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European Commission Foodstuffs

Volume 164: debated on Thursday 11 January 1990

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will review the distribution of free European Commission foodstuffs with a view to increasing the number of distribution centres; and if he will make a statement.

I will shortly be deciding on the arrangements for distributing surplus intervention foodstuffs to our most needy citizens.

Is the Minister aware that great difficulty was caused in the city of Bradford by the relatively small number of distribution centres and that although that caused great distress to a number of old people who had to queue for long hours, the Ministry turned down my request for extra distribution centres? Is he also aware that organisations such as the Dovesdale club in my constituency were willing and able to distribute the foodstuffs, but were turned down? The Ministry therefore contributed to the distress and difficulty caused by the distribution process. Will the Minister give me an assurance that he will consider establishing more distribution centres?

When this not very satisfactory scheme began, we took the view that distribution would be carried out by voluntary agencies. In fact, five undertake that task in Bradford. I have no intention of erecting a Government bureaucracy. Those organisations that can satisfy our requirements will, of course, be given entitlements, but the more that take part, the less each will receive and there is very little food to go around. Although I do not think it is a sensible scheme, we shall operate it as best as we can.