HC Deb 03 June 1946 vol 423 cc1600-2
31. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India if he will give the amounts of imported food grains now secured to meet Indian requirements; what allocations are now reaching India each month; and by what amount of tonnage requirements are still short.

Mr. A. Henderson

As regards the first part of my hon. Friend's Question, I would refer him to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Lord President on Friday last. In reply to the second part, about 235,000 tons of cereals were shipped to India in May and over 200,000 tons have already been arranged for shipment in June. In addition, about 80,000 tons of rice will be shipped to India during the second quarter of 1946 against her allocation of 146,000 tons for this period. As regards the last part of the Question, India's total requirements for imports of foodgrains, including rice, during 1946, were stated by the Government of India last March at about 4,000,000 tons. It is not yet possible to say by what amount of tonnage supplies for the whole year will fall short of requirements, since no programme has yet been arranged for the shipment of any cereals for the last quarter of 1946, nor have any rice allocations yet been made for the second half of the year.

Mr. Sorensen

Can my hon. and learned Friend give an estimate of the position at the present tune, and also inform us whether steps are being taken to find any extra means of meeting the requirements?

Mr. Henderson

I am not in a position to give an estimate of the approximate shortage, as I have just indicated in my reply.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

Can the Minister say why, if today he can give the figures of Indian requirements, the Lord President of the Council refused to give them on Friday last?

Mr. Henderson

I can answer for my own sins of omission, but not for those of anybody else.

Mr. Nicholson

Will the Minister take steps to see that the House is furnished with regular statistical information showing the provisional allocations, the final allocations and the shipments as they take place, as set against India's requirements? Is he aware that what we suffer from more than anything else is a lack of information?

Mr. Henderson

The difficulty arises, with regard to the supplementary questions of the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) and the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr.. R. S. Hudson), that the Combined Food Board have been dealing with the matter in respect of different periods of time. The question to which the right hon. Gentleman addressed himself on Friday referred to the whole year, whereas my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council was dealing with the five months from May to September.

Earl Winterton

In view of the great responsibility and the poignant anxiety which every one of us must feel about the position, surely the Minister could carry out the suggestion made by my hon. Friend and place in the Library each week a statement of the minimum import requirements of India and the amount which is arriving?

Mr. Henderson

I am afraid we are not in possession of information as to the minimum import requirements for a particular week. The Government of India stated their estimated requirements for 1946. If it were possible, I would certainly do as the hon. Member suggested, but I think the practical difficulties are such that it would not be possible.

Mr. Sorcnsen

Can my hon. and learned Friend say that at the present time the food requirements of India are being met and are likely to be met in the immediate future?

Mr. Henderson

I can say that at the present time the food requirements of the population of India, in the sense that the system of distribution has not broken down, are being met, but I am not in a position to say what will be the situation in two months' time.

Mr. Nicholson

In view of the fact that the lack of information has been such that it has been very difficult to get information on the subject, could the Minister make some helpful suggestion as to how the House might better keep track of this tragic situation?

Mr. Henderson

I shall be only too glad to consider whether it would be possible to give further information to the House, as the hon. Member suggests.

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