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Food Supplies

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 3 May 1950

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Points Goods

51.

asked the Minister of Food if he will list the points foods which under the latest system holders of single ration books cannot obtain.

There are no such foods, although of course the larger tins of certain foods cost more than 16 points.

Will the Minister bear in mind that the new arrangement treats the holders of single ration books very badly indeed?

This is one of the problems we thought would arise and at the end of a month's experience of the new scheme I promised to undertake a review of all these considerations. That is certainly one which will have to be examined.

60.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that as a result of the reduction to 16 of the points allowance per person great hardship is being placed on those persons who desire to purchase syrup at 14 points per 2 lb. tin to supplement their sugar ration for cooking purposes; and if he will consider either reducing the points value of syrup or increasing the points allowance.

Yes, Sir. I am fully aware of this problem. It was in my mind when I stated that the restricted points scheme would cause problems, both for traders and housewives. We are compelled to make the number of points available equal to the total points value of the goods in the shops. If we did not do so, there would be even greater injustice, and certainly much greater complaint. However, this is one of the matters I will take into account when I make the comprehensive review of the points scheme which I promised to make after about a month's experience of the revised scheme.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, even with the best intentions in the world, instead of giving some concessions he has, in fact, taken away from the smaller families? The outlay of 12 points for a pound of biscuits or 16 for a pound of currants means that no points are left for the remainder of the month? Something must be done very quickly to give these people a chance of buying points goods.

Milk Consumption

52.

asked the Minister of Food the present annual rate of milk consumption by private purchasers; the rate when milk was rationed; the annual rate of subsidy on the amount of milk being sold in excess of the ration level; and why a subsidy on this portion of the milk supply is necessary.

We estimate that 1,015 million gallons will be consumed this year by private purchasers, apart, of course, from the Welfare Scheme. The corresponding figure for last year, when for a great part of the year the non-priority allowance varied between two and three pints a week, was about 980 million gallons. It would not be practicable to have a scheme for selling a fixed allowance to all consumers at a subsidised price and any balance at a higher price.

Would the Minister tell us why those who drink very little milk should be compelled to pay a subvention for those who are now at liberty to drink a very great deal of milk? Is that called equal shares for all, fair shares for all, social justice, or what?

That is one of the problems of life that requires very careful examination.

Canteen, Portman Court

53.

asked the Minister of Food what profit or loss was made by the canteen at his office in Portman Square in each year before it was handed over to private enterprise.

This refreshment club, which was a staff organisation managed by its members, was closed down in 1949, when another canteen became available in the neighbourhood. I understand that during the nine years of its operation the canteen made a profit overall; with permission I will circulate the figures year by year in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

As the canteen was handed over to private enterprise in spite of having made a profit, may we take it that the rent obtained from private enterprise exceeded the profit?

I should have thought that the management of a club by its members was in itself an act of private enterprise. It was their own club; they managed it at a profit. I cannot say without notice whether the rent of the building was taken into account.

Following is the statement:

The profit or loss made by the canteen in Portman Court in each year before it was closed was as follows:

£
1942 (Profit)95
1943 (Profit)476
1944 (Profit)626
1945 (Profit)248
1946 (Profit)618
1947 (Profit)554
1948 (Loss)1,858
1949 (Loss)423

Special Cheese Ration

54.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will extend the entitlement to the extra cheese ration now allowed to agricultural workers to cover those employers who also do manual farm work.

No, Sir. Working farmers can usually get home or make other arrangements for a meal during working hours.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has misrepresented-1 feel sure, unintentionally—the situation, because if these men are working out in the fields with their employees it is no easier for them to get home than it is for their employees? Therefore, why should they not have the same ration?

We just cannot go on extending these extra classes of entitlement to rationed foods, and I am satisfied on the whole that the system which we are now working is the best possible system.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his system means that if an agricultural worker wishes to ascend the ladder by becoming a smallholder and his own master, he will get less to eat? is this not a serious discouragement to the Government's policy of encouraging agricultural smallholdings?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that it is the policy of his colleague the Minister of Agriculture to encourage people to do that by the smallholdings movement?

Snoek

55.

asked the Minister of Food how many cases of snoek have been resold abroad; to what countries; and, on average, what profit or loss per case has been made.

None has been sold abroad by my Department, but I understand that private traders have sold some to Israel. I have no knowledge of the profit or loss made.

is the Minister aware that in the trade it is believed that this snoek was bought by his predecessor for 65s. a case and re-sold at about 25s. a case, and can he say upon whom this loss has fallen?

Posters

56.

asked the Minister of Food how much did his Department pay to the Bureau of Current Affairs for posters distributed to food offices during the years 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949.

The sum of £975 was paid in 1947 for 1,300 sets of the Map Review at the special price of 15s. per set of 26 issues. No other payments have been made.

Local Authorities (Bylaws)

57.

asked the Minister of Food how many local authorities have adopted Model Bylaws, Series 1, circulated by his Department to local authorities on 27th October, 1949, concerning the handling, wrapping and delivery of food and sale of food in the open air.

There has been a very good response. About 850 local authorities have taken preliminary action, 365 have adopted bylaws based on our model, and a further 149 have had their bylaws confirmed.

Ration Book Issue, Littlemore

58.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is satisfied with the arrangements made for the issue of ration books at Littlemore, Oxfordshire; and what was the reason for the delay in commencing the issue on 17th April.

Yes, Sir. The arrangements are very similar to those which operated satisfactorily last time. I am assured that the distribution centre was opened at the advertised time.

Is the Minister aware that the advertised time was half an hour later than had previously been stated, and that people were kept waiting there half an hour in the pouring rain?

On the question of the opening, that is contrary to my advice. On the general fact of the waiting time, I am advised that it was less than half an hour at any time during the day.

Restaurant Meals (Charge)

59.

asked the Minister of Food whether he can now make any statement about the relaxation of present restrictions on the permitted charge for meals in restaurants.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. J. Lewis) on 1st May.

To give some help to the smaller establishments by this new freedom, will the right hon. Gentleman see if he can increase the rations which they are allowed to have—[HoN. MEMBERS: " No."]—and, in particular, allow them to buy rations, such as eggs, that are not needed locally?

Can the Minister say whether the staff of his Department who were responsible for maintaining this restriction are now being retained?

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that up to the moment this new freedom seems to have achieved only the result of a much higher price for the same meal?

Meat (Subsidy)

61.

asked the Minister of Food by how much per lb. butcher meat is subsidised; what is the total cost of the subsidy; and how does he ensure that the housewife receives the full value of the subsidy in her purchase of butcher meat.

The subsidy on carcase meat is about 21d. a lb. on the average. The total subsidy for the present financial year is estimated at £36 million. We secure the transfer of the subsidy to the consumer by controlling the prices at which the butcher both buys and sells his meat. Butchers are required to display lists of permitted prices openly in their shops, and I should be glad to investigate any evidence which the hon. Lady might give me of cases where this is not done.

The control of prices is unknown to the housewives—they have no means of checking whether they are getting the subsidy or not. Would my right hon. Friend secure the return of the price tickets to the counters of the butchers' shops, because at present housewives are not getting the subsidy?

I have already asked my hon. Friend to come to my Department and discuss the details of her Question with my officers, and I should be very glad if she would accept that invitation.

Is the Minister aware that last Sunday the hon. Member for Orpington had a piece of meat which he could not eat because it was so tough, and that the butcher said he was sorry; and is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that in the old days, if a person did not get satisfactory meat from one butcher, he could change his butcher, whereas now we have to have what is sent us?

I am very sorry; I hope that the meat which the hon. Member had was not " red " meat.

What precautions are taken to see that butchers exhibit price lists in their shops, because many people have never seen them?

Vegetables (Price)

62.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that onions and other vegetables have increased greatly in price since decontrol; and if he will take steps to bring down these prices by reimposing controls, if necessary.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to my hon. Friends the Members for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) and Willesden, West (Mr. Viant) on 1st May.

That reply has absolutely nothing to do with the case. If I may recall it, it did not state that control or decontrol had really influenced the prices. The Question was different, because it had regard to today's high prices for vegetables. I would like to inform—[HoN. MEMBERS: " No, ask.1 May I ask the Minister if he is aware that when carrots were decontrolled on Monday, the price in Glasgow rose from 2-/cl. to 91c1. per lb. and if he is aware that decontrol [HON. MEMBERS: " Speech."] Hon. Members opposite are trying to shout me down because they do not like it. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the price of onions has risen from 4d. to 8d. and remained at 8d. all during the winter months just because of decontrol?

Is the Minister aware that the reason for the shortage, or higher price, of onions is mainly because of the failure of the Government to protect British growers last season?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the reasons why vegetables are so dear at the moment is that the present arrangements for their marketing and distribution are so unsatisfactory? Will he give careful consideration to the proposals made by the Lucas Committee for improving those prices?