§ Question again proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Perhaps I might repeat the picture of the investigations conducted by my friend. Out of 300 cases during that sample week, 100 men were eating dry bread and cheese and were drinking unsugared tea. The other 200 had various kinds of additions. Some had been able to get jam and some brought butter on one day. A large number were able to 760 make the bread more palatable with foods like beetroot or lettuce which they had procured from their gardens. In a very short time these additions will have come to an end. Unless steps are taken to deal with this matter in face of the third winter of war, and to provide these men with food adequate to enable them to perform the tasks which the nation asks them to undertake, the work will be physically impossible. Attention must be given to this matter.
I also had investigations made at the steel works in my constituency. I will read what my friend reported to me as a result of his investigations among the hundreds of men employed there:During my inquiries, a number of my members have informed me that they have lost weight during this summer period. Some have actually lost as much as two stone. It is obvious that these men will not be able to undertake these heavy tasks, exposed to extreme heat, unless the food they are able to get at work is considerably improved on what it is at present.The extra food which they would be pleased to obtain includes cheese, butter and bacon. Particular stress is laid among the steel workers upon the necessity of giving them more sugar. The old practice, which is still followed to a very large extend indeed, consists in making a home-made drink particularly suitable for these men, who sweat terribly at their work. They have to drink a lot, and sugar is a necessity for them.
By men at the quarry face, where I also made investigations, I was asked to impress upon the Ministry of Food the need for attention being given to these workers. Quarrymen are not allowed supplementary rations of any kind, although strong representations were made to the Ministry of Food some time ago, and I believe have been made continuously since, as well as by Questions in this House. They ought to have been granted the supplementary ration of cheese which was given to miners, but the Ministry of Food has not taken any steps so far in that direction or in giving them canteen facilities. Some of these quarries produce material upon which the steel works depend. Large quantities are required of the product which these men hew out of the mountain side. The men have to work in all kinds of weather, and require more than one change of clothing during their working time. There is very 761 little stock in hand of their product. If these quarrymen fail to maintain the supply during the coming winter months, the effect will be serious.
I spoke also to some railwaymen. They had experiences last winter which we all hope, for reasons which I need not mention, will not be repeated. It will be wise for us to take every precaution against such experiences. These men said that last winter very many of them, after joining their train, did not return home for 16 or 17 hours. That was not really very exceptional, because often in those circumstances—of which we are all aware— the trains would be held up at some point where there was no opportunity at all of getting any extra food or drink. They urged that, with the strain of these very long hours on the inadequate food which they can bring from home, this winter will be a very severe test of their health. I urge that problem too upon the Ministry. It is difficult to suggest what can be done in those cases; no canteen facilities can meet a problem of that type, for a train may be held up in the heart of a country district. They did, however, make one suggestion, and that was that when men have to work a train to some point several hours away some provision for meals ought to be made at that point. I am sure we all wish to pay a tribute to the work the railwaymen did under blitz conditions. I travel much by train, and I admire them. Surely it ought to be possible for them to be provided with a hot and sustaining meal at the end of a long journey.
I would now like to say a word or two about women workers. I know that provision is being made for hostels, and the canteen arrangements are being pushed forward, but doctors are already calling attention to the rather grim fact that during this war, as during the last, tuberculosis is on the increase—particularly among women workers. This is due to the very big strain which war throws upon them physically and psychologically, and whatever can be done to help them is of the greatest importance. They are the mothers of the nation now, and the mothers of the nation of to-morrow, and whatever can be done to promote their health ought to be done. Women from my own area, for example, who work at a factory many miles away, have to spend an hour and a half travelling to the 762 factory in the morning. There they do their eight-hour shift and then have to spend another hour and a half travelling back home. The time spent in travelling is a tremendous imposition upon, the women's physique after their eight hours' work at the factory. Generally speaking, whatever kind of meal they have at work, it will be taken roughly half-way through their shift, and the suggestion has been made that some special provision ought to be made whereby women who have to travel could have a meal at the end of the shift, before beginning the exhausting journey homewards. Something ought to be done to help.
These are the investigations I have made and the consultations I have had with colleagues on both sides of the House during the last few days. They give a very fair picture of what is taking place. I do not think it would be denied for a moment that individual rations, plus what people are able to get of unrationed food, do not enable them to take enough from their homes to sustain them and replace lost energy. Some provision, therefore, has to be made. There are only two ways of making such provision, and I will briefly discuss both. First of all, there is the one which is the official policy. It is one which, provided it can be worked successfully, I myself support very fully indeed, as do all my colleagues. It consists of arrangements whereby workers can secure meals at the place where they work, by the extension of canteen facilities. Having looked at the problem very carefully, and having consulted my colleagues in industry on this matter, I admit quite frankly that it is very difficult to meet the situation adequately by an increase in the individual rations, and that the best thing to do is to provide them with hot, sustaining meals at the place of work. We agree that that is the best method. Communal feeding is the remedy, and I want to pay a tribute to the best of the canteens which have been established at pits and factories. They are doing a first-rate job of work, and I hope they will become a permanent feature of our industrial life. I would also like to pay my tribute to what I have seen of the British Restaurants. I hope the Government and the Ministry will push on with the establishment of those restaurants, for they are introducing into the life of many of our industrial villages 763 something which I hope will never be lost, namely, an opportunity of meeting round a meal and sharing fellowship as well as food. The best of our canteens and British Restaurants are really first-rate and are a credit to all those who are responsible for them.
But now let me ask—Are the canteen facilities adequate? Here for the moment I will only deal with the miners, and I am glad that the Secretary for Mines has been able to find time to come and listen to this Debate. On Tuesday, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Norman-ton (Mr. T. Smith), he gave particulars of the position in regard to canteen facilities at coal mines, I presume right up to date. This is what he said:Of the 751 pit-head canteens already in operation or in preparation there are 16 where full meals are at present being provided."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th September, 1941; col. 454, vol. 374.]My hon. Friend did not say how many were in operation and how many in preparation, but the full number for the moment is 751, and we may assume that they are all fully in operation. Of the 751 only 16 provide hot meals. The proper way to put it, then, is that there are only 16 canteens at the coal mines of this country; the others ought not to be described as canteens. I will discuss that in a moment.
Let me now try to give a picture of the position. Figures for the number of mines in the country vary, but I think there are approximately 1,900 separate coal mines now at work. Of these 1,900 separate coal mines, employing in round figures 700,000 miners, only 751 have any communal feeding arrangements of any kind. Less than half, therefore, now have such facilities at the beginning of the third winter of war. I do not know what the rate of progress is, but those 751 have taken some months to establish, and there are only 16 of them providing hot meals. Having regard to the calls made upon the miners, each one of the 1,900 pits ought to have a canteen to give the men a hot meal, and I do not think we ought to be satisfied with less. That indicates quite clearly that the provision already made is very inadequate and that the rate of progress is very slow and I urge that it shall be speeded up in every possible way.
To deal now with the other canteens where no hot meals are provided, at the 764 pit where these investigations were made a canteen of that kind was established the following week. There are 400 men employed in the pit. The size of the building now called the canteen is 38ft. by 16ft. That is not a canteen. It is a shed. Each day, at times suitable to the men, a pie or a sausage roll is provided. That is the menu, and it does not vary. They thought they would like to vary it, and an approach was made to the suppliers that a variance of the menu occasionally would be welcome. They particularly stressed that the men would like sandwiches and were told that the allocation of meat given for this purpose was not adequate for the provision of sandwiches on one or two days per week. These workshop canteens are, if I am correctly informed, allocated supplies of meat for this purpose on the same basis as other catering establishments. I think that it is indefensible that these catering establishments at pits, steel works or wherever they are established, do not get any more than the restaurants in the cities and towns. We know that it is perfectly true; and I have heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food give the reply times without number, that it is only a pennyworth per meal that is allocated. We also know perfectly well that in this and other big towns those who can afford to go to a restaurant can get breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner every day. I urge that if we are to treat this matter of canteens seriously, we ought to provide workers with more, that there ought to be discrimination for the workers.
I have done three jobs in my life. For 17 years I worked in the pits, for almost as many years I was a trade union officer, and for some time I have been a Member of this House. I can do my job on that ration, but I could not do my job as a collier on it. No one could do it, and we are not going to get the coal on it. After ail, if you get men back to the pits, 10,000 or 20,000, it may not mean any increase in production it inadequate feeding reduces individual output. Individual output is going down. I know the figure, but I will not quote it. The Secretary for Mines will need more men than he has got to make up for inadequate feeding unless some drastic steps are taken. I urge that steps be taken. There are places where it is difficult to establish a canteen. Perhaps a pit or 765 works are small. I appreciate that it will be difficult in some of these places to find the space at the pit-head to put anything. I remember a case in which half a mountain had to be taken away to enable a playing field to be provided. You may have three or four collieries, maybe a colliery and a steel works. I do not want this matter to be considered in a watertight compartment. Often the best thing may be to provide a canteen which will serve the coal workers and the steel workers side by side. If the problem is looked at in areas where there are steel workers, tin workers and colliers, perhaps the best thing will be to establish a British Restaurant as a canteen near those places, where all these workers can get meals. Wherever canteen facilities can be provided for communal meals, that is what we want.
I admit at once that the giving of individual rations may not be a solution if this other solution is possible. Where canteens cannot be provided, and where these meals cannot be given, the problem has to be met in another way. I want to make a special plea for these heavy workers. They must get more meat, they must get more sugar, and, if it is possible, they must get more bacon. All men I talk to say that they cannot sustain health, and work eight hours in a steel furnace, sweating as they do, scraping the salt off their body at the end of the shifts, with nothing to drink except water and sugared tea, with the kind of food I have described, and with no canteen. In one area I know of no steelworks and no tinplate works which has a canteen of any kind. If any men work hard in this country, it is steel workers and tinplate workers. How they maintain production, when they do, on existing rations, is beyond me. I am satisfied that they should not be asked to go on doing so this winter unless something more is done, and I press for that to be done.
I will not detain the House further, but I think we were perfectly justified, at the approach of this third winter of the war, to urge these things upon the Government, upon the Parliamentary Secretary, upon the Ministry of Food. We have been told in the Press that something is to be done to meet this problem. The Parliamentary Secretary will probably tell us what these steps are. I hope the}' are adequate. I hope they will press on 766 with canteens, and that these will be canteens where hot meals are provided, that the rate of progress will be expedited and that, where this cannot be done, then the need shall be met by individual rations. There was a phrase used by the Prime Minister to America, when he said:Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.I say, for the workers, "Give us the food, and we will do the job."
§ Professor A. V. Hill (Cambridge University)
The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has a very strong case. He has expressed it with his usual eloquence. My purpose in rising is to make as perfectly clear as I can that scientific opinion on the subject of nutrition is wholly on the side of those who make this plea that special treatment is necessary for heavy workers. No one would think it reasonable that a 20 horse-power car and a seven horse-power car should have the same petrol ration. Nor it is reasonable that a heavy worker, working at a level of 6,000 calories a day, should have the same diet as a sedentary worker of a calory level of 2,500 a day. This argument would not be valid if the heavy worker could make up his diet on un-rationed foods, such as bread and potatoes. In fact, however, if he is to remain healthy, happy and contended, he cannot do so. It is not simply a matter of the energy value of food. It must be supplied to him in the proper form. To suggest that the heavy worker can remain really efficient, happy and healthy on the same diet as the sedentary worker plus a little extra bread is like suggesting that a Rolls-Royce can run on the same petrol as a seven horse-power car with the addition of a little coal. The particular needs of heavy workers are for a very much higher supply of condensed food, such as cheese, in one form or another. A man at the 6,000 calories per diem level, if he is not to have an undue burden placed on his digestive apparatus and consequently develop a distate for food and become inefficient, needs at east one-fifth of his energy in the form of fat. He must have 2½ lbs. of fat, in one form or another, weekly. That is impossible on the present ration. Another reason for the necessity of condensed foods is that in many cases the food must be carried by the worker. The worker cannot carry potatoes or turnips, even if he could stomach them; 767 he must have something that can be carried in a small bag or in his pocket.
We hear a great deal about vitamins. Let there be no mistake, the scientific people are under no illusion that we can replace energy by vitamins. It is true that a full supply of vitamins is necessary to everyone. There is no doubt about the importance of the discoveries in recent years of the importance of vitamins and protective foods. Only an ignoramus would suggest, however, that vitamins can replace energy in the diet of heavy workers, and only an ignoramus would suggest that we should consider only the ' crude energy value in a diet for a healthy man. There is no doubt that different nations have different dietaries. These are partly due to differences of climate, partly due to long tradition, partly due to custom and training in diet. It is no more sensible to expect the British worker to live on rice and macaroni because an Indian or Italian can do so than it is to expect the dock worker to learn to use a typewriter in a few minutes or a clerk to throw sacks weighing 1½ cwt. over his shoulder. Appetite depends on custom; without appetite, ill-health will set in and the man will become inefficient. Science does not profess to decide how the individual needs of the worker can be met; the practical man, familiar with the trade, must decide that; but there is no doubt that a heavy worker needs special rations just as a high-powered car needs more petrol than a low-powered car; and the science of nutrition must not be invoked to cover up any Ministerial deficiencies by unintelligent uniformity.
§ Mr. Mort (Swansea, East)
I listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Professor Hill), who dealt with the scientific and theoretical side of this question of the heavy worker. I want to deal with it from the practical side. I am rather disappointed that since the last Debate, when I put the point of view of the heavy steel worker from a practical standpoint, no steps have been taken to meet what I consider a very grave situation. I have no disrespect for theories— in fact, I welcome them. But I worked for 25 years in a steel works. On practical experience during the last war and 768 on what I know is happening now, I say that if we do not meet the situation in some way there is going to be a serious breakdown in the health of the steel worker. The tinplate worker and the steel worker, working in terrific heat all day, expend more physical energy in eight hours than we do in as many months. Yet there is the stupid system by which we can procure the things which are absolutely imperative for these people if they are to maintain their physical standard. Take the question, referred to by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), of making all these soft drinks —we in Wales call them "small beer." They are absolutely necessary. You cannot work eight hours and just drink water all the time—you will get cramp and a diseased system.
I know it is very difficult to provide canteens in order to supply the steel workers with food. The steel worker is like the soldier: he cannot leave his job. He does not get regular meal hours. I have sat down to breakfast at half past six in the morning, because I knew it would be my only opportunity. I like the idea put forward by the hon. Member for Llanelly. In my own town, if we had a good restaurant where all these workers could go for food that would be a fine solution. I do not think it would be practicable to establish canteens for the tinplate worker and the steel worker in the works. I make a special appeal for extra sugar, and also for extra meat. These men are patriotically doing their job. I remember the time when the Minister of Labour was called the "Dockers' K.C.," and he showed the importance of food for such workers. I hope that the appeals made to-day will benefit my friends who are still in the steel trade. This month there is a letter to the Ministry of Food in the journal of the trade union with which I am connected, making an appeal which I know is sincere. I trust that we shall have some small concession in the direction I have indicated.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Major Lloyd George)
I think it will be to the advantage of the House if I now indicate our attitude on the views put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). Before I come to the specific matters which have been raised, however, it would perhaps not be out of place if I made 769 a brief reference to the actual situation at this time, particularly as we are at the end of two years of war. This bears on what my hon. Friend has said. Personally, I was very grateful to him for the way in which he put his case.
Until last summer there was no noticeable shortage. Continental supplies were still available, and our shipping losses were not serious compared to what they have since become. Of course, with the collapse of France the position altered. As the Prime Minister indicated to us on Tuesday, the losses were then very much greater and, what was more serious to us, we lost our Continental sources of supply. This has a great bearing on the problem we are discussing to-day. The loss of our Continental sources of supply meant that we were deprived of about four-fifths of our imported bacon, nearly three-quarters of our imported butter, more than two-thirds of our imported eggs, and seven-eighths of our imported condensed milk—all very important items to this country. And, of course, as was pointed out yesterday, our shipping losses were greatly increased. My Noble Friend has indicated that at one time so serious had these losses become that they gave cause for real anxiety at the Ministry of Food. This anxiety was not confined to the secondary products, but, indeed, was even extended to some of the staple commodities, and we had at that particular time to concentrate, to the exclusion of almost everything else, upon building up all those staple commodities to a position that might be considered fairly safe. That inevitably meant less importation of the secondary products. I am glad once more to be able to reassure the House in regard to our position on these staple commodities. We are, in practically every instance, better off, with regard to these staple commodities, than we were not only last year or the year before, but, in some cases, before the war. No one can possibly foresee what the future has in store for us, but whatever the future has in store and whatever our trials may be, we can at least say that at this moment we are in a better position to withstand those trials than we thought possible a few months ago.
We are, therefore, in a position at the moment to concentrate once again upon trying to supply ourselves with those things which we have had to go without for so 770 long. To be able to make a scheme of fair distribution of the secondary products really workable it is essential that our supplies shall be adequate to that scheme. Thanks to the improved situation in the Atlantic and the very generous assistance that has been extended to us from North America, we are now in a position to deal with this difficult question. The House will remember that just before the Recess I indicated that we would be in a position shortly to reproduce a scheme that would deal with the very difficult question of what are known as the unrationed commodities. I am now in a position to say that a very important extension will, in fact, be introduced in the middle of November, and I have every hope that this scheme will reduce the difficulties, not only of the housewife, but of the canteens about which we have been talking to-day.
With regard to the future, I can only say that, considering that we are at the beginning of the third year of war, and considering the intensity of the attack which has been directed against us, the position is highly satisfactory. The stocks of essentials, as I have indicated, are good but let us not make any mistake about it, these hard-earned stocks must be treated as our insurance. Let no one imagine, good as the position may be, and despite the extremely generous assistance we are getting from North America—assistance, I know, which we shall continue to receive in increasing quantities—that we shall not have to go without a good many of the things to which we had been accustomed before the war. That, of course, is inevitable, but we can say that we are the only belligerent country at the beginning of the third year of war that has increased its rationing—the only one.
On 7th July last we increased our meat ration by 16 per cent. I believe that at that time, or just afterwards, the Germans reduced theirs. We have increased the cheese ration, and in the near future—in November—it will be possible for us to increase both the sugar ration and the fat ration and to maintain them, in the absence of any unpleasant, unforeseen developments, at any rate until March; that being the period when it is considered, owing to the additional strain of black-out and so forth, that it is most important for our people to have them. From 17th November the domestic fat ration will be increased by 25 per cent., 771 that is, from eight ounces, at which it is to-day, to 10 ounces. May I say, in passing, that that brings us very nearly to the average usage of these fats before the war? This is due to the arrival of large quantities of lard from America. The sugar ration—that is, the domestic sugar ration—will be increased by 50 per cent.— and thus will rise from eight ounces, as it is now, to 12 ounces.
The dried fruit position is a very much better one, and that will be a substantial supplement to the domestic rations.
I now come to the question which has been the subject of this discussion to-day —that of a supplementary ration for those workers who are engaged in our heavy industries. The House will remember that the policy of the Government has been hitherto to allow the maximum possible rations for all consumers generally rather than to give a supplementary ration to particular classes at the expense of the rest of the community. After very careful examination of all the facts, and after obtaining all the advice that is open to us—and I would like to pay my tribute and to express my gratitude for the help we have received from the Committee which has been expressly delegated by the T.U.C. to help us in all these questions—it is not proposed to alter that policy. This certainly does not mean that we do not accept the need for a supplement to the rations of those men and women who are engaged in this very important work at the present time.
My hon. Friend in his opening remarks referred to the fact of how much we depended upon production and how much production depended upon the workers being adequately fed. I do not quarrel with any of these words. Therefore, we accept the need for a supplement to the rations of certain types of workpeople. My hon. Friend, speaking some days ago in the country, said that, if there was anything extra going, it should be directed to those places where we thought the need was greatest. There is no question whatever where those places are. There is also no question that the added strain of war and the demand for increased production make the dietary requirements of certain workers higher now than they were in peace time. To meet this we have encouraged the setting up of the canteens and British Restaurants as much 772 as possible, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the tribute he paid to those that have been set up. I myself have had to go to many of them and I am personally very struck with them.
Our aim is to secure that workers should take at least one full meal in the day at their work. A great deal has been done to provide canteens for this; they cover not only workers in factories but among others dockers, and while we must pay a tribute to railwaymen and others I think we ought to recognise the valuable work done by the dockers of this country, who save a great deal of shipping by the speed of their turn-round. Therefore, we were sorry to find that some of these facilities for dockers were extremely poor, but so far as they are concerned over 150 canteens are now available, with 15 mobile canteens in addition. Also, there are 52 in the course of preparation, which makes a very great improvement in the situation as it was a few months ago. There are also canteens for Civil Defence workers, Home Guard, fire brigade and police, and they serve something like 4,000,000 meals a week. There are, of course, school canteens, feeding centres and air-raid shelter canteens, with which I will not deal to-day. There are at this moment, however, something like 15,000 canteens which provide 16,000,000 meals a week, apart from hot beverages. The number of hot beverages per week is about 45,000,000.
My hon. Friend referred to the rate of progress, and I can assure him it can never be too fast for myself. I am glad to say that in the last six months canteens have been appearing at the rate of no per month, and the pace is accelerating. Like so many new things, the pace was slow at the start. British Restaurants took a long time before they caught on, but once they do catch on and people realise their advantage the pace is accelerated. There are now over 1,000 British Restaurants, and I need not tell the House how good they are, because so many hon. Members have seen them and some have had meals in them. These restaurants serve 1,000,000 meals per week, and when you come to the ordinary restaurants, tea shops and cafes, there is the additional figure of 35,000,000 a week. Taking them all together, we estimate that there are something like 12,000,000 meals a day served in this country outside the 773 home—in other words, off the ordinary ration. There is no doubt at all that these canteens are serving a most important purpose in our national life to-day. My hon. Friend opposite referred to a survey which was made recently—
Major Lloyd George
Obviously, if you take small numbers you cannot generalise too much, but I want to refer to a survey which was made the other day, involving 1,000 people. Each had one meal at some place outside their home, and the result was that where they could go outside to have this extra meal the existing scale of rations was sufficient to provide a diet considerably higher than that enjoyed by the same group before the war. I am not saying, however, that that would apply to all cases. The needs of other special classes are receiving our attention as they arise.
For instance, the question of transport drivers on trunk roads is now being considered. These men perform a most useful and important service to this country, and we felt that it was essential to give them special consideration. It was found a short time ago that transport cafes were not aware of the Ministry's regulations on this matter and did not apply for the quantities of food to which they were entitled. Steps have been taken to put that matter right, and with the help of the Ministry of War Transport we intend to make provision for increasing food supplies to a limited number of transport cafes on the main trunk roads, thus ensuring that these workers, especially those connected with night driving, have adequate facilities for obtaining suitable food.
Of all the special provisions that have to be made, one of the most difficult is for mine workers. We have co-operation in this matter from my hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines, the Miners' Welfare Commission, my hon. Friend opposite and especially from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Nottingham (Sir F. Sykes), who has given us every possible assistance with this project. With this co-operation, canteens for mine workers are being provided at a rate which very few thought possible when the scheme was suggested. The latest figures I have show that provision 774 has actually been made for 47 per cent. of miners engaged on mining and that with those under consideration up to last month the figure had risen to 84 per cent. of the total number of miners in this country. I am, however, far from suggesting that provision in all these canteens is adequate. I have heard about canteens which provide only mineral waters, tea and buns. This obviously is not adequate, but now that the principle of the canteen has been accepted our duty is to provide these meals, and we have every intention of encouraging not only facilities but adequate facilities for as many industries of this country as we can. We are aware that there are other needs in other industries. For instance, I am told that in certain pits there are different local needs, and we are prepared to try and meet these needs as they arise. The other difficulty apart from the mine worker is food for the agricultural worker, but from experiments which we have conducted this summer we hope to be able to do something in the light of the experience we have gained.
I have said that our policy is to direct any extra food that is available to those people who, in our opinion, need it most. I cannot at this stage commit myself definitely to precise figures, but I can say that, as long as the present supply situation continues, we hope it will be practicable to allocate to canteens, according to priorities to be decided upon in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, substantially increased quantities of certain foods. Any establishment, whether it be a canteen or anything else, that provides meals for essential workers will be treated in the same way. It is important to say that because, in a place like London, an enormous number of workpeople use the ordinary restaurants and catering establishments for food. I would not be surprised if in London a majority of the workpeople used these establishments.
With regard to the canteens in the first priority category, which will be decided in consultation with my right hon. Friend, I suggest that those establishments would embrace the industries engaged in the heaviest form of labour. In these canteens we hope to double the meat allocation and treble the sugar allocation. For other industrial canteens where the work 775 is not so heavy, the meat allocation will be increased by 50 per cent. over the existing allocation and the sugar allocation will be doubled. Further, we hope to be in a position to make available increased supplies of bacon and ham, cooking fats, and, if supplies permit, a supply of processed eggs. As for those canteens from which the workers get packed meals—and I think this will meet the points raised by the hon. Member, because it was about men actually at work that he was speaking—if it is possible for us, and I think it is, to arrange for a proper supply of commodities for packing purposes, this should meet the position at those particular places to which the hon. Member referred. For these purposes we have to make a special allocation of preserves and to increase the allocation of butter and margarine. A special feature of our revised arrangements which will be of particular interest to some hon. Members is that we intend, if possible, to increase the amount of the special allowance of sugar that is made to workers in some of the heavy industries. With regard to cheese, it may be possible, in the first priority canteens to increase the present allowance, which is, I think, one-tenth of an ounce a meal. Briefly, those are our proposals. The House knows that there is at the moment no restriction on the supply of tea, and we hope to continue that arrangement. We shall be able to make these improvements without decreasing the allowance to other catering establishments which will not be eligible for preferential treatment. I want to make it clear that the preferential treatment is given only to the two categories, the very heavy and the other industrial workers.
I have dealt with the main point of to-day's Debate, but I would like to say a few words about another section of the community which must not be forgotten. The Debate has been concerned mainly—and quite rightly—with the workers, but we have to think of the future as well as of the present. In my opinion, it would be most lamentable if the war were to lead to malnutrition of our children. My Noble Friend is determined that this shall not happen. Reference has been made to the mothers. I do not need to remind the House that the children of to-day are the ones who will have to reconstruct the country, and we 776 must see to it that they do not suffer as a result of the war.
I suppose that the task of the Ministry is, primarily to see that this country is fed during the war, but I am glad that we do not restrict our activities to that immediate problem. I hope that many of the things that have been initiated by the Ministry of Food will remain with us after the war is over. It is my opinion that if canteens remain with us after the war, the experiments we are now making will have been well worth while. The National Milk Scheme, which provides free and cheap milk for mothers and children, has completely justified itself; and may I add, in passing, that there has been an enormously increased sale of milk among the workers, which is a very useful addition to the diet. Where there are no feeding facilities in the schools, many children are taking their meals at adjoining British Restaurants; surely, this points the way to further developments. There has recently been correspondence in the Press with regard to school feeding. I do not want to anticipate pronouncements that will have to be made on the subject in the near future, but I can assure the House that the possibility of developing meals in schools is receiving the most urgent and sympathetic consideration of my Noble Friend and. the President of the Board of Education.
I do not want to refer to any other topics to-day. I knew that the House was particularly anxious to have some pronouncement on this matter. If I am asked for details as to time, I shall have to reply that the decisions have been come to and that no time will be lost in putting these proposals into operation. I believe that when the advantages to be obtained from canteens are known, adequate ones will be supplied. Our particular job is to see that there is something in those canteens, and we have every intention of seeing that there is something in them. I very much hope that, as a result of the little extra inducement which we are able to give, there will be a real movement forward. We do not want pseudo-canteens, but places that are adequate to the needs of the industries. Our main purpose is to provide for the people of this country in such a way as to see them through the present crisis, but I am glad to think that we can still find time to deal with things 777 which, while being essential for the life of the country to-day, will have also a permanent effect on the future.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
We have heard two speeches in the House this week which have given great happiness and a sense of strength to our nation, and confounded or dismayed our enemies. On Tuesday we heard the speech of the Prime Minister, and we have just heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food a speech on the subject of food which, coming at a time when we are entering the third year of the war, is most satisfactory. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary is right when he says that ours is the only country in Europe which has improved the food situation of its people.
I want my right hon. and gallant Friend to recognise the special position of miners. Much has been said about canteens, and let me say at the outset that I am all for canteens where those canteens provide a full meal. However, as things are at the moment, I have no brief for canteens which merely hand out a pie, a sausage roll, or food of that description. Miners, in Northumberland, desire a full meal when they come out of the pits, and it is no good giving our men a sausage roll. I heard a sausage roll described at a conference as something which is most mysterious. It was said on that occasion that with the first bite you are an inch short of the sausage, and with the next bite you are an inch past it. That is how our men feel about the sausage roll. I strongly support my right hon. and gallant Friend and his Minister in their intention to provide extra meals, meat and sugar and those other commodities which were mentioned, but in the meantime what is the intention until the canteens have been provided? Do the men have to continue to buy these sausages and meat pies? It is true that great progress is being made and much examination is taking place, but it is my firm conviction that canteens providing full meals will not be available for the mining areas during the winter. The winter is a most important part of the year, especially when we consider the severity of the miner's work and his lack of sunshine. Undoubtedly this must have a great effect on output.
778 I saw a man the cither day who told me that in 15 months he had lost one stone and three-quarters in weight. At a conference he asked a lady who was an expert on the subject if she could recommend any vitamin tablets to make up for his loss of sunshine. I am not an expert on this subject myself, but I think she recommended vitamins A and C. The remarkable thing is that by taking these tablets he has gained half a stone. This is not an isolated case, because two of the four men who work beside him also took the tablets, and gained three pounds within six weeks. I merely put that for ward to show that loss of sunshine during the winter is a very important factor in the life of a miner. In some colliery districts 9,000 to 10,000 pies are being delivered daily. I want to ask my right hon. and gallant Friend whether he thinks it is wise, at a time when we shall be using a small comb to find every man and woman for industry, that we should be employing large numbers of people to make these pies. Does he think it wise that we should be using numbers of motor vehicles and large quantities of petrol to transport these pies over a considerable distance to the mines? Would it not be much more advisable to give an additional pennyworth of rationed food to the miner's household? That would avoid all this labour, and the housewife would be able to provide two extra meals. Such a scheme would go a considerable way towards bridging the gap, and much labour and expense would be saved.
I put that forward as a practical suggestion until such time as we get the canteens. When we have the canteens supplying a full meal I shall be all for them. I wish to goodness people would recognise that miners are not Ishmaels of society and men who come from a class of forgotten beings. They are a body and class of people comparable with any class in any part of the world. They should be treated as such, and should not be given pies for a meal. It might be argued that if extra rations are given to the households the rest of the family will benefit. But that is not so in the case of cheese. Surely what was applicable in the case of cheese should be applicable' in the case of meat. I have made some investigations among miners, women and shipyard workers who are employed in areas where there are no canteens. My investigation has been in only two quarters, the man 779 and his wife, and the struggle and strain of the womenfolk trying to keep their men going fit and well is almost impossible. I was in the house last week-end of a very fine type of family, a county councillor, a man who is all for winning the war, as anyone with any brains ought to be. On the Sunday they had a bit of meat. On Monday it was cold, and it went. They then had to do tricks with the bone, and with a 1s. 2d. ration you need not boil a bone many times to get all the sustenance in the form of soup that you require.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has had another problem recently, so great that it is not solved yet. It is in regard to eggs. They tell you how many you are going to get in October and November. Your principle in regard to eggs is that no one shall have two until everybody has had one, and it is a sound, commendable principle. But I come to London week by week, and I can have my two or three meat meals if I want them. I do not have them, but I could. In the name of goodness, is it right that those who consume from 100 to 300 calories a day should be able to get one or two meat meals while those consuming 800 and doing the heavy work of the nation are unable to get one each day?
Major Lloyd George
I am trying to give to these workers the same facilities as are enjoyed by the hon. Member himself.
§ Mr. Taylor
I appreciate that. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman holds one of the most honoured posts in the country. I cannot imagine any man refusing to be Food Minister during wartime, recognising that food is the thing which will maintain our morale and help us to win through by producing the weapons of war that we need. I know the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is going to do that, but until he is in a position to provide the full meal that I am asking for I am asking that the heavy worker may have his ration where he can take full advantage of it.
There seems to be some trouble at the moment in regard to canteens. The Ministry was going to give priority for certain unrationed goods. People who have tendered for pit canteens have been informed that they are only to have 50 per cent. They were to have 100 per 780 cent. of biscuits, cake, cocoa, butter, coffee essence, juices, syrups, squashes, starch foods, cornflour, custard powder, blancmange powder, chocolate, sugar and confectionery. Now they are given to understand that the 100 per cent. will only apply to biscuits, cakes, flour, confectionery and starch foods. The right hon. Gentleman ought to look into that, and I daresay he is doing it because representations have been made. Suppose a co-operative society tenders to supply these foods to a canteen against a business firm of equal size and the co-operative society gets the tender. The 50 per cent. that has been withdrawn from this list will have to be made up to the canteen because the society has contracted to supply 100 per cent. The 50 per cent. will have to come out of the stocks of the co-operative society and it can only come from what the members are entitled to in the ordinary way of business. When members go to the society and are not able to get these things, the next logical step is for them to go where they can get them. That may be to the business firm that did not get the tender. If they can get these articles there they may be tempted to register there for rationed goods. I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman with his unfailing courtesy will look into this matter.
We are all tremendously pleased with what we have heard from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to-day. When at the end of two years of war, when Hitler had expected to win the Battle of the Atlantic and we had lost the Continental sources of supply, and when, thanks to the men in the Navy and Mercantile Marine, and our railway and road transport men, we can hear a statement that we are in a better position than eighteen months ago, we are all tremendously glad. I would emphasise that there are certain workers in the country on whom our life depends, the men who are doing the heavy work providing the raw materials which go to centres of manufacture, where they are turned into the necessary implements of war, and that unless we can give these men the necessary energy through food we shall not accomplish the object we have in mind. My earnest plea to the Minister is to get on with the canteens for providing full meals and until they can be provided to give extra rations to those who need them.
§ Lieutenant Butcher (Holland-with-Boston)
The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who opened the Debate, struck the right note when he said that production was the key to victory. That should be the motto for Government Departments such as the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Supply. There are other Departments, notably the one which engaged the attention of the House yesterday, the Treasury, which would claim that conservation was one of the keys to victory as well, and the Ministry of Food might well approach the subject along that line. Therefore, there was great satisfaction in all quarters of the House at the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary to-day. We owe a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Llanelly for the survey which he made and for his references to the hard and heavy workers. The only difficulty is where to define the line between the heavy workers and the light workers, because not only the task on which a man is engaged but the question whether he is accustomed to do it has to be considered. Experts in time and motion study would tell us that more energy can be used by one man in performing a job in the wrong way than by another in doing the same job in the right way.
We have great cause to congratulate ourselves on the circumstances that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary was able to outline and on the fact that we are better off or, as he said, better able to withstand the trials that may come to us than we have been before. That is a great achievement of which he and his Noble Friend can be proud and for which the country will be grateful. The increases which he mentioned will be received with great satisfaction throughout the country. My only fear is that in connection with the important changes in unrationed commodities which will take place in the middle of November there will be anticipatory buying during the next six weeks. We do not want there to be a rush on those commodities which may come under the scheme. The increase in fats of 25 per cent. and in sugar of 50 per cent. is interesting, because it will bring the rations for the civilian population close to the Service rations which were published in Tuesday's OFFICIAL REPORT. The task of fairly 782 sharing food in war-time is not really one of a contrast between the rich and the poor. The rich, of course, have certain advantages, but the main contrast is between those who are able to feed out off the rations and those who have to feed in. The country doctor and his wife and the farmworker and his wife constitute one section with particular problems, whereas the wealthy club man and the worker at a factory with a good canteen are in a different category, with difficulties less acute.
There must be some closer approximation to equality. That could only be done by the extension of one of two systems—either an extension of the coupon system in which meals eaten out must come off the ration, or the extension of the canteen or restaurant system to all classes of the community in all parts of the country. I think that the Ministry has taken the right point of view. Food produced and prepared in quantity is likely to be better served and will conserve transport, labour and fuel and provide greater variety than is possible by increasing the individual rations. Therefore, I think the Government are wise to push ahead with this policy of communal feeding. The decision to give increased food to these canteens will assist the formation of canteens.
Let me give a brief personal experience of a small business with which I am connected. We decided last winter to establish a canteen for the 60 or 70 people working there. It serves a hot midday meal of two courses for 8d., I think, and it has been well patronised and is popular; but how to provide the meal for the last day in the week has always been a headache for the manageress of that little canteen. She starts off easily on the Monday with butcher's meat, and on Tuesday gets fish. On Wednesday and Thursday conditions are not easy, perhaps, but the greatest problem is how to get the food for Friday within the price limit. The announcement that more food will be available for canteens will in itself assist in bringing more canteens into being.
I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, when he reviews the problem of the agricultural worker, will not concern himself entirely with the holders of agricultural workers' cards, but will remember also other heavy workers in agricultural districts. A fort- 783 night ago I was on leave in my constituency and went into a village smithy. As is not unusual, the problems of food and drink were discussed, and I pass this point on to the Parliamentary Secretary in the hope that he will be able to do something about it. An agricultural worker, who gets an extra ration of cheese, eats his cheese at mid-day under the hedge. The village blacksmith eats his meat meal at home at mid-day. The agricultural worker comes home later and has his meat meal at about 5 or 5.30, but at that time there is nothing left for the blacksmith to eat save bread and butter or bread and margarine.
I see no way out of the difficulty except by an extension of the system of British Restaurants or canteen feeding, on the widest possible scale. I think we are only on the threshold of bringing this problem into relation with the new developments in our social life that are springing out of this war. Why should not the one restaurant be available for hot meals for all schoolchildren, and at other times for the workers as they leave work? It could also be available in the evening as a place to which a wife and husband who are both at work could go for a meal, instead of having to prepare a meal at home after their day's work.
If that system can be pushed forward, and I believe it can, we shall cover the needs of a large part of the community, although there will still remain the problem of the outlying districts in the agricultural areas. I do not think we can ever get a permanent and perfect solution of that problem, but there are in this country mobile canteens provided, in some cases by America, notably through the generosity of Mr. Henry Ford and his son. These canteens—mobile travelling food vans, I think they are, rather than canteens—go into districts after a raid, when no cooking facilities are available, carrying hot meals in insulated containers. We are not now getting as many raids as we were, and I wonder whether we could not use these travelling food vans to serve outlying districts and works and pits where facilities for obtaining meals are not available at the moment, but on the clear understanding that* if any town does have a heavy raid then, on that day the workers in these outlying districts or pits will not get a visit from the van.
784 There will be widespread satisfaction with the statement which has been made by my right hon. and gallant Friend. I think the Ministry are working along the right lines, but I hope that in considering the claims, which have been pressed very strongly, and rightly so, for more food for heavy workers, we shall not forget the need for food conservation and above all for the conservation of our shipping resources. Let us not start to be extravagant because we have run into a good patch. Let us imitate the squirrel and store a proportion of our food, so that if we again run into those surprises of war which the Prime Minister has warned us are nearly always unpleasant, we shall have something in the locker; and that if a large amount of shipping is needed for offensive operations over seas we shall have stored here such quantities of food that we shall be able for a time to free the maximum amount of shipping for the transport of Forces and munitions over seas. The promise of a bigger and better Christmas dinner will be welcomed by all, but I am sure that I am interpreting the thoughts and the wishes of the people of this country when I say that they are willing to wait for the normal Christmas dinner until they can eat it later on with the fruits of victory.
§ Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)
I wish to express my appreciation of the statement which has been made by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food. It is a matter for satisfaction that in the very difficult times through which we are passing, and have been passing for the past two years, no one in this country is actually going hungry. That is not due entirely to the efforts of the Ministry of Food, although they have played a great part in that respect, for in this connection we must pay a tribute to the Royal Navy and to our Merchant Navy. Whilst it is an established fact that no one is going hungry, and whilst we all appreciate the efforts which have been made to feed our community in these difficult and exceptional times, I feel that something more should be done to sustain the physical energy of the heavy workers. The way to achieve this is by extending the number of canteens and creating the psychology of communal feeding in the workshops, among the miners and among our heavy industrial workers. 785 During the recent recess I, in common with other hon. Members, have had the privilege of visiting canteens at aircraft factories and at collieries, and I have been really thrilled by the facilities which have been provided for the workers there, but the point I wish to make is that the pace which has been set in inculcation of the principle of communal feeding ought to be intensified.
There should be more momentum by the Government Departments concerned, in bringing canteen facilities to a greater body of industrial workers. In reply to a Question the other day, the Secretary for Mines had to say that there were only 16 or 17 canteens in the mining industry that were serving hot meals, and I was amazed to hear that information. The experience of my hon. Friend and myself when we visited a colliery canteen in the Yorkshire coalfield impressed us very much with the value of canteens to the workers concerned. I would impress upon the Ministers who are responsible for extending such facilities that more canteens should be established in industrial works; I refer particularly to the mines. I have had experience in recent weeks at certain pits, where men are going to work provided only with dry bread. The facilities, which have been established only in small measure, should be extended. The difficulties and hardships imposed upon our men would thus be overcome, and the men would be better fitted for their work and more capable of producing the coal which is so much needed at this time. I make a special appeal to the Secretary for Mines to expedite this matter, hot at some distant future but at this moment, because the need for the establishment of canteens wherever possible is urgent.
During my visit to the factory to which I have referred I was amazed at the canteen facilities provided. At about half-past 12 I had the pleasure of seeing at least 600 people at one time, the greater number of them women, sitting down to a well-prepared, well-cooked and substantial meal. I wish that could be done in the mining industry in greater measure than at the present time. I have no doubt that the output per man-shift would be considerably increased in that event. There is unanimity in every part of the House about the desirability of canteens and communal feeding. There appears to be no difference of opinion on this 786 matter, and I therefore stress the importance of providing the maximum feeding facilities for workers in heavy industries. I urge this with all the power of which I am capable, in order to get increased tempo, particularly in the mining industry, in the establishment of canteen facilities. The extension of communal feeding will not only be of direct benefit to individual workers, and to the nation by way of increased productivity, but will benefit the wives, who will be relieved of the anxieties and hardships which they experience in making provision for the feeding of their men and their families, in these days of short rations.
My last point is addressed to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food. I hope that, in the changes he has proposed for workers in heavy industry, there will not be differentiation among different types of workers in the same industry. When the cheese ration was increased for underground workers, it was a mistake not to apply it universally over the general body of colliery workers. Great dissatisfaction was caused, and much confusion, among men working not only in the same industry but in the same pit. I hope that that kind of mistake will not be made in future. I appeal to the Ministers concerned to do all they can to increase the canteen facilities which are already in existence, so that people who are contributing very much to the national war effort will get the maximum possible food. These workers will show their appreciation of such treatment by giving increased productivity.
Mr. Robertson (Streatham)
I would like to add my word of appreciation to the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Food for the very interesting statement which he gave us to-day of the food position of the country. We have heard a good deal about industrial canteens. In connection with my stop-gap representation of Peebles and South Midlothian, I visited Edinburgh on Friday and saw a canteen in a training centre for women. They came from all walks of life and were being trained to operate machine tools and on completion of the course, their services were in demand for munition making. An excellent canteen is run by an outside caterer. A meal consisting of hot broth, a meat course, and two vegetables was being served and the girls who were taking it seemed to be enjoying 787 it, and I felt I would like to join them. Many more girls, however, were not taking the meal, but were having tea and buns. I thought this was most distressing. The girls had been working from 8 in the morning and now had an hour's break, and they were to go on working until 5 or 6 at night. Other girls had brought in their own meal, a piece and a flask of tea.
I wondered whether this was due to lack of money, but I was assured that these girls were receiving 38s. per week, which is still a fairly good income in Scotland for a girl who has only to keep herself. I do not think lack of money prevents these girls from taking the good meat meal which they should have been enjoying. I draw the attention of the Minister to this matter in the hope that something can be done. Human nature being what it is, it is going to be rather difficult to overcome that difficulty, but I think all of us here in the House should take steps to ventilate it and see that where good meals are provided advantage is taken of them.
We have heard about miners' canteens. Last Saturday I went to a colliery in the second largest coalfield in Scotland, North Midlothian, and saw a canteen there. The men, I am told, are making full use of it, but unhappily the meagre rations supplied by the Ministry of Food are, in my view, causing the enterprise to fail, almost if not entirely. The Government's purpose is to give to the heavy manual worker more rationed meats. In that canteen he was getting more bread. True, he was getting a spread of cheese on one day, beef on another, and on the third day he had polony sausage. The day I was there was polony sausage day, and although in the plentiful days of peace a polony sausage was a good variety of food, in the restricted days of war it is not. I asked if the men liked it, and I was told that it was the one thing they did not like very well. The canteen had been open only about a fortnight, and I am perfectly certain that their dislike will become so intense that the canteen will not be able to sell the polony sausage, because these very intelligent men, as my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) said, realise that polony sausage to-day is about 5 per cent. old sow and 95 per cent. bread. To put that between two chunks of bread 788 is not to give the miner what the Government want him to have, and what we all know he must have if he is to carry on his heavy work producing coal for the nation's war effort. I pointed that out to the canteen manager, and being a kind of caterer myself suggested that it could be improved. He agreed with me, but said they always came up against the difficulty that they could not get rationed foods. The contract had been given to the local co-operative society, and I am perfectly certain that the society is passing on to the canteen what is obtained.
Is it beyond the powers of the Department to improve that position? Is it impossible to give more food, and to cook it? Would it be impossible to give soup every day, either broth, pea soup or lentil soup, and supplement it one day with roast beef, another with boiled beef, another with fish, another with sausages and onions, and further would it be impossible to serve it down the pit? We had very little notice of this Debate—at least hon. Members on this side were only told yesterday—and I did not have much time to carry my investigation any further. But I telephoned to the managing director of this colliery company last night, and asked him if he would be agreeable to conducting an experiment, always provided that the Ministry of Food gave the necessary provisions, designed to see whether meals could be served down the pit. He said he certainly would; it might be difficult, but he would be very pleased to try it.
§ Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)
That is very interesting, but the men are working a couple of miles away from each other and from the bottom of the pit. Are you going to send the food in a tub or what? It is an impossibility.
Naturally I pay a great deal of attention to what my hon. Friend says in regard to mining, and I am simply putting up my own views. But I have the honour to be the chairman of a catering company, and we have supplied hot meals to offices and other places outside. We were told before we started that it was difficult if not impossible, but in these days we are getting used to doing the impossible. I have been down this pit; there is a fine cage which takes us down to the bottom, 3,000 feet below the surface of the ground; there 789 are tubs which run empty from the cage to bring the coal won from the face back to the shaft. Is it impossible to send food, in heated containers, down to the men? They are working, I agree, but they have to stop for a meal. I have been with them in the galleries when they have been sitting and eating their "piece"; that "piece" was all right in the days before the war, when they could go back home at night and have a fine substantial meal of boiled beef and carrots or any other substantial food, but they cannot do that to-day. Miners have told me that there was nothing in the shape of rationed foods left in their homes after Wednesday. But they have to work after Wednesday. We want coal after Wednesday, and the answer is polony sausage. You will not get coal with that kind of thing, and I submit to my hon. Friend who is so expert in mining, and to the other mining Members, that it is worth trying. I want to make this offer to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. The colliery company is willing that the experiment should be carried out. If no better caterer could be found, I should be very pleased to go and give a week of my time to organising the cooking of hot meals in the canteen and supplying them hot—two courses at 9d., which I believe would cover it—to the men down below, who are now paying 6d. for something which is almost valueless.
I will not prolong this discussion in regard to mining, I may get into depths which are beyond me, but I would like to say a word in regard to British Restaurants. When these were first conceived, the idea, as I understood it, was that they were to make up for deficiencies in cooking in the home caused by enemy action—gas being cut off, transport or houses being bombed. They were to be a bomb-damage feeding arrangement, something to take the place of the house but not that of the caterer. What is happening, however, is that the British Restaurant scheme is moving away altogether from its original functions, and to-day British Restaurants are competing with a sadly-harassed catering trade. My right hon. and gallant Friend, in his speech, told us how these British Restaurants and communal feeding centres are doing a great work, and then he let the cat out of the bag when he said that they are supplying only 1,000,000 meals a week, while other 790 caterers are supplying 35,000,000 meals a week. It is only scratching the surface. [An HON. MEMBER: "Then what are you grumbling about?"] My answer to my hon. Friend is that the caterer is losing his trade. I saw one to-day in Knightsbridge; a small man doing 150 hot meals daily at lunch-time. He has lost half his trade by the opening of the British Restaurants at the bottom of Park Lane, Piccadilly and Mayfair. Half his trade has gone. The black-coated workers who frequented his restaurant are now going to the British Restaurant, where, probably, no rent is paid, no taxes are paid, and the ladies of the Women's Voluntary Service are giving their time for nothing. The only wages paid in that restaurant, I believe, go to the cook and one or two others.
Is that fair dealing? Do you expect the caterer to survive and pay his way, and pay his municipal and State taxes? This man had a rent of £200 a year before the war. I would be very pleased to give my right hon. and gallant Friend his name and address. He went to his landlord and said that he was in a very difficult situation, many of his customers had been evacuated, and he really was not able to pay the rent. The landlord, like the good fellow he is, asked him what he thought he could pay. He said he could pay £1 a week, and his rent was cut down from £200 a year to £1 a week. He began to become solvent again, and then he met the competition of this British Restaurant, with unpaid labour, no rent and rates, and naturally his custom is being taken away. That is a most unfair situation. It is a situation which I believe is developing all over the country, and while no bona fide caterer objects to the State or the municipality taking on a job which is not being done by the caterer, they do strongly object to this intrusion on the part of the municipality, which is working on favoured terms and destroying them.
At Fishmongers Hall is another British Restaurant in the heart of the much-blitzed City of London. There is not the slightest need for it. It was opened some little time ago. One would have thought that the same desire that we have heard from the Front Bench to deal with the manual worker would have been its first manifestation. Cold storage workers at Billingsgate have heavy lifts to make and in addition have to work in a very low 791 temperature. They need nourishment to make good not only the loss of energy but the loss of body heat. I asked the men how they were getting on for food, and they said "Not so bad". I asked them if they had tried the British Restaurant at Fishmongers' Hall, and they said they had not. I told them to go and try it in relays. They went, and it was not open. It did not open until 12 o'clock. The black-coated worker is being catered for very well by caterers in the City of London. There are still plenty of restaurants supplying meals at cheap prices. They have done it for years and will continue to do so when the war is over. I take is that the Fishmongers' Company is not charging rent for the premises, or rates, but there the British Restaurant is set up in opposition to all these little fellows who for years have dealt with the men at Billingsgate and other market places, railway company carmen and haulage employees. But the British Restaurant is not open to deal with them. It does not open until midday.
I approached my noble Friend on this matter and asked him to consider the opening of the British Restaurant so that these workers could be fed. He said he would look into the matter. Three of his emissaries arrived at my company's premises, apparently to see if there was any good reason for not doing it. Anybody opening a restaurant or shop has to take his chance. He has to open and hope he will attract custom by his enterprise and the food and service he gives. These men came down and said to those they visited, "You are well satisfied with existing catering facilities." They reported that on the inquiries they had made there was no need for this British Restaurant to open earlier. The workers for whom I wanted this facility begin at 6 a.m.; their working day is three hours ahead of the ordinary individual, and they finish three hours earlier. If that restaurant is to do what Parliament, I am sure, wants it to do, it must be in a position to serve them between 10 a.m. and 12. But it does not open until 12. You will never get business by taking a negative attitude. You have to take the reverse attitude and say, "This has been put here for you. We know you want good food, and we are out to supply it." I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will take note of my remarks with regard to this unfair com- 792 petition. I am sure my hon. Friends opposite who have fought for labour would be the first to admit how very unfair it is to a tradesman who has to pay his rent and rates and waiters, with no voluntary helpers coming in to work for nothing. No one comes to the company of which I am chairman and says that he will work for me for nothing. I do not blame them. We have a difficult job to get adequate staff to whom we offer good wages and food.
I would like before I finish to give some facts regarding the position of the small caterer from my own experience and knowledge. The company I have in mind has the name of Pearce over its restaurants. The original Pearce was one of the greatest caterers this city has ever known. After the great dock strike he was asked to take on temperance catering for the working men. His son was head of the concern I am referring to, and when he died I took his place. When war broke out one-third of our customers disappeared. We had been paying our way, but that plunged us into a loss. We went to the landlords and said that we could not afford the rent that we had contracted to pay. They met us. There are no directors' fees, no salaries. We lost £5,500 in the first year, but we kept 400 people in employment, and we served a 3-course table d'hote meal at 1s. 6d., the same price as pre-war. In the second year the loss was brought down to £2,500, but there are no dividends, and every landlord is taking 50 per cent. of the former rent. That is the story I can tell of my own little concern.. It is true of nearly every, catering concern in the City of London. I hope that the House, however anxious it may be to feed and look after the people, will bear in mind that the people have been looked after by caterers and tradesmen who are still trying to pay their way, and are still better able to give the service the country wants than the amateurs who staff the British Restaurants.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)
I am almost tempted to enter into this discussion as to the wisdom of fostering or furthering British Restaurants as compared with the difficulties that are being presented to the small caterer, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Robertson). It would take quite a long time, and I would suggest to him that 793 had he paid particular attention to the explanation of the Parliamentary Secretary a few moments ago, he would have noticed that small caterers were not only to have generous and favourable consideration, but also increased rations in the course of the next few weeks if they are actually feeding industrial workers and doing a useful job of work in connection with the war effort. But I am not disposed to follow this argument. I think he set a trap. I will not bite for the time being. We are debating to-day the utility of industrial canteens and the need to feed the industrial worker. We shall have a discussion on the other subject another day, and probably we shall reveal some of the profits that have been made in the catering trade by some of the people who at the moment are squealing at the success of the British Restaurants. I am sorry that the Secretary for Mines has left us, because I think he missed an opportunity though he will be able to read what was said by my hon. Friends the Members for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) and Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths).
I was particularly interested the other day when I heard the Secretary for Mines, in reply to a Question regarding pit-head canteens, say that out of 751 canteens that have been opened in this county only 16 can serve a good, wholesome meal, and I believe that the greater part of those are in Yorkshire. This is after several months of propaganda by the Mines Department and oceans of words by the Minister of Labour. I hope that the House will refuse to tolerate this situation for one moment longer. I hope that we shall begin to examine this question, and I hope we shall say now that it shall not be allowed to continue, because we know that in every quarter of the House there has been agreement that the industrial worker, and the miners in particular, shall be adequately, or properly, fed. I believe it was the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) who said that an adequate supply of fuel for the human engine must be provided. I have no doubt that the Parliamentary Secretary will say that we are all banging at an open door. But how are we to provide this increased fuel? Must it be done through the homestead, by the drudgery of the housewife? I do not think that is a correct way out. I cannot believe that the Parliamentary Secretary would wish to increase the size of the food queues and 794 to make miners' wives waste their precious time, as they are doing, in queues for these unrationed commodities.
I believe that the solution lies along the line suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly, by providing canteens, or by providing good wholesome meals at the works, as the Parliamentary Secretary has suggested. We require these canteens at once in every mining village If the Minister of Mines were able to visit the canteens in South Yorkshire, he would see what a wonderful success has been made of a job which has been tackled only in the last few months. Having dined at one of these canteens I would recommend the Members of the Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons to visit it. A 1s. meal is provided in the canteen which I visited in company with the hon. Member for Normanton and the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor). It was a real colonel's banquet. It was a bob's worth the like of which I have never seen at a Lyons' restaurant or a J.P. restaurant. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or at the House of Commons."] Or at the House of Commons. There were 1,500 miners served in that restaurant on one day. It is open 16 hours out of the 24, and good hot meals are served. The building, the equipment, the furniture and everything associated therewith have been provided on credit because the Minister of Mines has not yet been able to find the money, but the fact remains that this canteen is providing a good wholesome meal at a regular price, with the result that the men are happy and contented, and so are the housewives. The housewives said to me, "Why did they not think of this years ago? It would have saved us all that drudgery."
If we have to leave this job of developing canteens in the mining industry to the Secretary for Mines and his Department, it will not get very far. I say that not because I doubt the sincerity of the Secretary for Mines, but because I believe the job is far beyond the capacities of his Department. We must get beyond the pie and pasty and sausage roll idea. The Parliamentary Secretary is as keen, I believe, as anybody to provide the necessary food. In any canteen that I have visited there has been no difficulty in securing adequate supplies of food—and in many cases, generous supplies. We also have the Minister of Labour telling us 795 of all he wants done and advising employers how it should be done, but in certain parts of the country we do not seem to get any forrader. I know that the idea has the support of the Minister. There seems to be good will on all sides. But where is this lag in providing further canteens in which a good sit-down meal can be supplied? There is a hold-up somewhere. We are told by mine managers, we are told by pit-head committees, we are told by trade union secretaries, that they simply cannot get any reply from Government Departments when they ask when they are going to get the money or where it is coming from. I know that certain answers can be provided by certain Government Departments, but which, I do not know. I would even appeal to the War Cabinet to appoint a Minister to devote the whole of his time during the next six months to canteen organisation. I do not want to suggest a title for this Minister, but if a description of such a person is asked for, I would call him the Director of Canteens and Workers' Restaurants He would come up against many obstacles and have a very busy time, but it would repay the nation a thousand times over if we chose the right man. I believe he would have to slash the red tape, not just cut it, but if vision and imagination were shown I believe he could make considerable progress.
The munition factories are definitely in a better position than the mining industries, but when I went for an industrial tour a few months ago I came back very sadly disappointed. At the first factory I visited there were 1,500 people employed. The maximum canteen arrangements for the whole mass of those workers was a small canteen about 10 yards square, and their equipment and supplies consisted only of a huge tea urn and pies, buns and chewing gum. Those were the stocks on the counter, or under the counter, for that canteen for 1,500 people. I will give the Parliamentary Secretary the name of the firm if he wishes me to do so. At the second factory I visited, they said that the canteen facilities had been improved. They had increased their equipment. They said that they could provide meals for 150 people. When I inquired how many they had on the pay roll, they said that the number was 1,600. But, worse still, in a discussion that I had with the 796 management they complained to me of a very high percentage of absenteeism at this particular factory, which was largely confined to the married women workers. I was very concerned about it, because in the vast majority of cases this absenteeism was on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning—a very serious state of affairs. But is there any wonder? These married women who are working in the factories have their own home problems to solve, and the week-end in the local market is the only time during which they can hope to solve these problems for themselves. There are three other new factories in the area through which I went, employing between them roughly 4,000 people, but in each case an up-to-date canteen has been provided, and wholesome hot meals can be obtained at these factories each day and every day. The workers sit down and enjoy the "music while you work" programme as well as a meal, but there is no absenteeism. The management said, "We have 4,000 contented workers and no absenteeism at all."
There is another large industrial undertaking in the same town, and I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary has received a communication from this particular area, because I intend to refer to it in a few moments. It is a railway centre. I am avoiding mentioning names for a very deliberate reason, but it is a railway centre where there are something like 4,000 people employed. These workers are even worse off than the miners, because they have not the eight ounces of cheese ration to help them along, and they have no canteen. The maximum facilities that they had at this particular works consisted of a couple of old railway coaches tucked away in a siding. I asked the management about three months ago what they were intending to do to comply with the Order both of the Minister of Food and the Minister of Labour. They had a ready made answer. They said, "We are getting out a scheme and we hope to have an up to date canteen in a few weeks' time." But apparently they have been preparing this scheme for months, and this morning, in view of this Debate taking place, I received a copy of a letter, the original of which has been sent, unfortunately by mistake, to the wrong Government Department. It has been sent to the Home Secretary. It is from the branch secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen for 797 this particular area, and it is headed "Canteen facilities, Educational accommodation, National welfare recommendations," and is dated 25th September, and addressed, unfortunately, to the Home Secretary. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister of Labour will seek the transfer of this particular letter. It says:I was asked by the members to write to you on the above question, which, we feel, requires your special attention. On 9th April my branch had a deputation to the Works Mechanical Engineer, when we obtained the assurance that he would carry out some of the suggestions put in by us; and in connection with canteen feeding arrangements, he assured us that steps were being taken and they would ask for lists of workpeople who desired canteen feeding. These lists have been handed in, but after repeating our request both by letter and deputation, and through interviews with the mechanical engineer's office we are still having complaints from the workpeople that they are not being considered in the light of the fact that it is six months since our application.This trade union branch has done its best by letter on 9th April, by deputation on 15th April, by a further letter on 8th June and another letter on 27th June, and a. further request on 13th August, and by the letter which I have just quoted. All these representations have been made by one of the largest trade union branches catering for railwaymen in the whole of Yorkshire, and they have not received anything beyond the promise that "We have got a little scheme." I submit that that is the general condition in that area, which I inspected some few months ago. After 12 months of speeches by the Minister of Labour and of propaganda by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food and by the Noble Lord, the position is totally unsatisfactory. I therefore believe that there is some justification for the plea which I have made for the appointment of a Minister to take charge of, and to accept the sole responsibility for, this very urgent problem.
I would like also to say a word about another section of railway workers, because I have had a present sent to me at the House this morning, and it is a very interesting one. I have here a sample biscuit. In fact, I have tried it on my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), and he says that it would break the jaws of a crocodile. He has tried it, anyway. I wonder whether it would surprise the House to know that biscuits like this, plus a small jar of cooked meat, are actually supplied as an 798 extra ration to our railway engine drivers, stokers and guards on the long-distance trains. They are supplied to what are called the railway crew. I notice that the Parliamentary Secretary is expressing a little doubt. I wonder whether I understand him aright, because I have here a receipt for an account sent by the driver himself for "ham and tongue paste, yd.; biscuits, 2d.; total, 9d.," and he says:I hereby authorise the London and North Eastern Railway Company to deduct from my wages the amount shown below as the total charge for the commodities which have been supplied to me. Signed E. J. Hirst.whom I take to be the engine driver. That is the actual situation that has been reported to me during the last 24 hours. [Interruption.] The biscuit will not become soft; it will be concrete by the end of the war. I want the House to understand that this is actually the kind of extra ration or supplementary ration that is being supplied to the railway crews who are actually in charge of our fast trains on the London and North Eastern Railway. Furthermore, according to the information he has given to me, the engine drivers and the stokers are not to consume these biscuits until after they have been on a shift of 12 hours.
There is something radically wrong. The Parliamentary Secretary may quote all the figures in the way that he likes, and the Secretary for Mines may quote figures—and I am very grateful for the announcement, as, I am sure, every industrial worker and every housewife will be, of the increased rations to which the Parliamentary Secretary has referred today—but we must recognise that in the matter of canteen feeding or providing food for industrial workers this kind of food, cement or concrete biscuits, with sausage rolls and pies, is certainly not even a contribution to the problem of feeding the industrial worker. I believe that we are justified in our plea to-day. We are vigorously in favour of a revolutionary change in the matter of feeding, the industrial worker. We want to see canteens developed in every part of the country, but I do not think that we can do it just because the Minister of Labour makes a speech in some part of the industrial world during the week-end.
I do not think we shall do it simply because the Minister of Food makes a broadcast in place of Mr. Freddie Grisewood in the "Kitchen Front" pro- 799 gramme. I believe there must be direction, drive and determination on the part of some Minister who is entrusted with the full responsibility for the task, and that in view of the criticisms which have been levelled from these benches the Cabinet must recognise that there is an agitation springing up. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will do something about it and that the War Cabinet will re-examine the whole situation and recognise the responsibility of the Government in this difficult position in which we find ourselves.
§ Sir Ernest Graham-Little (University, of London)
The question of diet for heavy workers has occupied a large part of this Debate and is one of its most important aspects, but it is no new problem. The diet of heavy workers was really better 100 years ago than it is to-day, and I say that on the authority of Sir William Bragg, who was not only President of the Royal Society but was, and I think still is, chairman of the Scientific Food Committee set up by the Ministry of Food. In the autumn of last year Sir William Bragg contributed a highly important paper to the "Times," in which he pointed out that there had been a marked deterioration in the nutrition of the nation during the last 50 to 100 years. He further pointed out that that deterioration was very probably largely due to an unfortunate change in the habits of the industrial worker, and the item which struck his imagination most completely was, the change-over from eating wholemeal bread, milk and green vegetables to the predilection for white bread and meat. That article produced an interesting correspondence in the "Times," and it was at once obvious that the whole scientific world was supporting Sir William Bragg in his views.
Finally, the correspondence was rounded off by another distinguished scientist, Sir Wyndham Dunstan, who, I think, made a very happy suggestion. He said that the extremists would like 100 per cent, wheat germ incorporated in flour and that the present ratio was 73 per cent. The Parliamentary Secretary, in answer to a Question by me recently, said that the Ministry were not prepared to go any higher than 75 per cent., so we may take it that that is the static level. The difference between 75 per cent, and 100 per 800 cent., Sir Wyndham Dunstan suggested, might well be the subject of a compromise, and he proposed an extraction of 85 per cent, for the national war loaf. That seems a very happy suggestion, and it has in fact been adopted—I do not know whether on the advice of that distinguished scientist — for the production of the national wholemeal loaf. But the difficulty, is that there is competition between the national wholewheat loaf and the white loaf of current use. I would like to express my appreciation of the efforts which have been made by the Ministry to popularise the national wholewheat loaf, but it has not been highly successful. I do not think we have time to exercise persuasive methods, when a much more immediate result would obviously be effected by the compulsory or universal method.
There is authoritative precedent for such a step. In the middle of the last war, at the worst period of the submarine menace, the wholemeal loaf was exclusively supplied as the loaf of the nation. That was accepted without really serious demur. It was followed by excellent results from the health point of view, and I can give statistics, although I think the House may accept that statement, because it was issued on the highest possible authority. It is, therefore, very puzzling why there has been this extraordinarily sustained reluctance on the part of the Ministry of Food to adopt what seems to be the perfectly inevitable conclusion that provision of the 85 per cent, loaf as the sole supply would create no serious dissatisfaction. In July last the Ministry obviously became aware of the considerable defects of the current white loaf, and provision was made to supplement it when it was found that it was not complete. The previous Parliamentary Secretary made a. very important speech in the House and introduced, with a great fanfare of trumpets, the fortified white loaf which the Ministry proposed to put on the market. The: loaf, so it was said, would stagger humanity and astonish the scientists of the world It was, it was said, "a revolutionary proceeding." Two things made it a revolutionary procedure. The first was the addition of a synthetic vitamin—one of six vitamins grouped under Vitamin B—and a certain amount of unspecified calcium salt. In a quite recent answer to a Question by me, the Parliamentary Secretary told me that the 801 fortified white loaf—fortified with Vitamin B—is on restricted sale in a small area in South Wales. In answer to another Question, my right hon. and gallant Friend said the addition of calcium, the second proposal, had not yet been put in operation but had not been abandoned.
It is quite obvious that bread is the most important item in the food of the nation. It must be and it is the quality of bread upon which the sustenance of the vast majority of our people must depend. The present scientific adviser to the Ministry of Food, in an address given in the House a few months ago, assured us that there was no prospect of Germany being starved into surrender because the German Government had sensibly secured a diet based upon what he called the universal peasant diet. That diet includes as its most important items wholemeal flour and a certain quantity of milk, the staple foods of every country. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Professor A. V. Hill) stress the importance of not forgetting the energy-producing foods at a time when there is an undue craze for protective foods. It is the energy-producing foods that are largely necessary for heavy workers, and one of the best energy-producing foods is bread made from stone-ground wholemeal flour.
I submit that the present position is lamentable. For the last 14 months the efforts of the Ministry of Food in this respect, however praiseworthy, have been singularly unsuccessful. I have made wide inquiries at a dozen places in the country; I have tried to get the wholewheat loaf, and almost invariably I have failed to do so; and I think this has been the experience of most people. The wholewheat loaf is not in general supply; it is not a favourite with the millers and bakers; and because of this it has no chance in competition with the white loaf at the present time. This white loaf consists solely of material which is very little more than starch, and the unfortunate person who buys white bread under the impression that it is still the staff of life is completely mistaken. It is just as bad as that stupid arrangement with regard to sausages and uneatable biscuits mentioned by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walkden). What is the obstacle to producing an 85 per cent, loaf as an exclusive product? The objection that is com- 802 monly stated is that people will not change their habits in the middle of the war, but I submit that that statement was irrefutably contradicted by the success of the wholemeal loaf in the last war. Surely, the nation has made far greater sacrifices in diet and other matters than would be involved in overcoming what is, after all, a fad of only some 20 years' standing. I think that the Minister of Food has a totally fallacious idea of the spirit of our people. I do not believe there would be any trouble in making this change if a proper explanation were given. It is very interesting to note that in the Army, where the wholewheat loaf is obtainable, it is comparatively more popular than it is ouside the Army.
The wholewheat loaf is an innovation that would have an assured success if it were put forward with the authority that would be commanded by a Minister speaking on the subject with the wholehearted support of the scientific world. The position is that for 14 months we have been feeding on a very inefficient and fallacious form of diet. I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary what would be the difficulty in making the wholewheat loaf compulsory? He has said that he is confident about the stocks of staple commodities in this country. Nevertheless, in one of the excellent advertisements, which the Ministry of Food have issued to persuade people to buy wholewheat bread, there is a picture of five ships, and it is pointed out that if the community were to eat the wholewheat loaf, one ship out of five could be spared for the transport of other commodities. Are we really so completely confident as to the shipping position that we can afford to ignore that one-fifth which could be saved? If one-fifth of our shipping space could be saved, and if the consumption of the product which enabled us to make that saving would be enormously to the benefit of the nutrition of the country, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary again why the wholewheat loaf cannot be made compulsory?
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (Fulham, West)
The hon. Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) devoted the whole of his speech to the value of the wholemeal loaf, and before dealing with one or two other points, I should like heartily to endorse everything that he said. I cannot understand why the Ministry of Food have not taken stronger action in this matter. In following very carefully the 803 propaganda on the radio and in the newspapers I have noted that the Ministry tell the public that the wholemeal loaf is excellent, but they do not say clearly that it is infinitely better than white bread. Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell me whether the millers are bringing such pressure on the Ministry that the Ministry are being persuaded to mention the wholemeal loaf only in rather modified terms. I know that the House is apt rather to sneer at scientists, but there is no doubt that scientists are unanimous about the value of the wholemeal loaf. We are told that only 7 per cent, of the bread eaten in this country is wholemeal bread. I hope that the Ministry will take much stronger action in this matter.
Like many other hon. Members, I want to express my satisfaction at the statement we have heard to-day. It has been rather a long time in coming, but at last we know that the workers engaged in heavy manual work will get an increase in rations. During the last few months, I have been a little puzzled at different times when I have gone to cookery demonstrations to see how the demonstrator was teaching the women of the country. I have listened to her telling them in simple terms how to obtain a balanced diet for the family, and I have realised that in homes where there are coalminers, railwaymen, men and women engaged in heavy manual work, it is quite impossible to give this balanced diet, and that the diet must inevitably be top-heavy with carbohydrates. I am very glad to' hear that this is to be altered.
I want the Parliamentary Secretary to convey to his Noble Friend the Minister of Food that some of us are a little perturbed when we realise that during the last year tuberculosis has increased in this country. I have noticed that many people, when talking about food and when discussing whether rations should be increased, have said, "Look at the health statistics; this country is perfectly healthy; there have been no epidemics." I suggest that is no argument. Although there have not been many infectious epidemics in the country, the fact is that malnutrition has an insidious onset. Unfortunately perhaps, malnutrition is not accompanied by a rash. I sometimes wish that those who suffer from malnutrition would develop a slight red rash so as to attract the attention of society to the conditions 804 from which they are suffering. Although malnutrition is not spectacular, it is no less deadly.
I feel that the Minister of Food should direct his attention to the fact that pulmonary tuberculosis, which often results from under-nourishment, is increasing in this country, particularly in the age groups between 18 and 40. It is between the ages of 18 and 40 that workers are capable of their maximum output. I deplore the fact that women are more prone to tuberculosis than men. I wish the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Robertson) was in his place. He told the House that he visited many canteens in the North and found that the workers were enjoying a well-balanced meal, but that he was shocked to discover that women were eating a meal which consisted of a bun and a cup of tea. In view of the fact that women are earning 38s. a week, he considered this was not due to their having insufficient money. I should like to tell the House that such an argument is ridiculous. The woman who is engaged on heavy manual work is not concerned with slimming; she is well slimmed as a result of her work. These girls who are eating buns and tea, and have to work for six hours after a meal of this type, are doing so because their accommodation costs them between 26s. and 28s. per week, which, after they have paid for their fares and clothes, leaves them with little to pay for a well-balanced meal.
I ask my right hon. and gallant Friend to consider making stronger representations to the Board of Education on the question of school meals. We have had an excellent suggestion made during the Debate to-day. It was pointed out that British Restaurants might be made available for school children. The children could have their meals at 12 o'clock, and the workers could obtain their food later. I am told that the local authorities have refused to supply meals to school children because of the lack of facilities. In conclusion, I want to make an appeal, for a section of workers who have not been mentioned to-day. No doubt they have not been mentioned because they are a totally unorganised section of the community—I am speaking of housewives and expectant mothers. The expectant mother is the only individual who is asked to sustain two lives on one ration. Can 805 there be any justification for that? The only concession made to an expectant mother, who needs body-building material, protective foods and energising foods, is that she can obtain one pint of milk per day at the reduced price of 2d. Many of our expectant mothers are working in our factories until they are in an advanced state of pregnancy, and they should have equal consideration with those who are doing heavy manual work, particularly in view of the fact that they are serving the country and doing one of the finest forms of national service.
§ Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)
I should not have intervened during this Debate but for the remarks made by the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Robertson). I wish to cross swords with him for a moment. I hope the Minister of Food will not adopt the suggestion he made for providing hot meals in the pits. For a. Member to make such a suggestion shows that he does not understand mining. I feel, as one who has worked in the pits for a quarter of a century, and as one who has worked on piece rates at the coal face, that my experience will be worth something to the Minister. Some men are working three miles away from the pit bottom, and some of the roads are no more than 4 feet 6 inches high and 3 feet 6 inches wide. The hon. Member suggested that meals should be cooked on the surface or at the bottom of the pit and then transported two or three miles to the coal face. The men at the coal face have only 20 minutes for what we call "snap time," and they would be left with little time to eat these meals after they had passed the food along to the various men working with them. These men are on piece work, and they would not forgive the Minister if he adopted such a scheme. I feel, as a practical miner, that it is up to me to speak against this suggestion.
I wish now to refer to canteens. Out of 750 canteens, only 16 are supplying hot meals. This time, however, I happen to be fortunate—usually I am like the cow's tail and am generally behind the others—because we have two canteens in my division at two of the biggest pits in the country. The men and the wives are highly satisfied with them. We want the money which is being accumulated in the Miners Welfare Fund to be spent in providing these canteens so that our men can get a rattling good meal. The 806 reason why the Welfare Fund has this money is because it cannot provide any more baths. The men enjoy these meals because they have clean hands and faces. In olden days, my father and grandfather used to say that we must not wash our backs too often because it would make us too weak to work. Some said that when these baths were provided they would not be used, but the fact is that more men wish to use them than can be accommodated and some have to go home dirty. The time may come when miners may be called blacklegs, and I am not at all sure that wives whose husbands do not use the baths will not tell their menfolk, "If thou dost not get a bath thou wilt not sleep with me."
The reason why every Jack is coming home clean is to prevent the pit marks getting on the hearth. I know something about that. When I was at home with my parents four of us lads worked in the pit. We used to wait our turn to boil the water on the fire. My mother could not clean that kitchen till six o'clock at night. If she cleaned it before we came from the pit, it was worse when we had finished bathing than before. Baths and a hot meal are of untold value to the miner and his wife. Where they are only getting a bit of sausage and a bit of sandwich they are getting sick of it. They want a hot meal, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to press it for all he is worth. A miner told me the other day, "If you give us a square meal, we will give you a square deal and a square tonnage." I was bitterly disappointed recently to find that tonnage per man is going down instead of going up, at the very time in the world crisis when it ought to go up, and it is largely due to lack of food. You cannot expect a man to work six days a week if he has a square meal only on Sunday and Monday, and that is what they have been getting.
I am disappointed at the way in which the right hon. Gentleman is treating the people whom I champion in the matter of eggs. I have had a letter from a man who has had three eggs a day prescribed by his medical man because he is a diabetic. I am not speaking from the same theoretical standpoint as; the two medical Members who have spoken, but I am speaking from the standpoint of one who has gone through this business. From the point of view of theory they 807 are much higher than I am, but an ounce of experience is worth a good many tons of theory. I used to have 24 a week when I was in Leeds Infirmary. There are thousands of diabetics who are almost throwing their arms up in despair at the thought that they are not going to be able to have more than two eggs next month and only three during the last month of the year. Will the Parliamentary Secretary give these people, some of whom are on the edge of the grave, a chance of living a little longer? If he cannot give them three eggs a day as prescribed by the doctor, will he see that they get not less than one every day?
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
My hon. Friend always introduces that vehement human touch which makes his speeches a great delight to listen to. I always learn something from him when I am fortunate enough to hear him. I found myself, however, in a little disagreement with him about hot meals for miners. I would not trespass on his knowledge of the mining industry, recognising that what he says is no doubt correct, but surely he will admit that, while there may be circumstances such as he describes where it is impracticable to get hot meals to people working below the surface, there may be other cases where it is a practical possibility, and surely it should be possible for the Parliamentary Secretary at least to accept the challenge of the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Robertson) to undertake an experiment to show that something of that order can be done in some circumstances.
I should like to say a word in support of the hon. Members for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) and West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) about flour. I have had this out with the Parliamentary Secretary several times, but have never yet had a satisfactory answer. One rarely gets a satisfactory answer from a Minister. I suppose that is what they are there for. There is nothing to argue about in this matter of whole wheat meal. Everyone who has made a most cursory study of the problem knows, from the evidence to be seen in the shops, that the essential, vitamins are taken out of the flour and sold at a larger price for health foods. They ought to be left in the loaf for the benefit of every man who needs 808 bread as his main sustenance in time of war. The real fact is that the Ministry is afraid of the millers' combine and is afraid to tackle it because it is too strong. It is flying in the face of all scientific knowledge and of all those who have studied the matter to refuse the inclusion of wholewheat in flour. It is a policy of complete insanity and ineptitude. I am surprised that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman does not dig his Noble Friend in the ribs and tell him to follow the right policy.
The hon. Member for Streatham spoke at some length of the relative merits of private catering firms and the British Restaurants and referred particularly to one at the end of Park Lane. This is not a subject that I could pursue usefully, even if I were allowed, but I am a little inclined to think that he was really arguing the case for the abolition of landlords rather than of British Restaurants, because he said there was a small restaurant for which the small proprietor was paying £200 a year in rent, whereas the British Restaurant next door did not have to pay that rent. I will not pursue that further, but I commend it to the attention of the House in the hope that I may be allowed to bring the matter up again when the menace of landlords is a permissible subject for discussion.
I rose to say a word about canteens. I was glad to hear from my hon. Friends that the Parliamentary Secretary had said that rations are to be increased. Everybody knows the difficulties which the housewife has in providing the midday meal for the men, especially those in the heavy engineering, mining and like industries, unless special arrangements are made for their proper feeding in the middle of the day near their places of work. It is all very well to talk about increasing the ration and increasing it in fact, and it is all very well talking about canteens and their desirability, but will the workers get the canteens? It is not very much use under existing conditions telling employers who run small concerns that they must provide simple feeding arrangements for their workers. Some are prepared to do it, even when they almost cannot, but a great number of people under the present taxation conditions are simply not in a position to spend the money.
809 I would like to give a case I know about of a firm which in the last financial year made a gross profit of £130,000. Under existing taxation arrangements they had to pay away £111,000 in taxation. That was all right, except that they did not like doing it. They were left only with a bare £19,000, which, incidentally, was £7,000 below what they used to get in their standard year, owing to the increase in Income Tax. They employ 1,500 men, and it would be impossible to put up a canteen of the right size under an expenditure of £8,000 or £10,000. How is that to be done unless the firm is forced to do it or unless some financial aid is forthcoming from the Government? I am not arguing about who should pay for it. I am only arguing that workers must be provided with canteens and that financial humbug should not be allowed to stand in the way.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Tomlinson)
In a case where there are 1,500 employees the law compels the owner to make that provision.
§ Mr. Stokes
I am aware of that, and I have seen the very enlightening correspondence between the firm in question, the Minister of Labour and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They had an order to carry out the instructions of the Ministry of Labour, which meant in effect they had to tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer to "pop off," so far as Treasury regulations as to borrowing were concerned, because the money simply was not there. You can compel people to do it by all means. I do not object to that. We want to be able to see that all people are provided with their mid-day sustenance on the spot. What I am suggesting is that there is no sense in putting out glorious statements about canteens and increased rations for them unless the funds are to be forthcoming.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)
In a recent Debate, when I raised this quesion, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury read a quotation from a previous Debate and from the Finance Act which gives firms authority to spend funds on canteens for which they would get relief from taxation.
§ Mr. Stokes
I assure my hon. Friend that that is not the case, but if he is right and I am wrong, I will take up the case 810 of this firm with the Government. They were categorically refused by the Treasury and were told that if at the end of the war a canteen which they put up was of no value they could get a refund from the Treasury. That, however, does not get the canteens now. If my hon. Friend is right, I have been wasting the time of the House, but I doubt whether what the Financial Secretary said is right. In any case, what he said is not always what the Civil Service does behind the scenes. If I am right, I would ask that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Food should get at the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not allow the dead hand of the Treasury to stop, as it always stops if it can, a development of the highest importance to the population of this country.
§ Mr. Collindridge (Barnsley)
We who represent industrial constituencies would be ungrateful did we not accord our thanks to the Department for the announcement which has been made to-day. If, however, the thing has to be done, it is better that it should be done quickly. In a district like mine, which is largely a mining district, there is still a feeling that the question of food can better be dealt with in the homes than in canteens at the works. I doubt, however, whether the ration can be used as effectively in the individual homes as it can in communal centres like canteens. If we carry on with the idea of canteens we shall largely do away with that feeling. I represent a constituency which is connected with nearly a score of pits, and I do not think there is one which has a canteen where men can get a hot meal. When I come to London and have my meals in restaurants with no demand for coupons my family is considerably advantaged as compared with the ordinary family where all the members remain at home and have to be fed on the rations. I hope that we shall try to break down in the industrial constituencies the prejudice against canteens. I live in a district with a population of 20,000, and up to the advent of a restaurant this week there was no place where anyone could get a meal. The people have been living in an atmosphere in which the feeling was that restaurants were out of the question so far as they were concerned. I am sure that if there were a development of can teens, once the idea caught on and people were able to see what could be done with them, the prejudice would be considerably 811 lessened and a great deal of discontent and disquiet would fade away.
I want to ask the Ministry of Food to have regard to some of the orders and regulations that are now being issued. I do not want to run too many hares in my remarks, but I must refer to rabbits. In my constituency an order has been issued which allows the price of rabbits in one part to be 1s. 2d. per lb. and in the other 10d. a lb. Is it likely that those who have rabbits to sell will send them where they are to be sold at 10d. a lb.? Are they not more likely to send them where they will get 1s. 2d.? This means that districts which have been accustomed to consume this humble fare will be precluded from having it. With regard to the new order for the sale of unrationed goods, there may be something in the idea of allowing a person to go where he will for these goods, but the stern fact is that it will result in more queueing than hitherto. While I would not lay down too much compulsion on our people, I think that there is something to be said for the idea of giving the registered customer the opportunity of getting his unrationed commodities where he is registered. The shopkeeper would then know the people who are entitled to the unregistered goods.
I am sure that all Members, without political distinction, would wish to abolish queues, and I suggest that every local food control committee should hold an inquiry into the reasons for these queues and send in a report either to divisional headquarters or to the Food Ministry. I finish upon the note on which I began. While some people may have said that this idea of communal feeding is belated, at the same time I am sure there will be a great deal of gratification at the steps it is now proposed to take. I can understand the Food Ministry having regard not only to what has been done in the past in bringing food to our island home but having regard to what the future will be, and we who come from industrial districts, we ex-miners, say to the men of the sea, "You are doing jolly good service. You are helping us in the industrial effort which our people are putting forward."
§ Sir George Broadbridge (City of London)
I feel that as one of the representatives of the City of London I should say a few words, and they will be mostly 812 directed to the question of British Restaurants. I think possibly there may be a little misunderstanding with regard to the position. I have made a few inquiries, and I find that the Corporation of the City of London have had nothing to do with establishing the British Restaurants in the City, which are under the control of the London County Council, who instituted them at the request of the Ministry of Food. Instead of there being only one British Restaurant, at Fishmongers' Hall, as has been said, I find that there are five within the City confines —at Aldersgate Ward Schools, at Cripple-gate Institute, at Fishmongers' Hall, at the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, and at St. Sepulchre's School. I have no axe to grind for these British Restaurants if they are competing with ordinary catering firms in the City or elsewhere. They have been introduced as a supplement to the ordinary restaurants, immediately after air raids. But it is no use setting up a British Restaurant after an air raid has taken place, because then it is too late, and they are now there in readiness. Nearly all cafés and other catering establishments close at about 5 or 5.30 on account of the black-out, and it is very convenient to have the British Restaurants available after those hours.
I would draw attention to the fact that a good deal of the value attaching to these British Restaurants as compared with ordinary restaurants lies in the fact that they are absolutely independent of electricity or gas for cooking. That makes them able to render valuable service at times when the cooking facilities at ordinary restaurants are disorganised. After raids there is always a big demand for the services of British Restaurants, and they must be available at once, and that is one of the reasons why this great service has been introduced. Another point which has been lost sight of is that on account of the "blitzes" which have already taken place large numbers of ordinary restaurants are no longer in existence, and there is all the more need for British Restaurants. If one looks more closely into the position one can see the necessity for those restaurant proprietors who are at present complaining to work more readily for the benefit of workers who want to get meals quickly. In this matter I am in a somewhat dual position. I have to do the best I can to please everybody, but in a case like this I think ordinary 813 restaurants should be prepared to meet the other side half-way, regarding these supplemental canteens as a war effort and knowing that they are only for the war emergency period.
Major Lloyd George
I am aware that I can address the House again only by the leave of hon. Members, but I think I may be allowed to say these few words. First, I wish to express my appreciation of the attitude of hon. Members towards the proposals which I have put forward, and I would give the assurance on behalf of all concerned that every possible effort will be made to expedite the provision of more British Restaurants and canteens. I am extremely grateful to those hon. Members who from their own experience have explained what can be done where canteens are provided, and every effort will be made to extend them. Details will be issued as quickly as possible. Many other points have been raised by hon. Members which I do not propose to deal with to-day, but I have made a note of all points outside the main object of the Debate which have been brought forward, and I will give close attention to them.
§ Captain Cobb (Preston)
I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to pay special attention to the fate of the jam which is being made by Women's Institutes in many villages all over the country. I have been told by the chairman of my own village institute that they made about 814 70 lb. of jam under the Ministry of Food scheme, all of which has been condemned as unfit. A neighbouring village has made rather more than 90 lb. of jam which has met with the same fate, and I understand that sort of thing is pretty common throughout the country. These institutes have been told that they are not allowed to sell this jam to the local population, and can dispose of it only to canteens. These institutions are likely to have a far larger supply of jam than they will He able to deal with. Owing to the possibility of a very large amount of jam being wasted, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give special attention to the matter, in order that this result might not come about.
Major Lloyd George
I should not like the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend to give the impression in the country as a whole that large quantities of jam will be wasted throughout the country. There will, no doubt, be local difficulties; I have come across one or two recently in which we have been able to assist and adjust. Speaking generally, however, the position is not as my hon. and gallant Friend has suggested. Difficulties have been encountered, but we have been enabled to smooth them out. If there is difficulty in the area to which he has referred, I hope that we shall be given an opportunity of looking into the matter.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.