HC Deb 31 January 1945 vol 407 cc1452-4
53. Mr. Purbrick

asked the Minister of Food, in view of the great number of oranges that have gone bad out of the consignments recently received owing to the embargo on retailers disposing of them before a certain date, if he will remove this and so save this waste of valuable food.

Colonel Llewellin

No embargo has been imposed on retailers by my Department. In some cases local distribution committees have asked retailers to commence sales simultaneously, but the delay in any case is short, and could have no effect on the condition of the fruit. I have received no evidence that these arrangements have caused waste.

Mr. Purbrick

In view of the fact that the Department has a large number of inspectors, could not some inquiries be made, because the waste seems general? Surely the Department ought to be capable of re-organising itself so as to end this waste?

Colonel Llewellin

I am afraid such waste as there is in these oranges is largely because of the conditions under which we have to transport them to this country at the present time.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Why did the Minister display such enthusiasm in bringing thousands of cases of Seville oranges here, when they are now rotting in the shops because people have not the sugar with which to make the marmalade?

Colonel Llewellin

The supplies of these bitter oranges will work out at only about 1 lb. per family of four persons. I believe that the concession by which people were allowed to take sugar instead of jam allows a large number of people to make that extra marmalade at home which they very much welcome.

Mr. E. Walkden

The Minister can see what is happening in the shops.

Mr. Pritt

Does not the Minister know from the reports he has that a lot of these bitter oranges are rotting in the shops because, rightly or wrongly, people think that they have not the sugar? Could he not do something by handing the oranges over to marmalade makers?

Colonel Llewellin

I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that we are supplying the full requirements of the marmalade factories for these bitter oranges. It is the residue that is going into the shops for individuals.

Mr. Pritt

It is the residue that is rotting.

Mrs. Hardie

Is there not something wrong with the distribution of oranges? In some districts we cannot get any.

Colonel Llewellin

Oranges are difficult things, because they will not keep and they have to be distributed as quickly as possible. We do try to distribute them evenly over the country and we hold them in the shops for five days for anybody who has not already had his ration book marked. We are doing our best. A very large percentage of the oranges are getting to people in good condition and are very much welcomed.

Mr. Turton

Would the Minister bear in mind that if these bitter oranges are not wanted in the South, they are required in the North of England?

Viscountess Astor