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Food Supplies

Volume 477: debated on Monday 17 July 1950

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Meat

8.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will investigate the present system of disposal of Devon-produced beef under which the better grades are sent away to other areas and inferior grades allocated for local consumption.

No, Sir: people in Devon are receiving fair proportions of the different grades of locally produced beef.

Does the Minister appreciate that the explanation I have given is the only possible one to meet all the facts? Will he come round some of the markets with me so that I may show him what is happening, provided he does not tell anyone except myself, in advance, that he is coming?

I have examined the figures and they show that proportions are roughly the same in the case of grade A meat retained in Devon and of grade A meat sent outside the county.

14.

asked the Minister of Food if he is now able to revoke the Meat Products and Canned Meat (Control and Maximum Prices) Order, 1948, and the Meat Products and Canned Meat (Amendment) Order, 1949, in view of the more adequate supply of manufacturing meat.

My right hon. Friend is considering this matter, but cannot make any announcement at present.

Is the Minister aware that it is the opinion of the trade that if these Orders were rescinded it would be possible for the public to obtain better products at lower prices?

23.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware of the dissatisfaction in Birmingham with the quality of meat supplied in recent weeks; and what steps he proposes to take to improve the quality.

The only complaint which has come to my notice is in respect of a quantity of manufacturing meat. While all the meat distributed has been suitable for manufacture, I am ensuring that the differing types and qualities are distributed as fairly as possible.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that over the past two months some of the meat which has been available in Birmingham has been of the very worst quality? Why should people have to pay the same price for inferior mutton as for good mutton? Would he call the trade into consultation for the purpose of avoiding having to purchase this inferior meat?

The instance which gave rise to this Question related to bull beef, and from inquiries we have made I think there was an undue proportion of bull beef in the allocation. We are taking steps to see that this does not happen again.

Canned Brisling

asked the Minister of Food the estimated cost of advertising canned brisling; the reason for the campaign; the total amount purchased; and the amount sold before the campaign started.

The estimated cost of the canned brisling advertising campaign is £10,000. This campaign is being carried out in order to help sell the Ministry's stock. I am afraid it would not be in the public interest to disclose the figures asked for in the last part of the Question.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the resentment of the home canned herring industry at the advertising campaign for largely imported canned brisling; and whether he will switch immediately to the advertising of home canned herrings in order to assist the hard-hit herring fisheries.

No representations from the canned herring industry expressing resentment at the advertising of brislings have been made to my Ministry. The advertising of home canned herrings is a matter for the Herring Industry Board.

Arising out of this byproduct of bulk buying, is the Minister not aware that the chairman of the canned herring industry has asked me to make the representations to him? Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that it is most unfair to use the British taxpayers' money to advertise foreign, imported canned brisling in competition with home caught herring, having regard to the fact that the herring industry is undergoing such a bad time at the moment? Will he please alter the arrangements?

I do not know what the hon. Lady means by "by-product of bulk buying." I think the matter had best be left to the Herring Industry Board.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that, so far from there being any resentment on the part of the housewives, for whom the hon. Lady pretends to speak, they are very glad to have a greater variety of canned fish in the shops from which to choose?

If housewives are so glad to obtain these supplies, why is it necessary to spend £10,000 on advertising them?

Sugar

13.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will make a special allocation of sugar to people living in country districts to enable them to preserve their home-grown fruit.

No, Sir. We give general bonuses for jam making, but our supplies of sugar are not sufficient to allow for any special supplementary allocations of this kind.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his answer will cause considerable disappointment in country districts, and will also mean a considerable waste of fruit this summer?

Eggs

15.

asked the Minister of Food what function is performed by the Eggs Division of his Department, as distinct from the function of the National Egg Distributors Association Limited; how many persons are employed in the Eggs Division; and what is the total cost per annum in salaries, expenses and general overheads of the Eggs Division.

The Eggs Division is responsible for the purchase of imported and home-produced shell eggs and imported egg products, and for arranging their equitable distribution through trade channels to consumers. A total of 166 were employed in this Division on 1st July, 1950; the annual cost of their salaries and wages is £63,000. It is difficult to provide an accurate estimate of the general overheads for each Division of the Ministry, but the share of these overheads allocated to the Eggs Division is £724,000.

Could the Minister say what is achieved by this vast abracadabra of bureaucracy? In view of the fact that the majority of home-produced eggs arrive in grocers' shops in an unsatisfactory condition, will he not reconsider allowing farmers to sell their eggs direct to grocers, which will enable the housewife to get a newly laid egg again?

I think that if the hon. Member pauses to reflect that the retail value of eggs sold in 1949-50 was well nigh £90 million. he will conclude that his statement has rather exaggerated the position.

16.

asked the Minister of Food how often, or at what intervals of time, home-produced eggs are collected from farmers, smallholders and other licensed primary producers by the egg packing and grading stations operated by his Department.

We do all we can to see that the packers collect from producers at least weekly, but there may be producers in isolated areas who are not visited so frequently. If any such cases are brought to our notice we are always willing to see whether more frequent collections are possible and, accordingly, I should be glad if the hon. Member could let me have particulars of any cases which he may have in mind.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that, over a very large number of cases in all parts of the United Kingdom, the facts have emerged that the minimum period for the collection of home-produced eggs is two weeks and that often it takes three weeks or more for the collection process to be carried out? How does he reconcile this with a recent statement that home-produced eggs travel from the hen to the grocer in seven to nine days?

I did not say "from the hen to the grocer." The figures I gave last Monday were based on an inquiry which had been held and which justified those figures.

Is the Minister taking any steps to prevent eggs being mixed with opencast coal?

What producers of eggs are not primary producers? What is a secondary producer of an egg?

17.

asked the Minister of Food whether the home-produced eggs delivered to Mr. A. J. Lewis, grocer, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, on Monday, 3rd July, 1950, were less than nine days old.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that on 3rd July this grocer received 180 dozen home-produced eggs, only a part of which have been opened so far; that out of that 180 dozen, 30 dozen have so far had to go back to the egg packing station in view of their condition, eight dozen have had to be replaced for customers—

It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman is not asking a supplementary question but is giving information, which is not the object of Questions.

Could the hon. Gentleman tell us what the period of seven to nine days refers to, if it does not refer to the interval between the time when the egg is laid and when it gets on to the breakfast table?

I said it did not refer to the time when the egg is laid because we base the time back to the date of collection. In answer to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), perhaps I might be allowed to say this: that the delay in the case to which he has drawn my attention lay with the wholesaler, and the retailer has his ordinary remedy against the wholesaler if there is deterioration.

But is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that, out of this particular consignment five and a half dozen eggs were in a positively dangerous and explosive condition and had to be buried?

If the seven to nine days' period does not run from the hen but only from the packing station, can the hon. Gentleman make clear what is the average time from the hen to the breakfast table?

If the hon. Gentleman will read the replies I have given he will be able to hazard a guess for himself.

Is it not a fact that the wholesalers are all Socialists and had a store of rotten eggs because they had private news of an early General Election?

Overseas Food Corporation (Advances)

18.

asked the Minister of Food the total advances made to the Overseas Food Corporation to date.

In view of this figure, which shows that the excess of expenditure over income is running at about £1 million a month, can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether any limit has been set to future expenditure, say, in the next six months?

Pigeons, Trafalgar Square

19.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that feedingstuff in the form of grain for pigeons is being sold in Trafalgar Square at 3d. a packet of 1½ oz., which is the equivalent of a rate of £298 13s. 4d. a ton; and from what source supplies of this controlled commodity are being obtained.

The packets which are being sold in Trafalgar Square for pigeon feeding contain pea pickings, which were de-rationed and freed from price control on 1st July last.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary not aware that this first-class feedingstuff is obtainable by livestock owners only by the production of a coupon supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture?

No, Sir. Pea pickings are immature, broken and damaged or strained threshed home-grown peas.

Sugar Confectionery (Sale)

20.

asked the Minister of Food why permission for the sale of sugar confectionery cannot now be granted where a demand can be proved.

At present we can only grant new licences for the sale of chocolate and sweets where the local people are finding it difficult to obtain their ration. This is because the number of potential new entrants to this trade is so large that I cannot afford to provide initial trading stocks for them all.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary tell the House for how long this bureaucratic barrier between the ordinary small tradesmen earning a living is to remain? Is it to be a permanent feature of his Ministry?

This is not a bureaucratic barrier. It is a matter of striking a balance between consumer demand and the amount of the ration.

Why are we allowing the Swiss to have so much more sugar of our manufacture than we are getting ourselves?

London Tea Auctions

24.

asked the Minister of Food whether he has any further statement to make on the progress of negotiations for the re-opening of the London tea auctions; and whether he has in mind the importance of a statement being made before the House rises, if the trade is to be in a position to re-open the auctions next January.

I fully appreciate the importance of an early announcement of our intentions, and I hope that this will be possible before the House rises.