HC Deb 05 February 1918 vol 101 cc2097-8
89. Mr. W. THORNE

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Shipping whether, at the outbreak of War, the refrigerated fleet consisted of about 230 vessels, and that, despite submarine sinkings, it now consists of between 280 and 290 vessels; whether the greater portion of our food difficulties have arisen through the mishandling of our refrigerated fleet arrangements and disregard by the War Office, Admiralty, and Board of Trade of civilian requirements; that when evidence was submitted to the Departmental Committee on Food Prices by Mr. J. Terrett, of the Workers' Committee at Smithfield, fixing the responsibility for the neglect on the Board of Trade, the chairman of the Committee ruled the matter out of order; and whether he is prepared to institute a departmental inquiry into the mismanagement of the refrigerated fleet and any suggestions which can be advanced for improvement?


I am sorry to be unable to publish the figures asked for, but those given by my hon. Friend are not accurate, and I am sending him the true figures privately. He will bear in mind that the vessels available have, of course, to meet not only civilian meat consumption, but a military consumption, which is necessarily greater per head. I know of no grounds for the suggestion made in the second part of the question, and do not consider that a departmental inquiry would serve any useful purpose. My hon. Friend will be aware that the present difficulties with regard to the meat supply do not mainly arise from deficiencies in imported meat.