HC Deb 23 April 1951 vol 487 cc3-6
7. Mr. Bell

asked the Minister of Food why some additional proportion of the present abundant milk supplies are not being used to maintain the cheese ration at three ounces a week.

Mr. F. Willey

The recent bad weather has caused a sharp fall in milk production and the balance available for manufacture has been 40 per cent. less in the first three months of this year than in the same period of 1950. Apart from essential production of milk powder for baby food, and some condensed milk for the Services, cheese is already given priority and milk is being diverted for its manufacture.

Mr. Bell

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that there has, in fact, been plenty of milk for ordinary consumption in the last few months, and in view of this can he not divert some of it to maintain the cheese ration at what was, a couple of days ago, its legal level?

Mr. Willey

I have already explained that we are giving priority to cheese production, but that milk production this year has been 40 per cent. less than last year.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that in a few days' time he will be depleting the milk supplies still further by allowing, in response to clamour from the Opposition, the sale of cream at 6s. a pint? Why is my hon. Friend still pursuing this policy with regard to cream?

Mr. Bell

Does the Minister think that recent political developments have cleared the weather at all?

17. Mr. Keeling

asked the Minister of Food on what grounds he asked cheese mongers to ignore the annulment by this House of the Statutory Instrument reducing the ration of cheese from three ounces to two.

Mr. F. Willey

My right hon. Friend made no such request to cheesemongers.

Mr. Keeling

Did not the right hon. Gentleman on 11th April express, in the House, the hope that traders would act responsibly and maintain the ration at two ounces? Was that not flouting the will of the House, and before he did that would it not have been better for the right hon. Gentleman to have come to the House and told us what he proposed to do?

18. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Minister of Food in what form he gave guidance on 10th April, 1951, to trade organisations on the subject of the then cheese ration; whether in so doing he made it clear that they were free to sell three ounces of cheese per ration book; and whether he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT any documents or correspondence issued by him on this subject.

Mr. F. Willey

The statement which was issued with my right hon. Friend's approval on 10th April, 1951, was as follows:

"The Fats, Cheese and Tea (Rationing) (Amendment No. 2) Order, 1951

Following last night's Vote in the House of Commons in favour of the Prayer against the Fats, Cheese and Tea (Rationing) (Amendment No. 2) Order, 1951, the Ministry of Food state that constitutionally the annulment of this Order must await the making of the necessary Order in Council by His Majesty in Council. The Minister of Food is considering what further action should be taken, and intends to make a full statement in the House of Commons tomorrow."

There has been no other statement, except those made to the House.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Was not that statement calculated to induce in the minds of traders the wholly fallacious belief that they were not free to provide three ounces of cheese on the ration, and can the hon. Gentleman say whether it had that intention?

Mr. Willey

The statement was calculated to explain the position as fully as we were able to do so at that time.

19. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Minister of Food on what grounds he was unable to inform traders on 11th April, 1951, that they were free to sell three ounces of cheese per ration book.

Mr. F. Willey

On grounds of law and public interest. The Order fixing a two-ounce ration was no longer enforceable by proceedings, but that Order was not revoked by His Majesty in Council until the following day. In view of the fact that the supplies available would not sustain a ration greater than two ounces, to invite traders to sell a three-ounce ration would have shown disregard for the public interest.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say how he reconciles that statement with the assurance given by the Foreign Secretary that the Government accepted the decision of the House on this issue?

Hon. Members


Mr. R. A. Butler

In view of the importance of the statement of the Foreign Secretary on that occasion, will the Parliamentary Secretary reply to that question?

Mr. Willey

I understood the Foreign Secretary to say that he accepted the decision of the House, which, in fact, he did.

Mr. Harrison

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the attitude taken by shopkeepers on this matter shows considerably greater wisdom than that taken up by the Opposition?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Is the Parliamentary Secretary contending that it is consistent with an assurance that the decision of the House had been accepted to seek to prevent traders implementing that decision?

21. Mr. Hurd

asked the Minister of Food when he will open negotiations with the New Zealand Dairy Produce Marketing Commission in order to regain for the United Kingdom the largest possible proportion of the New Zealand export of cheese.

Mr. F. Willey

Negotiations with the New Zealand Dairy Products Marketing Commission about butter and cheese from the 1951–52 production season will take place in June. The proportion of cheese to be exported to the United Kingdom is one of the matters to be discussed.

Mr. Hurd

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how the mind of the Minister is working on this matter? From what I gather he told us a fortnight ago we were getting the whole of the exportable surplus, but last week he said it was 90 to 97 per cent. What is the target to be when he starts discussions? Are we to get the whole of the exportable surplus, or not?

Mr. Willey

We shall endeavour to get as much dairy produce as possible.

Captain Crookshank

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the size of the exportable surplus very much depends on the price he offers?

29. Mr. Hurd

asked the Minister of Food how much milk has been made into cheese since 1st January compared with the same period in 1950.

Mr. F. Willey

Thirty million gallons of milk were made into cheese for the ration from 1st January to 7th April this year compared with 38¾ million gallons, in the same period in 1950.

Mr. Hurd

In view of the decline in home cheese making, would it not be wise to postpone the freeing of cream sales for a month or two, even if it does disappoint some visitors to the Festival?

Mr. Willey

As the hon. Member will know, we have postponed the production of cream.

Mr. Hurd

By one week.

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