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Food Supplies

Volume 486: debated on Monday 9 April 1951

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Cider Industry (Sugar Allocation)

29.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is considering altering the basis of sugar allocation to the cider making trade, in view of the fact that the present allocation system penalises many of the most enterprising manufacturers.

My right hon. Friend has suggested to the industry certain modifications which should give some encouragement to the more enterprising manufacturers. We are, of course, ready to consider any views they may wish to express.

While I appreciate the personal interest which the Parliamentary Secretary has taken in this matter, may I ask, in view of the very real problems that these manufacturers and their employees are facing, whether the Minister can bring some pressure to bear on the manufacturers' association to make them take a more reasonable attitude?

As I have already indicated, discussions are proceeding. It would not be helpful for me to comment at this stage.

Canned Meat Prices

30.

asked the Minister of Food why, in view of the shortage of carcase meat in this country, he has refused to increase, since the issue in April, 1949, of the Meat Products Order, No. 782, the maximum prices for imported canned meats; and whether he realises that this policy is unnecessarily restricting the importation and consumption of meat.

As my right hon. Friend informed my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells) on 14th March, he is already considering the whole question of canned meat prices.

Is that the best we can expect to hear? Is there no intention of increasing the price, to enable tinned meat to be imported at a time when there is such a shortage of carcase meat?

It is the best that the hon. Gentleman can expect to hear at the moment.

Can we be assured that if the Minister does lay such an order, the Opposition will not pray against it?

Canned Sprats

31.

asked the Minister of Food what is the total quantity of Danish and Dutch canned sprats which he has bought; how much he paid for them and what he estimates will be the loss owing to the reduction of their selling price from 1s. to 7½d. per tin.

We bought about 30 million tins. The prices ranged from 56s. to 61s. c.i.f. per case of 100 tins. Until stocks are cleared I cannot say what the financial result will be.

Mexican Tinned Beef

32.

asked the Minister of Food if the price of 1s. 8d. per pound paid for Mexican tinned beef in gravy is the cost of the net weight of the meat.

Did not the Minister try to ascertain what the liquid content of this pack was? Is not this another instance of buying a pig in a poke?

Farm Workers' Rations

33.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the fact that agricultural workers residing in agricultural workers' hostels receive about 1s. 9d. worth of meat a week, he will increase the meat ration for all agricultural workers to bring it into line with that supplied in these hostels.

No, Sir. Other farm workers have other allowances. Agricultural workers' hostels receive supplies of rationed foods on the same basis as hostels for workers in other heavy industries.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary ask his right hon. Friend to reconsider this question, in view of the great dissatisfaction caused among other agricultural workers who do not get so much meat?

Is the Minister aware that agricultural workers are working under very arduous conditions? While not begrudging, and, in fact, welcoming, the extra meat allowed to miners, may I ask whether there is any reason why the meat producers should not themselves be put on the same ration?

We are most appreciative of the efforts that agricultural workers are making. That is why we recently—over the weekend—announced concessions.

Is the Minister aware that agricultural workers are now working under better conditions than ever? While we are very desirous of doing everything to help agriculture, would he consider that in the country there are opportunities that are not available in the towns of getting added food?

Would the Parliamentary Secretary consult the Leader of the House to see whether we can have time to discuss the Motion on the meat ration which is on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Baker White), and others, including myself?

Is the Minister aware that agricultural workers will take note of the reluctance of the Government to do anything for them?

Agricultural workers will be well aware that there is appropriate machinery for consultation on these matters, and also that every opportunity in these consultations is taken by the appropriate unions.

34.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will make arrangements for the agricultural workers' harvest and similar additional rations to be drawn in dividually this year rather than by the farmer in bulk.

The seasonal allowances to which the hon. Member refers are not extra rations for farm workers, but catering allowances for farmers to feed their workers on the job. A representative of the workers can collect these allowances if the farmer cannot do so.

Does not the Parliamentary Secretary recognise that the existing method of procurement of the rations is equally unpopular with both the farmer and the agricultural worker, and will he do something about it?

I am not so aware. As I have already indicated, there is ample opportunity for these matters to be discussed.

Will the hon. Gentleman consult the representatives of the farmers and the agricultural workers on this point and take their advice?

Sausages (Meat Content)

35.

asked the Minister of Food the minimum meat content required in beef sausages, assuming maxi mum amounts of vegetable fat and milk powder are substituted for meat in accordance with Statutory Instrument, 1951, No. 314.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary give the answer as a percentage as it appears that the 40 per cent. shown in the explanatory note is totally inadequate?

No, Sir. The hon. Member is confused. There is no direct relationship between the two figures.

Livestock Prices

36.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that Scottish butchers are convinced that the prices now paid for fat cattle and sheep vary too much from month to month and that a level price throughout the year would have the effect of creating more steady and regular supplies of beef and mutton on the market; if he has considered this view; and whether he proposes to make any adjustments in the present prices.

The suggestion that there should be a level price for fat cattle and sheep throughout the year has been considered on several occasions and rejected on the broad ground that it fails to take account of the varying costs of production at different seasons and would exaggerate the already pronounced autumn peak of marketings.

How long ago was that so? Is the Minister aware that today—not last year—butchers take a different view? Has he considered that new view?

As the hon. Gentleman will be well aware, these matters have recently been in the minds of those who are negotiating.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the only way he will get increased production of beef in this country is to encourage—and not discourage, as has been done—production off British pastures? Will he look into the question, as meat production in winter is quite uneconomical?

44.

asked the Minister of Food why in view of the dearth of butchers meat, his Department does not pay a remunerative price for fat calves, thereby making it economical for farmers to feed for veal production many of the bobby calves, totalling 660,000 a year, which are slaughtered at a few days old.

Will the Government take a decision quickly this spring while the calves are there and an increasing amount of milk is available to feed them?

We will not take a decision without fully discussing the matter with the National Farmers' Unions.

Can the hon. Gentleman help the agricultural industry by saying when he will arrive at a decision as the matter is a very urgent one for the farmers?

It would be quite wrong of me to give any indication during the discussions.

Bananas

38.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware of the concern at the derationing of bananas; and what additional supplies have been received or expected to enable their derationing.

I am not aware of any widely expressed concern at the lifting of the restrictions on the distribution of bananas. Bananas have no special nutritional value and plentiful supplies of many other fruits are now available. Gradually increasing quantities are being imported, but supplies may not always fully meet the demand.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the trade was very surprised that this action was taken? Mothers and very old people feel that bananas will be even scarcer than the well-publicised Webb sausages. If that is found to be so, will rationing be reimposed?

Is it not correct that bananas are a much less valuable food than home-produced apples?

Is the Ministry purchasing fewer bananas from Jamaica this year than last year?

In view of that, can the hon. Gentleman say why an order was published last week stating that only people over 70 or under 16 would be allowed to by them?

43.

asked the Minister of Food the result of his negotiations with Commonwealth countries for importing bananas; and whether there is any possibility of the present restrictions on the sale of bananas being lifted.

We have agreed to take 85 per cent., or more at seller's option, of Jamaica's exportable surplus of bananas up to the end of 1954. We have also contracted to take during 1951 the exportable surpluses from the British Cameroons and Sierra Leone and part of the Dominica supplies. The restrictions on the distribution of bananas were removed on 2nd April, but price control has been continued.

Schools (Meat Allowance)

40.

asked the Minister of Food what meat rations are allowed to boys at approved schools and at non-State residential schools, respectively; and what are the reasons for the difference in the rations.

The hon. Member is misinformed. Both types of schools are entitled to the domestic ration for each boy; and the further allowance made to all schools providing school meals.

Would the hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell us precisely what the rations are? That is what I am asking.

The rations are the domestic ration together with the allowance made to all schools providing school meals.

What is the allowance? That is what I want to know. My Question asks what they are getting, but the hon. Gentleman is not telling me.

Agenised Flour

41.

asked the Minister of Food whether his attention has been called to the statements made at an inquest at Hull recently regarding the effects of the agenisation of flour; and whether he will make a statement on the subject.

I am aware that certain allegations were made which were controverted by expert evidence at the inquest. Recently, a scientific committee reviewed the subject of flour improvers but was unable to find any evidence that agenised flour is in any way toxic to man.

Eggs (Pamphlet)

42.

asked the Minister of Food for what purpose the 3d. pamphlet "Egg Cookery" was issued by his Department; how many copies have been printed; and what are the sales to date.

To make available to those who want it advice on egg cookery; 25,000 copies were printed. About 9,000 copies have been sold since the booklet was published less than three weeks ago.

Is the Minister aware that this pamphlet tells housewives how to boil an egg, contains recipes which bear no relation to present day rations, and includes such sparkling phrases as:

"… it takes care to move preserved eggs from one house to another with the minimum of breakages"?
Is he also aware that the pamphlet says:
"Duck eggs should not be preserved by any means"
in contrast to Ministry of Agriculture leaflet No. 32 which gives instructions on how to preserve duck eggs? Does not this kind of publication bring the Ministry of Food into contempt?

—and if no reference had been made to the boiling of eggs the "Evening Standard" would have complained about the booklet being incomplete.