HC Deb 15 July 1946 vol 425 cc882-5
The Minister of Food (Mr. Strachey)

The Government have given careful consideration to representations which have been made to us in regard to the scales of bread rationing, particularly in regard to the housewife. There is no doubt that the housewife with a family of children has a special need for assistance. The supply position, after careful review, permits us to make a small concession, and we have come to the conclusion that the best way of helping the most hard pressed housewives is to give the extra bread, not directly to them, but to their children. I want to help the housewife who has the care of a family on her shoulders, and the bigger the family, the more she needs help.

We are, therefore, increasing the scale of allowances to all children from birth to the age of 18 by one ounce a day. We are also reducing the age at which the children's ration will rise from five ounces to nine ounces from 5 to 4 years. We are also, partly for simplicity, abolishing the category of children of under one year, so that the ration from birth to four years will now be five ounces, instead of two ounces for children under one year. These increases for children will reduce the estimated saving of the rationing scheme from 10 per cent. to seven per cent. In order to give effect to them, the value of Coupon F will be increased from 1 to 2 bread units, and Coupon J from 5 to 6 units.

Mr. W. J. Brown

Can the Minister of Food tell us what will be the effect of the very welcome relief he has just announced, coupled with the other reliefs that have been announced to the Press, on the total original saving which, we were told, is desirable, and is estimated to be between five per cent, and 10 per cent.? [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman announced the effect of the increased rations for children. I was asking, and I thought I was quite clear, what is the effect of that, coupled with other allowances that have been announced through other channels, on the total saving we are setting out to achieve.

Mr. Strachey

The former announcements which, I think, the hon. Member has in mind, were all in the original scheme. Some of them were not understood, and were not, indeed, covered in detail by the original announcement; but they were all allowed for in the original estimate, and the only change in the estimated saving is the one I have just announced, from in per cent. to seven per cent.

Sir T. Moore

On a point of Order. In view of the fact that, in regard to the question of the American Loan, we took two days only to put it through this House, and that it has taken nearly six months to put it through Congress, would it not be in Order to have some fuller questioning of the Minister as to its effects?

Mr. Speaker

I called upon the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

Speaking from memory, my recollection is that the saving suggested, originally, was of the order of between five per cent. and 10 per cent. I understand, if my arithmetic is correct, that this present concession which, I am sure, is widely welcomed, will reduce the saving by three per cent,, that is, from 10 per cent. to seven per cent. In other words, if the original statement is correct, the present saving is between two per cent. and seven per cent., and not between five per cent. and 10 per cent. May I ask when the Order will be issued?

Mr. Strachey

On the first point, no one can, of course, give an exact estimate to within one per cent. of the saving; but I think we have been extremely conservative in our estimate of the saving that would be effected. I should very much doubt whether this, in fact, will reduce the real saving by as much as three per cent., because I think that the families to whom we are giving the increase by this concession would be the very ones who, otherwise, would have sacrificed points for bread units, and would have got extra bread in that way, by sacrificing points. Therefore, I doubt very much whether the loss in broad will be as much as three per cent. On the second point, the Order is being printed, and I trust and believe it will be laid this afternoon.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The right hon. Gentleman said that under his present concession the bread ration for children from the age of four years would be nine ounces. In view of the fact that the published scale of rations for the five to II years of age group was eight ounces, will he clear up the disparity?

Mr. Strachey

Yes, Sir—because I have just announced an addition of one ounce for all children.

Sir William Darling

In view of the very important statement made a little earlier by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I should like to ask the Minister of Food whether the situation has not greatly changed; and if it is too late for him to consider putting the people of this country on their honour for two months of voluntary rationing?

Mr. Speaker

There is, I am sorry to say, a sad tendency in the House to try to debate matters by question and answer. That seems to me to be purely a debating point and not a question.

Sir W. Darling

If I was too obscure, may I put the definite question? Is it too late to reconsider voluntary rationing for two months in the light of the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Strachey

I am sorry to say that so far as cereal supplies are concerned ratification of the Loan can have no direct or, I should say, indirect effect whatever. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has never grudged dollars for the purchase of every single ton of cereals we can possibly get.

Mr. John Paton

Will the Minister assist the House by converting the figure of 7 per cent. into approximate tonnages?

Mr. Strachey

I am afraid 'that that is beyond my powers of arithmetic, but I should say that the figure is somewhere in the neighbourhood of between 300,000 and 400,000 tons.

Sir T. Moore

As I assume that we have now disposed of the Minister of Food, can I ask the Chancellor whether, in view of the fact that this Loan which we are getting from America has depreciated by £100,000, the Agreement still stands?

Mr. Speaker

Captain Crookshank.