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Cheese Ration (Reduction)

Volume 486: debated on Monday 9 April 1951

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9.7 p.m.

I beg to move,

"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the Order, dated 19th March 1951, entitled the Fats, Cheese and Tea (Rationing) (Amendment No. 2) Order, 1951 (S.I., 1951, No. 470), a copy of which was laid before this House on 20th March, be annulled."
The purpose of this Order is to reduce the value of the individual weekly cheese ration from 3 oz. to 2 oz. It is much to my regret, and, I am sure, to the regret of the House as a whole, that no representative from the Ministry of Food is at present on the Front Bench opposite. I hope that during my remarks someone will put in an appearance, otherwise it would appear to be making rather a mockery of a Motion which is moved in all seriousness, because this is a matter which affects the lives and the food of 43 million of our population.

I can give the hon. Member an assurance that a representative from the Ministry of Food will be here in a very short time.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady. I should like to make it clear that this Order does not affect the special allocation of cheese to agricultural workers and to other workers in certain specified categories. It affects the ordinary individual and, in particular, the household whose members do not have access either to canteen meals or to catering establishments. They will be hard hit by this additional cut in protein food.

I recall that the 3-oz. ration was introduced on 13th December by the Minister of Food when he reduced the meat ration to 1s. It was brought in as a compensatory measure. But this cut comes when our weekly meat ration is still at its all-time low level of 10d. per week, when alternative supplies from the butcher's shop are scarce because manufacturing meat is cut, and when alternative supplies of non-rationed foods are scarce or dear, and sometimes both. Therefore, the Minister of Food, having been well aware for many months past of the deteriorating meat situation, should have made it his first duty to ensure supplies of cheese sufficient to maintain the ration at the 3-oz. level. The fact remains, as appears to me from a study of all the records, that the Minister of Food has failed to take any action to secure additional supplies of imported cheese upon which we depend for three-quarters of our total needs.

This year, there has been a welcome rise in the production of cheese at home. The Minister has, in fact, used the success of the Milk Marketing Board and been presented with some 22,000 tons of home-produced cheese. The total of the home production of cheese for 1950 was 55,000 tons, which is about a quarter of our requirements. What of the other three-quarters? What has been happening there, and with imports? We find that, over the past 12 months, the imports of cheese have fallen by 59,000 tons. They fell from 213,000 tons in 1949 to 154,000 tons in 1950. This fall not only writes off the benefit of the additional 22,000 tons of home-produced cheese, but leaves us 37,000 tons worse off. The figures I have given are in respect of cheese both rationed and unrationed, and I estimate from my researches that the shortfall in imports of quality cheese is in the neighbourhood of 50,000 tons for 1950, as compared with 1949.

It is my submission that supplies of cheese were available and could have been secured, if reasonable foresight and businesslike methods had been employed, and that we might well have found ourselves today 70,000 tons better off than we were 12 months ago, instead of 37,000 tons worse off. Nearly half our imports of cheese come from New Zealand, and from this market alone the fall in 1950 was 14,000 tons. I suggest to the House that the reason is not far to seek, because the Minister of Food refused, in July last, to grant an increase of 7½ per cent. which was asked for by the New Zealand Government for the year 1950–51.

I should like to quote just two short excerpts from a letter which the Minister wrote to Mr. Marshall, Chairman of the New Zealand Dairy Products Marketing Commission, giving the reasons for his refusal, because I think these extracts show how bulk buying works. A request had been received for an increase of 7½ per cent., and, indeed, an increase had been given the previous year. The Minister said:
"We understand that you have, during the year which has elapsed, again been able to put a substantial sum to reserve out of the funds from the sale of butter and cheese, of which the money paid under our contract is by far the largest item."
There seems to be there a criticism of the New Zealand producers for daring to run their business at a profit. The next quotation is in connection with costs. The New Zealand Government asked for their future and forward costs to be taken into consideration, because they realised how costs are rising on all hands. Here is what the Minister said:
"With regard to your costs, we recognise that they are a most important consideration, though not, of course, the only one, but I am bound to say that I am quite clear that we cannot interpret the contract as carrying a right to an increase in price on the basis of estimated costs for a future year."

Would the hon. Gentleman tell the House from which document he is quoting?

I am quoting the letter written by the Minister of Food to Mr. Marshall, in New Zealand. This correspondence was published on 28th August last year in a newspaper called "The Dominion" in New Zealand.

On that point, I think hon. Members are entitled to say that the Government ought to buy more cheese, but not to discuss bulk purchase in detail.

Very well, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will leave that point, and will content myself by saying that it seems that we have not got more cheese from New Zealand because the Minister refused to pay the price. It seems that the Minister's attitude was that he would not pay a higher price to New Zealand unless they were going to make a loss by selling their cheese to us, and, further, that he wished to force upon New Zealand the sort of economy being exercised with regard to the Festival Gardens.

Next, I pass to Canada, from which we receive a very great deal of our ration cheese. Here we have the report given by Mr. Gardiner at a Press Conference concerning his conversations with the Government. He there made it quite clear that Canada could supply us with more cheese. He said:
"The Canadian farmers will not send produce here unless the prices we pay are comparable with those paid in alternative markets."
It seems to me that we have gone short of cheese because we refused to recognise the fact that the Dominions are not under some sort of obligation to sell us goods below the market price. Until we realise that, I do not think we are going to get the cheese we need.

I am informed that at the present time the Canadian Government have between seven and eight million lbs. of cheese for disposal. That cheese has been and is available, and I feel that if the right methods had been used, instead of the Minister standing aside and watching the march of events, he might well have been in the position today, instead of cutting the 3-oz. ration, to give us a small increase of cheese until the flush of home-grown meat comes along.

It may be that the Minister has cut the ration without the justification of a shortage of stocks. It may be that the cut is due to financial considerations in connection with the subsidy. Again, it may have something to do with the cost of living index. But, whatever the reason, I think the House is entitled to a full explanation from the Minister of why this cut is being made, and we must know, before we agree to this Order, that this change in the ration is inevitable and must be accepted by the people.

9.18 p.m.

I beg to second the Motion.

I think the House is indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen-shire, West (Mr. Spence), not only for the very clear and forceful way in which he has set forth certain considerations relating to the Ministry's handling of this matter, but also for giving this House an opportunity to discuss it. I also think that the Parliamentary Secretary himself should be obliged to my hon. Friend for giving him the opportunity, which otherwise he would have lacked, to make his defence of the Ministry's handling of this matter because it is one of the inherent disadvantages of dealing with such a question by delegated legislative powers that a measure inflicting some hardship, as my hon. Friend has said, upon every household in the country can be put into law without any discussion in this House before it comes into effect, and with no discussion even afterwards unless some hon. Member puts down a Motion to annul the Order and thereby forces a debate.

Therefore, if the Parliamentary Secretary has any answer at all to the massive case deployed by my hon. Friend, he should be very grateful to him for giving him that opportunity because, however the Parliamentary Secretary may like to think of it himself, ordinary people in this country regard this reduction by 33⅓ per cent. in the rationed quantity of a basic foodstuff as a failure on the part of the Ministry of Food. Let the Parliamentary Secretary look back into the files of his Department to the time when Lord Woolton was in charge—[Interruption.] I appreciate such a reference is highly embarrassing to hon. Members opposite and I am grateful to have their confirmation. If he does, he will see that Lord Woolton would not agree to reduce the ration in any respect until the branch of the Ministry concerned had reported to him that they had failed to secure an adequate quantity to maintain the ration.

So I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be prepared to deal with this matter on the basis that it is for him to explain the failure by his Department. The House will listen with respect, as it always listens with respect to a Parliamentary Secretary, if he attempts to meet that charge. Hon. Members also will appreciate that this reduction in the ration is a breach of the undertaking they gave to the people of this country of "good food in plenty." They will appreciate that if they will have the hardihood of conscience to look back at the pamphlet "Let us Face the Future." The people of this country have not forgotten that pledge even though hon. Members opposite might find it convenient to do so.

It was hypocrisy, and I am glad to have it from the hon. Member that it was so. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will address himself to what I think is the most clear demonstration of the mishandling of the matter by his Department, that is to say, the reduction of this ration at a time when the meat ration still remains at the 10d. level. Surely it should have been the object, for which the Ministry should have made strenuous efforts, to secure that the compensation, inadequate though it was, which the Department tried to give to the people of this country for the cut in the meat ration should be maintained at least until that cut had been restored.

What happens? While the meat ration remains at 10d., whatever its internal composition may be, the cheese ration, the increase of which was intended to compensate us has now been reduced. The result is that the total of high-class protein available for consumers in this country has been lowered further below a level which most medical opinion in this country has always regarded as dangerously low. I hope the hon. Gentleman will address himself to the issue whether or not the planning of his Department has not been gravely at fault in permitting these two reductions to coincide.

I hope he will not attempt to defend himself by pointing out that there is plenty of cheese available off the ration for those who can afford to pay for it. Perhaps he will also recall the prices of off-ration cheese—Blue Cheshire 6s., Stilton 5s., Roquefort 4s., and so on. I hope he will appreciate that for a considerable section of the population of this country the availability of those cheeses, even if they liked them, is not really material in view of the cost. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will not seek to comfort himself with the reflection that these are perfectly available for those with the means to purchase them.

There is another matter a little curious to understand. Over the past few months we have been faced gratifyingly with an abundance of milk. The Parliamentary Secretary knows perfectly well that his Department has been urging catering firms to take and consume more milk, and has urged it upon those catering establishments in which malnutrition is not particularly to be observed among their clients. Equally, so plentiful has milk been that the hon. Gentleman is introducing it in powder form into the sausage in lieu of meat. Yet at the very time when milk seems to be so superabundant that either overtly or covertly it is forced upon the consumer, the cheese ration is to be reduced. It would seem to indicate bad timing and bad planning by the hon. Gentleman's Department, and I hope he will be good enough to deal with that side of the matter.

The real issue to which the hon. Gentleman must address himself is this. I am not putting to him this evening—and indeed I should be out of order if I did—that the general dietetic level of this country is dangerously low, but what I think he will concede is that the quantity of high quality protein foods is dangerously low, and I beg of him to consider whether it is possible to conduct a sound social economic or defence policy if those who are called upon by His Majesty's Government to exert themselves to the limit in work of different kinds cannot obtain either in the form of meat or cheese sufficient high-class proteins to give them the necessary energy.

If the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister are, as from their utterances they seem to be, relatively satisfied with the position as regards high quality forms of nutriment, I would ask the hon. Gentleman to consult the ordinary people of this country. I can tell him that if he does so he will find that they are profoundly dissatisfied with the shortages, of which this is but one further example, imposed upon them by the mistaken policy of his Department, and I ask him to realise that though we are being deprived of only one ounce of cheese a week it is proverbially the latest cut which imposes that degree of hardship which people are really prepared vigorously to resent. Unless the hon. Gentleman can satisfy us this evening that he really cares and works for the provision of adequate nutriment for the people of this country, I am perfectly certain that before very long the people will indicate their view of the hon. Gentleman, the Minister and his colleagues in His Majesty's Government.

9.28 p.m.

I had not intended to intervene in this debate but for the fact that within the last two or three weeks it has been my privilege to visit certain countries on the Continent where they have no such things as rationing, where they have just as high a standard of full employment as we have, and where foodstuffs of a very high quality are available to everybody at fairly reasonable prices.

If the hon. Gentleman will wait, I shall be happy to tell him. If the hon. Gentleman will pay a visit to any part of Holland, he will be able to buy foodstuffs in any café at prices which are lower and of a quality which is substantially higher than anything that we can get in this country today. In the two weeks that I was on the Continent I had never less than two steaks every day of the week. I should like also to point out to hon. Members that I have stayed in a hotel in Amsterdam where the price for a room with a bath was 8 guilders a day—16s.

Rooms and baths do not come within this Order, which relates to cheese and to nothing else.

I quite agree, but it is nevertheless refreshing, Mr. Speaker, to cast one's mind back to some of these delights which we once had in this country and which we appear to have lost, at least while hon. Members opposite have control of our affairs. The point is that cheese of all sorts is available in all countries for anybody to buy, except in England under a Socialist Minister of Food; and I do not refer, if I may use the term without being out of order, to what is commonly known in this country as "the Strachey mousetrap."

When my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) referred to the conditions which obtained in this country under Lord Woolton, an hon. Member opposite mentioned Lend-Lease; but I should like to remind him that it is only within the last few weeks that Marshall Aid has ceased. There would have been ample opportunity for His Majesty's Government to provide the cheese, and indeed other foods, which this country has needed had it not been for the fact that they were so hide-bound by the subsidy policy which restricted the subsidy figure to £410 million and prevented the Government from buying anything more, even though it was available.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman in favour of increasing the subsidies in order to keep prices down?

If I were to pursue that, you would probably rule me out of order, Mr. Speaker, but on another occasion I shall be very happy to discuss the matter with the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, could he not give us some idea of the prices of the cheeses to which he refers in other countries, particularly in view of the fact that prices here are from 3s. a lb. for cheese which is off the ration?

In answer to that point, we have to pay so much more for some things in order to pay much less for the type of goods of which we cannot get an adequate supply. But it is not profitable to pursue that argument at this stage. The fact is that the whole policy of the Ministry of Food in providing sustenance for the people of this country over the last five years has failed dismally. This is just one more sorry example of the ineptitude which has been displayed by the Ministry of Food in the last five years and of which the people of this country will show their condemnation in no uncertain manner when the opportunity arises.

9.34 p.m.

This is one of the old fashioned Prayers. I am very much obliged to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Spence) for putting it down because, apart from their thunder, I am quite sure the Opposition knew well enough that I have a very good answer to give. I am intrigued about what action the Opposition will take tonight.

The facts are, as is well known, that a sufficient quantity of cheese is not available to maintain a three-ounce ration. Notwithstanding that, do the Opposition intend to vote against the Order? If they do, it will mean a specific declaration that they wish to abandon rationing, even when supplies remain inadequate to meet the general demand. If they do, they will be supporting the Housewives' League who are calling for such action. If, on the other hand, they abstain from voting they will not escape the dilemma, because their action would be a specific renunciation of one of their good allies, the Housewives' League.

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that we require 1,200 tons of cheese a week to maintain a three-ounce ration as opposed to a two-ounce ration?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, earlier today I replied to a Question on this matter, which I shall deal with in some detail. First of all, however, I should like to deal broadly with the general issue raised, and properly raised, by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) of the scarcity of food, medical opinion and malnutrition—he even mentioned malnutrition. These matters are relative. I remember before the war, when many inquiries were made. There was the independent inquiry of Dr. Spence at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1933, when he reported:

"At least 36 per cent of the children from the poor districts of the city which I have examined were unhealthy or physically unfit, and as a result of this they appear malnourished."
I also remembered the Chadwick Lecture of 1934, so I looked at that, because we remember that the complacency of the Minister of Health at that time drove the British Medical Association to conduct independent researches. The Chadwick Lecture of 1934 says:
"So far as the evidence goes, it suggests that people living at the economic level of the dole are living near or below the threshold of adequate nutrition. The number at this economic level must run at nearly 20 per cent. of the population—somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 millions. We may remark in passing that at the same time as the committee of medical experts were working out the minimum diet on which health can be maintained the agricultural experts were wrestling with the problem of the glut of food."
Now, on a Prayer such as this tonight are we talking about malnutrition in the terms in which it was talked of before the war? If not, we are making nonsense of commonly accepted terms.

The position about first-class protein is that, at present of course there is more first-class protein available than there was a few weeks ago. We have got an increase in the bacon ration, increased milk supplies, increased fish supplies and in- creased egg supplies. All these, like cheese, contain first-class animal protein. I shall not argue that there is an adequacy for the proper and reasonable tastes of people today, but I do say that if we compare the diet today with what we were thinking about when we were so appalled by the malnutrition before the war, malnutrition as such does not exist.

Would the hon. Gentleman help us over this? There was an inquiry in 1937–38 as to what the average working-class household was getting in the way of cheese. Will he tell the House what was the result of that inquiry, and how much cheese the average working-class household got per head per week in 1937–38?

I am making my own case in my own way, and I shall make a full comparison of the position today with what it was pre-war regarding cheese. As I have already remarked, I presume that hon. Gentlemen opposite have made similar inquiries and will have anticipated that I have got a very good answer on cheese.

The 3-oz. ration was a temporary increase. We have previously had Prayers about temporary increases, but if the Opposition care to continue praying against all temporary increases the policy of the Ministry of Food will remain, and that is to give the housewife the benefit of such additional supplies as we obtain. We do not believe in taking the conservative policy of being safe at, for instance, a 2-oz. ration. If we can get more cheese the housewife shall have more cheese.

What happened was that towards the end of 1950 we needed about 13,000 tons of cheese to see us through to the end of the year on the 2-oz. ration. In fact, there was available in the United States 25,000 tons of cheese; we were delighted and bought the lot, so we had 12,000 tons of cheese more at the end of last year than we had budgeted for on a 2-oz. ration; we had taken advantage of additional supplies that had become available, and so were able to go on to a 3-oz. ration for eight weeks.

That supply has now been exhausted. We return to the 2-oz. ration. We were able to buy this cheese at reasonable prices notwithstanding the fact that we bought in the United States. Our aim generally is to maintain as far as we can the 2-oz. ration of hard cheese. We have been able to do this for nearly two years, since May, 1949. If we include the special categories of people entitled to increased cheese ration and make allowance for the cheese required for catering establishments, we require 210,000 tons of rationed cheese.

I am asked about the position before the war. It was this: If we take the average of the years from 1934 to 1938, the domestic consumption of these cheeses was 168,000 tons. If we take, in addition to this the off-the-ration cheese—during the past year or so we have increased the range of off-the-ration cheese, and included some hard cheeses within it—the consumption is at the rate of about 25,000 to 27,000 tons a year. I say from 25,000 to 27,000 for the very good reason that the consumption of this cheese is rising.

Let us again compare this consumption of such cheese with the figure before the war, which was 16,000 tons per year. So, over all, we are consuming at this moment, on a 2-oz. ration, making no allowance for the 3-oz. ration, 235,000 tons of cheese a year against 184,000 tons before the war. When we make comparisons with pre-war and speak of the average consumption, we have to remember—these are figures which are well known and available—regarding cheese in particular, that although there was such a wide variation, if we take the range of dairy products as a whole, the higher income group in this country consumed as much as five times the lower income group. That in itself means that the difference between consumption now and pre-war is even greater than the overall figures suggest. When we are making these comparisons we have to pay regard to dairy products as a whole, because they can take, in the exporting countries, the form either of cheese or of butter. As hon. Gentlemen well know, during the war the Southern Dominions transferred the emphasis to cheese. They are now returning the emphasis to butter.

If we want to make comparisons broadly about dairy products, they are favourable to the present Government Passing reference was made to the position pre-war. I have already explained that during the war two things in particular affecting cheese happened. Onewas that the Southern Dominions made cheese instead of butter. The other was that in North America, as part of the effort to win the war, the United States and Canada deliberately increased the production of cheese. This meant that whereas between 1941 and 1943 we were importing 131,000 tons a year of cheese from Canada and United States, we imported only 47,000 tons in each of the last two years.

We are looking for cheese. We have to pay regard to the fact that the greatly increased production of cheese for export in both the United States and Canada was necessary for the prosecution of the war. Equally, we have to pay regard to the fact, if we are thinking of the period since the war, that we agreed with New Zealand and Australia that they should increase butter production and we are today getting twice the amount of butter that we were during the war. I have said that it is our endeavour at present to do all we can to maintain the 2-oz. ration, and that in turn means that we must provide 210,000 tons of cheese a year.

Reference has already been made to our home production. We believe that we have done very well with our home production. We produced 55,000 tons of cheese in 1950, but we shall produce 60,000 tons this year. How does this compare with pre-war? We produced only 42,000 tons of cheese pre-war. As the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West, indicated, this is only 60,000 tons out of a total demand of 210,000 tons. I would say in passing that when we talk about home production we must pay regard to capacity, and we are using our present capacity to the utmost.

Now let us look abroad and see where we can get cheese. The main source of supply is the Southern Dominions. It is most unfortunate that hon. Members should talk about "mouse trap cheese" and that sort of thing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who did?"] The hon. and gallant Member for Ilford, South (Squadron Leader A. E. Cooper), cast an unwarranted reflection on our home producers and also on New Zealand and Australia, both of whom we believe have done a grand job in helping us to increase the consumption of dairy products. It does no good to Commonwealth relations to talk like that. For practical purposes the whole of our cheese comes from home production and the Commonwealth countries apart from what wet get from United States.

What we have done in the case of the Southern Dominions is to agree that they should produce more butter than they did before and to encourage their greater production by long-term contracts. We have contracts in dairy products running up to 1955. The Southern Dominions have honoured those contracts. An hon. Member spoke about prices. For the last two years we have agreed the prices with New Zealand and Australia, and on each occasion we have given them the maximum increase allowed under the contracts. The hon. Gentleman should pursue his argument a little further. No doubt at the weekends he professes a considerable interest in the cost of living. What is the good of perpetually coming to the House and saying, "Why do you not give more for this and for that?" The result of that would be an increase in the cost of living. It would be an avoidable increase, because we have been able to agree these prices in negotiation with the Southern Dominions.

Under these prices we get for all practical purposes the entire exportable surplus of New Zealand and Australia. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes me to be precise, in the case of New Zealand we get 90 per cent. The balance of our ration of cheese we must get from the United States or Canada. No hon. Gentleman has suggested any other source. In fact there is not one. In the case of the United States we will buy as much cheese as we can get at reasonable prices. No surprise this time because I mentioned reasonable prices? Again we have to pay regard to the fact that there is heavy pressure from an inflationary domestic market in the United States. With regard to the United States and Canada, we have to realise that we can no longer obtain the quantities of cheese we obtained during the war for it is no longer available. We are negotiating with Canada at the moment because we have to get all the additional cheese supplies we can get at reasonable prices.

We get all the rationed cheese we can lay our hands upon from the soft currency areas—I see the right hon. and gallant Gentleman looking amused. He will have an opportunity for suggesting where we can get the cheese. I have just said that we get all the rationed cheese we can take from soft currency areas. It could be argued, "You ought to get more cheese from Denmark." We have been talking about dairy products. We could only get that cheese at the expense of the butter we are obtaining from Denmark. There is no rationed cheese available from any of these sources, and the other cheese which are available have a free market. As I have explained, there is a much larger consumption of this cheese today for the simple reason that the British market is far better than it was pre-war. In fact the cheese exporting countries know there is a far better chance of selling cheese today than there was pre-war.

I was asked about prices. The hon. and gallant Member for Ilford, South, must have had a unique experience. Here are the prices of the rationed cheese we are discussing tonight. In this country it is 1s. 2d. It is difficult to form an exact comparison in all cases but we have taken a comparison as far as we can with similar cheese. In France it is 4s. 10½d. In Denmark, a cheese producing country, it is 2s. 6d. In Switzerland it is 3s. 11d. In the United States, one of our main suppliers, it is 3s. 9d. In Canada it is 2s. 0½d.—again a supplier that has been mentioned. In New Zealand, our greatest supplier, it is 1s. 6½d.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the price of this particular cheese in America, but would he not agree that the level of wages in America is twice that of the average wage in this country?

The hon. Gentleman ought to have been in the House when the hon. and gallant Member for Ilford, South (Squadron Leader Cooper) made his contribution. He made comparisons about prices and suggested that the housewife of this country was unfortunately placed with regard to the purchasing of cheese.

Will the hon. Gentleman allow that there is all the difference in the world between prices in this country which are subsidised—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] I really do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite should gloat and make those peculiar noises. Those subsidies are provided by the taxpayers in this country by high taxes on a number of things. Price for price, the price in many continental countries for all types of cheese is substantially lower than it is in this country.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot wriggle out on that, because he was really comparing price for price. He made a reference to the subsidy only subsequently. Again it is well known what the subsidy is in this case. It is 8¾d.

We are getting wide are we not? This deals with rationed cheese. I do not think the price comes into it at all. It is the amount, the ounces.

I bow to the Chair, Mr. Speaker, and I conclude at once by saying again that I am very much obliged to hon. Members opposite for affording me the opportunity to make this statement.

9.55 p.m.

I listened with interest to the explanation by the Parliamentary Secretary on the subject of cheese, but I was surprised that he expressed no feeling of regret that the people are now to have their ration reduced. Probably every hon. Member, on whichever side of the House he sits, regrets the necessity which the Government have found to reduce the cheese ration. There need be no difference between us on that. Hon. Members on all sides would much rather have seen, as would everybody else, the 3-oz. ration being carried on.

The Parliamentary Secretary told us, as far as I can make out, that it was just by chance that we had had the 3-oz. ration. He said that we had been on a 2-oz. ration and the Government found suddenly that they had extra cheese and so were able to make the ration 3 oz. In fact, we were very lucky to have the 3 oz. and need not thank the Government—it was just a mere chance that they happened to find that extra ounce.

The hon. Member says that we should thank the Government for the lucky chance.

I should be anxious to say things that would be of interest about the price, but I am not allowed to touch on that aspect.

All of us, on whichever side of the House we sit, know that the people are anxious about the amount of rations and food generally they are getting; that is common knowledge. We are all agreed that the meat ration, at 10d., is the lowest we have ever had, and we are all hoping that it may be possible to increase the meat ration. At this moment, when the meat ration is lower than ever, the Government have found it necessary to cut the cheese ration. My hon. Friends who have spoken of the protein that is necessary have pointed out these things, and I expected that the hon. Gentleman would say that he and the Government were extremely sorry that this reduction had to take place before a larger meat ration could be given.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the amounts of cheese. I took down the amounts that were eaten in this country before the war and are being eaten now, but he will agree that if we are discussing the amount of nourishment for people, one should include the other proteins—meat as well as cheese. [Interruption.] Yes, have it all—fats, milk, meat, and all the various other things. We all know, and it is stupid to pretend otherwise, that there is now a lower ration of these proteins than there has ever been.

The hon. Gentleman and I generally manage to agree. He has the job that I once had. We all know the difficulties, and I think, to begin with, that we agree that the meat ration is lower than it has ever been. The hon. Gentleman and I are in complete agreement on that, and most of the people do not like it. The cheese ration has been lower, but if we take the cheese and meat rations together, we have a lower protein ration than we had before.

If I might help the right hon. Lady, of course what we are concerned with broadly is proteins. If we take cheese and meat together, as the meat ration has been reduced, certainly the protein from these foods has been reduced, but we have to deal with proteins generally.

But I was talking of rations and the hon. Member was taking other things. We had been told there was not to be a reduction and there is now to be a reduction in proteins. The hon. Member will agree that, whatever we say, the whole of the country, and I should have thought the Government, would have been extremely sorry at this moment to decrease the ration of cheese.

Division No. 71.]

AYES

[10.0 p.m.

Aitken, W. T.Digby, S. W.Jennings, R.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)Dodds-Parker, A. D.Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)
Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)Donner, P. W.Jones, A. (Hall Green)
Arbuthnot, JohnDouglas-Hamilton, Lord MalcolmJoynson-Hicks, Hon L. W.
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)Drayson, G. B.Kaberry, D.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)Drewe, C.Keeling, E. H.
Astor, Hon. M. L.Dugdale, Maj. Sir Thomas (Richmond)Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Baxter, A. B.Duthie, W. S.Langford-Holt, J.
Beamish, Major TuftonEccles, D. M.Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.
Bell, R. M.Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.Leather, E. H. C.
Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)Erroll, F. J.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)Fisher, NigelLindsay, Martin
Bennett, William (Woodside)Fletcher, Walter (Bury)Linstead, H. N.
Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxieth)Fort, R.Llewellyn, D.
Birch, NigelFraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (King's Norton)
Bishop, F. P.Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Black, C. W.Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David MaxwellLockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)Gage, C. H.Low, A. R. W.
Boyle, Sir EdwardGalbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)Lucas, Sir Joceiyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Bracken, Rt. Hon. B.Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)
Braine, B. R.Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Braithwaite, Lt.-Cmdr. GurneyGates, Maj. E. E.McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.Glyn, Sir RalphMacdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.Mackeson, Brig, H. R.
Browne, Jack (Govan)Gridley, Sir ArnoldMcKibbin, A.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Bullock, Capt. M.Grimston, Robert (Westbury)Maclay, Hon. John
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)
Burden, Squadron Leader F. A.Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)
Butcher, H. W.Harris, Reader (Heston)Macmillan, Rt. Hon Harold (Bromley)
Butler, Rt. Hon. R.A. (Saffron Walden)Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)Macpherson, Major Niall (Dumfries)
Carr, Robert (Mitcham)Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)Maitland, Comdr. J. W.
Carson, Hon. E.Hay, JohnManningham-Buller, R. E.
Channon, H.Head, Brig. A. H.Marlowe, A. A. H.
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.Marples, A. E.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)Heald, LionelMarshall, Douglas (Bodmin)
Colegate, A.Heath, EdwardMarshall, Sidney (Sutton)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Henderson, John (Cathcart)Maude, Angus (Ealing, S.)
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert (Ilford, S.)Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.Medlicott, Brig. F.
Cooper-Key, E. M.Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)Mellor, Sir John
Corbett, Lt.-Col. Uvedale (Ludlow)Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)Molson, A. H. E.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)Hinchingbrooke, ViscountMonckton, Sir Walter
Cranborne, ViscountHollis, M. C.Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. FlorenceNabarro, G.
Crouch, R. F.Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)Nicholls, Harmar
Crowder, Capt. John (Finchley)Howard, Greville (St. Ives)Nicholson, G.
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)Nield, Basil (Chester)
Cundiff, F. W.Hudson, Rt. Hon. Robert (Southport)Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Cuthbert, W. N.Hurd, A. R.Nugent, G. R. H.
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)Hutchison, Lt.-Com.Clark (E'b'rgh W.)Nutting, Anthony
Davidson, ViscountessHyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.Oakshott, H. D.
de Chair, SomersetHylton-Foster, H. B.Odey, G. W.
Deedes, W. F.Jeffreys, General Sir GeorgeO'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh

The hon. Member comes to this House and does not seem to express the slightest regret, but seems to think that we were lucky to have the 3 ozs. All I can tell him is that the people of this country do regret it and feel that the Government are not looking after their food as they ought to. The majority of the people in this country, the large majority—[An HON. MEMBER: "What does the right hon. Lady know about it?"]—the large majority of them feel that, and hon. Members in this House know it as well as we do; if not, they will soon be undeceived.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 237; Noes, 219.

Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.Scott, DonaldThorp, Brig. R. A. F.
Orr, Capt. L. P. S.Shepherd, WilliamTilney, John
Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir WalterTouche, G. C.
Osborne, C.Smith, E. Martin (Grantham)Turner, H. F. L.
Peake, Rt. Hon. O.Smithers, Peter (Winchester)Turton, R. H.
Perkins, W. R. D.Snadden, W. McN.Tweedsmuir, Lady
Peto, Brig. C. H. M.Soames, Capt. C.Vane, W. M. F.
Powell, J. EnochSpearman, A. C. M.Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Price, Henry (Lewisham W.)Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)Vosper, D. F.
Prior-Palmer, Brig. D.Stevens, G. P.Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Profumo, J. D.Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)Walker-Smith, D. C.
Raikes, H. V.Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Rayner, Brig, R.Storey, S.Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Remnant, Hon. P.Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Renton, D. L. M.Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)Watkinson, H.
Roberts, Major Peter (Heeley)Studholme, H. G.Webbe, Sir Harold
Robson-Brown, W.Summers, G. S.Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)
Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)Sutcliffe, H.White, Baker (Canterbury)
Roper, Sir HaroldTaylor, Charles (Eastbourne)Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Ropner, Col. L.Teeling, W.Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Russell, R. S.Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.Thompson, Kenneth Pugh (Walton)Wood, Hon. R.
Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir ArthurThompson, R. H. M. (Croydon, W)
Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.Thorneycroft, Peter (Monmouth)

TELLERS FOR THE AYES:

Savory, Prof. D. L.Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.Mr. Spence and
Mr. Boyd-Carpenter.

NOES

Adams, RichardEvans, Stanley (Wednesbury)Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Albu, A. H.Ewart, R.Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)Fernyhough, E.Lindgren, G. S.
Awbery, S. S.Field, Capt. W. J.Lipton. Lt.-Col. M.
Ayles, W. H.Finch, H. J.Logan, D. G.
Baird, J.Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)Longden, Fred (Small Heath)
Balfour, A.Foot, M. M.MacColl, J. E.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.Forman, J. C.McGhee, H. G.
Bartley, P.Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)McInnes, J.
Benn, WedgwoodGanley, Mrs. C. S.Mackay, R. W. G. (Reading, N.)
Benson, G.Gibson, C. W.McLeavy, F.
Bevan, Rt. Hon A (Ebbw Vale)Gilzean, A.MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Bing, G. H. C.Glanville, James (Consett)Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Blenkinsop, A.Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.Mann, Mrs. Jean
Blyton, W. R.Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)Manuel, A. C.
Boardman, H.Grenfell, D. R.Mellish, R. J.
Booth, A.Grey, C. F.Messer, F.
Bottomley, A. G.Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Middleton, Mrs. L.
Bowden, H. W.Gunter, R. J.Mitchison, G. R.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Haire, John E. (Wycombe)Moeran, E. W.
Braddock, Mrs. ElizabethHale, Joseph (Rochdale)Moody, A. S.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax)Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)Morley, R.
Brooks, T. J. (Normanton)Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)Morrison, Rt. Hon H. (Lewisham, S.)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Mort, D. L.
Brown, George (Belper)Hamilton, W. W.Moyle, A.
Burton, Miss E.Hannan, W.Mulley, F. W.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)Hardy, E. A.Murray, J. T.
Callaghan, L. J.Hargreaves, A.Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Carmichael, J.Harrison, J.Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.
Champion, A. J.Hastings, S.O'Brien, T.
Chetwynd, G. R.Hayman, F. H.Oliver, G. H.
Clunie, J.Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)Orbach, M.
Cocks, F. S.Herbison, Miss M.Padley, W. E.
Coldrick, W.Hobson, C. R.Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)
Collick, P.Holman P.Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Collindridge, F.Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)Pannell, T. C.
Cooper, Geoffrey (Middlesbrough, W.)Houghton, D.Pargiter, G. A.
Cooper, John (Deptford)Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)Parker, J.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda (Peckham)Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Paton, J.
Cove, W. G.Hynd, H. (Accrington)Pearson, A.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Peart, T. F.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Poole, C.
Darling, George (Hillsborough)Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.Porter, G.
Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)Janner, B.Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
de Freitas, GeoffreyJay, D. P. T.Proctor, W. T.
Deer, G.Jeger, George (Goole)Pryde, D. J.
Delargy, H. J.Jenkins, R. H.Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Diamond, J.Jones, David (Hartlepool)Rees, Mrs. D.
Dodds, N. N.Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)Reeves, J.
Donnelly, D.Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)Keenan, W.Reid, William (Camlachie)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Kenyon, C.Richards, R.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)Kinghorn, Sqn. Ldr. E.Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)Kinley, J.Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)Lang, GordonRogers, George (Kensington, N.)

Ross, William (Kilmarnock)Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)Wilkins, W. A.
Royle, C.Thurtle, ErnestWilley, Frederick (Sunderland)
Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir HartleyTomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.Williams, David (Neath)
Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.Tomney, F.Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Shurmer, P. L. E.Ungoed-Thomas, A. L.Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Silverman, Julius (Erdington)Vernon, W. F.Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'lly)
Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)Viant, S. P.Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Simmons, C. J.Wallace, H. W.Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Slater, J.Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Snow, J. W.Weitzman, D.Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir FrankWells, Percy (Faversham)Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Steele, T.West, D. G.Wyatt, W. L.
Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh, E.)Yates, V. F.
Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Stross, Dr. BarnettWhite, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)Younger, Hon K
Sylvester, G. O.White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.

TELLERS FOR THE NOES:

Taylor, Robert (Marpeth)Wigg, G.Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Sparks.
Thomas, David (Aberdare)Wilkes, L.

Address to be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.

In accordance with precedent, I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn," in order to enable the acting Prime Minister to make a statement on what the Government propose to do.

Then, Sir, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman what course he proposes to take in view of his defeat on an important Government Order?

I will give the answer straight away. The Government propose to accept the decision of the House.