HC Deb 21 July 1942 vol 381 cc1377-8
1. Mr. Edmund Harvey

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he will give the latest information available as regards the shortage of food and the effect of the resulting situation on the civil population of European countries now in German occupation; and whether any steps, are being taken to mitigate the grave position in Belgium?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare (Mr. Dingle Foot)

The worst conditions in German-controlled Europe continue to prevail in Greece, in some parts of Poland, and in Occupied Russia. There can be no doubt that deaths from starvation have occurred in these territories. In the Greek cities, however, there has been a marked improvement, as a result of the shipments organised by the Allied Governments. The situation is not comparable in the other occupied countries, although it is broadly true to say that the urban populations are living at a level which is below, and in some areas substantially below, peace-time standards. Shortages of meat and fats are specially marked in the urban districts of Belgium and France. The standards of public health do not appear to have been seriously affected in most other European countries. But it is unfortunately the case that in Belgium and France there has been an increase, during the past two years, in the incidence of certain diseases, notably pneumonia and tuberculosis. The insufficiency of the diet is no doubt one of the principal causes of this increase.

As regards the last part of the Question, the House is already aware that, by agreement with His Majesty's Government, purchases inside the blockade area have been and are still being made for the benefit of Allied peoples. Accordingly, over the last thirteen months, the Belgian Government have made purchases of indigenous Portuguese foodstuffs, which have been sent to Belgium. We have also made it clear that we would welcome the continuance and expansion of the scheme under which Belgian children whose health has suffered from existing conditions are sent to Switzerland, and we have always been willing to grant additional navicerts to the Swiss authorities, to help them to feed and clothe these children.

Mr. Harvey

While thanking my hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask whether the Government have considered any suggestion by the International Red Cross for feeding these children?

Mr. Foot

We have considered many schemes for what is called "controlled food relief" in enemy-occupied territories, but we have come to the conclusion that all these schemes must bring benefit, and in some cases substantial benefit, to the enemy.

Mr. Rhys Davies

May we take it that it is correct to say that the food supply to the occupied territories will be sufficient to prevent actual starvation in those territories?

Mr. Foot

I should not like to give any undertaking as to the future.

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