HC Deb 13 July 1944 vol 401 cc1868-9
17. Mr. C. Davies

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has considered the representations made by 29 representative Indian leaders about the threat of a second and worse famine and the tragic conditions of epidemic in India; and whether he will make a full statement on the famine situation in India with particular reference to Bengal, Bihar and Malabar.

Mr. Amery

I have seen the statement referred to which was made before the recent announcement of additional shipments of grain to India in the immediate future. As regards the particular areas mentioned in the Question, in Bengal, where famine occurred last year, the Governor has given his own confident account of the position. I understand that in Bihar the supply position is quite good and that in the Malabar district the Madras Government have the situation in hand.

Mr. Davies

Is the Minister satisfied that every step will be taken to stop the recurrence of suffering, if there is another famine?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir, everything possible is being done in India, and also within the limits of our own serious shipping difficulties.

18. Mr. C. Davies

asked the Secretary of State for India whether the shipment of 400,000 tons of grain promised by His Majesty's Government to be delivered by October will arrive in time to avert the threatened famine; and whether this quantity, together with shipments already sent or promised, totals the grain requirements of India which the Gregory Committee regarded as the minimum in present conditions.

Mr. Amery

As regards the first part of the Question, I would invite the hon. and learned Member's attention to the recently reported broadcast of the Governor of Bengal. He anticipates a successful issue to the combined efforts of His Majesty's Government, the Government of India and the Provincial Government. As regards imports, the quantity sent or promised for the twelve months ending October amounts to 800,000 tons, as compared with the round figure of 1,000,000 tons a year for current consumption recommended by the Gregory Committee. Further consideration has been promised in August and again in November. The difficulty in this matter has been to provide shipping, and His Majesty's Government have had to take risks to provide so much. What we have done and are doing is all that can be compassed without imperilling the success of our immense military undertakings. I share the Governor of Bengal's good hopes of the outcome, and I trust that everyone in whose power it is to influence opinion in India will do all that they can to stimulate and support the legitimate confidence of the people in the greatly improved control of the food situation, rather than to impair confidence by belittling what has been achieved.

Sir Frank Sanderson

Will my right hon. Friend advise the Indian Government to see that this grain does not get into the hands of money-lenders before it gets to the consumers?

Mr. Amery

I think that both the Central and Provincial Governments are very much alive to that problem.

Mr. Edmund Harvey

Could the Minister say whether steps have been taken to build up the reserves of grain which the Gregory Committee recommended as soon as shipping facilities make it possible?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir, in so far as that can be done in excess of meeting current needs.

Mr. Gallacher

Will ruthless action be taken against food speculators and black marketeers, whose activities are one of the prime causes of famine?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir.