HC Deb 25 November 1946 vol 430 cc1242-4
18. Mr. Stokes

asked the Minister of Food whether he will permit Christmas food parcels to be sent to starving people in Europe, in view of the increased Christmas rations; and whether he will make a statement on the general question of sending voluntarily - saved rations abroad.

36. Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

asked the Minister of Food whether he will now make a statement to meet the wishes of those who desire to send food parcels to the Continent.

72. Mr. Ronald Chamberlain

asked the Minister of Food whether he is yet in a position to make a statement in regard to the dispatch of food parcels to Germany and Austria.

Mr. Strachey

The Government have decided to allow individuals in this country to send food parcels to individuals in any country overseas to which there is an ordinary parcel post; in the case of Germany, to which the parcel post may not be opened for a little time, alternative arrangements are being made. In addition, people who have not got a relation or friend abroad to whom they can send a personal parcel, may wish to help. I am arranging with "Save Europe Now" to provide the necessary facilities to meet these cases. I am prepared to make similar arrangements with other suitable relief organisations. The date on which the scheme will come into effect—it will be well before Christmas—together with details of the exact procedure to be followed will be announced very shortly. Parcels cannot be accepted by "Save Europe Now" or by the Post Office before that date.

Meanwhile I can announce some particulars of the scheme. Parcels will be restricted to one a month with a gross weight of 71b. and will not be allowed to contain more than 2 lb. of any one commodity. Only rationed foods, including goods on points, and soap will be allowed in the parcels. It will, of course, be possible to send parcels to members of His Majesty's Forces overseas.

I am happy that it has now proved possible to make these arrangements, just because it is no longer possible for this country to send bulk supplies of food abroad as we did last year. The very considerable supplies that were sent last year represented a most serious sacrifice. Today our stocks of food—particularly grain—are much lower than they were at this time last year and it is out of the question for us to make any diversions from them. But I trust and believe that the peoples of the most necessitous areas will note that despite this there are people in this country who wish to give food out of their own rations, so that the sense of human solidarity in the midst of the world's present sufferings may not be lost.

Mr. Stokes

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate the great relief that this decision will be to many thousands of people in this country and elsewhere? May I ask him further whether, in making the announcement as to the details of distribution, he will see that they are given as much publicity as possible so as to avoid disappointment?

Mr. Strachey


Major Tufton Beamish

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this decision will be very welcome throughout the whole British Isles, and will he say why it has taken his Ministry more than a year to reach this decision?

Mr. Strachey

There have been considerable difficulties and obstacles in the way of a decision, and it is only now that we have been able to overcome them.

Mr. Chamberlain

While also congratulating the Minister without the reservation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lewes (Major Beamish), may I also ask, when the details of the scheme are announced, that a guide be given to the people as to the particular foods which are required, and which should be sent? Will he also say a word with regard to Austria? He mentioned the subject of a scheme for Germany. Does it also apply to Austria?

Mr. Strachey

No, Sir. I am informed that the parcel post to Austria is opened, so that covers that. I do not think it will be possible to guide people as to food they wish to send.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is only through the spread of the kindliness and generosity which lie behind the inquiries which led to this decision that a real contribution can be made towards the development of a peaceful Europe in the future?

37. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Food if he will arrange that those who desire to do so may surrender part or all of their sweets coupons and that the equivalent amount of rations be sent as a Christmas gift from the British people to the children of Germany.

Mr. Strachey

In view of the announcement regarding food parcels which I have just made, and of the fact that I understand a coupon-free allocation of 250 grams of sweets (which is nearly nine ozs.) will be issued for Christmas to children up to 18 years of age in the British and American zones of Germany, I am not prepared to make special arrangements on the lines suggested.

Mr. Rankin

Do I take it that sweets can be included in the parcels which may be sent as a result of the announcement in the previous reply which the Minister has given? Is that quite clear?

Mr. Strachey

Oh, yes, sweets are rationed foodstuffs.

Mr. Walkden

Why did my right hon. Friend exclude coffee when the trade union movement had suggested that coffee should be included? In his previous announcement he said "only rationed foods," but coffee is not rationed.

Mr. Strachey

We have confined it to rationed foods so that there shall be no question of eating into the supplies in this country, and so that this shall be a real sacrifice by the individual.

Mr. Walkden

Is there not considerably more coffee in the country than there was before the war?

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