HC Deb 18 July 1946 vol 425 cc1448-541

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Churchill (Woodford)

I beg to move. That the Bread (Rationing) Order, 5946, dated 11th July, 1946 (S.R, & O., 1946, No.1100), a copy of which was presented on 15th July, be annulled. We have given the most careful consideration to, and we have had long discussions among ourselves upon, all the statements and figures which have been given to us on this subject by His Majesty's Government, and as the result we cannot feel convinced that the imposition of bread rationing is necessary on 21st July. Unless some new fact is disclosed which we do not now know, we shall be bound to vote against the imposition of this heavy, awkward, galling burden at this time. I will now proceed to examine seriatim the reasons which have so far been vouchsafed to us. The Minister of Food—[An HON. MEMBER: "Here is your man."] I am glad to see him safely out of the oven. The Minister's case has rested upon the state of the pipeline of 31st August, 1946. The "pipeline" is his own expression, a very good expression, and it is on the state of that chain of moving supplies on 31st August that he rests his case. We are told that the pipeline will contain only eight weeks' supply, and that we use 100,000 tons a week—actually, I think we use a little more, 112,000 tons—whereas we have worked in the war to ten and a half weeks' supply, and made that a necessary precautionary essential. We are told that less than eight weeks' supply in the pipeline will endanger distribution, at any rate in particular localities.

Somewhere below the figure of 800,000 tons—these are the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food—there would come a point where the distribution system of the country, first of the wheat, and then of the flour after it had been milled, would begin to creak and groan, and finally break down. We cannot, he argues, run that risk. But by 31st August we reap the new home harvest. At least between 200,000 and 300,000 tons of this harvest will be garnered in September—and perhaps more may be accelerated by special measures—and the rest, amounting in the end to over 1,700,000 tons, can be garnered and delivered to the millers, as may be needed from October onwards, by arrangements which can easily be made now. We have not been told what other supplies will reach us from abroad in August and September. In September, the Minister is counting on 250,000 tons from our own harvest. So we need import only about 150,000 tons to maintain the pipeline above the danger point.

Why should this be so difficult? In September, 1944, a bad year, with the war going on, we imported 292,000 tons of wheat across the U-boat blockade. In September last year, we imported 318,000 tons of wheat. Why should we not be able to import 150,000 tons of wheat in September? Have we left it too late? If so, tell us so. In matters of this kind it is much better to tell the truth. This country is not afraid of facing ugly facts. We would not be here now if we had shrunk from that. I must say that, so far as I am aware—I have endeavoured to get all the information possible from those who know about the state of this trade—there is no difficulty in importing 150,000 tons, and indeed, far more than that, in September. After September we have the whole of the home harvest within our reach to draw on as we think fit, and although the problem of our bread supply may remain, its urgency will have vanished, Spring may bring other troubles, but the urgency will have vanished. The latest published harvest estimates of the four great exporting countries—Canada, the United States of America, the Argentine and Australia—are now declared to be 10,000,000 tons in excess of the statistics given in the April White Paper. Therefore, on the facts now before us—I emphasise "now before us" because it is the crux on which I rest my argument—it is clear that any imminent danger wilt have passed by 31st August. Why, then, is there this need of bread rationing on 31st July? That is the point we have to settle tonight.

There could hardly have been selected a more inconvenient date for the introduction of bread rationing, because so many people are away from their homes, or about to go away, on their annual and hard-won holidays. I will speak of the difficulties and confusion of this scheme, so hurriedly conceived, in a few minutes. But I return to the point which I am making—What is the reason for bringing this scheme into operation on 21st July? It cannot, certainly, be on account of the valuable savings which are to be made in bread consumption by the declared scale of rationing during the five weeks involved. What are those savings? They are estimated by the Government now as a maximum—I am taking the best figure for them—of seven per cent. of consumption in a whole year. In the five weeks concerned, the saving amounts only to about 40,000 tons, or one-fifth of the 200,000 tons that the Lord President of the Council agreed to forgo when he visited the United States of America. The Lord President agreed to forgo two weeks' supply—the critical two weeks' supply. Now, to save less than three days' supply, we are to take upon ourselves all the inconveniences and friction of the present scheme of bread rationing beginning on Sunday next. I cannot believe that this petty saving is the true reason of the Government's serious decision.

Let us, then, continue our search for that reason. The next explanation which presents itself for the Government's anxiety to start rationing is that they anticipate a serious long-term shortage of wheat, and desire to prepare for it. The proposed ration scale, yielding a saving of only seven per cent. per annum, would certainly be no remedy for a serious long-term shortage of world wheat. It was for that reason that, when nearly one month ago the Minister of Food announced his intention to ration bread, I immediately formed the impression that cuts far more formidable than would be enforced at the beginning would be imposed upon us later on, once the rationing scheme was in working order.

I do not think that the Minister of Food was entitled to be vexed with are or surprised that I came to that conclusion, because I remember that the Lord President had said on 31st May that, of course, if it should become necessary for him—that is, the Minister of Food—to economise in consumption then dais machinery would be there ready for the purpose. I thought that meant that it would be put up on a certain scale and, if serious economies were necessary, it would be turned on, as it would have to be turned on. I have been given a quotation, which I did not hear with my own ears, but which I have verified, in which he said on the same day: The purpose is, as my right hon. Friend "— the Lord President of the Council— has said already, above all, to give us control of the situation… we are sailing… into a storm area… but we are determined to go into that storm area with the capacity and the ability to shorten sail "— in this connection "shorten sail" means to cut the ration— at the shortest notice if that proves necessary.''— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st May, 1946; Vol. 423, C. 1575.] The right hon. Gentleman, who has had so many burdens come upon him at the beginning of his career as a Minister of Cabinet rank, resented what I said, and since then he has given repeated assurances that the scales contained in the Order now before us—which we are praying this House now to annul—are the worst we have to expect. I have certainly understood, and I think there are repeated quotations to confirm, that he has said that they are the worst we have to expect, but if I am wrong by all means let us be told. Ought we to reach this point in this long discussion and not know a thing like that?

The Minister of Food (Mr. Strachey) indicated dissent.

Mr. Churchill

We have an uncertain shake of the head from the Minister. The assurances have been given all over the country, and repeated everywhere, that this is the maximum scale of cuts that is to be imposed—those contained in the Schedule to this Order. Where do we stand? I was very much struck with that uncertain lateral movement of the Minister's head. Does the right hon. Gentleman know where he is? [HON. MEMBERS:" Yes."] Then, rejoicing in that happy position, let him tell us where we are. Where do we stand on this question of future reductions of the present bread ration scale? Why be afraid to tell the British public the truth? If we have to take it, we can take it, but a Government that is afraid to tell people what they are going to be up against, will not get the confidence of those people enduring the hardships. I am glad to see the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Edith Summerskill) taking her place and hope that she has completely recovered from the distressing accident about which we were all much concerned.

The Minister has told us in the House that there is no question of the ration being reduced. Moreover, far from threatening further cuts, he has hinted and more than hinted at the early removal of bread rationing altogether. Where do we stand? Some doubt was thrown, I admit, on these assurances by the speech of the Minister of Agriculture last Saturday when he said: If there should be any possibility of the United States defaulting on the 467,000 tons of wheat we are expecting from them, or of the British farmers failing to deliver the 570,000 tons for which they have been asked— I suppose within a certain time— our bread rationing would not only be necessary but the allocation, which is bare enough, would have to be reduced. What is the position of the Government? I ask the Minister of Food, or the Prime Minister, specifically here and now across the Table, whether they adhere to their statement that the scale of bread rations in this Order now before us will not be further reduced? Is that true or is it not true? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I ask the Prime Minister, Is it true or is it not true that what he is proposing now is a final ration scale so far as the immediate year to which we are concerned is involved? Is it or is it not? The Prime Minister cannot answer; he may think it very wily tactics at the head of a great majority to take refuge in the obscure recesses of silence, but out of doors people want to know what are the facts and what is the true position. Right hon. Gentlemen have no right to reproach us with opposing them upon this matter, when they cannot answer and when they think it better to sit glum and mum, in the hope that the storm will blow over. I call the attention of the House to the fact that no answer has been given as to whether these ration scales are to be decreased or not. [HON. MEMBERS: "Wait."] After all, this has all been talked about for a month, and so many pledges have been given to us that one would have thought that the Minister could say, "I stick to what I have said; there will be no increased cuts and, more than that, I hope to take off rationing." Does the Minister run away from that now or can he say "Yes" or "No "? Already these triumphant leaders of victorious democracy along the bench opposite are far on the road to becoming a line of extinct volcanoes. There is not even a little geyser to show that they are alive.

After saying that, I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has thrown a great deal of doubt upon the statement which he made that there will be no additional cut in the ration. Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman, as soon as he gets this system into operation, is going to turn the screw sharp and hard, and put on very much more serious rationing, with much more severe cuts, then that at least is an explanation. It is a sad and sombre explanation, but at least it is something one can understand. If it is not true that rations are to be cut more severely, we are irresistibly driven to the conclusion that no case has been made for the institution of bread rationing. If we are to be told that this is the prelude to further cuts, and that this is to give facilities for shortening sail, to any extent that may be necessary, the Government may be greatly censured, but nevertheless, the measures that they put forward may be the only ones possible for us in our unfortunate position. That is the second point I make. Do the Government stand by their statement that this Order contains the worst we have to expect in the next six months or so? I suppose we shall get an answer when the right hon. Gentleman speaks.

Mr. Strachey indicated assent.

Mr. Churchill

Why it should be kept a secret till then, I do not know I only asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he was going to keep his word or not, but if he likes to reserve himself on that point, very well. We contrast the smallness of the saving with the immense amount of hardship, and we are left wondering what is the reason for this violent act, unless there is to be a big increase in the cut. On the statements which have been made to us, the need is not apparent, and if the need be proved, the remedy appears wholly in- effective. It is like using a steamhammer to crack a nut when there is nothing in the nut. That is the impression we have so far derived from all we have been told.

Since the bread shortage was first bruited abroad, the season has progressed. It is now possible to estimate with good assurance the harvests of the great food-exporting countries. We may base ourselves on the promise of bumper harvests in 1946. Whereas in the five years 1935–39 the average total of 37 million tons of wheat was reaped in the four great wheat-exporting countries, last year's harvest was 46 million tons, and the comparable figure for this year is estimated at 55 million tons, or 17 million tons above the prewar average. Moreover, British home production has made a very considerable increase—30 per cent. or 40 per cent.—over what it was before the war. Is that not so? Therefore it would seem that the Minister is on safe ground in promising not to make further cuts in the ration scale and also in holding out hopes of the speedy removal of bread rationing.

Where is his case for making this Order operative on 21st July? It is indeed a strange chain of circumstances which the right hon. Gentleman, and those with whom he acts, have to explain—bumper harvests, peaceful and open seas, Socialist planning, and yet, with all these blessings, bread rationing on 21st July. I draw a distinction between drawing up a system of bread rationing and actually bringing it into force. His Majesty's Government have made so many miscalculations in the past on these subjects, that it would no doubt be no more than prudent for them to set up the whole machinery of bread rationing. Indeed, if they fear there may be a breakdown in supplies in particular localities, through the pipeline getting unduly drained and beginning to creak and groan—about which we have had no information—if they fear that, they are bound to take this action, however wasteful, cumbrous and unpopular it may be.

I put it to the House, for careful consideration, that it would be better, in the public interest, in the next few weeks, to prepare a rationing scheme on better lines, in full consultation with the trade and the bakers, so as to make it as little onerous as possible, but not to enforce it until the necessity is proved. I have a word to say to the bakers and the traders who are concerned. They have been ill-treated. They have not been consulted, nor have they been given a chance to aid the Government in solving the problem with all the expert and practical knowledge which they alone possess. Nevertheless, I strongly advise them to do their best to make whatever scheme is thrust upon them by the Government, and on the authority of Parliament, work as well as possible. If the scheme breaks down in operation, let it be clear to the country that it is because of its own inherent defects and not that the breakdown has been brought about by any lack of honest effort on the part of the trade concerned. This is the advice which I and my Friends on this bench feel it our duty to give them. [Interruption.] Does not the hon. Member approve of my giving that advice? We will play the game by you if you play the game by us. You have made us feel that we have hardly a right to live in our own country.

That all this friction, disturbance, inconvenience and hardship will be imposed upon the public, and all the vast process of handling and clipping scores of millions of coupons will be imposed upon the traders, the roundsmen and the housewives, for such small results—seven per cent.—only deepens the mystery of why the Government feel impelled to take this step, and why they feel impelled to take it now, without giving the scheme a chance to be properly prepared and arranged, or trying to carry people with them in their management of affairs. There would be an obvious advantage in taking more time to prepare the best possible scheme, in having friendly consultation with all the bakers and others, and putting the machinery in good order, in case an emergency—which has been in no way disclosed to us, let alone proved—should arise. That would be a sensible thing to do. What is the reason why it is not done?

I have dealt with several of the events which would justify an imposition of bread rationing, and I have shown that they do not apply, unless we are to be given some new information. I have only one other explanation which I can think of for the imposition of this rationing scheme, ill-conceived as it is and hurriedly pushed forward to come into operation on Sun- day next. This explanation must be cleared up now. The only intelligible reason for imposing bread rationing on 21st July is so shocking as to seem incredible. I certainly am not adopting it until it is forced upon me. It is that we shall shortly reach, or perhaps have already practically reached, the distributional minimum of 800,000 tons in the pipeline, and that we are now condemned to live from hand to mouth for the five weeks between 21st July and 31st August. Can the Government really have allowed this to come to pass? Can I have an answer to that question now? Why was this date 31st August chosen to give us an account of the state of the pipeline, the only account we have been told we are to receive of the state of the pipeline? Naturally, I thought, it will be running down from the figure of 1,500,000 tons or whatever it was, and by 31st August it will get to 800,000 tons, somewhere below which the danger of breakdown in distribution, which must at all costs be avoided, might occur. Why was this particular date chosen? What is the intermediate position? How much is there in the pipeline now? How much will there be in the pipeline a fortnight hence? Is the position of the Government that the stocks in the pipeline may fall gradually to the danger level by 31st August, or is there something else which is grave, and of which we have not been told, between now and 31st August.

I have nearly finished the few remarks I have to make. Naturally, if the right hon. Gentleman will not answer my perfectly plain question by an interjection, I will wait until he makes his statement, but I feel sure that everyone in the House —not only on one side—will consider that answers to these plain questions of fact should be given and that the House should not have to vote without knowing what the answers are. We have found it difficult to understand the reasons which have led the Government to propose bread rationing now, and a fear has arisen that we have not been told the facts. I ask the right hon. Gentleman for a definite assurance. I hope to be reassured, and I believe I can be reassured, that we are not already at the danger point of 31st August. I gather that we are not——

Mr. Strachey indicated assent.

Mr. Churchill

The right hon. Gentleman has said so. I am very glad of that. I rejoice at that. Never will I have any emotion but joy and relief at anything which helps our country. If there had been a great breakdown, or something terrible going to break out upon us now, some skeleton in the right hon. Gentleman's cupboard going to leap out, I would still have counselled him to let it out at once, and not be frightened about it. But as I understand that he will give an answer which is reassuring on this point, namely, that the pipeline will not tall below 800,000 tons before 31st August, I can only tell him that, so far as I am able to obtain any information on the subject, that was the answer I expected him to give. If that is so, where is the case for imposing this rationing scheme on 21st July? If it is said that there is a great saving, that is an argument. If one says that some terrible thing is about to happen and that we must have the scheme now, that is an argument. If it is said that we are putting it into operation and will have to make it more severe in the future, that is an argument. But all these arguments arc demolished. What then is the argument for bread rationing on 21st July?

To sum up, if the Government were to tell us that a grave crisis had arisen or would arise in the course of the present month before the British harvest is reached and that its extent could be measured in terms of days of breakdown of distribution before 31st August, that would be a new fact of the first magnitude, which we should have to take into consideration. We should condemn the Government for their earlier mismanagement, but proceed to judge their new proposal on its merit. Moreover, besides all this, if the Government say that the present scales of rationing, which are practically no saving in consumption, are only the forerunners of much more drastic action which they apprehend will be needed, then we are willing to recognise that they have substance in the case which they make, no matter who was responsible for the mismanagement. If, however, His Majesty's Government cannot say one thing or the other, neither a crisis before 31st August, nor an increase in the severity of rationing after 31st August, it is plain that they have made no case which could justify any responsible Member of Parliament in agreeing to an ill thought out scheme involving a great measure of hardship on the people, and we shall vote against an Order which, for all its cost and trouble and worry, appears at once panic-stricken in motive, and futile in action.

7.37 p.m.

The Minister of Food (Mr. Strachey)

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has gone over once again the arguments, which are not new to this House, on the state of our wheat supplies and the consequent necessity, or lack of necessity, as he feels, for the rationing of bread. The figures which he quoted to us are themselves perfectly correct and I have no desire to challenge his arithmetic. He asked about one or two points of detail, which I will endeavour to answer, on why we apprehended that the importation of Canadian wheat to supplement the early deliveries of our own harvest—which we can, he said, legitimately hope for in September—might be smaller ban in former years. The right hon. Gentleman quoted figures. The answer to that is simple and definite—that this is the first time for many years certainly, and, so far as I know, the first time at all when the Canadian wheat elevators have been completely exhausted and that there has been for practical purposes no carry-over whatever from the old crop to the new. That is a fact which is serious to us but one of great honour to the Canadians, and, as a matter of fact, to the international organisation of the world. It is precisely by that exhaustive running down of the stocks of wheat in the great exporting countries to the lowest practicable level so that the great Montreal elevators did actually run dry a week or so ago, that, by the skin of our teeth, we have averted the worst at any rate of the consequences of world famine.

But, of course, that process does mean that the month of September, the last month in which deliveries would have to come from the old 1945 Canadian crop, is a month of special difficulty for us. We regard it as a month in which we could legitimately hope that a recovery in our stock position might begin, but we regard it also as one in which we would be rash indeed to expect any but a minimum importation of Canadian wheat, and a much lower importation than usual for that factor—unique, I trust, to this one year—that in an effort and a largely successful effort, to get the world through this desperate situation, the Canadians have run their stock position down to an unparalleled degree.

Now the right hon. Gentleman, with his accustomed eloquence, told us of the bright prospects that lie ahead, when he said that in the autumn, in October and November, we might well be having deliveries from a bumper Canadian crop and a bumper British crop. Well, that may be so; I trust and pray that it will be so; I think that the propects are bright for that—they are appreciably brighter than they were even when we debated the matter last. They should be bright but, as he said himself, it is all a question of what we trust and hope will happen after 30th September next. So that what the right hon. Gentleman was doing to us at the moment, if he will forgive me saying so, was telling us, as if we were a party that had to cross a very dangerous ravine on a very narrow bridge, "Oh, but you need not take any special care about crossing this bridge. Why, when you get to the other side, the road is easy and plain and wide." That is quite true—at least it is quite true as a prospect. We can only see the road ahead across the ravine and it does look promising, but, after all, those crops are not yet reaped. We have had to days of delightful summer weather in this country but—a not unknown experience in this country—in the last three days that weather has departed again. It may be that it comes back to us. I hope it will, but would it not be rash indeed to believe that we are to have a hot August and September in this country?

Those are types of uncertainties which surely are hardly relevant for us in discussing the question, and the right hon. Gentleman very naturally and rightly narrowed his point very closely to the question of whether this bread rationing ought or ought not to be introduced on the given date of 21st July——

Mr. Churchill

Before the right hon. Gentleman gets to that, he is surely going to tell us what wheat he does count on coming from Canada in the month of September. Is he going to tell us that out of this vast crop which Canada grows it is not possible, in an emergency like this, to gain 150,000 tons which would balance things?

Mr. Strachey

Yes, Sir, I am more than willing to tell the right hon. Gentleman that. I have recently visited Canada and spoken to the officials of the Canadian Wheat Board and Mr. Gardiner, of the Ministry of Agriculture, and they assured me that owing to the climatic conditions in the Northern latitudes in which we know the Canadian crop is planted, we cannot, and never could, expect supplies from the new Canadian crop in September in this country. It would be something quite unparalleled if we could expect them. I repeat that in September it is a question of getting the leavings of the old crop, and they are actually very small indeed, for the very honourable reason which I have just given to the House. No, it is in October and beyond——

Mr. Churchill

What about the 150,000 tons? Is it possible to get 150,000 tons? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]

Mr. Strachey

I confess I thought I had dealt with that, but I will deal with it quite candidly in the one word—No. It is not possible to get 150,000 tons, or anything comparable with it, of new Canadian wheat in the month of September, and that is a fact of climate and of geography.

Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)

What about the old?


Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill was heard without interruption, and therefore I think the Minister of Food should receive the same courtesy.

Mr. Strachey

Having said that, and pointed out the basic irrelevance of a discussion of our prospects of wheat after the end of September next to the matter under discussion today which, as the right hon. Gentleman has rightly posed it, is the question of whether or not we should introduce bread rationing on 21st July, I join with the right hon. Gentleman in rejoicing that those prospects for the autumn and the early winter are steadily improving at the moment. If these prospects continue to improve—and the harvests, I repeat, are not reaped yet and no harvest is out of danger until it is reaped—they do improve the prospect, not of avoiding the introduction of this scheme next week—they cannot affect that —but of being able to remove it at an early date. It would be most rash, before those harvests are gathered, to give pledges and undertakings on that point, but we in this House can all join, surely, in saying that, as those prospects improve, then of course if our hopes are realised, it may be possible at a much earlier date than seemed probable only a few weeks ago, to remove the burden—and of course it is a burden—of bread rationing from the people of this country.

Now that is really the same point, but the right hon. Gentleman has stressed it so strongly, and I can only really give the same answer to the question he put roundly to me, why this particular date of 21st July? Because that is the latest possible date—and it is rather a late date —for the introduction of this scheme, to serve its practical and immediate purpose, and what it is now legitimate to hope, at any rate, may prove to be its only purpose, of taking us across this danger point of the turn of the crop year. The right hon. Gentleman toyed with the suggestion, not of the abandonment of the scheme, but of its postponement. However, if he is right—and I trust and cannot help believing in a sense that he is right in these brighter prospects for the new crop year—then a postponement today would be the most illogical thing of all, because it would mean that the scheme would not serve its purpose for safeguarding our position during the turn of the crop year.

The right hon. Gentleman pressed very strongly for an answer, and he shall certainly have one, on what the purpose of the scheme is in that short term as it faces us in the next two months. He asked, Can it be merely to make the relatively small saving which any such scheme must make in a short period such as that, since the weekly saving must obviously be a comparatively small one? No, the main purpose of that short term, if it proves, as we hope, the only period of the rationing scheme, is to provide an assurance policy against various factors which I enumerated when I last had the honour to address the House; the various uncertain factors which beset us during this period when, as the right hon. Gentleman himself has most strongly emphasised, our stocks will be at a dangerously low level. He quoted a simile which I ventured to give the House in a former speech, that we were entering into an era of storm and had to he in a position to shorten sail. He makes great play with that, that this is on account of a threat that the ration scales will be reduced Is not the position perfectly simple from that? If the position, instead of improving as it has done—and I am glad to be able to tell the House that none of the short term prospects of deliveries from America have so far gone wrong—if instead of that improvement, we had a great or greater deterioration in the situation, then our insurance policy would have had to come into effect and we would have to meet the situation as we found it.

Mr. Churchill

The point is not whether the insurance policy comes into effect; it will come into effect if this is passed by the House. The point is whether an increased scale of rationing is contemplated.

Mr. Strachey

No, Sir. That is the right hon. Gentleman's point. On the contrary, in the present outlook, which we agree has distinctly improved as I announced to the House a few days ago, we were able to make a small improvement in these scales, but that is because things have gone the way they have gone. They might have gone the other way and we would have had to meet that situation. The right hon. Gentleman says I have given great assurances on these matters. I have always said that if those crops failed, and if there were terrible hailstorms on the Canadian prairies—I remember I said in answer to the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) that, of course, if these 1946 crops failed, and the monsoon in India failed again, and the Southern Hemisphere crops failed—in a world situation of that sort it would be quite absurd to give an assurance that any particular scale of supply could be maintained in this country. That is perfectly simple and straightforward. I should have to know what are the harvests to be reaped all over the world.

The right hon Gentleman made very great play with the splendid harvests which he said are expected in the Northern hemisphere this year. I think he did exaggerate the prospect somewhat and I only hope that he is proved right —he may be right. But even so, do not let him forget the other side of the picture which is of the utmost importance—the fact that this year the world starts with no fewer than 11,000,000 tons less wheat in stock than it did last year. Therefore, this year's harvests in the four great exporting countries have to turn out bigger by 11,000,000 tons than the harvests of last year, only to start equal. I do not like having to emphasise it, but that is the other great consideration which we cannot lose sight of unfortunately.

He then went on to suggest, in a remarkable passage, that there might be some great skeleton in my cupboard ready to leap forth—I have never seen a skeleton leap forth—on a frightened world. It would reveal that our stock position was far worse than any which had been revealed to the House. He asked why we took this date at the end of August, 31st August, in forecasting our stock position to the House. I will tell him precisely. We took that date precisely because, in the opinion of our experts, that was likely to be the low point. That was the worst figure from our point of view which we could give. So we thought it right to give that figure. We do hope that because of the collection of the home harvest there will be a slow and then, we hope now, a more rapid, improvement after that. That is the low point. Stocks, I can assure him at once, are not down to that level yet. As he says, there is likely to be a slow run down until the end of August, and that we believe is the point at which the graphs will begin to turn upwards.

Mr. Churchill

Nothing below the danger point will be reached between now and 31st August?

Mr. Strachey

No, I believe that to he so. I know what the right hon. Gentleman's point was, and he was loudly applauded for it—if that is so, why not wait until we come to the danger point, and then put on rationing? Is that a really wise or prudent action? To wait until the very day when one gets to one's very lowest point in supplies, before doing anything to safeguard the position? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members behind the right hon. Gentleman cry "No," and I am glad to hear them say "No." I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would speak in the most scathing terms of the improvidence, recklessness and irresponsibility—I have not his wealth of language; he would go on with a list of epithets ten times as long as I could muster—and all these things he could say of any Government, and rightly, who let the situation get right down to the danger point, to the lowest level, before they took any step to safeguard the position.

I would like to turn for a moment to a subject on which I can fully agree with the right hon. Gentleman in the prudent and helpful words which he offered to the bakers on the question of the enforcement of this scheme——

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us the stocks up to the end of August?

Mr. Strachey

I could give the stocks as we foresee them, from week to week, but it would be of little interest, and would be speculative, because they depend on the exact dates of sailings of ships from American and other ports and precisely the dates on which the harvest comes in this country. I believe it would be utterly meaningless to go down to the last 5,000 tons of stocks as we expect them to go down to the low point on 31st August.

On the question of my friends the bakers, with whom I have spent a good deal of today in conference, I thank the right hon. Member for Woodford for the words he said to them. I say to the bakers—to all of them, not merely to the particular section, the relatively small section with whom I have been in conference today and who have sent deputations to me—whatever their attitude, I realise that we as a nation are asking them to put themselves to very great trouble and very great inconvenience over this scheme. There is not the slightest doubt about that. But they are a class of retail distributors who have had—I must say this—on the other hand, very great good fortune. They have never been worried with the distribution of rationed goods up to now. It is, of course, a great shock and a great inconvenience to face those problems which other retailers have been facing, those burdens, which the grocers, for example, have been carrying in working the whole of the points rationing scheme which was introduced by my illustrious predecessor, Lord Wootton—and a very good scheme it was. But it was a much more complicated scheme than we are introducing here, and one which the grocers of this country have found a way to work exceedingly well and effectively.

I say to the bakers that I think they will find that if and when—certainly I make bold to say "when"—they try, reasonably and sensibly, to work this scheme, they will succeed in working it. I will say at once that in the case of any baker who in good faith is doing his best to work this scheme, and does not get it quite right in the first few days, we shall do everything in our power to help him, and not hamper him.

Mr. Wadsworth (Buckrose)

I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that a considerable number of grocers in this country handle bread.

Mr. Strachey

That may be true. I thank them too for the cooperation they are to give in working this scheme. To revert to what I was saying, it is only in the case of a baker, if such a case arises—I trust and believe it will not arise—who wilfully and obviously makes no attempt to work this scheme, that the sanctions will be applied—and not merely legal sanctions but the sanctions of supply, which must naturally, in any rationing scheme, follow the workings of the scheme itself. Finally, I would say this. The right hon. Gentleman asked, What is all this scheme, this elaboration, this burden and this fuss, why has it all been imposed? What have we to gain for it—only a few miserable tons of wheat? No, that is not what we have to gain. This nation, in going through the inconvenience of this scheme, which we do not doubt for one moment, has to gain, we believe, a thing absolutely essential to it during the next two months; it has to gain safety and assurance for the bread supply of the people, and fair and equitable distribution of that supply to everybody.

8.5 p.m.

Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)

The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food, who has just addressed us with his customary skill, is at least worthy of this compliment that he has an almost unparalleled gift for arousing the least critical of his supporters to an almost unheard frenzy of masochistic hysteria, and that in a House of Commons peopled with a singularly uncritical majority. But he achieves this result only at the expense of a total disregard of the major part of the case against him. On the last occasion when this issue came before the House, the Minister succeeded in arousing the pleasure of his supporters only at the expense of urging that there was a grave crisis upon the world. But he conveniently forgot to observe that the gravamen of the charge against him, and against the Government of which he is a Member, was not that there was a crisis, but that the impact of that crisis upon this country had been gravely contributed to, and aggravated by, the incompetence of His Majesty's Government, an Administration which had put in charge of the nation's food for 12 months the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rotherhithe (Sir B. Smith), and devoted such poor brains as it possessed to the pursuance of the class war and their system of nationalisation.

On this occasion the right hon. Gentleman has similarly shirked the issue. We are debating here an Order which has been put forward by his Ministry. We propose to vote against it because it is a bad Order. It is unworkable. It is the ill-thought out and over-complicated scheme of a cocksure and inexperienced administrator. The right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in addressing this House for over half an hour without saying a word about the terms of the Order, or the principles upon which it is based. The charge against the right hon. Gentleman is this: This country has in existence a system of rationing which I venture to say is second to none in the world. In two world wars it has stood the test of time, and has gradually improved in operation, so that it is not too much to say that it is by far the most successful system of rationing ever devised. Indeed, I had almost said, except for the fear that hon. Gentlemen opposite might ask me to withdraw, that it was the only successful system of rationing which had ever been devised in a civilised community.

That being so, one would have thought that when it came to be necessary to ration the most basic food commodity of all, the right hon. Gentleman himself, almost devoid of experience in his Department, would have paid some attention to the principles of rationing which have thus established themselves in this country. It is the country most qualified to deal with a system of that kind, but we find that his scheme is novel in almost all its important respects. It bears all the marks of inexperience. It is complicated where it should be simple; it disregards the principles which have worked in the past, and it has been promulgated without adequate consultation with those who will have to carry it out in practice. As I understood the plea which came from the Front Opposition bench, presented by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, it was this: We think that, having regard to the defects in the scheme, only some grave and urgent crisis which must break in the next two or three weeks could justify us in putting into effect this particular ill thought out scheme. We quite agree that in not having a proper scheme ready by now, if it be necessary to ration bread, the Government have been guilty of grave imprudence, but we think, having regard to the unworkable character of this scheme and to the facts which have been disclosed by the Government, which do not justify any panic measures, we ought to think again and to produce a scheme based on rational principles which would be workable and which would be acceptable to the people of this country. It is precisely that case, which is directed at his own Ministerial incompetence, with which the right hon. Gentleman has utterly failed to deal. I did not say too much when I said that he had only achieved the loud cheers of his uncritical supporters by completely ignoring the nature of the case against him.

Now that we understand from the Minister that the situation is not as urgent as we might have feared it was from the nature of the scheme, we are still less able to comprehend why a scheme should have been brought forward which embodies such a grave departure from the principles of rationing. If it be true, as he now leads us to suppose, that this scheme is only thought of as a temporary expedient to lead us across a narrow ravine the road beyond which looks fair and promising, one would have thought it would have been easy and desirable to produce a scheme of rationing which complied in some respects with that with which the housewives of this country are familiar. Instead, he has chosen to follow his own road, a road which I prophesy will lead him into administrative difficulties and may even lead him into disaster.

If there be one principle which has made the rationing system in this country a success, it is that subject to very few exceptions, and those of the most obvious kind based on extreme physical need—as in the case of sickness, or pregnancy, or extraordinary physical exertion as in the case of the very heavy manual trades—except for those broad exceptions, for the most part the ration of every basic commodity has been the same. That is the thing which has made it acceptable to the people. But the right hon. Gentleman has now chosen to introduce a very highly differential scale of rationing. It is that fact which has led him into difficulties at the present time. In the form in which it was originally presented, he succeeded in making up the ration of the heavy manual workers at the expense of starving the children of this country. That he has now virtually admitted by his recent increase. He has succeeded in remedying this situation only very largely at the expense of destroying the saving which he hoped to make. Neither in the former form in which the scheme was presented nor in the present form was anything whatever done to ameliorate the position of the housewife.

The essential absurdity of the differential scale is brought to a head in the case of the housewife. The right hon. Gentleman is in this dilemma. He cannot count the housewife as a manual worker because if he did he would destroy the economies he proposes to make. On the other hand, if he does not treat her as a manual worker, at least of the lighter kind, all I can-say is that it illustrates the fundamental absurdity of differential rationing. The right hon. Gentleman yesterday said that the restored cuts would help the housewife with children. I wonder whether the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, who I hope will reply to this Debate, will explain that answer, because I must say I find it a little difficult to understand. To my mind, it can mean only one of two things. If the restored cuts to the children are going to help the housewife with children, either it must mean that the right hon. Gentleman's present intention is that the housewife should eat part of her children's ration, or it must mean that it was his original intention that the housewife should have gone without part of her already too meagre ration in order to supplement those of her children. I should like to know which is the explanation of the extraordinary answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave yesterday.

It is not only in the adoption of this differential scale that the right hon. Gentleman has departed from the fundamental principles of the rationing schemes which have proved so successful in the past. I turn now to the question of registration. One of the principles of British rationing in the 1939 war was that basic foods, like meat, should be the subject of registration so that the housewife had to register with a particular distributor. The points system was superimposed upon that in order to give variety, but the basic commodities were the subject of registration. The reason for that surely was very obvious. If in fact the housewife is not registered, any particular distributor—especially in the case of a commodity like bread or flour which can be turned to a variety of uses —has to deal, as a matter of pure speculation, with the problem of how much he should bake or in what form he should bake it. I have some sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman. I am perfectly sure that in introducing this novel principle he was actuated by a desire to make the lot of the housewife more easy. I give him credit in this respect for his good intention, but I venture to think that the consequences will be gravely different from those which he expects. It must be the case that where bakers do not know how much or what kind of bread or confectionery to bake, there will be local shortages and gluts. There will be constant local panics and moves from distributor to distributor. All the evils which we succeeded in eliminating from our traditional system of rationing will, at any rate for a short time, be accentuated and brought to pass. I think he ought to reconsider that part of the scheme.

There is another feature of the scheme which again I feel absolutely certain was actuated by the best of intentions. Again it represents a fundamental departure from our well known and successful system of rationing. I refer to the inter-convertibility of B.Us. and points. Again I feel perfectly certain that the right hon. Gentleman introduces that scheme in a desire to alleviate the hardship of rationing. At first sight, it was an attractive and generous idea, but it seems to me to have two fundamental disadvantages. First, the divorce of the ration book from the coupon and of the owner from the ration book simultaneously, will create a black market on a scale which hitherto has been unknown in this country. That is an evil which is not worth while having regard to what we are now told is the temporary nature of the scheme. Second, it is obvious—and it was pointed out by an lion. Gentleman in the last Debate we had upon this subject—that one of the curious effects of the interconvertibility of bread units and ordinary points will be that it penalises the poor and gives privilege to the rich.

It is obvious, whatever may have been the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, that the poor will want to convert their points into bread units, while the rich will want to convert their bread units into points. We thus have this comical position, which, I have no doubt, is the last thing the right hon. Gentleman intended to do. He will whip into the Lobby tonight the whole of his majority of zoo Lobby fodder units of Labour Party supporters in order to support a scheme, one integral feature of which is that the rich are given an additional privilege, while the poor suffer an additional disadvantage.

I should be doing less than justice to the right hon. Gentleman if I did not suggest an alternative course. I suppose that I should not be allowed to do so in any detail without contravening the Rules of Order, but I think that, in justice to the right hon. Gentleman, I ought to suggest that there was an alternative all along. Upon the assumption, which I do not accept, that as distinct from flour and confectionery, it was necessary to ration bread, it would have been possible to introduce a scheme in conformity with our —I almost called it—traditional system, but perhaps that is rather too gloomy a view, so I will say our well-known system of rationing which the housewife would have understood, which would have been simpler in operation and more acceptable to the trade and public. If bread rationing had to be introduced. it should have been introduced in this form —bread should have been the subject of registration, with a more or less equal ration, subject only to this—that the very heavy manual workers and the workers who use packed meals should have had an advantage, and that the rest of the flour and confectionery should have been on the ordinary system of points, with, of course, necessary adjustments either in the total number of points allowed or in the value of the various commodities. If that had been done, we should, at least, have got simplicity, and, probably general acceptance.

Now I come to the last point I want to make. The right hon. Gentleman has departed from the principles of good rationing in yet another respect. I know that it is the fashion with hon. Members opposite to deride and denigrate any group of people who make their living by serving the public in any particular respect, and I know that it becomes very hard for a Socialist Minister to follow the example of his predecessors in Parliament in carrying along with him the members of any particular trade which will have to assist in the operation of a particular administrative scheme, but, in this case, the attitude of the Minister towards the baking and ancillary trades has been one of contempt, until, at last, their obvious dissatisfaction with the Minister has, to some extent, brought him to heel. I desire to echo the wise words of my right hon. Friend in what he said about the implied threat by certain people, goaded on by the Minister's irresponsible attitude and contempt, to fight the law. Such an attitude cannot be tolerated, and certainly not from these benches. We do not believe in the principle of the general strike. We opposed the repeal of an Act the object of which was to make it illegal to hold the Government to ransom. But I do not think this Government have any cause to complain in this respect, because after all, what is sauce to the goose is also sauce to the gander, and if the right hon. Gentleman ventures to carry into effect the various threats with which he is endeavouring to terrify the trade, I trust he will take the advice of the learned Attorney-General, who told this House not many months ago on another occasion that we might as well try to bring down a rocket bomb with a pea-shooter, as try to stop a strike by the processes of the criminal law."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1946; Vol. 419, c. 200.] I hope that, if it is proposed to bring into effect the processes of the criminal law against these unfortunate men, it will also be proposed to brief for the prosecution competent counsel, who, at least, believe in the instrument which the right hon. Gentleman is trying to invoke.

I think we must vote against this Order. It is introduced by a Government who have gravely accentuated the impact of the world situation on this country, and who, in the past, have been somewhat less than frank with this House. It is carried forward by a majority who, the moment they are faced with any signs of popular agitation or alarm, threaten, with unmistakable signs, to curb the full exercise of public liberty. The moment they are criticised in the Press the Press must be subject to an inquiry, and, when petitions against this Order are brought before this House, loud cries arise from the Government Benches and attempts are made to interfere with the rights of hon. Members. When, at last, some misguided person——

Mr. McKinlay (Dumbartonshire)

On a point of Order. May I ask if hon. Members on this side of the House will be permitted—[Interruption]—I am rising on a point of Order. I really do not want to give an opportunity for someone to make a row. I am rising on a point of Order, which is my prerogative as an hon. Member of this House, and I am asking you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if the hon. Member is in Order in raising questions like the General Strike which are not contained in the matter before the House.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

In my view, in so far as he has gone, the hon. Member is in Order.

Mr. Hogg

When some misguided people begin to use names about hon. Members opposite, which have frequently been applied to hon. Members on this side when they supported the Government of the day, hon. Members opposite show a wonderful readiness to bring out of its cave the fire-breathing instrument of Privilege which was designed to crush those who threaten and intimidate the free House of Commons. We are making ourselves ridiculous, and we do not improve the opinion in which this House is held in the country by showing ourselves unable to face the anger of our constituents.

8.28 p.m.

Mr. George Brown (Belper)

The speech to which we have just listened, in so far as it has been practicable and constructive, was interesting, but, for lack of knowledge, the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) went right off the lines, and only a short part of his speech was devoted to practical considerations. We have had cheap undergraduate witticisms which the hon. Member ought to have left behind a long time ago, and we have had a most unfortunate reference to unfortunate men. I could think of another title, which may have occurred to the hon. Member, and I would say that men who set out to break down the law and to bring into disrepute something which this House has passed are not unfortunate men. The practical criticisms which the hon. Member made were, as I undestood them, that the scheme was too complicated and not simple enough, and that it would have been better if the scheme had not paid as much attention as it does to priority classes. Fortified by recent visits to my Division, I want to say that it is the attention which the scheme pays to priority classes which commends it to the housewives.

Mr. Hogg

The hon. Gentleman has not quite got me right. I said that it is wrong to starve the child and the housewife.

Mr. Brown

I deliberately did not answer that because I thought that, on reflection, the hon. Member would regard it as somewhat exaggerated. If he does not, in fact, see it that way, I cannot possibly help him.

I want to say a word in criticism of the practical points of the scheme precisely from the other end. I believe there are ways in which the attention to priority classes could be improved. Before the hon. Member for Oxford spoke, we heard a speech by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). I must say that I have never heard, on what was supposed to be a great occasion, such a collection of stale jokes and "Have you stopped beating your wife?" questions. There was the greatest repetition. We had the first sentence at least three times, and I feel that the cheers which the right hon. Gentleman received at the end of his speech from his cohorts behind him were much more to rouse their own drooping spirits than in appreciation of what he said. In fact, what we have had so far in this Debate has confirmed what I had in mind, that the attitude of the other side to this question is altogether one of playing politics about a great human issue.

I am not one to complain about them for damning the Government by bell, book or candle, or by any other means that comes to hand, but let us, at least, remember in this great Mother of Parliaments that when we are dealing with a food issue, even if it were to involve failures on the part of the Government, we are dealing with the greatest human question of all—the situation which arises out of the starvation of millions of people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hardly thought that I should ever get the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) on my side. So far today, we have heard nothing about the alleged feeding by us of Germany which caused this situation, although we have been told of it before. Every moral and self interest drove us to do what, in fact, we did. If we rule out the moral question, which does not tempt ho.n. Members opposite, we have only given to Germany what has been described by an hon. Member on this side as our insurance against a repetition of the Spanish `flu. Even on that low material level, it is the kind of thing we could not get away from.

The campaign which has been waged against this bread rationing scheme has been one of great immorality. I have said this in my Division. A lady, who did an enormous amount of speaking for my opponent at the last Election, told me in this House that she was thoroughly disgusted with the campaign against bread rationing. I could understand the Opposition working up the country against us, but as my right hon. Friend said, to work up the housewife against the one form of machinery which is her salvation is quite immoral. If any political party goes into the field to conduct a great campaign against the Government, it has to answer the question, "What would you have done had you had the position to face?" The hon. Member for Oxford tried to answer that. I thought it was a poor answer, because it begged the essential virtues of this scheme. I always remember that in the minds of our people is still the fact that the Tories answered this question after 1918. It was still rationing, but it was rationing by the power of the purse.

I have been reminded that one of the things against us is that we are supposed not to keep closely in touch with our people. I commend to hon. Members opposite to find out the reaction to this scheme in those Divisions represented for the first time in this House today by Socialists, so far as their morals are concerned. I have been to my Division and have invited those who felt strongly about this to meet me. They have done so in great numbers. I think it is fair to say that, on the whole, the need for something in this crisis is in fact recognised and admitted; that rationing is regarded as the fairest way in which to deal with a situation the existence of which they recognise, and that they have some reservations about the scheme, which I will mention to the Minister in a few moments. Before mentioning them, I would say that I have heard the master bakers' representative who ended a meeting, during which he had asked many questions, by saying: There was an alternative "— and for a moment I thought the hon. Member for Oxford had somehow alighted on the bakers' alternative: The alternative was to let the price rise. You would then have controlled the demand, because people would have stopped buying, any more than a mere minimum. I have heard other people make comments. A Church of England vicar—a non-party man who was never associated with me up to this time—came to a meeting, and at the end of it he got up to express his point of view. He said something which appealed to me, and I commend it to hon. Members opposite. He said that the Government were doing a morally right thing and not a politically expedient thing.

Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)

would like to ask a question of the hon. Gentleman, who is putting his case very reasonably and very well Considering that the gain involved in this scheme is so small in substance, could not the Government have made a voluntary appeal to the nation so that those of us who are not employed on hard manual labour could voluntarily cut down our food supplies and leave it to the others? Could not they say to this nation, which is accustomed not to being led but to leading itself, "Will you create this safety margin for us and save the country?" I believe it is possible to do it.

Mr. Brown

That question has been asked in this House over and over again. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the answer?"] It is the Minister's explanation which appeals to me greatly, namely, that the essence of the scheme of rationing is that it enables one to work to closer margins. May I commend the answer which I gave to the same question in my Division? If the people in one town happened not to "play ball" under a voluntary scheme, and started a run on the stocks at a time when the supplies in the pipeline were running down, and if people continued to feed whippets as they do in those areas where whippets are kept, the only alternative solution when there was a shortage of margins would to take stocks from a neighbouring town. That is precisely the kind of thing which makes a voluntary appeal out of the question.

Mr. Baxter

The hon. Gentleman cannot trust his own people.

Mr. Brown

The hon. Gentleman will have plenty of time to develop that point. I assure him that I have thought about that question, and if he thinks it over, by next Sunday he will agree that it would not work.

I want to say a few words about the reservations, and I would ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who I am glad to see here, to take careful note of this. First—I am most sure about this point: I am not so sure about the others —I ask that something be done as early as possible about the manual worker who, by sheer accident, does not get a cheese ration. If one cannot get cheese, one can at a pinch put something else between bread, even if it is only a spread of margarine, but if one cannot get bread one can put nothing between it. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames appears to find that remark rather exceptionable, but I assure him that it is true.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

My amusement was caused solely by a remark of unexceptionable accuracy coming for the first time from the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Brown

I have no doubt that if, some day, the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames learns, as I have, the value of not intervening too often, he also might begin to make statements of accuracy. Turning to the question of the manual workers, I had some experience, during the war, handling the appeals of workers for extra rations and coupons, on the basis of a national machine It is a most cumbersome and difficult thing to get bodies which are advising the Minister to accept an appeal for the inclusion of any particular class of worker, because it always sets precedents.

What I hope is, that the Ministry will quickly set up local appeal machinery, so that it can be dealt with on the basis of five or ten workers appealing in an area, and getting a decision within a matter of days. The second point, about which I am not quite so sure, but I believe it is a strong point, is that the children's increase at the moment starts at 11 years of age. I have been told about this in my own constituency, and I have experience of it in my own home. I feel sure we ought, if it is at all possible, to introduce a stepping up in the ration at an age lower than 11, because children start to eat that extra bread, speaking of my own experience, at eight years of age. I think that is about the right age at which to start it. At any rate, we ought to have an intermediate stepping up.

The third point, about which I am not sure, is one which my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) developed the other day, and I have come round to her point of view, though I do not know whether she regrets that or not. It is on the question of introducing some points control, or other control, of eating out. I accept the whole of the Minister's argument about the practical effect of this, and I have said so in my own constituency. However, there comes a time in all these things when we have to balance what is politically or psychologically desirable against what is effectively possible. I believe we have reached the point in our planning of things when we ought to launch out on a definite line, otherwise a lot of people will feel, perhaps inaccurately, that other people are getting a good deal more than themselves.

I have said all I set out to say, save for one thing, namely: I hope that in an issue of this kind we will keep the discussion at a much better level than has been the case in the past week or so. Rightly or wrongly, it is a big and major issue. I hope no section of the community will have the impertinence—and I use that word quite advisedly—to say to this Government, or to any other Government, "Because we think you have done a wrong thing, and a cumbersome thing, we will not work it at all." In regard to the Minister's plans to deal with sabotage, if they may be needed, I thought I detected a slightly mischievous note, which is sometimes met, from hon. Members on the other side.

8.43 p.m.

Viscountess Davidson (Hemel Hempstead)

I am not going to attempt to speak on the general food situation, except to start by saying I have complete lack of confidence in the present Government, and certainly in regard to the food administration. I want to speak, first, on the position of the bakers. The bakers have been attacked, and very strongly attacked, because they have said they do not believe they can put this scheme into effect satisfactorily. Those of us who had the honour of representing our con, stituencies during the war know perfectly well what the baking industry did during the war. I like to feel, in spite of what the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said, that many of us have always, been and still are in close touch with our constituents. I know that there is hardly a baker in my constituency who, during the war, has not had to come to, me in order to try to get help to carry, on his business. Perhaps my position, representing a country constituency, is different from some hon. Members who represent town constituencies, although I think it applies to the towns as well.

The baking industry was not a popular industry before the war, even in days of peace. They have night baking, and long hours, and much of the work is carried on by very small traders. During the war they lost their assistants; their sons were taken from them, and very often their daughters too. The bakers in my constituency—and this applies to the rest of the country, too—have carried on under the greatest difficulties. Sometimes it has meant an elderly father and mother, all alone, whose health has become completely wrecked by the work they had' to do. I can assure the House I have heard of case after case where the Ministry of Labour have been unable to help by supplying any assistant labour at all What these war years have meant to the baking industry has to be remembered and understood before we condemn too quickly the fact that they now state they do not believe they can operate the bread rationing scheme.

It is because of what they have been through, and because they have not yet got the help in their shops that they should have—it may be coming later on, when more people are demobilised—that they are taking up this attitude about bread rationing. They are very much afraid that they cannot work it. It is not a political ramp on the part of the bakers, and on their behalf I very much resent that being said. It is a genuine fear on the part of very loyal men and women, who have done an extremely good job of work during the war, that they may not be able to fulfil their obligations, and that is what many of us on this side are fearing as well. They have served the community loyally through the whole of this period, and through the very difficult six years of war. Now they have thrust upon them, literally at a moment's notice, a very complicated scheme. They have only had a fortnight's notice, and those of us who have seen the papers they have received know that it is complicated.

The handling of bread in this country is to a great extent in the hands of very small people. I know there are big stores, and there are also the Cooperative stores, but the bulk of it is done by small people. They have this complicated scheme given them at a fortnight's or ten days' notice and they are expected to be able to work it. They are very anxious in case it should break down. The men and women on whose behalf I am speaking are absolutely genuine; they are the first people who would be anxious to make this scheme work if they could, but they are afraid they will not be able to do so. They are being blamed because they are expressing their views so strongly, but I think it would be very wrong if they did not express their views strongly, because if the scheme were to break down and they had said nothing, the public could turn on them and say, "Why did not you warn us that you would not be able to make it work?"

I had a letter only this morning from an outlying village in my constituency where they have no local baker, but ob- tain bread from either a town three miles away on one side or one five miles away on the other side. From one of those towns they have received notice that the bakers cannot now undertake delivery in outlying villages, and from the other town a paper saying that they must register instantly by the Thursday of this week —which is today—otherwise no bread will be delivered there. There is no time for these people to understand what they have got to do, and that is why many of us feel deeply anxious about what will happen when the scheme is put into operation on Sunday

I want to say a word or two on behalf of the housewives. I have heard it said, I think by one of my colleagues downstairs, that queueing would not necessarily become worse because of bread rationing. Queueing can only be cured by an increased number of deliveries outside and more assistance in the shops. That is the only answer to queueing, and there is no doubt that under this scheme deliveries will be very much slower. It will certainly be so in the country districts. The van goes round—it is very often a horse and van—the driver stops and drops the two or three loaves, frequently the money is left on the sill, when the woman is not there herself; he goes on and delivers at the next house, and the whole of the delivery is based on the period of time it takes him to do that round. Now he must stop at each place longer. He must find the woman, she must get her book and he must cut out the coupons. [An HON. MEMBER: "They can be deposited at the shop."] I know she can hand the coupons over to the shop, but not when the delivery is to the little cottages in the outlying districts which I have described. As there is already a great shortage of delivery vans, it will take far longer to deliver the bread. Therefore, it will mean that more of the public will have to go to the shops and queue.

It has been said to me that there is very little queueing in the bread shops, but I can assure hon. Members that I myself have never been able to buy a cake without queueing. [An HON. MEMBER: "Because it is unrationed."] I have never been able to purchase a cake without joining a queue for it. It is not the fault of the shops. It is not the fault of the people. It is simply that, until we have more assistants in the shops and more deliveries, the general situation cannot improve, and certainly not if deliveries in the country districts are now curtailed any further. There will be more people having to go to the towns and shop personally, and, therefore, there will be more delays and more queueing. I am certain that the only way to work this scheme is by registering, in exactly the same way as we have registered at our grocers' shops. The grocers and the public know exactly where they are. I have talked this matter over very carefully with the numerous bakers who have come to me in the last few days, and they all say the same thing, "Let us have our customers registered with us, and then we shall know exactly where we stand."

Now, I wish to make a few suggestions. We are very glad the Minister has bound it possible to increase the allowance for the adolescent children. Those of us who have these great, growing children, as I have myself—and I know that the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food has, also, the same anxiety—know how boys of 17 can eat a loaf in one meal. Our 17 year olds are permanently hungry these days. I am sorry to have to say it—it is, perhaps, to my own shame—but my own large 17 year old is never anything but hungry and the only way to placate his hunger is to put a loaf down before him, and that loaf vanishes in the most extraordinary way. At any rate, the allowance to the adolescent boy and girl has been increased. But I should like to make a plea for the younger children from five to 11, whom the hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper mentioned. A child from seven to 11 is growing very fast, and is also always in a permanent state of hunger. I hope it will be possible to increase the allowance for children of that age.

For the housewife I want to plead very strongly. She, indeed, does manual work, very hard manual work; and I hope it will be possible to increase the allowance for her. Another category has also been mentioned, the self-employed farmers. Unless some different system can be evolved, they will not get extra bread, and yet the self-employed farmers and the farmers' families are, very often working as hard if not harder than the men they employ, I hope it will be possible to see that this category of very deserving and hard working persons get the extra allowance allowed to those they employ.

During the war, those of us who have represented constituencies in Parliament have felt it a privilege and an honour, not only to keep closely in touch with our constituents, but, also, to advise them and help them on every kind of occasion. When unpleasant Regulations have been brought in, as they have had to be brought in because of the war and during the war, and controls have been put on, we have helped our people to understand that they have had to accept those restrictions and controls, because they were necessary. It is a very real distress to those of us on this side of the House—and I speak very sincerely, can assure hon. Members—that: we cannot at the moment feel that same urge. It is riot that we do not appreciate that there is a world shortage of food, that we cannot appreciate that there must be a cutting down in the consumption of flour. We all realise that. But we are not convinced that this will be achieved under the bread rationing scheme and we are far from convinced that it is a really satisfactory scheme. Also, we do not feel that the public has been taken into the Minister's confidence and that there is much more behind it all than we have been told. Surely, from the experience in the war, we ought to realise that this people of ours can face anything if they are told the truth, and if they tryst those who are in power.

It distresses me that I have to speak thus, but I am speaking from the point of view of what it means to the housewives in the country. If rationing is necessary, then a better scheme should have been planned, a scheme which was more workable and had the support of the bakers: This scheme is complicated, and it is contrary to the rules laid down by Lord Woolton when he drew up his original schemes for rationing of certain food, milk and other commodities. He always insisted on carrying the trade with hint. During the war I had the honour to sit on the National Expenditure Committee and my Committee made a careful inquiry into the Ministry of Food. We were very much impressed by what vie found, and for that reason I am able to speak with a certain amount of authority as to the system adopted by Lord Wool-ton. The Minister has failed to carry the trade with him, as Lord Woolton carried the different trades with him when he was rationing food. If there is a danger of shortage in the next few weeks, we must accept the fact that flour has to be saved, but the scheme suggested is a bad one, and I am afraid that it will be an unworkable one. I have no hesitation, therefore in voting against what I believe to be a thoroughly bad Order.

8.57 p.m.

Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)

It is certainly very much easier to attack the Government on their policy of bread rationing than to defend them, because there is no doubt that this will involve a very large number of people in very vexatious inconveniences, and will, I am afraid, involve some people in read hardship. Some of us who take up a rather independent position in this House——

Mr. R. S. Hudson

Sitting on the fence as usual.

Mr. Roberts

—do not need to support the Government continuously whatever they do, right or wrong, nor do we have the irresponsible urge, which the Conservative Party has at the moment, to find that what is popular is also right. It is very easy at the moment to attack the Government for this rationing scheme, and it is a very popular cry to say that it is quite unnecessary. There is no doubt that the Conservative Party is adopting that point of view, and I am very anxious in what I say to dissociate myself from them on that account. Some of us, including many Independents, have thought very hard about this and have come to different conclusions. There are Members who believe that a case has not been made out, but I believe that a case has been made out, and that this is a wise safeguard and a necessary insurance against accident.

I do not know if I understood the Minister aright, when he gave his answer to the Leader of the Opposition, on the question of whether the bread ration will be reduced. It seems to me that what he meant was that if there are accidents—if everything does not go according to plan—the ration will be reduced. The position which the stocks are in today has arisen partly through the deliberate act, or, at any rate, the agreement of the Govern- ment, in allowing an allocation of the world wheat supplies to go to India, the Continent and other countries. May we understand from the Minister that, in no circumstances, will he willingly agree to a reallocation of supplies which would reduce our bread to below the ration now proposed, unless some unforeseen situation arose? We accept that it is necessary that, when the pipe-line is being run as low as it is, the Government should have control over the supplies, and safeguard the equal distribution of those supplies.

Turning to the fact that this is going to cause great hardship and inconvenience, especially at this time, I would like to support the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson), who has told us what difficulties it is going to create, especially in the country districts. I hope that the administration of the Ministry of Food will be made as elastic as possible in those districts. In the North of England, we eat very much more bread and pastries than do people in the South. Bread is a very large item of diet in the rural districts of the North, where we have no canteens such as there are for the heavy workers and other workers in the big industries. We are long distances from the food offices. It is a real concession that we shall be able to post our B.U. coupons to the food offices, because there are large centres of population in my district which are 10 to 15 miles from the nearest food office.

The importance of bread in all the essential activities of the countryside is very much greater than it is in towns. Every social event in the countryside is dependent on bread and tea, along with cake and other things, and I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if she would tell us something about the policy in respect of bread and flour for caterers. I hope that she will be able to give a reasonable allocation to the firms which cater for parties and for social events, especially in country districts. I do not think that it is going to be at all easy for agricultural workers, especially small farmers to exist on the bread allowances. It is going to be particularly difficult during the harvest. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would tell us if extra rations will be given for harvest workers. During the long days which they work, an enormous amount of bread is consumed.

The first people who will be terribly hard hit are the people living alone, not necessarily aged people, because workers sometimes live alone. They will find it exceedingly difficult to make ends meet on the bread ration. Whether any latitude can be given there, I do not know.

There is another aspect of the matter to which I want to refer and which has been mentioned by the Minister of Food himself. A considerable quantity of bread grains would have been used for livestock this autumn if bread rationing had not been brought into operation. There would be a saving there. There has been a great deal of improper use of bread and flour for animal feeding in the past, and in my own district a lot has been used for dogs. That should not be. Although it will be hard for those who earn a perfectly legitimate living rearing greyhounds, yet bread should not be used for that purpose at the present time. This is the only definite way by which it will be stopped.

I want to say a word about the bakers. It is a pity that they have conducted their opposition to this scheme the way they have. Some bakers have opposed it vigorously, but I know that they are not in the majority. I think they may have a good deal to say for themselves, but they really have not done their case any good by their meeting yesterday, which merely marked their archaic determination not to cooperate. Some of us would like to know what their troubles and problems really are. Why are they going to find it so difficult? I do not think that the scheme will be any more difficult for them than it is for those working the other rationing schemes, but if they have any special difficulties we ought to have been told about them. They have not managed to get them to the general public beyond the fact that they do not like bread rationing or the working of it.

I gather that they have suggested that if flour for cakes, bread, confectionery or whatever it is called were off the ration, it would be quite possible for the housewife to register for bread alone, and that flour might be rationed for cake purposes to the baker on a basic allocation, as has been clone in many other cases. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us why that is not practicable. Fats and other commodities are allocated on that basis. Would it really simplify the whole system if bread as bread were rationed or flour for bread was rationed while flour for cakes and cakes were either not rationed or only rationed by an allocation to the bakers. Perhaps the two are so interchangeable within the bakery as to make the ration scheme unworkable. I do not know, but it seems to me that it would make the baker's problem very much smoother if that could be arranged.

There is one other small point which I think is a little annoying to the housewife. The B.U. coupons are in groups of six and smaller. You cannot exchange less than eight points, or multiples of eight, I understand. That means that you have to do a lot more calculation than is really necessary, and I believe the scheme would be simplified if the lower limit of points was six, and not eight. Why the figure of eight has been fixed I do not know. This is a small point, but it makes the housewives' task more troublesome and difficult than it need be. In the North of England a lot of stale bread is sometimes bought. What happens to bread that bakers cannot sell on the ration? Can it be sold off the ration to people who are prepared to use it, or must it all go for animal feeding? If it does, that is a leakage and a negative factor in the saving of bread.

On the whole, I accept this scheme as a necessary safeguard. Its necessity has been brought about by the fact that, unlike some other countries, we have been willing to reduce our standards for the sake of countries which are so near the starvation line. It was not a popular thing to have done but, nevertheless, it was the right thing. A few months ago there was a real possibility of millions of Germans in the British occupied zone of Germany dying of starvation. From every point of view, that would have been a disaster. There are people who have felt that this would not have mattered. I have met them; many of us have met them, but I think it would have been disastrous politically, socially, and morally. We are not quite through yet, but if all goes according to plan that disaster will just be averted. I congratulate the Minister and the Government on having had the courage to go on with this scheme.

9.4 p.m.

Mr. Durbin (Edmonton)

I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food will forgive me if I refer to questions on which I have written to him as a Member of Parliament. If he felt able to do anything about the subjects I raised with him, I hope he will not mind if I speak of them again, as a useful purpose might be served by discussing them in the House. I feel that the major difficulty of rationing bread has not so far been faced in the Debate. During the war, it was part of my official duties, when the pressure or the enemy upon our shipping was very severe, to look into the problems of bread rationing which, at that time, were under discussion.

The great difficulty that faces any wise and equitable system of bread rationing is the immense difference in the food requirements of individuals. When I say "food requirements," I mean literally the food that is required to maintain the weight and energy of life of different individuals. "Calory requirement" is the technical phrase by which this is discussed among doctors and research workers, who have found out so much about it. It is possible that the Minister of Food has done his best to take account of some of the most obvious differences in the calory requirements of individuals in any population. Those requirements differ according to size, according to rates of growth, according to the output of physical energy. Some attempt has been made to introduce these grounds of difference into the rather complex schedule of rations that is provided for in the present scheme.

I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) attack the scheme on the ground that it provided for differential rations in the case of bread. It would be in the highest degree disastrous if it did not. Bread is the buffer, as we used to call it in those discussions. It has been the main commodity upon which these differences could be accommodated, and the removal of this main buffer presents us with a grave problem.

Mr. Hogg

Surely, it depends upon the size of the ration. What I was endeavouring to argue was that a system which depended upon keeping children and housewives short was a bad system.

Mr. Durbin

Any system of rationing that applies to the main calory buffer must take account of these great differences that exist between the needs of various individuals according to their size, according to their rate of growth, and according to their output of physical energy. If the scheme is to be criticised at all, it is on the ground that the principles of differentiation and the categories are not sufficiently complicated, and not that they are too simple.

Mr. Hogg

Surely, the hon. Member will concede that those whose rate of growth is greatest and whose output of energy is greatest include the growing child and the housewife?

Mr. Durbin

The hon. Member for Oxford said that one of the sacred principles laid down in Lord Woolton's schemes was that there should be no differential ration. He criticised the Minister of Food because the present scheme would provide some differentiation. If I may continue with the chief point I wish to make, unfortunately, these obvious sources of difference of size, rate of growth and output of physical energy are not the only, or the most important, source of quantitative difference between persons in their calory requirements. Work that was done some years before the war at the University of Cambridge has shown that there are congenital differences between individuals not associated with their size or output of energy that can cause as much as f 100 per cent. difference in the requirements of those individuals for calories and food to maintain their body weight. That is an extreme difficulty, and a difficulty which brings grave danger into any system of rationing of the calory buffer which is based upon average. In all human probability, these inter-personal differences of calory requirement are not associated with differences of size or output of energy; in all human probability, they are hereditary. If they are hereditary, it means that there are certain families in this country who may need, although they do not differ in size or way of life, twice as much food, twice as large a daily intake of calories, as another family. There is no conceivable system of rationing based Upon averages that can take account of such wide differences.

Fortunately, the laws of heredity are very complicated, and we shall be safe in assuming that those genes that determine these matters will average themselves out, even within a small group like the family. There will be only perhaps one family in 20, or one family in a 100 that will, aggregated as a family, require much more food than other families. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food would agree with me that even if there is one family in a 100 in this country, or if there is only one house in a street of a 100 houses, where there is genuine shortage of food, where health is affected, where weight is affected, and where the first signs of famine are appearing, it would go a long way, and a wide way, to discredit the scheme that stands before us today.

I therefore press upon him most earnestly to consider whether it would be possible to find some method whereby the assessment of malnutrition—by modern methods there is a very accurate and sensitive diagnosis—could be made available. I ask whether there cannot be some provision, some degree of elasticity, within the bread rationing scheme, to take account of what we hope and believe, and the laws of large numbers led us to expect, is a tiny proportion of our citizens, whose health, power and physical and mental energy will be affected, not because they are greedy but because their hereditary calory requirements are high. I make that appeal to him to consider setting up some method of appeal, or some form of medical diagnosis that will save us from the shame, and him from the difficulties, that will arise, if there are starving families in our midst.

The second point, to which I am not sure I am entitled to refer because it goes perhaps a little wide of the subject under discussion, is that it has always been held that the rationing of bread would throw another problem into the forefront of the stage. That other problem is the problem of potatoes. Potatoes will become the main unrationed food. It is to be expected that, in so far as there are savings under the bread rationing scheme, there will be a great increase in the buying of potatoes. It is held that the rationing of bread can only be made effective if it is accompanied by some arrangement to secure an equitable distribution of potatoes. I have no knowledge of the statistics of the estimated crops or of the forecasts, but I hope and trust, and I feel sure, that my right hon. Friend will keep firmly in his mind the position that our potato supplies and potato stocks will reach in the early summer of next year. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take note of what I have said on behalf of an unrecognised but important minority of our people who may, through no fault of their own, find themselves genuinely short of food. It is on their behalf that I have made my intervention this evening.

9.25 p.m.

Sir Ronald Ross (Londonderry)

I listened with great interest to the extremely well-informed speech of the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Durbin). I hope that the Minister of Food will now at once grant a certificate of malnutrition to his colleague the Minister of Agriculture, who, I am sure, must be one of the hereditary cases, he is so thin.

I wish to address myself to the subject of Northern Ireland, which has a very special position in this connection. We have no desire to escape our share of any economies in bread and flour that may be necessary—if they are necessary. The case against their being necessary has already been put with matchless ability, as I think. I do not propose to discuss that aspect of it, as I stand by the speeches which have been made from our Front Bench. I want to discuss the method, and particularly as it is applied to the Province of Northern Ireland. Few people realise how radically different the position is there. We already have control of bread and flour. For years, bread and flour have been limited and controlled, Northern Ireland has been a special area since 1942. The reason was that flour, being supported by British funds, made certain people think they were entitled to set up a brisk and profitable enterprise of smuggling into Eire That was a state of things with which no one would have the slightest sympathy, and so a system of control of bread and flour was instituted in 1942. It is done through the divisional food officer, who controls the amount which is allowed to different areas and to different bakers. I would emphasise that in 1943 a cut, was put on to the bread and flour of Northern Ireland which was proportional and much more severe than that which it is proposed to put on now.

I would ask that we should not be brought into this new system, which is foreign to us, when we have already had a system of flour and bread control operating for several years. The system has worked well. My suggestion is: Exempt Northern Ireland from the operation of the ration scheme with coupons, for whatever is the minimum period, and see whether the present system works equally well. Cut down the amount of bread and flour that we are allowed, by whatever is the appropriate percentage, to show that we shall not have any advantage over the rest of the country. I ask the Minister to let that system run for a minimum period so that it can be tested. I anticipate that criticisms will be made of this system, not unnaturally. It will be said that it lacks the essentials of the coupon system and that there may be favoured customers who would get under-the-counter bread. When we had the heavy cut in 1943 there were no serious complaints. I certainly did not have any complaints from my constituents, of whom there are 90,000. They can feel the tightening of their belts, or unfairness, just as well as anybody else.

If we worked the system on a cut in 1943, the system can be worked on a lesser cut in 1946. It would have a further advantage, in my submission. I hope I have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. If he tried out this much simplified system of bread and flour control in an area which is so contained as Northern Ireland, and which is accustomed to it—it contains a big urban population, in Belfast, smaller urban populations. and country districts—it would be most valuable experience for the Ministry of Food. I do not suggest that if it is not successful it should be prolonged, but I would say that it should be given a trial to see how it works, because the system of the coupon is one which is particularly unfortunate for Northern Ireland owing to local conditions. I view the application of this scheme to Northern Ireland with the very gravest apprehension, and I will explain why.

In Great Britain, most bread is bought over the counter of the baker's shop, but most of the bread in Northern Ireland—over 70 per cent.—is distributed by people who are called bread servers. They are not known in Great Britain, and they differ from other bakery workers in that they are not merely the employees of the baker but they act also as commission agents and, in most cases, as retail traders. The vehicle they use is owned by the baker, but the bread servers are responsible for the sales and have to order the goods they require. Control of the bread servers by the bakers is quite impossible, and in many cases the bakers do not know the names of the customers to whom the bread servers go. Very often the customers live long distances from the bakers. The bread servers have never had any experience of dealing with coupons. They are very talented people, but their talent is not altogether in the direction which would be required in dealing with coupons. The average bread server, going round with a cart provided by the baker for whom he works, will have from 2,000 to 3,000 coupons to deal with every day. These men work in the open and rain is frequently experienced in Ulster, and occasionally snow and sleet. It will not be easy for even the most accomplished person to deal with 2,000 or 3,000 coupons a day under those conditions.

I make this appeal because the attitude, particularly of hon. Gentlemen opposite, towards Northern Ireland is not always as marked as I am sure it is felt. Northern Ireland has not only provided all its own food but a vast surplus for Great Britain. Unlike Eire, which has never had any effective rationing, Northern Ireland has been subjected to rationing. Northern Ireland provided enough surplus eggs for the egg ration of Greater London. She provided vegetables, cattle, liquid milk for Scotland, milk products and so on, for all the rest of the United Kingdom. At the same time, country people in Ulster ate far less than their meat ration—only about 50 per cent.—and far less than their cheese ration. I am not asking that they should have any advantage in the amount, but I urge as strongly as I may that a system which has been worked successfully for four years, and which has been subjected successfully to the application of a cut, should be retained and not changed for one of great complication which, with some knowledge of the country, I earnestly suggest will be very difficult, if not impossible, to work under our peculiar conditions.

I believe that the suggestion I have made—to allow the cut to be imposed through the control of flour by the food control officer—will not be opposed by the Northern Ireland Food Officer nor the Government of Northern Ireland, and it is, in fact, supported by the master bakers and also by the Cooperative Baking Society of Northern Ireland, and by the trade union most vitally concerned, the trade union of the bread servers. When the Minister referred to a comparatively small section of the bakers, it is not a comparatively small section of the bakers of Northern Ireland. It is, I think, every baking interest, master bakers, individual baking firms and cooperative bakeries. All consider that the situation would be far better if, whatever cut is required, is put on by the system to which we are accustomed, the system which we know will work, rather than by the new system suggested, which we all fear may prove to be quite impracticable.

9.36 p.m

Mrs. Ayrton Gould (Hendon, North)

I want to congratulate the Minister of Food on what I am quite certain will be a most effective scheme. I confess that when I heard talk about the possibility of bread rationing, I felt very nervous about it, because I was afraid that whatever ration was allocated, it would mean that there would be more waste, because people are apt to take up their complete allocation when they have a ration. However, when I heard of his brilliant scheme—[Laughter]—yes. I know the Opposition think it funny. I shall refer to a few things clone to food in the past by the Opposition when they were on the Government side which were not so funny, but for the moment I want to deal with the point that I think this is a most brilliant scheme, which will prevent waste since, when people do not need the extra bread, they can use it in points, and vice versa. That will prevent waste and will get what we want, which is equitable distribution.

The Opposition are suffering from the tremendous shock of being faced with a Government that really care about the completely equitable distribution of food to the entire population of Britain because, up to the time of the war, when we went into the Government, it was never possible for my party—there was never a Government strong enough to do it—to get a fair distribution of food. Indeed, one of the difficulties from which we are suffering today, if it can be called a difficulty, is a thing on which we on this side of the House heartily congratulate ourselves—that the vast mass of the people of Britain are getting so much more food than they had before the war. I am not at all surprised that the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) wanted to wait, not at all surprised. He has followed on the line taken by Lord Woolton when he was Minister of Food at the beginning of the war. At that time I had the honour to be the Chairman of the Labour Party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad everybody in the Opposition is so pleased. I only mentioned it, although I am proud of it, because it entitled me to go on many delegations to the then Minister of Food on the subject of rationing.

Mr. Speaker

I' am not quite sure at what the hon. Lady is directing her arguments. We are discussing this bread rationing scheme. I have allowed the Debate to be pretty wide, but we cannot discuss rationing as a whole, or past rationing. We have to relate it to the Order, and to whether the scheme is necessary and whether it is workable.

Mrs. Ayrton Gould

I am sorry, Sir. May I come back to the right hon. Member for Woodford who talked about waiting? If we waited, as is the desire of the Opposition, until the moment came when there might be, if not a shortage altogether, as has been so clearly demonstrated by the Minister of Food, at least a shortage in certain areas—if we waited until that time came, then what I am sure the Opposition would not mind, but what we should very much mind, Would happen. In some parts of Britain amongst some sections of the population, probably the poorest, there would be a shortage of bread.

Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)

On a Point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is the hon. Lady in Order in saying that it would please these Benches if in some part of Britain there was a shortage of bread?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that is out of Order. After all, lots of thing can please lots of people. If it was said that it would please the hon. Member, that, of course, would be a reflection on the hon. Member, but one may accuse a party.

Mrs. Ayrton Gould

It is not the first time today that a party has been accused. The right hon. Member for Woodford seemed to be afraid that we had a skeleton in our cupboard, a skeleton of secrecy. I suggest that it is not a skeleton in our cupboard, but a jack-in-the-box which the Opposition bring out whenever possible in order to try to create unpopularity about some Measure brought forward by the Labour Government.

The hon. Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) suggested that the children and the housewives should have a larger ration. Some of us suggested that to the Minister of Food last week. I asked a Question myself about it. Only three days ago, the moment he saw that there was a rather larger quantity of bread and flour in the country than he had feared would be the case, he immediately announced an addition to the bread ration for children. He pointed out, quite rightly, that that ration would, in fact, be an increase in the ration for the most hard pressed housewives. The most hard pressed housewives are those with the largest families, who are often prevented by reason of young children at home from going out to British Restaurants for meals. The moment the Minister found there was rather more grain in the country than we had anticipated, he dealt with that point by increasing the ration for children under eleven.

I hope that when he finds, as I fervently hope he will, that there is still more than he anticipated, he will take into account those workers, not necessarily manual workers, who have to take packed meals. A number of people in the country who go out to work, for some reason are unable to get food from canteens or from British Restaurants, or indeed anything but what they take themselves. Some of those families will find it a little hard, when the breadwinner is not one of the people who comes into the category of manual workers.

One other point I should like to urge on my right hon. Friend again is the question of the change of bread ration points, the B.U. points, for ordinary points. I put it to him that the people who will have to do this, when they want either to change bread ration points to ordinary points or vice versa, will have to go to the food office. In nearly every case it will be the housewife who will have to go. She may not have to go; she may be able to do it by post, but it will be quite a serious extra charge on her if, every time she wants to change a unit of eight, she has to use a stamp in sending them. I would like to urge my right hon. Friend to bring still greater pressure on the Postmaster-General to get him to allow this, because that concession will be very much appreciated by the housewife. I shall not pretend that there are no housewives who are worried about bread rationing, although the extent of it has been enormously exaggerated. It has apparently been found necessary to have all sorts of external and additional ways of advertising the objections of the housewives. But all of us feel, I am sure Opposition Members must feel too, that the real test of what people in the country feel is the post bag of the Member of Parliament, and I do not believe that anybody's post bag has seriously upset them on account of bread rationing. A large number of people who do not eat much bread will be glad of the new rationing scheme, which enables them to get more points, and we have been promised more food as a result of the American Loan. I am perfectly certain that the scheme will work, and that the Opposition will be much disappointed by the housewives of the country.

9.49 p.m.

Mr. Beeclunan (St. Ives)

I greatly envy the certainty of mind enjoyed by the hon. lady the Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould). The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) said, I think rightly, that he proposed to judge this matter on its merits. In forming a judgment on this matter it has been necessary to follow this Debate very closely. I have been most amazed to find in this matter, as indeed so often in matters of this kind how great an uncertainty there is about fundamental facts. On the occasion of the first Debate, the right hon. Gentleman told us that there was great uncertainty about how much wheat reserve there was in the pipeline prewar. I find it very difficult to judge at the outset whether this datum line of 800,000 tons is one which need cause us great alarm or not. This, at any rate, I do know. There is in the country, or in those parts of the country that I know, very great apprehension on this subject. I differ greatly from the hon. Member for North Hendon. My views do not come from my post bag but from going about in my con- stituency. Everywhere one goes people approach one with apprehension. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I would like to know if the hon. Gentleman who shakes his head has recently been in West Cornwall or in the Scilly Isles.

There can be no doubt at all about this apprehension. It is in no way inflamed by the London newspapers. In West Cornwall, it is quite true, we read the London Press, as hon. Gentlemen read the "Spectator" or the "New Statesman," but I cannot say that the local Press, which we particularly regard, have been unduly inflammatory. There is no doubt at all that there are great psychological hazards in imposing on our people a rationing system of this sort because the idea of free access to bread has for so long, and through two wars, formed part of the climate of freedom of our people. Certainly in an agricultural area such as that which I represent, there are special reasons for apprehension. The noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) spoke about roundsmen. In the district which I know the roundsmen may take six hours on his round at present. Under the new scheme he will be occupied on his round far into the night. Although we have this relief, that coupons may be sent by post, which I think is a very wise proposal, we shall find great difficulty in rural areas where food offices are often far away from a person's home.

There are these great uncertainties, but the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food has today given us a clear purpose for bringing in this scheme. I am very glad that he has not repeated what seemed to be the purpose originally—to impress America. I am getting a little tired of government by gesture—" Give up Egypt to impress Russia; give up bread to impress America." I believe that when the Government give up Whitehall they will have impressed Cornwall. There are some factors which, if the Minister had waited a little while, might have become more certain. The Minister rightly referred with appreciation to the way in which our Canadian friends had allowed their stocks to become depleted. I recollect that the Minister, speaking in this House on 2nd July, said that one of the most important factors was the estimate of the harvest to be formed by the Canadian Government officially in a fortnight's time. I do not know whether he has received that esti- mate. I think we ought to be told. From what I hear, the estimate should be helpful and promising.

Then, the Minister rightly says, "We may have bad weather. What about our own harvest in August, which is to provide 75,000 tons? "There is always an uncertainty about the weather, and it seems to me that one of our difficulties is that, when we get into an atmosphere of planning, we try to plan for everything. We are all planners now, even all Liberals, and I use that comprehensive phrase with all humility; but we all agree that the doors of the Manchester School have been closed, like those of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange. I agree that we are in this atmosphere of planning, but we cannot plan for everything. We have to meet the vagaries of the weather.

The last time the Minister spoke he told us that one of the great difficulties was that the Americans may not send us what they promised. I must say that I thought that a little, I will not say insulting, but unkind, to the Americans. After all, they did let us have this loan in a very handsome way. Then, the right hon. Gentleman says, there may be strikes in America. There may be strikes anywhere at any time. I was interested to find that the Minister, in his speech today, did not repeat that one of his troubles was that we might get inflation in America. Surely, he has bought ahead for, at any rate, the next two months, and, if prices have not been fixed for the period into which we are now entering, the officials of his Department have been very peculiar in their method of business. The great point, however, which the Minister makes today, and here we get down to something quite definite, is that this is a policy of insurance. He said on the first occasion that, if our stocks get below 800,000 tons, then we must have a scheme, and I understood that it was not merely a case of the economies that would be made, but because, if we had a ration scheme, distribution could be more easily effected. It is precisely in the month of August that this does not apply. During the month that is coming, in the area that I represent, the town of St. Ives will receive four or even five times its present population. There is going to be a great movement of our population in this very month, and I say to this Minister that he will not cross. the ravine by means of his rationing scheme. It does not appear, from what the Minister said today, that the scheme will really be needed, but, if ever there was a time not to do it, that time is the coming few weeks.

The country has been asked to save bread, and, on that subject, I will give the Minister one reason for thinking that there would have been a great response to such a plea. In 1938, the weekly consumption of bread was about 80,000 tons; in 1946, it is 115,000 tons. The reason for that is that when there is a shortage of other foods, people make up with bread. The Minister, quite rightly, is helping us with fruit and other varieties of food. There is thus every reason to suppose that an appeal to save bread would have succeeded, and I should like to have heard that it was possible to consider having one or two breadless days as an alternative

Finally, I will say this. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Encouraged by that applause my final sentence may be somewhat extended. However, although one is always encouraged by applause, I do not propose to allow that encouragement to prevent other people from speaking, even though I know that the House would prefer to listen to me. I would say to the Minister that, for my part, I shall go into the Division Lobby against his scheme. Although he is right in what he says about being prepared, he is wrong, from what he himself has said in imposing this rationing scheme now.

10.1 p.m.

Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)

I would not have intervened in this Debate were it not for the fact that I know something about the distributive trade. The noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) put forward a plea on behalf of the small baker in the village. We know that the small baker in the village has been seriously handicapped during the war owing to lack of staff, but that applied equally to the small grocer and the small butcher who has had to deal with rationing during the past six years. We know that no occupation in this country has contributed more men to the Armed Forces than the distributive trade.

We have heard a good deal in this Debate about queues, but where are the queues to be found? Not outside the shops where there are rationed goods. The queues are outside bakers, fishmongers, and vegetable shops, who all sell unrationed goods. People go there in the hope that they will be in time to get something, but where the goods are rationed and people are registered they know that they will get the goods. That is why I think that the Minister has made a mistake in not allowing the baker to have registered customers. If people had to register with a baker, they would know that they would get their bread and the baker would know what amount was necessary for supplying his customers, and it would prevent people going from one baker to another, and, probably, a good deal of wastage.

I may be more fortunate than many hon. Members who have had to present petitions. So far, I have had only two letters, one from a baker and the other from a lady. People in my constituency are not behind in presenting petitions; I have received petitions from villages about the lack of water supplies and about medical services. I have also had petitions from farmers about the use of a water mill, but I have had no petitions about bread rationing. The people in my Division believe that it is the fairest way, and that everyone will get a fair share. If the rationing of bread was introduced in the same way as rationing has been introduced for groceries and butchers' meat, it would be better for all round.

10.5 p.m.

Mr. Duthie (Banff)

I am very glad to have been able to catch your eye, in this Debate, Mr. Speaker, because I have a very special interest in this subject. Like the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie), I can claim to some practical knowledge of the subject. Before the war I was engaged in a firm which produces and distributes bread on a large national scale. During the war it was my privilege to work in the Ministry of Food for five years, where I was engaged upon the maintenance of the supply of bread in this country. I consider that the present rationing scheme is ill advised. I believe that if the Minister's aim is, as he has declared, to save a percentage of flour anywhere under 10 per cent., that can be achieved by means other than invoking a scheme of this nature. I believe that since the extract rate has been raised to 85 per cent., bread has become less palatable. Palatability is one of the greatest governing factors of bread consumption in this country, and there is no doubt that the decrease in palatability has cut down bread sales.

Furthermore, I have not heard any mention of what is to happen with regard to the miscellaneous users of flour. Something like 75 per cent. of the flour which is used in this country goes to bakeries for the production of bread and cakes, and about 3.5 per cent, goes to the manufacture of biscuits. What is happening to the other 20-odd per cent.? Some is used in catering establishments, but some of it is used for purposes other than food. I suggest that perhaps a very material saving in flour could be achieved by a very rigorous control of that part of our flour stocks which goes to manufacturers of things other than human food.

I suggest also that the Minister should rectify the mistake that was made on 2nd May when sugar allowances to bakers were cut clown. Sugar, I believe, is the greatest single flour saving factor in a bakery, since by its use a batter containing the minimum quantity of flour becomes the base for other foodstuffs, such as dried fruit, dried milk and dried egg, when we have any. At all events, through the medium of sugar and a modicum of flour, a wholesome volume is produced, and, after all, the bakers' function is to provide a volume of good food.

I believe also that at the same time the bakers should have been taken into the confidence of the Minister and told, "This is the position. We have to save up to 10 per cent. of our flour. We shall cut down the miscellaneous users and we ask you to accept a flour cut. We will do all we can to give you the sugar that we can spare." Indeed, when the sugar cut was made on 2nd May the then Minister of Food, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rotherhithe (Sir B. Smith), said that there was no sugar shortage. At that time he gave additional sugar allocations to manufacturers of sweets, aerated waters and ice cream. If the sugar that was given to those other trades had been given to the bakery trade, the flour position would have been substantially better today than it is.

I believe also, that if the bakers had been told this was the position, they would have accepted a flour cut of, say, 5 per cent., and have guaranteed the Minister, provided he had given them the necessary accessories, that they could have provided a volume equal to the present volume produced by the present flour because the absence of sugar in the bakers' shops has meant they have had to concentrate on the producticn of lines carrying a much greater volume of flour.

If there had been a real crusade directed at the housewives and the children of this country in favour, not only of the prevention of bread waste but actual bread saving, the results would have been astounding. If through the schools, through the wonderful women's organisations, women's guilds and so forth, each one had been asked, in this emergency, to take a pledge somewhat along these lines: I promise to eat only the bread I need, and I will not waste a crumb, or allow one to be wasted, if I can prevent it, I am sure there would have been a very material saving of flour, which would have gone a long way towards achieving the Minister's figure of 10 per cent. In addition to that, we are to have a whole host of new officials to enforce the scheme. If a modicum of those officials were used to ensure that bread waste becomes a social crime, and that the feeding of bread to animals and poultry is cut down to a minimum, they would really be achieving something.

I consider the present scheme is a bad one. It is a bad one for this fundamental reason: The consumption of flour products in this country is not uniform; there is the climatic factor all the way from the South to the North. There is no comparison between the amount of flour necessary in, say, the counties on the South coast of England and those in the North of Scotland. What is happening? By mean of this rationing scheme a uniform standard is imposed, and the people in the South will be entitled to more than they need, whereas the people in the North will be entitled to less than they require. I wish to address a few words especially to Scottish Members. The high tea in Scotland, which is provided largely from the baker's shop, is not the whimsy of the Scot; it is the result of natural laws; climatic considerations play a full part in that. This scheme—and this will appeal to Scottish Members and Members of Northern constituencies—constitutes a dire threat to the high tea, which is the principal meal in the North; it constitutes a dire threat to the Scottish morning roll; and the Scottish morning roll is anything but a luxury, it is a necessity.

This scheme has been foisted upon a long suffering trade at too short notice. Only last week a form was circulated to bakers, calling for a production of cards for customers and sales books for the roundsmen. Something like 10 million cards will be needed if the scheme is to be adequately equipped, in addition to many thousands of these sales books. How can they possibly be produced in the time? They cannot be produced in the time. The Ministry of Food must be content with chaotic conditions ensuing for some considerable time after the scheme is launched, and it will not be the fault of the bakers. I most heartily endorse what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) to the bakers of this country, to do what they can to back up the scheme. We Scottish Members in turn have appealed to our own Scottish bakers to do exactly the same thing. These bakers are working under the greatest difficulties. At the very lowest estimate 20,000 new sales hands will be required, and 20,000 new vehicles, if this scheme is to be adequately run. Where are they coming from? It is quite impossible to equip the bakers in the time, either with staff or with vehicles.

I would like to say one word in conclusion concerning the baking trade. The baking trade has been very much in the public eye in recent weeks. From my own personal knowledge I can say that during the worst of the bombing they stuck to their posts, and to them perhaps more than to any other civilian trade can be given the credit for helping to maintain public morale. If bread supplies had failed we should probably have lost the war. The bakers of Britain did their best for us; I sincerely trust that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food and this House will do their best for the bakers.

10.16 p.m.

Mr. Austin (Stretford)

I am prompted to intervene very briefly in this Debate by the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), who I regret is not in his place, and the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter). The hon. Member for Oxford, in his usual braying manner, referred to hon. Members on this side as "Lobby fodder." I am very glad to say that never have I felt more justified in going through the Lobby on the side of the Government than I do tonight in this case of bread rationing. The hon. Member for Oxford also made a remark about starving children. The last starving children I saw were in Germany, where I went on a brief visit, and I saw emaciated under-nourished children. What sprang to my mind was not the contrast between those children and the children of Britain today, but a comparison between those children of undernourished Germany and the children of the distressed areas not so very many years ago. Regarding the point made by the hon. Member for Wood Green——

Mr. Baxter

The hon. Gentleman is attributing too much to me; he means the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill).

Mr. Austin

On the contrary, when one of my hon. Friends was speaking the hon. Member for Wood Green asked whether it would not be possible to eliminate bread rationing by voluntary effort. May I remind him of efforts made through the Press and over the radio to persuade the people of this country to avoid wasting bread? Does he remember the photographs that appeared in the Press of heaps of bread that had been thrown away? It is my view that the Government have never before adequately handled this question of bread thrown away into the dustbins. There is an hon. Member of this House whom I know very well, and I have his authority to quote this, if I may give a personal example. He lives in a house that has been requisitioned by the council, and shares it with two other tenants. Some four months ago he had occasion to write to the council and ask for a separate dustbin, because he did not want to be associated with his co-tenants, who were piling up bread in the dustbin. Although I agree that there are good qualities about everyone, about hon. Gentlemen in this House and about some of the Tory Party, there is an irresponsibility about most people which allows them to waste bread recklessly in that manner. It is because of that that such an Order as this has had to be introduced.

If I may give another illustration, I was in my Division a few days ago—— [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very grateful for the encouragement of hon. Members opposite—and the only point that was raised on bread rationing was put to me by a miner, who asked what about his chickens?

It was obvious that that man, in common with many thousands of people, had been buying bread in the most lavish manner, not for the purpose of feeding his household, but for the purpose of feeding his chickens. That will be done away with. I refer my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food to a point I raised a little while ago—the question of flour being used needlessly. Is she satisfied that the flour, which she mentioned as being condemned as unfit for human use, is actually unfit for human use? Cannot some scientific method be evolved of saving that flour? May I ask her to look into the question of other commodities, such as milk, or any other food commodity, that is being used for industrial purposes? I am indebted to the Government, as most people are in this country, for their courage in ignoring the hostile propaganda of the Opposition and of the Press, in resolutely going forward with this measure of wise administration to safeguard the health and welfare of the people.

10.21 p.m.

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

Until the last few moments of the speech of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Austin), I thought he was going to secure the distinction of being the first Member on that side in this Debate to make a speech which did not contain some criticism of the Government. But he succumbed to the temptation of finding that this bread rationing, which we are asked to support tonight, and which we propose to vote against, is not right. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food made a speech tonight, in answer to the very powerful accusation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), which fell very sadly short of his effort the other day. In the first speech that he made as Minister of Food, he secured from hon. Members on that side of the House what, I think, can rightly be described as nothing less than an ovation. Thinking it over afterwards, I asked myself if hon. Members realised what they had been cheering so loudly. [An HON. MEMBER: "What answer did the right hon. Gentleman get? "] One could have understood their emotion if the right hon. Gentleman had been announcing some great victory; if he had been announcing the abolition of rationing, and an enormous increase in the variety of the food he was placing at the disposal of the people. Instead of which, he had been announcing another restriction to be placed upon the overburdened housewives of this country.

The right hon. Gentleman started off the occupancy of his present office with, I think, a considerable amount of good will on both sides. The country realised that he was taking on a pretty difficult job, a task that had been made more difficult by the blunders, not, particularly, of his predecessor, but, certainly, of his predecessor's colleagues. This country is renowned for kindness, tolerance, and its desire to give a man a chance. If the right hon. Gentleman finds himself today in the position which he does, I venture to say that he has only himself to blame. He has offended the housewives of this country. Instead of securing cooperation, he has incurred the hostility of a section of industry upon which his scheme very largely depends for its success. That is due entirely to the way in which he has treated the country and the bakers. We have pressed him repeatedly, and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition repeated it today, to take the country into his confidence. The hon. Member for Stretford gave a very good illustration of the results of the failure to take these steps. He called attention to the fact that this scheme and these appeals for saving of bread had failed. Why did they fail? They failed because the country had not been given the real facts. It was not until we, with great difficulty, extracted specific figures the other day about 31st August that the country knew any details about the situation with which it was faced.

The right hon. Gentleman, in a speech the other day, said that if we want to be effective we must dramatise events, we must dramatise facts and figures—well, he has lamentably failed to do so. A great deal of the trouble which he is up against today is due to that failure to give facts and his passion for secrecy. What could be more fantastic than what we heard from him the other day? Could anyone have conceived of a Minister of the Crown standing at that Box and saying—such is his passion for secrecy—that it is not in the national interest to disclose figures—figures which his colleague had previously published a month ago? The same thing is true in his treatment of the bakers. He told this House just before his departure to America, when he first hinted at the imminence of bread rationing, that he had been authorised by his colleagues to engage in full preparation and consultations with a whole list of various interests, including the bakery trade. What was the result? He held no consultations—no full consultation with the bakery trade. All he did was to summon them on 4th June and say, "We have decided to bring in rationing. Here is the machinery. What do you think about it?" That is not proper consultation.

I understand that the bakery trade have put forward alternatives—certainly an important section of the bakery trade, the multiple bakers, have taken the trouble to put forward alternatives. I am in no position to judge whether these alternatives are good or not. I have not got the full panoply of the Civil Service. These particular proposals were put forward on 26th June, and one would have thought that, having promised full consideration with the bakery trade, the right hon. Gentleman would at least have taken the trouble to make himself acquainted with what the proposals were. They were seen by his Ministry on 25th June, but he confessed that he had not looked at them until 9th July. Is that consultation with the trade? It is much worse. Not only did he not look at them until 9th July, but when he went down to address a meeting at a by-election at Bexley Heath, on 11th July, what did he say? [Interruption.] I am depending on the report in the "Daily Herald." The right hon. Gentleman is reported to have said: The alternative scheme to rationing was simply to raise the price of bread. As a matter of fact, the scheme which had been submitted to the Ministry on 26th June, and which the right hon. Gentleman confesses he did not see until 9th July, contained no mention of price at all. Yet the right hon. Gentleman goes to Bexley Heath and accuses the bakers of putting forward an alternative to rationing which meant the raising of prices——

Mr. Strachey

I stated in the speech to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred that the bakers had put forward two suggestions. One was official, which is the one he has in mind, and was with regard to cutting down supplies of flour to bakers from the millers, which meant that bakers would have to cut down their customers as they thought fit—with all the grave Objections of under-the-counter trade and all the rest of it. The other proposal which was made, as I was careful to point out, was not put by the bakers officially, but by a number of their spokesmen, who were also reported in the Press. In this case, they said that the price of, first, cake and then bread, should be raised. These are precisely the two alternatives which have been put forward.

Mr. Hudson

Having read the words I have just quoted, would anyone gather that impression? The unofficial suggestion about a rise in price was not made to the right hon. Gentleman at all; it was made to his predecessor months previously——

Mr. Strachey


Mr. Hudson

My hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) gave an instance of the muddle and disorderly way the problem has been treated as a result of lack of consultation with the trade. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor announced a cut in sugar which the trade told him was wrong, and would result, not in a decrease in the consumption of flour, but an increase. The right hon. Gentleman now realises that the trade was right and that his Department was wrong. What has he done? Restored the cut in sugar. He is not going to do it on the 28th of this month, but the 18th of next month.

I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if she can give an assurance that all the forms will reach the areas and bakers in time to begin the operation of this scheme by Sunday. According to my information, it is very unlikely that that will happen. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech merely recovered the ground which he covered in his speech on 3rd July. He brought forward no new arguments at all, except one about the position of the wheat supply in September, which I will deal with in a moment.

The gravamen of the charge which we levy against the Government, and one of the reasons why we shall vote against this Order, is that the right hon. Gentleman has said nothing today to convince us that this scheme is either good or necessary. Since he spoke on 3rd July, conditions throughout the world have appreciably improved. He made no attempt to answer the very large number of questions that were put to him during the last Debate, and which to this day have gone unanswered. We asked him, during the last Debate, to explain to us where all this supply of wheat had gone; we asked him to let us know the figures of the demands that had been made by various countries to the Combined Food Board, so that we in the House and the people in the country could have the opportunity of judging how the food available in the world was being distributed.

We say, quite frankly, that the figures that have been published hitherto—in the White Paper, for example, that was issued to the House earlier this year—are wholly unreliable. This is the only country with really accurate statistics. In respect of all other countries, they are merely guesses. I would point out to hon. Members opposite that, when one reads these figures of the so called average number of calories that are available to people in countries in Europe, the only accurate or semi-accurate figures that can be obtained are for the people living in towns. The people who live in the country eat as well as they did pre-war—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—with the possible exception of Greece, and I am not speaking of ex-enemy countries. Not only do they eat practically as well as pre-war, hut they feed their animals very nearly as well as they did pre-war. It is only the people in the towns who are really suffering. The gravamen of the charge against His Majesty's Government is that they have been lax, and not tough enough in using this argument in the negotiations that they have held with foreign countries in Washington. In fact, we in this country are being asked, out of our own meagre resources, to provide extra for the townspeople which their own countrymen have failed to provide for them.

Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Mr. Speaker gave a very clear Ruling that it was not going to be in Order in this Debate to deal with the food position of countries all over the world. Is it in Order for the right hon. Gentleman to make a point of this kind when the only effect of it will be that the hon. Lady will have to go into matters which Mr. Speaker has ruled to he out of Order?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

I assumed that the right hon. Gentleman was not going to proceed into details.

Mr. Hudson

Just before you took the Chair, Sir, Mr. Speaker said, in answer to a point of Order raised while he was in the Chair, that it was in Order to discuss the reasons why this Order had to he brought in, and one of the reasons ——

Major Bruce (Portsmouth, North)

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has touched upon these matters, I take it that it will be in order for us on this side to refer to the remarks he has made?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Certainly, it will be in Order to refer to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, but possibly not to say anything more on the subject

Mr. Hudson

All I repeat is that the British people, the British housewives, are being asked today to pay for the inefficiency of the means and methods of collection abroad. I take just one further example. We have heard today references to the condition of children in Germany. One of the reasons we arc short of 200,000 tons today—and it is the shortage of the final 200,000 tons that is the cause of all the difficulty—is that it was the price that the Leader of the House says he had to pay in Washington in order to induce the United States Government to assume the responsibility for providing 120,000 tons a month for the British zone in Germany. I would like to ask—and we are entitled to ask—how is it that Russia has been left out of all these calculations? I should like to ask the hon. Lady if we should need bread rationing today if Russia were prepared to treat Germany as a single economic unit instead of having it split up. Has the right hon. Gentleman asked Russia to make her contribution? Is there any reason why this country and other coun- tries of the United Nations should be asked to pool their resources for the Combined Food Board, and Russia be the only country left out? Is there any reason why Russia should not only refuse to pool her resources, but should refuse to allow Hungary and Rumania, two great grain producing countries, to pool their resources——

Mr. Blackburn

Mr. Deputy-Speaker, this argument is not wholly undesirable, but I would like to point out that Mr. Speaker ruled that it would not be in Order for hon. Members to go into specific cases in specific countries.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Mr. Speaker ruled that it would be in Order to refer to the causes of shortage, and I understand it is to that point that the right hon. Gentleman is speaking. It would not be in Order to discuss the position of Germany, as such.

Mr. Hudson

If I may, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I would say that if we on this side were returned, relations with Russia would immediately improve

Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)

What would the right hon. Gentleman do with Russia?

Mr. Tiffany (Peterborough)

Will it be in Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if other hon. Members speak on relationships with Russia?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It would not be in Order.

Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock) rose——[Interruption].

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Hon. Members on all sides of the House will agree that it is impossible to know what is going to be said until the right hon. Gentleman has said it.

Miss Lee

Mr. Deputy-Speaker, could you give your guidance, please? References are being made which create prejudices. Are we to have the headlines without the factual arguments which would give substance to them?

Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)

May I ask if something can be done about the increasing irritability of hon. Members opposite?

Mr. Hudson

I wanted to get back to what is happening in this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food, in his speech quite rightly divided the problem into what is going to happen up to 31st August and what is going to happen after that date. As far as what is going to happen up to 31st August is concerned, we on this side of the House were very relieved when we were assured that stocks in the next few days were not going to be as low as otherwise we might have assumed. All I can say is to repeat what I said earlier, that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food would have done much better, both for his own sake and everyone else's, to have said much earlier what the actual stocks are. He said today that he could not do so with exactitude; but no one is asking him to give the figures to within 5,000 tons. He knows, and all of his officers know, and anyone who has had anything to do with a Government Department knows, that, in fact, estimates are made for two, three, five weeks, ahead of what are going to be the spot supplies in wheat. It does not follow that they are always right. Sometimes the figures are up, and sometimes they are down. But it would do no harm to let the House know what the stocks are going to be, what is going to happen, and whether there would be any necessity for a reduction in the ration in that period.

The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food, with all due respect, seemed to me to do a bit of squirming, and when he was pinned down he talked about what was going to happen in the event of a failure of world harvests. He said that he had dealt with that matter in reply to a question by myself on 3rd July. It is true that he did, and it is also obvious that, if all the harvests in the world failed, whatever he wanted to do, he could not avoid reducing the rations. But that was not the question we asked him, or the question he dealt with on 3rd July. What he said on 3rd July in answering the question was, that he would not reduce the ration before 31st August, even if—and this is the important point—the assumptions on which he had based his case that he would have 800,000 tons after the end of August, did not come off. It was on that basis, as the House will remember, that later on I withdrew the remarks I had made—when he said that there would be no reduction in any con- ceivable circumstances during the period. He said nothing about that today.

What we would like to know on this side of the House is, how he reconciles that statement and that pledge with what was said by the right hon Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, on Saturday. Because the Minister of Agriculture evidently was labouring under the same impression that I had been under—and I think most people had—that, if these various supplies did not come in, and if his assumptions did not come off, necessarily, there would have to be a reduction in the rations. This is what the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture is reported to have said: For should there be any possibility of the United States defaulting on the 456,000 tons of wheat we are expecting, or should the British farmers fail to deliver, during the next three months, something like 575,000 tons of wheat—a figure higher than they have ever delivered before—then I am afraid our bread rationing would not only be necessary but the scale of allowances per individual would have to be reduced. I do not know what relations exist inside the Government between the Minister of Food and the Minister of Agriculture, but I can assure the House that if, during the time my right hon. Friend was Prime Minister, I had said something different from what Lord Woolton was saying, there would have been trouble. We would like to know which is right, and if the Minister of Agriculture had any justification for saying what he did; or whether he was letting the cat out of the bag, as did the right hon. Lady the Minister of Education.

Now I come to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the harvests, He said, in answer to a speech made by my right hon. Friend, that it was too much to expect that during the month of September we should be able to get in 150,000 tons of wheat from Canada, and, therefore, he said that not only was it necessary to have the rationing scheme in case anything happened during August, but it was more important than ever in case something happened in September. I think I am within the recollection of the House in that. In fact, as circumstances have turned out, and in the light of the estimates of the crops as we now know them, what they call the danger point of 31st August is, in our submission, the turning point of the tide. The right hon. Gentleman wanted the House to believe that the Canadian elevators were empty, and that the Canadian harvest would not be in time to enable wheat to be shipped by the end of September.

Mr. Strachey


Mr. Hudson

I could not personally believe my ears when I heard the right hon. Gentleman make that statement, and I have been at pains to make inquiries since he made the statement. I am assured there is no foundation at all for the statement, and that actually the Canadian harvest began a week ago. There is, I am told, adequate time to gel: the harvest starting to flow across the Atlantic to arrive here by September if they put their backs into it. [Interruption.] Why should they not? If the Minister of Food cannot put his back into it, at least why not let private individuals who will?

There is an alternative. The harvest in. the Southern States of America has been gathered for sonic time, and the elevators in these particular States are so full that they cannot take any more, and the wheat is being piled up outside. I have also consulted the shipping authorities it: this country, and there are plenty of ships in this country today suitable for carrying wheat, and there is plenty of time to send ships from this country to the other side and to arrange, in the meantime, for wheat to come from the elevators to the ports, and get it over to this country not before the end of September, but before the end of August.

It may be said in reply that this is American wheat to which we are not entitled, but then- is no difficulty at all, as I am assured, in getting that wheat and repaying it from Canadian wheat. If it were free to private enterprise it would be done tomorrow. There is no shred of justification for the case made out by the right hon. Gentleman that rationing is necessary on 21st July because we cannot get 150,000 tons of wheat into this country by September. As a matter of fact, if we cannot get it from the United States and cannot get it from Canada, there is the Mediterranean. The harvest in North Africa and in the South of France has been got in, and. the Government could certainly borrow. the few necessary thousands of tons, certainly against repayment, just as they could get wheat from the United States.

I come to the final point, which is in regard to the claim that this is a good scheme and a fair scheme because it embodies fair shares for all. It does nothing of the kind. The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Durbin) put his finger on one hole. He very rightly said that one of the main difficulties in rationing, and with a bread rationing scheme in particular, was the enormous difference between people in their food requirements. Therefore, we always felt, during the war that it was essential to have some pillar like bread which would serve as a concertina or cushion. The hon. Lady the Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) made a similar claim in her speech, She said we attain fair shares for all because we exchange coupons for points, or points for coupons. Actually, so far from it being fair shares for all, the result—whatever the design and intention may have been—is that it is a scheme which results in the utmost unfairness.

It benefits the sedentary worker and the higher income group at the cost of the heavy manual worker. [An HON. MEMBER "Rubbish."] An hon. Member doubts whether that is so. Let us take two illustrations. It so happens I have one from my own constituency. It is the case of a man who happens to be a roundsman. He has a wife, two children under eleven, and two children under five. The normal consumption of bread by this family is six lbs.—three reputed two lb. Loaves?—a day. Under the rationing scheme they will get three and a quarter lbs. The right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Lady may well say, "All right. They can get the other two or three lbs. by the surrender of points." They can. There is another case of a man and wife in the higher income group who do not eat anything approaching the amount of bread to which they are entitled. They will be able to exchange their surplus coupons for points. The sedentary worker, who is in the higher income group, will get two, three, four or five tins of extra sardines a week. There will be no saving of bread and these people will be that much better off. The wife of the roundsman will have to give up any claim to sardines. In other words, the Government have brought in a scheme—I do not say they intended to but they certainly have done it—which results in people who do not want all their bread making no saving in what they eat but gaining heavily in points, and, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edmonton pointed out, people who eat more bread have to give up more points than formerly, Anyone who knows anything about points knows that they are in short supply today.

Really there is no case at all. I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman, representing hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, did not take more trouble to find out what would be the effect of-this scheme. He reminds me of the sects which have arisen in all stages of history, even in early Egyptian times, called flagellants. The encyclopedia describes this as the name given to those who scourge themselves or are scourged by way of discipline or penance. The right hon. Gentleman reminds me of a flagellant with this difference: instead of scourging himself he is scourging the housewife under this scheme. I can well imagine that the Socialist Party have no objection to scourging housewives for discipline, but I confess I do not understand what the housewife has done to deserve scourging for penance. She has worked harder than almost any other person in the community. To paraphrase a famous sentence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford, few have worked so hard for so long for so little. We believe that no case has been made out by the right hon. Gentleman for the necessity for this scheme at the present moment. Although we admit that it would be wise to set up the necessary machinery and to perfect it, we have heard nothing to persuade us that there is any necessity for its introduction and application on 21st July. Because we believe that it is an unsound scheme, and thoroughly unnecessary, we shall go into the Lobby tonight and vote against it.

11.1 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Edith Summerskill)

May I, first of all, thank the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) for kindly welcoming me back and say how glad I am that hon. Members opposite were not persuaded to pull their punches this afternoon on account of my slightly discoloured eyes? Fortunately, my cerebration and my tongue are intact. After my right hon. Friend had spoken this afternoon, an hon. Member charged him with having disregarded the Order and having, in fact, disregarded the issue. We have had a Debate on bread before, and I believe that most of the general principles have been well ventilated. Therefore, I intend tonight to address myself to the questions which have been asked by hon. Members today.

The right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) has just said that my right hon. Friend has said nothing new. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman has repeated himself tonight, time after time. He has the effrontery to say that the scheme which we have introduced is not perfect. Can he say that when he was Minister of Agriculture he anticipated the harvests? Did he plan for the future? [Horn. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Has he not learned by experience, and would he not do differently if he had his chance over again? Of course, nobody in the Government would say that a scheme of this kind, which has never been devised before, could be perfect. There may have to he adjustments. We shall watch the working of it very closely, and I can assure hon. Members opposite that adjustments will be made if necessary. The right hon. Gentleman also asked whether the Soviet Union had been asked to make their contribution to the world food supply. I want to assure him that they have been asked time after time to join the Combined Food Board. He should have told the House how he would have brought pressure to bear on a sovereign State.

Now I come to the speech—[Interruption]. I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that I was quiet when he spoke. It is not always the women who interrupt. I must now come to the speech of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). I listened to and watched his boyish enthusiasm, and I was amazed to hear him say that the women and children were going to be sacrificed to the manual worker. He also said that there had so far been no differential ration. That is absolutely wrong. At the moment the poor children of this country receive as much milk as the rich, for the first time in history.

Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)

The hon. Lady said "for the first time in history." Might I remind her that when the last Government were in power the same principle was approved?

Dr. Summerskill

Fortunately for this country, the last Government was not purely Conservative.

Mr. Butler

I would remind the hon. Lady that while I was much indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary for much assistance, I was responsible for the policy at the Ministry of Education for giving milk and meals to the children. And, while I was greatly helped by the right hon. Gentleman, he was Labour and I was Conservative.

Dr. Summerskill

I followed the right hon. Gentleman's efforts because I was interested in his Education Bill, but I believe we had to go a little higher than his Ministry in order to introduce this reform, and I am told by well informed people that he needed a little pushing. The hon. Member for Oxford must realise that although the meat ration in his family is 1s. 2d. a head, the industrial workers in the country, of course, get extra meat, and other workers get extra cheese. Then there are the welfare foods for children, and I feel that he, as a new father, should make inquiries into those.

I must address myself to this question of the housewife. I have been amazed to find so many hon. Members opposite interested in the welfare of the housewife. I sat for many years on the benches opposite and day after day I raised questions relating to women, but generally I addressed empty benches opposite. Now I find new champions who are exploiting the housewife. If hon. Gentlemen opposite were so interested in the working housewife, at least, they might have seen to it that one working housewife was returned to those benches.

Mr.Osborne (Louth) rose——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member is not entitled to speak unless the hon. Lady gives way.

Dr. Summerskill

I want to mention the speech of my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). He raised the question of manual workers. Many hon. Members feel that manual workers should be given bigger rations.

I want to assure my friends behind me that the rations allocated to the manual workers are determined by the Food Advisory Committee of the Trades Union Congress. We asked them to help and advise us on this question. Regarding the question of eating out, it has been said time after time that only 9 per cent. of rationed foodstuffs are used in catering establishments; and catering establishments include not simply the Ritz, the Savoy and Claridges, but industrial canteens, and school meal services, and we feel that by depriving these people of meals they do not need we should at the same time penalise the workers.

The noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) had something to say for the bakers. We recognise, of course, that the bakers make a very important contribution, but she must not underestimate the intelligence of the bakers. The average baker has as much intelligence as the grocer or the butcher. In the past the average grocer or butcher probably said, "We shall never manage this rationing." They have done, and have done it very well. I am quite convinced that the bakers also will in time manage to understand our fairly simple rationing scheme. The noble Lady said she has to queue for cakes. Of course she has to queue for cakes. These are things which are not rationed and queues very often form for them. I do not think she has ever had to queue for her meat—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"]—and most of the hon. Members opposite have never had to queue. If they will examine the queues as they pass down the streets, they will find the longest queues are outside the shops which are selling unrationed foodstuffs.

I welcome the speech of the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts). It was careful and knowledgeable. He had obviously studied his subject. He asked why we could not ration flour for cakes. It is very difficult to differentiate because bakers might use for cakes flour which was intended for bread, and therefore we had to ration both flour and cakes. He asked for detailed figures for agricultural workers, and I will certainly let him have them. He also asked what we did with waste bread. I might remind the House that it is used for manufacturing purposes, and sausages have some bread in them.

I welcomed the contribution from the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Durbin). He gave an interesting exposition of the metabolism of the body. One hon. Member suggested that the physique of the Minister of Agriculture indicated that he was under nourished. I can assure the hon. Member the right hon. Gentleman's catabolic rate is quite normal.

In reply to the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross), we recognise that in Northern Ireland a contribution was made to this problem, but the reason why we feel that we should not ration flour in this country as they have done in Northern Ireland, is because in Northern Ireland flour is rationed at the source. We want to ensure that every individual is getting bread and cake according to his or her need.

Sir R. Ross

All I asked was, would the hon. Lady continue in Northern Ireland the system of rationing at source we have had up to the present time for an experimental period I was not suggesting the introduction of that system into this country straight away, but only if it is found as great a success as it is in Northern Ireland. This system, to which we are accustomed, has worked well. I do not ask for an answer tonight. But will the hon. Lady look into it?

Dr. Summerskill

I think the hon. Gentleman would agree that there would be some black marketing if the system were adopted. We want to ensure that everybody, irrespective of his income, has a certain ration. The hon. Lady the Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) asked if we could supply more packed meals. We are trying to do that as far as possible, but we only do it where there is not a canteen available. If there is a canteen available, the worker is expected to use it. She also asked us to bring more pressure to hear on the Postmaster-General. Well, I went round the world with him in 1944, and I did Dot find him responsive to pressure. (HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!") The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman), in his peroration, said the Minister was quite right in being prepared, and yet he was going to vote against him in the Lobby.

Mr. Beechman

I said it was quite right, but that I was going to vote against him for imposing rationing now, at this moment.

Dr. Summerskill

Surely, the hon. Gentleman listened very carefully to the Minister. The Minister told the House that it was no good waiting until the danger point had been reached. If we are to be prepared, we must do it now. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] We are not prepared to wait until it is too late. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give us the figures."] I have already pointed out, in answer to the noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead, that there are no long queues outside the shops that sell rationed foods. The contribution of the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie), I am sure, was welcomed by everybody. It is interesting to hear somebody speak in this House who knows his subject thoroughly, and we always enjoy that. He asked why the Government did not conduct a campaign against waste. We have been conducting a campaign against waste over a long period. I may say that the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) asked more or less the same question. He asked why people could not be encouraged to save bread instead of introducing a scheme of this kind.

Mr. Duthie

I did not mention "campaign." I mentioned "crusade," which is a totally different thing.

Dr. Summerskill

If the hon. Member had looked at the hoardings he would have seen a figure holding up a sword. [HON. MEMBERS: "A bread knife."] Those who have not seen the hoardings have, I expect, seen the plates in restaurants which, in spite of our publicity, have had broken rolls of bread on them. Obviously, we could not go on like that. The hon. Member for Banff said that the bakers had not been consulted. The bakers were consulted, but we could not go to them—or to any other group—and say, "Will you make our decision for us? "Having consulted the interested parties, the Government had to make up their mind whether they would, or would not, ration bread. Here, I would like to pay a tribute to the Scottish bakers, who have supported us.

We are hoping that we shall make the people of this country bread conscious. Those who still take bread with their meals, and who do not need it, and those who thoughtlessly give bread to animals, will realise that it is essential to economise in bread. We have taken this step with full responsibility. I believe that our people like to know the truth. In this we are emulating the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford who in the dark days of the war, often with the guns sounding overhead, used to say, "I have bad news, but I believe the people should be told the truth because they can face it." We believe that that is the right approach. Unfortunately, we see tonight an Opposition which has revealed a reckless approach to this very serious matter, and which has shown to the whole country a willingness to gamble with the bread of the people. I ask the House to vote against the Motion.

11.24 p.m.

Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)

The hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary is under an astonishing delusion if she thinks that the critics of her Ministry, or the Government, over the last few months, have been entreating the Government not to tell the people of this country the truth. I wish to concentrate, for a short time, almost entirely on what seems to me the essential and most important question which was asked by the Leader of the Opposition when he opened the Debate this evening, and to which we have not had a sufficient and satisfactory reply. That question is not whether a rationing system is necessary, but whether there is a sufficient reason—and if so what—not, for preparing a system and having it ready, but for bringing it into operation on the eve of the harvests of the world, on 21st July instead of the very short time afterwards, when we shall not, indeed, have ready for consumption our harvest or the American or Canadian harvests, but when we shall know what those harvests are and can judge, as it is impossible for anyone to judge certainly at this moment, whether or not the general wheat position for the next crop year will be such as to make bread rationing imperative. The Minister has given some reply to that question. I do not think it is a sufficient or a satisfactory reply.

What has he said? First of all, he reassured us on the point of anxiety which I think was in most of our minds, namely, that the estimate he gave us a fortnight ago as to what would be the position at the end of August had perhaps already proved to be over-optimistic. On the contrary, he confirmed his view that there will he in this country, on 31st August, 800,000 tons. It is now 18th July, and if at this date he is confident that there will be that quantity in this country, it is a pretty sure thing that there will be 800,000 tons. What is the point at which there would be a breakdown in distribution? He told us, in the same Debate, that it would be, not at 800,000 tons, but at some lower figure. He could not say exactly what.

Bearing that in mind, let us look at this question as to what the reason is for bringing the scheme into operation on 21st July. Between 21st July and the time at which he will know the harvests of this country and of the two most important exporting countries, America and Canada —not, of course, Australia and the Argentine—how much will he save by the new rationing scheme? The Leader of the Opposition suggested the figure of 40,000 tons. He said that he was taking that on the most generous view and interpretation of the Minister's own figure. I agree that it is a very generous view. I should like to ask the Minister whether he really thinks that he will save as much as 30,000 tons in those five weeks? I doubt it. Let it be remembered that even if he saves 30,000 tons, that is a saving of wheat and flour, and not a net saving of food. He will lose something on the exchange of B.U's. by the better-to-do classes for coupons which they will use for other forms of food. But let us take 30,000 tons. That is what he will save, perhaps, by taking this step before he knows the most essential factors in the problem.

What are 30,000 tons in relation to this problem? It is obvious that it is not related to the problem of the next crop year. It is an insignificant quantity in relation to the consumption of a year. It is something like one-half of one per cent. It is not for that reason. The sole reason, I suggest, is that the Minister is afraid of the intervening period. What is that intervening period? It is not between now and 31st August, because he has confirmed his view that there will be 800,000 tons on 31st August. It is, obviously, not from 1st October onwards, because it is quite clear that there will be enough from our harvest to go on for a considerable time after that. The period of danger, therefore, from this point of view, is solely the month of September.

Now, what is the position in the month of September? He will need for con- sumption 400,000 tons in that month. He is going to have 250,000 tons from the English harvest. He is also getting whatever may be the difference between 800,000 tons and the lower figure at which, alone, actual shortages due to distribution would take place. But, suppose there is no margin at all—and there is obviously some—he needs to get, not necessarily from Canada but from other parts of the world, amounts which will enable him to see into this country in September, 150,000 tons. Is it solely because he does not feel that he can rely on that 150,000 tons in September that he is taking this terrific gamble by bringing this most complicated, this most inconvenient and harassing form of rationing into force at the most inconvenient season of the year when holidays are taking place? Is he doing all this because of this one point? Is he doing this in circumstances in which he has led us to believe it is not only possible, but probable, that when he does know the full results of the harvests—which so far have been developing well—bread rationing will not be required? Is it impossible for him to get in 150,000 tons extra from all sources—150,000. tons extra above the 250,000 tons which he will get from our own harvests?

Has he nothing arranged? I can only say I wish I were speaking before, and not after him, so that I could have pressed him to reply. I need not emphasise the enormous advantage to the country if he could have refrained from imposing this scheme for just four or five weeks, which is the period before he will know the results of the harvests. I do not, for one moment, suggest that the Government have brought in this rationing scheme for love of control. No Government would have introduced this unless they thought the situation required it. But, if the system is once in operation, and then, in a couple of months or so, the situation is such that the scheme need not have been brought into operation, I am not so sure that the Government will see to it that the bread rationing scheme is taken off.

Mr. Strachey

I can give the answer very readily indeed. The very moment the situation is such that I think it is wise to advise my colleagues it is safe to remove it, then it will be removed.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

Will the Minister publish figures?

Sir A. Salter

I wonder if there were no rationing of tea at this moment, whether tea stocks are in such a serious condition, that he would introduce tea rationing at this time. I say that once bread rationing is introduced it is more likely to be continued. I am quite sure that it there were now no petrol rationing, and the situation of petrol were now what it now is, no Minister would now introduce petrol rationing. But there is a staff running, and it would be rather inconvenient to get rid of them at once. There are other considerations not originally considered, such as the Chancellor of the Exchequer's considerations and others. I am not at all too confident that if this rationing system is now introduced, and if in two months the situation is such that it would not be necessary, it would be taken off.

Mr. Edward Porter (Warrington)

The right hon. Gentleman has asked the Minister, he has given a definite reply, and now he does not believe him.

Sir A. Salter

I am quite sure, and accept the Minister's assurance, that if he is convinced that bread rationing is not necessary in, say, a couple of months' time, he will be in favour of taking it off: but if rationing is already in operation, I feel that he will look at the facts a little differently.

Mr. Porter

Why does the right hon. Gentleman not tell him that he does not believe him?

Sir A. Salter

We have to form a discretionary judgment on the facts before us and our judgments are to some extent always affected by more than the bare figures of the case. I have put my case, and I do not propose to labour it.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)

It will be within the knowledge of most Members of the House that the right hon. Gentleman has for a long time advocated sending more help to the people of Europe. If action had been taken on those lines he will surely admit that bread rationing would have been necessary even before now.

Sir A. Salter

The hon. Member has intervened at the precise moment at which I was about to say—and I ask the House to believe this—that I do not associate myself with any reproaches against the Government for having acquiesced in any excessive allocation of wheat to the distressed areas of Europe.

Miss Lee

That is pure sophistry. It would be worth while to save even a single half crust in view of the representations the right hon. Gentleman has made to this House.

Sir A. Salter

Introducing bread rationing on 21st July will not have the effect of making it possible for us to increase the ration in Germany from 1,000 or so calories to 1,500 calories. If I thought that the rationing was going to have any reference to that question, I would not for a moment be questioning, as I am questioning, the suitability of the date. But my point is not that the ration should not be introduced, but that far more consideration should have been given to whether, for the sake of possibly 30,000 tons, rationing should be introduced on 21st July rather than five weeks or so later when the harvest will be known.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Is it not a fact that, had the advice of the right hon. Member been taken during the months gone by, it would have been necessary for the Government to introduce this bread rationing scheme even earlier? It is within the knowledge of every Member of this House that the right hon. Gentleman has continually pressed, as I myself have also done, for the sending of as much foodstuffs as possible to the Continent, especially Germany.

Sir A. Salter

If my advice had been taken and the facts about the food situation had been published, and this country and the world forewarned when the situation was becoming serious, the economies in other parts of the world and their allocations would have been immensely greater, not only by the 30,000 tons which is now in question, but by 300,000 tons or more which is all that rationing will save, not in four or five weeks, but in a year. Secondly, if, as a result of extra allocation from this country, in the absence of allocations from other countries, our stocks were so reduced that bread rationing was necessary, then certainly I should have supported it.

Mr. Blackburn

I do want to say, as a matter of honesty, that I know the right hon. Gentleman did ask to know what the stocks were, and the policy which he advocated with regard to Europe was conditional upon a certain view with regard to these stocks and the assumption he was making.

Sir A. Salter

There is nothing which I have said in the past that I depart from in the least, or which is inconsistent with the limited point which I am making as to the desirability of putting this scheme into operation on 21st July as against a month or so later when the new harvests will be known.

I want to say a little on other aspects of this matter. Granting that a scheme of rationing is required to be prepared, as I do grant I do not think that this one is as skilful or as simple or as fair as it could reasonably be. I do not think that it has been skilfully handled in its relation either to the public or to the trade chiefly concerned in the application of the scheme. I think that much of the exceptional and unusual sensitiveness of Members opposite is due to the fact that in their hearts they are uneasy. I thought that the last Debate was handicapped for two reasons. First of all, the inadequacy of information. I still make that complaint. I had hoped that the Minister, who made a good start and came with a good record, would have got along a great deal further and faster in giving the information we want now and shall want as we continue to watch the food problems during the next few months. I pressed the right hon. Gentleman strongly last time as to when he was going to give us the amended edition of the White Paper on food which was promised us as long ago as February, and which even his predecessor, whom we always thought very reluctant indeed to give information, indicated would be issued in a revised edition in July.

The White Paper itself, published as long ago as April, was very defective and is long out of date. Now it is 18th July, and we have not had the new edition of the White Paper, although the Minister, in his reply, expressed very strong sympathy with my argument on 3rd July. I sincerely trust he is going to give us this amended edition, and make it a monthly edition, and keep continually up-to-date a balance sheet of supplies and consumption. We want to know—we do not know at present—what he has planned in the way of imports in September. We do not know what arrangements he has made for later months. We want that information in order to be able to judge on these food questions as they arise. We want the Government's view month by month as to what in succeeding months they contemplate they will be drawing in from home supplies and imports and, on the other hand, what will be needed for consumption at home and for export to the Continent. I trust the Minister will be able to made a rapid step forward in this direction.

The other complaint I made in our last Debate was that when we were charging the Government with reticence and lack of foresight they put as their representative in the dock the only Minister of Cabinet rank who was then innocent. The Minister has now qualified himself for the position which I then thought was unsuitable for him. He has perhaps not gone very far at present, but in handling this question, I think he has gone some little distance towards digging his grave. He can, however, still disqualify himself for occupying it. And since he can only do so by action which is in the public interest I sincerely hope that he will.

11.47 p.m.

Mrs. Wills (Birmingham, Duddeston)

I never thought I should live to hear a speech by the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) similar to that which I have just heard. I used to think he was a man who would share his last crust with anyone who had no crust at all. I very much doubt that after the speech he has made tonight. It put me in mind of the woman who promises to her neighbour some jam if she has got any left—not today, not tomorrow, but when she has got some left, and the day never comes when there is any left. For a good many years I have been connected with the Co-operative movement. That movement is one in which the customer is the owner of the business. The customer, in effect the housewife, says what shall he done and what policy the management shall follow. They have said in no uncertain manner that if bread is to be short then bread should be rationed so that we should all have our fair share. In the Co-operative movement we are willing to share our crust with the rest of the community. We say to the Minister, "This is the only way in which you can guaran- tee to safeguard our housewives from queues."

As has been said earlier, we do not have to queue for things that are rationed. We queue for cakes but they are not rationed. Why do we queue for them? It is because immediately the portion allowed to our shops arrives in the morning, the queue absorbs the whole lot and anyone who cannot queue at that time does not get any cakes. When thïngs are rationed we can go in the morning or afternoon, just as we wish, and we can get our share of all the things available. I contend this is a great advantage to the housewife, particularly the housewife with young children who cannot run off early in the morning and stand in queues for hours. She has to attend to her children, to wash a sick child, nurse him and dress him. It is important if fair shares of bread are to be obtained that we should have an Order like this which will enable everyone to get their ration.

As regards registering, it is possible for the housewife to do this. She can deposit her coupons with her regular baker which will, in effect, guarantee that her share of broad will be in the shop when she likes to call for it, or, if it is delivered by van, that the vanman will bring the bread every day in the future as he has in the past. Therefore, there is no difficulty about that. The housewife who is going away on holiday will be able to take her units with her and spend them where she likes. That will have the advantage during the holiday season of permitting her to go where she pleases without having to get transferred from a baker with whom she is registered to another. While she will lose slightly in one way, she will gain in another.

We have had suggestions from hon. Members opposite that the baker should be rationed with the flour he can have and the bread he can bake. If that were done, we should be in exactly the same position as we are at present in regard to cakes. There would be long queues in the morning when the bread arrived, and some people would have to go away empty handed and dissatisfied to find another shop where they could get something. That is what would happen if we rationed the baker and not the customer. In our opinion, the rationing of the customer is by far the easiest way of guaranteeing, a fair share for all.

With regard to bakers having to introduce a rationing system, they can thank their lucky stars, at any rate, that they did not have to do this until they had some of their employees back. They have not had to go through very hard times. Nobody likes rationing and nobody would put it into operation unless it was necessary. I have never heard of a housewife rationing her family when the pantry is empty; she starts to ration them when there is something to ration. The Minister of Food is wise to ration us while there is still something to ration. This is a sensible scheme, and, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, it car: be modified as we go along. No scheme is perfect from the beginning. I strongly commend this scheme to the House, and I would urge the bakers to do their best with it because I believe that our attitude towards it will make us leaders in world moral opinion. We as a nation are ready to give the world a lead, and I believe that our moral standard will stand nigh if we do this thing rather than if we emulate the mad fight that is going on in some of the wealthier and better fed nations of the world. I believe we can stand up and say that we took the right way. We are taking the hard road, possibly, hut it is the right road. If we hitch our wagon to a star we shall get through eventually.

11.54 p.m.

Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)

I do not think that any hon. Member opposite would accuse me of being unfriendly to the Government or of being influenced in any way by party considerations of any kind in any views I express or in any vote I give. I have listened to practically all the speeches which have been made tonight and I say, with a full sense of responsibility, that I believe the Government are mistaken in their policy and that, even at this late hour, they would be wise to pause. The issue is not whether there should be a saving in the consumption of bread in this country—everybody by now is convinced that that is necessary—but those of us who oppose the Government's policy on rationing do so because we are not convinced that rationing is the right way to bring about that saving; we do not believe that we would secure a bigger saving by rationing than by not rationing. Rationing has been a success in this country hitherto because the country has been convinced that it was necessary, and that it was the only way to secure the end in view. The country is not at the moment convinced about bread rationing. Hitherto the country has always been willing to work every rationing scheme that has been introduced, but quite clearly large sections are not willing to work this scheme. I ask the Government not to delude themselves into thinking that the opposition to their proposals is due mainly to party or Press agitation. I am not influenced by either of those factors, and I know that in my own constituency no kind of party pressure has been brought to bear. Yet the feeling against the bread rationing scheme is extremely strong there.

Housewives are opposed to bread rationing because they think that it is, in reality, the last straw. After all, the housewives of this country have had to put up with quite a lot during the past six years, and they are not convinced that this proverbial last straw which breaks the camel's back is a necessary burden which should be imposed on them. Neither is the opposition of the bakers to the scheme due to party agitation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I know the bakers in my constituency; I also know which people are associated with party organisations, and, so far as I know, not one of the bakers is actively associated with any party organisation. I have no reason to love the Conservatives in my constituency, but, so far as I know, not one of their leaders has associated himself with this agitation. In my constituency there has been a very great saving in bread consumption since the small loaf was introduced. These are the official figures which were given by the bakers in Cheltenham. For the eight-week period from 4th May to 29th June, the saving has been between 10 and 12½ per cent. If that has been possible in Cheltenham, it seems to me that a comparable saving could be made elsewhere. This country has never failed to respond to a voluntary appeal to make sacrifices. The people know now that the alternative to voluntary saving is compulsory rationing which they do not want.

The bakers do not want it because they are convinced that they will not get the staffs to work it. I am told that in some instances vanmen have already given notice. The bakers are finding it extremely difficult under present conditions to retain their staffs. The danger is that this schema will break down, and if this rationing scheme is a failure conditions will be worse that if it is not introduced. I am well aware that whatever the action the Government may take, there is a risk. In my view, they are taking the bigger risk in proposing to ration bread when the country is opposed to it. I believe that by so doing they are endangering the whole rationing system of this country. This has worked well—better than in any other country in the world—because it has had popular support behind it but I believe the Minister is endangering it. I recognise his courage over this matter but courage is not the same as wisdom.

There is no real difference of opinion between those who support this proposal and those who are against it as to the ends. The difference is with regard to the means. I ask the Minister to remember what happened during the war when there was a proposal to ration gas and electricity. It was pointed out that this would involve serious difficulties and the appointment of a large number of additional staff. An appeal was then made to give voluntary effort a trial. Everybody knowing that the alternative was rationing. The result was that a greater increase in saving was achieved by voluntary effort than would have been if rationing had been accepted. I believe now that if the Government would make an appeal to the nation it would be successful. Let them not be deterred, even at this late hour, from saying they will postpone the scheme and give the voluntary appeal one more chance. With All respect to the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary the voluntary campaign carried on hitherto has not really been equal to the needs of the occasion. The situation is now entirely different and I believe the response would be quite different. I ask the Government not to be deterred by fear of losing prestige if they give way. Given a little time there will be an opportunity of evolving a better scheme. I believe that if an appeal were made now to save bread it would have a satisfactory response. Therefore, I say to the Government, "Do not be deterred by fear of loss of prestige; you will gain more prestige if you postpone rationing."

12.2 a.m.

Mr. R. J. Taylorrose in his place, and claimed to move. "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Qustion be new put."

The House divided: Ayes, 305; Noes, 151.

Division No. 258.] AYES. [12.2 a.m.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) Lang, G.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Dumpleton, C. W. Lavers, S.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V Durbin, E. F, M. Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Dye, S. Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)
Allighan, Garry Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Leonard, W.
Alpass, J. H. Edelman, M. Levy, B. W.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.) Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)
Attewell, H. C. Edwards, John (Blackburn) Lewis, J. (Bolton)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Lewis, T. (Southampton)
Austin, H. L. Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Lindgren, G. S.
Awbery, S. S. Evans, E. (Lowestoft) McAllister, G.
Ayles, W. H. Evans, John (Ogmore) McEntee, V. La T.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) McGhee, H. G.
Bacon, Miss A. Ewart, R. Mack, J. D.
Baird, Capt. J. Fairhurst F. McKay, J. (Wallsend)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Farthing, W. J. Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)
Barstow, P. G. Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) McLeavy, F.
Battley, J. R. Follick, M McNeil, H.
Bechervaise, A. E. Foot, M. M. Macpherson, T. (Romford)
Belcher, J. W. Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Bellenger, F. J. Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford) Manning, C. (Camberwall, N.)
Benson, G. Freeman, Peter (Newport) Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)
Berry, H. Gaitskell, H. T. N. Marquand, H. A.
Bevin, Rt. Hon. E, (Wandsworyh, C.) Ganley, Mrs. C, S. Marshall F. (Brightside)
Bing, G. H. C. Gibbins, J. Mathers, G.
Binns, J. Gibson, C. W. Mayhew, C. P.
Blackburn, A. R. Gilzean, A. Medland, H. M.
Blenkinsop, A. Goodrich, H. E. Messer, F.
Bottomley, A. G. Gordon-Walker, P. C. Middleton, Mrs. L.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Mikardo, Ian
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Grey, C. F. Millington, Wing-Comdr E. R.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Grierson, E. Mitchison, Maj. G. R.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Monslow, W.
Brown, George (Belper) Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Montague, P.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Gunter, Capt. R. J. Morley, R.
Buchanan, G. Guy, W. H. Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)
Burden, T. W. Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe) Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)
Butler, H. W. {Hackney, S.) Hale, Leslie Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E)
Callaghan, James Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare) Moyle, A.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley) Murray J. D.
Chamberlain, R. A. Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Nally, W.
Champion. A, J. Hardman, D. R. Neal, H. (Claycross)
Chater, D. Hardy, E. A. Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)
Chetwynd, Capt. G. R. Harrison, J. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)
Clitherow, Dr R. Hastings, Dr. Somerville Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)
Cobb, F. A. Haworth, J. Noel-Buxton, Lady
Cocks, F. S. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) O'Brien, T.
Coldrick, W. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Oldfield, W. H.
Collick, P. Hicks, G. Orbach, M.
Collindridge, F. Hobson, C. R Paget, R. T.
Colman, Miss G. M. Holman, P. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)
Comyns, Dr. L. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Cook, T. F. Horabin, T. L. Palmer, A. M. F.
Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G. Hubbard, T. Pargiter, G. A
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Parker, J.
Corlett, Dr. J. Hughes, Emrya (S. Ayr) Parkin, B. T.
Corvedale, Viscount Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Cove, W. G. Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.) Paton, J. (Norwich)
Crawley, A. Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme) Pearson, A.
Cripps, Rt, Hon. Sir S. Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Peart, Capt. T. F.
Crossman, R. H. S. Irving, W. J. Perrins, W.
Daggar, G Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Piratin, P.
Daines, P. Janner, B. Platts-Mills, J. F F.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Jeger, G. (Winchester) Popplewell, E.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield) Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E) Porter, E. (Warrington)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Porter, G. (Leeds)
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.) Jones, J. K. (Bolton) Price, M. Philips
Davies, S. O (Merthyr) Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Pritt, D. N.
Deer, G. Keenan, W. Proctor, W. T.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Kendall, W. D. Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Delargy, Captain H. J. Kenyon, C. Randall, H. E.
Diamond, J. Key, C. W Ranger, J.
Dobbje, W. King, E. M. Rees-Williams, D R.
Dodds, H. N. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr, E. Reeves, J.
Donovan, T. Kinley, J. Reid, T. (Swindon)
Dribers, T. E. N. Kirby, B. V. Richards, R.
Ridealgh, Mrs. M. Strachey, J. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Robens, A. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.) Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Summarskill, Dr. Edith Wigg, Colonel G. E.
Rogers, G. H. R. Swingler, S. Wilcock, Group-Capt. C, A. B.
Sargoad, R. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield) Wilkes, L.
Scott-Elliot, W. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet) Wilkins, W. A.
Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A. Thomas, Ivor (Keighley) Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Shawcross, C. M. (Widnes) Thomas, John B. (Dover) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Shawcross, Sir H. (St. Helens) Thomas, George (Cardiff) Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Shurmer, P. Thurtle, E. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Simmons, G. J. Tiffany, S. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Skeffington, A. M. Titterington, M. F. Williamson, T.
Skeffington-Lodge, T. C. Tolley, L. Willis, E.
Skinnard, F. W. Tomlinson, Rt. Han. G. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Smith, At. Hon. Sir B. (Rotherhithe) Turner-Samuels, M. Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.
Smith, C. (Colchester) Ungoed-Thomas, L. Wilson, J. H.
Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.) Usborne, Henry Wise, Major F. J.
Smith, T. (Normanton) Vernon, Maj. W. F. Woodburn A.
Snow, Capt. J. W Walkden, E. Wyatt, Maj. W.
Solley, L J. Walker, G. H. Yates, V. F.
Sorensen, R. W. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Soskice, Maj. Sir F. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Sparks, J. A Warbey, W. N, Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Robert
Stamford, W. Watkins, T. E. Taylor.
Stewart. Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.) Weitzman, D.
Aitken, Hon. Max Henderson, John (Cathcart) Pitman, I. J.
Baldwin, A. E. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Barlow, Sir J. Hogg, Hon. O. Prescott, Stanley
Baxter, A. B. Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Hope, Lord J. Rayner, Brig. R.
Beechman, N. A. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Birch, Nigel Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Hurd, A. Roberts, H. (Handsworth)
Bossom, A. C. Hutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W.) Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)
Bowen, R. Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.) Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Bower, N. Jarvis, Sir J. Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland
Braithwaite, Lt. Comdr. J. G. Jennings, R. Ross, Sir R.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Jonynson-Hicks, Lt-Cdr. Hon. L. W Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Brown, W. J. (Rugby) Keeling, E. H. Sanderson, Sir F.
Butcher, H. W. Kerr, Sir J. Graham Savory, Prof. D. L.
Byers, Frank F. Lambert, Hon. G. Scott, Lord W.
Carson, E. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Shephard, S. (Newark)
Channon, H. Langford-Holt, J. Smiles, Ll.-Col. Sir W.
Clarke, Col. R. S. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Smithers, Sir W.
Cole, T. L. Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Unlv.) Snadden, W. M.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Lindsay, M. (Solihull) Spearman, A. C. M.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Linstead, H. N. Spence, H. R.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Lipson, D. L. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Cuthbert, W. N. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Sutclifle, H.
Davidson, Viscountess Low, Brig. A. R. W. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Davies, Clement (Montgomery) Lucas, Major Sir J. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
De la Bère, R. MacAndrew, Col. Sir C. Teeling, William
Digby, S. W. Macdonald, Capt. Sir P. (I. of Wight) Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Thomson, Sir D. (Aberdeen, S.)
Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W Maclay, Hon. J. S. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness) Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster) Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.
Drewe, C. MacLeod, Capt. J. Touche, G. C.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Macmillan, Rt. Hon.. H. (Bromley) Turton, R. H.
Duthie, W. S. Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries) Vane, W. M. F.
Eccles, D. M. Maitland, Comdr. J. W Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L. Marlowe, A. A. H. Walker-Smith, D.
Fletcher W. (Bury) Marples, A. E. Ward, Hon. G. R.
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Marsden, Capt. A. Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G. Marshall. D. (Bodmin) Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone) Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Medlicott, F. While, J. B. (Canterbury)
George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke) Mellor, Sir J. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Glossop, C. W. H. Molson, A. H. E. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Gomme-Duncan, Col, A. G. Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T. York, C.
Grimston, R. V. Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E. Young, Sir A. S L. (Partick)
Hannon, Sir P. (Mcseley) Mullan, Lieut. C. H.
Hare, Hn. J. H. (Woodb'ge) Neven-Spence, Sir B. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V. Nicholson, G. Mr. Thornton -Kemsley and
Haughton, S. G. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Mr. Drayson.
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. Oshorne, C.
Mr. Speaker

The Question is ——

Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby) rose——

Mr. Speaker

There cannot be a point of Order now. I have been ordered by the House to put the Question forthwith.

Mr. Brown

I want to protest now against the acceptance of the Motion for the Closure——

Mr. Speaker

If it had not been so late at night, I would have ordered the hon. Member to retire from the Chamber. My decision has now been confirmed by the House.

Question put accordingly, That the Bread (Rationing) Order, 1946, dated 12th July, 1946 (S.R. & O., 1946, No. 1100), a copy of which was presented on 15th July, be annulled.

The House divided: Ayes, 182; Noes, 305.

Division No. 259.] AYES. [12.16 a.m.
Ailken, Hon. Max Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Osborne, C.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Hare, Hn. J. H. (Woodb'ge) Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Scot. Univ.) Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. Haughton, S. G. Pickthorn, K.
Astor, Hon. M. Head, Brig. A. H. Pitman, I. J.
Baldwin, A. E. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Barlow, Sir J. Henderson, John (Carthcart) Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Baxter, A. B. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Prescott, Stanley
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Hogg, Hon. Q. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
Beech man, N. A. Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Raikes, H. V.
Bennett, Sir P. Hope, Lord J. Ramsay, Maj. S.
Birch, Nigel Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Rayner, Brig. R.
Boles, Lt.-Col. O. C. (Wells) Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J. Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Boothby, R. Hurd, A. Roberts, H. (Handsworth)
Bossom, A. C. Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)
Bower, N. Hutchison, Col. J. R (Glasgow, C.) Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Jarvis, Sir J. Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Jeffreys, General Sir G. Ross, Sir R.
Braithwaite, Lt. Comdr. J. G. Jennings, R. Sanderson, Sir F.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Joynson-Hicks, Lt-Cdr. Hon. L. W Savory, Prof. D. L.
Brown, W. J, (Rugby) Keeling, E. H. Scott, Lord W.
Butcher, H. W. Kerr, Sir J. Graham Shephard, S. (Newark)
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Lambert, Hon. G. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W
Carson, E. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Challen, C. Langford-Holt, J. Smithers, Sir W.
Channon, H. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Snadden, W. M.
Churchill, Rt. Hon W. S Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Spearman, A. C. M.
Clarke, Col. R. S. Lindsay, M. (Solihull) Spence, H. R.
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Linstead, H. N. Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Cole, T. L. Lipson, D. L. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Low, Brig. A. R. W. Studholme, H G.
Cornell, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Lucas, Major Sir J. Sutcliffe, H.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Taylor,'C. S. (Eastbourne)
Crowder, Capt. John E. Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A (P'dd't'n. S.)
Cuthbert, W. N. MacAndrew, Col, Sir C. Teeling, William
Davidson, Viscountess Macdonald, Capt. Sir P. (I. of Wight) Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
De la Bère, R. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Thomson, Sir D. (Aberdeen, S.)
Digby, S. W. Maclay, Hon. J. S. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster) Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W. MacLeod, Capt. J. Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.
Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness) Macmillan, Rt. Hon. H. (Bromley) Touche, G. C.
Drayson, Capt. G. B. Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries) Turton, R. H.
Drewe, C. Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Vane, W. M. F.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Manningham-Buller, R. E. Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Duthie, W. S. Marlowe, A. A. H. Walker-Smith, D.
Eccles, D. M. Marples, A. E. Ward, Hon. G. R.
Eden, Rt. Hon. A Marsden, Capt. A. Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L. Marshall, D, (Bodmin) Webbe, Sir H (Abbey)
Fletcher W. (Bury) Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Maude, J. C. While, Sir D. (Fareham)
Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G. Medlicott, F. While, J. B. (Canterbury)
Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone) Mellor, Sir J. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Molson, A. H. E. Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.
Gage, C. Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke) Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E. York, C.
Glossop, C. W. H. Mullan, Lieut. C. H. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Glyn, Sir R. Neven-Spence, Sir B.
Gomme-Duncan, Col, A. G. Nicholson, G. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gridley, Sir A. Nutting, Anthony Mr. James Stuart and
Grimston, R. V. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Bacon, Miss A.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Attewell, H. C. Baird, Capt. J.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J,
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Austin, H. L. Barstow, P. G.
Allighan, Garry Awbery, S. S. Battley, J. R.
Alpass, J. H. Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Bechervaise, A. E.
Belcher, J. W. Goodrich, H. E. Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)
Bellenger. F. J. Gordon-Walker, P. C. Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)
Benson, G. Greenwood, A. W. J. (Hoywood) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)
Berry, H. Grey, C. F. Moyle, A.
Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.) Grierson, E. Murray, J. D.
Bing, G. H. C. Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Nally, W.
Binns J. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Neal, H. (Claycross)
Blackburn, A. B. Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)
Blenkinsop A. Gunter, Capt. R. J. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)
Bottomeley, A. G. Guy, W. H. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe) Noel-Buxton, Lady
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Hale, Leslie O'Brien, T.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare) Oldfield, W. H.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley) Orbach, M.
Brown, George (Belper) Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Paget, R. T.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Hardman, D. R. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Hardy, E. A. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Buchanan, G. Harrison, J. Palmer, A. M. F.
Burden, T. W. Hastings, Dr. Somerville Pargiter, G. A.
Butler H. W. (Hackney S.) Haworth, J. Parker, J.
Buyers, Frank F. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Parkin, B. T.
Callaghan, James Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Hicks, G. Paton, J. (Norwich)
Chamberlain R A. Hobson, C. R. Pearson, A.
Champion. A. J. Holman, P. Peart, Capt. T. F.
Chater D. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Perrins, W.
Chetwynd, Capt. G. R. Horabin, T. L. Piratin, P.
Clitherow, Dr. R. Hubbard, T. Platts-Mills, J. F. F.
Cobb, F. A. Hudson, H. H. (Ealling, W.) Popplewell, E.
Cocks, F. S. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Porter, E. (Warrington)
Coldrick, W. Hughes Hector (Aberdeen. N.) Porter, G. (Leeds)
Collick P. Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.) Price, M. Philips
Collindridge, F. Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme) Pritt. D. N.
Colman, Miss G. M. Hynd, H. (Hackney, C,) Proctor, W. T.
Comyns, Dr. L. Irving, W. J. Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Cook, T. F. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Randall, H. E.
Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G. Janner, B. Ranger, J.
Corbert, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.) Jeger, G. (Winchester) Rees-Williams, D. R.
Corlett, Dr. J. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.) Reeves, J.
Corvedale, Viscount Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Reid, T. (Swindon)
Cove, W. G. Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Richards, R.
Crawley, A. Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Keenan, W. Robens, A.
Crosssman, R. H. S. Kendall, W. D. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Daggar, G. Kenyon, C. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Daines, P. Key, C. W. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. King, E. M. Rogers, G. H. R.
Davies, Clement (Montgomery) Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Sargood, R.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield) Kinley, J. Scott-Elliot, W.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Kirby, B. V. Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A.
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.) Lang, G. Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.
Davies. S. O. (Merthyr) Lavers, S. Shawcross, C N. (Widnes)
Deer, G. Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J. Shawcross, Sir H. (St. Helens)
de Freitas, Geoffrey Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Shurmer, P.
Delargy, Captain H. J. Leonard, W. Simmons, C. J.
Diamond, J. Levy, B. W. Skeffington, A. M.
Dobble, W. Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Skeffington-Lodge, T C.
Dodds, N. N. Lewis, J. (Bolton) Skinnard, F. W.
Denovan T. Lewis, T. (Southampton) Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir B. (Rotherhithe)
Driberg, T. E. N. Lindgren, G, S. Smith, C. (Colchester)
Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) McAllister, G. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Dumpleton, C. W. McEntee, V. La T. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Durbin, E. F. M. McGhee, H. G. Snow, Capt. J. W
Dye, S. Mack, J. D. Solley, L. J.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. McKay, J. (Wallsend) Sorensen, R. W.
Edelman, M. Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull. N.W.) Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.) McLeavy, F. Sparks, J. A.
Edwards, John (Blackburn) McNeil, H. Stamford, W.
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Macpherson T. (Romford) Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)
Edwards, W. J. (Whitichapel) Mallalieu, J P W. Strachey, J.
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.) Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Evans, John (Ogmore) Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Marquand, H. A. Swingler, S.
Ewart, R. Marshall F. (Brightside) Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Fairhurst F. Mathers, G. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Farthing, W. J. Mayhew, C. P. Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Medland, H. M. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Follick, M. Messer, F. Thomas, John R. (Dover)
Foot, M. M. Middleton, Mrs. L. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Mikardo, Ian Thurtle, E.
Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford) Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R. Tiffany, S.
Freeman, Peter (Newport) Mitchison, Maj. G. R. Titterington, M. F.
Gaitskell, H. T. N. Monslow, W. Tolley, L.
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Montague, F. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Gibson, C. W. Morgan, Dr. H. B. Turner-Samuels, M.
Gilzean, A. Morley, R. Ungoed-Thomas. L.
Usborne, Henry Wilkes, L. Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.
Walkden, E. Wilkins, W. A. Wilson, J. H.
Walker, G. H. Willey, F. T. (Sanderland) Wise, Major F. J.
Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst) Willey, O. G. (Cleveland) Woodburn. A.
Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.) Williams, D. J. (Neath) Wyatt, Maj. W.
Warbey, W. N. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove) Yates, V. F.
Watkins, T. E. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Weitzman, D. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Wells, P. L. (Faversham) Williamson, T. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wells, W. T. (Walsall) Willis, E. Mr. Whilteley and Mr. Rober
Wigg, Colonel G. E. Wills, Mrs. E. A. Taylor.
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