HC Deb 14 November 1951 vol 493 cc975-8
46. Colonel Malcolm Stoddart-Scott

asked the Minister of Food when the next allocation of currants and raisins will take place; and why there is such a shortage of these commodities in the shops during this pre-Christmas period.

The Minister of Food (Major Lloyd George)

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) on 12th November.

Colonel Stoddart-Scott

In view of the fact that there has been very good crops of currants and raisins in Turkey and Greece this last summer, and we have favourable trade balances with those countries, would not it be possible to increase the supplies?

Major Lloyd George

That may be so, but other sources of supply have not been good this year and the, allocation will be slightly less than it was this time last year.

47. Mrs. Jean Mann

asked the Minister of Food if he will now state the amount of the Christmas issue of extra sugar, tea and butter.

Major Lloyd George

In view of the food supply situation and the general economic difficulties of which the House has been made fully aware, I do not propose to distribute any Christmas bonuses this year. In so far as extra food supplies become available, I propose to pass these on to consumers by increasing ordinary ration levels. In this connection, I am able to announce now that sufficient supplies of bacon are coming forward to enable me to increase the bacon ration from 3 to 4 oz. a week in the ration period which begins on 2nd December. Also, by foregoing the sugar bonus at Christmas, and some sugar bonuses next year, I intend to keep the domestic sugar ration at its present level of 10 oz. per week.

Mrs. Mann

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that this is the first time that we have had no cheer at Christmas—and that is with the advent of a Tory Government? Can not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman reconsider his decision in the light of Tory promises that were based on their inheritance of a bankrupt estate?

Major Lloyd George

I do not think I need go into any details about promises. We have now reached a situation as a result of promises made six years ago. I would remind the House that a bonus is a distribution of profits.

Mrs. Mann

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that last year as a Christmas issue we had 1½ lbs. of sugar, a quarter of a pound of tea and six ounces of butter, and that the promise that the housewife realises to be something of a fact is the goods on her table? When can we have the food on the table?

Major Lloyd George

I agree that what the housewife looks for is food on the table. I had to see what was there. I could only distribute what was there.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

When was the last time that there was no Christmas bonus? This is a very, very serious matter. Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman accept as desirable the exultant cheers with which this announcement was received on the Government side of the House?

Major Lloyd George

On the question of bonuses, they varied according to the commodity from year to year. I have no record here of the last time when there was no Christmas bonus. But I should like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that since the war there has been no period like this year.

Mr. R. T. Paget

When are the Government going to stop whining about crises? We have had crises on our hands for six years. They are likely to have them for some years. Are they going to go on whining instead of doing something about it?

Major Lloyd George

I was under the impression that most of the whining came from hon. Gentlemen opposite.

48. Mrs. Mann

asked the Minister of Food if he is satisfied that supplies of dried and tinned fruit are adequate for Christmas and the New Year.

Major Lloyd George

A substantial allocation of dried vine fruit will be in the shops well before Christmas. There is an ample supply of figs and dates. There will also be considerable supplies of canned fruit imported on private account and by the Ministry.

Mrs. Mann

Is the Minister aware that the distribution is only 70 per cent. of the need? Also is he aware that we cannot cook the Dead Sea fruit that is coming from the other side in their promises?

Major Lloyd George

The Dead Sea fruit had not arrived when the Opposition were in power. That is the trouble. The allocation is greater than 70 per cent. I think that the distribution of canned fruit will be about double what it was this time last year.

Colonel Alan Gomme-Duncan

Does not my right hon. and gallant Friend agree that this is yet another realisation of what Socialist rule means?

50. Mrs. Mann

asked the Minister of Food to what extent prices of poultry, offered for Christmas and the New Year, will be controlled: and what will be the maximum permitted price for chicken, turkeys and rabbits.

Major Lloyd George

Rabbits and poultry were decontrolled about 18 months ago, and I see no reason for reversing that decision.

Mrs. Mann

Is not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that, with the meat ration at ls. 5d., it is necessary that chickens and other poultry should b available to the housewife at reasonable prices? Further, is he aware that all those chickens that have been coming home to roost in the last few days are far too indigestible?

Major Lloyd George

The fact is that the prices generally are somewhat lower than they were at this time last year.

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