HC Deb 05 August 1943 vol 391 cc2440-1
28. Major Lyons

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can make any further statement upon the introduction, scope and extent of rationing and price-control, respectively, of food and essential commodities in India?

Mr. Amery

Rationing of cereal food is in operation in the City of Bombay and is being extended to other urban areas. The Government of India have the assistance of an adviser with Ministry of Food experience. General rationing of commodities other than food is not contemplated. Various measures of price control have been introduced since the war began and in many cases, as in that of wheat, have had to be reversed owing to the difficulty of securing the necessary physical control of the commodity. The Government of India have just imposed a system of control on the production of cotton cloth, which they hope will greatly reduce the price and improve the supply of piecegoods to the cultivator.

Major Lyons

Would my right hon. Friend consider, in view of the very high cost of things in India and the large number of troops that may well be exploited, recommending the institution throughout the country of a system of rationing and price control?

Mr. Amery

I am afraid the conditions in India are so different from those in this country that that would not be an easy task.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Can my right hon. Friend give the House more information about what is being done and con- templated by him on account of famine conditions? Is he aware that in Bengal thousands of people are coming in from the countryside and living off the garbage heaps of the City of Calcutta? Will he consider telling us what he is doing and what he plans?

Mr. Amery

I shall be glad to give all the information to the House, but my hon. Friend will remember that this matter in Bengal is primarily one for the Ministry of that self-governing Province.

Sir Percy Harris

Has the right hon. Gentleman any information about the activities of profiteers? Is it a fact that immense fortunes have been made by private individuals in India and that that is partly responsible for the shortage?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir. That is a very difficult problem to handle.

Mr. Sorensen

Have not famine conditions become so bad in India that some people have been reduced to eating new grass?

Mr. Amery

I have not been informed of that.