asked the Minister of Food what was the result of the negotiations which took place with the Mexican Government in June, 1950, with regard to the purchase of Mexican meat for the British consumer.
The discussions showed that there is little hope, in the present state of the frozen meat industry in Mexico, of developing any substantial trade in the near future, but my Department will naturally keep in touch with the position.
The answer of the Minister refers to the "near future." Is not it a fact that the Mexican Government made an offer to equip the port of Tampico with packing and shipping facilities purchased in Britain, to pay for it themselves and to take British technical advice about the installation and management of the industry; and in view of the difficult meat position did he not pursue this offer further?
I myself saw representatives of Mexico, including the head of one of their leading banks which was prepared to finance this operation, but we had to consider all sorts of other factors, including freight charges and so on, and, on balance, we thought that at the moment it was not a really good offer.
In view of the difficulties of negotiating with the Argentine at present, does not the Minister think that this is a good time for healthy competition from Mexico?
If the circumstances under which we were buying meat were favourable, yes, but they are not so at the moment.
asked the Minister of Food what alteration in the value of the weekly meat ration is contemplated by his Department during the period between this date and 31st January, 1951.
I would rather not speculate about future ration changes in this way.
Has the Minister any statement to make about a meat bonus for Christmas, particularly in view of the fact that Norfolk turkeys are now selling wholesale at 9s. a lb. and are anticipated to go as high as 15s. a lb.?
There are other Questions on the Order Paper about Christmas bonuses.
In so far as the value of the ration should be related to its quality, what steps is the Minister taking during this period to ensure that meat of B grade is not sent by his Department to butchers marked A grade?
That is another question.
asked the Minister of Food when shipments of meat from the Argentine ceased; and when they will be resumed.
Shipments ceased on 21st July. I cannot say when they will be resumed.
Does the Minister realise that mutton shipments from the Argentine are now gravely prejudiced by the fact that the wool clip off the back of the live sheep is worth four times the value of the carcase? What is he doing to ensure the future continuity of Argentine mutton shipments?
I should prefer to make no further statement at present, as the talks are about to proceed again, and I cannot see that the Question of the hon. Member is very helpful on this point.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that while these meat negotiations are being protracted, all kinds of other trade and industry between the Argentine and this country, which is very much more important than meat in the values involved is being held up in consequence?
asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that retail bakers are finding it increasingly difficult to continue bread deliveries in the face of increased transport costs; and what action he proposes to take in the matter.
The bakers have made representations about this difficulty, and the matter is being investigated.
Will the right hon. Gentleman treat this matter as urgent, because many housewives are now finding that their deliveries of bread are being discontinued?
asked the Minister of Food if, in view of rationing changes, a new simplified ration book will be issued when a new issue has to be made; and if he will now give details of the new book.
I can assure the hon. Member that the new ration book will be suitable for its purpose. In accordance with our usual practice details will be given when the books are issued.
Cannot the Minister now give effect to a simple registration without the necessity for the continual cutting out of coupons or the marking of them week by week?
The new book will be much simpler. I cannot now explain how much simpler it will be, but we are getting near the kind of thing which the hon. Member has in mind.
asked the Minister of Food the amount of square footage contained in slaughterhouses in Cornwall.
Thirty-two thousand three hundred and sixty-one square feet in those at present in use.
Is the Minister aware that this is insufficient for present requirements? Is he also aware that construction is being hindered by his refusal to state his post-war policy. When will he state his policy?
We have to take into account all sorts of factors, including how we can resume private trading in meat and yet carry out our guarantees both to the home farmer and overseas producer. It is a very complicated programme, and until it has been worked out I would rather not speculate about the slaughterhouse programme.
asked the Minister of Food what arrangements his Department are making to obtain additional sugar supplies from Jamaica.
I can only repeat—what I have said so many times—that my Department has already undertaken to purchase all the sugar Jamaica can send us until the end of 1952. Production is increasing and, if as I hope, she can send us more sugar next year, we shall certainly want it all. After 1952 Jamaica will, of course, participate in the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, which provides for exports from the West Indies substantially increased above present levels.
Has the Minister any comment to make on the statement made at the Guildhall on 23rd October last to the effect that he was not taking all the sugar offered by Jamaica and that the housewives of Britain should rise in revolt against him, that statement being made by the Speaker of the Jamaica Parliament?
I would hesitate to comment on any statement made by any Speaker, but I judge that Mr. Campbell was speaking about the ultimate arrangements, and not about present supplies. It is a fact that we are taking, and will take, all the sugar now being sent.