HC Deb 10 March 1948 vol 448 cc1240-2
60. Mr. Keeling

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that an application from Queen Victoria's Rifles Association for permission to hold a dinner of 250 members on the ground that it will revive old comradeships and assist recruiting has been granted by his Department; and whether he will now announce a decision to grant similar permission for all associations of ex-Servicemen and Territorials.

Mr. Strachey

Yes, Sir. I have recently reviewed the working of the Meals (Service at Social Functions) Order, which provides that a licence must be obtained before organising a gathering at which a meal is to be served to more than 100 guests. The Government believe that there was, and is, a general realisation that large public banquets, if lavishly conducted, would be repugnant to the spirit of intense national effort and sacrifice which is required of us today. The Government are convinced that nothing should be done which might give the impression that the need for such national effort and sacrifice is less today than it was last autumn. Experience has, however, shown that the control of such functions by a limitation of the number who may be present may not be the most appropriate or effective method.

The Government have therefore decided to modify the Order so that social and business gatherings of more than too at which the catering is not of a luxury character need no longer be licensed. As a condition of the removal of the limit on the number of guests, the total charge per head for the meal will be restricted to the normal maximum of 5s., together with such charges, not exceeding in total 7s. 6d. per head, as establishments are allowed to make under the Meals in Establishments Order for service, special accommodation, etc. If it is desired, in some special case where the promotion of exports or considerations of national prestige are involved, to exceed the total limit of I2S. 6d. at a gathering of over 100 people, a licence will still have to be applied for. These new arrangements will take effect at once.

Mr. Keeling

Is the Minister aware that the reason given by his Department to another regiment for the grant of this application was, believe it or not, that this dinner was being held on the great national festival of St. George, and was further buttressed by the fact that it was being held in the parish of St. George's Hanover Square? May I congratulate him on abandoning a ridiculous position?

Mr. Churchill

Could the right hon. Gentleman give us any indication of the saving which has been achieved by this Regulation as between people eating their rations separately or at a gathering of more than too?

Mr. Strachey

No, Sir. As repeatedly stated by myself and my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the purpose of the Order was psychological.

Mr. J. Hudson

Would my right hon. Friend take into account that the saving was effected by the general willingness of the community to put up with difficulties when they knew everyone shared them, and that there will be great distress at the increase in price he has now suggested in the new Regulation?

Mr. Strachey

There is no increase in price. In fact, there is a further limitation of the price.

Mr. Nicholson

Could the right hon. Gentleman say how many of his other activities have purely psychological objects?

Mr. Gallacher

Does the price the Minister has stated include liquids as well as solids?

Mr. Strachey

No, Sir.

Mr. Marlowe

Is not this an admission that the representations made by the Opposition on this matter at its inception were well founded, and that the attitude of the Government throughout has been utterly ridiculous?