HC Deb 18 July 1940 vol 363 cc447-543

First Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

4.1 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Mr. Boothby)

I ask the indulgence of the House for a maiden speech. Indeed, I find myself in a very unfamiliar position, and if, halfway through my speech, I should begin to attack the Ministry of Food, hon. Members will realise that that is not intentional on my part, but is the result, merely, of force of habit. The main function of the Ministry of Food, as I conceive it, is to ensure that there is an adequate supply of essential foodstuffs available for all classes of the community at prices at which they can afford to buy those foodstuffs. I shall endeavour this afternoon to show that we are discharging that function, and in order to do this I shall have to give some account of the nature and scope of the work of the Ministry.

First and foremost, we are a very large business undertaking. Our trading accounts amount to nearly £600,000,000 per annum. The operations of the Ministry fall into four main categories. First, we control imports; second, we con- trol practically all essential foodstuffs produced at home; third, where necessary we ration the distribution of foods to individual consumers; and, fourth, we regulate the prices at which foodstuffs may be sold, so as to avoid, wherever practicable, profiteering and undue rises in price. I propose to deal with those four main heads as briefly as possible.

With reference to control of imports, hon. Members may not realise that nearly 90 per cent, of this country's imports of human and animal foods are purchased by the Ministry of Food. This makes us by far the biggest international purchaser of foodstuffs in the world. In normal times the United Kingdom takes nearly the whole of the world's chilled and frozen meat exports. Under present conditions we are far and away the largest buyers of cereals, sugar, dairy produce, oil seeds, cocoa and fruit. The planning and execution of these vast trading transactions has proceeded with astonishing regularity and smoothness, with the result that speculation in oversea sources of supply, and competition for shipping space, have been almost entirely eliminated. Speaking generally, we have been successful in purchasing our requirements overseas at comparatively little above pre-war prices. To give an example, the f.o.b. price of Canadian wheat was 28s. 9d. per quarter at the outbreak of war, and we are paying 32s. to-day. The f.o.b. price of Argentine maize was 21s. at the outbreak of war, and to-day we are paying only 14s. 6d.

Nevertheless, by the time the cargoes are landed in this country, their costs are inevitably a good deal higher than the pre-war figure. The reason for this is the very substantial rise in the cost of transport and marine insurance which we have had to face, and also the fact that we are also maintaining stocks on an entirely different scale from anything that the food traders of this country would normally consider necessary. This, of course, involves additional charges for storage. Even so, the rise in the price of imported foodstuffs has been small as compared with anything that we experienced in the last war. It is dangerous to prophesy, but if I may risk it, I would say this. From such study as I have been able to give to the subject, I feel justified in saying that I do not anticipate any further substantial increase in the while, landed price of our food imports. I should like to pay a tribute, if I may, to the effective and businesslike co-operation which the Ministry's buying experts have received from the Treasury in the provision of finance and foreign exchange and also from the Ministry of Shipping in putting freight at our disposal.

Our immediate policy is to secure the maximum possible imports of essential foodstuffs, subject only to the requirements of the Ministry of Supply and the amount of shipping available. At the same time, I must make it clear to the House that part of these imports must be used for the purpose of building up stocks as an insurance against the future. I would say this in conclusion on this branch of the subject. We are conscious all the time of the great responsibility which rests upon us, as the Ministry of Food, to feed not only the fighting services but also the civilian population of this country. We are also conscious that we have to consider the consequences that often result from our activities in the Dominions, in the Colonies and in the many friendly countries for whom we provide the main export market. What we do or fail to do affects the economic welfare of the masses of the people in many countries and indeed Continents. We endeavour to exercise the monopoly position which we occupy as a buyer with moderation and so as to cause the minimum of disturbance both to the relations we have always enjoyed with producers overseas, and to the economic structure of world trade.

I turn now to home production. As far as this is concerned, wheat continues to be aided under the Act of 1932. The Ministry of Food is the sole purchaser of all home-produced fat stock. We are guaranteeing milk prices to the farmers and we are also guaranteeing potato prices by undertaking to purchase any surplus crop. I want to make that perfectly plain because there has been some misunderstanding about it.

During the first year of war comparatively little increase in home food supplies could be secured. The agricultural industry has made a great effort to increase production in the future by bringing additional land under the plough but the benefit of this will not accrue until the second year of the war. Mean- while, the Cabinet Food Policy Committee of which my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal is chairman, is actively engaged in co-ordinating the home production policy for the second year of the war with the Ministry of Food's import programme for the same period. We recognise the vital importance of increasing home production. It is an insurance against unknown risks in the future. We also recognise and greatly appreciate the splendid response which the farmers are making to the demands for increased home production, and my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland can rely upon the wholehearted support of my Noble Friend and myself in their efforts to obtain the maximum output that is practicable from the land of this country. From our point of view it is very desirable that this production should give priority to milk and also aim at a greatly increased production of potatoes. During the last war fresh milk became scarce and consumption fell. We are determined to do everything in our power to prevent this happening during the present war.

I should like now to say something on the subjects of oats and meat. In dealing with this branch of the question I find myself on very familiar ground, although perhaps I am now tackling the problem from a slightly different angle. Owing to the absence of control over the price of home-grown oats and the shortage of other feeding grains, the market price of oats rose steeply during the autumn of 1939, with the result that the price of oatmeal rose to £30 per ton ex mill in January last. By means of a maximum price order we have forced the price down to £22 per ton at the present time but a higher maximum price has been authorised for the 1940 harvest. In view of the inevitable shortage of feeding stuffs, the probability is that oats will fetch a good price on the open market for feeding. An order to control oatmeal prices is now being drafted, but, even with the higher prices for oats which are before us I can give an assurance that oatmeal prices will be substantially lower than they were last January, As far as meat is concerned, a considerable part of the increased wages which have now to be paid by the farmers will come out of the substantially increased prices for livestock. Some of these must, inevitably, be passed on to the consumer. Subject to this, however, it is the policy and intention of the Ministry of Food to secure adequate supplies of meat for the masses of the people at reasonable prices and we believe we can do it. The scientists tell us that meat has no great nutritional value. That may be, but it has a great psychological value. The people like meat; it makes them happy. We shall, therefore, do our best to see that they get it.

I come now to rationing. This is the point at which we touch most directly the consumers in this country. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about rationing, and I should like to explain the Ministry's attitude towards it. Food traders generally are strong advocates of rationing. It simplifies their problem and is from their point of view very convenient, but it is not so convenient for the consumer, unless there is a very considerable shortage of any commodity, which has not, happily, hitherto been the case. We are now using the rationing machinery, not so much to ensure the equitable distribution of commodities which are in short supply, as to enable us to maintain or increase stocks for the sake of security in the future—and, I may add, in the immediate future. This applies particularly to the recent decision to ration tea, margarine and cooking fats. There are those who attach so much importance to equitable distribution, that they advocate a large extension of the list of commodities now rationed. I do lot share this view. Rationing is a rigid, arithmetical and somewhat inhuman way of allocating the food of individuals. It takes no account of individual tastes. For example, one person likes coffee and another can only drink tea; nor does it take account of the fact that one worker may have the advantage of obtaining his or her principal meal of the day in a canteen, whereas another may have to take every meal at home out of rations.

We have tried in every possible way to reduce inconveniences and irritations in the rationing system, and I must ask the public to bear the existing restrictions with fortitude in the interests of national security. I am afraid that the tea ration had to be very suddenly imposed, but the reason for this is obvious. It successfully prevented any hoarding or unnecessary purchases on the part of the public which would have defeated the object we had in view. But I can hold out a very definite hope. If, as we confidently expect, the enemy's threatened attack in the next two or three months upon these islands is defeated, our supply position should enable us to increase the distribution of both tea and sugar, and perhaps even of fats, during the winter months. My Noble Friend has asked me to give the House the definite assurance that this will be done if circumstances permit. Meanwhile we are very grateful for the attitude of consumers generally. On the whole they are a wonderfully uncomplaining lot, even although we have not yet given them a great deal about which to complain.

Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)

You are training them all right.

Mr. Boothby

That is a very good thing, especially if we are able to ease up in the very near future. The fourth point I wish to mention is price regulation. The control of the price of home-produced supplies is, of course, very different from that of imported foods, and much more difficult. In overseas markets we are now the only important buyer, and we have pressed upon us from every quarter of the globe supplies greatly in excess of what we able able to bring to this country. In the case of home-produced supplies the position is exactly the reverse. For reasons of security we have to increase production in this country by bringing additional land into cultivation, by improving the lot of the agricultural workers, and by securing to the farmer a reasonable return for his produce. All this means rising costs, and the public must therefore be prepared to face increases in the price of potatoes, of milk, of eggs, and of home-produced beef and mutton. In one other respect home production is also very different from imported supplies. Home produce finds its way into consumption in small lots. Farmers will market one or two head of stock each week or a few dozen eggs.

It is extremely difficult for the Ministry of Food to control adequately home-produced supplies. That is the reason why we are experiencing at the present moment such very considerable difficulties with regard to the price of home-produced eggs. Some poultry keepers supply eggs direct to the consumer, others to the retailer, others to packing stations or wholesalers; some producers, in short, dispose of their produce partly in one way and partly in another. And all this makes the price control of home-produced supplies one of extreme difficulty. In the case of livestock we have overcome these difficulties by the Treasury itself becoming the sole purchaser of all fat-stock after it leaves the farm. It is, however, quite impossible for the Ministry to administer a similar scheme with regard to such commodities as strawberries or blackcurrants or home-produced eggs. The experience of the last war, and the experience of the last 10 months go to show that it is extremely difficult to impose effective control over prices without securing control over supplies, and it is much better that the House and the country should face up to that fact.

I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for the Platting Division (Mr. Clynes), who, as Parliamentary Secretary and later as Minister of Food in the last war, has had close personal experience of the problems that I am now discussing, is to follow me. He will, I am sure, confirm what I am saying as to the difficulty of maintaining adequate control over supplies and prices where goods are marketed in small lots in every part of these islands. The broad principle upon which the price control of the Ministry is administered is to maintain as far as is practicable competition between members of the food trades. We do not prescribe fixed prices. We prescribe maximum prices, and in a considerable number of commodities goods are sold at less than the maximum price as the result of the competition that still exists between one shop and another.

Mr. G. Griffiths

The maximum becomes the minimum.

Mr. Boothby

No, Sir. I think not, or very seldom, and we hope for decreases rather than increases. We are carrying out a number of experiments in this connection in price control about which I am unable to speak with confidence at the moment because we have not been able to see the results, but which, I hope, through the existing competition, will have a very beneficial effect. In this connection I would like to draw special attention to two arrangements which have been made. First, my Noble Friend asked for an assurance from the bakers that the price of the 2-lb. loaf would not be increased for a period of three months during which an examination of the possibilities of reducing costs of production and distribution would be made and he undertook to give them his full support, by Order if necessary, in bringing about such reduction. This assurance was readily given, and the price of the 2-lb. loaf remains at 4d.

The second is the arrangement which has been made for the use of the existing machinery of inquiry through the Price Regulation Committees set up under the Prices of Goods Act in respect of those foods the prices of which are not controlled by us which I announced yesterday in answer to a question by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons). The arrangement, which is in course of elaboration, is that the Local Price Regulation Committees should be appointed as Food Price Investigation Committees by the Ministry of Food and given powers by us to examine books when necessary. In this capacity they will report to the Ministry of Food and not to the Board of Trade.

Mr. Charles Brown (Mansfield)

Who will make the representations to the local committees?

Mr. Boothby

Representations will be made in the same way as representations are at present made.

Mr. Brown

That is where the scheme breaks down.

Mr. Boothby

I do not quite agree with my hon. Friend. There have been many cases where the operation of this scheme has been very successful.

With a view to keeping down the cost of living and maintaining the prices of certain articles of food at reasonable levels, the Government has pursued a subsidy policy throughout the present calendar year regarding which the House will wish to have some information. In the case of bread and flour, the present rate of subsidy is approximately £590,000 per week; in the case of home-produced meat the subsidy is now at the rate of £315,000 per week, and bacon is subsidised to the extent of £100,000 per week. These three subsidies amount to approximately £52,000,000 per annum. All liquid milk was subsidised for the first three months of this year. A subsidy was also paid during the month of June in order to pro- vide further time for a detailed examination of the means that should be adopted in order to make the Milk Fund self-supporting. Increased prices for milk were brought into operation on 1st July since which date the subsidy on milk has ceased except for the scheme for the provision of cheap and free milk for nursing and expectant mothers and for pre-school children to which I shall refer later. The estimated cost of the milk scheme is £7,500,000 per annum.

Mr. Tinker (Leigh)

Does that come outside the £52,000,000?

Mr. Boothby

Yes, Sir. I turn now to the stock position. It would not be in the public interest to give detailed information about this, but one of the principal anxieties of the Ministry has been to build up adequate stocks of food in this country, and to secure that they are as widely dispersed as possible. Prior to the outbreak of war, certain essential commodities were stored on Government account. But if it had been possible for the enemy to blockade this country in the early days of the war, our stock position at that time would undoubtedly have rendered us vulnerable. For example, there was no national reserve of cereal feeding-stuffs; and up to the middle of December arrivals were very irregular owing to the change of shipping programmes to suit wartime conditions. Consequently, there was an acute shortage of cereal feeding-stuffs at the end of the year, but since then there has been a considerable improvement. With regard to the wheat reserve, a substantial part of which has now been converted into flour stocks, it is now sufficient to enable us to carry on for many months even in the unfortunate and unexpected event of heavy losses at sea.

This much I can say. The command of the sea, which has been maintained by the Royal Navy every day and every hour since the outbreak of war, has enabled the Ministry to build up stocks of practically every essential commodity to the point that, should we be faced, in the near future, with delays in the arrival of any ships, the nation need have no serious anxieties. Whatever the future may hold in store, we in the Ministry of Food must assume that the main enemy attack will fall upon our shipping and upon our ports. We are going to ensure adequate supplies of essential foods to the people of this country, whatever may befall, and we are confident that the arrangements we have made for their distribution in the event of an emergency will stand the test. These arrangements are based upon the principle of decentralisation; and upon the maximum possible distribution of stocks throughout the country.

There remain two subjects to which I desire to make special reference this afternoon—milk and bread. As regards milk, a scheme of the utmost importance was introduced at the beginning of this month. Any expectant or nursing mother, and any child under school age, can now obtain, for the asking, milk at 2d. a pint. Any mothers and pre-school children in families where the income is less than 40s. a week—this income limit being increased by 6s. in respect of each non-earning dependant of the household—can obtain a pint of milk per head free every day. It is scarcely possible to exaggerate the importance of this scheme. I regard it as one of the most notable measures of social reform which have been carried through in recent years, and I think that perhaps inevitably, owing to the course of recent events, the country, has not yet fully appreciated the importance or magnitude of this scheme. As I said just now, it will cost £7,500,000—that is the estimate—per annum. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston), now Regional Commissioner for Scotland, and my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) agitated for this particular reform, although not on quite so extensive a scale, for many years, and I was proud to associate myself with their efforts. It has taken a world war to make our dreams come true.

Mr. G. Griffiths

And the sending of you to the Ministry?

Mr. Boothby

This only goes to prove the truth of the old adage that much good may come out of great evil. We hope some time, with the co-operation of the President of the Board of Education, to achieve a considerable extension of the milk in schools scheme. Thus every child in this country, from birth to adolescence, will be able to obtain a liberal supply of what is by common consent the most valuable article of food from the nutritional point of view. I must add, in dealing with this question, that we are far from satisfied with the present distributive costs of milk. We have appointed a committee to examine this question, and we shall not hesitate to take any action, however drastic, that may be considered necessary in order to deal effectively with the matter.

With regard to bread, nutrition experts have stressed the importance of wholemeal bread as compared with white bread. A number of enthusiasts have criticised my Noble Friend for continuing the production of white bread in war-time. There are, however, two important reasons why we have not suspended the manufacture of white flour. The first reason is quite simple and one of which many enthusiasts do not think. It is that the great majority of consumers in this country much prefer white bread. Some people may say that this matter is not important and that if high extraction flour is better for the consumer, he should be required to eat it whether he prefers white bread or not. Personally, I do not accept that view. I think the Government are justified in paying some regard to the views of the people in a matter which so closely concerns their daily lives and may have such a great effect on their daily happiness. The second reason why the manufacture of white bread is not being suspended is of the utmost importance at the present time. For reasons of security we have not only increased our stocks of wheat in this country, but we have greatly increased the proportion of our reserve, which we hold in the form of flour. Let me explain the reason. Wheat cannot be consumed by human beings until it is milled, and, therefore, it is wasteful to store wheat in this country unless it is in reasonable proximity to the mill. As the greater proportion of our milling capacity is at or near our ports, to keep a large proportion of our reserves near the mills would be definitely dangerous. Flour, on the other hand, is immediately available for human consumption, and our flour reserve can be, and has been, widely dispersed over the United Kingdom.

Sir Ernest Graham-Little (University of London)

Is that flour deprived of its wheat-germ constituent?

Mr. Boothby

Yes, Sir, it is, of course, essential that this reserve should be turned over from time to time in the ordinary way of trade to prevent it deteriorating, but obviously the longer flour can be kept in good condition, the greater the quantity we can keep and the larger becomes our security stock. The keeping qualities of white flour are definitely greater than the keeping qualities of high extraction, or what is called wholemeal, flour. For reasons of security we therefore consider it essential to keep our reserve in the form of white flour. The main objection to white flour is that it is lacking in the vitamin content of wholemeal flour, and this is a difficulty we intend to overcome by fortifying white flour with vitamin B1. In addition, we have decided to introduce into the loaf a small quantity of calcium salt. It will take some months, however, before there is a sufficient supply of B1 to fortify the entire bread supply of this country, but when that time arrives the public will be given a choice of fortified white bread or wholemeal bread at the same price, and each consumer will be free to purchase bread of one kind or another as he wishes. This is an unprecedented and indeed a revolutionary step from the nutritional point of view and will certainly attract world-wide attention. In conjunction with our national milk scheme, it will, in my opinion, lay the foundations of a nutrition policy which will not only have a permanently beneficial effect on the health of our people but will also be hailed by scientists all over the world as a great advance on what has hitherto been achieved in any country in this field.

Sir E. Graham-Little

Is the process of adding that ingredient not very much more expensive than deriving the product straight from wheat?

Mr. Boothby

No, Sir. To pass on, I hope the House will forgive me if I interject a personal statement. Many hon. Members know that for years past I have been actively interested in the whole question of synthetic vitamins and that before I came to the Ministry of Food I was chairman of a company which manufactured these vitamins. I owe it to the House and to myself to say that I resigned my seat on the board immediately I was appointed Parliamentary Secretary, and I have taken the necessary steps to dispose of all my financial interests in the company. The decision to fortify white bread with vitamin B1 was taken by my Noble Friend and the Government after receiving a report on the subject from the Scientific Food Committee under the chairmanship of the President of the Royal Society, Sir William Bragg.

I was working the other day on this question of vitamins and reading an extract from a book written by a friend of mine on the general history of nutritional science, when I came across this passage, which I think is very appropriate, and which does reveal the fact that this question of vitamins is not a new one. Over 80 years ago Prince Albert wrote to Lord Panmure, Secretary for War—the letter was dated 10th February, 1855—saying: It is admitted by all medical men that the greatest danger to our Army arises from scorbutic diseases and corrupt state of blood caused chiefly by the use of salt provisions. Vegetables are of the utmost importance to the poor men. It so happens that one of the Crimean relief societies sent out a whole shipful of vegetables. On its arrival at Constantinople the man in charge of it reported himself to the Commissary (I believe Smith, reported to be our best), who was delighted to hear of the arrival of provisions; when he saw the list, however, and found they were vegetables he declined purchasing as the 'Commissariat had no power to purchase vegetables.' You will know that such is the ordinary rule but surely in these moments they ought to have full powers to exercise their own discretion. Lord Panmure replied: The narrative with which your Royal Highness has favoured me is a piece of the old-fashioned departmentalism throughout the whole administration of military affairs which must be entirely overset. It is a matter of great satisfaction to the Ministry that our import policy has been to a very considerable extent endorsed by the Scientific Food Committee, but I hope the very recent successes in the field of nutrition will not go to the heads of the scientists. It is our duty and pleasure to consult them at every step as we have done in the past, and we will continue to do in the future. They can tell us about the ideal economic man, and how many calories and vitamins he requires to keep him in reasonable health, but we in the Ministry have also to consider the human man who may get all the scientific diet he requires—raw vegetables, potatoes, cheese and whole-meal bread—but, nevertheless, is extremely unhappy and, still worse, extremely cross if he is confined to that diet. Shortly after I became Parliamentary Secretary I was invited to what was called an "Oslo" dinner, and I came away from it full to the brim with every known vitamin. But that did not prevent me from having a very disturbed night.

Mr. G. Griffiths

You were not very fit for work next morning?

Mr. Boothby

No, I was not. However, we have gone a long way to meet the views of the scientists. They have rightly laid the greatest stress on milk, and we have produced our milk scheme; they have deplored the absence of vitamin B1. from white bread, and we are going to put that in. They attach importance to the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. Well, we are doing everything we can to encourage the growth of fruit and vegetables in private gardens and allotments, to arrange for their distribution and the disposal of surplus. In this connection we are greatly indebted to the National Federation of Women's Institutes for their valuable co-operation. Last, but not least, we propose to extend communal feeding where this is desirable and practicable. We shall begin with factory workers, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is working on a survey of their requirements all over the country, and we shall try to meet the need wherever it is found to exist. At the same time we are surveying all existing catering establishments in order to obtain information regarding premises and equipment. The case of evacuated children, too, is being actively considered at the present time. I want to make it clear that we are not cranks at the Ministry of Food and do not intend to be regarded as such. Our "kitchen front" campaign for simpler food and simpler cooking is not a scientific stunt; it is plain common sense, and its success will contribute to the health and happiness of our people. Food does not sound a romantic subject, but nevertheless the creation and development of the Food Ministry is—

Mr. Tomlinson (Farnworth)

Will the Parliamentary Secretary say a word about co-operation with education authorities?

Mr. Boothby

I had such a mass of material from which to choose that I did not want to detain the House unduly, but we are, of course, conducting the most extensive educational campaign throughout the country We are using every method, and we have the support and co-operation of all voluntary societies, the B.B.C. and the Press. We are doing everything in our power to educate the public on this matter. I could have spoken for 20 minutes on the subject, but I do not want to weary the House. I do, however, say this: The creation and development of the Food Ministry since the war began is a romance, however inadequately I have tried to describe it to the House It is not only a business organisation; its activities touch the life of every citizen in this country, and scarcely a day passes without our having to consider some problem that affects everybody. In war, food is the most fundamental and the most decisive factor. If food goes, everything goes. With food, all things are possible. I believe the Ministry which I have the honour to serve has a great part to play in the critical months that lie immediately ahead. I also believe that we shall not fail the nation, and if we do not fail, then our contribution to final victory will not have been unworthy or insignificant.

4.44 p.m.

Mr. Clynes (Manchester, Platting)

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary began by appealing to the House for a little indulgence while he made his maiden speech, but the House will have noticed that throughout his speech he displayed none of those signs and emotions of timidity and embarrassment that are commonly associated with a maiden effort. I think I can sincerely, in the name of the House, congratulate him upon the complete success of this, his first large-scale effort as a Minister. He has shown us that he has equipped himself with knowledge of the subject. He displayed such proof of his skill and fitness that I am certain that all who have heard him feel the better and that our confidence in the future has been increased by the story that he has been able to reveal. He reminded the House that I was called upon about 23 years ago to undertake duties similar to those which he is now discharging, and I bid him not to despair at all, because we found as time went on that we tended to win public confidence, and on our disappearance we indeed found out that we had become quite a popular Ministry, in spite of our interference with the needs and appetites of millions of people several times a day.

My difficulty in following the hon. Gentleman is that I am in almost complete agreement with him on most matters and that I can discover little or no opening for any acute controversy. On the occasion of the last war we did not hurry to establish a Food Ministry. We let things drift. There was great hesitation and doubt as to whether the freedom-loving British public would submit to the conditions and limitations which a Food Ministry would have to impose. Indeed, it may be truly said that in the last war we were driven by food queues and by impending starvation to handle effectively our home problems. On one particular day selected for the purpose 1,250,000 were queuing up for such food as they could buy before the Food Ministry had properly got into its stride. The problems now may often be more difficult but I warn my hon. Friend that he and his chief are likely to fall into disfavour if they do not always move with the greatest caution in the pursuit of their decisions. That is to say, they must avoid rationing food which a little later they unration, and later on re-ration. These changes tend to create irritation in the public mind and make people wonder how the job is being done.

Before we created the Food Ministry in about the middle part of the last war we had run the most appalling risks. There are chapters in one of the volumes of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) showing how close we had come to losing the war because of the lack of food, both for the soldiery and for the civilian population. The work of the Food Ministry was work of the greatest, magnitude. We had to do it without-serious loss to the country and with a turnover exceeding some £1,400,000,000 the final accounts disclosed that we had made only a nominal profit of a half of 1 per cent. I suggest that the Minister should not, in any one of his decisions, aim at making any profit at all. Food in war time, as the Parliamentary Secretary has: said, becomes a primary weapon. It must not be considered a secondary national interest. It is the first weapon in the war.

The main functions of a Food Ministry have been accurately described—though I could state them even more briefly—as being the buying of food, sharing it out fairly and keeping down the price of it. Given those three conditions well carried through to success in the day by day labours of the Ministry, public satisfaction will be secured. Here I should like to offer this comment. In my view the rationing of food is essential, but extensive registration of food sellers and distributors is not, I think, essential and causes widespread complaint. I believe we might with advantage all round pursue a policy of giving greater freedom to the buyer and the seller within the proper use and limits of the coupons that are supplied. Things, indeed, tend to find their level without tying people too fast to particular shops or particular foods, and I do not believe that in the end the State or the consumer would be the loser. We had a public statement from the Food Controller only a week or two ago on the question of food storage, and I was glad to hear it amplified and confirmed by the Parliamentary Secretary to-day. The storage and the provision of food of every kind are part of the general duty of defence, and we must treat them on the same basis as we treat other factors in our great war effort.

There are two great Ministries closely concerned in this matter of food policy. One has mainly the task of food production and the other mainly the task of food distribution. In the production of food, unlike other forms of production you can travel only at nature's pace. You cannot to any great extent artificially produce food, and, as regards the production of food from the sea, we know that in the last war the difficulty of lifting fish was enormously increased by the danger of enemy attacks. We cannot speed up food growing much. It takes nine months to grow a crop of wheat, two and a half years to produce beef and about the same time to produce a milking cow. I was interested in and followed closely that part of the hon. Gentleman's speech which explained the difficulties arising from the different methods pursued by food producers. One will sell his food products almost to his next door neighbour, another will sell to a wholesaler and another to a retailer, who in turn sells to the consumer. These are all matters of detail which require a lot of master minds to follow them properly. Here I should like to ask, Are the two Ministers, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Food, working closely together day by day? Not very much was said on that head. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell us a little more of how these two Ministries are working together to attain a common and satisfactory end. I listened the other day to the speech of the Minister for Agriculture, and I should like to quote a paragraph from it: The task, therefore, of the Ministry of Food and the other Departments is to inform the Agricultural Departments exactly what they wish us to produce and, equally important to tell us what they do not want produced. We shall then be able to inform the county executives, and I am perfectly certain from everything I have seen in the course of the last few weeks that we shall get the necessary response from the farmers. Farmers will be asked in many cases drastically to alter their normal productions, and in all cases materially to increase it. I am sure the Committee and the country realise that if they are to be asked to do that, and if we are to expect them to give the necessary response, then they must be assured of a market for the increased products that they will be asked to give. It is also fair that they should be assured of a reasonable return for the increased expenditure and the largely increased force of labour that they will undoubtedly have to take on."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1940; col. 1384, Vol. 362.] I do not think it is enough to ask the farmer to do this, that or the other. It has become essential to require other Departments in these conditions to carry out an order and not merely reply to a question. I repeat my point as to whether the two Ministries, in order to seek the fullest yield from their joint efforts, are working together systematically in regard to these two matters of production and distribution.

When I was at the Food Ministry in the course of the last war I took a step with the complete approval of my chief at that time. The Food Ministry for its success, and to give satisfaction to the people, must enlist and retain the general confidence of the consuming public. I believe the heads of the Food Ministry at this moment have won the confidence of the country. It is essential to retain it. The way in which we were able to retain it was to create within the Ministry a Council of Consumers. It was a critical body and a friendly one. It had a constructive purpose. When it found fault there was good reason to find fault, because its members were in a position to sense national causes for discontent or for complaint. The Council were in touch with food committees and with local authorities, as well as with consumers' organisations and working men's clubs and trade unions. They were impatient with those who grumbled about trifles at such a time of national trial, but they were alive to the importance of their task as it related to national food policy. They sat within the Ministry. They did not come as a deputation, they were not a momentary assembly of men seeking some favour; they were part of the Ministry. The personnel included one or two titled ladies, a few heads of working-class households—men and women—co-operators, trade unionists, certain leading industrialists, a professor or two—in short, a personnel which reflected the general public of the country. There was, for instance, as one of the Council's most active members, the late Mr. H. M. Hyndman, a man with an upper-class income but with a working-class outlook, and a working-class policy on food matters. He was one of the sternest critics at the beginning, and even prior to the Ministry of Food being established. He became perhaps its most useful member during the whole time that the Ministry existed. The Council was advisory, but it had the feeling that it was not an outsider, and it belonged to the general machinery of that very big organisation, the Ministry of Food. I do not know whether the internal conditions of the present Ministry of Food are regarded as being perfect, but I raise the matter for what it is worth, and in order that we may see whether in the future any development of that kind would be helpful.

I was pleased to hear what the Parliamentary Secretary had to say about the milk scheme. I would have liked him to have said a little more with regard to milk distribution. I think that the Minister of Food has made some reference to this matter in a speech, although I have not any quotation before me. In thinking about this matter only yesterday, I remembered that some 50 years ago when, as a young man, I was striving to find out the elementary truths about Socialism, I read a most illuminating pamphlet having the curious title "Milk and Postage Stamps." It explained in the simplest language how in the case of the assembly and distribution of our letters there were system, method and no waste, but how in the case of the distribution of milk there was the most higgledy-piggledy business one could imagine, and several milkmen with floats or carts passed each other in the same street a number of times each day. As things are, I do not think we have labour to waste just now in that direction. It would be worth while the Ministry of Food thinking over how far they could carry sanity and system into the matter of milk distribution. Of course, the Ministry must use—and I say everything in support of this idea—the existing channels and the generally established food distribution machinery; that is to say, the wholesaler, the retailer, the various merchants, and those whose business it has been in peace-time to deal with food.

I think there must have been in one or two instances some evasion of at least the intentions of the Ministry of Food which have affected questions of price. In these days we must regard profiteering as a crime. Indeed, the House has expressed that view in regard to the manufacture of things in general both for Army purposes and public needs. We must leave no loophole through which any food trader can creep to make undue profit out of his particular business. Therefore, close supervision is essential, and I believe punishment for evasion is equally proper whenever it is found that the clearly stated intentions of the Ministry of Food are not being carried out.

I was glad to hear what the Parliamentary Secretary said about eggs. There has been continued public outcry during the past week or two because of the price and the scarcity of eggs. I do not know whether what was described in some newspapers as the muddle in this regard was due to fixing only a maximum retail price in respect of eggs and not fixing a maximum wholesale price as well. I think it will be found to be essential in most instances not to fix a price just at one point and leave events and circumstances to determine the rest; on the whole, it will be found to be a good thing and a wise policy, wherever it can be done, to fix the price throughout, and therefore give equal conditions to all the different workers in the various stages of distribution. The matter of prices is becoming every week a more serious affair to ordinary wage earners in their millions throughout the country. Food is now 1s. 2d. in the £ dearer than it was seven weeks ago; that is equal to a reduction of 1s. 2d. a week in the earning power of the masses of the workers. For food alone the index figure, as shown in the Ministry of Labour's figures quite recently, raised the price of food by as much as 6 per cent, during the past six or seven weeks. In many instances these increases are due to influences and factors that may not be within the control of the Ministry of Food, but I tell the Parliamentary Secretary that the more he carries on this good work, the more he will find that it is much harder to lower prices than to prevent them from rising in the first instance, and if, therefore, prevention is better than cure—as it is—there ought to be confidence that the Ministry of Food will follow that homely maxim.

I felt a little reassured by what the hon. Gentleman said on the question of tea and our future prospects, but I would like to press him for a little more, and for some earlier relief in the matter of tea than was outlined by him. I do so because the reduction of the allowance by nearly one-half is a very severe reduction, and, other things apart, such a ration may create a wrong impression in many other countries. I imagine that war conditions themselves have tended greatly to increase the consumption of tea. I believe that the Minister of Food, in a recent speech, referred to the effect that air raids have on tea consumption. Added to this is the fact that millions of people are now working longer and harder, and often working a seven-day week; there are people who are all the time doing night work; and in those conditions, it is natural that tea consumption will be far greater than before. I know that the answer is, "ships"—we have not the means to carry the tea. The Parliamentary Secretary proved this afternoon that we are almost the monopoly buyer, that we can buy anything that we need if we can get ships in which to carry the goods. If the consumption of tea is reduced, more frequently than not people who cannot drink tea will turn to substitutes—it may be coffee, it may be minerals, it may be any drink that a person can get hold of; and on balance, I doubt whether there is any great saving in the matter of shipping.

Mr. Boothby

We have very large supplies of coffee. If people would for the time being drink more coffee, we should make no complaints.

Mr. Clynes

After those supplies are consumed, I think it cannot be said that there will be any substantial saving in the matter of ships, although I am very glad to hear what the hon. Gentleman has said. I saw in the newspapers a day or two ago that, as a result of an arrangement with the Dutch East Indies, some 40,000,000 pounds of tea are in due course to come to this country. It may be said that they are almost on the way. An amount of 40,000,000 pounds of tea sounds an immense one, but I think it is only about one-tenth of the total annual consumption. Yet that one-tenth is a big margin, and if the hon. Gentleman would listen to the appeals which the tea ration has produced, and see whether, earlier than he foretold, some increase in the ration of tea could be arranged, a large section of the public would be very thankful.

I was glad to hear what the hon. Gentleman said with regard to communal feeding. During the last war, we went to the length of establishing a very large number of what were called "communal kitchens." I would not say that is the best name, but it was the one with which they were labelled at the beginning, and it remained. I received a letter this morning from a lady in Manchester, who is actively engaged in public work, telling me how this affects the large number of workers in the Manchester area. She wrote: Large bodies of workers take their meals to work, usually sandwiches and a brew of tea."— she is referring to that particular group of workers, now a very large one, working extra, as it were— The Minister of Food is now allowing only 2 ozs. of tea per person per week. Those working seven days a week and overtime require 14 brews of tea per week, and this cannot be provided on 2 ozs. of tea. The best employers provide tea on a communal basis, and I suggest that the Minister of Food might do something to induce all employers to adopt the same policy, and to secure in every factory a system of communal feeding. I commend that suggestion to the hon. Gentleman in the hope that he will take serious note of it. May I reinforce my plea by quoting a few lines from the last broadcast speech of the Prime Minister, when he referred to the subject of food stocks—in a speech as superb as man could make—and said: Is it not remarkable that after 10 months of unlimited U-boat and air attack upon our commerce, our food reserves are higher than they have ever been, and we have a substantially larger tonnage under our flag, apart from great numbers of foreign ships in our control, than we had at the beginning of the war? That seems to me to be arresting proof that, at any rate for the time being, there are such reserves of stocks as would not justify any action which would place too severe a burden upon those who, at the present time, are being tried very hard indeed in working long hours under the present conditions of labour.

My hon. Friend will find as he goes on that in this essential service to his country he will gain much praise, and that he will be regarded as the best of the philanthropists, and will be placed among the friends of man. But while we think a great deal about our noble selves, our chiefs and leaders we must not forget the unknown men who are working in our factories and workshops. Nor must we forget that there are thousands working in the higher and lower grades of the Civil Service who, I am afraid, are frequently the target for jeers and sneers by those who know little about the work they are doing. Whatever we lack in this country, we are favoured in the possession of a fine Civil Service, which is prepared to work for the national gain regardless of heartaches or class distinction. In this connection I was glad to read, a day or so ago, an article in the "Daily Herald" which was written in defence of our Civil Service by their political correspondent, Mr. Maurice Webb. In the course of that article he said: In recent weeks, the staffs of most of the big Departments have been called upon at short notice to plan, execute and complete in a few hours gigantic changes in public organisation. You have heard all about the great speed-up. You have cheered—quite properly—the politicians who ordered it. Spare some of your applause for the countless unknown Departmental officials whose unquestioning response and brilliant execution of the new orders made speed-up possible. I think that we are entitled to speak our minds freely on these matters, particularly in regard to people who seldom register a note of acknowledgment for a fine national service. In conclusion, I would say that the House is indebted to my hon. Friend for having compressed so much into so small a space of time, and for his clearness and factual statement of the work of a Ministry which clearly is alive and healthy. I can only say, as an old Parliamentary Secretary speaking to a new one, that if the hon. Member continues to be fearless and fair, as I am certain he will be, he will win even greater confidence from the country he is serving.

5.19 p.m.

Mr. Horabin (Cornwall, Northern)

I would like to join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) in congratulating the Minister on his maiden speech as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food. I always admired his ability as a poacher, but I think he is going to make an even more effective gamekeeper. I cannot, of course, speak with the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting on the subject of food, but I realise the great responsibility which the Minister of Food must bear. After all, we can make up, to a very large extent, any shortage of arms by our courage and resourcefulness, but if the Minister of Food fails to supply us with the food necessary to maintain our health, energy and strength, our slaying powers will be sapped and we shall be in the gravest danger of defeat. There are signs, from what the Minister has said, and from what we have seen in the Press, that he is tackling his responsibilities with courage and imagination. Certainly one can only congratulate him on the milk scheme which he is now bringing into operation, and for his insistence that the cost of milk distribution must be reduced. In this I am sure he will have the full support of this House.

It is absurd that to-day, in the middle of a war, the cost of milk distribution should roughly equal the cost of production. As long ago as 1936 the Milk Reorganisation Commission pointed out what could be done to reduce costs by rationalisation of milk distribution. Much can be done by allotting zones of distribution to retailers and by amalgamating rounds. On the wholesale side, monopo- lies might be given to private companies, and municipalities might be prepared to provide wholesale services in their areas. Rationalisation of distribution needs to be carried out in other directions also. After all, we are a nation of 45,000,000 people engaged in fighting a totalitarian Power which is roughly twice our size, and we cannot afford to waste man-power on unessential services. Why should not rationalisation also apply to tea now that tea has been rationed? Why should tea blenders run separate distribution services for their particular brands? Would it not be more in the national interest, as well as more economical, to market two brands of tea, which could be distributed to the retailers by one wholesale organisation in each area? By this simple expedient many delivery vans would be taken out of service and would be available for war purposes.

It would be worth the Minister's while to look into the question of the distribution of fresh vegetables and fruits to the poorer sections of the community. I understand that vegetables are frequently so stale that when they reach the poorer people they have largely lost their nutritive vaue. I am told that tinned fruits have far greater nutritive value than these so-called fresh fruits. Surely in the middle of this war we cannot afford to waste foodstuffs through defects in distribution. Then there is the question of stocks. I was pleased to hear what the Minister said in this regard. He told us, I think, some weeks ago that he was creating local reserves of food in 700 or 800 centres to meet any shortage which might result from dislocation by enemy aircraft. This was a very wise action to take at the time, but the position since then has altered very considerably for the worse. I would ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that the local stocks are adequate at this moment in the light of the altered strategical situation, because it would be fatal if we were to do too little too late in providing adequate food stocks. It would be better to face up to additional rationing now, than to face any danger in this direction in the immediate future. I suspect that we have delayed the rationing of tea too long, and that had tea been rationed earlier, at the outbreak of war, it would have been possible to allow more than two ounces a week, which is a very severe and great hardship on the working classes.

It seems that at the present moment we are being far too prodigal in our consumption of tinned foods. All the grocers' shops that I have seen seem to be stocked up with tinned goods when plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit are available for consumption. I am aware that the Minister of Food has made some attempt to persuade people to consume fresh fruit and vegetables rather than tinned stuffs, but it would be far wiser to make a definite attempt to control the consumption of tinned foods during the summer months.

All these points affect our immediate future, but I would like to speak for a few moments about a long-term policy. If our supplies of food are to be adequate in 1941 and 1942, we must face up to the fact that so long as the war lasts we must be cut off from important sources of food supplies in Europe, and that the pressure, particularly upon our ports and shipping, makes it imperative that we should cut down as far as possible imports of food from the rest of the world. Here it seems to me that the Minister has two responsibilities. The first is to do what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting said, namely, to give the Minister of Agriculture the instructions for which he asked in the Debate last Thursday with regard to growing food which will go farthest to maintain our health and strength in the struggle that lies ahead. To give this advice he will not only require close co-operation from the Minister of Agriculture and his experts, but also the advice of the nutritional experts. Sir John Orr, in his book, "Feeding the People in War-time," has outlined the problem. Sir John Orr states in his book: If we are willing to adjust our dietary habits more to home-produced foods and set ourselves to produce them in abundance, it would be possible, theoretically at least, to reduce imports to nothing but energy-yielding foods—wheat, sugar and fats. A sufficient amount of these could be imported with about a third of the tonnage used for importing foods and feeding-stuffs for animals in peace-time. The most gigantic problem for the Minister of Food, in my view, is to persuade the people of this country to change their dietary habits. I appreciate that he is already doing something in this direction, but to reach the masses of the working classes propaganda must be more specific and greatly intensified. In working men's cafes egg-and-bacon breakfasts have practically disappeared from the menu since the prices for these commodities have gone up. Their customers now tend to eat bread and dripping, but from the nutritive point of view that is a very unsatisfactory substitute for a man who has to do a hard day's work. I urge the Minister to tackle this problem and to educate café proprietors to offer an alternative to eggs and bacon which will constitute a properly balanced meal at a price the working man normally expects to pay for his breakfast. He has also to persuade the working men to eat that balanced alternative breakfast rather than bread and dripping.

I agree entirely with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said last Thursday about the need for a return to a peasant's diet. Indeed, we can only win through to victory—and presumably this war will be a long war—by transforming our dietary habits. But to bring about that change the Ministry will need to use the skill in propaganda of Dr. Goebbels. He will have to deluge housewives with simple instructions on the way to cook peasant dishes. I understand that something is being done in this regard at the moment, but I do not think it is getting at the people. It can be done most effectively, and if the Minister will undertake to do it, he will be doing far more to maintain the morale of the country than all the boomerang slogans on the hoardings at the present time, like "Go to it," which are so lavishly and uselessly splashed about by the Ministry of Information.

I would beg the Minister seriously to consider the possibilities of something on which he tended to throw cold water, namely, the question of giving the people of this country an iron ration of those foods which are necessary to maintain the individual in full health and energy. The cost of living, in spite of the prophecy made by the Minister, continues to go up month by month. This means that the 25 or 30 per cent, of the population who are below the poverty line are suffering from greater and greater malnutrition. The distribution of free milk is a big step in the right direction. It marks the beginning of a revolution, but to make a real job of creating an A1 nation to fight a totalitarian war I suggest that much more is needed.

5.31 p.m.

Sir Leonard Lyle (Bournemouth)

I would like to concentrate on the one question of waste. The Ministry of Food have a vast job to undertake. They are dealing with hundreds of different commodities and have hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of problems to face every day. It would be easy to offer destructive criticism against such an organisation, but the Ministry are doing their difficult job exceedingly well, and it is the duty of everyone to offer helpful criticism. Any criticism that I make will, I hope, be regarded as helpful. I am glad to hear from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that his Department will not rely too much on the scientists, the highbrows and the doctors for their instructions and policy. We all know that doctors—it is not so obvious among scientists—with the best intentions in the world often lead us astray. When I have seen some of the instructions which have been issued and quoted as coming from the highest authorities, I am not really impressed because I know that if it were desired I could easily get another set of scientists and doctors to give an entirely different picture. There are certain foods which are looked upon by certain doctors as vitally necessary although they may not have calorific values or the various scientific values which many doctors think are essential for human life. They are playing a part in diet however. One could easily get a doctor or a scientist to say that he considers that one particular food should be at the head of the list, while another would say that that food was probably very deleterious, I am glad, therefore, to hear from my hon. Friend that too much notice is not being taken of such people, though their patriotic advice is very valuable and no doubt will be made use of.

On the question of waste, we can all make various suggestions of how this and that food could be cut down, but if we can show that there is a definite wastage which could easily and without serious detriment or hardship be avoided, it is the obvious duty of the Ministry to give it serious consideration. On Thursday I put down a Question, which unfortunately was not reached, concerning bread. I asked whether it was not a fact that if every person were to save one ounce of bread a day it would result in the saving of 500,000 tons of wheat a year. I put the Question down with a deliberate object because I wanted this fact known as widely as possible. My hon. Friend gave me a courteous reply in writing and sent me a pamphlet of the Ministry of Food. One of my colleagues in business was instrumental in suggesting the Question. I do not know whether hon. Members have seen this pamphlet, which is Food Pamphlet No. 1, but I have made inquiries of my friends and I cannot find anybody who ever sees these pamphlets. The fact stated in my Question appears in this pamphlet in very small letters, but in a different way. It is there stated, "If every man, woman or child in the United Kingdom were to waste one ounce of bread …." I do not know why it is put that way, but it is the wrong way in which to put it. It is a point well worth bringing out.

Great results might accrue from facts such as this being given proper publicity. I do not think that this pamphlet does the trick. It could not have been prepared by any business man or by anybody skilled in the arts of advertisement. I suggest that the masses are not being reached by the present highbrow methods of the Ministry of Food propaganda. They may get the pamphlets, but they are not simple or direct. Propaganda must be insistent and consistent, and I would like to suggest a way in which points like this could be brought home to the masses of the people. It could be done with the assistance of the B.B.C. in the hours when most people, and particularly women, are listening. It should not be done in a talk on food, which is very dull and it would probably be switched off by any ordinary person. It could be done as it is done in the United States.

Mr. G. Griffiths

Has the hon. Gentleman ever listened at 8.25 in the morning and heard talks on food?

Sir L. Lyles

I have often had my breakfast at 8.25, but have heard no food talks. The system in America is, in the middle of a popular programme, when the broadcasting company knows that a mass of people are listening, to interrupt the programme for a few seconds in order to give a tip. It gets home to the masses in that way. I should be surprised if more than 5 per cent, of Members of the House have read the food pamphlets; certainly very few people outside have. I believe that it is worth while tackling this suggestion and that much could be done with this form of propaganda. Many ships could be saved, many lives saved and much money saved by simple propaganda properly put over to the people in a way which they can understand. By that means not only would shipping space be saved, but food supplies might be preserved for the country for a much longer time and greater supplies made available.

5.42 p.m.

Mr. Key (Bow and Bromley)

As a new Member I crave the indulgence of the House in this my first attempt to address it. I understand that it is usual for a speaker following a maiden speech to congratulate the previous speaker on his success. I do that to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir L. Lyle) with the greatest pleasure, and I hope that my speech will merit the praise that was due to him for his. It is appropriate that the subject of this my infant effort should be milk, for it is to the scheme for milk distribution to nursing and expectant mothers and children under five that my first observations will be directed. I had the privilege, as the representative of the Metropolitan councils, of attending the preliminary conference which was called at the Ministry of Food on this matter. I left the conference in a happy state of mind, for from the outline scheme that was presented it appeared that this comparatively new Department of State had made up its mind to ignore the bad examples of some of the older establishments with their starvation standards and their miserable means tests. It appeared that here was something to be done which was to be done quickly and efficiently, but experience belied expectations.

In the closing Clause of the scheme which was presented it was said that in view of the increase in the retail price of milk on 1st July, it was of supreme importance that the cheap milk scheme should be brought into operation on that day. I reported that urgency, and the responsible officials of the local authorities took every step to be ready to assist in the realisation of the effort. In the borough whose council I have the honour to lead, 10 places were selected as centres to which people could come for information and to get application forms. Bills informing the people of this were printed. They were not posted, for lack of instructions from the Ministry of Food, but on 28th June we started to post them, because the scheme was to begin on 1st July. Judge of our dismay when in that day's post we received instructions from the Ministry that no local publicity was to be undertaken until instructions came from the centre. So far as I know, no such instructions have yet been received. But our bills went up, and as a result we had a large number of inquiries and have distributed a large number of forms. We have dealt with more than 1,300 applications, but not a single pint of milk has yet been distributed. Last Saturday we received a number of forms to be used for ordering milk, a number totally inadequate to our needs, but even they were accompanied by an instruction that they were not to be issued until further orders had come from the Ministry.

I asked a Question in this House on 10th July as to when the milk promised for 1st July would really be available and I was told that the scheme was in operation and that the milk was being distributed. I put another Question yesterday, and then discovered that what is being distributed are forms, and that the milk is to be distributed on Sunday next. It is sometimes said that Members of Parliament should serve an apprenticeship with local government authorities. That may be wise, but with all due deference to what has been said this afternoon about the Civil Service, it might be better that civil servants should graduate through the local government school, for there they would learn not merely the principles but the practice of expedition.

I turn next to the question of the machinery. In the scheme which was presented to us at that conference it was recognised that local councils, since they were the local maternity and child welfare authorities, would have in their employ officials who had had considerable experience in the distribution of milk to exactly those classes of the community whom this scheme was designed to serve. It was realised that the medical officer of health would make a very efficient milk officer, and the scheme also said that the necessary office accommodation and subordinate staff could, for the most part, be provided from the existing resources of the local authorities. That is very sane; but what was done? The local food executive officer—a comparatively new post—was given instructions to select from his staff a milk officer, if one could be released, or, said the instructions: Where this is not possible it will be necessary to make a new appointment through the Ministry of Labour. It was recognised that this new milk scheme, by replacing the local authorities' milk scheme, would leave them with surplus staff, and it was said that this staff could in part be employed, but not at their existing rates of pay and superannuation; they were to be new and temporary appointments at rates which were to be laid down by the Ministry of Food. Local authorities cannot thus play fast and loose with the rights of loyal and efficient servants.

But a greater disappointment still was in store. We were told that in the case of an only parent earning less than 17s. 6d., or in cases where the combined income of both parents was less than 40s,—increased in both cases by 6s. for each non-earning dependant of the household—the milk was to be free, and the scheme definitely said that the milk officer should not be allowed to make any detailed inquisition in the nature of a means test. This was emphasised in later instructions by saying that the classification of households as to income would be based upon the earnings or other income of the father or mother of the child. Yet despite those clear and unequivocal assurances, we received an instruction which said that weekly income was to be interpreted to include, among other things, the earnings of children who are at work. I beg of the hon. Gentleman to order the withdrawal of that instruction. This household test is the means test in its most hideous form, the imposition of a family burden upon those only of the children who stay at home. In many years' experience of the old boards of guardians I have met with very bitter memories of the appalling injustices which a test of that kind inflicts upon working-class families, and I beg the hon. Gentleman to have nothing at all to do with the unclean thing. I am sorry that my first speech in this House has been a record of such dismal disappointment, but after unnecessary delays, after a little longer disorganisation, and a considerable amount of public apprehension and disappointment, no doubt the milk will succeed in getting itself distributed.

There is one problem which the future may have in store to which I wish to direct attention. The continuity and the regularity of the milk supply in our great industrial centres, and particularly in London, should not be something which it will be impossible for us to ensure in the conditions which the future may bring. Would it not be a wise thing for the hon. Gentleman's Department to accumulate reserve stocks of milk, in dried form, not merely for children under the age of one, as the scheme lays down if specially recommended by the medical officer, but in emergencies for all the classes of people for whom this free distribution of milk is designed? They are the people upon whose health and welfare the well being of this community will ultimately depend. While struggling in every way to win this war, let us, by doing all we can to provide for the needs of these people, see that in the end we win it for a healthier and stronger race.

5.55 p.m.

Mr. Robertson (Streatham)

As a comparatively new Member, I rise with very great pleasure to congratulate the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Key). I am sure he has impressed the House with his clarity, with his conviction and with his sincerity. I should also like to associate myself with the remarks made by previous speakers about the able and excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. On previous occasions I have had occasion to criticise his Ministry. I once referred to it as a ramshackle edifice, and after hearing him to-day I am inclined to withdraw that observation, but I think it still has a few creaking joints. I also enjoyed listening to my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). I had the honour to serve under him at the Ministry of Food 23 years ago. He may have forgotten it. I was a very humble member of his large staff, who came in after soldiering days were done.

I am sorry now that I have to become critical, but I do it with the firm intention of improving things. I wish to refer to the needless loss of a valuable cargo of food and other commodities. A few days ago a fine ship reached a port in this country. It was partially discharged there and then left for another port. On the way-it was attacked and sunk and a much needed cargo of food was lost. I have made inquiries, and I can find no reason why that cargo was not wholly discharged at the port of entry. There was no labour difficulty; there were no storage difficulties. Part of the cargo was of a commodity which is scarce but there was ample storage space and there were no transport difficulties so far as I can find out, and if there were they were only of a very temporary nature, and that cargo should have been stored and sent forward when the temporary transport difficulties, if any, had been overcome.

I believe the shippers, the owners of the cargo, were very insistent on the vessel going to the second port, and they had a reason for that, the saving of some expense. The cargo was billed there from the East on a through bill of lading for discharge at any British port, and the second port was included, and in fact the second port was a reloading port for this particular vessel; but that was not a good enough reason, the fact that the shippers or owners of the cargo would save the inland freight and the handling and cold storage charges at the port of entry, because those charges would be only a bagatelle in comparison with the total value of the cargo. But while those considerations may have actuated the owners of the cargo, they could not possibly have influenced my hon. Friend's right hon. colleague, who must, in his capacity of Food Controller, have allowed that fine ship to clear from the port of entry and run the hazards of the torpedo and the dive bomber, which it was bound to meet the moment it cleared our shores. I feel that this House must convey a very definite message that such an event must not again take place. We cannot afford to squander the nation's food in this way. If there was need of this vessel to go to a second port, she should have gone empty. She should not have left a principal port which had all the facilities to deal with this valuable cargo; but if the reloading port is an essential place for that vessel to call at on her voyages, why not discharge the entire cargo there? We cannot afford in these days to take the risk of sending a fine ship of many thousand tons burthen traipsing round our coasts to meet the enemies that it must meet.

My next point is in regard to cold storage. Among the variety of subjects from which my hon. Friend had to pick to-day, I noticed that he did not pick cold storage. Strangely enough, that is the one service which the Committee on National Expenditure complained about, because the Department had not spent enough money. A committee formed to investigate expenditure finds fault with the Ministry of Food, in the report published in May, because the Ministry were not getting on with the job of building the additional and temporary cold storage which is necessary. That is a significant point. I am in the cold-storage world and can speak on the subject with some knowledge. The late director of cold storage, who was also in the industry, produced minute plans and submitted them to the Food Defence Plans Department before the Food Ministry took over. Those plans had in view the building of new stores in selected places throughout the country, but, 10 months after the war has begun, not one store is built. I remember all those variations that we have had in rationing. One week we had four ounces of bacon and the next we had eight ounces. At another period we were raised from four ounces to eight ounces of butter, and at still another period we were glutted out with fresh pork. All of those commodities could have been effectively stored if there had been cold stores to put them in. It is suggested that we shall have one of the projected stores by September. The first of them may appear then, but I do not know when the second will appear.

I will particularise on this matter. There is a cold storage in the Midlands which was closed down. The owners, the Union Cold Storage Company, submitted a plan to reinstate it within a month. That was several months ago. Their offer was either ignored or refused. This morning, officials of the Office of Works are boring the ground in the vicinity of the store to ascertain whether the ground is capable of standing the weight of a cold store. That is an absolute fact. I got it to-day by telephone from the Union Cold Storage. If their offer had been accepted, that ready-made building, which only wanted repairing and new-machinery, would have been ready and functioning many months ago. The same thing happened in another store in another Northern town. If the matter had been entrusted to the works department of the Union Cold Storage Company the store would have been completed and working long ago. It is not ready yet. I must point out that I have no connection with that company. I am a competitor, and have been for years, but they are competent and able people. The Treasury, the Ministry of Food and the Office of Works are working together in ways that are all right in peace-time and that preserve the sacredness of the public purse. No one supports that principle more than I do, but I say there is no room for it to-day, and I beg my hon. Friend, whom we know as a resolute, aggressive and efficient Minister, to buckle to and tackle this cold storage job. I have been talking to his Department about it for 15 months, and it is no pleasure at this moment to get up and attempt to use the lever of this great House to do something which ought to have been done long ago.

My final point is in regard to the fishing industry. I feel that I must always talk on that subject when I have the opportunity, because I find that this House is not sufficiently fish conscious. It is a great industry. In a previous speech I gave the figures to show that British fish production is very much greater than that of all the imported meats combined. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary also chose to ignore that industry in his speech, but if there is one industry that deserves well of this nation it is the fishing industry. In spite of the fact that the best of their boats have been taken for national purposes, the old crocks that are left have put up a wonderful show.

Mr. McKie (Galloway)

Is not my hon. Friend aware that the Parliamentary Secretary defended very effectively in this House for many years the needs of the fishing industry in Scotland?

Mr. Robertson

I am much obliged for that intervention. I have not had my hon. Friend's advantage of being in the House in the days of which he speaks, and I am very glad to know it; what I have to say is not an indictment of the Parliamentary Secretary at all. On the contrary, I am looking to him with great hope to improve the conditions about which I speak. These old vessels have put up a good show, fishing in the North Sea and in the seas about our island. They would put up a far better show if some were placed on the prolific grounds of Newfoundland and Eastern Canada, British countries, and landed their catches from day to day, froze the fish and later brought it to this country in first-class condition. No one need apologise to-day when speaking about frozen produce of any kind. Fruits, meats, butter and fish are all preserved to-day, because of refrigeration. Fish freshly frozen out of the sea is much better fish than that which has been preserved on ice for two or three weeks, which is the kind of thing you mainly get from the distant grounds.

I referred to this matter in January, and again in this House in March. I have written many letters to the Departments concerned, asking and urging them to supplement the efforts of the very enterprising private firms which have expanded their businesses out of all proportion in an attempt to assume the national burden, which it is not their duty, as private firms, to assume at all. Now that the stocks have been brought over, they have been eagerly purchased, and to-day there is not three or four weeks' supply in the country. Cod, which is the principal white fish in the sea, is now selling wholesale at about 1s. a lb. British trawlers, for years before the war, got less than 1d. a lb. for it. Codfish can be bought in Newfoundland to-day, headed and dressed, that is with all waste taken out, at ¾d. a lb. There is an abundant fish stock in the waters surrounding that British Colony which itself can well do with a helping hand, and the fish can be distributed to the civilian population on a mass-produced basis. It can be sold at probably half the wholesale price to-day and can be distributed to the Army, where it would provide a welcome variation to the heavy diets of imported meats, which involve an expenditure of much foreign currency.

My concluding point deals with a suggestion for improving our fresh fish supplies. Iceland and the Faroe Islands are situated in waters that are much more prolific than those near our home ports, and I urge my hon. Friend to approach his colleague the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to arrange for a combined effort to be made with the Icelandic Government and the Faroe Government, whereby the entire native fishing resources are purchased by us and transported by a carrier service to this country. At the same time some British trawlers should fish outside the three-mile limit, which international law permits them to do, and should be allowed to land their cargoes of British-caught fish, which represent sterling cost. Combined with the native catch, it should be brought to this country by a fast carrier service. If that is done, fish of much greater quality and quantity will be landed here. Much needed employment will be brought to the distributive side of the fishing industry, which is sorely affected to-day. Several thousand fishmongers and fryers have been compelled to close down. Others are in a precarious financial position. If my hon. Friend will take the advice which I have tendered, he will not only render a service to the consumer, but he will assist a sorely afflicted industry.

6.12 p.m.

Mr. Banfield (Wednesbury)

I listened with very great attention to the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary, and I rather regret that he is not in his place at the present moment, because I want in the course of my remarks to say something very definite on the question of wheat and millers' combines. I want also to say something about a comparatively small matter, the icing of cakes, and as it is small, I will commence with it. The Ministry of Food have been very prolific in issuing regulations. They are now suggesting that bakers and confectioners shall no longer be allowed to ice and pipe cakes. That is a very important matter. Many of us started our married lives with a nice iced cake. If we had not had it, our wives might not have believed they had been married at all. On the ground of national economy, the Minister has now come along and suggested that iced cakes be abolished. One of the serious things about these Ministries is that they never quite understand the technicalities of trade. I speak as a baker and as one who can make a bride cake, ice it and pipe it, and who knows the whole job from A to Z. I will undertake to make a bride cake, weighing 12 lb., and the sugar content will be not more than 1 lb. 6 oz. for the whole process. This regulation is rather a serious thing for many people I heard the other day that a mother whose daughter was getting married said to her, "I cannot get you an iced cake, but I will let you have the tier off my own cake which I had 20 years ago." That would be very hard sugar. The tiers of the mother are to be handed down to the daughter.

Mr. McKie

I have never been in the privileged position of having a wedding cake, but does the hon. Gentleman seriously suggest, at this very grave juncture in our national history, that brides would resent not having a bride cake?

Mr. Banfield

The hon. Member is wrong. Girls want a bride cake. The Minister went up to Scotland and walked down Princes Street in Edinburgh. He said he was shocked at the amount of sugar that he saw on the cakes. Instead of regarding it as a testimony to the workmanship of the Scots baker who makes a bit of sugar go a long way and appear more than it is, the Minister said that we must stop the use of this sugar. I am sorry that the Minister is not here, because I have a few lines of poetry on this matter, written by a Scotsman, to which I wish to draw his attention. This Scotsman said: Mr. Booth by came to see What the Scotsmen ate for tea: Prepared in England's cause to stake His molars on our hard oatcake. Down Princes Street at four o'clock He takes his belly-whetting walk; See him before a baker's linger, Then sudden point an angry finger. 'What's this,' he cries, 'do I see cakes? I trust that these are ersatz fakes: When Buszard's London shelves are bare, How can you wretched Scotsmen dare To put Pink Sugar on the top? All this has simply got to stop.' And while our censured nation quakes He leaves in wrath the Land of Cakes. I would suggest seriously to the Minister that this question of bride cakes, small as it is, might very well be reconsidered.

I want to talk to the Minister about the question of bread and of wheat. The Minister said in the course of his speech that bread was being subsidised to the extent of £590,000 per week. He said also that the millers were now under the control of the Ministry. I would like the Minister to have said something more on that matter. I have sat in this House these last two or three years, and over and over again the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) has raised questions casting doubts upon the millers' combines. I would like the Minister to have said precisely what are the relations between the Ministry of Food and the millers in the country. I would like him to have given us some first-hand information as to whether there is or is not anything in the charges, vague though they may be, which are made from time to time in this House by the hon. Member for Evesham. I speak out of my own experience, and I am satisfied that the present conditions of the milling trade are such that in my opinion they are capable of making and milling the best flour in the world. Whatever may be their faults as a combine, they have at any rate seen that their workpeople are well fed and looked after. Although there may be something in the cry that the small mills have been done away with, people must remember that in a good many other businesses in which they are interested the small people are being gradually wiped out, wherever they may be.

Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)


Mr. Banfield

You know it is true.

Mr. Loftus

I know.

Mr. Banfield

It is important that we should remember that the millers, under the control of the Ministry, are doing the very best they possibly can at this time to supply the very best flour they can, and I speak as an expert who knows something about the job. I always notice in this House that if anybody has said anything about wholemeal bread, there is immediately a number of cheers. People seem to think that there is something particularly good about wholemeal bread, but I have never been able to find it yet. I want the House to realise that it is useless to talk about supplying the people in this country with wholemeal bread and nothing else. I can imagine nothing which would cause more serious discontent. People are accustomed to a white loaf. I very often complain because I think they want it far too white. It would be far better if more of the nutriment were left in the wheat, but there is a lot of difference between that and putting people on wholemeal bread. Wholemeal bread, in the main, is the art of breadmaking to enable water to stand upright. It has more water content than anything of which I know. Some figures which have been given in this House prove that up to the hilt. There is no particular nitriment so far as water is concerned. There is also this point, that when people talk about wholemeal bread in times like these, as the Minister has already indicated and as I can bear out, they must remember the importance of keeping stocks of flour. Wholemeal flour will not keep. It goes bad because of the germ inside it. It will keep only a limited time indeed. The Minister has been able to persuade bakers to take in far more sacks of flour than they usually do, so that they will be there in case of emergency. They have done that, and the flour will keep a long time indeed if it is properly looked after. Generally speaking, the longer you keep flour the better it is, and it will take more water when it is thoroughly dry than it otherwise would, which, from the employer's point of view, is an important consideration. Apart from that it is a good policy to mill white flour and to put it in the baker's storehouses so as to have a reserve of flour all the time.

A good deal of stress has been laid upon the necessity for not having waste. One hears a lot of stupid talk about waste. An hon. Member, referring to the waste of bread, said that there was a fabulous waste. I do not believe it for a moment, although I have seen a good deal of waste of bread in very high-class hotels among a class of people altogether different from the workers. They mess their rolls about and eat a bit, leaving about four-fifths on the plate. So far as the workers themselves are concerned, I do not think it is true to say that they wilfully waste bread at all. Speaking as one who came from a working-class home, I know that if there was one thing more than another that my mother was particular about, it was that we should not waste bread. After all, bread must really be the staff of life in times like these.

In referring to this matter, I hope it will not be thought that I am dragging it in by the heels, but it is of importance. We are getting a number of air-raids night after night in this country. Men are employed at nights making bread. The making of bread is a process which, once it is started, cannot be stopped. When fermentation starts, it must go on. Consequently what happens is this: You get 14, 15 or 20 sacks of bread all fermenting at the same time, one batch arranged to follow the other and so on. You have an air-raid; the men stop there as long as possible, but eventually they seek shelter. They may be in the shelter for an hour, two hours or even more. In the meantime, this whole mass of material is fermenting, until finally it is wasted and goes bad. I suggest to the Minister that it is not in the national interest to allow waste of that kind to occur.

Sir Frank Sanderson (Ealing)

Stop the air raids.

Mr. Banfield

We cannot stop them. The fact remains that I know of a case in London—it was not an actual air raid but only a warning—when the men went away and came back when the "all-clear" was given. They found that 14 sacks of 280 lbs. of flour had been spoiled during the time they had been away. I ask the Minister to give some consideration to abolishing night baking for the period of the war. It is totally unnecessary; and, although I have mentioned this in the interests of the men, I think it is also in the national interest. I hope the Minister will give it some consideration.

The Minister's Department made regulations concerning the making of confectionery, by which certain goods were not to be made and certain materials not to be used. There is also to be an alteration in the shape of loaves. If the Minister does things which are going to affect labour, the least he can do is to put on the committee somebody who represents labour. In the end there will be no representative of labour there at all. I wrote to the Minister himself and pointed out what was happening. He said, "All right, we will put somebody on," and that is the last I have heard about it. We may get his answer next week, next month, some time or never. There are people who perhaps know me better and who look upon me as representing the baking industry, as a man who has been through the mill, who has worked 25 years in the trade and who knows the whole thing from a loaf to a wedding cake, as one who has some expert knowledge in these matters, and it seems to me to be a pity that what knowledge I possess should not be put at the disposal of the House. I have been connected with bakers for a good many years. It is 52 or 53 years since I first went into a bakery, and I therefore know something about it.

I am very much concerned about this tea rationing. I have done my best all these years to wean the bakers away from beer and drink tea. Here are men working, as they do, in an atmosphere of 110 degrees, and they must have something to drink. They have become accustomed to drinking tea. Cannot something be done to help them? I do not want to see them go back to the old days, and it seems to me that they have a real case. I used to take my tea in a 7-lb. jam jar and drink it out of a 1-lb. jam jar. Some consideration ought to be given to a trade like the baking trade, and to the men employed in it who must have something to drink in order to carry on with their job.

Sir F. Sanderson

Have they tried barley water?

Mr. Banfield

The Minister referred to a suggestion concerning the use of a new kind of material. It has been said that they are going to use calcium salts. I have asked an hon. Friend of mine precisely what that meant. I was told that it meant bones and lime, or something of that sort. I hope it is all right but it reminds me that when I was carrying on a campaign against dermatitis in the bakery trade we complained bitterly about the things which were put in the flour at that time, and the basis of them was lime, in some sort or other, which did not benefit my people or the public. I hope that the Minister is on the right track. We are willing to try everything once, but do not forget that bread is really the staff of life under present circumstances. As long as our people can get bread, they will not starve. We must see that the bread with which they are supplied is the very best. I hope that no one will persuade the Minister to mix with flour the same sort of stuff as was used in the last war, for there is nothing else so calculated to set up a defeatist attitude in this country.

There are ways and means of getting over our difficulties. There is the question of potato flour, which has not yet been investigated sufficiently. If the necessity arose, it would be a far better substitute than beanmeal and things of that kind. Let the Minister keep in mind the fact that people do desire decent bread. Let him not be led away by faddists who talk about wheatmeal. That is all right for long-haired gentlemen in Bloomsbury, but the people who have to do the world's work do not want that sort of thing put down their throats every day. We have the best millers in the world, in my opinion. The Minister says that he has entire control over them. I hope he will be able some day to give the House some inside information about the Millers' Combine, and whether they are against the community or for the community. I believe that they are for the community. It is about time that all the insinuations that have been thrown out about them should be cleared up, one way or the other.

The Minister was not here when I talked about bride cakes. I should like to send him a recipe, to show that there is, in fact, a very small proportion of sugar used in them. The ladies attach importance to them, and we do not want to lose all the craft that exists in the trade. Do not forget that they use swords to cut bride cakes, and, consequently, all the girls who get married during the war expect to have a bride cake, and to see it cut in the proper way. The Minister went to Scotland, and complained about the sugar on the cakes there. Every Scotsman rose up in wrath, and protested. If the Minister had said that in this part of the country no Englishman would have minded, but the Scotsmen do mind.

Mr. Boothby

No, they do not.

Mr. Banfield

Yes, they do. I happen to know something about that. They say that because of their skilled craftsmanship they are able to spread a pound of sugar about five times further than any other people. I think there is a great deal of justification for that claim.

Mr. Boothby

And they charge for it.

Mr. Banfield

They are entitled to charge. The point is that they are experts in the use of sugar, and can make a little of it go a long way. I hope that the Minister will bear in mind my chief points. Let him do something to abolish night baking, to stop waste, and to continue to give the public the best possible flour that can be got in the circumstances. If he does all those things, we shall fight the war to a successful conclusion.

6.36 p.m.

Sir Ernest Graham-Little (University of London)

I want to point out a very unhappy contrast between the long-range policy pursued in the last war and what I conceive to be the policy now in possession of the field. I happened to be familiar with that policy in the last war, because the three most important persons on the advisory committee which planned rationing at that time were personal friends of mine. They are recognised to be, perhaps, three of the most distinguished physiologists who have appeared in this or any other country. That planning was begun by a private committee of the Royal Society at the outbreak of the last war in 1914. The members composing that committee worked for two or three years upon the problems, which were, in their estimation—and I think justly so—physiological problems first and last. The Ministry of the day, very like the Ministry of the present day, took no notice of that inquiry until late in 1917. Then came the happy accident that a Controller, Lord Rhondda, took charge; who was able and willing to listen to scientific opinion. That Controller was able to reverse the whole policy, and the measures taken on the advice of that committee were so successful that they stand out in the history of dietetics in this country as a landmark. That is not a matter of medical opinion, which I see is scorned in this Assembly. It is a matter of vital statistics, and a statistical proof is much more definite than any other proof. There is no question at all that our vital statistics are the envy of the world.

The conclusion from these statistics is that the health of the nation was better during the last part of the Great War and in the period following the Great War, because of that particular dietary, than it had ever been before. It is, in the opinion of many experts, a misfortune that that dietary was not made permanent. I do not think that any other country in the world would have neglected, as we have done, an experiment of such proved success. It is one of our drawbacks that we are not inclined to give the proper weight to discoveries of that kind. This is not a stunt, as many speakers have suggested—my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary was guilty of that suggestion himself. May I give an illustration? In 1915–16 my colleague on the staff of St. Mary's Hospital, Sir William Willcox, was sent out to Mesopotamia and en route spent a few days in Egypt, where he was asked by the medical officer in charge of a large hospital to come and see some patients. He was told that there was a most extraordinary epidemic, which had afflicted the English troops, but not the Indian troops who were quartered with them. My colleague inspected the ward, and said, "The whole ward is full of cases of beriberi. What have you been feeding them on?" They had been fed on the white flour deprived of the germ-element which my hon. Friend is storing so carefully at the present time, while the Indian troops had been fed on Indian meal. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) would probably know more about it than I do, but I understand that that meal consists of two constituents which are both particularly rich in vitamin B. It is a deficiency of vitamin B which produces that disease, beri-beri, and many other obscure nervous diseases. The detection of that disease and the supply of the deficient ingredient resulted immediately in the emptying of those wards. That is not a stunt, but a very important fact.

The measures which were taken on the advice of this committee were summed up by Professor Starling, the secretary of the committee, in a very important little book, which is unfortunately out of print. I notice that it is claimed sometimes that attention which is given to measures of 25 years ago is wasted, because science has advanced so much since. It is true that there have been many advances. At the time of the inquiry the chief preoccupation of experts was the question of calories, which are interpreted as units of energy, but it is not true that the new science of vitamins was ignored. One of the members of that committee was Professor Gowland Hopkins, who was, of course, the earliest authority on that subject. The three principal items of vitamin treatment, A, B and C, were perfectly well known, and so were the measures which were necessary for supplying those three. An hon. Member spoke earlier in the Debate of the incidence of scurvy, and I think the Minister did so, too. Of course, the advantages of fresh fruit and vegetables in the treatment of scurvy were known long before the time of the quotation which was made by the Minister from Prince Albert in 1855. It is perfectly true that vitamin C is an important element in the feeding of the nation, and especially of children. Fortunately, however, practical methods of dealing with this side of the matter are so well known that vitamin C is not in practice so important as vitamin B. Vitamin B is the most important of these ingredients in the dietary of a great community. Its deficiency leads to definite nervous diseases, but also to much more evasive symptoms. It leads to a general lassitude, absence of initiative, and the kind of mood which may be summed up as "defeatism." Experts, estimating the causes of the collapse of Germany in 1918, ascribed a very large part of it to the absence of vitamin B from the diet of Germans at the time. The Germans had planned long before, and had actually put into effect, a dietary that was not nearly so scientific or effective as ours. Their present dietary is very much more scientific and effective than ours.

Four measures distinguish the programme arranged by those experts. The first is maintenance of the supply of bread, which must be, and always has been, the staple of diet in any large community. It is the most important of all the items of nutrition in any large community. The value of bread overshadows that of practically everything else, except perhaps milk. It is quite useless at this time of day to suggest that the wheat germ and the part which it plays in giving the vitamins necessary is a negligible consideration. It is absurd to make any such claim as that. This is most important, and I wish to ask my hon. Friend about this point, because I have put to him certain questions relating to the possible means of improving the content of the wheat germ in our milling processes at the present time. I gave him some indication of a process of which I know very little personally but which has been put before me. It has been examined and commented upon by colleagues of mine. I may mention Sir Leonard Hill and Sir Charles Martin, both Fellows of the Royal Society, and extremely important witnesses in their experience of the value of constituents of bread. Both experts have written to me independently, and I have sent the letters to my hon. Friend, saying that they have personal knowledge of, and are commending, this process. The process which I am suggesting claims to take a larger part of the wheat germ into the flour than any other process hitherto used. If that claim is substantiated the process ought to be given a fair trial. My hon. Friend has promised in a Parliamentary answer to make an inquiry into this particular process, and I hope that he will have something to say about it. I have no interest whatever in the process, and my knowledge, as I have said, is derived from persons who have greater authority than I to speak upon it.

Many criticisms have been made against the war bread of 1917, and there again, one should pay more attention to an inquiry which has been substantiated by long scientific experience. I have in my possession here the report of a committee which was set up by the Royal Society to investigate the particular subject of the provision of a war bread. It is untrue to say, as an hon. Friend behind me has said, that there was a great resentment shown towards the use of that bread. There were sporadic cases where change of habits made difficulty, but there can be no question that that bread was very widely used and the result was an enormous increase in the level of nutrition. It was one of the most important reasons for the improvement which took place in the nutrition of this country at that period.

The next item on that programme was the suggestion that cheese should be substituted for butter. That is a very important and useful suggestion. We have had a talk recently by the scientific adviser to the Ministry of Food who also stressed the value of cheese and suggested that cheese—as the advisers of 1917 suggested—should, as far as possible, replace butter. The third item is perhaps the more vexed question of how far the cereals used in brewing and distilling should be allowed to be diverted to those processes. That was considered by the 1917 committee, and they suggested that these cereals should not be diverted to that purpose but should be used exclusively for milling, thus providing foodstuffs which would give a very much more valuable return on the expenditure than if they were used in brewing and distilling.

The fourth item is again perhaps rather a controversial one, namely, how far cereals should be diverted from use as human food to feeding cattle. That committee insisted that they should not be diverted to the feeding of cattle but preserved for the feeding of human beings. It might be said that this is all unnecessary because we are not likely to have a long period of scarcity which would necessitate the bringing in of such measures, but I think it would be wise to plan a long range policy in that connection. It is a matter of some consternation to me that no effort seems to be made to review the position and perhaps adopt measures which were so successful in that day. What is the position at the present time? I have no inside knowledge of the position, but I derive what knowledge I have from the Fourth Report of the Select Committee on Expenditure which is devoted almost entirely to criticism of the procedure of the Ministry of Food at the present time. It is at once apparent from that report that no planning has really been adopted in the first few months of this war. I make that statement on the authority of the report which actually says that some seven months after the war the adviser to the Ministry of Food made accidental contact with the adviser to the Ministry of Health—apparently the first contact that had been made—and the result of that contact was that the adviser to the Ministry of Food was "asked to prepare a memorandum." That seems to me an amazing state of affairs. An experiment which was tried 20 years ago and proved an immense success was completely ignored in the procedure at the beginning of this war, and we only began to get something like the advice of that committee which was so successfully applied in 1917, in May, 1940, when the present advisory committee was set up, as a result apparently of that report from the Select Committee on Expenditure. This committee of advisers comprises very eminent scientists, but I have this criticism to make of it. First of all the committee was very late in arrival and secondly it is not a homogeneous committee such as was the committee in 1917. It is a committee headed by the late President of the Royal Society, a very celebrated physicist, and it is largely composed of eminent scientists who have had no specialist experience of the physiological aspects. I have another criticism to make. It is a large committee and many of the members are located at a distance from London, and it seems to me that to imagine that they will be in time to take measures that will be useful is to take a very optimistic view.

Mr. Boothby

They have already given very valuable advice on which action has been taken.

Sir E. Graham-Little

The committee of 1917 spent something like two years and a-half on examining the problem, and I do not believe that any body of scientists in six weeks could produce a report of the value of the report that was produced on that earlier occasion. The statements made in the fourth report to which I have referred are indeed disquieting. In that part of the report in which criticisms are made of the action of the Ministry, the view is expressed over and over again that there is no definite planning, that the schemes which come out are largely the result of "pull devil, pull baker" between different interests, and that when a final scheme docs emerge it is not a thoroughly thought out scheme but a compromise between conflicting views. That is what I fear will take place with regard to the cereals used in brewing and distilling. I will read the criticism made in this report: Settlements by interdepartmental discussion may often result in a compromise between various departmental demands pulling in different directions rather than in a plan settled according to the over-riding review of the interests of the country as a whole, and possibly involving the development of some entirely new method. That is a very judicial criticism made by a committee to which I think this House should pay very sincere respect. Is it really the case that that is the way these decisions are being made? If so, it is a very foolish and fatuous way of arriving at them. The point which I stress is to be found in the footnote on page 43 of the report, in which the two Departments, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Food, apparently came into contact in an accidental and casual way. Surely this is a problem very much more for the Ministry of Health. It must be so Physiological problems are in the domain of medicine. This is not a problem decided by economics or by the experience of baking processes or any of these ways. I wish to comment on the statement made by my hon. Friend in which he said that the white flour deprived of wheat germs is to be restored to its pristine virtue by adding vitamin B1. He must know that the universal scientific opinion is that the organic and natural supplies of vitamins are far superior to the synthetic kind. I cannot see that the supply of synthetic vitamin B1 can take the place of the organic natural product, and surely it is a very foolish method which demands subsequent restoration of an ingredient which you have taken away, and you do it in a form in which it is very inferior to its original constitution. I question very much indeed the value of that product, and I still further question the inexpensiveness of the addition. Synthetic vitamins are made by wholesale chemists, who know how to charge. I would like a statement as to the relative costs.

I hope that I have not taken up too much time in stressing what I think has been the defect of the whole of this discussion this afternoon. Time does not seem to have been given to the consideration of a long-range policy. We may be compelled to have to stand a long siege. A long siege was threatened in 1917. I remember that at one of the meetings of the College of Physicians the principal medical officer to a great steamship line came to me with a very white face and said, "We have lost five capital ships this last week, and at this rate we shall be beaten very soon indeed." We may be faced again with a similar state of siege. That view is supported by an authority of great force. One, the author of a book dealing with "Food in Wartime," just published, is Sir John Orr, who is a great authority on nutritive values, and who earned his apprenticeship by most careful study of food values among African natives.

Mr. Boothby

Sir John Orr is a very strong advocate of the introduction of vitamin B.

Mr. Loftus

In preference to the natural Vitamin?

Mr. Boothby

There is a considerable division of opinion among scientists as to whether one is more superior than the other.

Sir E. Graham-Little

The principal natural source of vitamin B is bread. The same book which I have here describes how we were saved in 1917, when bread was prepared on a scientific plan. It says: We were saved, first and foremost, by the British Navy and because our food transport was facilitated by the introduction of the convoy system; secondly, by the organised purchase of food from abroad and the organisation of distribution under Lord Rhondda. Is the position in our country really satisfactory with regard to nutrition in comparison with the position in Germany? Germany is far more scientific than we are. Dietary has certainly been arranged in Germany after a long process of experiment. The warning is given by the Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Food that the food arrangements in Geramny are so scientific that it is quite improbable that Germany will ever be starved out by our blockade. This book says, in an italicised passage: All reports of food shortage in Germany should be received with caution. They are usually spread by the enemy. The authors of this book claim to have made personal study of conditions in Germany in 1937 and give in an italicised statement the following passage: Health statistics"— and I would urge upon Members not to be scornful of health statistics, because they are very often the most scientific proofs of any theory— of people in poor districts gave no evidence that malnutrition was more prevalent in Germany than in other large countries, such as Great Britain or the United States.

Mr. G. Griffiths

What date was that?

Sir E. Graham-Little

The survey was made in 1937. The book has just been published. I am not making any statement of my own, but a statement on the authority of these writers, Sir J. Orr and Mr. Lubbock.

Mr. Collindridge (Barnsley)

The hon. Member is causing some despondency by suggesting that we are in a worse position than the enemy.

Sir E. Graham-Little

Here is another italicised statement which answers that interjection: People, when they repeat here unfounded rumours about hunger in Germany, are doing a disservice to this country. Our own food position demands all our attention. The items stressed as of chief importance in this book are milk and bread. If you regard that dietary as being monotonous, I can only say that it is a dietary that will sustain the stamina and resistance of the people and that we are not justified in imagining that we are doing better with our methods than the Germans at the present time. I wish I could think so. I agree with the writers that to represent things as they are not is wishful thinking—one of the worst prejudices hampering the prosecution of the war. I do hope the Minister will give some thought to what has been done by the scientific experiments of 1917 which have had their success, and have been proved in an indisputable way.

7.7 p.m.

Mr. Barnes (East Ham, South)

I propose to direct my remarks to the main purpose for which the Ministry of Food was established, namely, the maintenance of our food supplies during war. I think it is generally admitted, even when one wishes to turn to criticism of certain details, that the Ministry has performed that main task. It has secured and maintained the food supplies of this country, and, as the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out, it has succeeded in strengthening our reserve stocks. The policy which the Department has followed, that of consulting trading interests concerns so far as possible, has generally been justified, but I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider this point. In consulting trade interests I think the policy is developing of selecting directors and controllers of different commodities and putting them in charge of the commodity control. In the matter of bacon and ham, butter and cheese, canned fish, canned fruits and vegetables, cereals, cocoa, cold storage, condensed milk, dried fruit, grapes, imported eggs, margarine, meat and livestock, practically the whole of the directors of these various commodity controls are represented by the executive heads of the largest producing organisations in the country. We had some experience of this tendency when we were experimenting with agricultural marketing boards, and I know that during the discussions on the establishment of those boards the Co-operative movement was the first organisation to express the view that it was desirable, so far as possible, that independent persons should be in charge of the commodity organisation or marketing. While I feel that consultation with trade interests is wise, the point arises as to whether it will be wise if the policy I have just described is continued. If the Ministry is determined to follow this policy, I feel that among these controllers there should be at least a proportion of representatives of consumers and co-operative and similar trading organisations. But on the whole I feel that it is a fairly sound rule for administration Departments to adopt that the executive heads should not be financially interested to a large extent in the commodities that they control.

After 10 months of experience of administration, it appears to me that those administration Departments affect very wide interests, and we have not had much of an opportunity of meeting the representatives of the Ministry to discuss the larger aspects of policy. In trade negotiations on all commodities you are rather tied down to detail, and there has not been an opportunity of discussing the large policy problems of the Department. It appears to many who have been intimately associated with the Department that it has never yet made up its mind what policy is wishes to pursue, or feels that it is desirable to be pursued, with regard to food distribution. We recall the immense public irritation and dissatisfaction that arose in the early days over the way bacon, butter and sugar were handled. If you contrast the position then with the position which has developed subsequently, I think there is very sound evidence to suggest that, whenever any commodity reaches the stage of actual or potential shortage or where there is inequity owing to mal-distribution, or if the public are developing a desire to hoard the commodity, it is desirable that the Ministry should make up their mind rapidly with regard to registration before they decide about rationing. I would urge the Parliamentary Secretary to convey to his Noble Friend the desirability of the Department making up their mind as to whether they feel that the circumstances of the autumn or the winter or next spring, as the case may be, will need a further rationing of commodities. If they come to the conclusion that that is desirable—I am not pleading for rationing for the sake of rationing—I would urge the registration of customers with their retailers before any announcement with regard to rationing takes place, because that prevents the dislocation of stocks and prevents hoarding preceding rationing.

An impression is growing in trade and industry that there is not sufficient coordination between the Ministry of Food and the Department of Agriculture. It has been stressed in this Debate that the desire of the Ministry of Food, in their public pronouncements, is to keep prices down, particularly within the range of the poorer sections of the community, yet the fixation of prices of some commodities, and in others the absence of any fixation of prices, leads one to fear that there is no effective co-operation between the two Departments, and it reflects a contradiction in Government policy. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned that the cost of wheat supplies and milk and bacon rationing has even increased to a very considerable figure. I think the figure he gave in regard to wheat was £590,000 a week. Yet recently in the schedule of agricultural prices the price of wheat has been advanced by 32 per cent., oats have been advanced by 26 per cent., potatoes by 20 per cent., milk by 14 per cent., bacon by 11 per cent., and sugar beet by 6 per cent. On the average I am told they have advanced farm prices by 20 per cent. There may be a cause for this, but is this subsidy of £590,000 a week still being paid in addition to the schedule of prices? We are faced now with the position that the schedule of farm prices has been considerably advanced, which will affect seven of the items which go to make up the cost-of-living index. We observe that food prices have advanced 10 points from 1st June to 1st July. Therefore, the increase in food prices which took place in June has not been affected by the schedule of prices. They are bound to be affected much more substantially by this new schedule of farm prices. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to state clearly, so that the public may know exactly where they are, whether the Treasury subsidies are in addition to the schedule of prices which I have indicated.

With regard to the actual application of rationing, so far, with regard to butter, sugar, tea, bacon, meat, and so on, the Department has followed the policy of rationing the home, but with regard to the vast area of public catering, hotels, restaurants and canteens, so far the policy of the Department has been to leave that vast area of control free. It has not come within rationing.

Mr. Boothby

We limit their supplies.

Mr. Barnes

The Parliamentary Secretary says that the supplies of these establishments are limited, but I ask any hon. Member whether he has experienced any shortage of these commodities in restaurants and hotels. I remember that the Parliamentary Secretary expressed himself very strongly on the fact that there was no restriction taking place in the consumption of expensive and luxurious foods. I appreciate that there is a vast body of people—those earning wages as well as those earning salaries and those having large incomes—who are affected by this problem. In provincial towns and villages, where people's work is near their homes and they take their meals at home, there is rationing in its full severity, but in places where large sections of the population take their meals away from home in public catering establishments, there is a large area which escapes from the Government's policy.

Mr. Tinker

I am not sure that I follow my hon. Friend's argument. At the House of Commons I am rationed for butter and sugar, and at the hotel where I stay I am rationed for butter and sugar.

Mr. Barnes

That may be so, but the point I am making is that if the hon. Member goes to a hotel or to the dining room in the House, he gets a supply of rationed goods by virtue of the fact that he is not taking his meal at home. This aspect of commodity control appears not to be receiving serious attention. In certain fields consumption is still on a highly luxurious basis. If we are facing a position in which shipping space—it is not a question of the convenience of individuals—is absolutely vital to the life of the country and we have to watch every ton of shipping space, we must in equity take into consideration this large area of consumption which so far has not been subjected to rationing.

Mr. Boothby

This matter has been the subject of very careful consideration. As I have said already, we are not at the moment rationing because of existing shortages, but in order to build up stocks. Our main objective has been to avoid irritation and inconvenience to the public where it was avoidable, and that is why we have deliberately not gone out of our way to make, it necessary to produce coupons every time a person goes to a restaurant, hotel or canteen. We think that is for the convenience of the public. We have limited the supplies in bulk to these establishments.

Mr. Barnes

The Parliamentary Secretary says that we are not at the present time rationing because of shortages, but for the purpose of building up stocks; and I say that for that purpose the hon. Gentleman ought to devote his attention to bringing about a restriction of meals in certain public places such as hotels, restaurants and canteens, as a measure of economy and as a contribution to the national effort. The next point I want to emphasise is that although sugar is rationed, many of the ingredients of sugar are not rationed. As the purpose of rationing is to build up stocks, and as it has been decided to ration sugar, it occurs to me that the public ought not to be permitted to get round the rationing by diverting their demand to a large range of commodities which have big sugar contents. The Ministry appears to have paid little attention to that aspect of the problem.

Another point which I want to stress is that whereas the Ministry are emphasising the need for producing certain packet goods, our experience recently with regard to fresh fruit has been entirely different. The Ministry have told housewives that they can get a certain amount of sugar for the purpose of converting soft fruits into jam, but they have not taken any steps to keep the prices of those soft fresh fruits at a level within the means of the average housewife. The prices of black currants, raspberries, red currants and fruits of that description are treble what they were at this time of the season before the war. The Ministry, which plays so much on public opinion with regard to the reduction of prices, has completely failed to handle this problem effectively. Does anybody imagine that the average housewife can pay 1s. 2d., 1s. 4d.,, or 1s. 6d. for black currants and red currants, and then convert them into jam? With such prices prevailing, it is impossible for the average housewife to make use of that sugar allocation for jam.

With regard to eggs, the Ministry have fixed a maximum price for the retailer, but they have fixed no price for the producer, with the result that the retailer, who finds it essential to obtain egg supplies to satisfy his customers, is compelled to pay the full maximum price to the producer, but having purchased at the full maximum price, he is governed by that maximum price, and has to sell the eggs without getting any profit. Hotels and restaurants are not governed by these maximum prices. They have been able to attract a very large proportion of the egg supplies, and they are not governed by the maximum retail price which the Ministry have fixed for ordinary retailers. In the case of fresh fruits and eggs. I do not argue that there would be no difficulty in fixing prices, but I do say that it is not fair to fix a price which applies only to one section of the whole of the trade. That is what has happened in the case of fresh fruits and eggs.

I hope that the Minister will give attention to the points I have raised, for they are the subject of widespread feeling in the country. It is universally admitted that the Ministry of Food have performed their main functions, but I urge that there should be closer co-operation between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Food, especially in the matter of the fixing of prices that will react on the cost-of-living figure. It is obvious to anyone who, in recent weeks, has studied these matters that there has been little cooperation between the two Departments. Now that the Minister of Agriculture is here, I would say that he succeeded in defeating the policy with regard to prices. The public are not interested in a struggle between Departments, or in a triangular duel between the Treasury, the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture. The public are entitled to resent the Minister of Food coming down to conferences and asking traders to put out cheap packets of food, and conveying to housewives the impression that these packets will represent a substantial economy. They do not represent an economy, but the prices of milk, meat, potatoes, fresh fruits and vegetables and things of that kind are the material things in a house- wife's budget. We do not want the Minister of Food attending functions at the Grosvenor Hotel and conveying the impression that the Department will bring all these benefits to the people, when the people have found that in one month the prices of their foodstuffs have gone up 10 points, and that they are facing a further rise in the immediate future. One would not quarrel with that if it represented a measurement of the improved standard of wages. Therefore, the three Departments, the Treasury, the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture, ought to work more closely together, so that the public is at least assured, not only of adequate supplies, but of adequate supplies at suitable prices.

7.33 p.m.

Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)

I should like to convey my congratulations to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food on his maiden speech from the Front Bench. Some of us remember him as a very robust back bencher, and our only criticism of him at the moment is that the germ of complacency, which seems to lurk somewhere near the Government Front Bench, has already started to enter into his valiant spirit. This complacency has been one of the failings of the Ministry of Food since its inception. Members will remember how my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), now Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Shipping, pleaded for building up reserves, in this country, of many of the essential foodstuffs. The Parliamentary Secretary, speaking to-day, confessed that if the Navy had not been able to keep the seas open during the early months of the war we should have been in a very difficult position. The same sort of spirit was evident when Germany overran Denmark and Norway. We were told that the conquest of Denmark would make very little difference to our supplies of eggs and bacon, but I think that an egg will be quite a refreshing sight, in some of the months which lie ahead.

The Minister said that rationing at the present time was not because of an immediate shortage, but in order to conserve stocks for the future. I am delighted that the Ministry are acting on these lines. I hope they will have the courage to carry that policy through to its logical conclusion and restrict, as far as is consistent with comfort and health, the imports of unnecessary luxuries and unnecessary food so that shipping available at the present time may be used for building up stocks to stand a long-term war if we are called upon to face it. The hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) was perfectly right in drawing the attention of the House to the anomalies which exist between families who feed together as a unit, in a house or in a village, where all the members of the household return for their daily meals, and the families whose members meet only at breakfast and round about 9 o'clock in the evening. I think a quantitative rationing might be introduced, with some fairness, for the people who are living in small communities and who sit around a common table.

Reserves should be built up to the maximum extent. They should be used as a definite weapon in the days when we take the offensive. It would be a very good thing indeed if we could persuade the people of Germany or Italy that if they submitted to the force of our arms foodships would come behind our battleships with food drawn from our own reserves. Something on those lines might have a great psychological value in inducing the enemy to yield and seek peace. Let us not forget the real work the Ministry has done in storing and preserving food. One can travel in many parts of this country at present and see buildings in unexpected places just bulging with food. I should like to take up the point which was raised by the hon. Member for East Ham, South, with regard to meals taken outside being cheaper and simpler. There is, in this war, a great measure of equality. No one can avoid the bombs by moving, and we should try to get the people to realise their unity not only in service and in danger, but also the need for eating the same kind of food.

I hope the Parliamentary Secretary when he replies will deal with the method of co-ordination existing between his Ministry and that presided over by the Minister of Agriculture. I had a feeling, certainly in the early days of the Ministry of Food, that they went on in their own set, sweet way, with their combination of controllers and so on, whereas the poor Ministry of Agriculture, the Cinderella of all the Departments, trailed along and did the best it could with what was left over. We hope that the Ministry of Agriculture has now a better share. Quite rightly, the hon. Member for East Ham, South, referred to the increase in prices for home-produced food. I think the increases are perfectly justified. He will agree with me that they were made immediately after the introduction of the national minimum wage for the agricultural worker. I maintain that the best way to get the agricultural worker back to the land is by enabling the farmer to pay, not a minimum wage, but something above it, as is the case in the division which I have the honour to represent.

I was pleased to hear the Parliamentary Secretary deal with the difficulty of marketing the quantities of food that are produced at home. The problem of marketing small quantities, such as the odd beast, or the odd sheep, or the two dozen eggs is different from that of marketing the cargoes of meat or cases of eggs that come in. I feel that we could do much more to look after the food we are producing at home. I am not satisfied with the position in relation to home-killed meat. I do not think there are enough slaughter-houses. There is wastage, and in the heavy weather that we are experiencing there is great risk of meat not reaching the consumer as it should do, or, alternatively, and still worse, being condemned on the way.

Another point to which my hon. Friend might give his attention is the conservation of the produce from our market gardens. The war in the last two months has upset the distribution of food. Many market gardens that are near the coast were kept for the purpose of feeding the large towns in the immediate district. The population of some of those towns has now been removed, but the vegetables are still growing and they have to be either wasted or conserved. It might be possible by introducing some simple form of canning or preserving system to store for future use much of that food, for which no immediate market is available. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will take care to see that the canning industry has enough metal for the tins in which to put the produce of our fields.

The potato crop interests me as I represent the greatest potato-growing area in the country. I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) suggest that potato flour might find a place in the war-time loaf. We do not know what the position with regard to potatoes will be at the next crop, and certainly not the crop alter. A slight increase in the consumption of the average household each week can play havoc with any estimates formed by the Minister as to the total crop to be disposed of. On the other hand, if the main crop has not been got rid of at the time the new season's crop comes along, there is a wastage, and I hope that plans are available to deal with whatever surplus there may be by way of either potato flour or cattle food.

I should like to make a reference to the difference between the rations allowed to the civil population and those allowed to the military. When I see some of the farm workers in my division engaged in heavy manual work and soldiers going through the towns, equally engaged in heavy manual work, I am inclined to wonder why there should he the difference that exists between the quantities of food available for civilians and the quantities available for soldiers. The Ministry of Food would do well to look into the question to see whether there could be some closer approximation. There is a certain amount of waste in military camps. That is inevitable, and has happened throughout history. I hope that the Minister of Agriculture will offer to the War Office a large number of surplus pigs, which could be kept in the immediate neighbourhood of camps in order to clear up the scraps. I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary recognised that the Ministry of Food was not only a home Ministry but a fighting Ministry. It is taking its place in the fighting line, as truly and certainly as the Service Ministries. We have confidence in him and his Noble Friend. If I have one word of advice to offer them, it is, "Beware of the germ of complacency."

7.47 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)

I rise for precisely three minutes to put one question to the Parliamentary Secretary. May I say, in his absence, how glad I am personally that he is at this Ministry and how I rejoice in his success to-day? For far too long his talents have been frustrated in the House, and he seems to have been for too many years in opposition—mostly in opposition to his own party. For that reason, I am particularly glad to see him at this important Ministry with full responsibility in the House of Commons. The key to my hon. Friend's speech was common sense rather than crankiness. In raising the problem of communal feeding, I do not want to fall into the trap of imagining that everybody in the country prefers to go in for communal feeding rather than feeding in their own homes. They would prefer the latter on most occasions, but we are in for total warfare. I want to raise the problem of co-ordination not between the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture, but between the Ministry of Food, the Ministry of Labour, the Board of Education and various other Departments.

There are three main reasons why communal feeding will become more important as the war goes on. The first is because of the number of women going to work. As the number increases there will be need for more creches, more nursery schools and, above all, for more communal feeding for the children. The Cambridge War Agricultural Committee has already asked the education authority to organise school meals for children in the rural areas in order to free the mothers for work in the fields. If we are to solve the labour problem it must be a comprehensive scheme. It is no use supplying one meal; it may be necessary to supply three meals for all the members of the family. Another reason why communal feeding is important is economy in fuel and food. I am chairman of a little club, and I asked someone connected with it for one or two figures on this subject. These show that 12 lbs. of fish will make 48 dinners, whereas 12 separate pounds will provide meals for only two or three persons for each pound. One pound of tea will make 160 cups of tea on the household system, but 230 if used communally. My right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) told me of a kitchen in East or West Ham which had survived from the last war, where a two-course meal can be provided for 4d. for a child and for 6d. for an adult. We have proved that that can be done in the schools. The fuel costs are a little more complicated. As has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), communal feeding is outside the rationing system, but, sooner or later, this loophole will have to be closed.

The third reason why there is need to look at this problem as a matter of urgency, is the possibility of heavy air raids. I understand that where there are kitchens, as in Liverpool, the authorities have schemes, but in other places it is just a question of blankets, Bovril or bully beef for 24 hours, after which people will be billeted in other houses. I am not clear where the food is to come from in those cases. The predominant method in this country is to feed at home, or take bread-and-cheese or sandwiches to work or to school, as some of us have done; the second method is chance aggregation in a café or hotel or restaurant, which is again individual feeding; and the third method is communal. My point is that we shall have to shift over from methods number one and two to method three in a good many places. There are 11,000,000 un-co-ordinated households providing food, there are the hotels and restaurants—I was interested to hear that a survey is being made of catering establishments—and then we come to the communal schemes. The three Fighting Forces feed more than 2,000,000 people by communal methods. Next there are hospitals and boarding schools—and it is interesting that the practice of Christ's Hospital, known to some of us for years, is now appreciated by a good many public schools, because of the obvious economies. Then there are the school camps, of which there are now 50, and it has been proved that there you can feed 250 children with far greater economy than in the case of ordinary school meals, because all three meals a day are being provided.

Then there are the communal kitchens, the cookhouses, the canteens and the light mobile canteens. An enormous amount of experience is now being gathered, and I am glad to see that my right hon. Friend is going to extend this canteen system among firms, because with the three-shift system and night-work, midnight suppers will be wanted. In many cases what will be wanted is not just one meal in the middle of the day but three meals a day. In the schools we supply free meals to about 150,000 children, 44,000 children paying for their meals. There are also 100 new centres provided by an entirely different organisation, usually the Women's Voluntary Association, for evacuated children. In country districts each school has to have its own kitchen. Liverpool feeds 11,000 children per day from its kitchen, and Burnley serves eight different centres from one cookhouse and feeds daily 920 children. There are different reasons for the differences in conditions. In the country there is the problem of distance and of mothers working out, and that is why canteens are successful there.

I apologise for exceeding my three minutes, but this is my point: There are eight Departments now dealing with this subject. The Ministry of Food is responsible for rationing and food distribution. The Ministry of Health deals with refugees and people made homeless through air raids, using the local public assistance officers for the purpose. The Ministry of Labour is concerned with factory workers under the new scheme, and I understand that the local welfare officers throughout the country will assist in that work. The Board of Education looks after school meals and meals for evacuated children. The local authorities are providing meals in the hospitals and poor law institutions. The Women's Voluntary Services are helping not only with mobile canteens but with fixed canteens in A.R.P. and other work, apart from the Admiralty, the Army and the Air Force. On top of this, in an emergency, regional commissioners have powers to take over the work of all the Government Departments which I have mentioned—the Board of Education, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Labour—and to function in the case of a breakdown.

What I suggest is, that this problem may easily suffer from sectional interests. It is not just mere departmentalism; it is of the essence of the case. If there is a food shotrage, if the blockade becomes serious—and we are in for total warfare—then we shall have to feed not a few school children here and a few evacuated children there, not to provide factory workers with one meal a day, but we shall have to feed a large number of people in families, three meals a day. Probably there is some co-ordinating committee between the Departments, but I suggest that the Ministry of Food ought to have the major interest in this problem, and not be responsible only for rationing and distribution. If possible it should have one of its own officers in each region seeing where economies can be made and where the Ministry of Health, the Board of Education and the Ministry of Labour can work together under these schemes, so that we do not have three different Departments providing communal meals in large centres. It is for that reason that I ask my hon. Friend, who has given us such an encouraging start this afternoon in his maiden speech from that bench, to give this matter his close consideration.

7.57 p.m.

Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)

I have listened to practically all the Debate ever since the Parliamentary Secretary began his speech, and as he is not here perhaps the Minister of Agriculture will convey to the hon. Gentleman my congratulations, for what they are worth. I think he did very well at that Box, almost as well as he has done in opposition. I have seen him in opposition for five years. I have listened to scientists and to doctors and have heard also the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Key), which was great. It was a contribution which has whetted our appetites to hear what he will have to say later. He brought the facts here. He did not deal in mere theories of which he had read in a book, but spoke of what he knew and he was able to put it across the Floor of the House very well. The hon. Member for the University of London (Sir E. Graham-Little) went deeply into the scientific side of life and I wish to speak of the practical difficulties of the invalids of this country. I have spoken of them before, and I shall not tire of speaking about them, because I feel, in my own soul, that the invalids are not getting a fair deal. The hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) spoke of the difference between the quantity of the rations supplied to Service men and those supplied to ordinary working men. I do not say the soldiers and seamen are getting too much, but I want to voice the opinions of invalids that they are getting too little.

There are sufferers from tuberculosis and diabetics and others who have certificates stating that they require so many ounces of butter, so many ounces of other fats, and so much bacon to keep them going. The answer of the Minister to that is "The scientists have gone into the question and say you can manage without it." Other doctors say: "You cannot manage without it. You require it." I prefer to believe the doctor who tells me I require it, rather than the doctor who tells me I can do without it. I have my own diet sheet in my pocket. For 17 long years, I have been a diabetic and I went off this bench half-an-hour ago to get an injection. I have had my injection and my diet, and now I feel as fit as a fiddle.

What distresses me and makes me feel a little downhearted is the fact that, although my doctor says to me: "George, you want two ounces of butter a day," the Ministry of Health say: "You can only have four ounces a week." Two ounces a day are 14 ounces, counting Sunday in. My medical practitioner tells me that I want 14 ounces. He said to me: "You knew old Sam March?" I said, "Yes." He said, "I kept him alive until he was 75, on this diet." I said, "If you can keep me alive until I am 75, I can manage the next 10 years myself." It is very distressing to a person who has been prescribed a diet by a medical man, under whom he has been for some time and from whose treatment he feels benefit, when the Minister of Health says: "The scientists, the people who know it all, not the man who has had you under observation, say that you do not need any more than four ounces of butter a week."

I have a list here, although I do not desire to detain the House too long about this matter. To tell the candid truth, I wrote to the wife last night and said: "I am not coming home. I am going to the House to try to get in a bit of a shot about diet." This list shows the diets for seamen for the Army and Navy, and for invalids I am satisfied that if the Ministry go into this question and think it out they will find there is sufficient proof that these invalids should have what is prescribed for them by the doctors. Look at the seamen's diet. I do not say it is too much, I must be very careful here, because the Minister of Labour is on the Front Bench and he has had a lot to do with seamen. He knows more about seamen than I do. I do not say they are getting too much, but it is 13¼ ounces of butter. I have had four. They have 1 lb. 14 ounces of sugar and ⅞lb. of bacon per week. It is four ounces for George. I get four ounces of butter and two ounces of margarine a week, although I am prescribed four ounces a day by a doctor. I am speaking in this matter not for myself only but for 300,000 other diabetics in this country; besides, there are hundreds of thousands of tuberculosis patients. The teaching of the lowly man of Nazareth was that you must look after the weak first. I am sorry the Minister is not in his place. The Minister of Agriculture is taking a note, but he cannot take down in shorthand what I am saying. I ask the Minister whether he will not consider giving the invalids of this country a higher proportion of fat in their ration than they are getting at the present time.

Consider what is given to the Army, the Navy and the Air Force people, when they are on leave. They get 14 ounces of bacon in the week. I get four. They get seven ounces of butter every week. That is the instruction of the Ministry of Food to the food offices. I have obtained these figures from the food office. I did not want to speak without having the facts in front of me. The serving man gets seven ounces of butter, besides his margarine. I do not say he is getting too much. Let us give our fighting men all that we can, but let us give people to whom diets are prescribed by the medical profession at least the same amount as the others. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) spoke about communal feeding. You cannot communally feed these invalids. They need special attention, outside any communal feeding that may be put into operation by the Ministry of Food. I put that point simply to show that they require special attention in regard to their diets.

I come now to the question of tea. My hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) stated, and I was very pleased to hear it, that he had been trying to persuade men who are baking at night to drink tea instead of alcoholic beverages. That is his opinion. It is my opinion also. I do not say that I am setting myself up against anybody else, but I have been a teetotaler all my life. I do not take any credit for it, but I will tell the reason why I became a teetotaler. My father was a "boozer" in his early life, and left a big family deprived of some of the necessities of life. As a little boy, I took an oath before Almighty God that I would not take drink in my life. I have tried to keep off it, though I do not say that the man who takes it is not as good a man as I am. When I was a miner working in the pit, 600 yards from the surface and 2½ or 3 miles in, where you could not get the fresh air, and where the heat was very great, I used to drink two quarts of cold tea during my shift. The Minister of Labour knows that where we have pithead baths, we are trying to persuade the miners to have a good "lash" of milk as soon as they come out. The milk is served at the bath. Down the pit, however, the majority of miners drink cold tea. The two ounces of tea each for the miner and his wife make four ounces, but I ask the Minister to consider giving a heavy worker more than two ounces of tea.

I trust that the Minister will issue his orders in future, or send circulars containing his orders to the food offices, before he sends them to the Press. The food offices should have instructions as to what is going to take place before the Food Controller makes an announcement on Monday night, "To-morrow morning it will be two ounces of tea." I am told, and I think it is quite correct, that they have not had the instructions so that when this order comes into operation things are in a muddle at the food offices. It is only a little matter in a sense, but it is these little matters in life which irritate people. After all, food offices as well as Members of Parliament can keep a secret; in fact, better. They were muddled and flurried, and they did not know anything about it. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will convey those remarks to the Minister of Food, so that when these people have to carry out these instructions they will be able to do so. That is all I have to say to-night, and I hope that what I may call my battalion, will benefit from what I have said.

8.12 p.m.

Dr. Edith Summerskill (Fulham, West)

I am very pleased to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Hems-worth (Mr. G. Griffiths), because I want to assure him that I belong to the group of doctors who feel that people suffering from diabetes, tuberculosis and other diseases which respond to diet should have special treatment. I understand that the Ministry of Food has not yet considered introducing a system of differential rationing and not treating everybody alike. It is perhaps curious, but if one thinks of this House, we are all different—thank heaven!—and yet all of us are on the same diet. The hon. Member for Hemsworth needs a special diet; and probably many hon. Members would be better if they did not have the small meat ration at all and if they had their butter ration cut down. I hope the time will come when there will be introduced perhaps a system of rationing on lines something like that in the last war which depended upon people's needs.

I want to discuss the question of milk in particular. I am very pleased to see the Minister of Agriculture here, because I believe he is interested in the question of milk and he might perhaps help me in what I have in mind. I must agree with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food that this new Milk Bill which has been introduced is one of the most important social reforms which has been introduced in this country during the last few years. But I am afraid it is not going far enough. I do not want to be critical, but, speaking as a doctor, I feel that children up to 12 at least should be allowed free or cheap milk, and I am sorry it is so restricted and limited. We have heard from the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Key) that there has been some difficulty in introducing the scheme. I am rather surprised to hear of the difficulty, because in the neighbourhood with which I have a good deal of contact, in North London, women have come to me, many of them with the appropriate forms, and have asked me to verify the statements. In spite of these difficulties we should welcome this Measure. What I want the Minister of Agriculture to convey to the Parliamentary Secretary is this: He has given the people milk after many weary years of pressure being brought to bear upon the Ministry by individuals who are very keen on improving the conditions of the people. The Minister is giving the people a certain quantity of milk, but why has not the Ministry thought fit to improve the quality of milk? My satisfaction concerning this Bill is tinged with uneasiness. During the last week or two, woman after woman has come to me with a form, and she has usually brought a small child under five years of age to prove that she is eligible for the milk supply. In London I feel satisfied, of course, that this child will benefit from the milk, because, as we know, in London all the big milk combines supply clean milk.

I am not now suggesting anything new to the Ministry when I tell them that in many of the counties in the West of England and in Wales—and the Minister of Agriculture knows this very well—the children, our evacuated children from London, are having milk infected with tuberculosis. I have mentioned this matter in the House before. I have crusaded against this unsafe milk supply for years. What surprises me is that the Government know it. I think that 18 months ago the then Minister of Agriculture threatened to introduce a Milk Bill in this House, and one of the provisions was that the milk supplied to the community should all be pasteurised. Then pressure was brought to bear upon the Government by the vested interests throughout the country, the vested interests who are fattening upon the unholy profits made out of the sale of tubercular-infected milk, vested interests so strong that what I am saying now will never appear in any paper in the country because the advertisements might cease if the milk was not sold. That Bill was withdrawn. Week after week in this House I have put Questions and Supplementary Questions to the Minister of Health on this subject. I have asked whether he will improve the quality of the milk. These people who are selling tubercular-infected milk know that it is tubercular-infected. Only the year before last in the County of Middlesex we found that seven specimens out of 100 were alive with tuberculosis. We have had literature, pamphlets and investigation into the conditions of the milk in the West Country, and it is absolutely scandalous.

What surprises me is that the Government have introduced a Bill which will make it much easier for these simple, ignorant people who know nothing about tubercular-infected milk, to obtain such milk. The tragic part of it is that these poor little evacuees, many of them in the West, will be billeted near farms, and the people will think how wonderful it is for the children to have the milk straight from the cow. When I think of a child having milk straight from the cow in some of these places I shudder. The most careful inquiry I made about my young evacuated children was as to where the milk supply was coming from, and I am afraid that in each place I created tremendous trouble because the farmer came and said that his milk supply was pure and that the people in the neighbourhood had had it for many years. I then looked at the tuberculosis mortality in the neighbourhood and the incidence of tuberculosis, and one could almost trace it to these farms.

I would like the Minister of Agriculture to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to answer this question to-night. I have raised the matter before. I know that the Government know that what is happening is immoral, but always when it comes to answering me there is a kind of evasion. I am never told whether this scandal is to be remedied. There has been criticism of scientists in this House, and perhaps a little ridicule of them; but on this question the experts are unanimous. I think that the public health authorities throughout the country have made representations to the Minister of Health, in all the medical journals there are constant articles on this subject, and doctors and medical officers of health throughout the country wonder why the Government do not introduce this reform.

I do not want to repeat what has been already said on the subject of tea, but I do not want the matter to be overlooked. Tea is not a food, but, if taken in not too great a quantity, it is a harmless stimulant. What we have heard about the night workers taking tea is extremely important. An hon. Member suggested that a baker could drink barley water throughout the night. Only one who has not had to stay up a good deal at night could fail to realise how absolutely frivolous such a suggestion is. This question was brought to my notice by a baker's wife. She said that there were only two in her family, her husband and herself, and that only on one occasion during the 24 hours, when she made the tea for her husband to take to work, could they both have tea out of the same pot, because she was up during the day and he worked at night. This ration of 2 ozs. each lasted them, of course, only for the first half of the week. On the question of fats and meats, I agree with many of the people who have spoken to-night. The hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) said that he looked at his agricultural labourers, big hefty men, working from early morning till sundown, and wondered why they were not getting the same ration as the men in the Forces. There, again, arises this question of differential rationing. I do not understand why the Minister of Food still gives the same ration to sedentary workers as to manual workers.

I tremble in case I should speak too scientifically, but I am anxious that the diet of the country should not become unbalanced. By that, I mean that the people should not feel, "We cannot get enough meat or cheese; therefore, we must fill up more on bread and jam." I begin to wonder whether that is actually happening. I understood from the Minister of Labour when he was speaking in town the other day that in August he intended once more to enforce the Factory Acts, because, although when the Factory Acts were first in abeyance the speed-up increased output, it is found now that it is not increasing output—that, in fact, the output is dropping. This is significant. I do not want to discuss it in detail, but a horrible case came to me this morning. It was the case of a boy of 16, with flat feet, which had developed in the last few months. He had been working 11½ hours a day, looking after seven machines. His mother was weeping. It is dreadful that we should have tolerated this state of affairs. Looking at this boy, who was big and burly, I wondered whether the cutting down of meat, as well as the extension of hours, had not contributed to the increase in sickness and the slowing down of output. It is no good saying, "We will look at the vital statistics at the end of the year, and at the incidence of disease in a month or two, and then put it right." When the human machine runs down you cannot say, "We will stoke it with a bit more fuel," because it is too late, and irrevocable harm has been done. While I feel that there is a case for increasing the rations in some directions, I feel that there is a case for adopting a more rigid control in others. When the hon. Member for Hemsworth was talking about his diabetes, I thought that it is not so bad to have diabetes if you are wealthy; the tragedy is to have diabetes if you are poor. When disease and poverty go hand in hand, your lot is tragic.

In this country there are many people who are still putting butter before guns, who, despite the war, have not changed their mode of living at all. They still have four or five course dinners. There are still people who lead very empty lives, and who try to relieve a boring existence by giving dinner parties to people who are already overfed. Go to some of our restaurants and look inside; they are packed. The Minister of Food yesterday called these people "outsiders." A stronger term should be used for them. In the days of peace we used to regard with a certain amount of amused tolerance the vulgar ostentation of people who habitually indulge in that sort of thing. Now, these people are using up the reserves of the community. What propaganda is to be used to remind these people of their duty? They are a menace to the community. It seems so absurd to me that here we are, the women Members of this House particularly, meeting day after day, discussing how to collect salvage, talking about pig swill and the odds and ends that people are throwing out, and how to collect them, so that they may be used for the benefit of the country, yet there are other people who hardly know that there is a war on. There are empty-headed women who do nothing except spend a few moments with a cook every night planning a meal, while the people who eat the meal would be much better off with a glass of milk and some fruit. We have heard that it would be better to stop the import of luxury foods. Why are these people allowed to feed on the luxury foods which have to be imported? It is wrong that the poor should be rationed while there is absolutely no control of this luxury feeding. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to think along these lines and to adopt a new kind of propaganda in approaching these people in order to make them ration conscious as well as chatter conscious.

8.31 p.m.

Mr. David Adams (Consett)

I must congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary upon the manner of his speech, and, to a certain extent, upon the excellent quality of it, but I desire to criticise certain aspects of the business that he submitted to the House, particularly with respect to milk, with a view to securing in due course appropriate remedies. The business clearly of the Ministry is, as far as is practicable, to give a plentiful supply of food, but it ought to be competent for the Minister to see that the quality of all kinds of food should be of such a character as to make it suitable for the consumption of the people of this country. The cheap milk scheme is undoubtedly a very revolutionary proposal. If we could have the guarantees that have existed hitherto with regard to the quality of milk it would be a revolution of a far-reaching and beneficial character, but the question arises as to whether, in supplying increased quantities of this particular type of milk, we are not taking a reactionary step. Everyone knows that the aim of the Ministry is to secure an advantage to the health of the community concerned and widespread improvement in the nutritional condition of mothers and children hitherto unable to purchase milk at normal market prices, but the milk which is to be supplied will not necessarily be of the purest quality.

The Milk Marketing Board advise us that about 46 per cent, of the milk supplied to the country is non-designated milk. Non-designated milk has a very evil reputation. It is true that a proportion of this non-designated milk is ultimately pasteurised or dealt with by the larger concerns in the community, but that still leaves some 25 per cent, of the milk supply of the country as non-designated milk. The City of Newcastle, in which I am particularly interested, has, on a conservative estimate, stated that one-third of the milk supply there is non-designated, is not treated, and ought not to be supplied for human consumption. This class of milk ought to be removed from the market. If it is not, there will be a rise in the incidence of tuberculosis among children and of morbidity in mothers. The reasons for this, as the Minister will know, are that in rural districts the staffs and inspectors are entirely inadequate to give proper time and attention to the supervision of cowsheds and dairies and, secondly, that, in order to produce a clean milk supply, every farmer ought to possess a milk room, a sterilising room, a milk reception room and a boiler house. Those are the pre-requisites of the farm supplying milk to the community when it does not pass into the hands of the larger concerns that pasteurise the milk after it is received.

The greatest barrier to the production of a pure milk supply by farmers themselves—and we had better as a nation recognise it—is the question of finance. There are thousands of smallholders with six to fifteen cows that cannot be expected to provide the necessary finance for improving the quality of their production. They would require some £50 to £75 for removable utensils on the farm, apart altogether from necessary improvements including the water supply. The Government must ultimately adopt in connection with these smaller farms, turning out this impure food, a system of unification; these farms should be absorbed into larger farms or put under National ownership. We cannot as a nation afford to allow these small farmers—and many of them have a severe struggle for existence, some being as poor as their own farm labourers—to continue in this way, and they must be dealt with.

A very serious situation in addition has arisen with the introduction of the cheap milk supply, and that is the removal by the Ministry—and probably it is with the connivance of the Ministry of Health also—of the safeguard that hitherto obtained of medical officers of health certifying milk supplies as being suitable for consumption. They have instead to adopt a futile method under the Food and Drugs Act. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, in response to a Question of mine as to the restoration of the safeguard to medical officers of health, gave an answer which I have not yet been able thoroughly to understand, nor has the Medical Officer of Health for Newcastle for whom the Question was put down. She said that it is open to any local authority concerned, in addition to exercising its powers under the Food and Drugs Act, to give advice either through welfare centres or otherwise to expectant and nursing mothers and children with regard to the choice and use of milk supplied under the National Milk Scheme. What could such a statement mean?

The method hitherto adopted by medical officers of health was that if milk was found upon test to be tubercular, or containing pollution or other disease germs, a caution was sent. A second time there might be a prosecution, but on the third occasion medical officers had the right to exclude that milk. We in Newcastle did exclude certain grades of milk where we found it to be of inferior quality. All a medical officer can do to-day, if there is milk not fit for human consumption, is to write to the medical officer of the district. There will be detailed correspondence, and there may or may not be an examination of the farm with a warning to the farmer that he must improve his ways. But in due course the same milk will come on to the market in Newcastle and be supplied to the public of the city. I would like to show what is now the position by quoting from a letter sent by the Health Committee of our City Council to the Ministry of Health on this subject. It states that whilst it has been able to protect the children of Newcastle and mothers hitherto this safeguard has now gone. It goes on: The present scheme removes in great part the safeguards which have previously existed and it is the considered opinion of my committee that infantile mortality will be increased and tuberculosis of bovine origin will tend to become move prevalent among members of the community. When we remember that during the past three years the average number of new cases of tuberculosis in the country has been 60,000 we see how serious the problem is and how perturbed medical officers throughout the country are about the new scheme. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned that there had been a reduction in expenditure in certain directions in regard to milk. I notice in the Civil Estimates and the Estimates for the Revenue Department that the Estimate for milk in England and Wales, in Vote 8, is £1,651,020 and is a decrease of no less than £1,440,990 as compared with 1939. In what directions are these reductions to be found? I have here the Estimate in detail, and it states that there is a diminution of subsidy in respect of milk used for manufacture of £103,000. That is in round figures. There is a diminution of expenditure on the improvement of the quality of milk supply for next year, as against 1939, of no less than £1,000,000. Will the Minister be good enough to explain to the House what will be the effect of the reduction of that startling amount—50 per cent.—upon the expenditure which has prevailed for some years past for improving the quality of the milk supply? Does it mean, as I fancy, that the subsidy granted to farmers for the production of wholesome quality milk is to be taken from them? If so, it is certain we shall have a flood of non-designated milk in the country—a result which we greatly fear. The contribution towards the expenses of the Milk Marketing Board is reduced by £330,000 for this ensuing year. In the judgment of the Northern metropolis, for which I am permitted to speak, the feeling is that where safeguards have been eliminated the situation is extremely parlous and is bound to have a most serious reflection upon the health of the whole community in a relatively short space of time.

I would suggest to the Minister that the situation might be partially, if not completely, dealt with. I have found that the pasteurisation plant of the country is not being wholly utilised. It could be utilised over longer periods. The average use of such plant is some seven or eight hours in a day but, in the case of necessity such as this, it could, with additional expenditure on the part of the Government to those who hold and own this plant, be utilised for a fuller period. The second method which ought to be adopted is that the balance of the milk not used for human consumption could be manufactured into dried milk, which we know is absolutely safe and wholesome for all sections of the community, particularly children and nursing and expectant mothers. The Ministry of Health have given totally unsatisfactory answers to my queries, and it will not do for the Ministry of Food to give the same sort of elusive replies. I believe the heart of the Parliamentary Secretary is in his work and that he cannot desire to be in arms against the medical officers of health of the country and the community generally. If he will adopt even the partial solutions I have suggested, then it will give a wholesome milk supply to the country.

8.49 p.m.

Mr. Hubert Beaumont (Batley and Morley)

I feel sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will not regard these empty benches as showing lack of interest but as evidence of the satisfaction felt with the Ministry of Food. I would like to offer my personal and hearty congratulations to him on the splendid exhibition of salesmanship he gave this afternoon. I do not know whether it is due to the in- fluence of his chief, but he demonstrated the art of salesmanship so well that it will stand him in good stead if at any time he desires to relinquish his Parliamentary career. Evidently, he was proud of the firm with which he is associated and was very certain about the goods he had to sell. I have risen to give emphasis to the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hems-worth (Mr. Griffiths). When the Parliamentary Secretary was outside recuperating from his efforts, my hon. Friend asked the Minister of Agriculture if he would convey to the Parliamentary Secretary the dire necessity for an increased ration of butter for diabetic persons. I want to reinforce that very human appeal, coming from hard personal experience and a consciousness of what it means if people afflicted with diabetes suffer from a decreased ration of butter. Some months ago my hon. Friend put several questions to the then Minister of Food and on every occasion he was met with a blank refusal to increase the ration.

I was sufficiently interested in the matter to collect opinions of many doctors. I did not find a single one who did not agree that an additional ration of butter was essential for diabetic persons. I had a number of cases brought to me where I live, which is not in my constituency, of men who had been definitely told—I have doctors' certificates to that effect—that they should have a minimum of two ounces a day. It meant that they were going short of 10 ounces per week. It is not only the physical effect upon the men. In a household where there is a diabetic patient it means that the mother and the children often go without their butter so that the person who is suffering shall get more. I think it will be possible, now that the Ministry of Food has become so efficiently organised, to give time and thought to the desirability and the necessity of giving an additional ration of butter to those suffering from this complaint.

I hope that not only to them but to all other patients whose doctors say they should have additional butter such additional rations will be allowed. It should be possible, assuming that we have the supplies, for the food officers to accept the certificate of the doctor entitling the person to additional butter. If there are not the reserves, the great majority of people would sooner have their ration decreased in order to provide an increased ration for invalids. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary, with his broad outlook, will have the matter reconsidered. Please do not take as gospel or final the views of any Committee of the British Medical Association. I am convinced that if you were to take a census of the doctors of the country you would find an overwhelming majority who would say that in their opinion and in their experience an increased butter ration was essential for diabetics and for many other invalids.

The hon. Member for Hemsworth in his characteristic way also put in a very human plea for recognition of the fact that there are certain types of workers who have been accustomed to drinking tea at hours of the night when most of us are slumbering and who have now no substitute for it. In my constituency there are miners who take cold tea down the mine and they will suffer very considerably if they do not have an additional ration of tea. What possible substitute is there for that? I think it could be so arranged that certain classes of workers should be entitled to an additional tea ration. I want to go a little further than that. I hope the Ministry of Food, if possible, will work out a programme so that when people are deprived of some particular foodstuff to which they are accustomed the foodstuff which they have as a substitute shall be made palatable to them. I am an inveterate tea drinker. I can drink it at all hours of the day or night, but rarely except at home can I drink coffee. In most cases it is so badly made. As coffee is going to be a substitute for tea in many households, it would be of value if the Ministry of Food, in its educational programme, could see that people are instructed how to prepare coffee properly. We often get it, especially in restaurants, very muddy, very thick and tasting very earthy. The question of the educational work being done by the Ministry is of profound importance. I should like to pay my tribute to the buoyant vivacious personality of S. P. B. Mais. After a late sitting of the House and a trying journey home I find that the physical exercises on the B.B.C. are inclined to send me to sleep again, but when Mr. Mais is speaking I want to get up so as not to miss anything that he says. I believe he is doing more effective work in his talks for the Ministry of Food than any other form of propaganda.

One is pleased to notice the Parliamentary Secretary's statement that the present rationing is not because we have a scarcity but because we want to create a reserve. I hope that will be pressed, because practically the whole of the people are determined that this conflict is to be fought out to the bitter end, and they will willingly accept any rationing which will mean that we shall have supplies upon which to live. I am extremely pleased that the Parliamentary Secretary placed emphasis on the point that it is not scarcity but security and that the Ministry of Food at the same time is not a Ministry of cranks but a Ministry of common sense. It is a very great pleasure to me to see the manner in which the Minister of Food is doing his work. Many years ago when we were both very young, we were associated and I had the pleasure of his friendship. I notice that the influences to which the Parliamentary Secretary's Chief was subject in his early days are bearing excellent fruit in these days of administration. I will not say what influences they were but, if they had had the same effect upon him as they had on me, he would be sitting on this side of the House.

Next to the Fighting Forces, the Ministry of Food will play the most important part in the war, and as far as the civilian population is concerned, it will play a major part, particularly when the war turns from the defensive to the offensive. I hope that all the schemes which the Ministry bring forward will be based upon the sound principle that the degree of sacrifice shall be common to all. That will not be the case if everybody has to go without the same amount of a given commodity, for some people are able to get something else as a substitute for the commodity which they have to go without. Where it is found that there are substitutes which are outside the purse of average people, they ought to be regarded as equivalent to the food which the average people can buy. I hope that the Ministry will take into account not only foods, such as bread, which are essential to every person, but all foodstuffs, and that, if the need arises, they will ration luxury foods and not permit any more luxury foods to be brought into the country. Indeed, I sometimes think that a number of people living on luxury foods would become fitter, brighter, and happier if they were put on to the plain food of the common man.

The Ministry of Food stands very high in the estimation of the people at the present time. The attitude of the Minister when he made his announcement concerning the tea ration commended itself to all people, not because of the two ounces, but because of the manner in which the announcement was made. No person of evil disposition was able to obtain an advantage by purchasing stocks and so have a large quantity in hand. I sincerely hope that if other commodities have to be rationed, the same secrecy will be observed and that the announcement will be made in the same way so that the blow will fall equally on all people. The housewives are the people who are most concerned with the operations of the Ministry of Food. The man may find the money, but it is the woman who spends it. Therefore, it is to be hoped that at all times the Ministry will take the housewives into consideration, and that where it is necessary in any way to alter what I may call the cooking life of the housewives, they will be provided with all requisite knowledge, so that whatever is substituted it will be equally satisfactory to them. As far as possible the home life of the family must be disturbed as little as possible, and that home life can be more disturbed by an upset in the kitchen than by almost anything else. It is to be hoped that, having security as the keystone, the Ministry will be able in the very near future to give relief to some of the harassed housewives with regard to the present shortage of certain rationed articles, and also that they will exercise great power in determining that the prices of foodstuffs shall not go up, I conclude by offering my congratulations to the Parliamentary Secretary and expressing the hope that next time he addresses the House on the subject of the administration of the Ministry, his speech will be received with the same approval, acclamation and lack of criticism as to-night.

9.5 p.m.

Mr. Robert Gibson (Greenock)

I wish to emphasise and endorse the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. H. Beaumont) on behalf of diabetics. All Members of this House know the great service which has been rendered by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) with regard to the supply of butter rations in place of margarine to the Army. That was a very great service indeed. I submit that the present Minister of Food should keep that in mind, and that he should not shut his eye to the special claim at this time of diabetics. I do not wish to linger on that point, because it has been so thoroughly dealt with by my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams) spoke of the need for pasteurised milk. He has had to leave the Chamber for the moment, but he will be glad to know that in my constituency, even in these days, that matter is being kept in mind, and that there is a very large new dairy being opened on Saturday, and I am looking forward to being present on that auspicious occasion.

A question which is particularly in my mind is that of transport. We are in grave danger of having the means of transport breaking down, and I should like to ask in that event what steps have been taken to secure adequate food supplies in the country districts, and particularly in the country districts of Scotland. I had a question down to the Parliamentary Secretary to-day, but unfortunately it was not reached, and I, therefore, do not know what was the nature of the reply. It is because of that question, and the problem it raises, that I have ventured to interpose for a few minutes in this Debate. The breakdown of the communications in the country strikes at the very bases of our administration, and it is to meet that possibility that we have appointed Regional Commissioners up and down the country. The Parliamentary Secretary has intimated to the world that he was having a walk the other day in Princes Street. Well, Princes Street in Edinburgh does not require any advertisement, but if the Parliamentary Secretary had looked on the roads, he would have seen vans coming from Glasgow with bread for Edinburgh. Can he find any apology for that state of things? That bread has not only come from Glasgow to Edinburgh, but it has gone from Glasgow to Perth, from Glasgow to Dundee, from Glasgow to Aberdeen, and from Glasgow to Sutherlandshire. Can this state of affairs be justified by the Parliamentary Secretary, because, after all, he is the Minister responsible to this House for these questions?

On Saturday I was informed by an Edinburgh baker that the importation of cakes from London to Edinburgh had stopped, and that as a result his business had rapidly increased. He was unable to deal with this increased business because he had taken over a small business a short time ago and could not get his sugar ration increased. At present there is an unpardonable waste of petrol. It may be, as the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) persists in reminding the Parliamentary Secretary, due to the milling combines. They have the big baking concerns in their pockets and tremendous influence may be brought to bear. The question of the possible breakdown of transport resulting in the starving of the country districts in Scotland is a serious one. There was a foretaste of this position in the early weeks of the year when Scotland was subjected to serious wintry conditions. In the south-west they resulted in the breakdown of railway communications. Fortunately a delightful piece of literature has been left on the subject and is now enshrined on the files of the "Scotsman" for 5th February. It was written by the ex-Moderator of the General Assembly, the Right Rev. Dr. James Black. He was marooned in south-west Scotland for days and he described in his article what happened. I have the article here and shall be delighted to hand it to the Parliamentary Secretary for his consideration. Dr. Black says: Two days ago an aeroplane dropped some packets of food for the beleaguered station-masters family who live at the lonely halt. He adds: We have not seen a newspaper for six days or received a letter or even a tradesman's bill.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

What a holiday!

Mr. Gibson

He then gets down to the question which concerns us now: I discovered that hundreds of little towns and villages that formerly had their store of flour and their own capable baker to make their daily bread are now almost entirely dependent upon the big bakers of Glasgow. That is a serious matter. Then he says: The present disorganisation has already meant serious scarcity of ordinary bread in many country areas. An observation which is very pertinent to the present situation is this: A truckload of bread"— Which indicates how bread was being delivered in that quarter— will feed this town in which I am marooned for a day, but the same truckload of flour in the hands of a local baker will feed it for a fortnight or more. The reverend gentleman was well able to speak, because he is the son of a master baker in Rothesay. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to look into this question. It will not do for Scotland to be dependent upon supplies of bread coming from a baking centre, because in the event of the breakdown of transport facilities then immediately the people in the country towns and villages will be in danger of literal starvation. I have suggested that he should make a survey of bakehouses in these country towns and villages. The oven is not a thing that will have been done away with in the event of the bakehouse having fallen into disuse. The oven is strongly built, with heavy stones at the base, and if the bakehouse is not now being used for its ordinary purposes the oven has probably been boarded up. The bakehouse can easily be brought into use again. Every town and village ought to have its emergency stock of flour—that can quite easily be arranged for—its emergency stock of salt, which is required for the making of Scottish bread, and its emergency stock of yeast. The yeast can be provided in a dried form; in point of fact yeast is used in a dried form in the Navy and the Army. If all that were done, we should be in a position to face with something like assurance any breakdown of transport facilities. I submit with all confidence to my hon. Friend that this question is of very much more importance than that of the display of sugared cakes in bakers' windows in Princes Street. It is a real matter, it is vital, it concerns the necessaries of life, and unless some arrangements are made beforehand we may meet with a very awkward situation in the event of communications breaking down. We have made arrangements in other spheres; we have our Regional Commissioners, the Home Secretary has come forward with an Emergency Powers (No. 2) Bill in order to set up law courts. Surely bakehouses are much more important than law courts—though perhaps I could hardly be expected to suggest that. But we are dealing with the staff of life, and I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to apply his energy and his genius to this problem, which is of first-class importance at this stage.

9.18 p.m.

Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)

I think I am right in saying that the Parliamentary Secretary is too good a Parliamentarian to be puffed up by all the congratulations heaped upon him this evening. I have seen Members come into the House of Commons from time to time and have heard congratulations poured upon them, and have seen them ultimately far away on a back bench—because of the congratulations. I know, therefore, that the hon. Member will not take his bouquets too seriously. I also wish to mention in particular the very excellent maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Key), a very worthy successor to that very dear friend of all of us who passed away a short time ago. Unless I mistake it, the most important point which has been raised in this Debate, as far as the ordinary workman is concerned, is the question of tea ration. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to make a change, in this connection, because the Ministry of Food must relate its work to the health of the people.

The Ministry of Food ought to take notice of the statistics that are supplied to the Ministry of Health from time to time by local authorities, in order to see whether the rations provided are seriously affecting the health of the community, especially the health of those who follow arduous occupations. I say that in relation to tea, because it has been represented to me, in the area where I live, by persons in the engineering trade. If I read a sentence or two from a letter which I received from an engineer, it will inform the hon. Gentleman exactly what is meant. The writer says that he is over 65 years of age. He works seven days a week, and overtime as well. He is responsible for lifting between one and three tons of material every day. He works in an aircraft factory, and he tells me that he would prefer an increase in tea, even if he has to give up part of the sugar and butter rations.

I leave that point there, and pass to one other thing which has occurred to me, arising out of the work of the Ministry of Food. Let us turn to our own homes and gardens for a moment and see how much we can do in that connection. I wonder whether the Ministry of Food have advised the people to bottle the surplus fruit and vegetables they grow in their own gardens. I know a little about this from experience. The Ministry ought to take steps immediately to see that many foods that grow in kitchen gardens, and of which there is almost always a surplus at this time, are bottled for the winter. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will take a special note of this point, because I am sure that a good deal of food could be kept in that way. I noticed that the Minister of Food was having a lunch for 9d. the other day.

Mr. G. Griffiths

I wish I had been with him.

Mr. Davies

He said it was excellent, but I would like to know the cost of his dinner on the same evening. When the Minister rations any commodities he knows that there are alternatives, but it is no argument to the poor people of this country to say that if they cannot get beef they can buy chicken and that at twice the price, or that if they cannot buy bloaters they can purchase fresh salmon. That is often the argument of the Ministry of Food. I would ask the Minister to remember two or three other simple things. I speak as one connected with the distributive trade. A good deal has been said about the cost of distribution. The hon. Gentleman used the argument in his very excellent speech—he will not be puffed up by what I say, because he knows me too well—that, as wages have been increased, in agriculture, so the cost of agricultural produce must go up to the consumer. Exactly the same argument applies to the distributive trades.

This is what has happened: In the past few years Governments have relieved industrial undertakings and farmers of their rates, which are now paid, in the main, on shops and cottages. The result is that the shopkeepers are paying more rates than anybody else, pro rata to their turnover. That is one cause of the increase in the cost of distribution. The other argument is one which I have used before and may be allowed to use again. It is like grand opera; if you hear if often enough it becomes very familiar. When I was a boy, I used to walk a fair distance once a week to do the shopping, but now all I need do is telephone an order and in a very short time the smallest parcel is brought by two men in charge of a motor car. The cost of distribution has gone up also, because wages in the distributive trades are better than they were and shops are not open for as many hours as hitherto. I ask hon. Members therefor to bear in mind that they cannot get the distributive trade to operate as cheaply as they suppose, if the public want large and well-dressed windows, and lunches at 1s. each in the emporium that would cost about 2s. 6d. elsewhere, and the cost of sending a boy with a little packet done up with string, to my-lady, for an order which costs is. 6d. and all the rest of it.

I now come to another point. It is often forgotten that the poor are always at a disadvantage in buying commodities. The smaller the quantity you buy the greater the amount you pay for it in proportion. It is much more expensive to buy sugar in pounds than to buy a 112-lb. bag of sugar. And so it goes on, with every article you purchase. Then, the poor have no place of storage; consequently they run backwards and forwards to the corner shop to buy these things in small quantities, and in some cases they pay very nearly as much for paper and string as they do for their tea and sugar. The hon. Gentleman did not know that, I am sure, when eating his lunch at 9d. a time.

Let me now ask the hon. Gentleman to come down to the actual cost of these commodities. We talk a great deal about the cost of living. I know a little about the prices of commodities which are in use in the ordinary households in this country, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman will follow me in what I am going to say. Sugar in July, 1939, was 3d. a lb.; it is 4½d. now, which is an increase of 50 per cent. No wonder some people are critical of the method by which the Ministry of Labour achieve their index figures in connection with the cost of living. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will forgive me asking him whether he keeps in touch with the Ministry of Labour as well, because there was a statement by the Minister either to-day or yesterday to the effect that as the hours worked in some industries in this country became longer so did production decrease. I am not so sure that the rations which are provided for the people at present do not account in part for that reduction in production. Butter 12 months ago was 1s. 4d.; it is 1s. 7d. now. Bacon was 1s. 5d.; it is 1s. 10d. now. These are all co-operative figures. Of course, one can get dividends on the purchases, and the more you buy the more "divi" you get.

Mr. G. Griffiths

And you save more.

Mr. Davies

That is so. Any sensible man would do that. The hon. Gentleman talked about abolishing competition. The way to get over all that and abolish the silly competition of six milk carts in one street is for all the people to join the co-operative movement. That settles the problem. After all, why should I not use this platform to advocate the claims of that movement? Soap was 4d. 12 months ago; it is 5d. now. I was interested to see that the newspaper world and the Press have been arguing against including books and printed matter in the proposed Purchase Tax. I like a good book, but I think soap is quite as important. The Press do not protest against the inclusion of soap in the Purchase Tax. Marmalade cost 1s. 5d. for a 3-lb. jar 12 months ago; it is 1s. 11½d. now. Matches cost a 1d. a box 12 months ago; now they cost 1½d.—50 per cent. more. These are commodities which are used every day in the household. Cannot the hon. Gentleman do something to regulate the prices of these commodities, outside the list of those which are already regulated?

I have urged for years in this House that we should have a census of distribution. We have a Ministry of Food only when there is a war on; how long this war will last, nobody knows. I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider, with his chief, whether it is possible to get in this country, as in some other countries, a census of distribution? We have a census of almost everything. My hon. Friend the Minister of Mines can tell you how many ounces of coal are produced—yes, he knows down to an ounce—the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary can tell us how many potatoes are produced, and my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) can tell us how many loaves are produced—and how much water goes into a loaf as well. We can find out how many pints of milk are produced, and how many pints of beer, too. But there is no census of distribution, though it is estimated that the distributive trades in this country have a turnover of approximately£50,000,000,000 per annum. Although it does not belong at the moment to the work that the hon. Gentleman is doing, it would assist the Government and Parliament, if a beginning were made now towards preparing for a census of distribution in this island. I finish as I commenced, knowing that nothing I have said will add to the hon. Gentleman's joy and happiness in receiving so many congratulations from hon. Members. I hope that he will sleep well on it, and that he will always remember what I said at the beginning—that I have seen many young men come to the House of Commons of whom it was forecast that they would one day become Prime Minister, and in the end I have seen them sitting silently on the back benches.

9.33 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Mr. Boothby)

I am very grateful indeed for the observations my hon. Friend has made. I assure him that I do not feel in the least puffed up. I expect to go any day to the back benches. Sometimes I am not sure that I should mind so very much. So far from being puffed up, I am deeply grateful, and, I confess, somewhat relieved, at the reception which the account I gave of the work of my Ministry has had to-day, and I should like to thank hon. Members in every quarter for being so very kind. With regard to what was said by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) about the price of sugar, I would point out that two-thirds of the increase since the war began has been due to the increase in taxation on sugar, which raises a problem for which I am not directly responsible. Nor, indeed, am I responsible for matches, which so far as I know are not yet edible, although we never know what may happen in future. With regard to the bottling of fruit, we have taken the most energetic steps. We are conducting an educational campaign throughout the country, with the co-operation in the country districts of the Women's Institutes in England and the Women's Rural Institutes in Scotland.

Mr. J. Griffiths

What about Wales?

Mr. Boothby

And of the women's institutes in Wales; I beg the hon. Member's pardon. We are getting the fruit bottled now, and we hope to do more, later in the summer, and even more next year. We are setting up centres all over the country for the collection of the fruit, and we are also having classes, with the assistance of the women's institutes and the education authorities. We have given great consideration to that matter.

On the general question of milk which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams) and the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill), I will content myself this evening by saying that the case of pasteurising plant and the question of utilising to the full the available pasteurising plant in this country, has been considered by the Government, and it is definitely the decision of the Government that the maximum use of pasteurising plant shall be made. I would prefer to say nothing more on the general question, which is technical and difficult, of T.T. milk, and of the general condition of milk, except that the matter is under continuous examination, and, in connection with the new milk scheme, is at present engaging the close attention of the Ministry of Food. I can assure both my hon. Friends that their observations upon the subject will be read with great attention by the Ministry.

The hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. H. Beaumont) raised the point about butter for diabetics, which was reinforced by the hon. and learned Member for Greenock (Mr. R. Gibson) and the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths). The effect upon invalids of the extension of the rationing scheme to margarine and cooking fats is at this moment under the consideration of the Nutrition Sub-committee of the Medical Research Council, and we expect them to tender us advice on this point in the very near future. Meanwhile, according to our information, vitaminised margarine is an adequate substitute for butter in these cases and there is no evidence to show that it cannot be digested as well as butter. The effect upon invalids of the rationing extension which is under consideration by the subcommittee of the Medical Research Council, and before we take any definite action we must await their report.

Mr. G. Griffiths

Have not that medical committee already reported and are they again going into the matter in order to report again?

Mr. Boothby

Yes, they are at the moment.

Mr. Griffiths

I thought they were doubly sure the last time.

Mr. Boothby

They are examining it at the present time to make it trebly sure. We expect to receive their report in the near future. I do not want to detain the House for any length of time, but there are one or two general points which have been raised and to which I ought to reply. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) in his very interesting and friendly speech referred to the necessity for the closest co-operation between my Department and the Ministry of Agriculture, and I think I can say that that does exist. Indeed it is absolutely necessary. If we did not meet almost every day, we could not get on at all. The right hon. Gentleman then asked the Ministry of Food to follow the advice given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and tell the country, the farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture what we want. I do not think it is desirable to dictate to farmers what they should grow, but, certainly, in my speech this afternoon I laid very great emphasis on milk, potatoes and vegetables, and I cannot do better than repeat that now.

As far as we are concerned, we have no objection to dual purpose crops as such, that is to say, crops available either for animal or human consumption because they can be turned to either purpose in accordance with the conditions, but we in the Ministry of Food do lay particular stress on milk, potatoes and vegetables and I think my right hon. Friend agrees with that view. The right hon. Gentleman went on to describe the Consumers' Council, which was set up by the Ministry of Food during the last war, and suggested that we might follow that example. That suggestion will be given consideration but we have our local food control committees on which consumers are well represented; we have the T.U.C. Advisory Committee and also the Consultative Council which is under my own chairmanship and which meets periodically to consider the general effect of food policy on consumers. I think for the time being that that is sufficient.

The question of milk distribution has been raised in several quarters and I can only repeat what I said in my opening speech—that we are not satisfied with the present distributive costs, that we are investigating the matter as one of urgency and will not shrink from taking any steps which we think desirable. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting also mentioned eggs and urged us to fix prices. This is difficult, for reasons which I gave in my opening speech, but it is under consideration. Several other Members raised the question of the cost of living and I want to make this point, which is important. The recent rise in the cost of living is seasonal and mainly due to the rise in the price of potatoes, owing to the new crop coming on to the market, and the rise in the price of milk through the withdrawal of the subsidy and the substitution of the milk scheme. It is, however, satisfactory to know the two causes of the recent rise, and I would point out to the House that the index figure has been remarkably steady since the beginning of the year. The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Robertson) raised the question of cold storage. I would only say that, as he knows, we are building cold stores and expect the first to be completed shortly but it would be contrary to the public interest to give detailed information regarding it. In reply to his reference to cold storage, I would say that the Director of Cold Stores in our Ministry was the late lamented Mr. W. J. Howard, who was, I think, a director or managing director of the Union Cold Storage Company, and who planned our whole programme—

Mr. Robertson

Mr. Howard was not a director of the Union Cold Storage Company nor was he managing director. I maintain that his plans are not being carried out to-day.

Mr. Boothby

There, I am afraid, my hon. Friend is at fault because they are being carried out as rapidly as possible. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) referred to night baking which presents a very difficult problem and is under consideration. He also raised a question of considerable importance, namely, the relationship between the mill- ing industry and the Ministry of Food. I would like to say that the milling industry operates under the directions of the Ministry of Food. The price at which purchases of wheat can be made is fixed by the Ministry and not by them, and the price at which they sell flour, wheat and offals is also fixed by the Ministry. Day-to-day contact is made with the flour-milling industry by the Cereals Division, the head of which is not connected with the milling industry. We are satisfied that it is a perfectly good scheme and I cannot agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) about it.

Mr. De la Bère

The hon. Gentleman said there were two points in connection with the use of white flour, and he gave two reasons. A third reason why whole-meal cannot be used is because it would interfere with the profits of the combine, which controls the Ministry of Food. I should not have mentioned that, if the hon. Gentleman had not referred to me personally.

Mr. Boothby

I cannot possibly accept my hon. Friend's view. I must deal now with the speech of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Key). It was a most excellent maiden speech. I should like to make one or two points quite clear with regard to the milk scheme. It was announced to begin on 1st July or the earliest date thereafter. Application forms were ready on 1st July. All milk offices now have an ample supply of permit forms and the scheme is, to-day, in working order. Many thousands of people all over the country will have their first delivery on Sunday next. Divisional food officers and food executive officers were instructed to take advantage of the service of local authorities. Inquiries will be made as to the remuneration, particularly in Poplar. I will look into that very carefully.

Mr. Key

Not only in Poplar, but in the Metropolitan area.

Mr. Boothby

No instructions have been issued that the earnings of dependent children are to be taken into account in determining the eligibility of applicants for free milk. This would be entirely contrary to the principles of the scheme. Inquiry will be made into what is, obviously, a misunderstanding on the part of the milk office at Poplar in this connection.

Mr. Key

I have here a communication dated 10th July from the London Divisional Milk Office of the Ministry of Food, which was sent to all milk officers in the London area. It says in paragraph 5: Part 1 of the application form must be completed by all. Part 2 applies only to those who wish to obtain free milk. The "weekly income" means the average weekly income of the father and mother and may include the amount of additional or casual income from lodgers, children who are at work, overtime, etc. That is signed by Mr. A. D. Barnes, who styles himself "Divisional Milk Officer for London."

Mr. Boothby

I have seen that paper. There has obviously been a misinterpretation and I think it has been misinterpreted by the hon. Member. The paper was rushed out in a considerable hurry and there is a very great qualification in the first paragraph, which the hon. Member has not read to the House. The main principles of the scheme are as I have stated to the House. There is no household means test of any sort or kind. You only consider the income of the husband or wife. Where the misunderstanding has arisen is in the fact that earning dependants are disregarded altogether in the scheme. They do not come in. Therefore it makes, or may make, a difference whether a child is earning money or not because, if he is earning money, he is disregarded altogether. If he is not earning money he is a non-earning dependant and the extra 6s. applies. That is the point upon which some misunderstanding has arisen. I do not think I could have made the scheme more clear than I did in my statement. I think that, considering the difficulties with which we were confronted, the speed with which the scheme has been put into operation is very great. We wanted the local authorities to administer it; we had a meeting with them, and I was chairman at that meeting. They refused to administer it because they said—and there was a great deal to be said for that argument—that already they were overburdened. It was at the eleventh hour that the whole extra burden of the work was put on to the Ministry of Food, and we had to appoint our own local milk officers all over the country. In those circumstances, I think the hon Member will probably be prepared to agree that we have not done so badly, after all.

The hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) asked whether I considered that the system by which at the Ministry of Food trade directors are concerned in the various industries is a good one. After a couple of months' experience, I must say, quite frankly, that I do. These trade directors are executive officers who carry out the policy laid down by the Minister, and report to him through the civil servants. They know the trade and they give excellent advice; they are technical experts, but they are not actually in control, and they do not decide policy. As far as I can see, the system works extremely well; there is remarkable team work at the Ministry between the civil servants and the trade directors, and everybody gets on very well. The hon. Member also asked me about subsidies. The figures which I gave took no account of any new prices to farmers that have been decided upon, or that may be decided upon. I cannot yet say what effect these increases in price will have either on subsidies or on retail prices. That is all still in the melting pot, as it were, and has to be considered.

With regard to the tea ration, I repeat the assurance of my Noble Friend, which he asked me to give to the House this afternoon, that he hopes, and I think I may add, expects, to be able to increase the general tea ration before the winter months begin. Unless things go badly, no doubt we shall be able to do this, and if we can do it, we will. There are practical objections to differentiating between different classes of workers for the purpose of the tea ration which appear to us at the moment to be insuperable. Therefore, I ask the general public to bear this ration, which we known to be hard and to press hardly upon many classes of the people, with such fortitude as they can command for the next few critical weeks—perhaps two or three months—and then, if things go well, we will do our very best to make an increase in the general ration. Hon. Members will readily realise that there are great objections to, as well as great difficulties in, segregating particular classes of workers, such as, say, bakers or miners—and giving them an extra ration; and according to my information, the workers' representatives; themselves do not favour such a step. It is felt more desirable to wait until we are able to increase the general ration.

Mr. G. Griffiths

Does the Minister know that under an Act of Parliament miners are not allowed to take any alcoholic beverage down a mine? That is something which does not apply to bakers.

Mr. Boothby

I realise that, but I am afraid that the objections from a practical administrative point of view remain very great indeed at the moment. I would gladly have spoken for another half hour, but my right hon. and gallant Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has something to do, and I believe I have given him almost too little time in which to achieve his objective. Therefore, I conclude by repeating my thanks to the House for the very kind reception they have given me.

Mr. David Adams

Will the Parliamentary Secretary be good enough to tell us what he considers will be the effect of the reduction of £1,000,000 in the expenditure this year, as compared with last year, on the improvement of the quality of milk? If it is not convenient for him to do that now, perhaps he will write to me.

Mr. Boothby

I shall be glad to give the hon. Member the information which he requires, but it will be easier to do so by writing to him.

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.

Mr. SPEAKER then proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House this day, to put forthwith the Questions, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolutions reported in respect of Classes I to IX and the Unclassified Services of the Civil Estimates, the Revenue Departments Estimates, the Navy Estimates, the Army Estimates, and the Air Estimates."