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Food Supplies

Volume 476: debated on Wednesday 14 June 1950

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Points Rationing (Removal)

44.

asked the Minister of Food what steps he has taken to ensure that supplies of what were points goods are continued to individual retailers and shortages to certain consumers thereby avoided.

These kinds of canned fish, canned fruit and dried fruit which were on points will still be distributed to retailers in proportion to the number of their registered customers. Wholesalers and manufacturers are responsible for the fair distribution of the other foods formerly on points, but I have had satisfactory assurances from the wholesale trade on this matter, and from my inquiries I am confident that the manufacturers also are seeing to it that their goods are fairly shared among retailers. Indeed, it is obviously in their own interest to do so. All the evidence since we made the change shows that there is no need for any anxiety about this problem. I should add, however, that we are vigorously trying to make supplies equal to demand which of course is the only effective solution.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether, since the abolition of the points system, he has been able to increase any raw material supplies to the manufacturers of goods formerly on points, because that would seem to be the core of the matter? Has he been able to give any increases?

50.

asked the Minister of Food what investigation he has made into the effect of the cessation of points rationing; and if he is satisfied that this change has not caused unfairness to the consumer and that supplies are still plentiful to meet the demand.

When points rationing ended I arranged for a close and comprehensive investigation of the result. I have had detailed reports from each region, all of which, I am happy to state, show beyond all doubt that the removal of points rationing has proved beneficial and agreeable to the housewife. Some of the foods, as I stated when we made the change, are still scarce, but there is ample evidence that their distribution is being arranged by the grocers on a fair basis and is giving satisfaction to the overwhelming majority of the buying public.

52.

asked the Minister of Food what guarantees he received from the grocers' associations that they would distribute goods in short supply fairly, before he decided to abolish the points system.

The points rationing system was abolished, as I have already explained, because it became impossible to ensure fair shares and balanced distribution on so limited a range of goods. Even if there had been no assurance of fair distribution by the grocers the rigidity of the reduced points scheme made the decision to end it inevitable. However, I am glad to say that the responsible spokesmen of the organised grocers gave my Ministry acceptable assurances that they would try to ensure fair and equitable distribution of any goods which remained in short supply.

In any event, as I have also announced, we shall continue our established controls over the distribution of these goods to retail distributors. For example, many kinds of canned fish, canned fruit and dried fruit will be allocated to retailers in proportion to the number of registered customers for rationed goods. I am confident that these arrangements will ensure fair distribution. Indeed, all reports show that this change is proceeding smoothly with general appreciation by the housewife.

Is my right non. Friend aware that many shops have been selling syrup, biscuits and dried fruit freely to all comers, regardless of registrations, since the points scheme ended, and is he satisfied that supplies will continue to come forward in sufficient quantities to enable this to be done without unfairness to any consumers?

When the right hon. Gentleman says "in short supply," does he mean "scarce"?

Fruit Pulp

46.

asked the Minister of Food what was the amount of fruit pulp manufactured in the United Kingdom for the years 1947, 1948 and 1949; and what percentage of this was manufactured by the growers.

About 60,000 tons in 1947, 70,000 in 1948, and 80,000 in 1949. This includes pulp made from bitter oranges and lemons. I cannot say how much of this was manufactured by growers, because they were not required to give this information until the middle of 1949.

Bread Wrapping

47.

asked the Minister of Food when, in the interest of public hygiene, he proposes to reintroduce bread wrapping.

My predecessor removed all restrictions on bread wrapping over eight months ago. It is now up to private traders, and I am glad to say that many of them are taking advantage of this freedom to sell increasing quantities in hygienic wrappers. I hope more of them will show initiative in this matter.

Ministry Staff

48.

asked the Minister of Food what reductions he has made in the staff of his Department as the result of the abolition of points rationing.

As I have already said, we shall save just over 1,000 staff. They will go when they have worked out their notices, which will not be for some weeks.

Flour Supplies

49.

asked the Minister of Food whether he has yet completed his investigations into the present necessity for the restriction on retail purchases of flour in excess of 28 lb.

Yes, Sir. As a result of my investigation I am satisfied that this restriction can now be withdrawn and the necessary Order is being made.

Sir Leslie Plummer (Compensation)

51.

asked the Minister of Food what sum is to be paid to Sir Leslie Plummer in connection with the termination of his chairmanship of the Overseas Food Corporation; and whether it is to be paid under such conditions as subject it to taxation.

The sum is £8,000. The period of contract was seven years, at a salary of £5,000 a year, of which period a little more than two years four months will have elapsed when the appointment ends on 30th June. The second part of the Question is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which he gave on the subject yesterday.

Does the latter part of that answer mean that the right hon. Gentleman does not know whether the method of payment which he has authorised subjects this payment to taxation or not, or does it mean that he does know and is not prepared to disclose the information to this House?

It means that I do not know. It is a matter for the Inland Revenue. It has nothing to do with me; I do not know.

Is the test this: if you are paid money to go you do not pay tax, and if you are paid money to stay you do?

Bananas

54.

asked the Minister of Food whether he has made a contract for the purchase of bananas from the 1950 Canary Islands crop; and what quantity he anticipates importing from the Canary Islands this year.

We have offered to make a contract, but so far our offer has not been accepted. I cannot, therefore, say how many bananas, if any, we are likely to get from the Canary Islands this year.

Ration Books (Cost)

55.

asked the Minister of Food what was the cost to the taxpayer of printing pages in ration books for points, now rendered unnecessary by the ending of points rationing; and how many books were so printed.

About £24,000 for 53 million books. As the printing of ration books has to begin about nine months before they are distributed, we clearly had to incur this expense. I am sure the bon. Member would not have wanted me to maintain points rationing merely because we had already printed the coupons.

Is this not another instance of the waste of public money due to the operation of Socialist theories, which, however necessary in war-time, are absolutely unnecessary in peace-time?

Tottenham Food Committee

56.

asked the Minister of Food whether, conforming with the Food Control Committee (Constitution) Orders, he approved the appointment of Mr. George Cross to the Tottenham Food Control Committee.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the selection of a very active member of the Communist Party to sit on this Committee has caused a great deal of public indignation in Tottenham?

This was a recommendation to me from the local borough council, and I am not prepared myself to try to introduce political discrimination in these appointments.

Officials' Accommodation, Forfar

58.

asked the Minister of Food why it was necessary to accommodate 14 of his Department's officials from Forfar, Angus, in hotels at Brechin, 12 miles away, at an approximate cost of £5 a head during the week the new ration books were issued in Brechin between the hours of 9.30 a.m. and 6 p.m., and in hotels at Montrose, 19½ miles away, from 24th to 28th April.

This arrangement was made locally by an officer who was overanxious to ensure that efforts to give the public the best possible service should not put an impossible strain on his staff. I think that more suitable and economical arrangements could have been made and I have informed my officials of this. I am grateful to the hon. Member for drawing my attention to the matter.

Is the Minister aware of the satisfaction that will be felt as the result of his statement? Further, is he aware that it would have been possible for these officials to have travelled by bus, which costs only six shillings for a weekly ticket, and still get to their offices by 9.30 a.m. to start their work there?

Meals In Establishments Order (Revocation)

59.

asked the Minister of Food how many criticisms he has received of the revocation of the Meals in Establishments Order.

Does the Minister recall that the Minister of National Insurance said, not so long ago, that the revocation of this Order would incense housewives? Have there been no demonstrations outside his office by angry housewives?

Was one of the criticisms from the Secretary of State for War?