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Ministry Of Food

Volume 531: debated on Wednesday 28 July 1954

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Flour Improvers (Agene)

24.

asked the Minister of Food if he can yet make a statement in respect of the banning of agene in flour for human consumption.

Not yet, Sir.

Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that an undertaking was given by a Government spokesman on 2nd December, 1953, that a statement was likely to be made within two or three months, and is he not aware that for some considerable period a baker in the West Country has been selling large quantities of bread free from agene and chemicals? What is the Ministry doing about that?

I am aware of the need for an early decision. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are in the hands of an expert committee which is seeking an absolutely safe alternative. My right hon. and gallant Friend will make an announcement as soon as that expert advice is ready.

Why does not the Minister's Department encourage the millers to give people decent bread instead of the poison which they now supply?

Because he prefers an expert examination of the facts before making loose assertions.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that in the new process, which has been going on as a commercial proposition, no chemicals at all are used? Is it not a good bread in itself, and why does not the Ministry do something about it? If it is not a good bread, why does not the Ministry warn people about it?

I am aware of the aeration process to which the hon. Gentleman refers. It is one of the methods being studied, but, until the study is complete, it cannot be authoritatively stated what the new method will be.

Bacon Pigs (Guaranteed Prices)

25.

asked the Minister of Food if he will withdraw the guaranteed prices for bacon pigs until a free market is restored between the farmer and the bacon curers.

No, Sir. The guaranteed prices are paid to implement an undertaking to producers. The method of sale does not affect their purpose or necessity.

May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he and his right hon. and gallant Friend are really very happy about the present arrangements which have been in force since 1st July? Will he say to what extent there is a monopoly as a result of the agreement between the Fat Stock Marketing Corporation and the bacon curers, and how many bacon curers are now outside that agreement?

My right hon. Friend's responsibility is to implement the guarantee, whether to the individual producer or to producers formed together in a voluntary organisation like the Fat Stock Marketing Corporation. The issue which the hon. Gentleman has in mind is not the concern of my right hon. Friend, and it might appropriately be put to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that, in the matter of the production of bacon pigs, in which quality and uniformity are all important, it is very desirable that these pigs should be sold through a marketing organisation rather than by the method of auction sales?

Canadian Apples

26.

asked the Minister of Food what arrangements are being made to allow imports of Canadian apples during the forthcoming season to meet the consumers' needs after the home-grown crop has been disposed of; to what extent this trade may be resumed; and what consultations he has had with Canadian interests to ensure that the domestic market may depend upon an adequate and varied supply of fresh fruit from North America.

I would refer the hon. and learned Member to the reply I gave on 26th July to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Commander Donaldson).

Cannot the Minister be a little more explicit, and cannot he give the housewives a little more variety in the matter of food supplies?

I suggest that the hon. and learned Gentleman reads the answer to which I referred, which makes this, as it essentially is, a question of dollars.

Eggs

28.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that eggs have increased in price from 2s. 6d. to 4s. 9d. per dozen; what evidence he has to indicate the future price trends; and what his policy is in regard to egg production and price.

The price of eggs always rises at this time of the year, and no doubt this annual pattern will continue. But the price is appreciably lower than a year ago and lower than under control and subsidy the year before.

Can the hon. Gentleman explain why his right hon. and gallant Friend made a statement in the House a week ago saying that eggs had fallen in price when, in point of fact, they have nearly doubled in price from 2s. 6d. to 4s. 9d.? Is the latter part of my Question too difficult for the hon. Gentleman to answer?

The price always rises between the flush period and midsummer. The point of comparison is between that time this year and the same time last year, and the comparison shows a reduction in price.

On the more general question, will the Ministry make it clear to the public that controls are the cause of shortages, that the restriction of consumption restricts production, and that it must take time for the application of sound principles to show results after the inefficiency and incompetence of the Socialist regime?

Fatstock (Grading And Deadweight Scheme)

29.

asked the Minister of Food if he will make a statement on the operation of his Department's fatstock grade and deadweight scheme during the first three weeks of meat decontrol; if he is satisfied that generally the supply of home-killed meat and the demand are settling on a basis that is fair to producers and consumers; and if he can give a current estimate of the subsidy payments on account of the collective guaranteed payments and the guaranteed individual prices.

There are now official graders at 166 centres and some 160 wholesalers are registered under the scheme. The answer to the second part of the Question within the limits of experience to date is, "Yes, Sir." As regards the third part, I would refer my hon. Friend to the Departmental Estimates which included £34·7 million for the nine months ending next March.

Will my hon. Friend tell us whether an increasing number of farmers are making use of the Ministry's grading and deadweight scheme as an alternative to the auctions or the Fat Stock Marketing Corporation?

It is a little early, after only three weeks, to measure trends of that kind.

Bacon And Ham

30.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that Belfast bacon has been increased to 6s. per lb., and cooked gammon from 7s. 4d. to 9s. per lb., while alternatives to these, such as sausages, meat and fish, are correspondingly increased; and if he will reimpose controls.

I am not so informed. The average price of bacon is about the same as before decontrol, and from this weekend there will be bacon in some districts at much lower prices. The reply to the last part of the Question is: No, Sir.

I am not at all surprised that the hon. Gentleman is not informed. As a matter of fact, is he aware that when he asks housewives to take action by avoiding high prices the alternatives to which they have to resort are also all correspondingly increased?

But the statements in the hon. Lady's Question are inaccurate. For example, she refers to cooked gammon, where the range of price is between 7s. 4d. and 8s. per lb. as compared with between 11s. and 12s. under the Administration of the party opposite. Secondly, the Index of Retail Food Prices shows that the figure for June is no higher than it was a year ago.

In view of the high cost of living, will the hon. Gentleman admit that the time has come when the British people should be sold Danish bacon at the price which the Government pays for it, and not be exploited by the Government to the tune of £30 million a year as they are at the present time?

If the hon. Gentleman would put down a Question on Danish bacon I shall be glad to answer it.

Is it not a fact that, unfortunately, some people are grossly exaggerating increases in the cost of living?

Some people are denying, for political purposes, the validity of the figures which they themselves used.

Butter

31.

asked the Minister of Food the price of butter in June, 1951, and June, 1954.

We have just had a reply that butter was 2s. 6d. a lb. in 1951, and that it is now costing from 3s. 8d. to 4s. 2d. a lb. Surely that gives the lie to all that hon. Members opposite have been saying about there being no increases. Are we to take it that when butter goes from 2s. 6d. a lb. to 4s. 2d. it is a reduction?

Cyprus

Port Development

38.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the policy of Her Majesty's Government about creating a new port in Cyprus; and where this is likely to be situated.

My right hon. Friend fully appreciates the importance of port development in Cyprus and, at the request of the Government of Cyprus, advisers from the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation are undertaking a survey of the flow of trade through the ports in the island. They will advise the Cyprus Government what developments, if any, are desirable. It is therefore too early to reply to the second part of the Question.

When conducting the survey, will the Government pay special attention to the fact that there are in Cyprus a large number of historic buildings of unexampled beauty and interest, and will they take care to see that so far as possible nothing is done to spoil these ancient buildings?

Will the Minister bear in mind that the decision to proceed with the deep water port at Cyprus will not only bring great benefit to the Colony, but will also be a clear indication to our friends there that our interest in the Colony is an abiding one and not merely a passing one?

Yes. At the same time I think that we must await the report of the committee of inquiry.

Enosis Movement

50.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what he estimates to be the volume of support in Cyprus for the Enosis Movement; and what measurable opposition there is to it among the people of the island.

I understand that there are many shades of opinion. The movement is certainly widely supported in the Press and from the pulpit, but there is strong opposition from a not inconsiderable part of the population of the island.

Would the Minister not agree that it might be possible to get a definite answer to this question if the Government would consider holding a referendum of their own?

The holding of a referendum or a plebiscite is not a piece of political machinery which fits in very well with British ideas, but in any case I would ask the hon. Lady to await the statement which I propose to make at the end of Questions.

Would the Minister say whether the Government, if they are going to return to the Front Bench, are going to give some attention to the problem of Cyprus and not wait until it explodes in their hands like the Suez Canal base and then have to go out of the Chamber again?

If the hon. Gentleman had listened to the very last answer which I gave, he would have heard me say I was going to make a statement at the end of Questions.

Hong Kong (Healthy Village)

40 and 41.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) what rents will be charged by the Hong Kong Housing Society for the flats they are proposing to build on the site of the Healthy Village; what are the qualifications necessary for renting these flats; and what compensation will be paid to the present inhabitants of the Healthy Village who have to demolish their houses;

(2) how many of the occupants of the Healthy Village who will not be rehoused by the Hong Kong Housing Society will be allowed to remain on that part of the site which is not needed by the Society.

I am consulting the Acting Governor, and will write to the hon. Member when I have his reply.

In the meantime, would not the Minister do something to try to get another site secured for the Hong Kong Housing Society? Would he not agree that it is a bad thing to interfere with this excellent little community?

I can only refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply given on a previous occasion which, I think, made the position perfectly clear.

Makerere College, Uganda (Extra-Mural Studies)

42.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why the Director of Extra-Mural Studies for the University College of East Africa has not been appointed; and what the University College authorities are doing with the money.

As my right hon. Friend informed the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) in reply to a Question on 23rd June, the University College of East Africa at Makerere is an autonomous body. This is therefore a matter for the college authorities.

I quite appreciate that fact, but surely the Minister can do something in this matter, because he is aware, I think, that this post was advertised over a year ago. As this extra-mural work is proceeding quite satisfactorily at Entebbe, is there any reason why it should not proceed now in Kenya and Tanganyika?

I think that my right hon. Friend in his reply to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) on 23rd June, made quite clear what his interest was in this matter of extra-mural work. He made his interest perfectly clear, but it would not be proper for him to intervene in a matter of this sort.

Would the Minister agree that one of our big difficulties in colonial society is a lack of what we may call cultural activity, particularly in East Africa of all places? Would he therefore do his best to indicate to the university in the territory that it ought to begin, and should begin as early as possible, some extra-mural classes in Nairobi?

With respect, I think that the answers given on this subject will help in that direction.

Will the Minister make it clear that this extra-mural work has his complete support, and say so to both the Governments concerned?

Nigeria (Mokwa Agricultural Scheme)

45.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will hold an inquiry into the methods of working of the Mokwa agricultural scheme in Nigeria, and the factors which led to its failure.

This scheme has been taken over by the Government of the Northern Region of Nigeria on 1st June for further experimental work. My right hon. Friend sees no grounds for an inquiry at this stage.

Can the Minister confirm or deny that much of the difficulty in the past has been caused by the attitude of the local Emir who almost seems to wish to discourage these settlers coming into this scheme? Would he endeavour to convey to the Northern Territory Government that this sort of thing has not been helpful in the past and will not be helpful in the future?

I have not the information to confirm what the hon. Gentleman says, but certainly the scheme has been taken over by the Northern Regional Government. They have asked for a C.D. and W. grant to help to carry it out, and it is certainly their intention to make a success of it.