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Food Supplies

Volume 463: debated on Monday 4 April 1949

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Tinned Fish

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

43.

—To ask the Minister of Food what additional species of tinned fish it is intended to market in the United Kingdom in addition to those which were generally available on the 1st January.

As the Minister is not present at the moment, I will return to this Question later.

On a point of Order. May I move that the Serjeant at Arms be instructed to send for the Minister?

Probably tunny and mackerel but I cannot yet say what quantities will be available or when the release will be made.

Syrup And Sweet Biscuits

44.

asked the Minister of Food whether, as from 24th April, he will consider de-rationing syrup, treacle and sweet biscuits, since the setting free of these commodities would enable the public to spread their demands and prevent a shortage in any one of them.

I shall continue to take foods off points whenever I can, but I cannot speculate about changes in advance.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman a member of the Government, and will the Government endeavour to see that they feed the people more adequately? Instead of introducing so much unwanted legislation, why not do something for the people's food?

Flour Supplies

65.

asked the Minister of Food why Mr. Hackett Jones of Cockmannings Farm, St. Mary Cray, was unable to get a supply of flour, as set out in the particulars which have been sent to him; and why he has brought out a scheme to restrict deliveries.

Mr. Hackett Jones will be able to obtain as much flour for his shop and catering business from his wholesalers as they sold him during the year before bread rationing ended. He cannot expect to buy only self-raising flour. As to the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the statement I made in the House on 21st July, 1948.

Is the Minister aware that since that date the number of customers and the character of the area have changed? Will he try to take away all the red tape and let the people get on with the job?

We should very much like to abolish the flour restriction scheme, and we shall do so the moment supplies of flour enable it to be done.

Subsidies

68.

asked the Minister of Food what sums on the food subsidy account during the past 12 months have been applied to home-produced supplies of food, Commonwealth and Empire supplies and foreign supplies respectively.

If the subsidies on animal feedingstuffs are attributed to home production, the estimated total subsidy for the year to 31st March, 1949, can be analysed as follows:—Home production £280 million, or 58 per cent.; Commonwealth and Empire supplies £151 million, or 31 per cent.; Foreign supplies £53 million, or 11 per cent.

Purchases

69.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is satisfied that adequate publicity has been given to the fact that our principal foodstuffs are being bought by experts in the food trade.

The fact that our principal foodstuffs are bought by some of the leading experts in the food trades has already been given in replies to Questions and in the course of debate, and has received considerable publicity in some sections of the Press; but it can always bear repetition, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity of repeating it.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the reply which was given by our mutual right hon. Friend on this subject last Monday was published in only two of the leading national newspapers on the following day? Will he take steps to publish this very interesting information as a "Food Fact" in every newspaper for the benefit of the nation?

Catering Establishments (Meat)

70.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will now consider ordering a meatless day in all restaurants and public eating places.

I think it is better to reduce the actual allowances of meat to catering establishments, and this we have already done.

Offences

74.

asked the Minister of Food to what extent his regulations render persons who consume rationed food illegally supplied liable to prosecution in the same way as the hotels and shopkeepers who provide it.

People who consume food that others have obtained illegally are not thereby liable to prosecution.

If the people who supply the food illegally can be convicted, why should not the comrades who spent the weekend at Manor House, Shanklin, also have to go to prison?

The hon. Member is running rather ahead. This matter is sub judice at the moment.

Cheese Ration (Stokers)

75.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will extend the extra cheese ration to gas works stokers.

No, Sir. Gas undertakings should be well able to provide canteen and packed meals services for their workers.

Is the Minister aware that many of these gas works undertakings have no canteens, and that it is almost impossible for the wives of the workers to send their husbands out with packed lunches to sustain them in this very exacting work?

I think that the answer is to encourage by every means in our power the provision of canteens.

Onions

76.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that considerable quantities of Polish onions are being sold in this country at 6s. for a 50 lb. bag; how this price compares with the minimum price that British growers charge for onions; what representations he has received on this matter from British growers; and what remedial action he proposes.

My information is that Polish onions are fetching 12s. a cwt. for medium sizes and 16s. a cwt. for the larger sizes, ex quay. The most recent wholesale prices for English onions range from 4s. to 16s. a cwt. The total quantity of onions imported from Poland since the beginning of this season is less than 2,500 tons. I have received no representations from growers recently about these Polish imports. I am not proposing any remedial action since I am glad to say that both English and Polish onions are now selling to the housewife at from 2d. a lb. instead of 4½d. a lb. under control.

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has stated the total imports from Poland, may I ask whether it is a fact that in the coming year more onions are to be imported from Poland and other countries than the whole of the annual consumption of onions in the United Kingdom?

Is it still the right hon. Gentleman's policy to continue to buy food abroad at the cheapest possible price regardless of the effect on British agriculture?

No, Sir. Certainly pot regardless of the effect and equally not regardless of the price, to the housewife.

Horseflesh (Retail Prices)

77.

asked the Minister of Food what are the maximum retail prices fixed for horseflesh for human consumption; and if he is satisfied that housewives in London and elsewhere are not being charged more than these prices.

Maximum retail prices of horseflesh for human consumption are 1s. per lb. for some cuts, and 8d. per lb. for others. All steps possible are being taken to prevent overcharging. If the hon. Member will let me have particulars of any case of overcharging I will gladly have it investigated.

Is the Minister aware that in many cases the price list is in very small type so that it can hardly be noticed, and in view of the cut in the ordinary meat ration is it proposed to put horseflesh on the ration?

The answer to the second part of the supplementary question is, "No, Sir." In reply to the first part, I agree that there is difficulty of enforcement here, but we must do our best.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the selling prices of horses for slaughter makes it virtually impossible to sell horsemeat at the controlled price?

Dutch Meat Products

78.

asked the Minister of Food what quantities of meat and meat products, respectively, and of what values, he has agreed to buy under the Anglo-Netherlands Trade Agreement, 1949.

We have agreed the following import quotas for meat products from the Netherlands in 1949: canned meat and sausages, cooked sausages, chicken paste and salami, to the value of £1,500,000; game and rabbits to the value of £.60,000; and poultry to the value of £100,000. I cannot estimate the tonnages because of the different prices for the various foods. Poultry and rabbits are bought by the Ministry of Food and the other items are imported by private traders under licence. We were not offered any carcase meat.

Potatoes (Licences)

80.

asked the Minister of Food how many potato grower-salesmen's licences have been issued each year since potato control licensing regulations were introduced by his Department; and how many such licences have been issued each month during the past year.

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

Following is the table:

The numbers of grower-salesman licences issued each year since August, 1942, when permanent licences were first introduced, are as follows:

1st August-31st December, 194210,054
1943824
1944428
1945204
1946175
1947160
1948982
1st January-31st March, 1949104

The numbers issued in each of the last 12 months were:

1948
April7
May5
June195
July213
August159
September109
October63
November105
December77
1949
January55
February32
March17

81.

asked the Minister of Food how many ware potato merchants' licences have been issued to date; and how many have been issued each month during the last 12 months.

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

Is the right hon. Gentleman persisting in his former policy of keeping the granting of these licences to the minimum?

We are still having to license potato merchants. During the present period of control I am afraid that that is inevitable.

Is the right hon. Gentleman keeping to the minimum the number of licences he grants?

I am not quite clear what the hon. and gallant Member means by that, but we are keeping it to the figure we think is a proper one in existing circumstances.

Has the right hon. Gentleman not changed his policy in regard to the granting of these licences? According to my information he has been granting more lately.

No, Sir. I do not think there is any change. We are granting the ones which it seems proper to grant in present circumstances.

Following is the table:

4,140 ware potato merchants' licences had been issued up to 31st March, 1949, and of this number 3,634 are now in force. The numbers issued each month during the last 12 months were as follows:

1948
April3
May1
June21
July30
August9
September17
October13
November21
December25
1949
January10
February17
March22

Feedingstuffs

79.

asked the Minister of Food with which countries of the sterling area he is now negotiating for the purchase of feedingstuffs to be imported into this country.

Australia is the only significant supplier within the sterling area of cereal feedingstuffs. We have bought their exportable surplus of barley and oats, and have just fixed a price for the sorghums which will be available from the first crop of the Overseas Food Corporation's Queensland scheme this year.

Can the Minister say what is the quantity of barley and oats he has just bought from Australia?

We do not yet know what their exportable surplus will be in this crop year.