the consuming public the greater likelihood there is of the public purchasing more than 5 ozs. per head per week of sweets.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "None"; the second part of the Question, therefore, does not arise.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that if the Government are to continue charging this high price, they will be making very large profits out of children's sweets and various sweetmeats? Is it not a fact that the profits that they have been making out of the materials supplied for the manufacture of sweets are very excessive indeed?

The hon. Gentleman must realise that we have been using maize that has come to us from Argentina and Russia, and that some of the cheap maize we have bought from Yugoslavia and Hungary is only just reaching this country.

Meat Transport, Maidenhead


asked the Minister of Food whether he will inquire into the methods adopted by his Department for conveying meat between central slaughterhouse and butcher's shops in the town of Maidenhead; and what steps he is taking to improve the cleanliness of the vans so used.

We had already arranged for these vans to be overhauled, and made more up-to-date. The necessity for cleanliness is constantly impressed on all connected with the distribution of meat.

In making those arrangements will the right hon. Lady ensure that there will be facilities for hanging the carcases in the vans and that they will no longer be kicked about on the floor by men in dirty boots?

That is what we are trying to do with these vehicles—to arrange that all meat will be hung in future.

Eggs (Collection)


asked the Minister of Food if he will inquire into the possibilities of a weekly collection of eggs from the farms to the packing stations and so further discourage any tendency towards a black market for new-laid eggs.

This is already being done in most cases, but it is not always possible. If my hon. Friend has a particular case in mind. I should be glad to look into it.

Linseed Oil (Price)


asked the Minister of Food to what extent the difference in the price of linseed oil, £90 per ton f.o.b. Uruguay and £170 per ton as sold by his Department in England, exceeds freight and insurance charges; and if he will account for the excess.

We have not yet been able to buy linseed oil from any country at £90 per ton f.o.b. As regards the second part of the Question, our selling price, as my right hon. Friend informed the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) on 9th March, is based on the cost of imported materials to the Ministry and not on current prices in particular markets.

Will the right hon. Lady say why the Ministry's bulk selling price is so far above the market price in other importing countries?

I think the hon. Gentleman knows that if any commodity is bought by bulk purchase the price at which it is sold retail cannot always be a reflection of the current price.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that Uruguay is offering 5,000 tons of linseed oil at £106 a ton? How much of that do the Government propose to buy?

The hon. Gentleman surely must know that I cannot say such a thing without negotiations.

Can the right hon. Lady inform the House of the price paid for the last bulk purchase and the quantity bought?

I should not like to inform the House now because we are at the moment negotiating for some more linseed.

Cocoa Beans (Prices)


asked the Minister of Food whether, arising out of the many millions of pounds of profits made by the Nigerian Cocoa Marketing Board and the West African Produce Control Board for 1948, he will take steps to ensure that the consuming public get a proportionate and representative reduction in price of goods manufactured from cocoa beans.

No, Sir. The retail prices of goods manufactured from cocoa beans in this country are adjusted from time to time in relation to the cost of cocoa beans purchased by the Ministry at world prices. We recently announced a reduction which took effect from 27th February. Profits made by producers' marketing organisations in West Africa are not relevant to these prices.

Is it not a fact that the reduction that was made was quite insufficient, having regard to the excessive profits which were being made, and is the Minister aware that hon. Members in all parts of the House are very unhappy about what is going on?

I do not think so. I know the degree of happiness or unhappiness of most hon. Members, and I want to assure the hon. Gentleman that when the time comes we shall, of course, make a further reduction.

Argentine Meat


asked the Minister of Food whether in any future meat contracts with the Argentine the Food Controller will ensure that there is a penalty clause as in ordinary commercial practices against short delivery, with special regard to the fact that the penalty clause entitles the buyer to obtain supplies elsewhere to make up for the short shipment by the contracting country, and so provide the estimated ration to the consumers in this country.

I cannot at this stage say anything about the provisions of the agreement on meat which we are hoping to conclude with the Argentine, but we shall certainly do everything possible to ensure regular shipments. Since, however, we are already buying all the meat we can from other markets the second consideration in the hon. Member's Question does not apply.

Is it not a fact that the public today are getting only a few ha'pence worth of meat. Why is it that all these things have gone wrong? Everything is wrong with the Government.

Groundnut Scheme


asked the Minister of Food what were his requirements stated to the Overseas Food Corporation of each type of produce to be grown in 1949 under the groundnut scheme in East Africa.

We told them that we wanted all the oilseeds which they could possibly grow in 1949, and this was one of the main considerations they took into account in determining their cropping programme.


asked the Minister of Food if he has agreed with the Overseas Food Corporation the programme of bush clearing that will be practicable in the coming year under the East African groundnut scheme.

No, Sir. The Corporation's clearing programme does not require my right hon. Friend's approval.

Scarce Foods (Export)


asked the Minister of Food how much sugar, tea, biscuits, chocolate, sweets and other foods in short supply or in tight rationing categories, has been exported during the past six months, to the latest available date.

As the answer includes a table of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is not the right hon. Lady aware that the people of this country could have done quite well with the articles mentioned in Question 30 and could have done quite well without the articles mentioned in Question 31?

I have explained this matter to the hon. Gentleman on many occasions, but perhaps I can explain it in another and more simple form. Surely he would agree that it is wise for us to export biscuits in return for bacon and eggs.

Following is the answer:



Sugar, refined, including candy212,580(a)
Chocolate confectionery9,317
Sugar confectionery7,705
Shortening (including lard compound and compound cooking fat)2,327(c)
Carcase meat and offal19(d)
Canned meat, including canned poultry and game72(a)
Bacon and hams346(d)
Condensed milk1,917(d)
Table jelly crystals, powders and squares254
(a) Exported to British possessions, British Forces overseas, or against payment in hard currency.
(b) Tea specially imported for blending and re-export. No Ministry owned tea is exported.
(c) Three hundred and sixty-eight tons margarine and 537 tons shortening exported to hard currency areas. Remainder to British Forces and British possessions overseas.
(d) Supplies for Malta, Gibraltar, Channel Islands and British Forces overseas only.

China Tea


asked the Minister of Food whether he is now prepared to allow any of the stocks of China tea, now deteriorating in bonded warehouses in this country, to be distributed off the ration.

So long as supplies generally remain short, and rationing is necessary, I am afraid that no tea can be sold off the ration. China tea has good keeping qualities and the stocks here are very small.

Is not the right hon. Lady aware that this stock is deteriorating, as I think her Department know quite well; and does it not seem a pity not to let those people who do want this tea have it, although I agree that everyone will not want it?

This tea has good keeping qualities. If the hon. Gentleman will let me know where the tea is, which he says is so rapidly deteriorating, I shall be only too pleased to make an inquiry.

Vegetable Imports


asked the Minister of Food how much green and fresh vegetables, including cauliflowers, broccoli. onions, lettuce, beans and peas, have been imported during the last six months, to the latest available date.

During the six months August, 1948, to January, 1949, 219,559 tons of fresh vegetables other than potatoes were imported.

What is the good of the Ministry of Agriculture making an appeal for increased production, if the appeal and the efforts of the growers are sabotaged by the Ministry of Food; and is this not typical of Socialist planning?

In view of the difficulty of dealing with this matter adequately by Question and answer, I beg to give notice that I shall raise it on the Adjournment.

Fruit And Vegetable Prices


asked the Minister of Food to what extent retail prices of fruit and vegetables have fallen since the removal of the obligation on retailers to obtain a licence to trade; and if he is satisfied that it is sufficient to justify decontrol.

So many factors influence these prices that it is quite impossible to assess the effect of any particular one of them. I am, however, quite satisfied that the decision to open this trade to new entrants has had very healthy effects.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I draw attention to the renewed reference by the Ministry of Agriculture to the wide difference between producer and consumer prices, and ask when can other practical steps be taken to reduce that wide gap?

I can assure my hon. Friend that we are very concerned with this matter and are giving it our closest attention.

Pig Slaughter (Identification)


asked the Minister of Food what method is adopted by his Department when collecting pigs for slaughter; how each owner's pigs are identified; and, in view of the fact that mistakes are being made and producers of pigs for his Department are dissatisfied, if he will make inquiries into this matter and see whether any improvement can be effected.

Pigs delivered at collecting centres by producers are ear-tattooed at the centre by the Ministry's district chairman of auctioneers. The identification of pigs collected from producers for direct transport to bacon factories is, however, dependant on producers marking their pigs clearly. The proportion of errors in identification of 30,000 pigs now being handled weekly is extremely small and I am satisfied that it cannot be reduced by any action on my part. I am not aware of any general dissatisfaction on this matter but if my hon. Friend has any particular cases in mind I shall be glad to have them investigated.

Is the right hon. Lady informing the House that no mistakes are made, because I am quite prepared to give her some information of mistakes that have already been made.

I never said that. I never claim to be infallible. I was merely saying that if the hon. Gentleman will tell me the mistakes, I will look into them.

Specimen Menus


asked the Minister of Food why he refused a request from the Sutton Coldfield Housewives' League that he should provide specimen complete menus for a month, possible for a family of four, as promised recently to the League by one of his representatives.

As I explained to the hon. Member in my letter of 8th March, it has never been part of our policy to provide complete menus because the meals which a housewife plans over a period depend upon so many variable factors, such as her family's taste in food, the season, the unrationed and points foods she can buy and the family circumstances generally.

Does the right hon. Lady appreciate that this request was a challenge to her to show how a housewife could provide a balanced diet for her family at a reasonable cost, and is she not going to accept that challenge?

I think that the hon. Gentleman is making a mountain out of a molehill. A certain lady at question time at a meeting asked one of my food organisers to arrange a menu. The food organiser returned to my Department and the Department, after giving the request careful consideration, realised that it was quite impracticable to arrange something which would be acceptable to every housewife in this country. That is all there is to the matter.

Is it not a very reasonable proposal that the Ministry should satisfy the housewives that they can produce a balanced diet for their families at a reasonable cost?

If the Minister decides ultimately to send a reply to the Housewives' League giving the menu of the workers, will she also send the menu of the workers and unemployed between 1920 and 1939?

Milk Chocolate (Eire)


asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that the allocation of milk supplies by his Department has resulted in the transfer to Eire of the manufacture of milk chocolate formerly undertaken in England; how much milk chocolate is to be imported from Eire in the current year; how the promised supply of butter from Eire will be affected; and what is the cost of the extra subsidy that will be payable to milk producers in the United Kingdom to compensate for the loss of this market.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." Since 1939 there has been a decline in, the manufacture of chocolate milk crumb in this country because the milk available here for manufacture is required for priority products, such as baby food and cheese. Since we are not in a position to supply to chocolate manufacturers all the milk they require, they obtain a certain amount of chocolate milk crumb from Eire. We do not expect to import either chocolate confectionery or butter from Eire this year. The answer to the final part of the Question is that no extra subsidy is payable. Payments to milk producers do not vary with the product into which the milk is made.

Is the Minister of Food taking credit for this as a piece of good Socialist planning? As we are getting more milk available for manufacturers, will he not allow milk chocolate to be made here instead of buying it more expensively from Ireland?

The hon. Gentleman does not know all the facts. This year we are giving the chocolate manufacturers one million gallons of whole milk and one million gallons of skimmed milk.

Commodity Prices


asked the Minister of Food whether he will give the peak prices quoted since the war; the prices twelve months ago; and the prices ruling today upon the United Kingdom market for the following commodities: wheat,

Price at March, 1948Price at March, 1949Peak Price since the war
Wheat (home-grown millable wheat sold by a person other than grower).101per cwt.141per cwt141per cwt
Maize (price charged by dealer to farmer).1000per ton1026per ton1026per ton
Rye (home-grown rye sold by person other than grower).192per cwt.136per cwt.136per cwt.
Linseed (price paid by Ministry merchant for home-grown linseed).45150per ton55150per ton55150per ton
Linseed oil (Ministry selling price)20000per ton17000per ton20000per ton
Lard (Ministry release price and price at which bacon factories sell).4100per cwt.4100per cwt.4113per cwt


(Prices delivered buyer's premises)

Price at March, 1948Price at March, 1949Peak Price since the war
Copper (high conductivity electrolytic)£132 per long ton£140 per long ton£140 per long ton
Lead (good soft pig)£90 per long ton£123 per long ton£123 per long ton
Tin (common)£519 per long ton£569 per long ton£569 per long ton
English refined tin is £3 10s.0d. per long ton higher than common tin.

maize, rye, linseed, linseed oil, lard, copper, lead, tin, rubber and hides.

As the reply involves a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the Minister aware that the United Kingdom prices prevailing today for a number of commodities are considerably in excess of world prices and are they not due to the Minister holding up prices to recover the loss on dear contracts; and may we have an assurance that no further contract without an escape clause will be entered into?

The hon. Gentleman must realise that prices charged today must be related to the prices we pay, and that these prices cannot always be the prices which are current.

Is not the Minister aware that a free market industry has to compete against world prices and cannot charge prices in relation to the prices they may have paid.

Following is the table:

Open Market PriceMinistry"s selling Price
Price at March, 1948Price at March, 1949Peak Price since the war
Rubber1s. Od. per Ib.11½d. per lb.1s. 3 13/16d. per lb.

There have been no London market quotations for hides in the pre-war sense since the war, because the Leather Control has been purchasing the entire supply required by United Kingdom tanners. United Kingdom merchants buy on behalf of the Control, however, and also conduct business with third countries. The following table gives an indication of the trend of prices (Control buying prices) of some fairly representative grades, but the full market list is very extensive. The great majority of domestic hides are transferred to the Leather Control from the Ministry of Food and are not acquired by merchants.
Open Market PriceMinistry"s Selling Price
Pence per lb.Pence per lb.Pence per lb.
Argentine Frig. 1st Heavy Ox20⅝20 19/3222
New Zealand Freezor Cows (40 1bs. up)202021¼
Dry Capes212126½

American Prunes


asked the Minister of Food whether his recently announced purchase of prunes from America constitutes a departure from the policy adopted since 1947 of purchasing none but basic foods from the dollar area.

No, Sir. The general policy has not been changed. There were special circumstances relating to these prunes. Dried fruit is one of the commodities which the American authorities have declared surplus to domestic requirements. They were therefore available at very special prices, and we decided to buy some.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the housewife greatly welcomes this decision to import dried fruit which she considers to be a basic food; and will my right hon. Friend see whether she cannot extend these purchases, particularly of seedless raisins?

Nigerian Tapioca


asked the Minister of Food whether he is satisfied that the fullest opportunity is taken to import foodstuffs from West Africa; and whether he is aware that large stocks of tapioca are lying in store in Nigeria which cannot be exported for want of a British import licence.

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. As to the second part, the Ministry of Food is now prepared to consider an application from anyone for an import licence for Nigerian tapioca. If my hon. Friend knows of any case of difficulty and will let me have details, I will gladly look into it.

In addition to inquiring about tapioca, will the right hon. Lady inquire about feedingstuffs, which are available in Nigeria but are not being imported here?