HC Deb 02 April 1917 vol 92 cc903-4

asked the Prime Minister (1) why the Government have adopted the course of placing further large restrictions on the output of beer by an Order of the Food Controller; whether he will give an early opportunity for discussion of the matter; (2) whether the Government, in framing and enforcing further restrictions on the output of beer, will take into their consideration the fact that beer is recognised by medical authorities as a food as well as a drink, and that the moderate use of it has proved to be most beneficial to soldiers, sailors, munition workers, and other manual labourers; and (3) whether, with a view to avoiding political controversy and extravagant expenditure in war- time, he will consider the possibility of taking measures to suppress the persistent agitations for State purchase or prohibition of the liquor trade, upon which so much money, paper, ink, and labour are now being expended?


I have been asked to reply, and will deal with this and the two following questions together. In placing restrictions upon the output of beer by an Order of the Food Controller, the Government have followed the same procedure as in the case of several other trades, especially those using sugar. The food value of beer is not disputed, but that of the barley grits and sugar employed in its manufacture is substantially greater. Restrictions upon the output of beer are based upon the necessity of rendering such foods available for direct human consumption. It is not desirable to attempt to suppress the public expression of divergent opinions upon so important a problem. If there is a general desire on the part of the House to discuss these restrictions, I will bring this before my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, with a view to the granting of the time for discussion. I may, however, remind the hon. Member that quite recently there was a lengthy Debate upon this subject.


Is my hon. Friend aware, with regard to the third question, that there is a great feeling of irritation amongst members of the trade, against whom this agitation has been directed, that the War should be exploited in this way, especially as they are far too patriotic themselves to take retaliatory measures?


Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the greatest scientists and doctors of the day say that beer is not a food?


We have no time to digest that matter now.