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Food Supplies

Volume 463: debated on Monday 28 March 1949

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Meat Ration

1.

asked the Minister of Food what is the quantity of meat per month by which consumption will be reduced as the result of his proposed reduction of the domestic meat ration by twopence a week.

About 19,000 tons per calendar month.

When will the Parliamentary Secretary's right hon. Friend realise that there is no world meat shortage, but that this is only due to State trading and bulk purchase?

17.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will now give an assurance that the carcase and canned meat rations will be maintained at not less than their present level during the next four months.

No, Sir. I am never prepared to speculate on the future level of the meat ration, which must depend upon the rate at which home produced and imported supplies become available.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that there are rumours current in the country that the canned meat ration will disappear in the next few months? Will she take this opportunity of dispelling those rumours?

I am not aware of those rumours, but I can assure the hon. Member that it would be quite wrong at this moment to make a statement which might he entirely unfounded.

Bearing in mind that this Question relates to a period up to four months ahead, and as the right hon. Lady says that she refuses to speculate on what will happen in that period, will she say how many months ahead represent definite planning and not speculation in the mind of the Government?

During those four months many shipments of meat may come in, but we cannot anticipate that.

Catering Establishments (Meat)

2.

asked the Minister of Food what reductions he proposes to make in the allocation of meat to catering establishments when he reduces the domestic meat ration; whether the same reductions will be applied to all classes of catering establishments; and what quantity of meat he anticipates he will save by these reductions in each month.

The meat authorisations of catering establishments will be reduced by the same proportion as the domestic ration, that is, by one-sixth. This reduction will apply to all classes of catering establishments, with the exception of school canteens and school feeding centres, and will save about 1,300 tons of meat a month.

Government Purchases (Directors)

4.

asked the Minister of Food if he will give the names of the persons engaged by his Department to buy the principal foodstuffs for the nation and for which he is responsible; and whether he will give the qualification or experience of these persons to undertake such work.

As the reply is long and detailed, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the statement:

The directors who are responsible for purchases of the principal foodstuffs are given in the following table, together with the names of the firms or organisations with which they were connected at the time of entering the service of the

CommodityDirectorName of Firm or Organisation
Animal FeedingstuffsH.R. HumphriesUnilever Limited
BaconP.S. HallJ. Loudon & Co. Ltd.
EggsJ.A. PeacockNurden & Peacock Ltd.
Fresh Fruit and VegetablesC. H. LewisE. H. Lewis & Sons Ltd.
Imported CerealsJ. V. RankJoseph Rank Ltd.
MeatSir Henry TurnerNew Zealand Refrigerating Co. Ltd.
Harold JonesW. Weddell & Co. Ltd.
Milk ProductsJ.W. RoddenNew Zealand Government (Dairy Sales Division)
Oils and FatsL. G. FisherUnilever Limited
PotatoesSir John MollettPotato Marketing Board
SugarSir William RookC. Czarnikow Ltd.
TeaHenry JonesEwart MacCaughey & Co. Ltd.

Fish

6.

asked the Minister of Food what special action is being taken to increase the supply and consumption of fish in view of the decrease in the meat ration.

Fish supplies are very much subject to the weather and to the variations in the movement of fish in the sea. My right hon. Friend will take any practicable step to increase supplies and consumption. New trawlers are being brought into operation as rapidly as possible and we shall continue to give every encouragement to the quick-freezing of fish to the maximum during glut periods, and to import as much fish as we can afford. We have already issued one Food Facts advertisement devoted entirely to fish recipes and, if supplies justify it, further advertisements will follow.

Will the right hon. Lady see that all practical steps are taken to see that the processors will be in a position to take every advantage of processing whenever fish is landed?

Moroccan Green Peas

7.

asked the Minister of Food why, in the case of a recent allocation of Moroccan green peas for splitting, one firm of Scottish millers was favoured by being allowed to sell the manufactured product free of points; and if he is aware that other millers will be

Ministry of Food. These men, by reason of long experience, are experts in the purchasing of the commodities for which they are responsible.

unwilling to take up their allocations in future unless they can be assured of uniform treatment.

The only way to clear this small additional quantity before it deteriorated was to allow sales to caterers free of points. Other millers would be treated in the same way in similar circumstances.

Leaving aside altogether any question of a blunder on the part of the right hon. Lady's Department, will she consider seriously the possibility of freeing this processed product from points, in view of the fact that it has a very high protein content and we have very little meat?

I will answer the second part of the supplementary question first. Yes, we are looking at that. The hon. Member accuses my Department of a blunder. I think he is in a position to know that there was no blunder, and that, in fact, we offered the peas to his firm, and if they had applied for the same concession as the Glasgow millers they would have received it.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that if the peas had been offered to my firm with that particular proviso, we would have taken them?

There was no proviso when we first offered them to the Glasgow millers and they asked us to make a concession. If the hon. Gentleman had desired the same concession we would, of course, have given it.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that, in view of the reduction in the meat ration, it is quite impossible for a single person, unless he has meals outside, to live on the existing ration?

French Meat

8.

asked the Minister of Food if he will make a statement on his negotiations for a supply of meat from France.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. S. Marshall) on 23rd March.

Would the right hon. Lady care to comment on the statement of the French Minister of Finance last week that we could have almost unlimited supplies of pork at 1s. 9d. per pound if we liked to ask for it?

There are 2,500 tons of frozen pork now available and we shall arrange for it to come here.

Herrings (Quick Freezing)

9.

asked the Minister of Food what arrangements he has made to quick-freeze surplus British herrings during the summer season for distribution and sale during the winter when British herrings are not available.

I am already considering this proposal, which has some technical and marketing difficulties, and will let the hon. Member know the outcome.

Will the right hon. Lady bear in mind that only 1½ per cent. of the total herring catch is now being frozen and 30 per cent. is being sent to Germany and paid for by the British taxpayer? Will the Minister of Food take that into account? Surely at this time this valuable food of high protein content is needed at home?

I agree with the hon. Member's last remark, and I think he knows that we are doing what we can in the matter. We have to look at an important point which he will thoroughly appreciate, namely, whether it is possible to store these herring for a long period, during the summer months.

Potatoes

10.

asked the Minister of Food what steps he is taking to market ware potatoes in clamps on farms in Devonshire in view of the need to open such clamps to take out seed potatoes needed for spring planting.

If the potatoes have been bought by my Department and are not needed for later use, arrangements will quickly be made for the ware to be moved and any grower who wishes to dress out seed should communicate with the area potato supervisor.

Can the right hon. Lady say to what extent the answer she has given will increase the loss on potatoes from £10 million to about £20 million?

Foreign Workers (Meat)

11.

asked the Minister of Food what is the value of the weekly meat ration now given to European volunteer workers in camps.

The allowance of meat to European volunteer workers' camps is the same as to camps housing British workers. It varies according to the type of work upon which the residents are engaged, and according to the number of main meals served. There is no weekly allowance per resident.

How does this ration compare with that given to agricultural workers? The report I have is that agricultural workers are getting a very much lower ration than the European volunteer workers who are working alongside them.

I do not think that is so. I am prepared to give the hon. Member all the details. We try to equate the value of the domestic ration to the value of the ration given in these hostels. I am quite prepared to amplify this answer when I write to him, and to give him the exact amount which they receive. He will find that domestic consumption plus the extra food available to people such as agricultural workers is approximately the same in value as that received by the people in the camps.

Will the right hon. Lady put that answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT so that we can all see it?

Certainly, I will give some of the details, which I am quite sure will satisfy hon. Members.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the information I have is that when the agricultural worker was getting 1s. worth a week meat ration, the European volunteer worker was getting a ration of 2s. 9d. worth a week?

The Question asked what was the value of the weekly meat ration now given to European volunteer workers in camps.

The point we should like to know is whether it is correct or not that at the time in question the European volunteer worker was getting a ration of 2s. 9d. worth a week. It is a great grievance in the country districts.

Sugar Ration

12.

asked the Minister of Food whether since he is at present unable to de-ration sugar, he will consider increasing the existing ration of 10 oz. a week per person to 1 lb. per person a week, until sugar is de-rationed, in view of the increased supplies expected as a result of current negotiations with Cuba.

No, Sir. To increase the ration to 1 lb. per week would take a large amount of dollar sugar, the only extra sugar available today, and this we cannot afford to buy.

If not, why not? Is not the right hon. Lady aware of the constructive suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) in the Adjournment Debate on sugar? Is it not a fact that in Cuba there is a huge unsaleable surplus which it would be possible to acquire for preserving fruit as well as for increasing the ration? If we cannot get the dollars, why not negotiate in sterling, if there is a will on the part if the Government to obtain that sugar? Are we not one of the worst-fed nations in Europe?

I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that a week last Friday I went into great detail on this matter. I know that I can never satisfy the hon. Gentleman by my replies, but I endeavour to do so. The answer is that the amount of sugar for which he has asked in this Question comes to about an additional half a million tons, which would cost 56 million dollars, and we cannot afford it.

Why not offer to pay in sterling when there is a huge surplus which is unsaleable because there are no dollar buyers?

Duties And Subsidies

14.

asked the Minister of Food if he will name the foods which both pay Customs or Excise Duty and are subsidised; and what is the rate of duty and subsidy in each case.

I regret that in the time available it has not been possible to compile this information. I will publish it in the OFFICIAL REPORT as soon as possible.

Would the right hon. Lady explain the reason—I have no doubt that there is one—for putting something on the price on the one hand and taking it off on the other?

Perhaps the hon. Member will see the answer to that in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Ice Cream (Raw Materials)

16.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that ice cream manufacturers are unable in many cases to fulfil the orders given them by hospitals, schools, etc., for ice cream as they do not receive a sufficient allocation of the necessary raw materials such as sugar, milk powder, etc.; and if he will consider giving additional allowances based on the orders received by the manufacturers from such institutions.

I am afraid I cannot allocate extra ingredients for this purpose because they are so scarce.

In view of the fact that a statement was made, and was generally circulated in the Press, to the effect that there would be a larger supply of sugar for this purpose at the time when sweets were de-rationed, and in view of the fact that the warmer season is now approaching when the hospitals and other institutions will require more of these commodities, will not my right hon. Friend consider my suggestion in respect of specific cases where hospitals, etc. are supplied?

There is a sugar and fat mixture off the ration which many hospitals and schools buy. If they care to use their ordinary ration of fat and sugar, they are entitled to do so.