HC Deb 16 February 1945 vol 408 cc583-98

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Mathers.]

2.9 p.m.

Mr. Stourton (Salford, South)

I am glad of this opportunity to try to persuade my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Food to revoke the Poultry (Maximum Prices) Order. There is a good deal of feeling on this subject on both sides of the House, and, in addition, the present situation is resented throughout the country for adequate and cogent reasons which I will lay before the House. Whereas I can think of at least half-adozen sound reasons for revoking the Order, I search my wits and fail to find one in favour of its retention.

The first reason for the withdrawal of the Order is that I believe it to be unenforceable, and it thus provides considerable opportunities for black marketeers. The growth of black market influence under this Order has been very notable and pronounced. My next reason, which follows from the first, is that it brings the law into contempt. The third is that maldistribution has deprived legitimate traders of the opportunity of securing the limited supplies that are available. The public, too, has been denied the chance of buying their fair share of table poultry and rabbits through normal channels. Again, it is fair to state that table poultry is not raised in reasonable quantities under this Order become, at prices fixed by the Ministry, they do not show a fair return and profit to the producer. Lastly, and this is as weighty a reason as any, all trade interests —that is, producers, wholesalers and retailers—are as one in supporting my case for the revocation of the Order.

On several occasions this subject has been raised in the House. I would remind my right hon. and gallant Friend of the occasion when the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) drew his attention to the fact that grave black market offences were being committed in the sale and distribution of turkeys for the Christmas trade. I refer not to foreign turkeys, but to English birds. In reply, my right hon. and gallant Friend said that the Ministry were instituting prosecutions wherever they could get the necessary evidence. As a result of that reply I put a Question to the Minister on 17th January, and he informed me that there had been 22 prosecutions of those guilty of disposing of turkeys above the controlled price. This figure is, I submit, wholly negligible in view of the fact that practically the whole output of English turkeys in East Anglia was sold in the black market, as my right hon. and gallant Friend is well aware. The efforts of my right hon. and gallant Friend's Department, through his enforcing officers, were no doubt, highly commendable in their way, but about as effective as trying to stop a leak in a battleship with a pocket handkerchief. In reply to a further question, my right hon. and gallant Friend said that the number of black market offences had been greatly exaggerated. I submit that the facts all point to the contrary, and I am able to produce overwhelming evidence in the opposite direction.

In my view, the simple truth is that the Poultry (Maximum Prices) Order cannot be made to work, as my right hon. and gallant Friend once admitted, unless there are enforcement officers available for practically every farm in the country. At the recent annual conference of the National Federation of Meat Traders Associations, held in London on 16th January, representing no fewer than 45,000 butchers in Great Britain, a motion was adopted urging the Minister to revoke the Order on the ground that it failed to control not less than 95 per cent. of table poultry. I should like also to point out that the said motion has the approval of and was endorsed by the Poultry Association of Great Britain and the National Association of Wholesale and Retail Poultry Dealers. I am also able to cite the case of one retailer who got into touch with me and pointed out that he had no less than 35 shops where, before the Order was made, he used to dispose of English table poultry and rabbits, but since the Order he had not sold a single head of one or the other.

Where are the limited supplies of poultry going? My contention is that they are supplied mostly to hotels and restaurants by subterranean channels, and the black market. In the meantime, the unfortunate and long-suffering British public have to go without. In addition to the reasons which I have already given, the trade is opposed to the Order because the prices fixed by the Ministry are unremunerative to the producer. I shall be very grateful if the Minister in his reply would state whether the basic reason for the making of the Order was not originally to discourage the production of table poultry and rabbits. I understand that there was a great scarcity of feeding stuffs at the time when the Order was made, but the position is now easier.

I hope it is not too optimistic for me to assume that my right hon. and gallant Friend may consider revoking this Order. Let us consider what the immediate results would be. The first would be to kill the black market, stone dead so far as the poultry industry is concerned. That would be a very useful step. Secondly, producers would be encouraged to increase supplies at an economic level. I am prepared to agree that if prices are to be remunerative they must move in an upward direction to some extent. Lastly, the revocation of the Order would give the public an opportunity to obtain a fair share of poultry and rabbits on a larger scale than hitherto, through increased production. To sum up briefly the case for the withdrawal of the Order, let me say that both on moral and economic grounds, I consider it to be overwhelming. I therefore appeal to my right hon. and gallant Friend to take the necessary steps forthwith.

2.19 p.m.

Mr. Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)

I should like to support my hon. Friend in the case that he has put forward. It was a very strong case for the annulment of the Order. I do not wish to follow him in all the arguments that he has advanced and thus weary the House, but we have heard it stated by the Minister, speaking of course with perfectly good faith, that the black market is not as extensive as some people seem to think. I think there is very little doubt, although the matter is difficult to prove, that there has been a very large black market, particularly over Christmastime, in turkeys and poultry.

In the critical, but I trust benign, remarks I am going to address to the Minister I hope it will not be thought that there is any lack of appreciation of the Food Ministry's work or its conduct by the Minister or his predecessor. The Department has, on the whole, done very admirable work from the moment the war broke out. In relation to basic foodstuffs such as meat, bread, bacon, tea, sugar and other commodities the whole of the Ministry's administration leaves very little to be desired. Considering the immense difficulties of shipping and distribution the Ministry have managed to ensure a fair distribution of food to the whole population, and the result has been that the people of this country have been very well fed during the war. Some exaggerated claims are occasionally put forward to the effect that we have never been so well fed before, but I take them, I must say, with a grain of unrationed salt. None the less, we have been very fairly and properly looked after.

It is when we come to the less important foods and materials that the Ministry has been less successful. I do not think that is due to lack of good intention or to lack of good faith, but to the fact that when dealing with things in short supply, in some cases almost luxuries and at any rate non-necessities, we run into a great deal of difficulty. The moment the Government step in they are very apt to drive foodstuffs such as eggs and poultry off the market. I remember that after the Government intervened in regard to eggs, the ordinary housewife saw very few eggs, and felt herself very lucky when she got an egg allocation. We have had experience of Government control in the case of the Food Ministry not to mention many other Departments, and I hope—perhaps that is the wrong phrase, and I should say "I hope not"—the people of this country have enjoyed it. I am certain they have not. The queue mind will very rapidly disappear after the war, and people will ask for a little more liberty.

In addition to the question of poultry—and I hope my right hon. and gallant Friend will accede to the request that was made in that respect—I want to raise another matter connected with the administration of the Ministry of Food. We have seen a large number of advertisements and heard talks on the B.B.C. in connection with food matters directed to the ordinary housewife. I called the attention of the Minister the other day to an advertisement in "The Times" which cost His Majesty's Government £78. A more futile advertisement and a more flagrant waste of the nation's money I find it difficult to imagine. A great many similar advertisements, I feel, are an absolute waste of money. It is true that when food is in relatively short supply it is important to try to persuade the housewife to understand the importance of calories and proteins in order that she can make the best use of the food available. None the less, I think my right hon. and gallant Friend goes rather too far in endeavouring to make such information available.

What is really needed is a number of booklets such as there are in the schools. They are good little pamphlets which teach how to cook and in some cases teach the relative values of foods. I do not believe that all this weight of propaganda by the B.B.C. and in the newspapers is worth a great deal. I know we shall be told that housewives immensely appreciate it, but would it not be better to put this information up in pamphlet form and not waste such an awful lot of the taxpayers' money in advertisements and talks on the B.B.C.? We heard a lot of "Fuel Flashes"—I do not think there is much in them at all—now we have a large number of "Food Flashes" coming across on the wireless. I ask my right hon. and gallant Friend to reconsider the whole of our policy in this connection and to ask himself whether it is really worth while continuing these extremely expensive and not really effective forms of propaganda.

2.27 p.m.

Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)

I should like to hold up the hands of the Minister of Food, although I do not think he really wants very much assistance. There is no Ministry more popular in the country or more appreciated, and I only wish the same could be said of other Ministries. However, it was a useful idea of the hon. Member for South Salford (Mr. Stourton) to raise the question of poultry, especially on Friday afternoon, when the Minister can have the opportunity of explaining the exact position to the country. I am one of those who pay their tribute to the whole rationing system. The reason the country is so content and so patient under short commons is that there is a general feeling of share-and-share-alike and that the well-to-do are no better off than the person of moderate means. We all have to submit to great inconvenience with queuing, ration books and the difficulty of deciding each week how many of those small bits of paper should go to the various things we want. We put up with those things because we recognise that during the last five years there has been a brave attempt on the part of the Ministry to dispense evenhanded justice.

It is just as well that the housewife should understand the reasons. It is clear that where there is not enough of a commodity to go round, it is important to organise a rationing system. The only alternative is to have a maximum price. The hon. Member who raised this Debate put up an effective case about the operation of the maximum price system. What is the alternative? It is to allow an open market in which the men or women with the longest purses can—with the approval of the State, mark you—always get what they want on the unrationed market.

Mr. Stourton

That is exactly what is happening now. If the right hon. Baronet had listened to what I said, he would have heard that the trade organisations say that not less than 95 per cent. of poultry goes through the black market.

Sir P. Harris

I quite recognise the difficulty, and I am going to deal with it. My hon. Friend proposes that the Minister of Food should throw up the sponge, give up the struggle, because of the dishonesty not only of sellers but of buyers, and should say to the public that for the sake of a few privileged people they will have to put up with short commons because the person in the large house and with the long purse can go into the market and get extra food. That would be disastrous, that would have a bad effect, that would cause discontent—

Mr. Stourton

That is what is happening now.

Sir P. Harris

The duty that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has to perform is to hold the balance between all sections of the community. I am all for him trying to improve his organisation, but I would not ask him to abandon the struggle. On the contrary, he ought to do the right thing by the whole community and, as I say, we ought to support him in his struggle.

My hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) had something to say against the propaganda section of the Ministry. I am one of those who think it is a most helpful thing. One of the criticisms of visitors to this country from time immemorial has been about its bad cooking. It has been suggested that in normal times we waste enough to feed the whole of the French people, with their economy and knowledge of the culinary art. The Department has educated people not only on food values, which is important, but on how to make palatable, and make the best use of, the commodities that are available.

Captain Cobb (Preston)

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether that also applies to the Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons?

Sir P. Harris

Perhaps if the Committee would only listen in at 8 a.m. better use would be made of the foods available in the kitchen of the House of Commons. I am all for that excellent work which is being done by the Ministry. Their exhibitions, their instructional classes, their teaching of cookery, are not to be discouraged. My hon. Friend is no doubt fortunate in having a good cook or in being a good cook himself.

Mr. Petherick

I must interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. I was expressing myself, not against these cookery classes, but against the newspaper advertisements and the rather silly talks on the B.B.C.

Sir P. Harris

I do not think that the talks on the B.B.C. are silly. They are very entertaining. When I get up early enough, I listen to them myself. There are humble folk, anxious to learn, who do listen in to these talks. They are one of the most useful things the Ministry have done and I hope they will go on with them. I even go so far as to hope that this work continues after the war, not necessarily as the work of a separate Department. The education of the British people in cookery will do more good far the British nation than all the doctors and chemists' shops in the country put together. To go back to the poultry issue, I hope my right hon. and gallant Friend will hesitate to listen to the advice which has been given to him to abandon the Maximum Prices Order in relation to commodities too small in quantity for rationing.

2.34 p.m.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)

When the hon. Member for South Salford (Mr. Stourton) asked me whether I would join him this afternoon in this discussion on the distribution of poultry I thought, and believed, that he intended to offer the House not only criticism of the way poultry has been distributed, or maldistributed, so far as the public are concerned; I thought he intended to support control, or the canalisation of distribution, so that there should be a greater equity in this matter of poultry and rabbits for those who are not getting a share, and who have had difficulty in getting a share, of these "tasty bits," which help to augment the rations. I was inclined to the view that he would suggest some system whereby the public could benefit. His only suggestion is that we should first get rid of price control. Of all the crazy ideas that have ever been submitted to the House, that idea of the hon. Member for South Salford has certainly reached the limit. It indicates that the logic behind his argument is—I am quoting East Anglia as he did—that because racketeers have brought the law into contempt, we must get rid of the law and make an open market. I do not know that the House will be impressed by such an argument, but that is what he means. His next suggestion is that there should be a step-up of foodstuffs to make an open market possible for the producers of table birds. I believe that the Minister of Food would say that he has been trying to do that for a long time, but that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Food jointly find difficulty in supplying the necessary food with which to feed the birds which would make that open market.

The major concern is: Why has this scheme of control failed? It has failed because so far as the consumer is concerned scarcity has determined that there are not sufficient birds to go round. If the Minister of Food would tell the House there is a deeper cause of maldistribution. I believe it is the Minister of Agriculture who is "the ghost in the cupboard." I believe he is the bogy. I believe the Minister's predecessor, Lord Woolton, had a scheme to canalise table birds, poultry and rabbits, in the same way as eggs were canalised. I disagree with the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick), when he says that for two years we got no eggs at all. While the system was in its infancy, it was difficult to canalise the supply of eggs, but in the main, every family in the land did get, after the organisation got into proper working order, their adequate supply, or their rationed supply, of eggs, through their retailer. It may be that they had to wait a while. The fact was that there was no machinery by which eggs could be collected. Ultimately, the Ministry got the eggs collected and distributed them through the retailers, and everybody got their ration. The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth, who lives in a mainly agricultural area, might say that there was a big black market. Of course there was in the countryside, but the town dwellers would not have got an egg at all had it not been for the setting up of this organisation.

For about two years some of us tried to get the Minister of Food's predecessor to adopt this canalisation system in regard to poultry. It must not be forgotten that canalisation of poultry does take place for two months out of the 12, in regard to North of Ireland turkeys and poultry, and it means that the Minister himself handles the commodity, purchases on Ministry of Food account and consequently the birds reach the consumer. But when we have price control and no canalisation in the other to months of the year, there is a black market. In fact, the Ministry itself is incapable of enforcing its own Order. I agree with the hon. Member for South Salford in that. It is because the price control Order is insufficient.

A secondary reason is that there is an enormous loop-hole which can be seen at every market. If you were to go to Diss market to-day—that is in the area which the hon. Member was quoting—the trick could be seen. It is easy to observe; the Ministry's inspectors know what hap- pens. It has been going on for four years. Those who carry it out are difficult to catch, but it is a very simple trick indeed. All that happens is that the farmer comes to the market with live birds. Along come persons who are sup, posed to be stock breeders, and when the auctions take place there is a sort of password or keyword—"Signing." When that term is used it means that these birds are for sale subject to the person who purchases signing a statement that it is intended, in buying those stock birds, that the stockbreeder will take them home and utilise them for stock purposes. Of those who buy 99 per cent. have no such intention, and the birds reach the West End of London, they reach the hotels and restaurants throughout the country, and they do so by that trick. It is a trick that is known in every market in this country and it has been going on. I, and other Members, have pointed it out. There is no attempt whatever made to provide a solution.

The hon. Member for South Salford says that we should get rid of price control, because of these racketeers, who have brought the whole business into contempt. I submit that a solution of this problem is long overdue. I believe that we should bang together the heads of the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Food until they get down to this problem. They nearly reached a solution two years ago, just before the right hon. and gallant Gentleman assumed his present office. There was a disposition on the part of his predecessor to be vigorous and challenging, and to stand up to the Minister of Agriculture. But the organisation that have fastened themselves on to or within the Ministry of Agriculture have resisted canalisation. I do not wish to name them. The Minister of Food knows them and I think the other Minister knows them too. There is a kind of resistance movement, surrounding, and working within, and with, the Ministry of Agriculture.

To say that canalisation is impossible is mere stuff and nonsense. If we can canalise these millions of eggs, which are brought from the countryside into the packing stations, and distributed through the wholesale market into the hands of the retailers, and eventually to the consumer, the Ministry of Food can canalise the chickens which are fed in this country. So far as the distribution of turkeys was concerned at Christmas, in regard to the Northern Ireland turkeys which were bought by the Minister, there was very little, if any, racketeering. There was a black market in connection with the turkeys that were fed at home. I am convinced that when the Minister tried to explain the situation to the House, and to his food conferences, just before Christmas, he knew, and his officials knew, that a black market was an inevitable sequel to that Order and scheme which he promoted, so far as home-produced birds were concerned.

I do not really want to censure the Minister of Food, but I want to say that he has been badly advised, and that many of his advisers have set out to deceive him, and have succeeded in doing so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I believe that. They have known that there was another kind of advice that they could have given him, but for reasons best known to themselves, they would not venture on the drastic course which certainly was advised by the organisation to which the hon. Member referred just now. They made a suggestion, in the presence of the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth some months ago. It was a most elaborate scheme, but it would have been simple in its application. It would have meant much to the consumer, but the Minister of Food, while favourable, found that the real block to the acceptance of this scheme was The Minister of Agriculture.

The Minister can do something in response to the appeals which have been made, but I hope that he will not accept the suggestions of the hon. Member for South Salford or the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) takes the view which others on this side of the House take, that scarcity is the cause of the trouble, and that the scarcity will go on for at least two years after the war. The Minister of Food has a duty to get down to this problem now. It may be said that it is rather late in the war to do it, but, recognising that this augmenting of the rations is dependent upon the supplies we have been discussing, there can be no doubt that the general public will welcome some kind of organisation such as has been recommended, and that the black market can be eliminated in the main by that kind of organisation. I do not believe that it will mean an enormous number of inspectors. Will the Minister reconsider the recommendations that have been made by one or two associations, taking into account all the circumstances which are known to him as a result of his experience when, in December and January last, he successfully prohibited everything that caused the black market? Will he prohibit it all the year round, or get the Minister of Agriculture to co-operate with him in a scheme for dealing with the supply of poultry?

2.50 p.m.

The Minister of Food (Colonel Llewellin)

I am much obliged to my hon. Friends for raising this matter, because I think it is one which needs putting in its right perspective. With regard to these poultry supplies, there are three main sources—our home-produced birds, the birds we get from Southern Ireland, and those we get from Northern Ireland. This price control order applies to all three. It is completely effective in regard to imported birds, which come through our own channels of distribution. In regard to those from Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, it is completely effective. In regard to turkeys, that runs up to somewhere near three-quarters of the whole supply to this country. It is a much smaller figure in regard to poultry. If I took off the price control for birds from one source I should have to take it off for the lot.

Let us see why this price control was ever put on. These poultry did not become scarce because of the Order; the Order was put on because poultry were becoming scarce. People often seem to change the thing round, and take cause for effect. It was put on, as far back as 1940, because the prices of poultry were running up very high, to 2s. 6d. or 3s. a pound. The Order brought them down—of course there are different types—to about 1s. 11d. a pound for poultry. I have taken the best advice that I could as to what would be the price to which poultry would be likely to go were I to take off this Order. The advice I have been given is that it would be likely to run up to about 5s. a pound. I do not think we should allow that. So long as poultry and other meat products are as short as they are, I think it will be necessary to maintain this Maximum Prices Order—whether the price is quite right, or needs adjustment, is a matter that we look at every year.

But I would take this opportunity of warning the House that the whole world meat supply situation is a very difficult one at this time. We are for this year in an extremely difficult shipping situation. It is true that immense numbers of ships have been built, but our Allies in the United States and ourselves are carrying on very extensive military operations on four different fronts—in North West Europe, in Italy, in Burma, and in the Far East. That uses up an immense amount of shipping, and it is not possible to get in as much feeding stuffs as we should want for our meat and our poultry. I do not want to see a large part of the feeding stuffs that we give to farmers being used for poultry. Milk is much more important; it is more important too to keep up our meat herds. If one were to allow the price of poultry to rise without any control, the tendency would be to devote the feeding stuffs to poultry rather than to our more important milk and meat supply.

Mr. Stourton

Is not that what happens now? My right hon. and gallant Friend is assuming that poultry is being sold at controlled prices, whereas, as I have said, 95 per cent. of it is going to the black market.

Colonel Llewellin

I will deal with that point in a moment. But if I were to take off the Order I should be assenting to the position which my hon. Friend is, at any rate, right in deploring, if it is happening. I do not see my way to do that. The second thing which would be more likely to happen is that some of the poultry would be killed off to get these higher prices. I am leaving out of the picture at the moment those that are now getting the higher prices. The owners of the birds would be killing off some of the poultry which I want kept alive to keep up the egg supply. We should be inclined to lose our poultry just when the Minister of Agriculture and I are trying to give a little extra feeding stuffs to breeders of stock poultry so that they may once again build up our poultry stocks, and so allow people to have more fresh eggs than they have been able to enjoy during these years of war. This alleged black market is not as big as my hon. Friends would make out. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is very serious."] Will my hon. Friends give me some facts, upon Which I can bring prosecutions, and not just make vague accusations that there is a huge black market? Anyone who wants to get rid of a price control Order will make those wild accusations. But I can assure the House that if hon. Members will give me any facts, I will see that the appropriate action is taken against people who are guilty of doing these things.

Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Surely the Minister knows that there is a considerable measure of truth in the specific statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. E. Walkden) about the method of this black market. I am sure that he will agree with that at any rate, whatever he says about the degree.

Colonel Llewellin

I know that the method which the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. E. Walkden) described, of selling the birds for stock breeding is a way round the Maximum Prices Order. It was for that very reason that suddenly, on 1st November last year, we clamped clown for two months on any sales of birds for stock breeding, so as to control the turkey market and the poultry market at Christmas, when people like turkeys and poultry more than at any other time. But I cannot prevent these sales for the whole year. We must let poultry breed for some part of the year; otherwise, we shall not get any eggs at all. With regard to the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Stourton) I am afraid that we cannot at this stage take off this Maximum Prices Order. If anybody in the House or in the country who knows of those transactions will give me information, he will be doing his duty as a citizen of this country, and appropriate measures will be taken. I am as keen to stop the black market as any other Member of this House—I can asure hon. Members of that. On the other hand, I cannot canalise all this poultry as we can do with our meat and tea and various things, for the simple reason that, as the right hon. Baronet said, there is not enough. If you look at the home supplies of poultry that we have for the whole country, they provide less than one chicken, and a little more than one rabbit per person per year. There is not enough to run a rationing system on supplies so inadequate for the purpose as that.

Mr. Stourton

Then why control them?

Colonel Llewellin

Nevertheless, it is right, as I say, that we should not, in order to get rid of a black market, make everybody pay the prices that are nowadays paid in the black market itself.

I pass on to a few of the other remarks of the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick). I believe that that side of the Ministry's activities which gives food advice has done a remarkably good job of work in this war. Too great praise cannot be given to those women who run the Food Advice Centres up and down the country, and who go to Women's Institutes and into thickly-populated centres, into towns and little villages right up to the north of Scotland and elsewhere. They are doing a grand job of work. But that is only part of it. For myself, I think that what we put out, or what is put out on our behalf, on the radio, is extremely good. I like the "Food flashes" that are put on, and put on freely for us, by the cinema proprietors in their programmes. They always seem to me to be short and to the point, and they are appreciated by those who see them. But my hon. Friend mainly referred to the "Food Facts" in the papers. It is extraordinary how many people collect these and bind them up in a book, which becomes their recipe book, and it is surprising how many letters we get asking questions on these "Food Facts," or asking for different recipes to be put in or for other advice to be given, week by week and month by month, as these things go on.

Mr. E. Walkden

Especially dried eggs.

Colonel Llewellin

That shows us at the Ministry that the efforts we are making to give people advice on how to deal with the different foodstuffs they can get now, is much appreciated. However, I will go as far with my hon. Friend as to say that I did see the advertisement, which was a kind of puzzle, put out in what I suppose was the Christmas spirit, and appearing in the papers just about Christmas time. I came very much to the same conclusion on that as my hon. Friend. I remember that the only thing that pleased me about it was the question "Can you name two food dishes that begin with Q?" I named quince and quails, and they were the only ones which the author of the competition had thought of either. Apart from that, I do not think it was much good, and my hon. Friend may be glad to know that I had taken it up with the Department even before he put a Question down for me in the House, and I do not think we shall see quite that type of advertisement next Christmas.

I am very much obliged to my hon. Friends for allowing me this opportunity of giving these explanations to the House, and I only hope that they will think I have dealt adequately with the points they have raised.

Mr. E. Walkden

Would the Minister tell us now, specifically, why he cannot canalise poultry from the countryside as he canalises eggs, using the same machinery?

Colonel Llewellin

Yes, Sir. It is always known in food supply matters that it is quite easy to canalise what comes in at the ports. It is very much more difficult to canalise what you have to collect from a large number of individual farms, or individual tiny holdings or back gardens, where chickens are kept. We get the eggs, and we may as well be quite frank about it, by offering a higher price if they are sold to a packing station, than if they are sold to the general public. That is how we put in the Government subsidy, and the producer of the eggs gets more for his eggs if he sends them to the packing station than he would if he sold them on the ordinary market without going through the packing station. That is a very effective way of getting the eggs that I want for our distribution system.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Six Minutes after Three o'Clock, till Tuesday next, pursuant to the Resolution of the House this day.

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