HC Deb 19 February 1951 vol 484 cc860-3
5 and 7. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Food (1) what changes he proposes to make in the arrangements for distribution of home produced eggs in the United Kingdom;

(2) what plans he has in hand for improving the quality and freshness of shell eggs available for sale in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Webb

I am satisfied that by the present arrangements eggs get to the shops with the least avoidable delay; a fair average time between farm and shop is seven to nine days. May I remind the hon. Member that some months ago, in this House, my Parliamentary Secretary invited him to send any suggestions for improvement that he could make? That invitation is still open, but has not yet been accepted.

Mr. Nabarro

Can the right hon. Gentleman really pronounce himself satisfied with the fact that the total overhead charges of the Eggs Division of his Ministry and the National Egg Distributors' Association Ltd., are £1,371,000 this year and that the whole of that cost would be eliminated by allowing the egg traders to operate free from nationalised control?

Mr. Webb

The question about our overhead costs is an entirely separate one, but in recent discussions with the egg packers and egg producers, I found that they rather resent the constant implication of the hon. Member about the quality of their work.

Mr. Nabarro

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether they also resent the suggested economy in public funds?

6. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Food whether he estimates that the supply of shell eggs will justify the sale on an unrationed basis at an early date.

Mr. Webb

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) on 7th February.

Mr. Nabarro

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the acute hardship which is now being caused to housewives by the combination of the 8d. meat ration and only two stale eggs per week? Is not the mishandling of our egg supplies just as reprehensible as the mishandling of our meat supplies?

Mr. Webb

We are discussing eggs, but I suppose that at the moment we must drag meat into everything. We are making plans with a view to permitting retailers to sell to anybody in the next flush season, as we did last year. As far as we can look ahead, it is fairly clear that we shall do it for at least as long a period as last year and possibly longer.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the necessity of extending the egg priority scheme for children between the ages of two and five? Owing to the cut in the meat ration, children between two and five are suffering considerably from this shortage. Up to the age of two children receive priority eggs, but they do not do so between two and five?

Mr. Webb

I should be glad to give an answer to that question if the hon. Gentleman will put it down.

Mr. Nabarro

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I sent him abundant evidence of rotten eggs being distributed in the flush season last year and that his Parliamentary Secretary implored me to desist?

25. Mr. Dye

asked the Minister of Food the quantity of eggs received at collecting centres in England and Wales for the months of October, November and December, 1950, and for the same months in 1949.

Mr. Webb

The number of eggs packed during these two periods was about 536,500,000 and 382,250,000. If we take into account broken and rejected eggs, the numbers received would be slightly greater.

29. Mr. Eric Fletcher

asked the Minister of Food if he will give an assurance that no English shell eggs will be broken up for sale in liquid form until every opportunity has been given for the public to buy them as shell eggs.

Mr. Webb

As I have explained in a letter recently sent to the hon. Member, a limited quantity of second quality eggs, which are difficult to sell when eggs are plentiful, will be broken out for canning and freezing for sale to food manufacturers. But there will still be adequate supplies of second quality eggs for the shops.

Mr. Fletcher

May we take it that no second quality eggs will be broken down and sold in liquid form until the public have had an opportunity of buying all the second quality eggs they want in the shops?

Mr. Webb

That is a much more lucid way of expressing the answer to the Question.

Sir Herbert Williams

What is a second quality egg?

Captain Duncan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that unless fowl pest is stopped there will be no second quality eggs or first quality eggs either?

Mr. Webb

Do not let us be too alarmist. I agree that the outbreak of fowl pest has led to some concern about egg supplies next spring, but I am advised that it will not unduly lower supplies.

39. Mr. Crouch

asked the Minister of Food how much dried egg imported from the United States of America during the last 12 months has been found to be unfit for human consumption; what percentage this is of the total; and to what use it has been put.

Mr. Webb

I am glad to tell the hon. Member that none of the dried egg was found, on arrival, to be unfit for human consumption. One small lot was later damaged by flooding of the store and was destroyed.