§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Whiteley.]
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
It is appropriate that in the week before Christmas this House should be considering the food situation of this country. We get very few opportunities for learning about our food stocks. The Minister has adopted a policy of secrecy about them which he relieves a little at his Press conferences by giving information to which Members of this House have no access. We who represent constituencies have no opportunity of putting questions to the right hon. Gentleman on that information. The result is that the nation has very little knowledge about its food. and it is for that reason that when a ration is suddenly cut, or when a Christmas meat bonus is given which amounts to less than one-third of a sausage, the shock is all the greater. I am sure Members on all sides will welcome the opportunity which this Debate will provide to inquire into the present position, and perhaps alleviate some of the great concern which exists in the country today.
There is no Minister with a greater responsibility than the Minister of Food. He has the first task of seeing that our people are properly fed, and if he fails in that task, and only if he fails, then he has the additional responsibility of imposing a ration and seeing that that ration is distributed fairly without fear or favour. I know there is a tendency to regard rationing as an expression of Socialist planning. I do not know if Members opposite hold that view, but I believe it would be a great misfortune if any party or any body of people regarded rationing as a permanent feature of policy. It is bound to be unfair, because our tastes differ very much in the food we require or even enjoy. It is also making a virtue out of a shortage. When a Minister rations, when he lowers or continues a ration, he is really failing in his duty to get ample supplies of food for the people.
When we look at the quantity of rations that are to be distributed to the people this Christmas, three years after the end of the war, I must say that it appears 843 that this failure is very considerable. Our people are now living on a very drab diet. I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary is to speak next, and I feel sure she will try to convince us of what a good diet it is by reference to calories. But from the point of view of the manual worker it is a diet that discourages full production; from the point of view of the housewife it is a diet that lowers her resistance to fatigue. I do not think the Minister will deny that. In Canada recently the Minister was quoted, by means of an advertisement which appeared in a number of Canadian papers, to this effect. Under the heading, "Says the British Ministry of Food," there were these words:We are living on marginal nutritional standards, and there is cause for anxiety lest this should be having adverse effects on physique and health.Then the advertisement goes on to appeal for food for Britain.
§ The Minister of Food (Mr. Strachey)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that that quotation is from a statement I made?
§ Mr. Turton
I have said that this is a quotation from the British Ministry of Food. This was published here, in the "Daily Mail," a fortnight ago. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Members opposite are always apt to sneer when anyone mentions a newspaper which does not support their own party. This is a prominent and widely-read newspaper, which took the trouble to go to the Minister's Department to ask whether the quotation was accurate. The Ministry said it was. That is one confirmation of what I have just said about rationing. There is another. Recently, the new Sussex Hospital at Brighton made an inquiry into the conditions of housewives in its area, especially those who were voluntary workers at that hospital.
What were the results of that inquiry, which were published in the "Lancet" only last week? More than 88 per cent. of the volunteers showed signs of fatigue. More than 77 per cent. of the wives were under-nourished. Many of them had given up their rations for the rest of their family. They had little or no leisure and all complained of queueing. The report blames "mental pre-occupation" and "inadequate diet" for housewives' fatigue, and states: 844The effects of fatigue in the housewife exceed the fatigue in any other worker.I regard it as distressing that these conditions should prevail in Britain today. three years after the end of the war.
There is a general view in the country at the present time that the Minister of Food has failed in his job. There is also a great and growing suspicion that he is manipulating the ration for political purposes. I intend to deal with that aspect towards the end of my speech. I will first deal with his failure. It is quite clear that in this matter we must pick out certain commodities. I shall try to speak about his failure in regard to three items of food, and I shall leave it to other hon. Members to take up the rest of the story.
Let us first consider the position in regard to tea. Tea is a most unsuitable subject for rationing. After all, the housewife in her kitchen and the single woman living alone, require far more tea proportionately than the factory worker, who has industrial canteen facilities, and who also obtains his refreshment from the public house. They require more than the child who is a member of a large family and is getting milk at school. It seems to me vital that the tea ration should be adequate. In 1945 we had a tea ration, under the "caretaker" Government, of 5 oz. per fortnight. In July, 1947, the Minister of Food cut that ration from 5 oz. to 4 oz., and when he did so he attributed the cut to dock strikes in Calcutta and Colombo. He went on to say that it should be definitely possible to restore the 5 oz. per fortnight ration by the following November, that is November, 1947. November, 1947, has passed: so has November, 1948.
The dock strikes are over, yet the tea ration remains at the lower figure of 4 oz. per fortnight to which it was cut. Since the Minister made that cut the consumers have lost some 32 oz. of tea from their ration. Now he comes round in the role of Santa Claus, and from his hoard of tea reserves he gives out a 4 oz. Christmas bonus. It would have been far better if, in October, he had restored that cut and used the 4 oz. earlier, so that the people who are suffering this hardship should get the benefit of the extra tea.
Why is there this failure to obtain tea for this country? After all, tea comes from the sterling area so the answer cannot 845 be shortage of dollars. In 1945, world tea exports amounted to 650 million lb., of which we in this country received 60 per cent. Last year world tea exports were 140 million lb. more, yet our proportion had fallen to 49 per cent. This year, in addition to Ceylon and India, Java is coming into the market, and restarting her export trade. World exports are about the same level as last year, I gather, yet our imports have declined compared with last year's figures.
I ask the Minister to explain what has gone wrong. Southern Ireland, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland are all getting more tea than they obtained before the war. We are getting 140 million lb. less than we got before the war. Why the difference? We are in the unenviable position of being the only country in the world which adopts the system of Government bulk purchase for tea. Every other country uses private trade channels. I suggest to the Minister that if he wishes to retrieve his failure over tea he should return to private purchasing of tea. Further, from the point of view not only of the tea supplies but also our balance of payments, it is vital that Mincing Lane should be restarted and that we regain our large business of being the entrepôt of the world in tea.
I shall now discuss bacon. At the time of one of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors, Lord Woolton, the bacon ration varied between 4 oz. and 8 oz. a week. The present Minister's term of office is dignified by a variation between 1 oz. and 2 oz. per week. From what he said last Wednesday it appears that the 2 oz. over Christmas is literally a flash in the pan and that after that we are to start the New Year with a ration of 1 oz. I find it extremely hard to understand why the Minister has failed over bacon to the extent he has done. Up to now he has not made his position very clear. He told us on 8th November that the level of the bacon ration largely depended on the rate of Canadian shipments. Two days later Mr. Gardiner, the Canadian Minister of Agriculture, said:We wanted to supply Britain with 250 million lb. of bacon this year. Britain agreed to take wheat, eggs, beef, cheese and bacon, provided that we would keep every product other than wheat down to a minimum. We therefore agreed to reduce our sights in bacon to 195 million lb.846 I think that the Minister owes the House and the country an explanation of why he dissuaded Canada from sending us 250 million lb. of bacon. I also think that he owes Canada an apology in that when the consequences of his policy have resulted in an outcry from this country, he has sought to put the blame upon our good friends in Canada instead of taking the blame himself.
In my view, the solution for the bacon problem is not dollar bacon from Canada; it is bacon from this country. We were told at Question time by the Minister of Agriculture that the Government's target for home-produced bacon was to treble our production by 1951–52. I have always taken the view that that is an unambitious target and that the Government should have put the rate of increase faster. I believe that the Minister should have doubled our bacon production this year, but what has he done? This year our bacon production is 55 per cent. of the 1914 level. Every other country in the world except, possibly Poland, has made a greater drive forward in bacon production than we have in this country.
Who is to blame? The Minister of Agriculture made a great appeal to farmers, pig clubs and domestic pig keepers to increase the number of their pig population. There was a startling response. Some 500,000 more pigs were on the farms and holdings this June than in the previous June. Breeding sows were, and I stress the word "were," far greater in number than in any year since 1940. Now what has happened? The sows and the gilts are now being sold all over the country. We had a reply today that shows that three times as many sows and gilts, which ought to be the reservoir from which we shall get the trebling of our bacon production by 1951–52, are going to slaughterhouses. There is no confidence in the pig industry. That is shown by the fact that one can get a weaner for 20s. now. Last year they were 50s. Nobody wishes to buy a pig, because they cannot keep it.
There are three main reasons for this lack of confidence. First of all, it is a question of price that the producer gets for his pig. Secondly, it is the lack of feedingstuffs. Thirdly, it is a matter of the regulations surrounding the keeping and the killing of pigs. Let me say a word about price. If the farmer is 847 to get 25s. a cwt. for his own barley, although the Minister may tell him that he may keep 20 per cent. of his barley on the farm, he will not find it profitable to feed that barley to pigs, when the price of bacon pigs is based upon pig meal at 16s. 9d. per cwt. I think that is the real reason in regard to price. The price of the bacon pig, which is 36s. a score pounds, is unsatisfactory, on present costs, especially when one considers the amount of weekend work that is involved in pig keeping. It makes the farmers reluctant to go into the matter, because it means more overtime and more weekend work.
Secondly, it is a lack of feedingstuffs. I wish to stress this point, because it is a matter which is the Minister's direct responsibility. When the Minister told the House that he had imported a million tons of barley from Russia and Argentina most of us expected that the barley would be going into the feeding of pigs and helping the bacon ration. I can find no trace at all of any of the barley having gone to produce bacon. The "Monthly Digest of Statistics" shows that the amount of barley for feeding-stuffs for the last recorded month was 4,000 tons less than in the same month of the previous year. Last year, 19,000 tons of barley were imported. We are told by the Minister that the imports this year have been more than a million tons.
Something is very odd about this barley for feedingstuffs. I found it difficult to understand, until I had a letter from my constituency informing me that the fire brigade were being frequently summoned to a certain aerodrome. I made inquiries. I found that the Minister of Food had tucked away there some 5,000 tons of this barley and that it was being rapidly infested with weevil and eaten by rats. I found that there is an attack upon the weevil regularly, and that the local fire brigade is called upon to come in and help. This is merely one isolated instance. When I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food about this matter she told me that this infestation was not an uncommon occurrence with the barley that she was storing. During the weekend I found that this is because the Minister is keeping this barley in sacks and is not issuing it out for bacon, 848 as it should be issued out. As a result, a lot of it is wasted. I think it is disgraceful that at the present time all that the Minister of Food can say is that he wants to send some of this barley over to Southern Ireland—
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Edith Summer-skill)
The hon. Gentleman has been misinformed. If the barley arrives here in such a condition that we have to order fumigation, then it is quite wrong for his informant to say that it was because it was kept in that condition.
§ Mr. Turton
I must quote the hon. Lady's own words. She said:I understand that this barley is infested with weevil, and that that is not an uncommon condition."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1948; Vol. 459, c. 18.]
§ Mr. Turton
If barley is infested with weevil, the right thing to do—probably the hon. Lady does not know—is to put it into circulation at once. To store it, as this barley has been stored, for some seven months merely makes the infestation far worse. This situation is causing the milling trade grave anxiety. They do not want weevil infested barley on their premises, and neither do the railways want it on their premises. Valuable foodstuff is being lost as a result of the Minister's action. After all, that million tons of barley could have produced 200,000 cwt. of bacon and, therefore, could have brought the bacon ration up to four ounces instead of the present one ounce. That is the measure, as I see it, of the Minister's responsibility in this matter.
Now let me say one word on the question of regulations. It is hard to keep a pig but it is harder to kill a pig. The Minister is anxious to kill the black market but in his anxiety he is killing the white market as well. Perhaps I might give two instances to show where he is doing harm. Feeding a pig is always easier during the later stages of the pig's life, because you can feed it on potatoes. You require bulky food and you do not require the same content of protein and cereal as you did in the earlier months. Under the Pig Sales Order, no farmer can buy a pig of more than 8 score lb. in order to finish it on his potatoes. That regulation has killed that side of the trade in pigs. An old pig club member can 849 slaughter his pig on his own premises but a new one cannot. That regulation means that we have no new entrants into the pig clubs, because they would have to send their pigs far away for slaughter. Will the Minister reconsider these regulations and revise them so as to encourage more people to keep pigs?
I come finally to the question of sugar. The sugar position is this. The world production of sugar is higher than prewar, yet today Britain has a lower sugar ration than any country in Europe except the Soviet and the French zones of Germany, Italy and Spain. Why are we getting so little sugar for the home consumer? The Minister has increased the sugar ration by two ounces, but why cannot we get our level up to the level in Ireland or Denmark? After all, the Irish sugar comes from this country because we export it to them. The real secret of the Minister's failure on sugar is that he is using sugar as a trading asset rather than as the people's food. He is so keen on making some dollars out of sugar that he does not bother about Britain slipping behind all the other United Nations in the amount of sugar in the ration. Already this year we have exported 500,000 tons of sugar. Surely the Minister could have spared some of that for the home market in order to give more to the consumers.
§ Mrs. Middleton (Plymouth, Sutton)
Surely the hon. Gentleman realises that by making good sugar products and selling them abroad, the Minister is enabling us to get other foods of which we are in more need?
§ Mr. Turton
The hon. Lady forgets that this sugar is going out in the form of refined sugar to Persia, Ireland, Palestine and Egypt. It is not going to dollar countries for dollar food. I appreciate the Minister's point that he gets some dollar credit in the process. but we are not gaining food by it but losing sugar.
There is one sideline which affects the rural counties in England. I appeal to the Minister on this. Up to this year it was a habit of the housewives to make their own jam and give up their jam ration for that purpose. Because he has spent £2 million of our money on imported jams and imported 25 times as much unpalatable foreign jam as we had before the war, the Minister has this 850 year taken jam off the ration. When asked to give some special concession to the housewives for the making of their own jam, the Parliamentary Secretary, in reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), said that the bonuses would be merely on the scale of the previous years and there would be the increased domestic ration and no more. That will rob those who make their own jam of half of what they had last year.
I appeal to the Minister to copy the example of Southern Ireland in this matter. Last year Southern Ireland gave the housewives 14 pounds of sugar for jam making during the summer and 28 pounds as a special ration from 1st August to 31st October. We should have the same rations for jam making as are given in Southern Ireland. After all, the sugar which the Irish housewives get comes from England. It is what the Minister has exported. Therefore this is not an unreasonable request.
We in this party, and the House generally, appreciate that at these times we must economise on luxuries and wait before we can have any luxurious living, but we believe that we should not go short of the necessities of life. This year the Minister has spent £34 million on imported grapes, peaches, pears, plums, fancy fruits, wines, rum and brandy. That is a lot of money. It is four times as much as was imported before the war when there was more excuse for luxurious living. It seems that the expensive restaurants of this country are well stocked but the larders of the small houses are very bare. There is a great inequality in this matter of food. We are told that the shortage is only temporary and that the Minister is keeping these rations low so that when a General Election is coming he can increase the ration and therefore attract some popularity. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who said that?"] It is a general view. I cannot believe that even the Minister thinks that the people have quite such short memories as that, but whether that is true or not, it is quite certain that he is thinking of the General Election in his recent treatment of the Co-operative societies. Extra sugar amounting to 4,950 tons is being given for cakes made by the Co-operative societies. When the Minister is asked to justify that, he, says 851 that he is basing it on the grocery registration of the Co-ops.
§ Mr. Turton
The hon. Member cheers, but it shows ignorance because, after all, perfectly good members of the Co-op. have in the past got their groceries from the Co-op. and their cakes from small bakers who have no registration—
§ Mr. Turton
—of rationed commodities. When I have finished my sentence I will allow the hon. Lady to interrupt, but until I have finished my sentence I should have thought that it was quite useless for her to interrupt.
§ Mr. Turton
I expect that the hon. Lady is like many of my constituents in their shopping at the Co-op. They find that the Co-op. may be very good for some things but it has always been very bad in cake making. I should have thought that the right and fair way to deal with it would have been for the Minister to increase the ration equally all round instead of giving special treatment to the Co-ops. Only last January the Minister made a 25 per cent. cut in the sugar for cakes. His first responsibility—trust, I think we can say—was to restore that cut before he started to please his friends.
The Co-ops. are not the only ones. Other specially picked people are being given favoured rations, and those are the 37 biscuit manufacturers who have pleased the Minister by their export trade. While the Co-ops. are getting 2,700 tons of sugar extra for biscuits, these 37 lucky firms are to get 2,400 tons, while the rest of the biscuit manufacturers have to scramble for the leavings. This is just as unjust as the Minister's other favouritisms. These firms were picked out because they were specially suited for the export trade. They were not more worthy than the other firms which have 852 been struggling to supply the home market in bad times. Yet these firms will have a special bonus for biscuits for the home market while the other firms do not get that advantage. I believe that what is weighing with the Minister in his decision on this matter is the size of the financial contribution which the Co-operatives make to the Socialist Party funds for election purposes.
§ Mr. Turton
There is no equity between town and country. I find that those who live in the towns have a great advantage in food over those who live in the country, and the agricultural worker is at a great disadvantage as compared with the miner. I do not grudge the miner his double ration of meat—
§ Mr. Turton
Because the agricultural worker is not getting that same ration. I believe that this country will endure much, but it will never stand for political favouritism.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Edith Summerskill)
The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) was using strong language when he charged my right hon. Friend with "manipulating the ration for political purposes." I think I can prove that those words are completely empty. The House will remember that at the end of November my Department found that it had extra fat and sugar at its disposal. If my right hon. Friend was anxious to gain favour over this Christmas, to bask in the sun of popular approval—which he and I would find very pleasant for a short while; I find it difficult to get immunised against attack, even after having a daily dose over three years—if my right hon. Friend wished to appear as a genial Santa Claus, he could have done this: he could have given a big present of fat at Christmas, he could have given a large issue of sugar and jam, and goods which the housewife would have desired in her Christmas larder. But what did he do? [An HON. MEMBER: "Kept it for the election.") His policy is dictated by common sense 853 and equity not by expediency. Therefore, at the end of November we decided that the fairest and best thing to do with the fat at our disposal was to distribute it over the 16 weeks which we felt might prove to be the coldest. Does that suggest we are manipulating that fat for political purposes? We were doing nothing of the sort. We had at heart the interests of the men, women and children of all parties.
Furthermore, with sugar, instead of keeping that and giving 3 or 4 lbs. at Christmas, we decided to increase the ordinary domestic ration and de-ration jam. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton has considered this rather unfair. By de-rationing jam, he says, we have been unjust to a certain number of women who make home-made jam. He must realise, however, that my Department must consider the needs of all the housewives and not only the needs of a minority. We have estimated that only a third of the housewives of this country have exercised the option of taking sugar instead of jam, and it must be quite clear to the House that we could not de-ration jam, and at the same time allow people to exercise that option.
On sugar, again, I think the hon. Gentleman has come to a wrong conclusion. I know full well that hon. Members on the other side are handicapped in so far as the only guide to the business of my Department is found in the Trade and Navigation Returns, and the hon. Gentleman has fallen into the same trap as many other hon. Members opposite when he has read about these exports of sugar. He said, quite rightly, that we were exporting refined sugar. He must know, however—I have said it on so many occasions at this Box—that that is good business for this country. We do not bring sugar into the country which could be used by the people of the country; we bring it in from other countries for the purpose of refining it here—
§ Dr. Summerskill
As the result of doing that, of course, we get a return.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the cut which the housewives of the country have felt most irksome is that of bacon, and quite rightly he raised the question. I want to discuss bacon this 854 afternoon, and I want also to tell the House about our meat supply. So far as bacon is concerned, the House must realise that it is a highly perishable commodity and will not keep in store for more than four or five weeks. Therefore, if there is a delay of one ship, that is sufficient to cause difficulties; and lately a number of ships have been delayed in coming here, so we found ourselves in great difficulties.
The House must remember that a two-ounce ration in the United Kingdom, including requirements for the Services, for the catering establishments and the ships' stores, requires more than 4,000 tons a week or 212,000 tons per annum. During 1948 the arrivals. together with home production, have been expected by the end of the year to amount to 202,000 tons. The supplies available will, therefore, be about 10,000 tons less than the requirements for the two-ounce ration. That is why during this year we have bad to reduce the ration over six weeks. Furthermore, my right hon. Friend has told the House and the country that it will be necessary again to reduce the ration in January, 1949. over a period of a month.
So far as future prospects are concerned, it is important to the House and to the country that I should explain just what the position is in each country. I understand that Mr. Gardiner, the Minister of Agriculture for Canada, is in this country and I hope that after this Debate he will read HANSARD and will receive sympathetically what has been said at this Box today. The hon. Gentleman mentioned our negotiations with Canada, and it is well known that about a year ago we had to tell our Canadian friends with the greatest regret that we could not continue to buy bacon from Canada upon the scale of recent years. It will be remembered that during the war there was one year when Canada sent us three times as much as she had sent in pre-war years. In January of this year we made a contract with Canada for 83,000 tons—it subsequently became 100,000 tons because it was increased in June—but, unfortunately, we have found that by the end of this year that it will have been short-delivered by about 19,000 tons.
Now we have made a new contract and the Canadians have given us a new assurance—an assurance which was not 855 contained in the old contract—that they will maintain their present system and scope of export control.
§ Dr. Summerskill
It was 100,000 tons. They have assured us that apart from sending a small quantity of bacon to the British West Indies and Newfoundland, the whole of the surplus hog production in Canada will be reserved for the achievement of the figure of 160,000,000 lbs., which is the weight stipulated in the agreement. If these figures were not in long tons—I think the long ton is 2,240 lbs. and the short ton is 2,000 lbs.—the figure if converted would come to something like 71,000 long ton.
As far as Denmark is concerned it will be remembered that in 1947–48 we made a contract for 80 per cent. of her exportable surplus of bacon. It must be remembered, however, that that gave us only about 22,000 tons. Recently we have made a new contract with Denmark and we are now to receive 90 per cent. of her exportable surplus. We are quite confident that this will encourage Denmark, that she will produce to her utmost and that the contract will be fulfilled.
I was very surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not mention our Polish contracts, because I believe there has been some misunderstanding about the negotiations in which we are engaged with Poland. We made a contract with Poland at the beginning of the year. They undertook to send us something in the neighbourhood of 14,000 tons. They have the option of sending that up to February, 1949, and, as far I know, that agreement is being fulfilled. We are negotiating now for a five-year contract, which will bring us to 1953. There has been some delay and, I learn, some rumour that because of that delay we have had to reduce the bacon ration in this country. I want to assure the House that there is no truth at all in that. The negotiations have been protracted, but it must be realised that they are for the five years to 1953 and have nothing to do with the contracts made up to the end of 1948.
Another source of supply which hon. Members often feel should be very fruitful is Holland. Unfortunately, Holland 856 has disappointed us and, I am sure, has disappointed the Dutch themselves, because there is a great meat shortage there. We made one contract with them for 5,000 tons. That has been fulfilled but now, owing to the meat shortage, the Dutch are eating a great deal of pig meat. I do not feel that we can hold out any hope of an increase in the export of bacon from Holland for the next year or two.
I want the hon. Gentleman fully to appreciate our difficulties in dealing with these countries. There is always a suggestion from the other side that we are unable to obtain bacon because we are unbusinesslike, or do not conduct negotiations in the proper way, and that if only a number of competing businessmen were sent to these countries the bacon would be forthcoming.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that these countries are themselves suffering from the shortage of bacon. I will remind them also of the amount of bacon which was exported from Eire before the war. I think we received something like 27,000 tons every year. Now we find that Eire is unable to feed its own population with bacon and we are told that we cannot hope for any bacon from Eire until November, 1949. I am pleased to say we are getting some from Hungary and Poland. They are small countries but both of them are endeavouring to rehabilitate their bacon industry. To help them we have sent businessmen from our Department so that we may tell them exactly what the British like to eat in the way of bacon and advise them in producing it. Now I come to home production.
§ Sir John Barlow (Eddisbury)
Before the hon. Lady leaves the subject of imported bacon, can she tell us what is happening with the production of pigs in Queensland?
§ Dr. Summerskill
As the hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friend has been negotiating with the Queensland Government. I understand they got on with the scheme very quickly and that the position seems very hopeful, but I cannot give any figures at this stage.
So far as the home production of bacon is concerned, the House will remember that we gave the figure early in the year. 857 In January it was at a very low level, running at about 600 to 700 tons per week. Things are now improving and, despite the rather gloomy prognostications from the other side, I am sure the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton will be pleased to hear that the output is now 1,700 to 1,800 tons per week.
§ Dr. Summerskill
The indications are that this production should be maintained. If this proves to be the case supplies of home-produced bacon in 1949 will be about 110,000 tons as compared with 74,000 tons in 1948. But that, of course, includes bacon from imported pork.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
What are the proportions?
§ Dr. Summerskill
I am not able to give the figures at the moment.
We have been asked what are the future prospects. Obviously, it would be quite wrong for me, after what I have said about the conditions obtaining in these different bacon-producing countries, to say that we should have anything like a full supply of bacon during the next two or three years. We hope by the end of 1948 to have had a total of 202,000 tons for the year, but we estimate that. with full employment our people could consume something like 500,000 or 600,000 tons. If home production continues as it is now, we hope to get 100,000 tons and another 100,000 tons at least from these other countries. Therefore, I think I can say that, after the immediate difficulties of this Winter are passed, the 2 oz. ration will be assured for the rest of 1949 and that there is good hope of a higher ration for some part of the year.
Now I come to meat. I must tell the House that I have a very gloomy story.
§ Dr. Summerskill
The amount of meat available in 1948 has been considerably less than in 1947. Furthermore, in 1948 we had to make substantial inroads into our stocks of canned corned beef. The situation in 1949 as compared with 1948 is uncertain because of the position with the Argentine. I am afraid I cannot hold 858 out any hope that things will be much better than in 1947. I hope that later on my right hon. Friend may say something about the position in the Argentine.
I want to draw attention to the disappointing results in the production of meat in countries from which we had expected very large supplies. In Australia, for instance, the supplies of carcase meat this year and forecast for next year are lower than what we had in 1947 and are some 50,000 tons below what we had before the war. One of the main reasons for this short fall is well known. During the droughts in 1944 and 1946 Australia lost something like 30 million animals and has not yet caught up with the appalling loss. Now we do not expect things to improve until 1952. After that, I hope we shall begin to reap the benefit of measures to produce more meat introduced by the Commonwealth and State Governments.
At least we have this to comfort us, that in the short term Australia has contracted to sell to the Ministry of Food her entire exportable surplus of beef, veal, mutton and lamb up to September, 1950. As the House knows, my right hon. Friend has reported those negotiations which he has had with the Australian Government concerning the production of meat in Queensland and in the Northern territories. I believe that those negotiations are proceeding satisfactorily.
Now I come to the one bright spot, New Zealand. Supplies are continuing at the very high level of about 360,000 tons of carcase meat per year, which is nearly 100,000 tons more than we used to get before the war. I feel bound to pay tribute to the producers of meat in that country for the way they have developed their meat supplies and kept them going during the war, and since. I am sure that in the future we shall continue to receive more from them. Obviously, things are a little difficult with everyone in these days, but I think we have encouraged New Zealand by negotiating a long-term contract with them, and we hope to receive increases in that way.
I come to Canada. I regret that our dollar position compelled us about a year ago to tell the Canadians that we were unable to afford the purchase of meat we had had from them hitherto; that is, 859 apart from bacon. As far as we can see in the future, I am afraid that we need so many other things from Canada that we shall be precluded from obtaining any meat supplies from that quarter. I hope hon. Members opposite appreciate that my Department have explained this very carefully to the Agricultural Department in Canada and I hope that they fully understand the currency position. There is no question, of course, of my Department going to a European country rather than going to Canada, everything else being equal, but we are compelled in the present circumstances of the balance of trade to limit our dollar purchases from hard currency areas.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
Are the Canadian Government in process of making any counter propositions to get round that, or is it a fact accepted equally in Ottawa as it is here? Is it absolutely definite and final?
§ Dr. Summerskill
I am afraid we are spending our maximum and I cannot see how it could be got round. There are other things we get from Canada, and we are buying them, but the hon. Member has heard my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer explaining the position at this Box. We can only spend the maximum at our disposal in Canada.
I come to the question of supplies from Eire. On many occasions hon. Members have suggested that there is plenty of meat in Eire and that again my Department has been a little slow in making a satisfactory arrangement. I suppose the main objective of the recent agreement was to ensure that the supplies of cattle which came from Eire in pre-war days should be received in this country now. My right hon. Friend went to Eire and discussed the matter very fully but, so far, the results have been very disappointing. The House will be astonished to learn that only 3,440 fat cattle have been received in the period from 1st July to 30th November, against 16,950 in the corressponding period last year. The store cattle exported to the United Kingdom during the same period have declined from 173,000 to 136,000.
I confess there is something of a mystery about this—a mystery which 860 neither my Department, nor the Government of Eire, can fully understand. Hon. Members may say there is only one reason, that we are not paying them enough. May I refresh their memories? The price of store cattle in the United Kingdom is now from £3 to £4 per head above what it was last year, and in the agreement made with Eire earlier this year we increased the price of fat cattle on top of the big increase they had in common with our own farmers in August, 1947. Despite that very big increase in price, the cattle are not coming in.
Hon. Members may say that the cattle are being sent abroad. Obviously we anticipated that possibility when we made the agreement, and I want hon. Members to remember that Eire is limited to sending 50,000 head of cattle abroad this year, and next year to 10 per cent. of their total exports. I can only think that the farmers of Eire are holding on to their cattle because they have plenty of grass this year and are hoping to get an increased price, but, if they are pursuing that policy, they are bound to be disappointed. The price will not go up, therefore, we believe that finally we shall receive the cattle.
We have asked Eire if they are prepared to export a certain amount of canned meat. At Question time on many occasions hon. Members have asked why we are not getting canned meat from Eire. We are prepared to offer a reasonable price for canned meat, but hon. Members must realise that it would be quite wrong for us to offer such an attractive price that canners would can the meat rather than allow us to have it in carcase form or on the hoof. That is why we do not import more canned meat. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton asked why we had refused 10,000 tons of canned meat. It is for that reason, because we do not want to increase canned at the expense of fresh meat.
§ Mr. Turton
The hon. Lady has made a mistake. I wanted her to indicate why we were importing canned horse.
§ Dr. Summerskill
The hon. Member should know that my Department did not enter into any contract for canned horse. When these suggestions are made they always come from private enterprise.
861 I now turn to the question of animal feedingstuffs. The supplies of protein foods at present in sight will meet our commitments at the current ration levels until April, 1949, but it will be necessary to make further purchases to cover the rest of 1949 and for us to obtain stocks for 1950. Questions which have been asked and speeches made by hon. Members opposite indicating that our animal feedingstuff position is so grave, cannot be borne out by these figures. I should like to give hon. Members these figures so that they can have the opportunity of digesting them at leisure. The coupon issue of cereals and proteins in 1946–47 was 2,494,000 tons, in 1947–48, 3,197,000 tons and in 1948–49, 3,853,000 tons. In view of the well-known balance of payments difficulty that is not a bad record, and hon. Gentlemen must realise that our largest suppliers of feedingstuffs are those countries whose currencies are hardest for the United Kingdom. In the future we hope to obtain more animal feedingstuffs from Eastern Europe, unless, of course, we have the currency available which can be used for the Western Hemisphere.
It must be remembered also that these countries which have animal feedingstuffs to sell want certain exports from us. They want engineering equipment and capital goods. That is fundamental to the negotiations. It is no good hon. Members saying that we should look to certain countries where there is an ample supply of maize or protein foods. We cannot obtain those unless we have currency or export goods which the country needs. It is true, of course, that with the excellent crops this year it will be easier to obtain coarse grains and the price is much lower. That is reflected in the price we paid to Australia for oats and barley. Now we are negotiating with Hungary, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union for maize, and we hope to receive a supply from them in the ensuing year.
We are also expecting a visit from Senor Miranda at the beginning of the year. I earnestly hope that Senor Miranda will be able to come here, and that we shall be able to open negotiations with him. I want to warn the House that we need so many things from the Argentine, such as meat and other commodities, that the chances of 862 getting any more animal feedingstuffs from there are very remote indeed.
§ Dr. Summerskill
They have only a small amount to export.
So far as the supply of home-grown cereals is concerned, the yield has been very favourable this year and the yield of barley and oats particularly has been very much above the average. I am glad to say that recently we have been able to remove the restriction on the moving of barley and oats. It will be remembered by the House that it was necessary to impose these restrictions in order to economise in transport and to ensure that the barley and oats should be kept for the main using areas.
I should like to say a few words about ourselves and the Canadian and Danish Agreements in order once more to reassure any hon. Member who thinks that we are not taking as much as we can afford from Canada. I have explained carefully what the bacon position is. We have also a cheese contract with Canada which is exactly similar to the contract made last year. So far as prices are concerned, if there is a short-fall in the cheese exports we shall be allowed to use the dollars saved for cheese in the United States of America. For eggs we have agreed to buy a total of 22 million dollars worth, and I have to tell the House that this new contract represents a reduction of 25 per cent. of last year's contract. I want to emphasise that this is only due to the fact that we have not the dollars to spend. The total value of the bacon, eggs and cheese contracts is thus 95 million dollars, as against a total value in the same contract last year of 134 million dollars.
§ Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)
I am not quite clear on one question. When the hon. Lady says there is a reduction of 25 per cent. does she mean an overall reduction or a reduction in the number of eggs?
§ Dr. Summerskill
The 25 per cent. is on the price of eggs. The hon. Gentleman meant the overall price on all cornmodities, did he not?
§ Dr. Summerskill
No, the 25 per cent. is on the price of eggs. It is not easy for us to have to refuse food from Canada, but the House must realise that we have no option. So far as Denmark is concerned, the butter contract. under which we anticipate 70,000 tons a year. is still running, and we hope to make a new contract with the Danes at the beginning of the year. The same applies to the egg contract. Apart from that, we have some carcase meat, some fresh cheese and condensed milk, but the House must realise that Danish currency is soft and although the present contract will give us something like £54 million worth of goods, we are guided by what the Danes have to sell. If they come and make an offer which seems to us attractive, then, of course, we shall re-negotiate with them.
I am sure the House will be pleased to hear that I can reassure it as far as the butter ration is concerned. Before coming into the House I heard a rumour that hon. Members thought there might be some cut in the butter ration. The butter ration was maintained last year at three ounces and raised to four ounces for a few weeks. There have been some delays in shipments from the Southern Hemisphere. There may be delays of some kind to wholesalers, but so far as I can see the butter ration will he maintained throughout 1949. Of eggs there is one figure 1 should like to give to the House. which I know will give housewives a great deal of pleasure. In 1948 the total of home produced and imported eggs came to 4,101,000, which gave something like 78 eggs per head per year.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I beg the pardon of hon. Members, I should have said 4,101 million eggs. As I said, this works out at 78 per head per year. This year we are to have 5,284 million and the consumption per head will be at the rate of 100 a year. The House realises that during the flush period, of course, more eggs may come into the larder, but the overall average will be at the rate of 100 per year.
§ Dr. Summerskill
No; the pre-war average consumption was something like 150.
864 Finally, I wish to deal with tea. When raising this question the hon. Gentleman overlooked the fact that it' is possible for us to make contracts, but there is no guarantee that the tea will reach the ports. Practically all the contractors are behind with their deliveries to the Ministry. Although the purchases in 1948 were 424 million pounds of tea and consumption 410 million pounds, the hon. Gentleman must realise that that little extra which we have in hand is not enough to increase the ration. We are now meeting the producers and we are making a new contract with them. We are trying to make arrangements to import tea which will work out at something like a 2½ oz. ration. But it would be quite wrong for me to say to the House now that the ration can be increased to 2½ ozs. in the immediate future. We must see what the position is, whether the tea is coming to the ports and finally delivered to this country. before we can make any promise
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western)
It was indeed a gloomy tale that the Parliamentary Secretary had to unfold. There is no apparent increase or no apparent prospect of one, as I understand it, in the meat ration, until 1952. Another "four years hard" for the hardly pressed and hardly used British folk. It is indeed a serious statement that has been made in the House this afternoon, and it makes it all the more imperative that we should face frankly this question of the urgency of getting in all the imported feedingstuffs that we possibly can. We on this side of the House have frequently called attention to the fact that rather over a year ago, in August, 1947, the Prime Minister said that the maximum supply of feedingstuffs must be obtained. He was followed very soon after by the Lord President of the Council who was addressing members of the Agricultural Executive Committees. He said that feedingstuffs would be obtained even at the expense of hardly earned dollars. That fact seems to have gone by the board. We are back again to where we were before 1948. There seems to be no kind of urgency and no kind of realisation of the imperative necessity for importing feedingstuffs from every quarter in which we can get them in order that we can raise, at the earliest possible 865 moment, our supply of meat from our own land.
I wish to ask about maize, which has been mentioned more than once this afternoon. The annual average world production of maize before the war was about 100 million tons. The estimate for 1948 is 130 million tons. Are we to get our fair proportion of this increase in world output? I saw some trade returns from Buenos Aires which suggested that the Argentine, where, as the hon. Lady knows, maize is harvested in March and April, still have about 1.5 million tons of surplus maize. That, of course, is over and above the 1.2 million tons of maize which we have purchased under the Andes Agreement.
I referred to this question of maize in the Debate we had on the Ministry of Food Estimates last July, or whenever it was, but I got no satisfaction then. I hope that we shall be told more about the maize position this evening. Are we buying all the maize that we can? It is vitally necessary if we are to make the substantial increase in our livestock production, which is more than ever necessary as the result of the statement this afternoon from the hon. Lady. My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) asked in an interjection just now about South African maize. We used to buy a lot of maize before the war from South Africa. South Africa is said to have harvested a record crop of maize between May and July of this year. South Africa is not a dollar country, so that we can discuss the matter more freely and be less subject to hampering restrictions than over maize from the Argentine.
Trade with South Africa in the first eight months of this year showed a sterling balance in our favour of £57 million. Yet in October seven French ships were loaded with thousands of tons of maize and our own ships were loaded with five million tons of snoek and vast quantities of tinned jam—
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
Not snoek only. As I understand it, during the first eight months of this year the shipping from South Africa to this country totalled five million, in which there was a vast quantity of snoek and tinned jam.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
Of all products, in respect of which we had a favourable sterling balance of £57 million. I am not concerned with the quantities but with the principle. Could not we have used that favourable sterling balance to buy more South African maize?
The hon. Lady's speech was remarkable for something else. She absolutely failed to take up the challenge which my hon. Friend made about the political ramp—I call it that advisedly—of the allocation to the co-operative societies. Let me remind the House of the facts. I do not think they can be challenged. The deductions which one can draw may be challenged, but I do not think that the facts can be. Let me deal with imported poultry and rabbits. In November the co-operative societies were arbitrarily allowed 10 per cent. of all imported turkeys, poultry and rabbits. Leaving aside the question whether 10 per cent. is or is not the right figure—it may be, I do not know—I say that an allocation of that sort ought not to have been made without reference to the Association of Wholesale Distributors of Imported Poultry and Rabbits Limited. This is a Ministry of Food sponsored organisation. It is governed by a council representing the wholesale trade, the multiples and the Co-operative Wholesale Society. The Ministry of Food have a controlling voice and a majority vote. I see that the objects for which the company is established are. first:To assist, promote and carry on in the United Kingdom an organisation for the purchase, importation and distribution as principals or agents of poultry and rabbits.I am prepared to believe that there is much to be said for the view that the time has come for a review of the 1938 basis of allocation, which is the basis which has been used hitherto. But whatever basis may be fixed as a result it is certain that the basis of the registered customer is not the right one.
§ Mr. Collins
What is the right one? I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman to hear his justification for the words "political ramp."
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I am developing that argument and I hope that the hon. Member will continue to listen with care because I think I shall be able to satisfy him.
867 Whatever may be the right basis, the basis of registration is not the right one in respect of poultry and rabbits, since rabbits and poultry and turkeys were handled before the war by fishmongers and poulterers who have no meat registration. I find it impossible to avoid the suspicion that the Ministry has not "come clean" over this matter. The Parliamentary Secretary in reply to a Question asked by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Brigadier Peto), said:…the co-operative retail societies had a legitimate grievance. They had at the moment 14 per cent. of the meat registrations of the country but were allocated only 1 per cent. of the rabbits and poultry from the C.W.S. and 34 per cent. from other wholesalers.The hon. Lady added:Surely, this is a legitimate grievance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1948; Vol. 106, c. 45.]As I understand it, that is the clearest inference that co-operative society meat registrations have increased since and during the war and, for that reason, the co-operative societies ought to have more poultry. But, of course, the truth is that all sorts of registrations have increased since and during the war. People have been demobilised, have come back, and taken out meat registrations. However, the Parliamentary Secretary went even further than that in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Baker White) on the same day. She stated categorically that the basis of the allocation to the co-operative societies was that of meat registrations. She said that without any kind of qualification. Yet we find that the Minister, writing on 27th November to the National Federation of Meat Traders' Associations, says:Account was also taken of their share of other forms of retail distribution.Leaving aside meat registration, I am informed authoritatively that not more than one-fiftieth of the poultry supplies, home or imported, passed through the co-operative societies before the war. Yet now they are to have a Christmas gift on a basis not of one-fiftieth, but of one-tenth. Broadly speaking, the same is true in respect of sugar for the manufacture of cakes and biscuits. The same principle—or perhaps I ought to say the same lack of principle—holds in the case of sugar also.
868 The co-operative societies are to have 22½ per cent. of the extra sugar which is being allocated for the manufacture of flour confectionery and biscuits. Exactly as before, the same procedure is followed. The trade is not consulted and the only justification advanced by the Minister was based on a percentage of the distribution of unspecified foodstuffs carried out by the co-operative retail societies. To suggest that figures of retail distribution are necessarily related to the manufacture of goods in co-operative or in privately owned factories and bakeries is sheer nonsense, and to allocate a manufacturing raw material upon any such basis is unjustifiable. Moreover, early this year a cut of 25 per cent. in the allocation of sugar was imposed upon all manufacturers of cakes and biscuits. It would have been much more equitable to have restored this cut before making this Christmas present to the co-operative societies. I repeat that the fact that the Minister has departed from the 1938 datum basis in favour of the co-operative societies, whereas the basis remains in force for all other groups of trades, is as inexcusable a piece of political discrimination as any we have seen even from this prejudiced and discredited Administration.
I turn to the question of sugar for jam making and I take up a point from the speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary. She spoke as if the withdrawal of sugar for jam making was judged as a matter of whether it created hardship in one section or another of the community. Really, the basis is not a question of hardship to a section of housewives. It is a question of making the most of our own natural resources.
I wish that the hon. Lady would spend part of the Summer Recess with me in Scotland. I should like to take her down some of our shady lanes and let her see the raspberries hanging red upon the thicket, and the blackberries. She would see that they are ungathered. Before the war they were always picked. One found children everywhere taking them home. Sugar was plentiful and the fruit was kept and formed a valuable source of sweetened, healthy food. Now they lie rotting. It is a pitiful sight not only in Scotland, but in England. It is a tragedy that that should be allowed just because the Minister of Food has not got the gumption to 869 look ahead and to make an allocation so that we can save some of our valuable food.
I pass from political prejudice to sheer incompetence. We had a record harvest of potatoes this year. A firm which before the war conducted an extensive business in exporting ware potatoes to South America recently received an inquiry for 10,000 tons for Uruguay, a hard currency country. The firm knew, and they so informed the Ministry, that they were in competition with Holland and Denmark and that a quick reply was absolutely essential if they were to get this valuable order. The Ministry's delay was such that the bulk of the order went to Holland.
Later, the same firm received cabled inquiries for further quantities of potatoes which would have enabled them to pay the Ministry £6 5s. a ton net. The Ministry stood out for £7 5s. a ton and, of course, the deal fell through. The irony of this situation—and I would not have mentioned it unless it was ironic and tragic—is that if that firm, or any other firm, had wished to buy potatoes for consumption by livestock, it could have bought them through the Ministry at 75s. a ton. Opportunities like this—opportunities of getting valuable dollars —are allowed to slip, yet the huge surpluses of marketable potatoes will be increased, and potatoes which might have been sold for dollars at 125s. a ton will, at best, sell for stock feed at 75s. a ton.
I move from these temporary and, I hope, passing considerations to a wider question concerning the future marketing and distribution of wheat, our basic cereal crop. Before the war our imported wheat was bought all over the world—I believe we used to trade with about 40 different countries—at all seasons of the year, in whatever month of the year the grain from that particular hemisphere was harvested, and, through the operation of the future market, at prices which produced a loaf which compared favourably in quality and price with that of any country in the world. All this was done at a very low cost to this country—under the price of a 4 lb. loaf per head per annum. On the outbreak of war, responsibility for purchases of all cereals was assumed by the Government, which fixed grain and flour 870 prices and regulated distribution, and, instead of allowing private buyers to secure parcels of wheat from any and every country from which they could be obtained on advantageous terms, in the main, wheat has been imported from four main exporting countries—Canada, the Argentine, the United States and Australia. Concurrently long-term agreements have resulted in greatly increased importations of flour, as opposed to whole grain, thus decreasing the amount of animal feedingstuffs, again a very serious matter when we want to try to raise more meat in this country.
It is with home-grown wheat that 1 am chiefly concerned. The present system, as I understand it, has two important disadvantages, which, with the years, are becoming increasingly apparent, and which, in one respect, became acute during the recent harvest. First of all, the obligation to pay fixed standard prices gives the farmer no price inducement to produce high quality wheat. The Government pay a standard price for all mill-able wheat, and do not differentiate between one kind and another, so the tendency is for farmers to grow that variety of wheat which satisfies the milling requirements, and, at the same time, gives a high yield, without necessarily being of high quality. Neither is there sufficient financial inducement to the farmer to instal efficient drying and storage facilities which have been rendered necessary by the increased use of combine harvesters. This is already a grave embarrassment to the millers and merchants, whose existing storing and drying facilities were very greatly strained during the recent harvest.
I fully realise that a completely free market in wheat is not immediately practicable, and probably will not be practicable until something like equilibrium is reached between demand and supply, until there is freedom of exchange, and, possibly, though I am not sure about this, until there is more oceangoing shipping. There is no reason, however, to prevent the restoration of a free market in home-grown wheat as soon as adequate supplies are reasonably assured. I hope the Minister is making a plan about this, and I suggest that, when that is possible, the disadvantage of the present system could be overcome if the Wheat Act were to be brought out of abeyance and suitably amended.
871 The basis of that Act was that quota payments were levied on each sack of imported and home-grown flour delivered for consumption in the United Kingdom, and, from the proceeds of this levy, deficiency payments were made to registered growers of millable wheat up to an agreed national ceiling. These payments raised the average price to growers to a standard price which was sufficiently attractive to encourage increased home production. I believe that there is no reason at all why that standard price should not be suitably graduated to enable farmers to dry and store their wheat instead of unloading it on the market early in the season. The main advantage of an early return to the principle of the Wheat Act would be that it would ensure once again that quality would influence price and thus make possible an appreciable improvement in the loaf.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Coldrick (Bristol, North)
One might almost have thought that the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) had some concern for the ordinary consumers and people of this country, and might have assumed that he was sincere and genuine in what he was saying, if he had not gone out of his way to make such a scurrilous and unwarrantable attack on the Minister of Food in his references to the Co-operative societies. Let me make it clear, as far as the Co-operative societies are concerned, that this is not an illustration of a political ramp, privilege or partiality, but that, right from the beginning of the war, the whole of the Co-operative movement has persistently endeavoured to get the Ministry to agree that foodstuffs in this country should be allocated on the basis of registrations. If we give the people of the country freedom to register with whatever shop they please, it is only justice then to ask the Ministry that foodstuffs which may be in short supply should be allocated on the basis made by the choice of the people themselves.
Consequently, we are quite prepared to argue that the multiple shops, the small retailers, the Co-operative stores and anybody else shall be entitled to receive an allocation of goods based on their registrations. Let us try to see how this system works out in practice, instead of the fiction which is imagined by hon. Members opposite. 872 The plain fact is that, with regard to the allocation of sugar, the Opposition have sedulously fostered the idea that the Ministry has now agreed to give to the Co-operative society members of this country 22½ per cent. of the total sugar allocation for the country. The real fact of the matter, of course, is that one-fourth of the total registered customers or consumers in this country, are registered with the Co-operative Wholesale Society, and, therefore, on that basis, if justice is the chief consideration, the Co-operative movement would be entitled to receive 25 per cent. of the total sugar allocation. The Ministry is adhering to the pre-war basis of allocations, so far as the major supplies are concerned, and the 22½ per cent. to which the hon. Member has referred merely applies to the additional allocation, so that, if we take the figure of 25 or 26 per cent. of the registrations in the country, the Co-operative movement is now receiving about 11 per cent. of the total allocation so far as sugar is concerned.
Yet hon. Members opposite have the audacity to accuse the Minister of partiality towards the Co-operative stores in this matter. The views of hon. Members opposite have been so perverted by past political policy in this connection that they are totally incapable of looking at the matter genuinely. I think that their past history proves conclusively that they have always been concerned, not about the consumers or about the welfare of the people of this country, but about the welfare of those people who, in their opinion, constitute the backbone of the party to which they belong.
Take the question of sugar to which the hon. Member referred. It is well known to anybody who has taken the trouble to examine this position that, from about 1928 onwards, it was possible to buy sugar in the world markets at very low prices and in any desired quantities. But, of course, to have imported the vast quantities of sugar necessary to satisfy the requirements of the consumers in this country would, in certain directions, have been fatal to the farmers. Therefore, every inducement was given to the farmers to go in for sugar beet growing, and the Treasury gave millions of pounds by way of subsidies to the growers and refineries. [An HON. MEMBER: "In order to build up the industry."] I agree 873 that the industry was built up in the process, but the plain fact is that we could have afforded to pay the whole of the workers in the sugar beet industry £3 or £4 a week, kept them idle, imported sugar at world prices, and provided the consumers in this country with cheaper sugar.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that it was a bad policy to encourage the growing of sugar beet before the war, does he consider that the Government are now wrong in encouraging that policy?
§ Mr. Coldrick
I am seeking to show that in the past, when an abundance of sugar was available, hon. Members opposite deliberately pursued a policy favouring their friends at the expense of the consumers. I am not suggesting that a case may not be made out for the building up of the sugar beet industry, but, of course, we are all well aware that at the present moment it is literally impossible to supply all the sugar required by the people of this country. Therefore, every inducement has to be given—whatever we may think about it—to farmers and various other people to supply sugar beet and other indispensable things.
I now turn to the question of poultry, rabbits, and so forth, to which the hon. Member for West Aberdeen also referred. The plain fact is that 15 per cent. of the people of this country have freely elected to register for meat with the Co-operative societies. Consequently, those of us who have been associated with the Co-operative movement have, from the beginning, pressed that the allocation of poultry, rabbits, and so on should be on the basis of registration. Unfortunately, the Ministry has constantly declined to do that, but has recently agreed, with regard to imported poultry, that a 10 per cent. allocation shall be made to the Co-operative societies in order to meet the requirements of their members.
If any one thinks that arrangement unfair, I would ask him to examine the figures of the metropolitan area. In that area there are five Co-operative societies with approximately 960,000 registered customers. The total allocation of rabbits for 1947 was in the region of 60,000 for 40 weeks. Worked out on the basis of a family of three people to one registration, 874 it means that one family would receive one rabbit every 226 weeks. Is there any hon. Member, either on this side of the House or opposite, who is prepared to condone practices of that kind?
We all know that, unfortunately, the Ministry has been unable to stamp out the black market. Sources from which it was hitherto possible to buy rabbits and poultry have now absolutely declined to supply those things at the controlled price. Of course, if people are prepared to go into the black market and to pay fancy prices—which some must be paying—it is possible to get these things. I sincerely hope that we shall hear no more of this alleged unfairness and partiality on the part of the Ministry with regard to these foodstuffs.
Turning to the question of the feeding of the people in general, I quite appreciate the deep concern felt by some people at the present moment, and by hon. Members opposite, at the thought that they are not enjoying that standard of life to which they were accustomed in pre-war days. If the great mass of the people of this country had been half as vocal when they went short during the great depression as hon. Members opposite are at the present moment, justice might have come to the ordinary consumer long before now. I am not pretending—and I do not think any hon. Member on this side would pretend—that we are happy about the existing food situation. We should all like to raise the general standard, but we are deeply conscious of the realities of the situation. We realise that we are confronted with a world shortage and that nations are very much like working class families in the past—totally incapable of satisfying their own needs. That is a new experience for hon. Members opposite.
If we look at the figures, we find that today, despite all the talk indulged in with regard to jam, we are consuming in this country 56 per cent. more jam and marmalade than we did in 1938. That seems almost incredible, but it is true. It is mainly due to the fact that there are now thousands of people able to buy jam who could not afford to do so when it was in plentiful supply. We all know the difficulty of getting sufficient dried fruit. That being so, it is almost unbelievable that we are consuming 9 per cent. more dried fruit today than in 1938.
875 With regard to milk—about which the Opposition should know a great deal—we are at present consuming 50 per cent. more liquid milk than we did in 1938. Despite the hardships which we are now experiencing, more of these commodities are being consumed by the great mass of the people today than were ever consumed before the war. It is equally true, of course, that people like the hon. Member who initiated this Debate, and, presumably, the hon. Member who followed him, are experiencing far greater hardship today than they did before the war.
We on this side have often been critical of the Ministry. I feel that there is still too great a disposition on the part of the Ministry to take off control and to act on the assumption that people who grow fruit and vegetables are so honest and disinterested that they will voluntarily refrain from raising prices. I am assured, by women in particular, that although we had a fine supply of apples this year, it is almost impossible to purchase good apples at present. The assumption on the part of a number of fruiterers is that the control will be taken off shortly, and they are hoping that the price will then be raised and will more than compensate them for the policy which they are adopting. I hope the Minister will not be too tender in this respect and will make it abundantly clear during this Debate that we shall insist upon justice and that prices will not be decontrolled, thus making it impossible for people to profit at the expense of the ordinary consumer.
I am deeply apprehensive about the policy which we are pursuing with respect to the supply of food in this country; I refer to our general farming and food policy in the future. It is obvious that so long as we have a world shortage we shall be obliged to subsidise the grower of food to the extent of over £280 million, as we are. We are subsidising the consumer to the extent of £180 million for imported food. That can continue so long as there is a shortage in the world market, but let us try to visualise what will be the position if the world market recovers and if there becomes available a larger supply of consumable goods at a far cheaper price than that at which we are able to produce in this country. Shall we then adhere to the policy of paying out enormous subsidies to the food growers 876 in this country? If we do, shall we not thereby be endangering the possibility of competition so far as the manufacturing section is concerned?
I do not say this with any bitterness, but there is far too great a danger in this House of thinking that because agriculture is important, it is all-important. It is necessary for us to see this in its proper perspective, because even on the figures which have been adduced here, we find that the total number of workers in agriculture represents only 5 per cent. of the total working population in this country. Our total agricultural production represents about 5 per cent. of out total output. Consequently, if we impose subsidies to the extent of 5 per cent. and raise the price proportionately, there will be a devastating effect on other forms of production which are essential for sustaining the great industrial population of this country.
I think I have said sufficient to discredit these parrot cries of politicians, who should know better than accuse the Ministry of partiality in making allocations. I believe that the Minister's policy of "fair shares for all" is the only policy which should be pursued by any Government who want to retain the supprt of the people in this country.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Hurd (Newbury)
We have listened to a most extraordinary speech. I hope the Minister of Agriculture and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take an early opportunity of correcting some of the misconceptions which lurk in the mind of the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Coldrick). As to food subsidies, the hon. Member only has to examine recent answers which the Chancellor has given to discover for himself that the consumer is subsidised almost equally on the purchase of imported food and of home-produced food. However, I will not pursue that matter further.
We were all depressed this afternoon by the miserable speech which the Parliamentary Secretary had to make to us. I am afraid the country will also be depressed. If I were asked what is the fundamental ill of today, I would suggest that it is our people's need for more sustaining food to give more staying power. We are all talking about the production drive. 877 At harvest time if we want a horse to work extra hard, we have to give him extra oats. We are not giving our people those extra oats. The form in which we need them is surely in the form of meat and fats. The Parliamentary Secretary gave us a very gloomy picture indeed. If I heard aright, we cannot look forward to anything much better in our meat ration until 1952. That is a shocking prospect, and even where there are sources of possible extra supply, as in Canada, we have somehow so messed up our financial and trading relations with that Dominion that we are not able to avail ourselves of the offer which she now makes to us in bacon or in meat.
The Minister of Food and the Parliamentary Secretary ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. What is happening is this: for political reasons, the Minister insists on keeping his monopoly to buy food and feedingstuffs for Britain, and he is failing to get us our fair share of world supplies. The Minister only has to look at the report of the Conference of the rood and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, which has lately been published in the newspapers. There we learn, as many of us suspected, that, in fact, there is no total deficiency of grain in the world today, thanks to two good harvests in North America. Extra grain is available. But it is not coming here. Some of it is coming here and eaten by weevils, as we have been reminded earlier this afternoon, but we are not getting the full benefit of the extra grain in the world. and we are thereby denied the means to produce more meat and fat which our people so urgently need.
In my view, there could be no greater boon to the hard-pressed housewife than to have ample supplies of pork and bacon. What is the position? The hon. Member for North Bristol told us that we are eating more jam and drinking more milk. Some people may thrive on jam and milk, but the ordinary man and woman in this country would feel in much better fettle to do their week's work if they were getting more pork and bacon.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge)
Does the hon. Member think that the mother of a family stuffs her young children with bacon before they go out to school in the morning?
§ Mr. Hurd
There is, of course, the milk in schools scheme, as the hon. Lady knows well—a scheme which we on this side of the House introduced, and which I am very glad is being carried on today.
Let us examine what has happened in this matter of pork and bacon supplies. Before the war and right up to 1944, when we had a Minister of Food who knew his job as a business man, the weekly consumption of bacon and ham was running at about 10,000 tons a week. In 1944 it was very near the 1939 figure. The figure today is right down to 4,000 tons. As the ordinary consumer knows, it means one little sliver of bacon a fortnight. After Denmark and the other European countries were out of the market, owing to the German invasion, we relied on Canada and we made firm contracts with that Dominion. Indeed, in 1944 we bargained to buy 675 million lbs. of bacon from Canada in that year. This year it is down to under 200 million lbs. The Parliamentary Secretary assured us that most friendly discussions have been going on. Everybody in London and Ottawa is trying to find a way round this problem of our having to find dollars to take the bacon which Canada could provide for us.
I wonder whether the same thing is not happening in bacon as is happening over timber from British Columbia. The Canadians would willingly barter their timber, and I believe they would willingly barter their bacon, for steel and manufactured goods which we could send to them. Are we quite sure that we are placing our steel and manufactured goods into those trade channels which will bring us the things we want? Bacon is one of those things. I should like to see the Minister of Food have the most searching discussions with the President of the Board of Trade so as to be quite sure that our precious exports, those things which are really wanted, go into the channels which will bring, in return, the things we need. It is folly for the Minister of Food to suggest that the Canadians are in any way to blame for what is now called the "short-fall" of Canadian supplies of bacon. It is folly to express surprise today that Denmark and other European countries are unable to send all the bacon we would like.
Let us look at our own domestic problem—how far can we help ourselves in this task of getting our production and 879 consumption of bacon at least up to the pre-war level? Today our production from our own farms is only one-third of what it was pre-war. I think that is disgraceful. There is no coherent policy between the two Ministries responsible —the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Food. The Ministry of Agriculture tells the farmers, "You must grow more grain in order to feed more pigs and more poultry." That, I think, is admirable advice. But then we come to the Ministry of Food side of this undertaking and we find that the farmer, smallholder, or backyarder, is held up and frustrated in every effort he makes to expand pig production.
I know that Ministers point with glee, as indeed the Lord President did at a dinner last week, to the increasing number of pigs in this country. Some increase has certainly taken place, but I am afraid—I hope I am wrong—from the number of sows that are being slaughtered today, that that increase in pig breeding is now passing away and that the next time we have a census we shall find that the number of breeding pigs—and, consequently, the number of young pigs fit to feed into pork and bacon—will at best be no more than stationary; that increase we have rejoiced to note in recent months will have stopped.
Why are not farmers going in for pig breeding in a big way? We are producing only one-third of what we did before the war. We have all the buildings, the equipment and the skill. My chap knows how to look after farrowing sows and fattening pigs as well as he did in 1939, but the pig sties are empty. I say it is because Government policy is hopelessly confused. Farmers are expected to grow more grain, but when the farmer comes to decide what he is going to do with his grain, it seems that the Government's policy is just about as daft as the farmer would be if he decided to feed his barley to pigs.
Even for second quality barley the Ministry of Food is paying 23s. a cwt.—that is, for barley which is to be ground up to make barley meal—while it the farmer keeps one-fifth of his own barley to feed to his pigs, as he is entitled to do, the price he gets for those pigs, when 880 he has finished them, is based only on 16s. 9d. a cwt., which is the price the Ministry of Food charges for whatever rations of barley meal the farmer is able to draw under the feedingstuffs rationing scheme.
§ Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)
Does the hon. Member argue from that, that the price of bacon should be increased or that the price of barley should be reduced?
§ Mr. Hurd
There should be a more sensible balance between the two, having in mind that the main purpose of growing more barley is to get more pork and bacon produced.
I suggest that the Ministers of Food and Agriculture might very profitably get together with the National Farmers' Union to find out what is wrong. We are getting a certain amount more barley grown, but we are not getting the next stage—that is, pigs fattened into pork and bacon. The Ministers should ask. What is wrong with our policy and our set up?" I believe they would get some excellent advice from the farmers' organisations in England, Scotland and Wales. What is happening today? The farmer, being a businessman, is selling his barley to the Ministry of Food and taking whatever meagre rations the Ministry allows him in return. Those rations carry a very heavy subsidy. The taxpayer meets the subsidy and the consumer goes without bacon.
It is my view, which has been expressed already from this side of the House, that if the Minister of Food would allow the private traders in grain to go out into the world again, using their experience and knowledge of world markets, they would get for us, in Britain, a better share of the extra supplies of coarse grains which exist in the world's markets today. In my view it is scandalous that British traders who used to serve us so well are now precluded from buying for our benefit and have to do trade for Continental countries and even for little countries like Abyssinia. As long as the stuff does not come here they can use all their skill in the world markets to buy for the benefit of other countries. That is folly, and even the Minister of Food, tied as he is to the Socialist policy of monopoly buying and bulk buying, must agree that circumstances have 881 altered and that it would be worth while seeing if some of these private traders could not get supplies here instead of having to find their trade in foreign countries.
There is one further point about pig feeding which I wish to raise. There are thousands of tons of potatoes available, much more than the Minister of Food or any hon. Member or the public generally will be able to consume. We want to get these potatoes into pigs just as quickly as possible. I have suggested previously, through a Question, that the Minister would do well to revise his price for bacon pigs so as to encourage farmers to feed potatoes to pigs. It is the older pig which can deal most economically with potatoes and it would be more commonsense, in view of the glut of potatoes, to fix the standard price of 36s. a score for fat pigs up to a weight limit of 12 score instead of merely up to 10 score as it is at the moment. In that way we should convert more potatoes into bacon, which is what the Minister and we all want to see.
It is also vital that we should increase the supply of animal protein. The Minister knows the point I have in mind—that his price-fixing policy is encouraging the beheading of cod. I believe one-fifth of the weight of a cod is in its head. That one-fifth used to make fish meal to feed pigs. The farmer needs fish meal to provide the essential protein balance for the barley and potatoes that are available. I think there has been a scrap between the fish side of the Minister of Food's Department and the feedingstuffs side, and I hope the Minister is putting his weight behind the feedingstuffs side and that we shall quickly get additional supplies of fish heads and other fish offal made available to the manufacturers of fish meal so that we can regain at least the pre-war production of fish meal.
Finally, is there any need to retain so many restrictions and frustrations on pig-keeping? I have spoken about the supply of feedingstuffs and how I think the Minister could make it possible for farmers, backyarders and smallholders to feed more pigs. But his regulations today are really terrifying to many people. What a business it is, when one wants to slaughter a pig, to satisfy the local office of the Ministry of Food that the pig was duly registered at the right time and 882 comes to its death duly accompanied by all the right forms and declarations. I do not know if the Minister himself keeps a pig. It would be a salutary exercise for him. If he practised it he would be able to see a little into the minds of those people who, by their own efforts, are trying to provide additional bacon for their own families and, to some extent, thus to relieve the Minister of the responsibility of having to provide rations for them.
I am glad to report to the House that one pig in my constituency has beaten the Minister of Food. It was an outsize pig, and was of such maturity that its career had started long before the Minister thought out this latest tangle of regulations. When the farmer applied to the local food office for a permit to slaughter this pig, the local food office refused it. They said the pig had never been registered. However, as a concession they said they would admit it to their files, and that a slaughtering licence would be given in two months' time. The owner pointed out that the pig already weighed 27 score. The official said, "I do not know what that means. It means nothing to me." The farmer said, "Shall I express it to you in terms of stones?" To which the answer was, "I know nothing about stones or scores. All I know is that the pig was not registered. We can, as a matter of grace, give you a permit for slaughter in two months' time." The farmer, being a wise man, went to his veterinary surgeon, and got him to certify that it would be cruel to keep the pig alive any longer.
Seriously however, we must clear the road of all obstacles in the way of more pig production in this country. I am not speaking only of the man like myself who used to produce 300 bacon pigs a year. I am speaking of all, including the backyarder. I think the need for more pork and bacon is so vital today that I should say to the farmer or the smallholder, "Go ahead. Use any meal or potatoes you like, and we will see that you get fish meal. There will be no let or hindrance on your producing all you can, so long as you put the fat pigs on contract to supply the ordinary consumers' rations." If the Minister said he wanted to get the production of pork and bacon doubled, trebled, quadrupled, and took the advice of the National 883 Farmers' Union and the Small Pig-Keepers' Council he would be surprised how successful his policy would become.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mrs. Castle (Blackburn)
I am sure we all enjoyed the engaging manner of the speech of the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd). I particularly liked the boyish, knock-about way in which he tried to dispose of my right hon. Friend. On his own ground of pigs, I think we can all almost say that he scored a bull's eye. But when he was trying to deal earlier in his speech with the wider aspect of the food problem we had cause to ask him to be a little less boyish, for he was almost at the point of being school-boyish. We had him coming to this House and saying, in that nice, large way of his, "We are in difficulties over our food imports. Somehow or another we are not getting the supplies from Canada." He actually said: "We somehow have messed up our financial and trade relations "—without giving any single specific argument to the House to justify generalisations of that kind.
The hon. Member accused my right hon. Friend of failing to get a "fair share" of the supplies. What is our "fair share" in the world situation to-day? As my right hon. Friend has pointed out, it is what we can buy, what we can afford to pay. Is that not the only fair share we can claim of world supplies—the share we can buy with our own money and with our own hard work at home? There is no superior being waiting to allocate us a quota free. It is true as the hon. Gentleman said, that it is difficult for us to go along to our constituents and ask them for an additional effort and for additional energy in the production drive when we know perfectly well that it would help us to make that appeal if we had bigger supplies of food. But what other alternative is there for the solution of this whole problem of food imports which faces us today, than an initial productive response from our own people, which will, in itself, put us in a position to buy the goods which they need?
That is why I want to suggest very seriously to hon. Gentlemen opposite that they are playing a most dangerous game in this food policy of theirs. For they are failing to bring home to the 884 people of this country that the problem we are facing is not only one that other countries are facing also but one which positively menaces civilisation as we know it today. We are receiving constant warnings that the world will have to meet greater food difficulties in the future and not less, and that we shall all of us have to face up to the realities of the post-war situation. Of course, it is true that our food supply position today is not a satisfactory one. My right hon. Friend would be the first person to admit that fact. Of course, it is true. No one on these benches has ever denied that we want to see a more sustaining diet for our people. However, I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite of what "The Observer" said not very long ago:As a nation we are a long way off the ideal diet that would be prescribed either by medical science or by natural appetite. But we always have been. No country in the world has yet succeeded in bringing an ideal diet within reach of all sections of the population.It is an enormous task to bring the ideal diet within the reach of all sections of the population. It is a gigantic one.
We have set our hands to this task at a time when food shortages and foreign exchange difficulties make it harder than ever to try to achieve the task. But if we fail to judge this problem objectively, if we are to have a continuation of this party political propaganda by hon. Gentlemen opposite, we shall not make much headway. We can see them waiting there, crouching ready for another difficulty that may come along. Their faces light up at the prospect. "Ah, ha," they say, "perhaps the Argentine will turn difficult, and there will be another twopence off the meat ration." We can see them, metaphorically speaking, rubbing their hands at the thought. Their faces drop when any good piece of food news is brought before this House.
This constant exaggeration of all the difficulties, this belittling of the achievements that have been accomplished, are having an effect in the country —I grant hon. Gentlemen opposite that—and they are having a psychological effect, to some extent, in the very places where we can least afford to have them—in the factories and the workshops. Hon. Gentlemen opposite grumble because there is not enough response to the production drive, and yet they carry 885 on this insidious propaganda among working-class people, saying they are underfed and cannot be expected to put their backs into their work because they are being starved by the Government. Then they wonder that some of their propaganda catches on and has effect.
I shall give an example. I thought it would be brought up in this Debate. I refer to an article by Dr. Stella Instone in the current issue of "The Lancet" describing the result of a survey into the health and general condition of 61 typical housewives attending clinics at a certain hospital. I thought somebody would bring this matter up today, and, sure enough, the hon. Member for Thirsk and Mahon (Mr. Turton) duly trotted it out. Of course, this matter was put on the front page of the "Daily Express." Of course, certain paragraphs of the original article were taken out of their setting. Of course, this objective piece of medical research was twisted and tortured into another attack on the Government. Here we have this headline in the "Daily Express":'Women are underfed,' says Dr. Stella. 'Mothers dream of standing in queues.'The opening paragraph of this report by the "Daily Express" ran:Some of Britain's mothers, harassed by rationing dream regularly of shopping, standing in queues, and cooking.I would remind hon. Members opposite that some of the housewives in my constituency used not to dream of shopping and cooking but of staying at home and not being able to do either. However, I noticed that the report in the "Daily Mirror," on the same article, was slightly different. This is how the "Daily Mirror" account opened:The average housewife worries most about marriage problems and least about rationing and austerity.In two newspapers there were totally contradictory accounts.
So I went to the original source, as I always try to do, and read this article with considerable care and interest. Of course, it is quite true that the housewives who were interviewed were suffering from fatigue and from great struggles and hardships in their homes. Large numbers of housewives in this country have always suffered from those hardships. These typical housewives came from the £5 a week and less category—from the people who have always in the 886 past carried undue burdens of work, of anxiety, of housing difficulties and lack of proper equipment in the home; who have never in the past been catered for by any Government adequately, and whose needs have now only come legitimately into the limelight. We must, in all honesty, put the blame where it is due. If hon. Members opposite care to read this article, they will find that the two main troubles of the housewives are long standing ones—husbands and houses. The new difficulties of rationing and austerity are not the main ones. This is how Mrs. K. M. Kershaw, who helped with the inquiry, summed that matter up:I consider that the most important preoccupation of these housewives has been with problems of marital friction. I place housing problems second. The least preoccupation is caused by rationing and austerity; but the women in this low income group have, in most cases, been accustomed to hardship all their lives.Quite unabashed by its own rather selective reporting, the "Daily Express" launched into a leading article the next day quoting this article as proof of the failure of the food policy of the Government, saying that food is too dear and too scarce, and producing as reasons for this: first bad management by the Government, and secondly bulk buying.
Let us look at these arguments. Let us look at the argument about food being too dear. Certainly, the price of food is of the utmost importance to the housewife in the £5 a week and less income group, but when we look at the food price situation we find a very remarkable fact—that British food prices today are among the lowest in the world. I advise hon. Members opposite to read the Monthly Bulletin of Statistics of the United Nations—
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)
I was interested in the remarks which the hon. Lady made about the attitude of the Conservative Party on the question of rationing when she said that she proposed to produce some proof. The proof appears to be an article in the "Daily Express" for which, of course, we do not have any responsibility at all. Perhaps the hon. Lady would now produce the proof of the allegations which she is making against us.
§ Mrs. Castle
If the hon. Gentleman had been listening throughout this Debate as I have been, he would have heard 887 more than one speech from his side advancing these same arguments, for the old attacks about bulk buying sending up prices and creating scarcities have been frequently advanced. In that respect, the "Daily Express" has faithfully reported a certain section of political opinion in this country. I am not, however, to be diverted from giving figures which he will have to admit reflect credit on the Government for a change. I know that the hon. Gentleman would rather not hear them, for they show that, far from food in this country being too dear in relation to world trends and world prices, we have had a smaller increase in food prices since the end of the war than almost any other country in the world.
The United Nations "Monthly Bulletin of Statistics," as I have said, will give the hon. Gentleman the figures, if he cares to look at them. I have selected one or two. The increase in food prices in the United Kingdom between July, 1946. and July, 1948, was about 2 per cent. In Switzerland, a country which we have been told to look to with envy for its food situation, the increase was 9 per cent. In Sweden, another country which we are asked to look upon as an agreeable place, very pleasant to live in. the increase was 12 per cent. In the United States, the increase was 30 per cent.; Canada, 40 per cent.; and in France, the country of free enterprise in food, where prices have been out of control and the black market has flourished the most. the increase was 197 per cent.
§ Mrs. Castle
I am assuming that that is so and I am perfectly willing to face it. I am not ashamed that subsidies are one of the causes of our favourable position. When I hear the complaint that housewives in the £5 per week income group and less are suffering acute difficulties because of the high cost of food, I say to hon. Members opposite that they should be the last people to advance that argument in this House, because they wish to withdraw the food subsidies which are the protection of the £5 a week housewife against an intolerable rise in prices; and, therefore, I think that the Opposition are on very tricky ground indeed. 888 We have proof here that our carefully planned and highly successful policy of price control and price subsidies in food have been of great benefit to those people who, if they were submitted to any more hardship. would find the burden really intolerable.
I suggest to hon. Members opposite that the second reason for the advantageous position in which we stand in relation to the rest of the world concerning food prices is due to the factor of bulk purchase and bulk buying which hon. Members opposite have attempted time after time to discredit. I was interested to read in "The Observer" yesterday an account, almost in an accusing tone, by one of their political columnists, saying:The fact is that the Government's longterm agreement with Canada has enabled Britain to buy wheat far below market price.Is this not, therefore, an example of the success of the policy of bulk buying which has been so frequently attacked?
Wherever we look in the world today the evidence makes it clear that only with a policy of controls on the one hand and long-term Government planning on the other can there be any hope of holding price levels against an intolerable rise. We have had a recent example in the United States of America—a country which belatedly is having to face up to the problem of the effects and byproducts of free enterprse and decontrol. We have had the very interesting example of "The Economist" itself recanting on the position in Germany, and having to admit the failure there of Dr. Erhardt's policy of removing price controls. I suggest that, far from our having had too many controls, the weaknesses in our present position can be traced to the gaps which still exist in the control mechanism which keeps the ill effects of free enterprise at bay.
Today we have cause for anxiety, because food import prices are still rising. What has bedevilled the whole of the Government's food policy—as we all know if we are honest and admit it—has been the constant rise against us in the prices of imported foods, so that the harder we have worked to step up our exports, to rally people to the production drive, the more we have found the fruits of our efforts snatched away from us by rising prices overseas. That process 889 is apparently still continuing. I see from current statistics that again in October there was another rise of 10 points in the price of imported foods.
§ Mrs. Castle
As a matter of fact, I have. For the month I am quoting, export prices did not keep pace—as they have failed to do on occasions in the past—with the rise in prices of our food imports—
§ Mrs. Castle
—with the result that there was a further adverse trend in the balance of trade. The price index for total exports in October was the same as for September, whereas the price index for total imports rose by over 1 per cent. to a little above the July and August figures. There was, therefore, an adverse change in the terms of trade compared with the favourable movement of the previous two months. That is the latest figure I have been able to obtain.
What causes me anxiety is this. 1 voted against the American Loan because I believed that for us to borrow money from a free enterprise America, which had not established a policy of price controls, either internally or in its relationship with the outside world, was to ask for only one thing: the operation of the free enterprise principle of the law of supply and demand. We were borrowing money in order to put prices up against us by giving ourselves a purchasing power which would, because prices in America were uncontrolled, force up the cost of our imports. That is, of course, what happened to the American Loan. Substantially, it was swallowed up by rises in the prices of our imports, and in particular in the prices of food.
I would urge on my right hon. Friend the necessity for the extension of bulk buying from a Government scale to bulk buying by Europe as a whole. Has O.E.E.C. any policy for "ganging up," in order to see that we do not suffer the baleful effects of competition by one Marshall Aid country against another for the available food supplies? This time, shall we avoid the situation in which the payment of Marshall Aid merely puts money into the pockets of countries which otherwise would not have it, 890 enabling them to compete one against the other for goods in short supply which are not price controlled, so continually forcing up the prices of those supplies against us? If that is to be the case, I suggest it is suicide. Just as the American Loan went down the drain, so shall we find, if we are not careful, that Marshall Aid will be squandered in paying higher prices to industries and countries which believe in the benefits of un-control, and as a result will drag the world down in chaos.
One final words about controls. There is a control which it lies within the power of our own Government to exercise. Is my right hon. Friend taking seriously the job of controlling the prices of fruit and vegetables—which are now in ample enough supply, broadly speaking, compared with the scarcity in other directions —of seeing that there is passed on to the housewife the benefit of the abundance which came during the Summer, and is still reasonably with us—of vegetables and certain fruits? It is still our experience that, somehow or another, between the grower and the home the benefits of increased production or increased imports seem to get lost.
In October, 1947, we were told that a fruit and vegetable organisation was being set up jointly by my right hon. Friend and the Minister of Agriculture, that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food was in charge, and that it would examine the distributive arrangements in this field. We have had no kind of report from that organisation. All we have had is the opening of a few more greengrocers' shops. I can assure my right hon. Friend that that extension of competition has not meant that the benefit of the abundance of fruit and vegetables has been passed on to the housewife. Why, only the other day I had to pay Is. 6d. for quite a small cauliflower, and 6d. for 1 lb. of sprouts. Green vegetables are still a semi-luxury in this country. Yet we are told by growers that there is a glut to such an extent that all imports of competitive vegetables should be stopped. We should like to see that glut reflected in terms of cheap prices for our vegetables.
When will my right hon. Friend let us have some report of the result of the activities of this organisation, and some indication of the carrying out of the Lucas 891 Report recommendations? Are we to have the Commodity Commission which that Report proposed, to examine the question of distribution? I am frequently asked by housewives: "Where have the apples gone?" In London and other large areas of the country, eating apples cannot at present be bought. When one goes into a retail shop the retailer will say: "Well, the price is controlled and therefore the apples have disappeared." Are we to be at the mercy of a distributive arrangement for fruit and vegetables which means that we either have to abandon price control or else see the stuff disappear from the market? I ask my right hon. Friend to realise that it is only controls and planning that have stood between the British housewife and intolerable hardship, and to extend them where necessary, and without fear.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
Being a feminist in outlook I refrain—though I must say with some reluctance—from criticising the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). I suppose we should, however, be courteous enough on this side of the House to welcome the attack of her spleen, so diverting it from the hon. Lady who opened the Debate.
§ Sir T. Moore
The hon. Gentleman cannot have been here during the whole discussions or he would know exactly to whom I was referring.
Now about the Parliamentary Secretary herself. I cannot agree with some of my hon. Friends. I think she made a very good argument for a thoroughly bad case. She was persuasive, as she always is; but somehow I cannot see that that persuasiveness will go down with the people of this country, or will soften or assuage the criticism which every housewife feels for the Ministry of Food more than for any other Department of Government. We can see that from the Petitions we 892 are constantly being invited to present to the House. People feel that the system of the Ministry of Food is unfair because it penalises the poorest of the community as against those who are better off. For instance, in this House we have a most adequate refreshment department; the black marketeer and the racketeer can obtain their luxuries, and the factories have their canteens. Nearly every one can find food outside the home if he can afford to buy it, but the unfortunate retired people, like ex-teachers, ex-policemen and ex-officers, whose pensions have not been increased for years past, find themselves totally incapable of coping with the situation on a single ration book.
I think there is a singular lack of liaison between the Minister of Food and the Minister of Agriculture, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) has pointed out. We have heard mentioned many times over the past few years the urgent necessity for feeding-stuffs, and we have heard the poor defence of the hon. Lady this afternoon. She pointed out the reasons why feeding-stuffs cannot be obtained in sufficient quantities to develop our own stocks, and yet last year, for the first time since the beginning of the war, I have found myself inundated with wine merchants' catalogues. Needless to say I have not made any use of them, but it shows that there is some lack of proportion. Why are we bringing in these very expensive wines from France and elsewhere when we could be using this valuable currency to buy more feedingstuffs?
§ Mr. Strachey
The answer to that question is a very simple one, and it has often been given to the House. It is because we cannot get anything else from France. We are giving France a very much larger amount of exports than we are taking payments in return. Therefore, it is a question of getting the wines or nothing, or no payment at all. It is very important the House should know of that fact.
§ Sir T. Moore
I merely quoted that case, as one of many, because I felt it would appeal to Members opposite who are accustomed to the taste of good wines.
There is another point which is made, and that is the mystery, as the hon. Lady described it, of what happens to the cattle in Eire. I know something about 893 that country, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if he relates the exports of coal from this country to the imports of cattle from Eire, he will find that, if the coal is not restricted, the cattle will suddenly be forthcoming, whether on the hoof or as carcasses. Eire has no means of driving her trains, running her factories and producing her gas or electricity except with the coal she receives from this country—turf is no good at all. By a policy of bartering we should suddenly be able to raise that figure of 3,600 to 16,000, which is the amount we imported before the war. I have no intention of covering the wider field, which has already been adequately dealt with by my agricultural friends on this side of the House. They have practical knowledge of the subject, so different from the urban knowledge possessed by Members opposite.
I wish to deal with one narrow point that has come to the attention of all hon. Members, and that is the issue of licences by the Minister of Food. I put a Question a few days ago to the Ministry of Food, which was the result of some fruitless but perfectly polite correspondence with the Parliamentary Secretary. I asked the Minister of Food what his present policy was in regard to applications to open food shops, and what were the considerations which influenced him in approving or rejecting such applications. The hon. Lady told me that, with the four exceptions of milk, meat, sweets and soap, her right hon. Friend's policy was to permit free entry into the retail food trade. She said that applicants received permits for rationed foods if they could give reasonable evidence that they would establish themselves as bona fide traders, and that as far as the four exceptions were concerned entry was limited to places where the needs of the consumers required additional "selling points." I suppose "selling point" is the Departmental jargon for a shop. I have always found, in my correspondence with the hon. Lady, that she treats me with marked courtesy, is invariably sympathetic and is generally helpful within the limits imposed on her by the invariably stupid policy of her Department. Therefore, I am not criticising her, but the policy she has to administer, and particularly the policy in regard to licences and permits.
894 I imagine that nearly every Member has had a similar experience to mine, particularly in respect of ex-Service constituents. Before these men were demobilised they were encouraged and promised to believe in a Utopia in "Civvy Street." They naturally did not realise then that it was unscrupulous propaganda, probably devised by the Lord President of the Council, who is singularly astute in these matters, just to get their votes. Of course, they fell for it, not realising that the days had gone by when a man was free to earn his own living, bring up his family and indulge in the adventure of living. They did not realise that a man must now do what the State tells him, that he works where the State directs him to go, that the State gives orders, and finally, I suppose, that he dies when the State has no further use for him.
So our trusting ex-Service man sets about disposing of his gratuity. If he went into the Services without any trade of his own to which he could return, he immediately thinks about buying a little shop. He says he will set up a fish and chip shop, perhaps run a lorry, or buy a little ice-cream business. When he has made his decision, he suddenly finds himself confronted with snags he never anticipated. He finds that he needs fats, sugar, butter and milk, all of which need a permit or a licence. This is all new to him, because "Let Us Face The Future" did not tell him about it. He then starts the wearying round, and finally, bemused and frustrated by endless inquiries by the local food executive officer, he writes in despair to his Member. The Member, with some sardonic memories of his previous efforts, appeals to the Minister of Food. After an interval, long or short, and there is no telling what it will be, the Member is regretfully informed, in most sympathetic language, that the request is turned down. The reason given is that the community or neighbourhood already has a sufficient number of fish shops, ice cream shops—as if juveniles ever had enough ice cream—or teashops, as the case may be.
That is my complaint. In my fruitless correspondence with the Parliamentary Secretary, I have told her that that sort of thing is psychologically wrong, even if it is not morally wrong. The refusal of these licences creates resentment 895 and hostility against the Government. Of course, I do not mind that, but it causes anger against society in general. A man feels he is not being given a fair chance of making his way in life. I say that the licences should be granted, and that a person should be left to find out for himself the truth or otherwise of the Minister's view. If he succeeds he proves one of two things—either that there was an opening in the community for what he wanted to sell, or that he has given better service than his established competitors. In either case, a useful purpose has been served. If he fails—and this is a possibility which often influences the Ministry—he has no one but himself to blame; he is left with no grievance against the Government or society. That would be of benefit to the public, because society will then have given him his chance.
I have wanted to make this point in every food Debate we have had during the last two or three years, because I believe it is essential that this should be said in connection with the administration of the Department. I ask the Minister and his hon. Friend to give it their very serious attention.
§ Mr. Daines (East Ham, North)
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that when the Minister freed the fish friers' trade for a time the main opposition came from within the trade, as it invariably does from other trades every time my right hon. Friend makes a move towards freeing private enterprise from controls? Is he also aware that these people are those who prodded him politically, to make the kind of speech which he has just made?
§ Sir T. Moore
No one prodded me to make this speech. I made it because of the stream of letters I have had from disgruntled ex-Service men in my constituency.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Dye (Norfolk, South-Western)
Unlike the hon. and gallant Member. for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), I do not wish to ignore the speech made by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), with whom I agree that this country does not benefit in any way by the import of such large quantities of wine. Whatever reason there may be for 896 it, I do not believe the country is better off and, as an agriculturist, I would much rather that some of our agricultural machinery was retained at home instead of being sent to France in exchange for luxury wines. We have to adapt our standard of living to the conditions in the world today.
There is this background: a rising world population side by side with a decline in food production. Changes in the world beyond our immediate control are bound to affect not only our trade but our standard of living. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), who pointed out so forcibly that our standard of living must depend on the value of our output, whether it is for home consumption or for exports with which to bring back imports. The sooner everyone in this country realises that the better.
It is not a question of scoring party political points; it is a question of the value of our production. We must become more efficient in all our industries, and in the transport of goods from place to place, bearing in mind that we earned part of our living before the war by means of investments abroad which have now disappeared. Our income is cut by that great loss, and the sooner we adjust ourselves to present-day circumstances the better. It is a matter for regret by Members on all sides that during the war we turned to Canada so largely for our food supplies, and that we are now forced to control our imports in such a way as to bring about a very large reduction in the quantity of food from that country and have to turn, once more, to the countries of Europe. Wars are not an infrequent occurrence, and we do not know how soon we shall have to turn back to Canada for greater supplies of bacon as well as wheat. This is a matter dictated by our manufacturers in relation to the requirements of Canada. Unless we can supply a greater proportion of Canada's requirements, we shall not have the dollars with which to purchase the food that she undoubtedly has to sell.
I thought the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton, as a practical man, was a little wide of the mark when he suggested that the Minister should have distributed as quickly as possible his stock of weevil-infested barley. I should not have thought that he would have wanted 897 farmers to have had any of that barley sent to them—
§ Mr. Turton
The hon. Member must have misheard what I said. I said the Minister should have circulated it as quickly as possible, instead of keeping it for seven months in sacks. I am sure the hon. Member, as a practical farmer will agree with that.
§ Mr. Dye
"Circulating as quickly as possible" means sending out infested barley. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the barley was disinfested of the weevil before being sold. That took time, but I must say that the wiser advice would be not to purchase abroad barley which is infested with weevil or let it become weevil-infested when it arrives here. Many of us have regretted that the Ministry allowed fowls from Hungary to be imported. Those fowls were infected with fowl pest, and the damage they did to home production more than outweighed the advantage we gained from them. When importing from countries which have a lower standard of feeding than we have, we should he careful lest damage is done to our own production.
Again, in one sentence the hon. Gentleman advised the Minister of Food about tea. I do not profess to know anything about tea, but the hon. Member said, "Open up Mincing Lane as an open market for tea, where it can be bought and sold for other parts of the world." Yet. in another part of his speech, he censured the Ministry of Food for allowing such a market in sugar. The Parliamentary Secretary pointed out that we imported raw sugar, refined it and exported it and earned money thereby. The hon. Member cannot have it both ways. If he is in favour of an open market for tea, he should also congratulate the Ministry on allowing the earnings that are being earned in refining sugar. [Interruption.] It is quite a different point, but the principle is exactly the same.
To turn to a question which is a matter of concern to the House and to the whole country—our supplies of bacon—we all regret that there has been this decline in the supply of bacon. Before the war we were largely dependent upon imports from other parts of the world, and the decline in that respect is represented in the amount which is now available to us here. In my view, the extent to which we can increase our supply of pigs for both pork 898 and bacon in this country has been underestimated by some people. I should like to see every encouragement given to the fullest possible production of pig meat in this country. I know that there are limitations due to the fact that feeding-stuffs are not so plentiful, but they are now more plentiful in certain parts of the country than at any time since the war. Yet there is not the extension of pig keeping which one would expect.
There is a decline in the demand for store pigs, and there are certain brakes on progress which could be removed. Reference has already been made by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) to one of them—the scale of prices. I find that people will not believe that there is an urgent demand for bacon because if, when they send pigs to market and one is 261 pounds dead weight, £3 2s. less is paid for it than for one which weighs 210 pounds. They say, "Why, for 41 pounds more meat, are we paid £3 2s. less?" That seems ridiculous. If the Ministry of Food, together with the Ministry of Agriculture, can bring about an alteration in this respect, I am sure that they will give desirable encouragement.
I do not wish to encourage in this country the production on a large scale of pigs which would not make good bacon. I realise the need for quality as well as quantity. But before the war we had a scheme based upon grading of bacon pigs. That has been scrapped and neither that nor any similar scheme has since been put into operation. We should take a more intelligent attitude towards the production of bacon pigs in this country. If a better scale of payment were introduced, based on grades, I believe that we could get a better flow of pigs to the bacon factories.
I also believe that we need to appeal to the producers of pigs in the country in a more imaginative way than merely by a scale of prices. We ought to place quite plainly before the farming community of this country the fact that it is within its power to bring to the people of this country greater quantities of bacon and ham from the production of our own soil. More barley must be grown as well as wheat and oats and other feedingstuffs. We must continue to the fullest possible extent the production of grain at home in order to have the feedingstuffs for the pigs if we are to get greater quantities of bacon. If this means difficulties here and 899 there on the farms, it is of the utmost importance that we should call upon the farming community to endeavour to overcome them in the interests of providing a better breakfast table for the people of this country.
The question of beef has been mentioned. In this respect we are largely dependent on imported beef. My view is that we should regard these islands—Great Britain and the whole of Ireland, North and South—as one farming community. Southern Ireland, in particular, with their type of soil and climate, which produce vast quantities of good grass, is just the right place to rear stock, although not always to fatten a great quantity of stock. By rearing stock there and bringing a good proportion to this country to finish it off as fat beef, we could increase the production of beef. During the past year—and in my view this will apply equally to the coming year—the outlook has been one of less home produced beef, that is, from Great Britain and Ireland. It is indicated by statistics. There are fewer cattle between one and two years old in Great Britain, and those are the cattle which should go into the butchers' shops next year.
We should give greater encouragement to Ireland to produce more beef cattle. They can produce the right type of cattle, a better type than is reared here or bought further afield. In Ireland and in this country we can produce the finest beef in the world, and we should set out to do it over a long period. We are now giving a subsidy for rearing cattle in Great Britain of £4 per head for each steer calf that is reared to 12 months old. I see no reason for a different price being paid for cattle reared in Ireland than the price given for those reared in this country. The subsidy of £4 per head is much bigger than the difference used to be so far as Irish store cattle are concerned. There is still, as formerly, a difference of 5s. per live hundredweight. Therefore, on a 10 cwt. bullock the difference was formerly only 50s. Now, that 50s., added to the £4, is much bigger than is required to encourage home farmers to rear more cattle for beef.
If the Government could go to the rearers of cattle in Ireland and say to them, "We do not require any differentiation 900 in price whatever. You produce all you can and we will take the lot and pay for them at what is considered to be a fair price in this country," they would still always have the cost of transport against them. Today that is about 5s. per live hundredweight. If we are to provide greater quantities of beef for our own people from our own resources that is the way to get it, and the sooner we make that appeal, both to Irish and British producers, the sooner shall we have a greater flow of home-produced beef for our own people. That is something that would be appreciated more than anything else.
Of course, there is nothing better to have with a nice piece of steak than a few onions, and home producers have been producing onions in great quantities. They are rather disturbed that at a time when we still have large quantities in this country we should be importing them. I hope that two things will emerge from the present situation. One is that the Ministry of Food will give attention to the quantities of food, such as onions, which can be produced in this country. Those who grow them should organise and market them in such a way that they can inform the Ministry of the acreage and weight of onions that are available; and they should dry them and store them in such a way that the housewife will prefer the English onions to those from Holland or anywhere else. That is the great lesson of the tragedy of growing large quantities of onions in this country without proper means of drying them or storing them, or a good system for marketing them. We must tighten up our system of marketing home produce so that its sale can be well organised and the housewife, when she gets home produce, will appreciate the fact that those who have produced it and marketed it have tried to do so in a way that she will approve.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Duthie (Banff)
I want to touch upon some aspects of food production and distribution, in which it has been my lot to have experience. In so doing I should like to advance one or two suggestions to the Minister of Food and to the Parliamentary Secretary. I would draw attention, first, to the present flour restrictions operating in the bakery trade. The position is causing the deepest concern. That situation should 901 be made known to the House so that the concern can be shared by all Members.
Bread rationing came to an end on 25th July last. Some time before its demise it had ceased to function. On 18th July—the date is rather important—that is to say, seven days before bread rationing came to an end, bakers were informed that the flour allocation for the future would be based upon the average weekly quantity used by them during the previous year. During that 12 months the consumption of bread and of bakery products in this country had gone steadily upwards. During the last six months of 1947, which was the first half of the datum period selected, the average weekly usage of flour in this country was 99,400 tons.
For the first six months of 1948, the second half of the datum year, the average weekly usage had increased to 101,000 tons. There had been a steady increase before the datum period. It is not a wild suggestion to make that during the last two months of the datum period, May and June, 1948, there was a further substantial weekly usage of bread and bakery products.
Bakers are now given the average for the year, and in this way are being asked to meet the country's requirements upon a lower weekly intake for flour than they had been getting in the last weeks and months of rationing. It is true that local food officers have it in their power to make special allocations to bakers in respect of contractual liabilities to the Forces, to hospitals and for new housing estates, but there is no increase at all and no consideration is shown to the bakers for the normal increase in their over-the-counter trade with the public. The situation is paradoxical.
With the abolition of rationing there has been brought into being by the Ministry of Food a much more rigid and practical form of bread rationing than was used during the operation of the B.U's. This would perhaps be all right if the Ministry had told the public what it was doing, but there has been little, and in many instances there has been no, public notification of what is happening. Bakers are being asked, from their own resources, to operate a rationing system of which the country has had no notification. What is the result? Some 902 bakers have been able to build up stocks of flour, but these have been extinguished or are in the process of being extinguished. Other bakers, in order to meet the public demand, have been mortgaging their future supplies.
Indeed, some very important bakers have already cut down bread production. With all this, there has been no campaign on the part of the Ministry of Food for the prevention of bread waste. I do not know what has gone wrong with the Public Relations Department but it seems that the Ministry have been most singularly deficient in this regard in a job which was incumbent upon them to do for the baking trade and for the public. There was no consultation with trade asociations before the flour allocations were decided upon. It would be true to say that, unless there is a complete re-organisation of the allocation of flour to bakers, a serious crack-up is coming in the country's bread supplies. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady will accept what I am saying.
Now I would say a word about sweets. We have seen an extremely welcome addition to the sweet ration. For years now the children of this country have not been getting sufficient sweets. Inherent in the raising of the sweet ration is a danger, which has no doubt occurred to the Ministry. If it has not occurred to the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady before, I will point it out to them. In the confectionery industry during the war a system of price categories has been in operation. There are four categories: one, the very lowest priced; No. 2, the slightly higher priced; No. 3, higher priced still, and 4, the highest priced of all.
These categories were allocated to manufacturers, and must govern their manufacturing efforts. They arc dependent upon what the manufacturer was doing in 1938 and 1939, completely irrespective of any production he was engaged in before 1938, and irrespective of any production potential that he may have. A manufacturer in the higher categories can enter the lower categories, but one in the lower categories cannot enter the higher categories. A man operating in the higher-priced categories has, in fact, through the operation of this system, 903 something in the nature of a sweet monopoly accorded to him. I would strongly urge upon the Ministry that these categories should be swept away and that a healthy type of competition should be engendered in the sweet industry which would redound to the public benefit. The limitation should be that the manufacturer should keep up at least a considerable proportion of his output in the cheaper forms of sweets but all should be allowed to compete in the higher classes. There is no doubt that by that means prices would come down.
It is not my intention to hold the House longer than necessary but I want to draw attention to one phase of food production which I believe has not been mentioned during the Debate. It is the fishing industry. Praiseworthy and practical help has indeed been given to the fishing industry in recent months. When we consider our food situation, the question arises whether we are making the most of our industry in these sea-girt islands. The industry is being very severely hampered and its activities have been seriously handicapped by mounting costs. In particular, there is the cost of gear and nets. It may be that that is not quite within the province of the Ministry of Food, but it is a matter which should be of the deepest concern to the Ministry and one in which the Ministry should co-operate with the Board of Trade with a view to getting prices down to the lowest possible level. There was a slight move towards reduced costs some time during the summer but that was offset in a very short space of time by prices going up still further. The one bogy of our herring, trawler and seine net fishermen is lost gear. They may have a successful season but the loss on nets and ropes may place them completely "in the red" and they dare not take risks.
In order to take full advantage of our fishing grounds, our fishermen must fish under all possible conditions, and in order to do that, it is essential that gear prices are reduced. A great deal remains to be done, and here the Ministry have already given a slight lead—but they must wade in with both feet—with quick freezing. A considerable amount of effort is being made by private enterprise to install quick freezing plants in the north but we ought to have a first-class 904 and completely modern system of quick freezing at all our fishing ports. Fish would then reach our markets in infinitely better condition and would be available practically at all times.
I want to draw the attention of the House to the potentialities of the herring industry. Here is an industry the capabilities of which the House has not yet any glimmering. At present we are faced with a world shortage of oils and fats, and our depression is accentuated when our hopes of the East African scheme must be deferred for a season or perhaps even more. There are tremendous possibilities for oil production in the herring. The Report of the Herring Board mentions the preliminary effort which it has made to extract oil from the herring, and in the early part of the summer I saw the new plant at Wick, but that is only scratching the surface. In fact, it is not even scratching the surface. What we want are large plants situated either centrally or at the ports, wherever the herring can be taken quickly.
Commonsense must tell us that if we can produce unlimited quantities of first-class edible oil within our own borders, it will be an enormous national asset from every point of view and particularly from that of defence, because it will make us all the more self supporting in time of trouble This should go to the fishermen as a mandate, "Every herring you can catch we can use on shore." There should be a flat rate for all herring landed, whether they are used for curing, kippering, freezing or manufacture into oil and fish meal.
The Herring Board should have complete power to allocate all landings to the various interests requiring them. We should have the largest possible herring fleet operating from one year's end to another. There is no possibility of over fishing the herring, for the teeming shoals round about our coast are literally inexhaustible. There would no longer be any need for those of us who represent the fishing industry and have the interests of fishermen absolutely in our bones and sinews to worry and grieve over lost Russian and other foreign markets if that organisation on shore existed in order to take every fish that could possibly be landed.
I close on a somewhat personal note. I have a deep and abiding regard —a loyalty—for the Ministry of Food. 905 It was my privilege to be a member of that organisation from the food defence plan days of 1938 up to 1945. I must own with the deepest regret that I have had the feeling for some considerable time that the Ministry have got more and more out of touch with the public and with trade interests generally. It should be well within the power of the Ministry to recapture that old standing with the public by keeping it informed, and whenever it wants the public to do a job, it should ask the public in a nice way, and the public will respond. Many of the trade difficulties which we have instanced would never have arisen if there had been that frank discussion with the trade associations before the fiat was issued by the Ministry and the trade had to toe the line. I sincerely trust that the Ministry will endeavour to set its house in order in that regard if in no other.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I am glad to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) who has spoken in such a well-informed way, but I do not agree with his remarks about the Ministry of Food because I think the Ministry has done rather well, especially in the last year. I have tried to discover why hon. Members—I am not referring to the general public—should be so pessimistic on the subject of food. Why should there be so many complaints? Surely hon. Members have informed themselves of what is happening in the community outside. I do not mean in complaints from their constituents, but what is happening to men, women and children as a result of eating the food. which, according to some hon. Members. is so entirely insufficient for their needs.
It is a fact that at the present time there is no serious epidemic in this country of any kind and that the general health of the population is probably better than it has been for many years past. There is an old saying, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating," which it may not be inappropriate to quote in a Debate on food. One might also say that the health of the people of this country is the best answer to whether or not they are getting adequate food. At the moment, mothers in childbirth are better and there are fewer deaths than there have been for many years. Infant 906 mortality is less now than it has ever been.
One hon. Member suggested that so much stress should not be laid on milk. Surely that hon. Member and every hon. Member knows perfectly well that the fact that so much more liquid milk is now consumed in this country, largely by children, is one of the reasons why the children are bigger and better—bigger grown and better developed—than they have ever been. That is a fact. One may not like it—[HoN. MEMBERS: "We do like it."]—but that is the fact. I like it very much. I rejoice that that is so in spite of the very adverse conditions.
What is really happening is that we are now getting towards the time when we can look into the future and see a more prosperous diet ahead, where the housewife would like more relief from the anxieties of ordinary daily life. In consequence we are now complaining. There is undoubtedly a basis for many complaints in some of the conditions of food distribution in certain areas, because it varies much from area to area. I could tell hon. Members of parts of the country where food is plentiful and its distribution is easy. In the towns and villages of Essex there. is less difficulty. There one gets fruit and fish and what meat there is. It is not much, of course, but combined with fish it gives the adequate proteins needed. On the other hand, Westminster itself, where many hon. Members live, is one of the worst shopping areas of the country. and there are other areas where the shopping facilities are bad.
The fact of the matter is that, with the exception of certain local difficulties, conditions are probably now, even in shopping, much better than they were during the war, as the hon. Member for Banff said. People put up with those things in the war because they had to, but they do not feel that now, and they can complain if they like. Let us be reasonable about this matter. Let hon. Members who have been abroad in Europe, as I have recently, or have been to the Near East or the Far East, as I have during the last two years, realise how much better our food standards are in this country, speaking for the ordinary man and especially the poor man, than almost any other country in the world. I am not talking about the United States. 907 I have many friends and relations there and I am told that prices are so high that many people with incomes equal to those of hon. Members in this House find it difficult to have meat more than twice a week. I am not pretending that we have arrived suddenly at Utopia under the leadership of the Minister of Food and his extremely efficient Parliamentary Secretary, but I suggest that our food supplies are much better than hon. Members are trying to make out.
I was glad that the hon. Member for Banff confined himself largely to making suggestions for improvements. May I make two modest suggestions of how it might be possible to increase the number of eggs and the amount of bacon? I believe that we have not exhausted the possibilities of the domestic poultry keeper and the domestic pig keeper. If we could get a little more food for laying hens for the domestic poultry keeper, and allow each individual to keep more than one or two units—most people keep much more because most hens kept by domestic poultry keepers are fed not only on balancer meal but on scraps from the household which provide the larger part of the food—we might conceivably double the production of eggs obtained by domestic poultry keepers.
This would mean a considerable addition to the eggs in the country, and an easily accessible production through a large number of people who are able to keep hens in London as well as in country districts. It has been announced recently that more of the coarse grains are available than ever before. Cannot some of that. and some of the large stocks of excess potatoes, be made available for the kind of feeding which would enable a considerable increase of stock for the domestic poultry and pig keepers? It is not a large contribution but it is a practical one and one which might be made.
Before I came into this House today I was looking at the condition of people in certain military hospitals. The high standard of health was striking. The fact that there is, practically speaking, no infectious disease as there was after the first World War—for when infectious disease comes in epidemic form, it is a sign of a decline in nutrition—is an example of the fact that we were well fed in the war —I pay my tribute to Lord Woolton— 908 and are being well fed in peace, and I think the House should pay its tribute to the present Minister of Food.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
Perhaps the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) will forgive me if I do not follow him closely because it is difficult, when these specialised points are brought up, to give a direct answer. However, I saw some figures two or three days ago which showed that the growth in children has fallen somewhat between 1945 and 1948 compared with the rise during the war years. I am glad that the hon. Member for North Islington, like the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Dye). supported an increase in the home production of food, if for no other reason than that people are at last beginning to realise what it will mean to this country when, as the years go by, there will not be available the large quantities of cheap overseas foodstuffs which were available to Britain before the war. It has been not unamusing to some of us to remember how Sir John Boyd Orr when he was sitting on this side of the House used to make these remarks and was accused of trying to overthrow the wonderful Socialist Government. Now that he is head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations we find his sayings being quoted by the Socialists up and down the country.
My hon. Friends on this side of the House have already put fully the internal position and I will deal with foodstuffs from overseas. I spent some weeks last autumn in Canada and the United States, and it is relevant to this argument to mention the "dollar shortage," which is always brought up as something which would have happened whatever party had been in power. I am quite certain that by now, nearly 31 years after the end of the war, had my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) been the head of the Administration since 1945, the tide would have been turning strongly and by now the pound sterling would have been just about convertible. That has to happen before we can get an adequate and unrestricted supply of foodstuffs from across the Atlantic.
It is quite impossible to go on cutting up the Commonwealth and Empire into small bits and saying that one area is a 909 dollar area and therefore we cannot get a large part of our foodstuffs from it. I was in Ontario on behalf of the British Empire Producers looking at tobacco—which is relevant to this Debate because tobacco is included with foodstuffs in certain trade statistics. In addition, in Canada canned salmon and apples are available in certain quantities, and are affected by my argument. As far as tobacco is concerned, to find willing producers in the Empire cutting down their production when we have a more than willing buyer in this country is to me a negation of Commonwealth and Empire. I believe that something should be done by the present administration now we have Mr. Gardiner, the Canadian Minister of Agriculture, in this country to get a better supply from Canada.
§ Mr. Collins
Would the hon. Member say what countries in the Empire are cutting down tobacco production? Is not Rhodesia increasing it?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
Yes, but in Canada which I happened to visit last autumn, and which has been an important and loyal source of supply to this country in the last 10 years, they are having their production thrown into confusion because we suddenly say that there are no dollars available to buy it. The short notice given to producers, that dollars will be available to purchase certain of their products, is confusing for the primary producer. I would urge the hon. Lady to see if something cannot be done in this respect for Canada.
I believe that the Marshall Aid administration could help, not only in the way that they are doing in immediate Government to Government handing out of certain subsidies, but by closer contact between, initially, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Food and some of the producers of the United States. These departments could find out from the American agricultural authorities some of the developments that have taken place in, for instance, the production of hybrid maize in the last ten years: how it can be mechanically harvested, so that it can be produced in sub-tropical areas where labour is short and where mechanised equipment could be used to advantage. This technique, which 1 saw being used in the Province of Ontario, is one which could be advanced with 910 great benefit to all concerned. It could be used in certain parts of Southern Africa, and, possibly, in places like Queensland. The information which is available in the United States and in Canada is not yet fully appreciated in this country. Research in this direction could usefully be undertaken by the Government, who should find out these facts and make them available, particularly to our overseas producers.
The first of the specific suggestions which I wish to put to the Government concerns sugar. As the hon. Lady was good enough to say, it is extremely difficult for us to find out what is going on because we have access only to the trade returns. It appears, however, that considerable stocks of sugar are now available but that, for one reason or another, they are not being made available to our people for consumption. A number of people in this country feel that they are being kept for release shortly before the General Election. Hon. Members opposite may deny this, but this suspicion is growing.
I should like the Minister to say, when he replies, what is being done to give an assurance to Empire and Commonwealth producers that, except for our own beet sugar production, we shall take all of the sugar we need from Empire and Commonwealth sources. I believe that if in 1945 or 1946 the Ministry of Food had called together the sugar producers of the Empire and Commonwealth and stated Britain's needs, there would now be a full supply of sugar in Britain. Much more could have been done by giving an assured market to the primary producers in the Commonwealth and Empire, whether they be Queensland, Fiji, Mauritius or certain parts of Africa. Something may be revealed of course, when we are allowed to know what took place at the recent Imperial Conference. I hope that all those people, who came together from all over the Commonwealth and Empire, did not go away without getting down to this very important subject of sugar production, and being given some sort of assurance from the Government on the lines I have set out.
My second point concerns tea. I have an interest in this, being a director of a primary producing company in Africa which produces tea. I can assure the hon. Lady that we will continue to press 911 on with our production of tea in every possible way because what we cannot sell in this country finds an increasing market in Africa itself. That will happen to a lot of the other foodstuffs which are to be produced in these new areas.
I strongly support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) about the re-opening of the commodity markets in this country. When I was in the United States I came across a news cutting which I will send to the hon. Lady if I can find it again. It was a report from Wall Street saying that if only the British were allowed to re-open their commodity markets for tea, it would be a very considerable source of revenue to the British and serve another very useful purpose because the British set a standard in tea blending which is unequalled anywhere else in the world. It would also give us, possibly by restoring the Mincing Lane market, even greater access to the supplies of tea which are available all over the world. Other countries still tend to look towards Britain for finding a market either in or through it.
The third of my specific points deals with meat. The hon. Lady has given us some indication of what is being done in Northern Australia. She mentioned the drought which has killed off a tremendous number of animals there. I still believe that something might be done in Australia and in Africa, and, perhaps, immediately, in seeking out some of the African tribes who have tremendous herds of animals which they keep because, in their possibly uncivilised way, they need them as a bride price. If the hon. Lady could find some way of persuading the Africans to marry for some other reason, possibly they might be able to produce more cattle for the markets of this country. We might find anything up to a million head of cattle in the areas between the Sudan and the Zambesi which might eventually be made available in the form of processed meats for this country. In Northern Australia I believe the need is for the provision of bores for water and railway lines to evacuate the cattle. I do not know whether the Government could help in this connection, but, possibly, under Marshall Aid the Americans might consider assisting to get that meat out of Australia because in the 912 coming world shortage, there will not be any lack of markets for the meat which will be available from Northern Australia in the years ahead.
I should like the Minister of Food to look up the article on "Serious Cheese" which appeared recently in the "Sunday Times" if he has not already seen it and show it, perhaps, to his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary who made certain remarks in the Debate last Thursday about luxury imports from France. In the last edition of "Lloyd's Bank Review" there is an article on page 67 by Mr. Keith Murray who, I think, is held in high regard, particularly on the Government side of the House. He has undertaken one or two inquiries on behalf of the Government. He says:The chief danger of State purchase lies in the possibility that alternatives for minor sources of supply, which might be appreciable in the aggregate, may be overlooked.I suggest to the hon. Lady there are small quantities of articles which, to some people, might be termed luxury foods—cheeses like Brie or Gorgonzola. A lot of people—those who do not smoke, for example, and have no call on dollars from the United States—would be prepared to save up, to have the chance of some of these slightly higher priced cheeses rather than what is called by the Department, I think, a "serious cheese." I put this point to the hon. Lady in all seriousness because in this aspect there is more than merely the belief that a thing is wicked because it is a luxury; that because it is out of the reach of everybody, therefore, nobody shall have it. Those are the specific point which I wanted to put to the hon. Lady's Department. I hope, particularly, regarding sugar, that the Minister will give us an assurance that this country will be prepared to take all its imports from within the Empire.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)
I agree with the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker), in his reference in the earlier part of his speech. Those of us who heard the statement this afternoon by the Parliamentary Secretary realised that she had framed her words very carefully and that the question was a serious one. We know that Canada's Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Gardiner, is in this country, and we hope that, even 913 now, some arrangements will be possible which will make the considerable production of Canada available to this country.
Canada, of course, has done much for us, both in her great war record and since, and we realise that the underlying factor is the question of dollars. I do not suppose one could even suggest or broach the question of a further loan, because Canada has been so extremely generous in this respect. The whole question emphasises that we must increase our specialised exports from this country to Canada to try to level up the balance sheet, so to speak, and make credits available to the hon. Lady's Department. By specialised exports I mean, for instance, those to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has referred over and over again, the types of textiles which are urgently needed and are in short supply in Canada. Perhaps, in the long run, that may be the real solution on which the hon. Lady's Department must depend.
The hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Coldrick) was, I think, speaking this afternoon on behalf of the Co-operative societies when he made criticisms of the sugar beet industry in its early days and, to some extent, at the present time. Sugar beet is an extremely important crop to the Ministry of Food. It is true that large sums were spent on the industry in its early stages but, through its factories and the farmers, who have supplied them, it has made tremendous supplies available to the country, on which, I suppose, our sugar ration must very largely depend. If criticism is to be made of the initial steps in a venture which has now become a great revenue producer, hon. Members should remember the tremendous amount that is being spent on the groundnuts scheme, which can only give good results in the future. I suppose, to a certain extent, that is also true of the Queensland scheme.
The hon. Lady painted a gloomy picture. The fact is that there is a world shortage. All those grave warnings made by Sir John Boyd Orr when he was a Member of this House and, incidentally, spoke from these benches, are now being justified. Whether one studies the problem in regard to India, Canada, or the Far East, I believe we are going to be hard put to it to step up home production 914 of food. I am sorry that some representative of the Ministry of Agriculture was not present to hear the important and interesting speech of the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Dye) who said that we have to increase home production and made several very practical suggestions, particularly in regard to an increase of barley growing in the Eastern counties, which would help the foodstuffs position very much.
If we are to increase home production of food, one of the steps we should take is to give a fairer deal to the agricultural worker in his rations. I have raised this matter before, and I have gone into it very carefully. I do not think we are giving the agricultural worker and his family a square deal under the rationing system. It is the principle which is so disturbing, particularly to those of us who represent agricultural constituencies. The sedentary office worker in the town can go to a canteen or a restaurant and can have a number of hot meals each week. He and his family can go to restaurants where they can get square meals, but in the country it is difficult for the agricultural worker to get anything like the same facilities. The miner gets an increased meat ration. Despite the difficulties, the Minister of Food ought to go into this matter again to see whether there is not some way of increasing the ration for the agricultural worker. A constituent of mine, a Mr. Root, who has been in communication with the Department, wrote to the Minister from a small village store in Wilby, Suffolk. He said:We appreciate the difficulties other retailers are experiencing in supplying points food to their customers, also the genuine complaints of the National Farmers' Union including all farmers who place their points with us. At the same time we know we have no food in our shops to honour these points. … It is six months since we had a supply of jellies and other points foods such as stewed steak, veal loaf, etc.; above all we have never seen the canned sausages which from time to time you have spoken of but I believe are again obtainable in the industrial areas with the other foods mentioned.I have had dozens of letters to this effect and I believe the Minister made reference to this in a speech in Saffron Walden.
The disadvantage under which the individual suffers is that he does not have industrial canteens and cannot get supplies in his own village stores. I ask 915 the hon. Lady to look into this again. We shall have to depend on the agricultural worker, as never before, to increase the home food production and the question of his having a fair allocation should go to the highest Cabinet level. If it is a question of dollars, let the Cabinet take it into consideration and give their decision.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Hanley)
I find myself entirely in agreement with the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) in his plea for recognition of the rights of the agricultural worker. Just as one would never muzzle the ox that treads the corn, so we cannot expect the very best work from men who produce our food if we deny them sufficiency, and a little more than sufficiency, for themselves.
I was interested when the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) spoke of the need for more capacity in processing herring. If there is a food on which we should congratulate ourselves, it is the herring, which is so plentiful around our shores and is so good a source of first-class protein, which is quite as good as that in meat and has the further advantage of being an ample source of protective substances like vitamins A and D. We have never used the herring to full advantage in this country, although I know our comrades further North either, perforce or through acquired taste, have made better use of it than we have in the South. In the South we have tended to boil it, somewhat inadequately, and it tends to be insipid if eaten fairly often. The method by which peasants in Middle Europe and Soviet Russia eat herring, sent to them from Scotland salted and preserved, by simple cleansing and with potatoes, has made this food the mainstay of their peasants and bred a strong and healthy people. I know the Ministry has pressed in the past for the installation of plant and machinery for obtaining more oil but I think it might do better for us if it pressed harder. This is not a direct criticism of the Ministry itself because every Ministry has to take its place in the queue when so many priorities are asked 'for in our national life.
My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Dye) spoke of the means by which we could increase 916 our stocks of poultry, eggs, pig meat and beef, but we have to remember in these difficult and arduous days that it takes 20 tons of feedingstuffs to produce one ton of beef and 15 tons of feedingstuffs to give us one ton of pig food. The only way in which we can practise economy is by going in for dairy produce, where five tons only are required to give one ton of milk, cheese or butter. Not only does it pay from the point of view of cost and bulk, but from the point of view of health. I hope the House will allow me to say that no nation can expect to have energy and brains unless it has an adequate supply of dairy produce. To obtain dairy produce in this country is, fortunately, much easier than to obtain beef.
When, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) said, our diet is not as perfect as we should like, we have to consider ways by which we can improve it. First, and obviously, it must be done by an increase of food production in our own country, partly because it is the best type of food, and partly because it is going to be cheaper and safer in any possible crisis at any time in the future. If we look outside our own country we have to remember the new consciousness which is developing in the world as to the needs of the people of every country. Before the war South Africa with 10 million folk, of whom two million are whites and eight million coloured, had enough fruit for 10 million people, but it exported sufficient for five million people elsewhere. It does not require anyone to be a brilliant statistician to realise that five million people in South Africa went short of fruit because of that export policy. They also in those days produced dairy produce for 2,600,000 people and exported enough for one million, leaving over one million without. Today there is a tendency not only in South Africa but all over the world for governments, to be aware of the needs of their own people before they export apparent surpluses, if there are surpluses at all.
It is very debatable whether the United States have much in the way of surplus, and their own increase in the intake of meat and of other foods for which we have been rationed in recent years has followed closely on the increase in the scale of remuneration among their own people. The same thing is happening in 917 the Argentine, where an increase in the meat eaten by their own people is steep and is associated, of course, with an increase in the earnings of the people who live in that country.
Obviously, therefore, whether we like it or not, we must as rapidly as possible increase the production of food in these islands exactly in the way suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk, with this reservation in mind, that possibly we may not get for many years to come all that we would like, so that for some time we are being compelled to live more on a peasant diet than our palates have been accustomed to for many years. We have to eat more cereals and more potatoes, and, indeed, we are doing so. If, in addition to these two staple foods, we can as rapidly as possible increase the amount of milk available for our people, and bring about a further increase in the amount of cheese, which our people can eat, we shall not, so far as our health is concerned, suffer in any way.
In regard to cheese, I agree that there does not happen to be any bad cheese and that all cheese is good. Literally, all cheese, except some processed types, is good. The Parliamentary Secretary must deplore importing any cheese which is very expensive in cost to us, because the best of it, whatever colour it may be, is from the health point of view no better than the cheapest "mousetrap" cheese in protein, vitamins and all the other protective material. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary agrees with me. In times of difficulty we must lay stress on that, and we should get large quantities and at reasonable prices.
I hope the hon. Lady will also agree that we need as much as possible of this commodity and that we should scour the world for it, because it is something we can get more quickly than we can produce beef in this country. The palate is the most tyrannous of all senses, and, although it is most difficult for anybody to deviate from habits of diet and what they think of food, the fact remains that in Britain we can most easily substitute cheese for meat, and if that is done, we shall help to increase the health and vigour of the nation.
Lastly, it is obvious that in certain countries, like India, there is a diminution in the capacity for growing food, 918 particularly in recent years, and we cannot expect to import fats and oils from those countries in the future as we did in the past. However, there is a gleam of hope from certain countries, with whom we are now beginning to deal by means of bilateral agreements and which have planned economies which enable them to make long-term agreements with us. They can supply us with extra food, such as eggs, bacon and similar produce. I am referring to Poland, Hungary and the Soviet Union. I hope the present plans of the Ministry of Food, which includes agreements of this type, will be extended in the near future as rapidly as possible. It will not be in our lifetime that this country will be self-sufficient in food production, and until we approach self-sufficiency, and particularly in the present time of stress, strain and shortage, I hope the Ministry of Food will not neglect any possible avenue that will lead to an immediate improvement.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
The House always listens with interest to the hon. Member for Hanley (Dr. Stross), knowing that he is one of the greatest experts in this House on the subject of diet. I should have thought that the ordinary person attaches a certain amount of importance to taste, and whilst it is true that "mousetrap" cheese is something that can give one a feeling of being blown out, it may quite well be extremely nasty, even though it is very nourishing. But there is still left to us one of the few things which we enjoy, a sense of taste, and I want it to be cultivated, because what we are suffering from now is a lack of variety. We ought to encourage taste, and, therefore, I hope the hon. Lady will not pay too much attention to the fact that the vitamins in all forms of cheese are alike in quantity, nor to the suggestion that because of that we should have only one kind of cheese, because that would he a depressing thought.
The hon. Lady, as usual, massed her facts and presented the case for her Ministry in an admirable way, and she came out with a whole lot of statements which have been hidden from the public for a very long time. I should like to join with other hon. Members, who have urged on the Ministry to try to take the public more into their confidence. I believe it would be a good thing and I cannot think 919 it would do much harm. The newspapers and the B.B.C. only echo the difficulties of the people, and I think the hon. Lady's Ministry must be the most difficult to operate at the present time. I sympathise with her, because of all the letters one has to write to her, and because of all the things one sees in the newspapers and hears on the B.B.C. about the difficulties of food, which must make her very depressed sometimes.
She could do one or two things which would make her task and that of her Ministry easier. I do not think that today anyone wishes to make party points out of the shortages in the country. There are, however, certain things which appear very obvious to some of us, but apparently not so obvious to the Ministry. The first is that there is a great lack of what might be called agricultural intelligence between the Ministry of Food and Ministry of Agriculture. It was rather interesting today when the hon. Lady said that there had been a drought in Australia and therefore we were to be frustrated in our hopes about the meat ration. Any ordinary person would have had plenty of warning when that drought took place 18 months ago. They would have known that it would inevitably lead to a shortage, and they would not have relied upon cattle from Australia in that way. Many of us would like to help the Ministry of Food by giving them information we know of, but about which the Ministry of Food apparently has never heard.
§ Mr. Strachey
Is the hon. Member suggesting that we had not heard about the Australian drought of two successive years ago? Could he further tell us where, outside the dollar area, the deficiency—for it does create a deficiency—could be met? I do assure the hon. Member that we have not the slightest lack of information on this subject and at least we were as well informed as he was.
§ Sir R. Glyn
The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. His Parliamentary Secretary came to the House today and said that unfortunately the drought of 18 months ago had frustrated hopes of giving the country the ration. Now he says he knew all about it. Why not make arrangements to get the meat somewhere else? I do beg the right hon. Gentleman not to be so self-assured about this. We all believe he is doing his best 920 at the Ministry of Food, but if close liaison were developed with the Ministry of Agriculture it would be much better for both Departments, and the general public. It is no use offering destructive criticism in these days. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman wants any help—
§ Sir R. Glyn
Well then, now we can cooperate together. It has always been the practice in this House to declare one's interest. I must declare my interest, because I am trying to produce pigs, in spite of the Ministry of Food. The policy of the Ministry of Agriculture was announced today at Question time, and we are all trying to help that Ministry to carry it out. But we are frustrated, because at the moment we expand our production, the Ministry of Food fails to produce the necessary feedingstuffs. If the House will forgive a personal statement, I have some very valuable sows and gilts going to slaughter. They ought never to be slaughtered. They ought to have a special ration. I do not mean only my gilts and sows, but all the gilts and sow; in the country, if they are pedigree, because we want to improve quality as well as quantity. It is heartbreaking for us to see animals over which we have taken trouble, simply going for meat. It is utterly wrong and without excuse. They should be fed and maintained.
In reply to a Question I put today the Minister of Agriculture told me—I cannot remember the exact figure—that some 7,000 more sows and gilts have gone for slaughter than in a corresponding period. So the whole stock is being affected, and that is detrimental to the Ministry who have plans which we wish to help them to fulfil. With regard to feedingstuffs, I would ask the Minister of Food whether he realises how the position has been changed by the use of combine harvesters. A perfectly astounding change has been made in the last few years. We have a great flood of barley and it is almost impossible to find the necessary storage for it.
What has the Ministry of Food done to help with regard to the storage of barley in the country? I will tell of two things. One is that we tried to get some of the merchants, whose accommodation was very short. to get a licence to increase 921 their storage capacity. Some of them said they would, and they got a licence to do it. But then another Ministry, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, comes into play, and they say, "If you choose to put on this extension you will have to pay"—in this case a £450 development charge. That is over and above the cost of increasing storage capacity. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he must have a word with the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. If the Ministry of Food really want to increase the storage capacity another Ministry should not be allowed to prevent any progress being made in that direction or to do something which prevents the Ministry of Food from having wholesome barley which is not full of weevils. The right hon. Gentleman could possibly check the enthusiasm of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning in that direction.
I think it was in 1920, when we had a similar crisis that I spoke in the House on the importance of having farina mills. What has the Ministry done about it? Absolutely nothing. If we had a few such mills which would handle chat potatoes, and potatoes which would not Keep—and incidentally I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that instead of having a surplus of potatoes this year the position is going to be very tight, because those in the clamps are not keeping well—the potatoes could be ground into flour, and the mixture provided which is needed in order to improve home-grown feedingstuffs. We cannot do without these mills. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to make a note of that, and do his best to see that we get the machinery, steel and everything else, so that these farina mills can be put up? I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman can get any amount of information from Holland, where it is a common practice, and from Denmark, on how to get the feeding for livestock reinforced by this farina.
There seems to me to be a lack of understanding about the pig clubs. The Ministry of Agriculture has done a great deal to assist in the formation of pig clubs through the Small Pig Clubs Council, and extraordinarily good work is being done. But will the Minister of Food have a survey made, or ask his district food officers if they are satisfied that shops in small towns have sufficient refrigerating 922 plant for deep freezing? Deep freezing is hardly used at all in this country. It is common in the United States. It is a method of freezing which will enable half a carcase of a pig to be kept infinitely longer than now. I believe the right policy for the members of the Small Pig Clubs Council is to keep half a pig themselves—they do not surrender their bacon ration if they do that—and give the other half to be distributed through the Ministry of Food. That seems to me to be a much more sensible plan provided that they have the storage to keep the half a pig which they retain.
Another point is in regard to the feedingstuffs for cattle. We are short of that, and the hon. Lady said she was in doubt why we could not get the proper number of stores from Ireland. Various suggestions have been made to the right hon. Gentleman and I will make one. The regulations which 'we have, and quite rightly, in regard to T.T., means that we cannot bring cattle in from Ireland, if they are not T.T., without having to put them into isolation on the farms. Few cattle coming over are in fact tuberculin tested, and if they are not, they have to be in isolation for 60 days after arrival. I believe that the amount of store cattle and cattle ready to be fed would be greatly increased by a slight modification in the regulations regarding T.T. I know that many farmers in Ireland feel that it is almost impossible to compete with the regulations. It is of the greatest importance that this matter should be inquired into quickly.
I want to ask the Minister if he would be good enough to consider the possible imports to this country of feedingstuffs from the British Colonies—not only groundnuts, but something else. Recently I put a Question to the Colonial Office and I got the astonishing answer that in addition to 140,000 tons of rice grown in Nigeria alone, no less than 5,500,000 tons of other cereals had been grown. It is true that we must retain in West Africa and all the other Colonies a sufficiency of food for the people there. It is hard to know what the surplus is, but there is no doubt that if the Ministry of Food, through the Colonial Office, gave a little bit of encouragement it would be possible to grow in those places a large quantity of grain and other produce which could be used for feeding- 923 stuffs here. It the figures which I obtained are correct, it is worth while to do what we can to grow these cereals while at the same time pressing forward with the production of groundnuts.
Once or twice it has been suggested that it is a bad thing for the Ministry of Food to import wine. I am afraid I do not agree. One must recognise that France has a limited number of products to export. This is not one of the counts I put against the Ministry of Food. The wines which have been imported have caused pleasure to the French and certainly satisfaction to us. In these drab days I am not the least ashamed to say that I think that French wine makes the heart glad.
Finally, why will not the right hon. Gentleman say, when he replies to the Debate, that he is prepared to take all the sugar grown in the West Indies? I know that conversations have been taking place. The Minister knows at well as I do that the problem of shipping presents one of the great difficulties. A committee has just reported on trade between the West Indies and this country. They recommended that the British Government should do what they can to improve transportation between the two countries. In certain of the islands the only product which can possibly bring back prosperity is sugar. The difficulty. is that of transport to this country. That is a matter not only for the right hon. Gentleman but also for one or two other Ministers.
The time has come when it is absolutely essential that we should look to our own Colonies and the other possessions we have left and try to encourage the production of those commodities which we want so much. Sugar from the West Indies is certainly one of the most important of the products we need. We know the difficulties of the right hon. Gentleman, and I trust that he will have the support of the Press and B.B.C., because it is necessary that he should use those channels much more than he does. Mystery does not help, certainly in the case of the Ministry of Food. The. British public can always be trusted to rally round if the Minister will take them into his confidence.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Brigadier Peto (Barnstaple)
I am fortunate in following my hon. Friend the 924 Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) because in his extremely interesting speech he has dealt with many of the points that I had hoped to put myself, but I could not have done it nearly as adequately. That cuts my task short. I have listened to every speech in this Debate with possibly one exception, and I have made a few notes of the points raised particularly by hon. Gentlemen opposite. One which I would like to answer was made by the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest). He said that he could not understand why we on this side of the House were so despondent, because, he said, looking into the future he could see a still more prosperous time ahead. We on this side of the House feel no confidence in the future under this Government because similar remarks to those of the hon. Gentleman have been made by Members of the Government on many previous occasions. For instance, the Lord President of the Council said at Ottawa on 4th January. 1946:We are not worried about the future. The day is coming when we can spread and expand.That was said nearly three years ago. We have not spread or expanded very much since then. I think that our belts are drawn a good deal more tightly. Again, I have found a little quotation from the Parliamentary Secretary. No doubt she remembers it. At Christmas in 1945 she said:The extra food at Christmas is just a taste of things to come. We know where every scrap of available food is and we are planning ahead so that you will enjoy it all as soon as possible.The extra has not come yet. That was promised in 1945. We wonder whether all this planning is quite as good as the hon. Lady thinks it is. To use the hon. Lady's own words, we have not "enjoyed" very many good times in the way of extra food since then.
§ Brigadier Peto
The Attorney-General is due to address a meeting in my constituency very shortly. On the subject of food, I have followed his activities rather closely. On many occasions not only 925 has he attacked the housewife, saying all sorts of nasty things about her, but he has quarrelled with her. If the housewives should even raise their heads and complain about the smallness of their rations or that they have to spend so long in queues, he has said that they were "either politically ignorant or politically dishonest." If he should use words of that kind about the housewives in my constituency he will find that they are reasonably well able to look after themselves and that they will not take that kind of abuse from anybody. He would be well advised to keep off that particular tack.
§ Mr. Austin (Stretford)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman stated that the Attorney-General attacked the housewife. I am sure that he would not like to misrepresent my right hon. and learned Friend. Surely, he remembers that the Attorney-General defended himself from attacks by the Housewives' League and not from attacks by the housewife.
§ Brigadier Peto
That may be a very nice distinction, but I do not think we need go into further details. Whether or not it was the Housewives' League or the housewife does not greatly matter.
We had a very gloomy speech from the Parliamentary Secretary today. It gave us little hope for the future. I travelled by train from Devon today. There were two ladies in my compartment and I asked them, "If you had a minute to spend with the Minister of Food what would you say to him?" One of these ladies was a Canadian who was interested in sugar. She said, "I should ask him why there is this difficulty about supplying sugar to Great Britain when not only in Canada, but in the Colonies there is so much sugar about that there is a glut." I said to the other lady, "What would you say to the Minister of Food?" She said "Why only a minute?" I explained that I might possibly have a minute today to speak to him, as I happened to be a Member of Parliament, and the lady then said, "You ask him from me why does he not give us some more tea? It is the one thing that everybody wants but cannot get." I said to her, "What else would you say to him?" and she told me a lot of other things which I will not repeat now.
926 What I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman is this: why it is that, in Eire, they have now very greatly increased their imports of tea, as compared with 1938, while we, on our side, are getting 10 per Gent. less tea than we got in 1945. It cannot be a question of dollars, because that does not come into it. Why should we be getting less tea, to a considerable extent, than we had in 1945?
The importance of importing feeding-stuffs has already been stressed by several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon, as has also the importance of home production. I would only suggest to the Minister, so far as home production is concerned, the necessity for increasing the number of grass driers which could be made available in different districts by the county agricultural committees, and for increasing the grain storage and drying capacity and for improving the quality of our grassland. Much can be done in that respect, so that we could make on our own ground the substitutes for a certain amount of imported food. Certainly in my county, we feel that a great deal could be done to help us to increase meat production, provided that we can get a certain amount of encouragement from the Government with regard to putting down grass driers and providing facilities for their use, since dried grass can, to some extent, take the place of a good deal of imported grain.
On 15th November, with many other hon. Members of this House, I asked the Parliamentary Secretary a question on what has been described by my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) as a political ramp of the first magnitude. I refer to the question of the allocation to the Cooperative societies of an unfair share, as we think, of available supplies, which was denied to private traders, and which was greatly to the disadvantage of bakers, grocers and those who deal in poultry and rabbits. The reply of the Parliamentary Secretary did not convince me at that time, and I should be most interested to hear if the Minister has anything further to say on that matter, because I have been asked on many occasions recently to raise this question again in the House. Private traders are not at all satisfied that they have had a fair deal, and were not at all assured by the reply which I was given by the Parliamentary Secretary.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Sanderson (Ealing, East)
I was very interested in the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie), who made reference to the possibilities of extracting oil from herrings. He went on to suggest that, if that were done, the difficulties in respect of the large amounts of herring available would be overcome. This is not a new point, but it was put over in a very effective manner, and I feel it is one to which the Minister of Food might give some serious consideration.
My own view is that, while there is no doubt that oil can be extracted from herrings and in large quantities, the evidence which it would be necessary to take before a larger and more expensive plant was established for the purpose would probably show that, in normal times, it would not be possible for oil extracted from herrings to compete in price with oil extracted from vegetable oil seeds. It must be remembered that we are passing through a time in inflated prices, and, while it may be possible today to make it an economical proposition, the price of vegetable oils today is 200 or 300 per cent. above what may be regarded as the normal prices.
I feel, however, that the Minister might give some consideration to the idea, if only to be able to tell the House and the country what is the considered views of the Ministry of Food. This scheme is either possible or it is not, and I take rather the negative view. I feel, however, that it is one of such interest, particularly in view of the fact that the quantity of herring available is almost unlimited, that it is a matter which the Minister might seriously consider examining thoroughly, and, at some future time, give the House the benefit of the information which is available.
I rose to make quite another point, a brief one, which is not very controversial. During the Debate today, reference has been made in all parts of the House to long-term contracts. The Minister will be aware that I raised this point by a Question as recently as last week, and, while I am not unmindful of his reply, I wish to impress upon him that I regard it as of vital importance that he should not enter into long-term contracts unless he provides for a "break" clause or for sliding prices. The country, 928 perhaps, and the House too, is not altogether aware of the fall which has already taken place in the price of many feeding-stuffs and other commodities too. However, I would be entirely out of Order if I were to make any reference to other commodities.
Let us consider one or two of the items which form our staple food. I will take American prices because it is generally recognised that they govern world prices. During the last 12 months, wheat has dropped in price by no less than 22 per cent. For May futures (Chicago) delivery there is a further discount of 11 per cent. That means wheat can be purchased today at 33 per cent. less than the price ruling a year ago. The position with regard to maize is even more significant. The price of maize today is 40 per cent. less than it was 12 months ago and for forward delivery—i.e., May futures—maize is no less than 45 per cent. below the price ruling 12 months ago. I do not propose to give the actual quoted prices of 12 months ago as compared with the prices ruling today, because the Minister will be quite au fait with them.
With regard to lard, I wonder how many people appreciate that the price for this commodity has fallen by no less than 40 per cent. during the last 12 months. I will give the respective prices of lard, because I think they ought to be put on record. Twelve months ago the price of lard, Chicago Prime Western futures, was 26.00 and today it is 16.25 spot. The price of linseed oil which, in addition to being used for paints, varnishes, and linoleum, is used for making margarine, has dropped some 20 per cent.
I do not propose to develop this matter further, but I would ask the Minister to give the House an assurance that he will not enter into long-term contracts for foodstuffs unless he protects himself by (1) a break clause or (2) a sliding scale with regard to prices. Many of us believe that this is not the end of the break in prices, but only the beginning. When prices break, they do not drop systematically day by day, week by week or year by year; there are constant fluctuations. Do not let us be carried away because the market for one commodity or another shows a temporary hardening tendency from time to time.
929 With regard to the commodities to which I have referred, the Minister will have observed the market break and then, a little later, recover a part of its loss. That is customary, and we must expect that sort of thing to continue. Although foodstuff prices have begun to break, it will be some time before the housewife derives any benefit. However, I think that housewives can look forward taking the long view to lower prices. This may be some little encouragement to them and, perhaps, be some consolation for the lean and harassing times through which they are passing at the moment.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge)
I have listened to most of the speeches delivered in this Debate, and I notice that there are now present less than a dozen—as a matter of fact, there are actually seven—hon. Members of the party who asked for this Debate, and who staged it as the great Christmas Eve food attack on the Labour Government. Even the hon. and gallant Member for Barnstaple (Brigadier Peto) who spoke a minute or two ago has left the Chamber. Evidently he has no further interest in the two ladies about whom he told us, and to whom he put the question, "What would you say to the Minister?" I wonder if he told them that he was sure he could guarantee that at least eight out of his 190 colleagues would be present during this Debate. I wonder what the ladies in his compartment would have said had he described just how many there would be on the benches opposite.
I want to call the bluff of the Opposition. I say that, in spite of the shortage, there is hardly a housewife in Britain tonight who has not got a tidy bit of food stored away for Christmas. It would astonish most people to know what housewives have actually got stored in their Christmas stocking. There has been far too much gloom about the food situation in Britain. I had to travel to Norway and Sweden, and to France and Switzerland two or three times before I realised how well off we in Great Britain were. The housewives of Norway see butcher's meat once in three months. When do they or the housewives of Sweden, France or Switzerland see bacon on the table for breakfast? The people of Sweden are facing great 930 shortages, and are rationed even more strictly since my visit to that country. [Laughter.] That is no reflection on me. I think the reason is a greater shortage of dollars. But when I was in the land of plenty, I saw plenty. In Switzerland there was tea in abundance at 12s. a lb.; there was plenty of butter at 6s. a lb., and unrationed chocolates from 8s. to 15s. a lb. for the better qualities. But plenty for whom?
That is the situation which hon. Members opposite wish to bring about in this country—a land of plenty for the ladies who can go to the telephone and ask for a big supply to be sent to them. I cannot help thinking that the housewives whom hon. Members opposite meet and who whisper these sweet nothings into their ears, are usually women who never kept house in their lives. It is strange indeed to see hon. Members opposite so concerned about housewives' shortages for the very first time in the history of Britain, and to see Tory gentlemen professing to be concerned about food shortages. The working classes were never so happy and well off in their lives as they are today. I came from a constituency meeting last night. My Tory opponent also had a meeting on Thursday; there were about 200 people at his meeting. At my meeting last night there were 2,600.
§ Mrs. Mann
Yes. There was a show as part of the meeting. In that show we saw something which is almost an anachronism in Scotland these days, but it is something which we knew well in Scotland in the good old Tory days—a pawnshop. The younger members of the audience began to ask each other what it was. Yet many of us in the audience remembered that the only way in which the working class could buy the good things which hon. Members opposite talk about, was to go to a pawnshop on Monday with a suit, raise some money on it, then take it out again when the wages came on Saturday. and put it back again on Monday.
I wonder that hon. Members opposite are not ashamed of the attitude which they adopt today, when one considers what the Swedish, Norwegian. French and Swiss women are putting up with. while hon. Members opposite are trying 931 to fan the little shortages which exist into a flame of discontent. I am certain that most hon. Members opposite did not hear what I heard last week—a "Progress Report" on the B.B.C., on the night when we got home early from this House. To the microphone were brought the women of Norway, Sweden, France and other countries, and they told of their shortages and of how their wages had increased. They had not increased nearly so much as have the wages in this country. The talk finished with a French couple telling all Britain that they were very happy, and that everything was all right. The only shortages were butter, fat, meat, milk and several other things, of which if there were a shortage in this country, hon. Members opposite would pretend it was a dreadful calamity.
I think we ought to adopt an altogether different attitude, I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench, "Why this gloom?" Everybody does not eat bacon. No sensible mother pushes it out to her young children it is most indigestible. A great many people do not take it at all. If there had to be a choice between bacon and eggs, I should think that the extra ounce of cooking fat plus the extra eggs would be much more valuable to the housewife so that she could prèpare poached, fried or scrambled eggs. If Lord Woolton had been sitting on the Government Front Bench he would have been like that gentleman with the gurgling voice, the radio doctor, and. would say to the housewives, "How lucky you are to get a few more eggs; they will be so good for all your tummies, and so much better for you than bacon." I think that is the note which would have been struck had the Tories been in power.
I want to deal with the attack which has been made on the Minister in connection with the Co-operative Society registrations. I have never been closely connected with the Co-operative Society. I have never attended a committee meeting or a directors' meeting or anything of the kind, but I was taught early to be thrifty and one way to be thrifty was to shop at the Co-op. The dividend book was something in the nature of a bank book. Since I married—and that is not yesterday—I 932 have had a Co-op. bank book. But of late, in fact since the war, I have been forced to go to other shops to cash in on my points and to get cakes. When I asked my daughter to join the Co-op. when she married she said, "They have not the points goods which other shops have and they have not the fine selection of cakes which other shops have."
Why do they not have these things? We know now it is because they have been penalised over these things. Instead of having a favour done to them now they are only receiving a small measure of the justice which they ought to have received years ago. One can understand the plight of such as myself if I cannot find these things in the Co-op. and have to go to other shopkeepers who say. "You are not registered with us; why should we supply you with fine cakes when you get your bread from the Co-operative Society?" That is the anomaly of the situation and the injustice of it. I suspect hon. Members opposite of wanting that anomaly to continue, of wanting that injustice to continue, so that most people will be driven to leave the Co-op. because the Co-op. are not receiving their share and cannot, therefore, pass it on. Thus customers would be driven from the Co-operative societies over to private enterprise. I suspect that is what is at the bottom of this campaign.
I close by telling hon. Members opposite that, generally speaking, the housewives throughout Britain are going to have a very fine and happy Christmas—ever so much happier than it would have been had hon. Members opposite been in power. I want also to tell them that our New Year's resolution will be to meet them on any platform and ask them how they would bring any more food to the people.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)
I am sure the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann), who has just addressed us, has enjoyed repeating some of the best parts of her Sunday night's speech.
§ Captain Crookshank
The hon. Lady attended a meeting, which is nearly as bad. I would suggest to her, respectfully, 933 that she must give hon. Members on this side of the House credit for sincerity in what they say. She does not seem to do that at all, and I do not think that is right; certainly it is not in accordance with tradition. She should attack us as much as she wishes, but not impugn our motives if we say things which we think it is right to say.
Some hon. Members may, perhaps, be Surprised and I should like to start by making this comment—that, important as the subject obviously is, now and prospectively, my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) who opened the Debate said nothing, and that I do not intend to say anything, about the groundnut scheme. Perhaps, it ought to be called the "Sunflower" scheme if what I read in "The Times" today is correct. We do not mention it, not because we do not want to discuss it, but because the time is not ripe, I think—and the right hon. Gentleman probably agrees; but later in the Session we shall see that time is provided for the purpose of discussing that subject. That is why it is entirely excluded from our Debate today.
Of course, I do not think that the hon. Lady who has just spoken included us in her wishes for a happy Christmas. However, I hope I can be gallant enough to wish her a happy Christmas, and her daughter and any of the rest of them at home. But in the week we rise for Christmas, it is not unsuitable that we should discuss food today, and tomorrow, drink, because a good time at Christmas is something to which many people look forward for a very long while. As the hon. Lady says—and I have no doubt that she is right—every housewife has probably something saved up during the year which she hopes to produce at Christmas as a surprise. Indeed, I suppose that the occupation of children about this time of the year is to imagine all the nice things that are to happen. Unfortunately, however, on the food front this Christmas there is not much good doing a great deal of imagining. because we know from the allocations that have been made by the right honk Gentleman as a Christmas bonus this year that there is very little coming to anyone from that source. If poor Charles Dickens were alive he could not write about Mr. Scrooge, and his being repentant at the last minute at Christmas, 934 because there would certainly be nothing for him then to get.
Of course, it is very difficult to make a consecutive speech on the food problems because there are so many different aspects of them, but I should like first to touch upon the Christmas allocations, and then to take the matter backwards to distribution, and to the stage before that of procurement, and then see at the end where we stand today. About Christmas first. What is there? What are the Government offering this year as a present to the nation? Some sugar and sweets. What quantity? Very little. Half a pound of sugar and two ounces of sweets. Some tea—four ounces all round. And some minute share to every individual of the amount of the double allocation of meat for manufacturing, and some tongue that is going to the manufacturers. That is all.
The Minister, in announcing this, or his Department—I am not quite sure whether it was a personal pronouncement or a Departmental one—said it would enable them to supply extra meat pies and sausages. We have now been told by those who work out these things that the actual amount it comes to in sausages is about rather less than a third of a sausage per person. That is not a very generous allocation. With regard to meat pies, it seems to me that that must be wrong. There will not be any more meat pies, as I understand it, because there is no allocation of the other necessaries for making meat pies—more particularly, of fats. What it really means is that meat pies will be a little more meaty. That is probably a good idea—provided that the meat is really meat and not some of the odd ingredients that now get into meat pie foods.
I should like to ask a question about that, because only this week I have had a letter—which I have not sent to the Minister because I thought I should like to ask him verbally—from a small butcher in my constituency, complaining very much of the meat which he gets out of which to make sausages. He also complains about the question of sausage skins, although I shall not go into that. But as to the contents of sausages, he does not think much of pigs' feet and chitterlings, and he goes on:I hear a whisper today that the Ministry are putting pigs' ears into the manufacturing permits.935 Is that true? I should like to know. I know one cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. I hope they are not to become a permanent ingredient of our sausages in future. In any event, that is all the extra meat we are going to get —double the manufacturers' allocation, some sugar and sweets and some tea.
As hon. Gentlemen have been saying in this connection during the Debate, "Why are we not getting a great deal more sugar all the time; not just an extra half-pound of sugar at Christmas, but all the time?" We are not back anywhere near to our pre-war consumption, and yet the world crop and the home crop are both well up over the 1939–40 crops. In this connection, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will find it possible to answer the question first posed by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) and afterwards repeated by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn)—whether anything has been done to assure Empire producers that we will take the sugar that they grow, and tell us what is being done towards stimulating Empire production. We are told, for example, that the Sugar Manufacturers' Association in Jamaica said that while next year the Jamaica sugar production would be 183,000 tons, Jamaica could easily produce half a million tons if Britain would assure her that we would take it, and the Mauritius Economic Commission would make an increase in their sugar production if we would take it. We would like to know what the right hon. Gentleman is doing about that?
Tea—there again, why not more tea because an increase was definitely promised to us over a year ago. As my hon. Friend who opened the Debate said, on 14th July, 1947—an ominous date—the 5 oz. fortnightly ration was reduced to 4 oz., and the Minister then said that it should definitely be possible to restore it by last November. How is it that that has not happened because the crop has gone up, but the proportion of the world crop which we in this country have been buying has gone down? There seems certainly to be some explanation called for there. That is all there is on the Christmas bonus—some sugar, some tea; meat, which is this little bit of manufactured meat, but no other.
I do not want to say very much about meat in general because I recognise that 936 the Minister is about to enter into conversations with the Argentine and, therefore, I do not want to say anything which might hamper or prejudice him in what might be difficult negotiations. I can only hope that he will be successful. On the other hand, the fact remains that we have had, in spite of what the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge said, a steady decline in the meat supply through the years in this country. I suppose she read the newspapers this morning in which there were quotations from the report of the Commonwealth Economic Committee, which was published yesterday, and which showed that the British consumption of meat, which before the war averaged 119 lb. per head in this country, fell in 1947 to 77 lb. That is a very big drop. Pre-war the consumption of home-produced meat was 45 per cent.; now it is 31 per cent.
When the hon. Lady talks about how much better off people are generally than they were before the war, may I draw attention to the statement made by Sir Henry Turner, the Director of Meat Supplies of the Ministry of Food, on 25th October, when he said that to return to the average pre-war rate of consumption per head, which was equivalent to the Is. 4d. ration, whereas the present ration is a Is.—there is not a tremendous difference there—we should require another 600,000 tons of carcase meat.
§ Captain Crookshank
I have a lot to say, and the hon. Lady was not so polite to us that I need worry about giving way as a matter of courtesy. We were always a nation of meat-eaters. This country, taking the population as a whole—
§ Captain Crookshank
The hon. Gentleman had better let me finish my speech before he starts commenting on what he does not know I am about to say.
§ Captain Crookshank
Before the war we used to eat 93 per cent. of the level of the United States. It is now somewhere about 50 per cent. The trouble, as I see it, is that we have not yet gone far enough—of course, it would not have shown results yet; I am not saying that it would have—with the development of our home meat production. The same is true of bacon and pigs; and here we have to put it on record that, in spite of all the proud boasts of the party opposite, twice since 1945 has the bacon ration been down to 1 oz. That never happened during the war even. I think the answer is that there is not sufficient cooperation and co-ordination of plans between the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture. I shall come back to that point in a minute.
To sum up on Christmas: there is the slight increase in sugar; there is the slight increase in tea; there is nothing of meat, except in the manufactured part of it. What a difference with previous Christmases. Last year, under the right hon. Gentleman, there was the 6d. meat bonus; the year before it was 8d.; the year before that it was 10d.; and even in 1944, at the great press of the war, the extra meat allocation for Christmas was 8d. This year it is nothing. Take sugar; this year it is½ lb.; last year it was 1½ lb.; the year before that it was 1½ lb.; way back in 1944 it was the, ½ lb. that it is today, but that year Lord Woolton was able to produce an extra allocation of 8 oz. of fat. The right hon. Gentleman must admit that this is a pretty lean time, however cheerful the good wishes may be. But of course there is always champagne, one of the few things the price of which the 938 Government have reduced since it has been in office. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] But it happens to be true. No doubt it is surprising to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I dare say it is not a thing they trumpet on their platforms, but the Government have reduced the price of champagne and put up the price of nearly everything else, but it happens to be the fact. No wonder the Ministry of Fuel and Power are not allowing illuminations in the shops over Christmas: there would not be anything to illuminate.
I pass from Christmas to one or two things that I want to say about distribution. First of all, the substitution of sugar for jam, which inevitably has had to go with the de-rationing of jam. I quite agree that that particular system could not go on once jam was de-rationed, but I do hope the right hon. Gentleman realises what an upheaval that is, particularly in the countryside where all these years the women's institutes have been working so hard in getting all their members to use every ounce of fresh fruit they could get for making jam, and have been collecting sugar all through the year for that purpose. That is now no longer possible. Whatever kind of bonus the right hon. Gentleman has in view to make—which he may be able to make when the time for jamming comes—I cannot believe that it will be anything like such a large quantity; or, if it were a like all-round quantity it would probably be a wasteful form of distribution; it would be nothing like the quantity which these people in the countryside used to accumulate during the war. I tell the Minister that that is a matter which is causing anxiety.
Secondly on distribution, I should like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that we are still disappointed that nothing has yet been done for the better distribution of the agricultural workers' rations. That is a permanent sore in the countryside, and it is not beyond the wit of man—or man and woman between them, as they sit there on the Government Front Bench—to try to find a solution.
Thirdly on distribution, I want to ask the Minister—although I do not want to go into the fish frying affair tonight—when his Department and his officials have to give the new licences, to be particularly careful to be as generous as possible in the countryside. So many 939 villages would be very much helped by having a shop, villages which have not a shop now; whereas in the towns—there is no getting away from it—there are industrial workers' canteens, and, apart from that, many other opportunities for workpeople and others to get extra food that is not available in the countryside. This is one way it could be done. Other things being equal, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will show more preference to the more remote rural areas in giving extra licences when application is made.
Fourthly, I must say a word, on distribution, on this much argued question of the right hon. Gentleman's quite arbitrary extra allocation to the Co-operative Society of sugar confectionery and poultry this year. We all recognise, I am sure, that the further we get from 1938–39 the more false the datum line is. It must get distorted month by month, but it must not be assumed that it is only in the case of the Co-operative Society that this is true. There are, of course, a great many other shops where fresh customers have come in and so on—I do not mean housing areas and places that are particularly looked after. but ordinary shops.
I think that the only thesis which the right hon. Gentleman could properly have accepted would be that this datum line was not a very good one. I agree, but it should either be rigidly adhered to or completely overhauled; it must not be dealt with piece by piece. The right hon. Gentleman, on 1st November, when he announced the coming grant of extra sugar, was a little less than candid, that was unless he had not made up his mind, because he made no reference to this matter in his speech on the Address, although he spoke about an extra allocation of sugar that was going to be made. He never consulted the trade, and certainly the 25 per cent. reduction of sugar, taken off last January, should have had first right to be put back before there were any further allocations made.
I might add one other thing that has not been so far stressed, but which is also another point of the argument—it has nothing to do with the Co-operative Society and therefore is more agreeable to Members opposite—that when the right hon. Gentleman went out 940 of his way to give an extra allocation of sugar to manufacturers of biscuits who were manufacturing for export, it was not, as I understand it, the desire of these people at all, but, I gather, was a sort of present by the right hon. Gentleman for having done so well. But, in a document, which has been circulated through the Cake and Biscuit Manufacturers Wartime Alliance, Limited, they say, in so many words, that this was not a good idea and that they did not like it.
The right hon. Gentleman, whatever he may say, certainly has gone rather over the line more than we expected in helping the Co-operative Society. Because of the close connection—and a great number of people who shop at the Co-Op. are not Socialists at all—because of the alliance between the political sections of the movement and the Labour Party, that is why people are suspicious about what has happened—one might as well be frank. There it is: the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Transport are both distinguished but not necessarily successful members of the administration, and it would be less than human if some people should not think there is some connection, particularly when the national chairman gets up and immediately makes a speech in defence of this arrangement. The various organisations connected with meat, poultry and fishmongery cannot accept the statement of the Minister, when it is stated that the Ministry "took account of the number of meat registrations held by the societies" and the extent to which they might be expected to participate in the distribution of poultry and rabbits to their customers "on the basis that their shares in other forms of retail distribution," was left completely at large. It is therefore not a bit surprising that we take exception to this and look upon it as one of the political ineptitudes of the right hon. Gentleman, for which hope some day he will be sorry.
That is all I wish to say about distribution but I wish to go back for a few words on the question of procurement. We still consider that the habit of bulk purchase, which is so popular with the Government, is wrong and I hope they will pay particular attention to the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for East Ealing (Sir F. Sanderson). We are all dissatisfied because we can never, or only very occasionally get the price 941 at which bargains are made. What is much worse, under the system of accountancy and the general secrecy with which the Minister of Food and the Government veil these things, we never know at the end of the year how we stand compared with the beginning of the year. At the end of the year we do not know what the stocks were at the start, and have no means of finding out whether the nation has done well or ill on all these contracēs.
May I make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, which I hope he will consider? A long time ago, in 1933 or 1934, the Exchange Equalisation Fund was set up. It was a very important fund, with which the Bank of England and the Treasury were concerned and, as its name expresses, it was to help to keep stability in exchanges. Large sums, running into many millions, were put at the disposal of the Fund. A large number of Members—I happened to be one—were anxious to know what happened and whether the amounts were doubled or trebled in a year or two or lost. I remember talks we had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and what I want to commend to the right hon. Gentleman is that certain figures were at last, far in arrear, confidentially and secretly submitted to the Public Accounts Committee. They were never shown to anyone, except to those Members and, to the best of my knowledge, they were taken away before the meeting rose and everyone was put on his honour not to disclose them. That does not carry the rest of us very far, but it would be satisfying to know that responsible hon. Members on the Public Accounts Committee had access to this information. Then, if it was found that there was some really terrific scandal, they could come to the House or to the Minister and ask whether they could or could not disclose the information in the particular circumstances of the case. In regard to the Exchange Equalisation Fund, I never heard more about it because I ceased to be a member of the Public Accounts Committee that year and took office. I do know that the rest of the House were perfectly satisfied with the arrangement, although the figures must have been very belated.
Another point in regard to procurement is that we are still not satisfied with the correct co-relation between the Minister of Food and the Minister of 942 Agriculture on production matters. My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) pointed out in regard to pigs that the procedure has outrun the production of feedingstuffs and sows are being killed off. The two things have not gone on parallel lines. They are not linked up.
I suspect that is true of a good many things. I am certain it is true of something which has happened. It happened in regard to onions. People were encouraged to grow as many onions as they could, and they did so. There was a great harvest of onions and then, because the Minister of Food made an agreement with the Netherlands, which included many matters, he was asked whether he could arrange to postpone the import of onions from the Low Countries from the middle of November to the middle of December, and said he would do so. But, to my utter surprise, he only did it with great reluctance. On 8th December, when replying to a Question about onions he said:As the House knows, we have, reluctantly, suspended imports until 14th December.A little later I asked what he meant by "reluctantly" and he said:I referred to the fact that I regard the supplies which can be marketed as dependent on the price, in that more will be marketed if the price is reduced."—[OFFCIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1948; Vol. 459, c. 393–4]We all agreed with that, but again, he did not explain why he was reluctant and again he said he was going to postpone by only one month the import of the foreign onions although at the time there was a plentiful supply here. I do not believe the Ministry of Agriculture were ever in the picture at all and I deduced that from the Questions two days previously to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture when he dodged the question whether the Ministry of Agriculture had agreed and gave us the impression that they knew little about it, but that if they did they certainly did not like it. If this happened in the case of onions, in spite of an enormous crop, amounting to a glut, and the Minister only reluctantly prohibited imports for a month, I am bound to say that production in the case of pigs and other commodities close cooperation between the Departments does not exist, but it must exist if we are to be successful in our food policy.
943 I come to the general food situation. Hon. Members know perfectly well, I suppose that the view of the Government is that the food situation is technically adequate, but very dreary, and dreariness reduces the effectiveness of it.It would be highly desirable … from the point of view of industrial production generally if this level could be improved.That is what they say in the "European Co-operation Memorandum." Then, they fly off at a tangent, as the hon. Lady did and say,Tories insist that Britain was better fed before 1939. True some Britons—the wealthier families and people who had reasonable incomes and steady jobs—probably had a wider variety of food. But poorer Britons and their children were not so fortunate.They all say that, because it is on page 70 of the "Speaker's Handbook, 1948–49."We can take any test we like on this subject, quantities of food in restricted families, quantities of food in the nation as a whole, or on a calorie basis, and in any one of these cases one finds that the great bulk of the people were being better fed before the war than now. One can see from the total quantities. They are all in the Statistical Digest. How could we be better fed today when each individual in this country has got less bacon, pork, fresh meat, eggs, butter, margarine, sugar, tea, and fats than the average family before the war? And that is on a bigger population.
Read Sir Seebohm Rowntree's investigation at York on what the working class man, wife and child were able to buy in 1935 and compare those figures and quantities of foodstuffs alone with what they can get now, either on the ration, or rations plus pointed goods. The two things are not in the same street. Or take Sir William Crawford's investigation in 1936–37 when he took the figures for the lowest 15 per cent. of the population taking it from the point of view of income of the population. What did he find then? He found that the poorest 15 per cent. of the population in 1936 ate about one and a half times as much fat, bacon, meat, and sugar as anyone could do in this country today.
It is no good right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite shaking their heads. It was men like Sir William Crawford who made this investigation. I am asking hon. Members opposite to get hold of the facts, 944 and if they do they will find that to be so. [Interruption.] We all represent poor constituencies as well as the hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer). The hon. Gentleman seems to think that nobody knows anything except himself and he is a chatterbox who wants to tell us all the time.
Perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite would prefer to take the calories basis. I never care very much for the calories basis, because we do not know exactly what a calorie is. One does not know when one sees one, but I gather the effect inside is quite satisfactory. If we take that field we will find that for the unemployed in Stockton-on-Tees and in other distressed parts the calorie intake, as I believe it is called, is 2,910. In July of this year, according to the review, issued by the Minister of Food's Department, the average calorie intake in the working class household today is 2,480
§ Captain Crookshank
That is still less than 2,910. I apologise to the House for the error but it must be a type misprint because they are all here. If the right hon. Gentleman gives it to me I do not wish to argue it further. The calorie intake of the average household today is less than that of the unemployed person in the most distressed area at the worst time before the war.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I am sure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would not wish to make a mistake, but if he looks carefully at the figures he will see that they apply to the unemployed man. The figure of 2,850 calories is an average and includes children who need under 1,000, which brings it up to much more than 2,850.
§ Captain Crookshank
It does for some people and not for others. That is, of course, what an average means. I am perfectly well aware of that and I am not making a debating point at all. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook goes on, I shall take more time and the Minister will lose. I am under a promise to sit down and I intended to do so.
I have just one more minute and I will say this, in spite of all the talk of the Government and their supporters the food situation in this country is not good. Of course, we are surviving. We are making 945 the best of it. We have all come through dangerous and difficult times, and I have no doubt we shall survive the administrations of His Majesty's present Government. The fact remains that the food situation is bad and it has overridden every hope and every promise which the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have made. This is the last thought I would like to leave with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Brigadier Peto) quoted some of the things which were said by the hon. Lady. I will content myself with the New Year message of the President of the Board of Trade as published in the "Sunday Pictorial" on 28th December last:Britain's Food Situation is going to improve considerably in 1948.It has done absolutely nothing of the kind.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ The Minister of Food (Mr. Strachey)
My task is to go through the speeches we have heard in this interesting Debate, and, if I can, to find any constructive suggestions which have been made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I was told by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) and others not to impute motives. That, I am sure, is sound advice. But I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that, after all, in the course of this Debate some of the actions of my Department have been characterised as a political ramp and others as gerrymandering the rations for the election. Therefore, this non-imputing of motives is to be a strictly one-way traffic. I must occasionally reply in kind and suggest what seem to me the motives behind some of the statements that have been made. We had not very long to wait in the right hon. Gentleman's speech for a glimpse of the motives which have induced the Opposition to choose this day for a food Debate. He devoted the earlier part of his speech almost exclusively to denigrating in every possible way the amount of the Christmas bonuses which we have been able to allot this year. It was clear that was the main motive in his speech.
It is perfectly true that we should very much like to have been able to give Christmas bonuses of all sorts of foodstuffs which we were not able to give. But the picture he drew of the bonuses 946 we had been able to give was that they were very, very little ones, and he said that in the case of all the other foodstuffs we had done nothing. For example, he contrasted what he described as our failure to give a bonus of fats this year with the great success of my predecessor, Lord Woolton, who one year had given an eight ounce bonus of fats. Evidently he had not paid attention when my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary was speaking, because she pointed out that we had given an increase, not in the somewhat showy way of a Christmas bonus but in the more solid way of an increase of fats during the whole year. As it is, the one ounce increase for 16 weeks happens to be exactly twice as big as the bonus given by Lord Woolton.
§ Mr. Strachey
We are talking about the fat ration. That seems to me a most lame attempt to escape from the simple fact that we have been twitted for not giving the eight ounces of fat when in fact we have given 16 ounces. We have given an increase in a way which is certainly of much greater value to the housewife—week by week over the winter weeks.
In the same way we are told we have given only a half lb. bonus of sugar for Christmas. But again, we have raised the weekly sugar ration and substantially increased the amount of sugar which goes into consumption indirectly through jams, sweets and manufacturing processes generally, including cakes, biscuits and the like. We are told that this is cancelled out because the housewife who made her own jam will get less sugar now that jam is not rationed because she cannot do without the jam ration in order to get sugar.
I say at once that if there are housewives who regard it as beneath them—and some have written to me to say so—ever to eat what they call "bought" jam, housewives who are so well off for sugar that they could use all the sugar which they took in lieu of jam as sugar for domestic consumption, they certainly will have less under the new arrangement. The average housewife who either took her jam ration or used the sugar she got in lieu of jam for jam making, will in every case be better off under the new arrangement. Under the 947 old arrangement, which was quite simple, there was a jam-sugar switch, and she got either jam or sugar, and, under the new arrangement, she could get both jam and sugar. She could get jam off the ration, and an increase in the sugar ration which I feel will compensate for the sugar she lost on the jam-sugar switch, so that, quite clearly, she is better off under the new arrangement.
Then the right hon. and gallant Gentleman went on with his speech to indicate again the motives for this Debate today, which came out very clearly, when he suggested and implied, for example, that in manufactured meat we are really putting all sorts of undesirable ingredients, such as pig's ear and so on, into made-up goods. I am quite sure that he knows as well as I do that the Ministry of Food does not put anything into meat pies. It is the friends of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, who is the guardian of private enterprise, who put things into meat pies. The only possible accusation that may be levelled against us is that we were not vigilant enough and strict enough in preventing undesirable ingredients going into meat pies, but, if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's butcher friends will give us the particulars of these undesirable ingredients, we shall see what we can do to stop him or his friends from going on doing it.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman passed on from that type of consideration, which seemed to me somewhat unworthy of a full Parliamentary occasion, to ask me about sugar, and whether we were giving any guarantee to the Empire and Commonwealth producers. The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) asked me the same question, and I offered to rise then, but he asked me not to do so. I shall give him that assurance now, but I am rather surprised that both he and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had overlooked the fact that it has been announced very clearly in this House that we have given a guarantee to all Commonwealth producers of sugar to take every ton which they will produce from now onwards to the end of 1952.
That is very well known indeed, and, honestly, it does waste the time of the House a little if we are challenged, as it were, to do these things and give these guarantees when they have already been 948 given weeks ago. It is well within the knowledge of the Commonwealth producers that this guarantee has been given. I am glad of it, personally, because I think it is the right thing to do, but I must warn the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and those of his supporters who object to it, that it is a long-term contract. [Interruption.] Yes, it is a longterm contract, and bulk purchase, too, and they cannot have it both ways. They cannot urge us to make these arrangements and then object to them. I think it is a wise and proper arrangement, and I am glad to say that it has the safeguard which the hon. Member for East Ealing (Sir F. Sanderson) very wisely suggested that, in present conditions, must be inserted into long-term contracts and bulk purchasing agreements. I quite agree that any attempt to freeze prices over a long period today would be a very rash action indeed on the part of the Government.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman and many of his supporters asked me about tea. The tea supplies of the world are slowly improving. While the improvement is slow—and I quite admit that it is slower than we had hoped it would be—it is largely because of the difficulties that have arisen in India, Pakistan and South-East Asia generally and the slowness in reaching political stability in that area. I think that the outlook for increasing United Kingdom imports and consumption is by no means hopeless. and that we shall come to a point where we are able, once again, to raise the tea ration.
I was urged to open Mincing Lane, and to have tea auctions for the re-sale and re-export of tea imported into this country. There is a good deal to be said for getting the trade in the re-export of tea going, but that is not a very easy thing to do, and it is not a matter entirely within the British Government's control. As I say, there is a good deal to be said for getting the tea trade going. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton was extremely critical because we had already made a similar arrangement in the case of sugar. He pointed out that the sugar which we were buying today and re-selling to the world might have gone to the United Kingdom consumers. Yet that is precisely what he is urging us to do in the case of tea.
§ Mr. Turton
What we object to in the case of sugar is not that the market is open for re-export, but that the right hon. Gentleman does not allow so much to be bought for the home market. There is nothing to stop the tea auctions being held in London, and for the Minister, through his agents, to buy a larger ration of tea for the home market.
§ Mr. Strachey
The amount of dollar or other currency available is limited. If we had the dollars, we could buy this sugar and not re-export it, but as our dollars are very limited, we buy what we can afford for home consumption, and buy without limit what we can re-export for dollars abroad. That is surely a sensible and rational arrangement.
Then the right hon. and gallant Gentleman touched very shortly—and I am grateful to him—on the meat situation, and the difficulty which has undoubtedly arisen in the case of imported meat from the Argentine. As he says, we must enter into serious negotiations with the Argentine Government on this matter forthwith. I will only say tonight on the subject that, so long as meat deliveries under the Andes Agreement are in the end met, then, at any rate, the present level of meat distribution in this country can be maintained. We are concerned at the rate of the shipment of meat in recent weeks and months under this agreement. But, of course, the agreement does not come to an end until well into the New Year, and a critical position would only arise if deliveries under that agreement were not fulfilled. That, I trust, is a, remote contingency, but it would be an extremely serious and far-reaching one in every way. That is all I can say on that matter tonight because negotiations are being entered into.
§ Sir F. Sanderson
In regard to these negotiations with the Argentine, would the Minister give the House an assurance that he will see that he gets reasonable prices for our few remaining assets there?
§ Mr. Strachey
The negotiations which we shall have to enter into with the Argentine Government will, of course, only concern my Department in the matter of food. The wider aspect is the concern of the whole Government.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman then made the point that he advised me 950 to reveal the facts and figures regarding bulk purchase contracts, and other transactions which could not be made public, to the Public Accounts Committee. That, to a very large extent, is done. I think that hon. Members who are also members of that Committee will agree with me that a very great deal of information which it would be against the public interest to reveal here is revealed to the Public Accounts Committee. I agree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that the Public Accounts Committee is the right body to check these large and important transactions.
Finally, he came to the subject of the procurement of food, and the first instance he gave was of onions. He took me severely to task because I said that I had been reluctant to check the import of onions into this country in recent weeks. He said that the reason that I had given for that was that I was anxious to see the price of onions reduced. Well, that is the reason, and I should like to quote the result of that policy. Onions were a controlled-commodity, and they used to be controlled at the price of 4½d. a lb. They have been selling recently in England and Wales at between 3¾d. and 4d. a lb., so that after de-control there has been an appreciable reduction below the old controlled price.
Mr. De la Bère (Evesham)
May I interrupt, because this concerns my constituency? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Evesham growers have been encouraged to grow more onions, and yet now that they have grown them they cannot find an outlet for them at all? Next year they will not grow them.
§ Mr. Strachey
No, I do not agree. I do not believe that the demand for onions is what the economists would call inelastic. I believe that as the price comes down the consumption will go up. While we checked very seriously and took quite strong measures to hold up the import of onions, I repeat that we did so reluctantly, because the checking of a supply of that kind must also check the healthy tendency of the price to go down, and we do attach the greatest importance to that factor.
§ Mr. Renton
Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the price has come down mainly since the restriction of imports, and, therefore, is it not entirely fallacious to argue that the action of the right hon. Gentleman in letting in imports has brought down the price?
§ Mr. Strachey
I hardly think that restricting the imports would have brought the price down. I think that the price has come down because we have had a large home supply and, as the hon. Member complained so bitterly, before the import was checked we imported a considerable amount; but, no doubt, the price would have come down further if we had not checked the import at all.
I will go on to a number of points which were mentioned by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, but perhaps I had better take up some comments of other speakers and return to his speech later. The important point he raised concerned the total food supply of this country today. I should like to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton. I want to amplify the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary on the subject of Canadian bacon. The facts are quite simple. In all, we contŕacted in the calendar year 1948 for 100,000 tons of Canadian bacon. The Canadians were able to deliver to us only 81,000 tons, but I entirely repudiate the suggestion that I am laying any blame on the Canadians for that. They have their own problems and difficulties, and their own consumption of bacon has gone up. I was merely stating that as a fact and as the crucial reason why the bacon ration had to be reduced at the present time.
We have contracted for some 71,000 tons of Canadian bacon next year. I hasten to say that that is partly because we have the utmost difficulty in providing the dollars with which to purchase this bacon, but it is also just about the total amount of bacon which the Canadian authorities inform us they will have available to sell us in this coming calendar year. That does not mean that if it had been possible to tell the Canadians several years ago that we had unlimited dollars to spend, they would not have been able by now to increase their bacon production to a considerable extent for this market and to have much more than 71,000 tons available for us. After all, how extraordinarily unfair to the Canadian 952 producers it would have been to say that to them, because everybody must have known that we would have the utmost difficulty in paying for our dollar imports.
As a matter of fact, the first warning which was given to the Canadian authorities that it would be inevitable that we should have difficulty in buying Canadian bacon and other Canadian produce was given as early as 1943, long before the present Government came into office. The position between us and the Canadian producers has, therefore, been perfectly open and frank from the beginning. We, of course, bitterly regret that we cannot get all the bacon we would like to have and which they undoubtedly would like to produce for us, but the facts of the dollar stringency and their inability to accept anything except payment in dollars make the arrangements which have now been concluded quite inevitable.
§ Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)
That is very important. Since we are saving dollars in that we are not receiving bacon which we should otherwise be receiving, are not these dollars available to buy imported feedingstuffs in order to produce bacon here?
§ Mr. Strachey
Of course, the number of dollars we can spend in Canada have been laid out for wheat, bacon, eggs and cheese and not only for those food products I am interested in, but for timber and many important metals from Canada, and we have budgeted the maximum amount of dollars which would be available. The share which bacon could have was represented by this 71,000 tons.
§ Mr. Strachey
I do not think I should give way again.
I pass to the consideration, which a number of speakers have raised, of the home production of bacon. That falls into two parts, and I do not feel there was adequate distinction. First, the part of the self-supplier under the self-supplier's scheme. A number of hon. Members suggested that our regulations were so tightly drawn that they were discouraging the self-supplier. I do not think that is the case. These new regulations came into effect on 1st May last, and between 1st May and 31st October no 953 fewer than 687,000 pigs were registered under the self-supplier's scheme which shows, I think, that the self-suppliers are perfectly able and willing to cope with those regulations and to produce their pigs and their bacon under them. I am very glad that they can. It was absolutely necessary to tighten up those regulations so that it was genuinely self-supply and not supply to a very black market indeed.
I turn to a passage which the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton saw fit to put in his speech and which was echoed by a number of other speakers, although I am grateful to the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) for putting the other view from that side of the House. That was the accusation that this Government are needlessly and recklessly squandering our available financial resources in importing luxuries such as wine into this country. I am told not to impute motives, but I really find it very difficult indeed to believe that hon. Members opposite do not know perfectly well the answer to their own accusations. They know perfectly well—it has been repeated a dozen times in this House—that we are buying this wine and certain other luxury foodstuffs, semi-luxuries, from France above all, simply because we have so active a trade balance with France and she is unable to supply us with any other more useful commodities; we take the wine and other luxuries or we get nothing for the exports which we sell.
The fact that that is the case—and I cannot help believing that hon. Members opposite know it to be the case—does not stop them for one moment from repeating again and again this accusation because. I am sure, they think it will look very well in the headlines of certain newspapers next morning. Really, there is no more in it than that, and it does seem to me a very unworthy point. Are we really at this momentI say to hon. Members opposite, at this moment above all—in the world situation to ruin one of the great industries of France simply because hon. Members try to make it politically awkward to import the wines and without any benefit to ourselves, because we cannot spend the francs we have earned on any more desirable commodity? I agree with the hon. Member for Abingdon—and I am not at all ashamed in saying it—that I think that good wine is a great deal better than nothing.
954 I should like now to come to the recent decisions on distribution which have been attacked in this Debate as a political ramp—the redistribution of certain sugar and poultry and rabbits to the Cooperative societies. What is the real figure to keep in mind—and several of my hon. Friends have given these figures, but I should like to repeat them once more—is, that the Co-operative movement today, roughly speaking, does between 20 per cent. and 25 per cent. of the distribution of most of the staple foodstuffs—rather more in some cases, rather less in others. Now what do we find? Before this redistribution in the matter of these commodities, through the C.W.S., they were getting some 1 per cent. of the imported poultry and rabbits available. Altogether including supplies from other sources they were probably getting about 4 per cent. We have raised that, and only in the imported poultry and rabbits, to about 12½ per cent. Can we be said to have shown partiality to the Co-operative movement in doing that? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] It is very interesting. Hon. Members think that because the Cooperative movement is to be given about three quarters of its proper share of the imported poultry and rabbits at last, it is partiality to the Co-operative movement.
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks
May I ask one question on that? Will the right hon. Gentleman say what was the proportion of the total wholesale of poultry and rabbits in 1939 that was enjoyed by the Co-operative societies?
§ Mr. Strachey
There are no available figures there. But let us assume that what the hon. Member I think is implying the case—that the Co-operative customers before the war, who were certainly, on the whole, in the lower income groups, were not able to buy their proportionate share of the poultry and rabbits. That is what the hon. Gentleman is implying. I think he is probably right, and that that was the case. But hon. Members must remember that the distribution of income in this country has altered today; and this is a most important consideration, which the hon. Gentleman may not have noticed, that today the typical Co-operative customer is much more nearly able to buy his proportionate share of poultry and rabbits and cakes and biscuits, and of these other more expensive foodstuffs. Therefore, there is a 955 far stronger case today for ensuring that he gets, at any rate somewhere nearer, the proper share of those goods, than he did before the war.
§ Mr. Strachey
No, I cannot go on giving way. I think I have dealt rather exhaustively with the hon. Gentleman's point. That does take us to the broader point, that in fact the real reason for these alterations was, as has been mentioned by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, that the 1938 datum had become more and more unjust and more and more indefensible, and that really something had to be done to modify it. He tells me that perhaps this is partial modification, and that is certainly what the Co-ops. think. They think that this partial modification is very inadequate indeed, and that we ought to abandon the principle of the 1938 datum and go over to the allocation of these ingredients in proportion to the number of registered customers. I must tell hon. Members opposite that if we did that we should give an incomparably bigger distribution to the Co-op. scheme than we have done. I submit that if we are to blame in any respect, it is that we have done too little and too late, rather than too much.
I pass on to the point raised about exports. It is quite true that we have given some of this extra sugar as a sort of bonus to those business manufacturers engaged in the export trade, and that has been raised as a matter of great complaint this afternoon. We think it right to encourage exports. It is quite true that some of these firms who, perhaps, for good reasons, have not been engaged in the export trade do not like this; it is quite true that some of them may not be able to engage in the export trade, but others may be able to if encouraged to take their part in the export trade. Is it not a reasonable thing to give them some inducement, when there is a little extra going, to encourage what is, after all, a hazardous and difficult trade to 956 enter into for the first time? We are giving them an inducement to do that.
§ Mr. Strachey
To earn dollars. That is the simple fact, and, I should have thought, an important fact.
A number of hon. Members took up the question of the availability of feedingstuffs for this country. It is true that coarse grains in general are becoming cheaper and more plentiful in the world, and I am thankful for it. If we had sufficient dollars earned by our exports—[Interruption]—and animal noises do not earn them—
Mr. De la Bère
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I think that the right hon. Gentleman alluded to me as making animal noises, but if he would enable more animals to be produced in this country, we should be a great deal better off.
§ Mr. Strachey
if we had more dollars it would be possible to import suitable quantities of coarse grains from the Western Hemisphere, but we have not the plentiful dollars, and the best hope of increasing rapidly our import of coarse grains comes from outside the dollar area. South Africa was mentioned. We hope to get a little from there, but the export surplus there is smaller than it was before the war. I think that Eastern Europe is the best hope for a substantial quantity of coarse grains, but we shall not get these for nothing. We must pay for them in the exports which the countries of Eastern Europe particularly desire, and that means the allocation of engineering products of all sorts—steel, and the like—to those areas, and that can only be done up to a certain point.
This point was first raised by the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley), and it was just after he had made those remarks that he said that he had now come to the point in his speech when he passed from political prejudice to sheer incompetence. I should not have dreamed of describing his speech in those words.Certainly, 957 the next two points which he made were not valid ones in my opinion. He told us that we ought to be exporting potatoes to Uruguay, and that it is our practical incompetence that prevented us from doing so. The Uruguay offers would have meant exporting them at a very heavy loss, and we did not think it wise to do so. But if we could get a more satisfactory price it would not earn dollars. Under the trading agreement with Uruguay they would be paid for in sterling; but they would be a valuable export none the less, and if we can export them without loss we shall do so.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House how it would involve a loss when the price offered us was £6 5s. a ton?
§ Mr. Strachey
It would involve a loss because after we had paid for the bagging and all transport charges it would have meant we were selling at a loss, even as against cheap sales for feedingstuffs in this country. That is why we did not undertake the sales.
His other point was that our wheat import was inadequate, in both price and quantity, as compared with before the war. Well, it is quite true that wheat is a good deal more expensive than it was before the war. Many things are. However I would intimate that we are importing very considerably more wheat than we were before the war. Our consumption of wheat and flour is some 17 per cent. greater than before the war, so it is far from the case that we are failing to import the wheat and flour.
I come now to the speech—and the very valuable speech, if I may say so—by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), who spoke of subsidies. It may interest her to know the figures. We calculate that today the food subsidies are reducing the cost of the food supplies bought by an average family of four by some 14s. 6d. per week. That is, I think, an important consideration to the families of this country. She then made a very welcome criticism on the subject of vegetable prices, and asked me—perhaps I should say challenged me—to say what we were doing to bring down vegetable prices. I should be less than frank with her if I said that I had very much faith in administrative 958 measures to bring down vegetable prices. There are valuable things that could be done, mainly and above all—as is shown by the report of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who has gone into this matter in great detail—in the resiting and replanning of the great vegetable markets of this country, such as Covent Garden. I believe in that wholeheartedly; but it is a very big job which would mean a great deal of building labour and materials, and it cannot be undertaken at the present time.
The provision, as it were, of the arena within which competitive trade in vegetables can be carried on more perfectly, and with more perfect competition, is I believe most important. However, I do not believe very much in administrative measures, but I do believe in the advocacy of opening that trade to the widest possible competition. I would point out that we have not been wholly unsuccessful in our battle to get down and to keep down vegetable prices. Just now I gave the example of onions. I might give one or two more. For example, cabbages. The old controlled price for cabbages was 6d. a lb.; they are selling pretty freely today in England, Wales and Scotland at 3d. a lb.—half the old controlled price. Cauliflowers were 5d. a lb. under control; they are running at from 3d. to 5d. today. At this time of year cauliflowers were 6d. under control, so I am underestimating it. Brussels sprouts are the same as under control: they were 6d. and they are 6d. today. Tomatoes were Is. 4d. a lb. under control, and are between I s. and 1s. 3d. a lb. today. So we have had some success, with at any rate some of the important staple vegetables, in bringing down prices to reasonable levels.
I pass now to the last point made by the right hon. and gallant Member: the level of foodstuffs in this country. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary cleared up one misconception of his. In his comparison with pre-war he was comparing the average per capita consumption of adult man before the war with the average per capita consumption of the whole population today. The real comparison is between the average per capita of the whole population before the war, which was some 3,000, and the average per capita today, which is something like 2,850. I have never concealed 959 that our total per capita consumption is about 5 per cent. down, as compared with pre-war, but that does not mean that there are not many hundreds of thousands of families in this country whose per capita consumption today is not far greater—the degree of redistribution is so very much greater.
I will simply give three accounts of our present food situation. One is what we say about the position ourselves, and the other two are accounts from qualified foreign observers. The first one, and it certainly does not paint too bright a picture, is the one alluded to by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman; what was issued recently in the White Paper. We say that food supplies of this level are perhaps sufficient to make possible a diet which is technically adequate. I should say there is overwhelming evidence that a great mass of the people of this country before the war did not have a diet which is technically adequate. But, alluding to the diet today, it states:It is also dreary and the dreariness reduces the effectiveness. It would be highly desirable, not only in itself, but from the point of view of production generally, if this level could be improved. If the United Kingdom dollar position improves so that an increase in the dollar import programme becomes possible later in the year, preference will be given to the claims of purchases designed to improve food consumption.That is a very sober account of the situation. I should like to quote from an eminent French authority, Professor
Bonnet of the French Academy of Medicine, who gives this account of the effect of our diet:
In ten years, England will have a generation of young men and women superior, physically and mentally, to those of any other European countries. I am convinced that the excellent physical condition of these children is due to their feeding. Their diet is perfectly balanced, and the system of milk in schools, school feeding and extra vitamin nourishment provided by clinics has had obvious results.
Finally, I should like to give a review of the Government of the United States, which is not necessarily a Government prejudiced in favour of the record of this Government, which is surely impartial. This is what the official publication of the United States Department of Labour says on conditions, among them food conditions in this country and the diet. This was published in August and October this year:
While the current level of national real income is about the same as pre-war, the British wage-earner can show substantial gains in comparison with the mid-1930's in respect of hours, earnings, diet, clothing, housing and health. These improvements may be largely ascribed to more regular employment, virtual disappearance of unemployment, more equitable distribution of supplies through rationing of necessities, controlled prices of necessities subsidised housing and improved arrangements for meals in factories.
§ On that account of our position I rest.
§ Question put. "That this House do now adjourn."
§ The House divided: Ayes. 117: Noes, 216.963
|Division No.35.||AYES||10.0 p. m|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lancaster, Col. C. G|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Dower, Col, A. V. G. (Penrith)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Drewe, C||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Dugdale Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Linstead, H. N|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C (Wells)||Duthie, W. S.||Low, A. R. W.|
|Boothby, R.||Eccles, D. M.||Lucas, Major, Sir J|
|Bower, N.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Erroll, F. J.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Fox, Sir G.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Fraser, H. C. P. (stone)||McFarlane, C. S.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Mckie, J.H. (Galloway)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Galbraith, Comdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Glyn, Sir R||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.|
|Carson, E.||Gridley, Sir A.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.|
|Challen, C.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Channon, H.||Harden, J. R. E.||Marsden, Capt. A.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Head, Brig, A. H.||Mellor, Sir J.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Morris, Jones, Sir H.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencaster)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E||Hollis, M. C.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Crowder, Capt. John E.||Hope, Lord J.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Nicholson, G.|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Nutting, Anthony|
|De la Bère R||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W||Odey, G.W.|
|Digby, S. W.||Keeling, E. H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Snadden, W. M.||Wakefield, Sir W W|
|Pitman, I.J.||Spearman, A.C.M.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O||Strauss, Henry(English Universities)||Ward, Hon G. R.|
|Raikes, H. V.||Studholme, H. G.||Watt, Sir G. S Harvie|
|Rayner, Brig. R||Sutcliffe, H.||White, J.B.(Canterbury)|
|Renton, D.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Ropner, Col. L.||Thomas, J. P. L.(Hereford)||Willoughby de Eresby, lord|
|Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Thorneycroft, G.E.P. (Monmouth)||York, C.|
|Sanderson, Sir F.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Shepherd, W.S. (Bucklow)||Touche, G.C|
|Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||Turton, R. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Smithers, Sir W.||Vane, W. M. F.||Brigadier Mackeson and|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Grierson, E.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Griffiths, D.(Rother Valley)||Oldfield, W. H|
|Allen, A.C.(Bosworth)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Oliver, G. H|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Orbach, M.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Gunter, R.J.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Guy, W. H.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C.R||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R||Palmer, A. M. F|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Hannan W. (Maryhill)||Pargiter, G. A,|
|Awbery, S. S.||Hardy, E. A.||Paton, J. (Norwich)|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Pearson, A.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Peart, T. F.|
|Balfour, A||Herbison, Miss M.||Popplewell, E.|
|Barstow, P. G||Hewitson, Capt. M||Porter E. (Warrington)|
|Bartlett, V.||Holman, P.||Porter G. (Leeds)|
|Barton, C.||Horabin, T. L.||Price M. Philips|
|Bechervaise, A. E||Hoy, J.||Randal, H. E.|
|Berry, H.||Hubbard, T.||Ranger, J|
|Binns, J.||Hudson, J.H (Ealing, W.)||Reeves J.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Ridealgh Mrs. M|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Royle, C.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Janner, B.||Sargood, R.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Jay, D. P. T.||Segal, Dr. S.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Bruce, Maj, D. W. T||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Sharp, Granville|
|Burden, T.W.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Callaghan, James||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H.(St. Helens)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Shurmer, P.|
|Champion, A. J.||Keenan, W.||Silverman, S. S (Nelson)|
|Cobb, F. A.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Coldrick, W.||King, E. M.||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Collick, P.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr E||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Collindridge, F.||Kinley, J.||Smith, H N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Collins, V. J.||Kirby, B. V||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Lavers, S.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Cook, T. F||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J||Steele, T.|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S||Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Lindgren, G. S.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Daggar, G.||Lipson. D.L.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Daines, P.||Longden, F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Lyne, A. W.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.)||McAdam, W.||Thomas, D. E.(Aberdare)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||McEntee, V. La T||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Deer, G.||McGhee, H. G.||Thomas, I.O. (Wrekin)|
|Debbie, W.||Mack, J. D.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Timmons, J.|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||McLeavy, F.||Titterington, M. F.|
|Dye, S.||MacPherson, M. (Stirling)||Tomlinson, Rt, Hon. G|
|Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Walkden, E.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Walker, G. H.|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Mann, Mrs. J.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Fairhurst, F||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Weitzman, D.|
|Farthing, W. J.||Marquand, H. A||Wells, W. T.(Walsall)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mellish, R. J.||West, D. G.|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Messer, F.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Follick, M.||Middleton, Mrs. L.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E)|
|Foot, M. M.||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R||Whiteley, Rt. Hon W|
|Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Moody, A.S.||Wigg, George|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A B|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Morley, R.||Wilkes. L.|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Wilkins, W A|
|Gibson, C. W.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H (Lewisham, E.)||Williams, D J (Neath)|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Moyle, A||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Murray, J. D.||Williams, W R (Heston)|
|Crey, C. F.||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Willis, E.|
|Wills, Mrs. E. A.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Yates, V. F.||Mr. Snow and Mr. George Wallace.|
|Wise, Major F. J.||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Sir Waldron Smithers (Orpington)
On a point of Order. I understand that for the whole of the afternoon we have been speaking on a Government Motion moved by the Chief Whip, "That this House do now adjourn." That Motion has been lost and I would ask your advice, Mr. Speaker, as to whether or not the Government have been beaten on a Division in this House. May I again move "That this House do now adjourn"?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman cannot move anything, because I have already called upon the Clerk to read the Orders of the Day. As regards the first question put by the hon. Member, that is an ordinary custom when this House wants to come to a decision. No doubt, it is paradoxical. Very often we move a reduction of £100 in Committee of Supply in order to increase the Vote. It is one of our ways and it does not mean anything except we have come to a decision. That is all.