HC Deb 05 July 1939 vol 349 cc1295-300
48. Mr. Johnston

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he has been able to acquire stocks of canned herring for food-storage purposes, under the Essential Commodities Reserves Act?

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. W. S. Morrison)

I am glad to be able to inform the right hon. Member that the Food (Defence Plans) Department have recently contracted with fish canners in Great Britain for large supplies of canned herring surplus to commercial requirements in the immediate future.

Mr. Johnston

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that answer, will he be good enough to place in the Tea Room of the House a specimen can of that fish, so that hon. Members may be advised of the first-class quality of a commodity that could be substituted for Japanese fish?

Mr. Morrison

I will gladly do anything in my power to make more widely known the very excellent nutritive quality of British herring.

Sir Herbert Williams

Will the stocks include the red herring of Transport House?

49. Captain P. Macdonald

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps he is taking to ensure the supply of food in reception areas in the event of evacuation?

Mr. Morrison

I propose to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement of the plans which are being made for this contingency. They include the issue by the Food (Defence Plans) Department of emergency supplies in connection with the official evacuation scheme and plans for increasing supplies in local shops through trading channels. Attention is drawn to the desirability, to which I have referred previously in the House of traders maintaining, and if possible increasing their stocks of essential foodstuffs, and to the suggestion that householders should build up reserves. I am also asking that persons who are making their own arrangements to move from one part of the country to another in the event of an emergency should take some food with them and should buy in advance, as part of their arrangements, the non-perishable foods which they would require for this purpose.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how small tradesmen with little capital are able to lay in the reserves he is speaking about?

Mr. Morrison

They can do so as far as their ability permits. The cumulative effect of a number of small stocks is very great.

Mr. Buchanan

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, will he make an approach to the Unemployment Assistance Board asking them at least to increase the amount of money received by the unemployed so as to allow them to make the stores he has suggested?

Captain P. Macdonald

May I ask whether small tradesmen in certain areas, who have reserve stocks, will be given credits in order to replenish them in future?

Mr. Morrison

The matter is now being discussed with the Retail Trades Association. The point made by my hon. and gallant Friend will be borne in mind. At present that is not the intention.

Mr. De la Bère

Why should the small man be ignored?

Following is the statement:

The following are the plans for food supply in reception areas in the event of evacuation.

1. Emergency supplies, consisting of canned meat, canned milk, biscuits and chocolate, are held by the Food (Defence Plans) Department available for persons included in the official evacuation scheme, sufficient for their maintenance in their new areas for a period of 48 hours. The supplies would be despatched to reception areas and issued by reception officers, to whom instructions have been sent. The persons to whom these supplies are issued will be asked not to make purchases in local shops, other than minor purchases, during this period of 48 hours, so allowing a margin of time during which additional supplies can be made available in the shops through the ordinary channels of trade.

2. It is equally undesirable that large additional demands should be made on local shops by persons outside the official scheme who may be travelling or arriving in the areas. Accordingly persons who are making arrangements to move from one part of the country to another in the event of emergency should take some food with them, sufficient if possible for two days, and should buy in advance, as part of their arrangements, the non-perishable foods which they would require for this purpose.

3. Persons, who have the means and facilities to do so, might with advantage now provide a reserve of non-perishable foods in their own homes, in addition to the stores which they usually keep. The equivalent of one week's consumption is suggested as an appropriate amount for this additional reserve. Such household reserves may be particularly useful in reception areas, to assist in providing for a sudden influx of population.

As stated previously, a list of suitable foods together with instructions as to the best methods of storage has been prepared by the Food (Defence Plans) Department, and a copy will be forwarded to anyone making application to the Department at Grest Westminster House, Horse ferry Road, London, S.W.1.

Additional stores should be acquired before the outset of an emergency. In a time of emergency all persons should limit their purchases to the quantities which they normally buy.

4. The Food (Defence Plans) Department are making arrangements with trading organizations, wholesale and retail, whereby traders will have plans in readiness for increasing the supplies in shops in reception areas to meet the additional demand. These additional sup- plies should be available through trade channels within a period of 48 hours. The plans include meat, flour and bread, milk, sugar, tea and other provisions and groceries. The trading organizations are being furnished with the numbers in the official scheme and margins are being allowed for others.

5. It is desirable that traders of all kinds should maintain and, if possible, increase their stocks of essential foodstuffs, so far as their individual circumstances permit. Stocking up is the basic insurance against dislocation and the first step towards meeting additional demands due to movements of population.

I am very sensible of the public service which food traders have already rendered in the ways I have mentioned.

50. Mr. De la Bère

asked the Chan- cellar of the Duchy of Lancaster whether, in connection with the continual buying and storing of large quantities of wheat which are bought by the Government either for emergencies or promoting trade pacts with foreign countries, he will consider extending the number of those engaged in these operations for the Government?

Mr. Morrison

I have received representations from the National Federation of Corn Trades Associations with regard to the purchase and storage of Government wheat. These are at present under consideration.

51. Mr. De la Bère

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether, since the Government do not keep the wheat bought for emergency purposes long in order to safeguard the wheat against deterioration, and since these stocks are available for the requirements of the milling combines who enjoy these advantages without running the risk of a fall in the market, he will introduce legislation to ensure that the milling combines do not obtain these advantages without some payment to the Government?

Mr. Morrison

I do not agree with the premises of my hon. Friend's question. The wheat referred to is a Government reserve, additional to the commercial stocks of the milling concerns, which stocks they have agreed to maintain at their normal level. The risks of the market in respect of the Government wheat during the period of its storage necessarily fall upon the Government. The milling concerns have agreed to accept Government wheat when the Food (Defence Plans) Department decide to replace it. The price at which they take it is determined by the Department after consultation with the Advisory Committee. I am unable to see what advantage accrues to the milling concerns. On the contrary, I consider that they are rendering a valuable public service in turning over and accepting the Government wheat.

Mr. De la Bère

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those grain dealers who are outside the large combines have to put up with the fluctuations in the market whereas the milling combines are protected; is he not also aware that this practice is utterly vicious, and is there no one in the Government who will have the courage to stand up to these milling combines?

Mr. Morrison

My hon. Friend's question is based on a misunderstanding of the procedure.

Sir H. Williams

Does not my right hon. Friend think that the hon. Member's supplementary questions are most unsatisfactory?

Mr. De la Bère

In view of the thoroughly unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment.

52. Mr. Loftus

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether the policy of His Majesty's Government remains as to the acquisition and storage of essential food materials sufficient to tide over a temporary dislocation of supplies on the outbreak of war, or if there have been or will be acquired sufficient stocks to insure fully against a continuous partial interruption of imports during a protracted war?

Mr. Morrison

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement which I made on this subject in the course of the Debate on the Defence Loans Bill on 27th February last. The food reserves which have been laid down under the Essential Commodities (Reserves) Act are designed as an insurance against the consequences on any severe temporary dislocation of the normal channels of supply.

Mr. Loftus

In view of the international situation, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he would not reconsider this policy, and store ample supplies in case of the continuous interruption of communications?

Mr. Morrison

This aspect of Defence, like all others, is always reconsidered from day to day in the light of the situation as it exists.

Sir Arthur Salter

If the right hon. Gentleman is impeded in his efforts by the difficulty of finding adequate storage for perishable goods, will he consult his colleague the Minister of Supply Designate, with a view to laying in an extra reserve of non-perishable raw materials, in regard to which the difficulty of storage does not obtain in the same way, so that our ships could be at once transferred in war-time from the carriage of raw materials to the carriage of food?

Mr. Morrison

We will certainly consider that.