HC Deb 11 April 1946 vol 421 cc2101-3
Mr. Churchill (by Private Notice)

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make on the rationing of bread and the American proposals that "further sacrifices in oils and fats should be made."

The Prime Minister

When my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food was in Washington, provisional proposals were made for the distribution of wheat up to the end of June. Unfortunately it now appears that supplies from the United States and other supplying countries are not coming forward in sufficient quantities to meet these proposals. The short fall will affect, not only the countries for which U.N.R.R.A. is responsible, but also the United Kingdom and other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire including the large populations in India. It will also affect occupied countries and other foreign countries in which we have special responsibilities—indeed it will apply to all importing countries alike. This situation can be met only by the united action of all countries, exporters as well as importers, each contributing to the maximum of its ability. During the war the Allies developed a system whereby all our resources were shared in common for the common good. If the same principle is followed now, we in the United Kingdom are willing to play our part and we shall not fall behind in the contribution which we make.

The House knows already the successful efforts which we have made to increase our wheat production and the efficient system which we have developed for drawing all millable wheat from the farms at an agreed price, so that it is used only for human consumption. We have recently increased our extraction rate, even though this seriously affects our supplies of animal foodstuffs.

We are now prepared to go further in the common cause. We are willing to ration bread if the supplying countries are prepared to do the same. Alternatively, we are ready to take administrative measures to save wheat and flour which are comparable in their effect to those which the supplying countries are prepared to adopt, so that the fullest contribution may be made by all to avert the risk of widespread famine and starvation.

We are anxious to apply the same principle of common effort to meet the world's requirements of oils and fats. On this subject, however, I can make no statement at the moment, beyond saying that we are doing everything in our power to increase supplies from all parts of the world.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

May I ask the Prime Minister if there is any truth in the statement that has appeared in the last day or two to the effect that the Americans considered our British consumption of fats per head greater than that in America?

The Prime Minister

I have not heard that.

Mr. Wilson Harris

In the statement the Prime Minister has just made, he spoke of our being willing to take similar measures with other supplying countries. Can he explain why in the Press notice issued from Downing Street the United States of America has been singled out as the only supplying country to whom we, so to speak, issue this challenge?

The Prime Minister

I think the United States and Canada were mentioned. The matter was taken up in discussion with the United States and Canada.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that full statistics have never been given to this House of the decisions taken at Washington? Will he have them issued?

The Prime Minister

They were provisional proposals, and it has now turned out that those allocations cannot be dealt with as fully as we hoped they could be.

Mr. Nicholson

Why should not the House have even provisional allocations told to them, because it is important that the House should be fully informed of the facts?

The Prime Minister

Obviously when suggestions are made of certain allocations which are not brought to a final conclusion, it would be a mistake to publish them.

Earl Winterton

In view of the importance of this matter to this country, can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication when he will be able to inform the House of the decision of the United States Government?

The Prime Minister

As I pointed out, they are considering this matter, and I cannot tell when they will finish the conversations. Of course, I will inform the House.

Sir Frank Sanderson

Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether approaches have been or are being made to Egypt and Brazil with a view to securing adequate supplies of cottonseed for making edible oils and margarine which are so badly needed?

The Prime Minister

Yes, that was taken up, and gone into very fully.