HC Deb 31 July 1946 vol 426 cc946-50
52. Mr. Hare

asked the Minister of Food whether he is prepared to grant the extra heavy manual workers' bread ration to men and women employed as casual labourers on farms for purposes of potato lifting, fruit picking, singling beet, etc.

Mr. Strachey

The manual worker's ration is available to those workers who are regularly employed in manual work for an average of at least 22 hours a week. I have, however, made arrangements for casual workers in agriculture to have ample additional supplies of bread during such periods of seasonal activity. These harvest rations will be distributed through the farmers and they are intended as the equivalent of a canteen.

Mr. Hare

Do I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that he will make available to casual workers during this next harvest season a full equivalent extra bread ration to compare, shall we say, with the normal agricultural labour engaged on that work?

Mr. Strachey

Yes, Sir. The farmers will be able to draw the extra harvest rations in respect of casual as in respect of regularly employed workers.

Mr. Harold Davies

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in some cases the farmers are not taking the trouble to draw these rations for their workers? Would it not be possible to allow the harvest workers themselves to get these rations?

Mr. Strachey

There are great difficulties in doing that, but I should like any cases brought to my attention where farmers are failing to provide these rations for their workers, because it is very undesirable indeed.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many German prisoners of war are now beginning to idle at their work for lack of proper sustenance? Would he look into the possibility of varying the ration to the German prisoner of war, or of increasing slightly the calorific value?

Mr. Strachey

I can hardly agree that if there is idling it can be for lack of sustenance. We have just increased the supply of foodstuffs, in this case fish, to German prisoners of war camps, and their calory intake at the moment is by no means bad.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

Will the arrangements that the right hon. Gentleman has outlined apply to school children employed on potato gathering?

Mr. Strachey

I would really like notice of that, but I do not think so. I think these are adult manual workers.

58. Major Niall Macpherson

asked the Minister of Food whether he will make arrangements to open branch food offices in small burghs in order to facilitate the exchange of BU units.

Mr. Strachey

Much as I would like to, I regret that it is not possible to set up large numbers of sub-food offices to help exchange bread units. This can, of course, be done by post.

Major Macpherson

Is the Minister aware that at the present time people who live in small burghs and country districts are faced with the alternative of spending a considerable sum of money and a long time on bus journeys in order to get to the main food office, or of waiting anything from a week to two months for a reply from the food office?

Mr. Strachey

If the hon. and gallant Member could give any instances of delays in replies in this type of correspondence, I will look into them.

Mr. Austin

What is the administrative difficulty which prevents the housewife exchanging BU's over the counter?

Mr. Strachey

There are a lot of Questions on the Paper on that point. The difficulty is that it would mean putting bread on points. A commodity of the size of bread would completely outweigh the whole of the rest of the points scheme, and make it impossible to allocate the rest of the foodstuffs to meet the points rationing scheme.

62. Mr. Pickthorn

asked the Minister of Food if he will give the basis on which he calculates that bread rationing combined with the slight increase in the meat ration reduces the average British calorie consumption from 2,850 to 2,800; and what is his estimate of the calorific value of a day's rations.

Mr. Strachey

I have estimated that bread rationing would save 7 per cent. of our flour consumption. This would mean an average reduction of 70 calories a day. The increase of 2d. a week in the meat ration represents an average of 35 calories a day. The combined result would therefore reduce our estimated calorie intake from 2,850 to some 2,800 a day. I have no figures for the rationed foods alone.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

As the Minister has estimated what the saving would be, could he say what the saving has been for the first week of bread rationing?

Mr. Strachey

No, figures are not yet available. They soon will be, and I think they will be of interest.

63. Mr. Sutcliffe

asked the Minister of Food approximately how many retail shopkeepers previously selling bread in addition to other foods have declined to do so since the announcement of rationing.

Mr. Strachey

It would, I am afraid, be impracticable to get precise figures, but the information which is so far available indicates the number is very small.

Mr. Sutcliffe

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no fewer than 50 out of 2,000 retailers supplied by one bakery in Lancashire have refused to accept any more supplies, and that this makes it much more difficult for people? Is he proposing to take any action?

Mr. Strachey

No, Sir. We have not received any information of that sort.

65. Sir W. Smithers

asked the Minister of Food if he is instituting legal proceedings against those bakers who, since 21st July, because they had surplus stocks, sold cakes off the ration.

Mr. Strachey

If the hon. Member is referring to cases in which authority has been given by my officers for sales of cakes off the ration the answer is, of course, "No, Sir." But I must repeat that such permission will seldom if ever be given henceforward. Where no such permission has been given the sellers, if any, have undoubtedy rendered themselves liable to prosecution and my enforcement officers will consider each case on its merits.

Sir W. Smithers

In view of the large amount of bread and cakes that have been sold off the ration, might I ask the right hon. Gentleman by what authority of this House he exercises these dictatorial powers?

Mr. Strachey

That is the answer to the hon. Member's next Question The powers are under Article 28 of the Food Rationing (General Provisions) Order.

Mr. McGovern

Is the Minister aware that a large number of workers in the centre of the city have been used to purchasing these cakes at works canteens, and have come from offices and warehouses for that purpose, and that no provision is made for that class of worker?

Mr. Strachey

I take it that the hon. Member has in mind the office worker. He has to purchase within the ration allowance like everyone else. I do not see how we could make a special allowance for this type of worker.