Skip to main content

Ministry Of Food

Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 7 April 1954

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

Wheat Crop, North-East Area (Disposal)


asked the Minister of Food what action he has taken in view of the complaints of Durham County farmers that they are unable to get last year's wheat moved from the farms.

I have received no complaints from Durham County farmers. If the hon. Member has any specific case in mind I should be glad to look into it.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware of the statement made by the National Farmers' Union complaining of the difficulty? If he is not, perhaps I ought to send him a copy of the statement, which was made publicly.

I do not think that the hon. Member need worry about sending me the statement. As far as the North-Eastern area, which includes Durham, is concerned, the regional manager of Recommissioned Mills Limited says that no contract for purchase by the company is out of date, and that the average time taken before intake is three weeks against the 28 days allowed.



asked the Minister of Food what action he proposes to take on the decontrol of meat regarding the slaughterhouses recently built by the Government.

In accordance with the undertaking given when these places were built, the local authorities concerned have been given an option to acquire the premises for use as public slaughterhouses.

In view of the difficulties which may arise about the use of these slaughterhouses, will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman endeavour to clarify the position in each case so that there can be no question of their not being fully used when the time comes later in the year?

The local authorities have been consulted on this matter and are now looking into the proposals.

Will the Minister of Food say on what terms and conditions these slaughterhouses will be subject To the local authorities?

That is under consideration now. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that when the slaughterhouses were originally built the local authorities were given the first option. It is those terms, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, which we are now discussing.

Has my right hon. and gallant Friend set any date by which the local authorities shall exercise the option? It is most important that if they are not to take up the option some other body of farmers, butchers and others should have the facilities.

I am fully alive to what is in the mind of my hon. Friend, and I am hopeful that after these meetings we shall be able to come to a decision.

Citrus Fruits (Thiourea)


asked the Minister of Food if he has considered the letter sent to his Department by the town clerk of West Ham, dated 26th March, concerning the use of thiourea on citrus fruits; and what action he has taken in connection with this letter.


asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that, following his circular of 25th January, in respect of the possibility of citrus fruits being contaminated by thiourea, the Leyton Corporation has discovered that oranges sold in Leyton are so contaminated; what evidence he has of similar contamination elsewhere; and what action he proposes to take to prevent the importation of fruit affected by this toxic fungicide originally used as a preservative.

23 and 24.

asked the Minister of Food (1) what action he has taken with regard to the letter sent to his Department by the Town Clerk of West Ham, dated 26th March, 1954, suggesting the prohibition of importation of citrus fruit treated with thiourea:

(2) whether he is aware that an analysis of samples of oranges imported from Spain and on sale to the public in the borough of West Ham has revealed traces of thiourea; and what steps he proposes to take to protect the public from the toxic effects of consumption of citrus fruits treated with thiourea.

I have seen the letter to which hon. Members refer. I am advised that the sale and importation of any article of food containing thiourea contravenes the Preservatives in Food Regulations or the Imported Food Regulations, respectively, and that such sale and importation are therefore prohibited. Food and drugs authorities and port health authorities were so informed last January. The matter has also been brought to the attention of the Governments of the exporting countries.

I am obliged to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. Will he consult his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade with a view to taking some action? In the East End of London, and particularly in West Ham, these oranges are being sold at the moment and children are sucking the orange skins, which he will agree is very dangerous. I am informed that, unless he and his right hon. Friend implement the banning of these articles, the local authorities have not the powers to take action. Will he implement the banning?

I am naturally most concerned about this, because it is a matter of some seriousness. At the moment the local authorities and the health authorities have full powers to deal with this because thiourea is a preservative which is not allowed. Therefore it is a matter for the courts to decide whether an offence has been committed. The prohibition on imports is an important matter, and I am looking into it urgently to see what can be done if these regulations are not sufficient.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that oranges are being sold in the streets of my constituency and in West Ham and that therefore the danger is spreading and requires urgent action? Can he not do something more than giving the information and prohibit any further importation together with issuing strict instructions regarding the consumption of this important and valuable fruit?

I am very much concerned with this. I am looking at the matter to see whether the regulations regarding importing are sufficient. I am bound to say that I circularised all local and health authorities on 25th January, pointing out the danger of this particular spray. They have full powers to deal with it. All the information which I have received from various parts of the country has come from local authorities.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman see that General Franco gets a pound of these valuable oranges?

May I ask whether any cases have occurred from thiourea, and what the approximate fatal dose is?

I am afraid that I could not tell the hon. Gentleman that. As far as I can remember thiourea is the result of the action of hydrogen sulphide on cyanamide, which is not a very pleasant mixture, I should think. I am very much alive to the seriousness of this and assure the House that I shall take every action I can.

Australian And New Zealand Meat Agreements


asked the Minister of Food what were the terms of agreement reached with Australia and New Zealand for the future marketing of their meat in the United Kingdom; and to what extent future prices have been guaranteed.

Trading in Australian meat will revert to private hands as from 1st July for mutton and lamb, and from 1st October for beef, veal and pork. The Australian Government are now considering proposals by the United Kingdom Government under the terms of the 15-year Agreement for deficiency payments in certain circumstances when the trade reverts to private hands.

New Zealand has agreed to terminate the bulk meat contract on 30th September, 1954. After that date, the quantities, prices and other conditions of sale to the United Kingdom market will, in the words of the joint declaration of the two Governments in 1952, be determined in the ordinary course of trade.

May we take it from what the Minister has told the House that there will continue to be a completely open door for the imports of meat from both Australia and New Zealand, and that as far as the guarantee of price given to Australian producers is concerned, the British Treasury will, if necessary, play its part in seeing that they get the price as arranged?

On the question of quantities, there is no restriction of any kind. I would rather say nothing about the question of price yet, because discussions are going on with the Australian Government.

Do I understand that the 15-year contract only now applies to quantity, and that the Government from now on will accept no responsibility for the price of the guaranteed quantity?

As far as New Zealand is concerned that is so, but in the case of Australia the agreement is different, and that is a matter for discussion now.

Do I understand that the Government will make themselves responsible for deficiency payments to the Dominions in the event of private trade not giving the prices which are guaranteed at the moment?

As I said just now, the agreement with New Zealand is different from that with Australia. The position as regards New Zealand is as I have stated in answer to the Question. There is a different position in the case of Australia with regard to price, and that is what is being negotiated at the moment.