HC Deb 06 June 1946 vol 423 cc2280-95


Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)

I beg to move, That the Order, dated 21st May, 1946, amending the Food (Points Rationing) Order, 1945 (S.R. & EX, 1946, No. 733), a copy of which amending Order was presented on 27th May, be annulled. My complaint about this Order is that it is extremely confusing, and confusing upon a subject which ought to be made extremely simple, as it is the direct concern of almost everyone in this country. I do not think I need enlarge upon the actual contents of the Order to any wide extent, because my purpose tonight is to attack the form rather than the merits of the matter. I might just mention that the Order is concerned with points for canned meats, canned salmon, canned macaroni, certain kinds of biscuits, and a variety of other commodities. This Order No. 733 amends Order No. 891 of 1945, as amended. If one looks at the Order, one finds that the words " as amended " have a very extensive significance, because on referring to the note at the bottom of the Order, one finds that Order No. 891 was amended no fewer than six times in 1945 and four times in 1946, so that this is the twelfth Order dealing with this subject, and it is neces- sary to consider these various amending Orders one by one and as a whole to understand what the present position is.

Order No. 733, which is the subject of this Motion, does a number of things, but perhaps its principal function is to substitute a new part I in the second schedule of Order No. 891, as amended If hon. Members will turn to the second and third pages of Order No 733, they will find a new schedule, and they will see that it contains a mass of intricate details, but no clue is given, except possibly in the very much oversimplified Explanatory Note, as to what changes are created by this new schedule. As far as I can see, it will be necessary for anyone to examine this new schedule with the original Order No. 891 and all the intervening amendments in order to appreciate whether a change has been made or not, and why. What people want to know when a new Order is issued is what change it makes. It would be perfectly simple when a new schedule like this is issued for the items which involve a change to be marked in italics or distinguished by an asterisk, or something of that kind. But the only way we can really investigate this position is to go back to Order No. 891 and work forward.

Order No. 891 is not itself the principal one. One has to go further back for that —to Order No. 861—but starting with No. 891, so as not to have to go too far back into history, we find that the second schedule, which contains the thread in this tangled skein which I am trying to follow this evening, is a lengthy one. It contains no fewer than 13 parts, and begins on page 6 and goes on to page 14. There we have what I suppose must be regarded as the basic schedule. Proceeding forward from 2oth July, 1945, when Order No. 891 was made, we come to Order No. 1048, which was made about a month later. That again deals with canned meat and some of the things with which No. 733 is concerned. So also does a further Order, No. 1138, made about a month later still. Then we have Order No. 1261 which deals with spaghetti. This Order 1261 deals with spaghetti, but I think No. 733 only deals with macaroni, and I am not sure whether the two commodities are sufficiently approximate for the one Order to affect the other. We have a further amending Order, No. 1047, issued in November of last year, but as far as I can see this does not in any way have any bearing on the contents of No. 733, so I will pass it by. On the other hand, Order No. 1514, which was made on 4th December, does. There again there is a further readjustment of the points value of certain canned meat. That brings us up to the ill-fated Order No. 1682 of 1945, which has already been brought to your notice, Mr. Speaker.

Number 1682 makes a sort of halfhearted attempt at consolidation, and the point of this Motion tonight is to say that there ought to be much more readiness to consolidate these Orders at frequent intervals so that the public can appreciate entirely what the position is. Order 1682, as I say, makes a half-hearted attempt at consolidation because it provides not only a new part but a new schedule in place of the second schedule to Order 891. I cannot understand why, having gone so far, the Minister did not go further and make a new Order altogether, so that we could start from scratch again. It would have been quite easy because, as it is, this new schedule takes up nine pages, and the original Order 891 took up only 14, so that it would involve no serious increase in the use of paper if he had gone the whole way and made a new Order, and it would have been an enormous improvement in the intelligibility of the Order. When I say that these Orders should be frequently consolidated, it is only subject to this: that, in consolidating, the Ministry would always distinguish either by italics or by an asterisk those items in which there has been a change; otherwise, consolidation might make some more confusion. However, if they will be careful to distinguish those items where there has been a change, then the more consolidation we have and the more frequently we have it, the better.

If anyone now obtains a copy of 1682 through the Stationery Office or the Food Office or otherwise, they will receive an Order marked " corrected reprint."If they will look at that document which. as I say, contains nine pages of considerable detail, they will find no indication as to where the correction lies. The only way in which they can find this is by comparing it with the original copy which was issued and of which this is a correction. Surely that must create a great deal of inconvenience. When traders receive this document marked "corrected reprint" and they wonder what has been altered, and they pick it up and put it side by side with the original document, it may take easily an hour or more to comb through this mass of detail and find out where the correction has been made. That is a very serious point.

There is another complaint I have to make. This corrected reprint simply bears the original date: Order dated December 31, 1945.—This Order come into force on the 6th January, 1946 It does not mention the fact that this was not issued until some time about the end of April. It was not discovered, according to the evidence given before the Select Committee on Statutory Rules and Orders, that there was a mistake until about the end of April. I think that when this corrected reprint was issued it should have borne the date on it on which it was issued, because this may be of some importance in the courts at some time. It should be evident on the face of the document when it became available to the public, otherwise there may have to be considerable researches by the legal representatives of some unfortunate defendant, to find out when he might have known of the correction. But this corrected reprint was never laid.

This document had never been through the process prescribed in the Statute When earlier this week I looked in the box in the Library, which is the repository for the official copies of the Orders laid before Parliament, to my surprise I found two copies of the corrected reprint, although it had never been laid. To my greater surprise—and I think this is a rather striking coincidence—I found no copy at all of the original Order, which had been laid. It makes the researches of hon. Members rather difficult if we are unable to find, even in the sanctuary of Orders which have been laid before the Parliament, the place where they are supposed to be preserved, a document which was laid, but can find copies of documents which have not been laid. I am not blaming the Ministry for this, all I am saying is that it all adds to the confusion.

I should mention that although in that box I found no copy of the original Order, I found a copy not only of the original Order but of the corrected reprint in a file somewhere else. But it is in that box that one looks to find an Order as originally laid, and where one finds Orders with dockets from the Ministry requesting the Clerk in the Votes and Proceedings Office to present the Orders before Parliament. It is rather difficult to find out exactly the position, and I think this is a matter which should be carefully considered in order that we can be quite clear what documents have been laid before Parliament and what have not.

It has already been ruled in regard to Order 1682 that were it necessary, it would be regarded as having been improperly laid. This is one of the links in the chain of amending Orders which are under discussion this evening. It is about half way in the chain, and is a very bad link, because it does not comply with the Statute in that, although the original was laid, it was subsequently corrected, and the corrected reprint was never laid.

The next Order is No. 158 of 1946. That does not appear to concern No. 733 so I can pass that by. However, 280 does. That deals with salmon. No. 449, which was dated 7th March, refers to the subject of canned meat, and so that clearly affects No. 733. In passing, I congratulate the Ministry on one small matter in regard to this Order. I find that it corrects an error previously made in a minor item. That is quite right. When there is an error to correct, it should be corrected by an Order laid before Parliament, and not by a correcting slip. If only the Ministry had stuck to that procedure they would never have got into all the trouble about No. 1682.

There was one further Order to which I should refer, and that is No. 601 which was laid on 23rd April. This clearly affects the position under 733, because it means part of the opening of the second Schedule. If hon. Members will look at 733 they will see that it concerns itself with that part of that schedule. I traced through this chain of amending Orders, amounting from first to last, from the original Order to the one to which I have now alluded, to one dozen. The House will appreciate that it is a rather exhausting business. I am sure the House will realise that in order to find out what is happening when an Order like this is made, it involves a considerable degree of research. It has involved me in a great deal of trouble, and I am fairly familiar by now with the nature of Statutory Rules and Orders. What must happen to the poor small shopkeeper when he has to unravel these things without a library at his disposal, I cannot tell. Still less is it possible for the ordinary purchasing members of the public to appreciate their rights.

A new consolidating Order should be issued at frequent intervals—about every three months—and that should state clearly that all previous Orders were thereby cancelled. That consolidating Order should also clearly distinguish all changes made by it by means of some mark such as printing in italics the items changed. I think the Ministry owes a duty in this matter to the public and the traders. They have a difficult time to keep track of all the operations of the Ministry, and I think the Ministry, with a little trouble, could simplify life for them enormously. It is desirable that an ordinary member of the public who desires to know his rights should be able to ascertain them by reference to the documents -of the official authorities. Members of the House should not find it extremely difficult to understand what is happening.

Mr. Baldwin (Leominster)

I beg to second the Motion.

I want to speak for the owner and the small one-man shop who may not have the highly intelligent trained mind of some hon. Members who sit on these benches. I appeal to the Minister to see whether something cannot be done to make these Orders more simple. There is an explanatory note to Order No. 733 which makes it look very simple. Is it as simple as that? The Order says: In exercise of the powers conferred upon him by Regulation 55 01 the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, as having effect by virtue of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, (a). If one turns to (a), that is where the hunt begins. I looked at the bottom of the page and this is what I saw:

(a) 9 & 10 Geo. 6. c. 10; and S.R. & O. 1945 (Nos. 1611 and 1615–25) 11, pp. 39, 45–56' We then start with Order ran. I will not weary the House with the recital of the whole Order, which is one of four pages. The part which affects the small shopkeeper is one which says that he is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the maximum amount provided in the next following paragraph, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or to both such fine or imprisonment, or, on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding the maximum amount so provided, or' to penal servitude for a term not exceeding seven years. and so on. The next Order is about 16 pages very closely printed and is one which must be read throughout by the shopkeeper in order to find out what it means, and, when he has read it, I do not think he will know any more about it than I do.

(2A) A competent authority may, if it appears to that authority to be necessary so to do for' any of the purposes specified in Subsection (1) of Section one of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, make or give, as respects any undertaking. orders or directions requiring the undertakers to carry on the undertaking in accordance with those orders or directions and, in particular, requiring the undertakers to employ upon such work and for such period as may be specified in the order or directions, and so on. Order No. 891, which has been referred to, is a very bold document, enumerating varieties of canned fish, and 50 varieties of cereal breakfast foods, amongst which we have " Dalton's Cereal Flakes," " Uncle Mac's Puffed Wheat " and one which will appeal to hon. Members opposite—the " New World Breakfast Food." No, 1045 deals with canned meat and vegetables, No. 1138 with sausages and breakfast food of 50 varieties, No. 1417 with peas, beans and canned suet puddings, and No. 1514 with fats and cheese which is imported from Denmark. Now we come to No. 1682, of ten pages, where I am getting a bit warm. I find that the salmon I have been looking for is mentioned here, and that Grade 1, tall and flat, are 32 points. I think that is all right but I had better go on. I look at No. 158, which deals with anchovies, only to find that I have not much interest there. I now come to No. 280 and get a little bit warmer but more confused, because salmon, " Grade r, tall or flat,"Is mentioned and is 20 points. Order No. 249 deals with canned meat and vegetables and No. 601 very properly deals with Camembert cheese. I think the only thing that the shopkeeper can do is to write to his wholesaler and tell him that if he sends him any more salmon, he will throw it at his head. I think these Orders should be put into a reasonable form in which they can be understood.


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

Both the mover and seconder of this Prayer told the House that these Orders were confusing. After listening to the speeches, the House Will realise that the mover and seconder were themselves both confused. Neither of them, obviously, knew his case. Neither of them had thoroughly digested the Orders. For example, the mover said " Why cannot we have these changes which are included in each Order marked with an asterisk?", I would ask the hon. Member to look at every Order, and on it he will find an explanatory note in. which is given, very briefly, the changes in the points values made in each Order.

Sir J. Mellor

Will the hon. Lady allow me? I noted that, and referred to it, and I said that the explanatory notes are so very over-simplified that they gave no helpful information whatever.

Dr. Summer skill

I do not think the hon. Member can persuade me that he really meant that. The hon. Member said that, here, we had an Order setting out a list of changes, and he did not know which one of these foodstuffs had been changed, so far as the points value was concerned. I would ask the hon. Member to look at the footnote to the Order, where he will find the changes indicated. His remarks merely indicate that the hon. Member has not read the Order properly, that he has not been well briefed, and in fact that he does not know his case.

Sir J. Mellor

It is not only canned meats that are mentioned.

Sir William Darling: (Edinburgh South)

Sausages, for example.

Dr. Summer skill

If the hon. Member consults his wife he will learn that every now and then the Ministry of Food puts certain new processed foods on the markets, and he will find what new points values are attached to them. He probably eats home-produced canned meats every day but does not recognise them. I must apologies to the House, for going into these matters. I had hoped that at this late hour I should not have had to go into details, but hon. Members have quoted all these Orders, and have suggested that the traders of the country have been led astray by the Ministry of Food. I want to explain to the House that this is, after all a fairly simple matter, and that the traders are as conversant with these Orders as a doctor is with the British Pharmacopoeia,

Sir W. Darling


Dr. Summer skill

I want to refer to Order 733, which has been quoted several times. This is the Order which fixed the points value of canned macaroni and for the new packs of home canned meat, as the hon. Member has noted, But it also alters the points values of certain packs of imported canned meats and salmon. Those home-produced canned meats are put into the points rationing scheme for the first time. But Part I of this Order, as the hon. Member pointed out, deals with meat and meat products, tongues, briskets and pressed beef, in respect of which a printing error occurred in the Order 1682, which of course the Ministry admits. That was dated December 31, 1945, and it was an amending Order to the Food (Points Rationing) Order of 1945. This new Order No. 1682 was concerned not only with tongues, briskets and pressed beef. It was in fact partially consolidating the Orders which had been made since the chief Order of 1945. I think the seconder of the Prayer asked for that. The Mover said he would like a consolidating Order every three months. He will find that Order 1682 which I think was distributed in December was a partially consolidating Order, and that Part I was concerned with meat and meat products in which the mistake occurred. This, of course, is not a guide to the traders. If the traders want to know where they are, they will refer to the main Order of July, 1945. The trader knows how these particular Orders work. He would not go to the Orders referred to by the hon. Members to find out about the points values of the meats because he would know they were included in the chief Order.

Sir J. Mellor

Surely the ordinary purchasing members of the public are. entitled to understand these Orders as well as the traders?

Dr. Summer skill

I would remind the hon. Member that the traders are the people chiefly concerned. The housewife does not go to the Stationery Office to get one of these Orders when she wants to find out the points values of canned meats. The traders themselves get this information through their traders' journals. They, as hon. Members know, display the points values in their shops, and that is how the housewife learns these things.

In the reprinting of this Order, certain brackets were misplaced, and I agree that it could be read that there might be no points values for tongues, including chopped tongues, in containers, and, conversely, no points values for briskets and pressed beef. But, as I have already said, the trader would go to the original Order of July, 1945, to find out what were the real facts. The error was not detected in checking, and the Order so printed was laid before Parliament and distributed. It was generally assumed that no alteration of the points values of the items concerned was intended, and it was not until the following April that the mistake was discovered. After discussion with the Stationery Office, a corrected reprint was issued. Upon receiving these reprints from the Stationery Office, copies were sent on 25th April, in the usual way, to the officer in charge of the Votes and Proceedings Office with a request that the Order should he laid again. Copies were also sent to the Select Committee on Statutory Rules and Orders, as if it were a new Order. When the Order was so sent to be laid, my Ministry should have formally requested the withdrawal of the original Order, but the point was not raised, and the reprint of the Order was, in fact, not laid. That is the explanation for which the hon. Gentleman asks. On 25th May, Mr. Speaker ruled that these misplaced brackets constituted an error of substance—[AN HON. MEMBER: " Hear, hear."]—but in giving this Ruling he pointed out that, since the Order had been replaced—by Order No. 733 which the hon. Gentleman has prayed against tonight—and in view of the fact that this had been laid, there would be no point in re-laying the earlier Order. That is why it was not done.

I feel that I should tell the House what the procedure is in checking these Orders. So far as my Department is concerned, we have modified the procedure during the last few months. Hon. Members cheered when I said that the misplacing of the brackets in the original Order was an error of some substance. I want the House to know that this is all that occurred. On an ordinary typewriter the bracket is a very small sign. The typist wanted to put a large bracket, so she used two small brackets. The typescript was sent to the Stationery Office and they thought that instead of one large bracket, it was two small brackets. The mistake thus occurred originally in the typescript. I think I am right in saying that a member of the Select Committee said that he would have thought it was meant for one large bracket, whereas the Stationery Office interpreted it as two brackets. At the date when the Order was made, December, 1945, the practice was for Orders to be signed in typescript before a draft was submitted for signature. It was checked both by the Secretaries to the Orders Committee of the Ministry and by the division of the Ministry concerned with promoting the Order, the latter being responsible, of course, for the accuracy of the Order. A copy of the Order as checked and signed was then sent to the Stationery Office for printing and, if the character of the Order was such that a check of the proof by the Department seemed desirable, the Stationery Office was requested to supply the Ministry with a proof which was checked again by the Secretaries of the Orders Committee.

In accordance with this procedure the final typed copy of Order 1682, in which the trouble occurred, was sent to the division concerned. Afterwards it was returned in proof and a few minor errors were detected by this checking. The error in bracketing was not. Under the new procedure we shall now check these Orders four times. They will be checked in typescript and when they are returned to us, they will be checked in proof by the Secretary of the Orders Committee, and then by the division, before they are signed. I do want the House to realise that the Ministry has made 2,076 Orders, of which 445 are still in force. Many of these Orders have had to be prepared and printed at very short notice, frequently as little as 24 hours. I think that in the circumstances we might claim a fairly good record when so few errors have occurred. The very nature" of the points rationing system necessitates frequent changes in values, and consequent amending Orders, sometimes as frequently as once a month. There are 267 kinds of points rationed foods, and total demand can only be equated to total supply in terms of points, by determining the points value of these individual items. These points values have in fact been determined for a long period since the introduction of the scheme in 1941. The mover and seconder asked that these Orders should be consolidated and that we should not amend continually and so confuse the small grocer. The seconder picked up one Order after another and quoted them to the House. May I also say to the House that each one of these Orders—I think the one he quoted was 1048 dealing with canned peas, meats and vegetables—can be printed on one piece of paper. Would either the mover or the seconder say to the House that every time we altered the points value of a food, we should waste public money by producing a 14-page document?

Sir J. Mellor

I am sure that neither I nor the seconder suggested that for a moment. We suggested that there should be consolidation at frequent periods, say once every three months, when the Orders and the amending Orders made during that period should be collected and assimilated into an entirely new Order.

Dr. Summer skill

That is exactly what I am saying. We have to change the points value of foods, it may be in a period of three weeks. It is quite common to have a change every month in order that demand shall equal supplies. I reiterate and surely the House would agree with me, that if one page is enough, public money should not be spent on 14 pages.

Mr. Speaker

I think that the general question of consolidation is not in Order on this Motion. The Order in question is merely an amending Order. The general question of consolidation does not arise at the moment.

Sir J. Mellor

May 1, with great respect, Mr. Speaker, say that the whole purpose of my argument, and I submit that the argument was in Order, was that Order 733, the subject of this Motion, was the twelfth of a chain of Orders all interconnected and that this involved so much confusion that consolidation was desirable.

Mr. Speaker

I thought that the hon. Member was out of Order from the start, but I had only just taken the Chair and was not au fait with the situation. I say now that this argument is out of Order on this Prayer.

Dr. Summer skill

If that is your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, then practically the whole of the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Prayer appear to have been out of Order, because they addressed themselves chiefly to the need for consolidation. If I have not to prove that there is no need for consolidation every three months, I feel there is little more for me to say. I do hope that the House will agree that our very hard-pressed Ministry has done its best to keep both the House and the public informed on these matters.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Challen (Hampstead)

May I say, Mr. Speaker, that despite your Ruling, I find it difficult to confine myself entirely to what is contained in this Order, and I wish particularly to refer to the explanatory note at the end. I venture to say that this is not an explanatory note at all, but an abuse of an undertaking given by the Government of some years ago, when the whole question of 'explanatory notes attached to Orders was raised. Some years ago—it will be remembered by the hon.Lady—there was an agitation to have some real explanation given of these matters when a new Order is produced to the House involving previous Orders. The idea of an explanatory note was then introduced. It was proposed that when there was a new Order which was rather obscure, and was not quite understandable to the public, or perhaps even to this House, there should be an explanation telling the public and the House exactly what the Order meant. Secondly, the proposition made and agreed to that, where several Orders were amended or added to, there should be a consolidating Order.

This Order puts neither of these precepts into practice. It is not consolidating, and it is not explanatory. The purpose of this Order, as set out at the end is: To increase the points value of Canned Luncheon Meat and to fix points value for new packs of home produced Canned Meats; to reduce the points value of Group 3 salmon; to fix points value for Canned Macaroni; to increase the points value of certain kinds of Biscuits. Everybody knows that already. Of course if one cares to check it up, or if a small trader cares to employ a lawyer and spend a large amount of money in order to understand what he can sell and what the buyer can buy, no explanation is necessary. But I suggest that the Government Department in this case has slipped up between an explanatory note and a consolidating Order. The explanatory note is just ridiculous; it only tells us what we know. The hon. Lady has been reading for half-an-hour— [HON. MEMBERS: " No."]—a brief which has been given her by her Department. But we do not want to hear a brief from the hon. Lady's Department, and we do not want an explanatory note. We want an Order. The Government Department in this particular case are deceiving us. They are not playing the game. Years ago, it was agreed first, that there should be consolidation, and second, that there should be explanatory notes. Here we are left in the dark, and the hon. Lady just gives us a lot of bureaucracy which leads nowhere. That is really our attack upon this Order.

10.50 p.m.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

I felt some hesitation in joining in this Debate, but I am encouraged by what you, Mr. Speaker, said on 28th May, recorded in HANSARD as follows: I myself always find these Orders most difficult to understand I have always hoped that these Orders would be framed in language which an ordinary person like myself could understand."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th May, 1946: Vol. 423, c. 1003.] Because I am always greatly impressed by and have full confidence in the integrity of your advice, Sir, I committed that extract from HANSARD to my diary. I had hoped that these observations, which penetrated the somewhat obtuse intelligence with which I am encumbered, would have more easily penetrated the intelligence of His Majesty's Government. I greatly grieve that the exhibition, if I may so call it, of the hon Lady tonight shows that she has taken no instruction from the wise words which I have just quoted. I shall oppose whenever I have the opportunity all these Orders because I believe this is an iniquitous system of conducting public business. I shall oppose all these Orders in the light of your guidance, Mr. Speaker. They are obscure, misleading, and objectionable, and they bring the Government, already in considerable discredit, into even greater discredit. The aim of this Order is to instruct the public and, conversely, it is to instruct shopkeepers. We are, indeed, a nation of shopkeepers, but we need to be even more intelligent than the hon. Lady suggests if we are to understand this plethora of instructions. I myself am a shopkeeper, and I know some of the limitations of shopkeepers and the handicaps under which they labour, and I know that these documents, which come, as the hon. Lady tells us, not by tens, or twenties, but by hundreds, are a grievous burden. The hon. Lady tells us tonight that we need not go to these Orders, but should content ourselves with our trade papers. But the Board of Trade refuses to give additional paper to the trade papers to publish these Orders. That is the quandary in which the overburdened, unhappy shopkeeper is placed.

I understand that the hon. Lady belongs to the professional class, and the professional class are notoriously inconsiderate of the shop keeping class. But it is not the shopkeepers alone who have this grievous burden; it is a burden also on the general public. This document, if published in the homes of the people, would cause their mouths to water. I ask where today are such comestibles to be found as- ' tongues, including chopped tongues, canned boneless turkey sausage meat, minced meal loaf. These comestibles are unknown, they are fables, they are fictions, they are mirages to the great majority of people. To produce a document of this character and tell the public that if they have 172 points they might have a container containing chopped tongue is a fantasy and a deception, I defy the hon. Lady to find for me any shop or store within ten miles of this House where any or all of these commodities can be obtained.

Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)

May I ask the hon. Gentleman if he would like to go for a walk with me as a housewife? I know where I can buy these things, not by spending 170 points, but by going to any large store where they take the goods out of a tin. I need not take him for a very long walk. If he would like to surrender some of 112 coupons I will buy the goods for him.

Sir W. Darling

I am grateful for the invitation of the hon. Lady; I have enjoyed many courtesies in this House but they seem to become more expensive than ever. If the hon. Lady's kind invitation means that I should walk into her parlour and purchase with eight coupons a tin of canned tongues—that, I understand, is her invitation—then I suggest that before she practises her blandishments on me she should draw the attention of the Kitchen Committee to these comestibles. There is nothing on the menu in the House of Commons as appetising as what is described here. What is called " corned beef " here is a cold slice of beef with some hot curry sauce. If the hon. Lady knows of more attractive items than those which appear on the menu, will she invite the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee to go for a walk with her, and when he returns fully replete with the hon. Lady's society and what she has been able to purchase for him, I shall be happy to repeat the experiment. Meanwhile I repeat the challenge. Hon. Ladies and Gentlemen in this House know that the mere mention of these things would cause the mouths of the public to water. They cannot be obtained; they are a delusion and a snare; there is none in the shops, either of the co-operative societies or other retailers.

If these things are available then the arithmetic in this Order is faulty. You can purchase six pounds of ham loaf or veal loaf in a container for 172 points, but if you care to purchase either of them loose, they cost 32 points to the pound. That means that the retailer is getting 192 points on the whole transaction, which seems a rather unusual proposal. I will not go into any further detail on this subject; it is a succulent subject which I would like to pursue, but as presented by the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary, it is a barren and unprofitable subject, even though the discussion has been embellished by this invitation to go for a walk in search of canned rabbit. I decline to accept it, and I register my protest against an Order which is irrational, meaningless, and, in accordance with your learned and distinguished opinion, obscure and unintelligible and one which, on your judgment, Mr. Speaker, we might well advise this' House to reject.

Question put, and negatived.