HC Deb 16 December 1947 vol 445 cc1627-61

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Spence (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Central)

I beg to move, That the Food (Points Rationing) Order, 1947 (Amendment No. 4) Order, 1947 (S.R. & O., 1947, No. 2586), dated 3rd December, 1947, a copy of which was presented on 8th December, be annulled. I wish to direct attention to page 2 of the order, paragraph (h), that part which, once again, puts oatmeal on points. So far as I understand it, oatmeal is to be on points at four points a pound. I say at once that it is fully appreciated by hon. Members on this side of the House that we have had a short crop of oats this year due to the late winter and the very great drought in the summer. Therefore, we realise that some form of control or restriction may be necessary. It is the method of control and its harsh impact on the people of our country to which we object. It is our suggestion that an amending order should be laid to revise that part of the order which deals with the rationing of oats and oat products.

I hope that we may suggest that a course of action should have been taken, and be taken now, to avoid the necessity for placing oatmeal on points. The present situation need not have arisen if the matter had been handled in the way in which it should have been handled during the past months. In arguing these points, and in proving them, I hope that I may be allowed to give a brief outline of how our oat crop is used, and how big the crop is this year.

In 1946 we had an oat crop of three million tons. In 1947 our oat crop was 2,500,000 tons. In both cases, I have included imports from Canada, thus showing the oats available to the Minister for disposal before he considered the terms of this order. Perhaps hon. Members who have not gone into this matter in detail do not appreciate the fact that all that is used for milling, malting or flaking—that is, for human consumption or alleged human consumption—is only 12 per cent. of the total crop. In the year 1946, the amount allocated to the millers, the maltsters and those who make oat flakes, was 350,000 tons from a total crop of 3,000,000 tons. There we have a clear picture. The great proportion of our oat crop is fed to animals. I wish to make that point clear, for it has been said so often, that we must not allow oatmeal to be free of points because someone might give it to chickens. The main oat crop of the country is allocated for animal, and not for human, consumption. That is a fact that cannot be gainsaid. These figures are taken from the returns of the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Oats are used for three purposes. There is the seed for next year which amounts to 12 per cent. or a little more. That cannot be reduced because we must ensure next year's harvest. Approximately 12 per cent. of the total crop is for human consumption, and the remaining 76 per cent. is fed to stock. That is a picture against which we must review the pointing of oatmeal for human consumption, particularly at this moment when we are looking for cereal fillers to bridge the gap due to the shortage of potatoes, and so on. Surely, the policy should be one to increase the cereal fillers available to the people rather than reduce them by an arbitrary order, which we consider most unfair in its action. I think the answer must be that the duty of a Minister is to increase, if he can, what is available.

Our objections to the Order are that the methods of control are too drastic and too arbitrary. They take into account neither the climatic conditions, and their variations, in the country, nor the habits and circumstances of the people. It is an accepted fact that, the further North we go, the greater is the farinaceous calorie intake, as my hon. Friend who is to second this Motion will be able to show from his wide experience in these matters during the war.

I want to deal first with our objections to the rationing system as it stands, under which oatmeal is raised to four points per pound all over Britain. Let us remember that, last July, when oatmeal was put on points, it was then on a basis of two points per pound, and we then had 32 points for our monthly allocation. Today, oatmeal has gone up to four points a pound, and we only have 28 points for our monthly allocation. The position which has arisen today for a heavy oatmeal user who does not happen to be an agricultural worker is that he must give 28 points to get half a stone of oatmeal; in other words, he has to sacrifice the whole of one month's points for 7 lb. of oatmeal, and, as I shall soon show, that is entirely inadequate.

During the last weekend I had a very short survey made of the consumption of oatmeal by ordinary families in the part of Scotland in which I live—not agricultural workers, not workers who are necessarily hard workers in the country. I took 12 families whom I knew normally used a good deal of oatmeal, and I was able to get the oatmeal accounts for the whole year, and I can assure hon. Members that the figures are correct. The picture that is shown is really quite amazing. These people were warehouse workers, lorry drivers, motor mechanics and office workers, and I took 12 families, who had a total of 43 people with ration books in their households.

The statistics revealed that 12 wage-earners, supporting 43 consumers, including themselves, had a monthly need of 25½ stones of oatmeal, which is what they had been used to buying. The combined points buying power of the 43 people is 1,204, and that is required for oatmeal alone. No fewer than 1,428 would be required to buy the oatmeal they need, which shows a deficit of 224 points. Assuming that every point is expendable on oatmeal, the immediate reduction of the buying power of the 43 persons is 56 lb. a month, equal to 1.3 lb. per person, but no household can afford to give the whole of its points to buy oatmeal, and I maintain that my case is proved that on certain sections of the community—I do not say all—this order will inflict very great hardship indeed.

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

It is not often that I interrupt, but may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he also inquired whether these families kept chickens?

Mr. Spence

I did not do so, but I should be very glad to make inquiries and inform the hon. Lady in due course.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

Do not these people live in towns?

Mr. Spence

I thank my hon. Friend for his help. These people live in towns. I could give another instance where there is a blacksmith in my constituency whose family consumes a ton of oatmeal a year if they can get it. So that we are not exaggerating when we say that people do need oatmeal. The impression I got from reading the order was that it is either what might be called a panic Measure by the Minister, who has suddenly found he is running out of oatmeal, and has to do something to stop the rot, or else it is subterfuge to bolster up the points by putting a points value on a cereal which has been available, free of points, to people in England and Scotland during these last months. The order in its present form, if it is not amended, is going to inflict a great hardship on people in Scotland who will be deprived of a points food in an entirely disproportionate amount as compared with the people in England. It will be admitted that in Scotland we do eat a lot of oatmeal.

If we have to give points for oatmeal then we have to go without other points goods. I suggest that the Minister is aware of all this. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food is aware of it, because when this matter was discussed more than a year ago, as a result of the representations made, B.U.s were made available for oatmeal products so that the person who wanted to eat oatmeal could do so by forgoing a certain amount of bread. There is no suggestion that the people of Scotland want to have all their bread and an extra helping of porridge, as the hon. Lady suggested last year. It is simply that a very large section of the community live on oatmeal because they find it convenient, they like it, and it suits them. I suggest they, have a right to be catered for, and could be, if the Minister would readjust this matter, and allow B.U.s to be converted into oatmeal points.

We have a crop of 2½ million tons of oats this year. We are going to need between 350,000 and 400,000 tons for seed, and about 350,000 tons for human consumption, allowing it to go on at the 1946 level. Therefore, we have, allowing for normal consumption, approximately 1,700,000 tons. The trouble is really that a price control exists with fixed prices for milling oats. Today milling oats are 55s. per quarter, and feeding oats, for feeding back to livestock, 54s. 3d., which is only a 9d. difference. In the case of seed oats the price the farmers can get is not controlled.

A farmer can get 65s. today for good seed oats, and that is a fair price. I would suggest the market price is far too near the feeding price and by increasing the market price the Minister would take oats off the farm. At the present moment farmers are saying, "I can make 65s. if I sell them for seed; if I do not they are worth 54s. 3d. for feeding to stock." There is only 9d. difference between that and the milling price. I am certain that, if the Minister would review this matter and would consider raising the price for milling oats, he would attract off the farm the requisite amount of oats to give the oatmeal consumer a fair proportion of the available quantity of oats, whatever it may be.

Although the crop is down at a time when the spectre of hunger is looming in the background, the policy of the Minister must be to increase the available cereals to the people, and not to reduce them. We had this instance in the spring of 1946, when the decision of the Government was taken regarding the wheat extraction rate. It was then said that we must increase the wheat extraction rate in order to feed the cereal to the people, and not to the livestock. Surely, the same situation is arising today.

By increasing the price of milling oats, oats would be attracted off the farm. If the Minister would adopt that course, I believe there would be no need to have oatmeal on points. By all means control it, and see that it is not misused, but let us remember that nearly 80 per cent. of our oat stock is fed to animals, and we are only touching the fringe of it in taking a little away for human consumption. The margin we require to make the difference between oatmeal on points and oatmeal free of points is extremely small.

There is one other point to which I want to refer. I know that the Minister has issued an instruction that those who work on the land are to get their oatmeal free of points. But the position is not quite clear, and the Parliamentary Secretary would be doing a real service if she would give an explicit reply on this point. In the circular which was sent out to the milling trade, the impression was created—and I know that confusion exists about it—that oatmeal can be supplied free of points where a contract was, or is, in existence at the time of the order. Hon. Members will know that the whole agricultural population, in Scotland at any rate, went on to a new system of emoluments on 27th October. That is when oatmeal, instead of being a perquisite to the farmworker, became something which he bought for himself. His perquisites now are his house, his potatoes, and his milk.

Oatmeal is no longer an automatic perquisite, and, therefore, on 27th October, which was a month before this order was laid, many of those who work on the land said, "All right, we do not want oatmeal; we will take the cash and buy as we go." Under this order those men who, for years, have enjoyed oatmeal as a perquisite, suddenly find themselves faced with the fact that their points will not be sufficient with which to buy their oatmeal.

Can the hon. Lady give us the assurance tonight that those who work on the land, and wish to do so, may make a new agreement with their employers. Will she say that the wording of the order which has been sent out to the millers does not refer to the past, or, rather, refers not only to the past but to the future, and that those who wish to go to their employers and say, "We would like to take our oatmeal from you," can do so? I can assure her that a very large number of those who in October decided to take the cash and to buy oatmeal for themselves, having no idea that it was going on points, now feel very uncertain of the position. I can also assure the hon. Lady that—as can be seen from the many arguments contained in the Press of the North-East during the last ten days—there is a lot of confusion about this matter, and that a little help from her tonight would be greatly appreciated.

Having put these points to the Minister tonight—and I know they will be supported by my hon. Friends—I feel that the matter permits of a very simple solution. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will reconsider the method of distribution, in the meantime, so that the heavy oatmeal user can get a fair share—and she knows he cannot get a fair share under this order—and then will reconsider the question of raising the price of milling oats to attract more oats into oatmeal, and thus do away with the need for oatmeal being on points. The solution is so simple. I hope there will be no necessity to divide the House on something which is so obvious.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)

Before the hon. Member sits down may I ask him a question relative to the instance of the blacksmith who, he says, buys one ton of oatmeal a year. That surely means eating 6 lb. of oatmeal a day over the whole year. Is that a fact?

Mr. Spence

I apologise if I have misled the hon. Member. I think I said in the blacksmith's household there were 10, and so it is quite 6 lb.

10.21 p.m.

Mr. Duthie (Banff)

I beg to second the Motion.

Like my hon. Friend, I know only too well that a shortage of oatmeal exists today and that it is absolutely necessary on the part of the Ministry of Food to take steps to reduce human consumption. I oppose this order because it bears far too harshly upon the people of rural Scotland and particularly on the people in the North-East of Scotland. This present order is a much more drastic document than the one we debated in the early morning of 1st August, 1946. Placing oatmeal on points under this order, if it is persisted in, will be little short of a calamity in the rural parts of Scotland. In moving this Motion my hon. Friend made reference to the cereal needs of Scotland. I think the hon. Lady will bear me out from facts well known to the Ministry of Food that the cereal requirement of the people of these islands increases the further North one goes and the fact that so much oatmeal, flour, bread and so on is eaten in the North is not an accident; it is, as I have said in this House before, in acordance with natural law.

I would put it to the hon. Lady that she should grant us a concession—I believe a very slight one in the effect of this order—but one which would render it unnecessary for us to go into the Division Lobby tonight. I appeal to her to permit the exchange of B.Us. for bread, for flour and for oatmeal. I recommend that the divisional food officers who have intimate knowledge of the areas over which they preside should be given power to sanction the exchange of B.Us. in certain scheduled areas for oatmeal. They could take the necessary simple precautions to prevent abuses such as those indicated by the hon. Lady when she talked about people keeping chickens, and that sort of thing. By so doing, I believe much of the difficulty would be overcome.

I believe, too, that if divisional food officers were given the authority to sanction bulk buying in remote areas, and in areas which are liable to be cut off in the winter, that again would cover another grave menace. The maximum in Scottish rural households is to get the meal girnal well filled against the approaching winter. The meal girnal cannot possibly be filled and possibly may not have any meal at all if this Order is persisted in. Unless some concessions are granted, such as I have indicated, there is going to be a drastic cut in the diet of rural Scotland.

There has been reference to hardship and I should like to quote from one letter, a specimen of many I have received from my constituency regarding this order. This is from a housewife, the mother of three children. Her husband and her two sons are quarry workers. This is what she has to say: I have three men going out to work to the quarry every morning, and they take porridge for their breakfast. As they are unable to get home to dinner I have to give them oat cakes to help them with their midday meal. That takes more than half a stone of oatmeal every week, and the number of points I require is 112. That leaves me with 28 points to keep five of us a month, so that after buying peas for broth, I have no points left for syrup, dried fruits or any other commodity. This hardship is going to be wreaked upon a vast number of people in Scotland, men, women and children. I would enter one particular appeal for the schoolchildren who have to cover long distances between their schools and their cottage homes, and I would appeal for them especially in winter. For generations they have been fortified for that long journey by Scotland's national dish, porridge.

The hon. Lady took us to task over a year ago about what she said was an attempt on our part to get a bread ration plus an oatmeal ration. This time we are pleading with her on behalf of rural Scotland for a bread ration or an oatmeal ration.

There has been reference to the supply position. I earnestly trust that the hon. Lady and her colleagues at the Ministry of Food are doing their utmost to get supplies of oats from abroad. This oatmeal problem is fundamentally an animal feeding problem. Oats are not going to the mills because they are retained by the farmers who feed them to their livestock. I should like to know what prospect there is of getting from abroad—from Australia, for instance—millable and non-millable oats. If we could get any non-millable oats in quantity they could be exchanged with the farmers, who would accept them quite readily for oats of millable quality which could be sent to the mills. I need not reiterate what has been said about raising the price of milling oats, but I feel very strongly that, if the milling price could be made in any way comparable with the seed price, we would have more oats going to the mills than we have at present.

I have a deep and lasting interest in the Ministry of Food, and I deplore the Ministry's making an order which is not in keeping with the Ministry's tradition. Here is an order which works an undoubted hardship, an acute and most unnecessary hardship, upon a large section of the community—and, be it noted, on a food producing section of the community. This is an order which, if persisted in, is bound to fail. There is no question about that at all. It is bound to fail, and redress of some kind will have to be made. I agree that the oatmeal position is a very serious one, and I agree that the Ministry of Food must cut its coat according to its cloth, but there is no reason in the world why the finished garment should not in some way fit. This order does not fit. I appeal to the hon. Lady to give us such assurances that will make it unnecessary for us to go into the Division Lobby tonight.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Pryde (Midlothian and Peebles, Southern)

I sincerely hope that the House will very decisively resist this Prayer. The mover and seconder of the Motion have very clearly stated the case against it. They admit that there is a shortage. In fact, the mover gave certain figures, telling us that in 1946 the United Kingdom output was 2,903,000 tons and this year, 2,460,000 tons, a shortage of about 500,000 tons. In Scotland the total crop last year was 796,000 tons and this year 695,000 tons, a shortage of 101,000 tons. Seven-eighths of the English crop goes for feeding purposes. This year, because it was a very hot summer, the bulk of the English crop was burned up. That is the reason for the shortage in England. In Scotland, although our crop was below normal, in the main it has gone to the English farmers for seed purposes, at prices up to 80s. per quarter. The Ministry's price is quoted at 54s.—56s. to be exact——

Mr. J. S. C. Reid (Glasgow, Hillhead)

Fifty-five shillings.

Mr. Pryde

The figure from the Ministry's lists is 56s. maximum price. They inform me that when the Scottish farmer sells his crop for seed purposes to the English farmer he gets permits for feedingstuffs. That is why he is practically going into the black market—in order to realise high prices.

The Ministry of Food, instead of having strictures levelled at it, should be congratulated for protecting what remains of the crop for the purposes of the working class. We are going to have great difficulty in Scotland providing oatcake bakers with sufficient stock to keep them going, and names like Scott, Smith, Paterson, and J. M. Henderson are names to be conjured with in Scotland. There is a definite shortage, and the only complaint against the Ministry is that they did not realise it quickly enough. It is true that there are possibilities in Australia, the only country whose crop approximates in quality to the British. The Canadian crop is not——

Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)

What about Russia?

Mr. Pryde

I am not going to discuss Russia. I will leave that to the President of the Board of Trade. Instead of levelling strictures against the Ministry, we are entitled to congratulate them for protecting the remainder of the stock.

10.33 p.m.

Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)

I am not in a position to follow my hon. Friends in dealing with the domestic consumption of oatmeal, but I am interested in some other particulars of this order. I am in the unique position of being a judge in the matter and not an advocate, because I happen to help to control two of the largest pulse mills in this country, and there are only seven of them. I would like to remind the House that pulse mills manufacture split peas, split lentils and process barley—pot barley and pearl barley—all of which are comprised in this order. Therefore, I am in the happy position of being able to say to the hon. Lady that she will have to take what I say as a fact, which is a rare and refreshing situation for a back bencher.

I agree with the order as applied to imported dried blue or green peas, and also imported lentils and split lentils, although I feel that the split lentils are somewhat needlessly included, since the Ministry of Food cannot supply us, the millers, with the whole lentils to split. Presumably they cannot supply the consumers' market with split lentils either. If they can, where do the imported split lentils come from, and who splits them? If they are coming over split, that is to say, milled, we are simply wasting our reserves of foreign currency, since we have all the machinery and plant in this country to do the splitting. That machinery at the moment is standing idle.

I do object, however, to split green peas, that is to say split peas produced from home-grown peas, being subjected to an advance of four points a pound. They are in a very different category from peas imported for splitting. They are plentiful. [Interruption.] Is some hon. Member opposite showing signs of becoming a congenital idiot? I am trying to talk about these things from the technical point of view. If he cannot appreciate that, I cannot help it. These home produced peas for splitting are plentiful, but they make an inferior processed article, because we may only use the throw-outs, that is, the second or third grades. I do not see that there is any need to up-point those. Therefore, I would like an explanation on that point.

I want to come to the question of barley. As everyone knows, there are masses of barley in this country. The distillers have just received a large additional allocation, I believe.

Mr. Boothby

Not at all a large allocation. It was merely enough to enable them to carry on for a couple of months.

Mr. Smith

Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to finish my argument before he interrupts me. I dare say the brewers had the same as the distillers. The barley plants—I am speaking of machinery and not botanically—are working the 24 hours round the clock, as they have for months past—that is the plants for milling barley. They cannot turn out more than they are doing.

I want to know why these products should be up-pointed, or pointed at all. It cannot be to reduce output. That is obvious. It can only be to reduce consumption. If so, why? There must some matter, here, of deep Governmental policy, and I think we are entitled to an answer. Is it to equalise whatever shortage there may be of processed barley as far as possible, because, as the hon. Lady knows perfectly well, rice has gone from the daily menu of the people and barley has, to a large extent, taken its place. In a hundred ways, pearl barley, or pot barley as it is called, is a great help to the housewife as a substitute for rice, and we are entitled to know exactly why pearl barley and barley products have been up-pointed when, at the same time, manufacturers of barley for other perfectly laudable purposes are getting large increases in their allocations of a raw material.

10.40 p.m.

Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge)

I would not like the impression to go out of this House tonight that this order, which imposes four points for a pound of oatmeal, concerns only certain of the districts in Scotland; that it concerns only the North-East and the North. Actually, it concerns Great Britain and all the towns. It acutely concerns the mothers and housewives who are being driven desperately against the wall, and this latest order is just almost the last straw. I say so because, to a great many hon. Members of this House, porridge does not matter. They can have plenty of other varieties for breakfast, but for the mother—and particularly the mother of a growing family between, say, eleven and sixteen—she has to find twice the amount of filling for the children that she does for their father. I know that from experience. When the order was made which imposed two points a pound it was not so bad. I did not oppose it and I am not opposing this order tonight; but I am certainly not voting in favour of it.

Previously, we could fall back on some of the other "filling" foods, and it is the "filling" foods which are needed for the hungry youngsters. Bread is rationed, potatoes are rationed, and they make filling foods. What does the mother do? She looks at the next thing, which is oatmeal. Just for a modest pound of oatmeal for a week there is needed 16 points out of the 28. It is hitting desperately hard the bringing up of a young family. We cannot fry a bit of bacon for breakfast; that is quite out of the question. We cannot give stewed fruit or prunes because they are on points. We cannot give fried potatoes, because we have not the fat and potatoes are rationed. If we fall back on porridge it is 16 points per month for a family.

Then we come to the old people. Everyone knows the great difficulty that a person living alone, or an old couple together, have in getting any variety into their diet at only 28 points a book. They will have to spend 16 points for the oatmeal. I have no criticism of my hon. Friend or of the Ministry if we can be told that this order is absolutely necessary and that there is no alternative; but I do not want them to get away with the idea that everybody is placed like hon. Members of this House and that this means just nothing at all. It means something very deep and poignant so far as households are concerned.

Is the timing of this order really necessary? I ask that because a great many of us avoid porridge in the summer months. In Scotland, where we have a hard and cold climate, many families who avoid it all the summer bring it on to the menu, particularly after Christmas. Mothers like the children to go out with a good lining to their stomachs. There is nothing like good porridge for that. Out comes this order at the very time when we most need porridge. It would not have mattered—I almost said a tinker's cuss—had it been postponed until April. I have noticed dried eggs galore in the shops at the same time as shell eggs were being sold, and when shell eggs are going off the grocer's counter, so also were the dried eggs.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western)

That is planning.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

I must point out that we are not discussing dried eggs or shell eggs.

Mrs. Mann

I have noticed that when fresh fruit was plentiful tinned fruit was also plentiful on the shelves. This illustrates the lack of planning and of timing of these things by the Ministry. I must join with my colleagues who, on Friday, pleaded for variety at a time when we need the dreariness of our lives lightened a little in the dreary months. I very much deplore the imposition of four points per pound for a pound of porridge oats.

10.47 p.m.

Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)

I am sure the House will agree almost to a man with the hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann), and we hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with her. I do not think that the hon. Member for Coatbridge could have emphasised better the traditional nature of the porridge dish in Scotland. The Parliamentary Secretary should realise that we are not up against a problem of "convertibility." In this case she cannot manipulate points in the usual way of taking the demand away from one product and putting it on to another. That will not do in Scotland. The people are accustomed to their oatmeal and they must have it.

I was rather surprised at the hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde) talking about protecting the oatcake makers. He did not talk about protecting the food of the people. This question of the food of the people, as the hon. Member for Central Aberdeen (Mr. Spence) said is paramount. The greatest possible stress should be laid upon this question of oatmeal in Scotland. It cannot be compared, for example, with the question of rice in India. We know what great difficulty was involved in persuading the Indians, accustomed to eating rice, to take wheat instead when rice was short. There is no comparison. We cannot get a hot meal dish in the morning from any substitute for oats in Scotland. In India no rice was available. No one can deny —and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary is not going to do so—that the oats are not there; of course, they are there. It is quite true that if the oats are to be there for human consumption they have to be taken from some other source, and, as has been said, the problem is to attract the oats into the right source so that they will be available for human consumption.

This is not a problem of concern to Scotland only. It has already been said that the short fall in England of the production of oats in the current year was 400,000 to 500,000 tons. The policy of the Ministry in recent years has been to push up the milling of oats in England. It has been increased to the order of something like 50 per cent. over the last few years in England to about 450,000 tons—the amount of the shortfall. In England now oat mills are closing down, and that means that it is quite idle to put in this present order a number of points for packet oats so far as England is concerned. The oats are just not there any more. You will not be able to buy them because none are being produced. I am told that a certain number—something like three thousand tons of packaged oats—are being imported from Canada, but this is absolutely nothing in comparison with what is required.

The question of oat cakes has been referred to. They are now being put on points to the tune of four points per lb. They were not pointed before this order. Biscuits, however, are pointed at one point per lb. That is the measure of the difference. We are told this is done to protect oat-cake manufacturers. Of course the effect will be that oat-cakes will disappear. It is not a form of protection for the oat-cake manufacturers. Really, I hope the hon. Lady will realise that a cup of oats per person per day is a traditional need in Scotland which, as the hon. Member for Coatbridge has said, means something like two pounds per month, and may be more. It is an absolute necessity in Scotland and in many parts of England as well.

It is the Parliamentary Secretary's task to organise the supply of oats so that they shall be available. She cannot come here and say that she has not had representations over a very long period of time from the oat millers on the subject. I have information from millers in my hand to say that representations were made and a warning given of the situation that might develop from the Oat Millers Associations of England and Wales, the North of Ireland Oat Millers Association, and also the Scottish Oatmeal Millers Association. It is purely out of the lack of foresight that the situation has arisen. It was a question of making certain that the food of the people was available. We want to hear from the hon. Lady what she is doing about this now, whether or not she says that she will agree to the withdrawal of this order forthwith.

She might say that food production has been so badly handled that she cannot agree to it at this time, but if this is so, we want to hear what measures she is taking so that the duration of this order may be the shortest possible; how she is going to be able to make oats available from imported sources; what steps she has taken to get the farmers to bring forward their oats and replace it by other feedingstuffs. And when she has told us that and let us know how soon we are going to have porridge on our tables again, we shall have to consider whether or not to vote against this order.

10.54 p.m.

Mr. Rankin (Tradeston)

I am not going to enter into the merits or demerits of this action of the Minister. I want to put before her one point which so far has not been mentioned tonight. That is the method whereby this announcement was made to the public. The natural irritation which is produced by the announcement in itself is bad enough, but the way in which the knowledge came to those who are most acutely affected by it certainly did not allay the irritation which was caused. I want to ask if it is not possible, when these adjustments have to be made, for an accompanying statement as to the reasons why to be given to the public. [HON. MEMBERS: There is no reason."] There must be a reason of some sort. I am perfectly convinced that the Minister did not take this action without good and sufficient reason. The point is that that was not made clear.

I am not disputing that a Press conference may have been held and perhaps at that conference the reasons were made sufficiently clear. But the great majority of the people in the country are dependent upon the news bulletins from the B.B.C. for the information they get with regard to these actions, and all that happened was a statement over the wireless that oats were now on points as from a particular day. That was a great shock to many people and immediately speculation started on the reasons for this action. It was an irritating happening and to find that no sufficient and clear reason came with the happening intensified that annoyance. I hope that the hon. Lady will indicate that in future where these adjustments require to be effected, every possible effort will be made by her Ministry to see that the reason is made clear to the public. We have the confidence of the public and we want to see that we respect that confidence by letting them know the reason for such orders as this.

10.57 p.m.

Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)

There is not really very much that I want to add—[Interruption.] It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to jeer, but this is quite an important subject in the North of Scotland, and not only in the North of Scotland. There is not a very great deal to add to what was said so well by the hon. Members for Central Aberdeen (Mr. Spence) and Banff (Mr. Duthie) and, might I add, the hon. Member for Coat-bridge (Mrs. Mann) who brought the benefit of practical experience into her speech. I thought that in the last ten minutes the Debate was inclined to get a little academic. The hon. Lady said it was very difficult to fill the children's stomachs in winter in Scotland when they went to school. She added that you cannot give them fried bacon. That is true. I would add that it is occasionally possible to give them fried herring, but even that requires oatmeal. I am very glad that the Secretary of State for Scotland is here. He is just embarking upon what we all hope will be a successful Ministerial career. It will be a sad day for him if he is going to inaugurate his period of office with such a savage blow as this at the happiness and welfare of the Scottish people from John o'Groats down to the Tweed. Let him not be under any illusion. If he thinks that this up-pointing is going to be popular in any part of Scotland, he is mistaken.

I do not understand the attitude of the Government with regard to oatmeal. It has always been bad. It is now almost intolerable. Last week they came down to the House with a Bill which put the oats grower in an inferior position to every other crop grower. Now this week they up-point it to a degree that none of us thought conceivable. Now without a word of warning, as the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) has said, without a word of explanation, and at the very worst moment of the year, they come down and put on this level of points. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen (Mr. Spence) made a very good point when he explained the extent to which people in the country districts of Scotland, and to only a slightly less degree in the towns, consume oatmeal. His blacksmith was no hypothetical figure. He was a reality, and if the Secretary of State for Scotland goes to any part of the Western Isles and enters any crofter's cottage, he will find a number of sacks of oatmeal that will astonish him. If he asks the housewife why she has such a lot of oatmeal, she will say: "It is surprising how quickly it will go with the bairns about."

This is a savage blow to the nutritional welfare of the Scottish people. I do not put it lower than that. I agree with the hon. Member for Central Aberdeen when he drew attention to the disparity between the amount of oats consumed by human beings and the amount consumed by animals. It is a great pity that a great many more oats are not consumed by human beings, particularly with the filthy bread they are getting. Oats are very much more edible and nutritional. The Parliamentary Secretary cannot ride away with chickens as she may well try to do. As far as Scotland is concerned this chicken excuse is just a red herring drawn across the path. That is a slightly mixed metaphor; but I repeat that as far as Scotland is concerned the chicken is nothing but a red herring, and the hon. Lady had better know it, before she drags it across our path tonight.

I would re-echo the plea that the hon. Lady should make clear the position of the Scottish farm worker with regard to oatmeal, and above all, those who have no longer made it a perquisite, and voluntarily agreed to buy it on points and take increased wages in exchange. She must also make it clear whether farm workers will now be allowed to go back, as I think they should if they wish, and make oatmeal once more a perquisite. I also want to echo the plea that the milling price itself should be raised. That will go a long way to remove the disparity between the amount consumed by human beings and the amount disposed of elsewhere.

I want to say a word about the foreign negotiations that have been going on.[AN HON. MEMBER: "That is not in Order."] It is completely in Order and absolutely vital, because if we are to get feedingstuffs in any quantity either from Russia or Australia, any vestige of justification for up-pointing oatmeal goes at once. I want the Parliamentary Secretary to give some indication as to how these negotiations have gone. When I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food in 1940 our main objective was to get food from other countries. It seems to me that the main objective of the Ministry of Food today is to stop it. Every day we find some new breakdown, whether with Canada or Denmark, in negotiations for purchasing food. The Government's main objective seems not to buy food for this country. [AN HON. MEMBER: "That is not true."] It is perfectly true. Every day we open our papers we read of some pettifogging point.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not think that question arises under this order.

Mr. Boothby

If this ridiculous order is to be persisted in, it must be owing to the fact that we are unable to obtain any feedingstuffs from foreign countries. I am merely putting it to the Parliamentary Secretary that if, at long last, we are going to bring off some deal with some foreign country for the import of feedingstuffs, she should give an undertaking that this up-pointing of oats will be withdrawn. This is a very serious thing for Scotland. I submit—and I do not think the hon. Lady will disagree—that whether it would be possible to withdraw the order in the near future, or whether it is to continue for some considerable time, depends largely on the amount of feedingstuffs we are able to import from Russia and Australia, and the House is entitled to ask what the position is.

Mr. McKinlay (Dumbartonshire)

In the event of this grain coming to this country, will the hon. Gentleman call off his demand for grain for the manufacture of whisky?

Mr. Boothby

No; I will never call off my demand for grain for whisky. It is one of the best dollar earners in the country, and the hon. Member knows it perfectly well. I was led away, Mr. Deputy-Speaker; you must admit that; otherwise I was keeping strictly to the point. This is not the first battle I have fought on behalf of oats, and I do not suppose it will be the last. In the end I have always won, and I would say to the Secretary of State, if he wants to make a success of his job, "Stick to oats, fight for oats, and you will never go far wrong."

11.7 p.m.

Lord William Scott (Roxburgh and Selkirk)

There was an earlier order about 18 months ago, which we tried to annul. It is worth while to notice both the differences and the similarities of the two occasions. The main difference, as I see it, is that on this occasion the front bench is graced with nearly all the Scottish Ministers. I am sure Scotland will be grateful for that. This is a great question for Scotland, and I am glad they are here. On the last occasion, as on this, the Motion was supported by six Scottish Members. We all look on this as a Scottish question.

On the last occasion the Parliamentary Secretary said we were being greedy and trying to get double rations for Scotland. We were not doing so then, and we are not doing it now. We are suggesting specifically that if the consumption of oatmeal is to be controlled in Scotland, it should be on bread units, and not on points. We believe that in Scotland oatmeal is consumed in place of wheat, and not as well as what—by wheat I mean bread. Scottish people should be allowed their choice whether they will take oatmeal or wheaten flour, and both should be on bread units. I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary that for centuries, Scotsmen hardly touched any wheat or wheaten flour at all. It is only in comparatively recent years that wheat has either been grown or imported in Scotland. We have no wish for the ancient custom of porridge or oatmeal to be crushed any more severely than it is now. We were told that we were trying to score off the British larder. Those words of the Parliamentary Secretary were most ungenerous. I hope it will not be said against us now, that we are trying to score off our English neighbours. If there has to be shortage, and if there has to be hunger, we in Scotland can take our fair share of it. We are not trying to secure anything by any back door method—nor were we trying to do so last time.

In that last Debate I mentioned to the Parliamentary Secretary that if we were to give notice to Scotland of the importance of these orders, it should at least be done by a better method. I should like to reinforce the words of the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) about the way in which these orders have been brought before the people of Scotland. On the last—and first—occasion, oatmeal was sandwiched between sago, tapioca and marmalade. We in Scotland look upon oatmeal as something rather superior to either sago or tapioca. On this occasion oatmeal is sandwiched between prunes—I repeat, prunes—and home-made grapefruit marmalade. If we are to play about with the staple food of Scotland, we believe it should be done, at least, by a separate order—it is worthy of that—and not classified in the same sentence as dehydrated potato flour. [Laughter.] I see nothing to laugh about in this. It is an insult to one of the finest foods produced in the Northern Hemisphere.

The reason why this order is made is fairly clear. Those of us who do our own shopping know the extreme difficulty—I know it—of getting the quantities of oatmeal we should like. I have no chickens. I have five small children, and we consume a phenomenal amount of oatmeal. At the present moment it is very hard to get it because the grocers are short of it, and the reason why the grocers are short of it is that millers are short of it. I have very little doubt myself that this putting of oatmeal on points is something in the nature of a panic measure to prevent a greater shortage in the grocers' shops. I believe that oatmeal—and herring, too—is consumed more in the houses of the well-to-do than in the houses of the poor. That is my im- pression—certainly in Scotland: I do not know about the habits in England. At the present time, with the extreme difficulty of getting milk, there is not the same encouragement to take oatmeal for porridge as there was, and I agree with hon. Members opposite that there is nothing in this world less appetising than porridge without milk.

We want the Parliamentary Secretary to agree to put oatmeal on bread units. Over and above that, we want to see that planning is arranged so that there is a flow of oatmeal from the millers to the grocers' shops, so that every possible encouragement is given to those who make packets of oat-cakes for our own and the English market, and to those who use oatmeal for the various processed oats for porridge. They are all worthy of it, and it is a far better investment than feeding it to the animals, necessary though that is. Even so, from the national point of view, the small amount which goes into oat-cakes and porridge oats is a finer investment than feeding it to animals. I hope the Minister will tell us that the next time the Ministry have to issue an order of this variety concerning oatmeal it will not be sandwiched between sago and tapioca or any of these other nasty things, although I do not mind split peas and beans and split lentils, but I do believe it is worthy of a separate order to itself.

11.16 p.m.

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

I think the House will agree with me that there has been a great deal of repetition tonight. After hearing the last speech I think we all feel that we have lived through this moment before, in debating oatmeal. I think I am right in saying that, with the exception of the speech made by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. E. P. Smith), every Member has devoted himself to the question of points rationing of oatmeal. Therefore, I would suggest that before I deal with oatmeal, I should answer the questions which have been raised by the hon. Member for Ashford. I can assure him that I do respect his knowledge of this subject, and I would not like to debate with him the comparative merits of split and unsplit peas, but surely the answer to the question is this. The reason why we have up-pointed peas and lentils is in order to conserve supplies for the cold winter months when green vegetables are short. I think the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that that is a sensible thing to do at this time. He also asked why barley products were up-pointed. The reason is that they can be an alternative to oats products and, as I am going to explain shortly, we have found it necessary to points-ration oats products and it would be a shortsighted policy to exclude barley which can be used as an alternative.

I would once more try to explain to the House why it has been necessary to take this step. Several hon. Members opposite who have spoken tonight have, I know, special knowledge of the food industry. The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) during the war gave excellent service to the department which I have the honour to represent. I must confess that I was surprised that they have prayed against the order without giving the matter further consideration. Many of them have really put the Ministry's case for me. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. H. Macpherson) said that the problem with which the Ministry is faced is how to attract oats from the right source. That is what we are trying to do. The reason we are putting oats on points is in order to prevent the illicit feeding to animals and to attract these oats into the stomachs of the people where the hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) wants them to go.

Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)

How does the hon. Lady expect to get oats when the farmer gets no feedingstuffs? The farmer devotes only a part of his crop to oatmeal. He would rather put it down the throats of the animals and use it for seed.

Dr. Summerskill

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will have patience. The whole question is one of supply. It is impossible to be a consumer of oats, oatmeal and oat products unless a supply is produced.

Mr. Spence rose——

Dr. Summerskill

As I proceed I shall probably meet the hon. Gentleman's point. Last February this matter was raised on the Adjournment, and many of the arguments advanced tonight were advanced then. In February I was told that the complaint was that there were plenty of oats, but that those oats were not reaching the consumers. The House will remember that it was necessary to points-ration oats in July, 1946, and the Adjournment Debate arose out of that action. The situation was different in 1946. There was a shortage of oats, and the decision to ration them was a corollary to the rationing of bread. Now the position is quite different, and different circumstances obtain. I remember clearly that hon. Members opposite urged me, in February this year, to reconsider the position in view of the strong representations of the Advisory Committee of the Oatmeal Millers in Scotland. I was astonished tonight when the hon. Member for Dumfries asked me, in this Debate, whether we had listened carefully to the representations made by this very important advisory committee. Every hon. Member on the benches opposite who knows something of the milling trade and of the oatmeal industry, I am sure, regards with great respect the advice proffered by this experienced committee. Last February, the committee made strong representations, and hon. Members opposite echoed them, asking us to take oatmeal off points.

The action we have now taken in putting oats products on points is in full accordance with the views of the Joint Advisory Committee of the Oatmeal Millers. The oatmeal committee is unanimous on this. There is no division of opinion at all. This is in the interests, they say, of the consumers in Scotland. Yet hon. Members, one after the other, come here tonight and, in the face of the important advice which has been proffered to my Ministry by that advisory committee, which they respect, and which has been quoted to me, ask us to reverse that decision and advice.

Mr. N. Macpherson

Is it not the case that this committee gave that advice because, at the moment, there is short supply at the mills? They are not getting the oats there.

Dr. Summerskill

I think it would be unfair to say that this advisory committee, which I think is composed of respected and honourable men who are as interested in feeding the people of Scotland as hon. Members opposite, are concerned in this matter with their own selfish interests. I cannot believe that. I believe that in this matter they considered only the feeding of the people of Scotland, and that in their opinion the only way to ensure that the habitual consumer of oatmeal—the people we have heard mentioned by so many hon. Members tonight—has a fair share, is to put oatmeal on points. Therefore, we have taken the advice of Scotland in this matter; and in saying "Scotland" I mean the men whose advice the millers sought on this matter; and now Scotland comes to us in this House and tells us to turn down this advice.

Lord William Scott

The hon. Lady will recollect that we have asked that oatmeal should be put on bread units.

Dr. Summerskill

The reason we cannot at the moment allow people to switch from bread units to oatmeal points is that the shortage is so great that we cannot permit that concession.

Mr. Snadden

That is the Government's fault.

Dr. Summerskill

In order to emphasise this point I think I fully realise that the only thing which will convince hon. Members opposite is to give the figures. It is the only way to convince them that this shortage is grave. Hon. Members opposite have quoted figures—many figures—tonight and I am sorry to inflict figures on the House because they are a little boring, but I think that they should go on record. It would be useful if I gave them so that hon. Members can refer to them. I want to say what the present supply position is as the Ministry sees it and as the millers' representatives see it in Scotland. [HON. MEMBERS: "We know all that."] Well, hon. Members did not appear to know it, because, if they had made inquiries and discovered the facts for themselves, this Prayer would not have been on the Order Paper. The acreage for 1947 was 3,309,000, this is 257,000 acres less than in 1946——

Lord William Scott


Dr. Summerskill

—and the yield per acre for 1947 was the lowest for many years. Owing to the livestock expansion we expected farmers to retain an increased percentage for animal feedingstuffs, and in 1946 to 1947, 367,000 tons of oats were used for oatmeal milling. It was estimated that in the home crop from 1947 to 1948 the maximum tonnage of oats for millers would be only 100,000 tons. During 1946–1947, as many members know, 110,000 tons from the Ministry's stocks of home-grown and Canadian oats were released to the oatmeal milling industry. We provisionally estimated that if we could get Canadian or other imported milling oats, the millers would require 140,000 tons in the 1947 to 1948 season, but now, owing to the light harvest, we find they need 300,000 tons.

The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) chided us for not being able to get stocks from abroad. I do not like to throw the ball back to his court, but when he was in my position he got all these things from the United States—[An HON. MEMBER: "Except the whisky"]—yes, except the whisky. It does make a little difference when the United States is prepared to send its produce on lend-lease without our business men having to go to negotiate for the food which we must have.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Scottish Universities) rose——

Dr. Summerskill

The right hon. Gentleman should not keep interrupting. He is a responsible member.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

The hon. Lady is misleading the House; she is giving it fallacious information.

Dr. Summerskill

I have had a challenge from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman before. I have a reputation for honesty.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

It is slightly tarnished now.

Dr. Summerskill

If that remark is union standard I am very shocked. It is hardly worth replying to that. We have been trying to get more oats from the Canadian crop, but that was not a success because the Canadian oat crop was a comparative failure and Canada has been forced to prohibit the exportation of oats. It must be remembered, having listened to the Minister for Economic Affairs that there is a dollar stringency which prohibits us from buying oats, but I can assure the hon. Member for East Aberdeen that we are trying to get oats from abroad—from Australia, the Argentine and Russia. We have great hopes of getting some from Australia.

The shortage is so great that the mills are running on short time. As the noble Lord the Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Lord William Scott) said, they are short of stocks. In the face of the shortage hon. Members opposite must realise that if we are to ensure equitable distribution we must in some way divert the oats, which are being used for animal consumption, to human consumption. I would remind hon. Members that when we put oats on points the offtake of oats dropped immediately, but it was very curious that at the Ministry we had very few letters of complaint from consumers. I think it is fair to assume that if the consumers were being satisfied while the oats were pointed, it was the animals who were getting less.

Mr. Spence

By what amount did the consumption of oatmeal increase after the Ministry took it off points?

Dr. Summerskill

I could not tell the House that at the moment.

Mr. Spence

The answer is 21 per cent.

Dr. Summerskill

I will let' the hon. Member have the details.

Those are the facts. I was very surprised that we had so few complaints from consumers and we knew that the food had been diverted from animals to humans. Now again, in the face of this grave crisis, we tell the House that in our opinion the right way to tackle this is to put oats on points. I want hon. Members opposite to recall the events of the past year. We have looked very carefully at these matters, and we examined very thoroughly the whole position when oats were put on points. We considered what was happening in different parts of the country and we have saved by this method. The same thing will happen again this time. We will see what happens during the next few months, and if the position improves we will reconsider it. In view of the grave shortage of oats in this country, and in view particularly of the advice we have had from the experts in Scotland, I ask the House to approve this order.

11.33 p.m.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid (Glasgow, Hillhead)

If the hon. Lady had come down to the House and said, "I recognise that we are imposing privation on the people but this cannot be helped for the following reasons," we might have had some sympathy with her method of presenting the case. However, she comes down and tries to pretend that the only creatures who are going to suffer are the animals. She must know perfectly well that this is a misleading observation. The very idea of this being treated in the lighthearted way in which the hon. Lady has treated it this evening—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I adhere to the words I have used. The fact that this will mean real hunger to a number of people is a sad commentary on the way in which our affairs are now conducted. [Interruption]. I say so, and I stick to it.

The fundamental point which the hon. Lady sought to establish was that only 100,000 tons of oats can be milled this year, if I got her figures aright—an incredible statement. Out of 2,400,000 tons of oats grown in this country the whole resources of the Government are not able to deflect more than 4 per cent. into the mills. Does the hon. Lady really mean to put that forward seriously? It was clear many months ago that there would be this shortage. What attempt has been made to get more oats into the mills? None at all, that I know of. The point has been made that the price is still within a small fraction the same as the price for feeding oats. Surely, the first thing to do, if a shortage of this sort was contemplated, was to put up the price of milling oats in order to give an inducement to divert these oats to human consumption. But, of course, the Minister here, as elsewhere, prefers cheap food to plentiful food. If you put up the price of oats to the miller, you have to put up the price of oatmeal, and then this facade of cheap food for the people begins to crumble.

If I have to make a general criticism of the Minister's policy at the moment, it is that he prefers the pretence of cheap food, with a wholly inadequate quantity, to allowing the price to rise and letting people have enough to eat. Here is just another example of the same thing. Had the Minister, at the appropriate time, given the proper inducements for oats to be diverted from animal to human consumption we should not have been in this mess now, and I hope that the Minister will immediately change his policy in this matter. It is still not too late for him to divert this from animal to human consumption. I noticed that the only hon. Member who is supporting the Government, the hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles, Southern (Mr. Pryde), appears to think that to try to divert oats from animals to human consumption was not quite a good thing. I doubt if anyone else in the House, apart from Members who sit on the Front Bench, would agree to that.

Mr. Pryde

How is it possible to give plenty by raising the price of oats?

Mr. Reid

Surely, it is as obvious as anything could be. At the present moment we know that the millers cannot get oats to mill because the price does not tempt the farmer to sell it to them. If the Government will readjust the price structure, I have no doubt whatever they could get enough oats into the mills and, if the farms keep the millers—I do not say at full stretch—at least reasonably busy, enough oatmeal to prevent the necessity for this drastic step. I believe they can go further than that and keep the millers going at full speed even this year, and also keep last year's output of milled oats on the market this year if they go the right way about it.

Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)

What increase in the price would attract oats to the mills?

Mr. Reid

That is a matter of trial and error. Certainly oats should have a couple of shillings added. That is all right. If it is not, I am prepared to go to five shillings. I do not see any reason why one should not. It may very well mean that before long we shall have to go a good deal further. I agree that we must not go above the current market price for seed oats because this must be the first priority, but as long as we keep our milling prices appreciably below our seed prices I cannot see any harm in that. Will the hon. Lady realise that it is not just a question of playing about with a small element of the people's food and putting it on two points, or four points, or having no points at all?

This is a matter which means the gravest hardship and, indeed it may be, the impairment of health to a large number of people in this country, and particularly in Scotland, and I think it ought to be treated from that point of view. It is true that on the last occasion that this matter was raised it was rightly suggested that oatmeal did not need to be controlled at all. But we were not then faced with the gloomy prospects that face us today of the desperately serious shortages that are now mounting. No one at that time believed that the Government would make such a mess of their financial policy as to make it impossible to buy food that is available and no one believed that we would be faced with the terrible position with which we are faced today.

As we are faced with that position, my hon. Friends have not advocated, as they previously advocated, the release from controls. But we do say that if there is to be control of oats it ought to be by means of bread units and not points. Oats and wheat are very largely interchangeable and if a person is going to eat more oats he would naturally, and should, eat less wheat, but he should not be required to eat less pointed goods. Why not let us have bread units? What is the objection? There can be no administrative objection. I cannot see any. If the Government can supply 100,000 tons of wheat for a week on the allocation method for bread units, cannot they supply 400,000 tons of oatmeal in the same way? There is no difficulty administratively. If a method will do for 100,000 tons it will equally do for 400,000 tons. I do not see that there can be any difficulty about that.

I would say, weight for weight, one ought to pay the same number of bread units for oatmeal as for wheat or flour or the products of flour. But if for the moment the hon. Lady finds that the supply position is troublesome, I would not personally take any exception to the scales being weighted against oatmeal for the time being until she changes the policy of the Department and gets more oats into the mill and more oatmeal into the shop. Ultimately, I hope that oatmeal will be able to be taken off again. It is folly not to develop the supply of oatmeal to the utmost that our manufacturing capacity will allow—sheer folly, if only from the point of view of saving dollars. If, as I believe, oatmeal and flour are largely interchangeable, why should we have to pay dollars for flour or wheat when there are people who are only too glad to forgo their wheat and eat oats instead?

I believe there are many people, particularly as bread is not now as palatable as it used to be, who would like to make that exchange today. There are far more who could be encouraged to make it tomorrow and I believe, far from this policy of seeking to discourage the use of oatmeal, the whole resources of the Department ought to be devoted to increasing the supply of oats to the miller and increasing the capacity of the output of the mills and the demand of oatmeal in this country. It is good for people. It saves dollars, and I am sure that at the end of the day the Ministry would find that it is the right policy. Unless the hon. Lady can give us some more assurances than she has given us, we cannot let matters remain where they are.

Can the hon. Lady even assure us that she is now going to take every step within the power of her Department to attract oats into the mill? Can she assure us of that? Can she assure us, secondly, that as soon as there is a reasonable flow, anything like last year's flow of oatmeal out of the mills, we will then transfer to bread units? I think it would be better not to have any points at all, but if that is too difficult all at once, then let us have an exchange of bread units for points. I think that is unnecessary, but I am not going to lay down a principle of

administration in the hon. Lady's Department, because we have only a bird's-eye view.

Will the hon. Lady undertake to take the most active steps to increase this 100,000 tons, and will she undertake, as soon as those steps are successful to allow a switch over of one kind or another from bread units to points? If she could do this I would be prepared to advise my hon. Friends not to press this Motion, because I feel that assurances given by her would be followed by action, and, I think, successful action. If not, then I am bound to say that we regard the conduct of the Government in this matter as so unsatisfactory, and unsympathetic to the needs of the people, that we shall be bound to go into the Lobby.

Several HON. MEMBERS rose.

Mr. R. J. Taylor (Lord of the Treasury) rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided: Ayes, 190; Noes, 60.

Pearson, A. Skeffington, A. M Wadsworth, G.
Peart, T. F. Skinnard, F. W. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Platts-Mills, J. F. F. Smith, Ellis (Stoke) Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Poole, Cecil (Lichfield) Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.) Warbey, W. N.
Popplewell, E. Snow, J. W. Watson, W. M.
Porter, G. (Leeds) Solley, L. J. Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Price, M. Philips Sorensen, R. W. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Pritt, D. N. Soskice, Maj. Sir F Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Proctor, W. T. Sparks, J. A. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Pryde, D. J Stamford, W. Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.
Pursey, Cmdr. H. Stross, Dr. B. Wilkes, L.
Randall, H. E Summerskill, Dr. Edith Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Ranger, J. Swingler, S. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Rankin, J. Symonds, A. L. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Reid, T. (Swindon) Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield) Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Rhodes, H. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Robens, A. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet) Willis, E.
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Thomas, D E. (Aberdare) Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Woodburn, A.
Royle, C. Thomas, George (Cardiff) Woods, G. S.
Sargood, R. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Wyatt, W.
Scollan, T. Tiffany, S. Yates, V. F.
Scott-Elliot, W. Timmons, J. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Shackleton, E. A. A. Titterington, M. F. Zilliacus, K.
Sharp, Granville Ungoed-Thomas, L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes) Vernon, Maj. W. F. Mr. Simmons and Mr. Wilkins.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G Grimston, R. V. Scott, Lord W.
Baldwin, A. E. Keeling, E. H. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Beechman, N. A. Kerr, Sir J. Graham Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Boothby, R. Lloyd, Major Guy (Renfrew, E.) Smithers, Sir W.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Snadden, W. M.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. McCallum, Maj. D. Spence, H. R.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. MacDonald, Sir M. (Inverness) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Studholme, H. G.
Carson, E. Maclay, Hon. J. S. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Channon, H. Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Teeling, William
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Crowder, Capt. John E. Marsden, Capt. A. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Darling, Sir W. Y. Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.
De la Bère, R. Mellor, Sir J. Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Drayson, G. B. Neven-Spence, Sir B. Wheatley, Col. M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Duthie, W. S. Nicholson, G. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Elliot, R. Hon. Walter Odey, G. W. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Fox, Sir G. Orr-Ewing, I. L. York, C.
Gage, C. Price-White, Lt.-Col. D. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead) Mr. Drewe and Major Conant.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)

Question put accordingly, That the Food (Points Rationing) Order, 1947 (Amendment No. 4) Order, 1947 (S.R. & O., 1947, No. 2586), dated 3rd December

Division No. 50.] AYES. [11.56 p.m.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Grimston, R. V. Scott, Lord W.
Baldwin, A. E. Keeling, E. H. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Boothby, R. Kerr, Sir J. Graham Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Lloyd, Major Guy (Renfrew, E.) Smithers, Sir W.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Snadden, W. M.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. McCallum, Maj. D. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Studholme, H. G.
Carson, E. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Channon, H. Maclay, Hon. J. S. Teeling, William
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Crowder, Capt. John E. Marsden, Capt. A. Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F
Darling, Sir W. Y. Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Wakefield, Sir W. W.
De la Bère, R. Mellor, Sir J. Wheatley, Col. M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Drayson, G. B. Neven-Spence, Sir B. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Drewe, C. Nicholson, G. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter Odey, G. W. York, C.
Fox, Sir G. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Gage, C. Price-White, Lt.-Col. D. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead) Mr. Spence and Mr. Duthie.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)

1947, a copy of which was presented on 8th December, be annulled."

The House divided: Ayes, 59; Noes, 191.

Acland, Sir R. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Robens, A.
Adams, Richard (Balham) House, G. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Alpass, J. H. Hoy, J. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Anderson, A, (Motherwell) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Royle, C.
Austin, H. Lewis Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Sargood, R.
Barton, C. Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.) Scollan, T.
Bechervaise, A. E. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Scott-Elliot, W.
Beswick, F. Janner, B. Shaokleton, E. A. A.
Bing, G. H. C. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.) Sharp, Granville
Blyton, W. R. Jones, D T. (Hartlepool) Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Boardman, H Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Skeffington, A. M.
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W. Keenan, W. Skinnard, F. W.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exoh'ge) Kendall, W. D. Smith, Ellis (Stoke)
Braddock, T (Mitcham) Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Brook, D. (Halifax) Kinley, J. Snow, J. W.
Brown, T. J. Ince) Lee, F. (Hulme) Solley, L. J.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Sorensen, R. W.
Callaghan, James Levy, B. W. Soskice, Maj. Sir F
Carmichael, James Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Sparks, J. A.
Champion, A. J. Lindgren, G. S. Stamford, W.
Coldrick, W. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Stokes, R. R.
Collindridge, F. Longden, F. Stross, Dr. B.
Collins, V. J. Lyne, A. W. Summersklll, Dr. Edith
Comyns, Dr. L. McGhee, H. G Swingler, S.
Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G. McGovern, J. Symonds, A L.
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.) McKinlay, A. S Taylor, H. B. (Mansfiold)
Corlett, Dr. J. McLeavy, F. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Daggar, G MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Taylor, Dr. S. (Bannet)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield) Macpherson, T. (Romford) Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Mallalieu, J. P. W. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Marshall, F. (Brightside) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Deer, G. Mathers, Rt. Hon. George Thorneyoroft, Harry (Clayton)
Delargy, H. J. Medland, H. M. Tiffany, S.
Dodds, N. N. Middleton, Mrs. L. Timmons, J.
Driberg, T. E. N. Mitchison, G. R. Titterington, M. F.
Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) Moody, A. S. Ungoed-Thomas, L
Dye, S. Morgan, Dr. H. B. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.) Wadsworth, G.
Edwards, John (Blackburn) Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Evans, Albert (Islington, W.) Neal, H. (Claycross) Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) Warbey, W. N.
Ewart, R. Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Watson, W. M.
Fairhurst, F. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby) Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Farthing, W. J. Orbach, M. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Fernyhough, E. Paget, R. T. Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Forman, J. C. Palmer, A. M. F. Wilcock, Group-Capt. C A B
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Pargiter, G. A. Wilkes, L.
Gibson, C. W. Parker, J. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Gilzean, A. Pearson, A Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Peart, T. F. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Goodrich, H. E. Platts-Mills, J. F. F. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Gordon-Walker, P. C. Poole, Cecil (Lichfield) Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Popplewell, E. Willis, E.
Grierson, E. Porter, G. (Leeds) Wills, Mrs. E. A
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Price, M. Philips Woodburn, A.
Gunter, R. J Pritt, D. N. Woods, G. S.
Guy, W. H. Proctor, W. T. Wyatt, W.
Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Pryde, D. J. Yates, V. F.
Hardy, E. A. Pursey, Cmdr. H. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Randall, H. E. Zilliacus, K.
Herbison, Miss M. Ranger, J.
Hewiuon, Capt. M Rankin, J TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hobson, C. R. Reid, T. (Swindon) Mr. Simmons and Mr. Wilkins.
Holman, P. Rhodes, H.