HC Deb 22 June 1936 vol 313 cc1417-9

asked the Minister of Health what steps his advisory committee on nutrition are taking to collect sufficient data to enable the Government to formulate a policy for dealing with the problem of nutrition?


asked the Minister of Health whether, subsequent to the Bishop Auckland potato scheme, any further experiments have been carried out with a view to ascertaining the possibilities of making supplies of nutritious food available at reduced prices to the unemployed?

36. Mr. SANDYS

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the average expenditure on food of 4,500,000 persons in this country does not exceed 4s. per week per head; and whether the advice of his medical advisers indicates that this is sufficient to maintain health and working capacity?


My right hon. Friend is aware that an estimate of average expenditure on food has been made to the effect stated, but he is advised that the data on which it is based are not sufficient to justify positive conclusions. The whole question of the adequacy of diets is now being actively examined by the Advisory Committee on Nutrition who have before them all the available statistical information, including the results of the Bishop Auckland experiment which, my right hon. Friend understands, the Potato Marketing Board do not propose to repeat this season. The committee have, however, recommended the Departments concerned to collect family budgets and undertake dietary surveys, and to obtain information as to the distribution of weekly earnings and family incomes. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is about to give effect to the recommendation as to family budgets in his forthcoming inquiry as to the cost of living index, and the other matters are now under consideration.


Can the Minister give us an idea when we may expect definite action to improve the nutrition position?


My hon. Friend would agree that this is a scientific question first and a political question second, and that it is taking the best action to set up the most expert committee we can.


Would the Minister, for the benefit of the House, give the House one of his family budgets, and see how that works out?


Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that the poor people could buy very much more food if they had the money with which to buy it?


That is the reason why they ought to thank the National Government that purchasing power, through wages, has been restored to 1,300,000 more persons?


In view of the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary has said that the Government are totally dissatisfied with the standard of livelihood represented in this matter, and that the Ministry of Labour are undertaking an inquiry into family budgets, would the Minister of Health convey to the Minister of Labour the desirability of not regarding that as a basis for measuring the standard of living?