HC Deb 23 February 1949 vol 461 cc1856-8
54. Mr. Osborne

asked the Minister of Food what are the present stocks of imported and home produced barley; whether he is satisfied that no serious deterioration is taking place; and if he will release extra quantities at once to pig producers.

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

It would not be in the national interest to disclose the figures of imported stocks, but for the Ministry's stocks of home grown barley on 3rd February I would refer to the reply given to the hon. Member for Orpington on 14th February. The answer to the second part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." With regard to the third part, my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Agriculture, is not prepared to increase ration issues of animal feedingstuffs at this time because he is not satisfied that an increased ration could be maintained.

Mr. Osborne

Is not the right hon. Lady aware that members of pig clubs who see all this barley lying idle in the country feel that they could put it to better use than is the case at present? Surely she should give them a chance to use it and to produce the pork which is required?

Dr. Summerskill

Yes, Sir, but the hon. Gentleman sees only a little of the barley while we see it all, and we know exactly how much we have. [HON. MEMBERS: "Then tell us."] The facts are that the animal feedingstuffs which we have in stock now are enough to maintain our present rations until September, 1949, and no longer.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

The right hon. Lady says that it would not be in the public interest to disclose stocks. That is not a phrase which should be used lightly or an attitude which should be adopted lightly. Can the right hon. Lady say what public interests are affected?

Dr. Summerskill

Certainly, Sir, the interests of the taxpayers of this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Gentlemen opposite who have some business knowledge must realise—I have said this time after time—that when we enter into transactions with people abroad, it would be very stupid and certainly not in the interests of this country if we disclosed our stocks.

Mr. Oliver Stanley

From that point of view, can the right hon. Lady say what is the difference between telling the prospective seller overseas, as she has just done, that we shall run out of stock in September this year and telling this House the actual amount?

Dr. Summerskill

If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the Question and the figures which we have given before, he will see that we have not disclosed how much imported foodstuffs we have in this country but have only disclosed home produced stocks, which is an entirely different matter.

59. Lord William Scott

asked the Minister of Food why he recently purchased from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 5,500,000 quarters of barley at a time when there is a glut of homegrown barley; and whether the price was in the region of 126s. a quarter in that country.

Dr. Summerskill

My Department has bought no barley from Russia since December, 1947, when the price paid was substantially less than that quoted by the hon. Member.

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