HC Deb 09 July 1942 vol 381 cc939-41
49. Sir John Mellor

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he proposes to take to alleviate the loss which will be suffered by poultry keepers as a result of the change in the Government's policy?

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. R. S. Hudson)

There has been no change in the Government's policy, which is to give priority in supplies of feeding-stuffs to dairy cows and working horses. Owing to the alteration in supplies through circumstances arising out of the war it has been necessary to reduce feeding-stuffs rations, and the reduction has been applied both to commercial and to domestic poultry keepers, as well as to owners of other livestock. I recognise and regret that hardship and loss will be inflicted on commercial and domestic poultry keepers through this reduction, but I am afraid that difficulties of this kind are inevitable under war conditions.

Sir J. Mellor

While recognising the necessity for a reduction, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether domestic poultry keepers have not been led into this predicament by previous official statements?

Mr. Hudson

No, it was always made clear while foodstuffs were available on the then existing ration that the distribution would take place as at present but that obviously the question was subject to reconsideration if supplies of foodstuffs became shorter.

Sir H. Williams

Were not the public warned when the wholemeal loaf was introduced that the inevitable result would be a fall in egg production?

Mr. Hudson

Yes, Sir. We announced that to the public.

Captain Godfrey Nicholson

Will my right hon. Friend take early steps to advise domestic poultry keepers of the comparable forms of food that can be collected, such as acorns and similar natural products?

Mr. Hudson

I am not at all sure that acorns are particularly good for hens.

Captain Nicholson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that admittedly unprepared statement of his conflicts with the view of his Department?

50. Mr. Cluse

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the decreased allowance of balanced meal to be issued to domestic poultry-keepers, he will continue the past practice of alloting a larger ration of eggs to certain priority classes by allowing the holder of a child's ration book to qualify for more than the standard poultry ration for one bird?

Mr. Hudson

It is not possible for me to adopt the hon. Member's suggestion. The food waste normally resulting from feeding the priority classes is no more than that from feeding other persons, and the new arrangements associate the number of birds for which balancer meal is provided with the number of persons providing the household waste. Moreover, one hen should, with reasonably efficient management, provide as many eggs as are likely to be available to the priority classes on their egg registrations.

Sir Waldron Smithers

Could not many of these difficulties be overcome by closer co-operation between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Food?

Sir Joseph Lamb

Will the Minister consider the desirability of instructions being given to allotment holders to see whether they cannot produce on their allotment something which would assist them to maintain their poultry?

Mr. Hudson

I think it will be necessary for the ordinary householders, in order to be able to keep more than one or two hens, to call upon supplies from their gardens or allotments.

Mr. Dugdale

Does not the Minister recognise that while eggs are a luxury for grown-up persons, they are a necessity for small children?

Mr. Hudson

Yes, Sir, but an ordinary priority child is at present entitled to about 150 to 160 eggs a year on its ration book, four times the ordinary adult ration, and that is the number of eggs that can reasonably be expected from one hen if properly looked after.