HC Deb 19 December 1916 vol 88 cc1395-8

It shall be the duty of the Food Controller to regulate the supply and consumption of food in such manner as he thinks best for maintaining a proper supply of food, and to take such steps as he thinks best for encouraging the production of food, and for those purposes he shall have such powers or duties of any Government Department or authority, whether conferred by Statute or otherwise, as His Majesty may, by Order in Council, transfer to him, or authorise him to exercise or perform concurrently with, or in consultation with, the Government Department or authority concerned, and also such further powers as may be conferred on him by Regulations under the Defence of the Realm Consolidation Act, 1914, and Regulations may be made under that Act accordingly.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."


For the last ten days announcements have appeared in the Press, and it has been taken for granted that Thursday is to be a meatless day in Great Britain and in Ireland. Friday in Ireland is a meatless day as far as the Catholic community is concerned, and that applies to the Catholic community of the civilised world. In order to avoid anything in the nature of a suggestion as to hostility to the Catholic community, it would be advisable for the Food Controller to fix Friday as the meatless day for Great Britain and Ireland, or otherwise to make whatever fixture he likes for Great Britain, but to allow Friday to be our meatless day. The Prime Minister asked us to have a national Lent. Irish Catholics and Catholics throughout the world have always had a national Lent. It is not alone that Friday is a meatless day in the eyes of the Catholic community throughout the world, but there are several other periods of the year, in Lent and in Advent, when on two or three other days of the week meat cannot be used. Our Irish Catholic soldiers are fighting your battles in Franca and elsewhere, and when they come back suffering from wounds and lying in hospitals, are you going to ask them to have two meatless days, Thursday and Friday, in succession? Are you going to ask the working people in the munition factories who are of the Catholic faith that they should submit to meatless days on Thursday and Friday, while the man who works side by side with him is to have but one? The Catholics in this country and Ireland ought to have one meatless day and that day ought to be Friday, otherwise let us hate two meatless days, and let the same regulations apply to the people of this country and of Ireland. Whatever the people of this country are willing to accept as a sacrifice in order to prosecute the War, we in Ireland are prepared to make similar sacrifices, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make that representation to the Food Controller. Several of the Catholic bishops of England have written to members of our party to ask that their views on this matter should be brought to Lord Devon-port's attention, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to convey to him our view that instead of Thursday Friday should be the day fixed.


I would like to support the proposal brought forward by my hon. Friend, who has pointed out that in Ireland, where the great majority of the people are Catholic, we have already one meatless day, according to the laws and regulations of the Church. If, when the Food Controller fixes a meatless day, or two meatless days, as the case may be, one of those days is not a Friday, it will mean that Catholics, not only in Ireland, but in the rest of the United Kingdom, will have two meatless days. If two meatless days are fixed and neither of those days happens to be a Friday, it will mean that Catholics will have three meatless days. That is not a position in which this House would like the majority of the Irish people to be put, and I would strongly support the appeal of my hon. Friend that if there is to be one meatless day it should be a Friday, and if there are to be two meatless days, one of those days should be a Friday. My hon. Friend has pointed out that there is another period of the year in Ireland, the Lenten season, during, which we have a second meatless day, and sometimes three. Therefore it may happen, under these new Regulations—I do not say it will happen—that in Ireland we would have, during the Lenten season, four meatless days. I think it will be universally conceded that that would not be reasonable or fair.


I have permitted the two hon. Members to make their observations, but I would point out that this is more an administrative matter than a legislative matter. It is not for legislation to say which is to be the meatless day. However, the hon. Members are entitled to put their queries to the Government and to receive an answer.


I am willing to give an answer. The hon. Members have raised a very interesting point. They desire that if there are to be meatless days in Ireland, one of those days shall be a Friday. I can quite understand that to Catholics, both in this country and in Ireland, that is a point of interest, and I will very willingly undertake to convey an expression of the hon. Members' views to the Food Controller.


I should like to point out that this matter affects Irish Catholics in Great Britain as much as it affects them in Ireland. I represent an exclusively Catholic society, which has many members in this country as well as in Ireland, and during the last few days I have received many resolutions in regard to this matter, which is causing very great concern. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will convey our views to the proper authorities, and that if such an order is to be imposed the enforcement of it will be carried out with the least possible friction, I think that if you are going to have only-one meatless day it should be Friday, and that if there are to be two meatless days-one of those days should be a Friday. It is no use attempting to force this down the throats of the people in this country who-are Catholics, because they will resent it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill