HC Deb 15 December 1952 vol 509 cc943-7
11 and 21. Miss Burton

asked the Minister of Food (1) what instructions have been issued by his Department to retailers,concerning the sale of larger rations of butter and bacon to people able to afford such purchases;

(2) what instructions have been issued by his Department to retailers for the return of unsold rationed goods, such as butter and bacon.

Major Lloyd George

It is an offence to supply more than the prescribed quantities of rationed foods and retailers should reduce their own purchases to the extent that rations are not fully taken up.

Miss Burton

That answer gets us nowhere. Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that if anyone in the better-off sections of the community is having larger rations of butter and bacon than those less able to afford them it is the job of his Ministry to prevent it? Would he have an investigation made into average shops in one or two towns to find out what is the take-up in the lower income groups?

Major Lloyd George

I am afraid that the hon. Lady's further question gets us nowhere either, because the fact is so far as is known, and after very careful investigation, the lowest take-up of bacon is in the highest income group and the highest take-up is in the lower income group.

Mr. Webb

In spite of those figures, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that large numbers of families in this country are not taking up their rations, simply because they cannot afford to? That is an undoubted fact. What action is he taking to prevent the retailers of these goods from selling quantities beyond their ration to other people, simply because they have the money to buy?

Major Lloyd George

If the right hon. Gentleman and many of his hon. Friends keep saying this kind of thing my reply is that if they have such knowledge it is their duty to take action. If they have not, then they have no right to make the statement. The only means I have of ascertaining the position is a means which was available to the right hon. Gentleman and to his predecessors over the last 10 years. which is the National Food Survey. The survey shows definitely that the highest income groups of this country take up the least bacon.

Mr. Webb

The National Food Survey to which the Minister refers, which is available this week-end, deals with 1950, when he was not in office.

Major Lloyd George

No, Sir. The right hon. Gentleman is thinking of the annual Report. I am talking of the survey which goes on the whole time. The figures I have quoted are the latest available, up to the end of September.

Miss Burton

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that my Questions get us nowhere because he has not the answers to give to them? As he has asked where we get this information from, will he go to the Old Age Pensioners' Association and ask how many old-age pensioners are able to take up their full rations of butter and bacon? That is a challenge. Will he accept it?

Major Lloyd George

I will not only accept it, but I will answer it now. So far as the old age pensioners are concerned, the take-up of butter is practically up to the average of the whole country. The answer is practically the same in regard to bacon. At least this Government have done something to improve the lot of old-age pensioners, which is more than the party opposite did when they were in office.

17 and 18. Mr. Swingler

asked the Minister of Food (1) his latest estimate of the extent to which the butter ration is not being taken up; and the reasons for this:

(2) his latest estimate of the extent to which the bacon ration is not being taken up; and the reasons for this

28. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Food what reasons he can give for the fall in the take-up of butter and also for the substantial fall in the take-up of bacon in the four weeks ended 29th November, 1952, when compared with a similar period in 1951.

Major Lloyd George

The butter ration is being taken up in full. It is estimated that 90 per cent. of the bacon ration was bought in the four weeks ended 29th November, 1952, together with more than 8,000 tons of cooked gammon or ham sold off the ration. This new additional supply possibly accounts for the slightly smaller demand for rationed bacon.

Mr. Swingler

Does the Minister now admit that the figures given last week and this week show that increasing quantities of rationed foods are not being taken up; that this trend has developed significantly since the last Budget; and that it is obvious that the Chancellor has priced some of the big families out of the market? What does the Minister propose to do to ensure that prices are adjusted so that the big families can buy their rations?

Major Lloyd George

I think the hon. Gentleman had better have the figures. The bacon ration this year is five ounces; last year it was three ounces. During the period to which the hon. Gentleman refers 35,000 tons of bacon were taken up; last year 25,000 tons were taken up. In addition to the 35,000 tons, 8,000 tons of unrationed ham were available.

Mr. Chetwynd

As the upper income groups do not seem to be taking up their meat, butter, bacon and milk, can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say how they are managing to live and what they are eating in place of these foods?

Major Lloyd George

I can only recommend the hon. Gentleman to listen a little more carefully. I said that the drop in milk consumption up to the end of September was highest in the higher income group. I did not suggest, nor would anyone be so foolish as to suggest, that they could not take it up.

Mr. Hastings

In view of the statement that one is often hearing that the butter goes to the wrong people, what action is the Minister taking to ensure that that does not happen, especially as butter is an extremely good food?

Major Lloyd George

I have tried to explain that the survey system has been in operation since 1940. It was used by the Labour Government throughout their administration. All experts advise me that it is far the best method of getting information from a good cross-section of the community. There is no better information at present. This is the only system we have, and we have to accept its results.

Mr. W. Griffiths

Can the Minister tell us whether the National Food Survey shows the take-up of the meat ration by people with an income of, say, £8 a week and four ration books?

Major Lloyd George

There are four categories—groups A, B, C and D. Group A represents those in receipt of £13 a week and over, and group D covers those in receipt of £4 10s. A different section is taken every month. That is the way it is done.

Mr. Dodds

If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman continues to claim that the rise in the cost of living has not affected the lower income groups but has compelled the richer people to cut down on milk, bacon and butter, does not he realise that before long he is likely to get an offer to top the bill at the Palladium as a straight-faced comedian?

22. Miss Burton

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that many old-age pensioners are unable to take up their ration of butter because they cannot afford it; and if he will consider introducing a scheme whereby old-age pensioners are able to obtain butter at reduced prices on production of their old-age pension book.

Major Lloyd George

The answer to both parts of the Question is, "No, Sir."

Miss Burton

Is the Minister aware that he is misinformed? Instead of taking this cross-section of the community, will he go into details and see how old-age pensioners are affected in any town he chooses? Has not he seen the report of the National Food Survey, which has just been published, which states that Labour narrowed the gap between the poorer people and the better-off in the take-up of rations? Will his Government maintain that narrowing, or is it their intention to widen the gap as much as possible?

Major Lloyd George

I think we have given every indication of what we intend to do about that. It is no good exaggerating these matters. The increased cost of butter to old-age pensioners is ¾d. a week, and the old-age pension was increased by us in October by 6s. 6d.

Mr. Gower

Is the Minister aware that people of sound sense will be glad to learn that his answers have so effectively rebutted these propaganda Questions?

Mr. Snow

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that a Sunday newspaper is busy propagating the argument that butter should be regarded as a luxury in order to increase the price and reduce the demand by the lower income groups? Will the Minister give an assurance that that will be strongly resisted by him?

Major Lloyd George

indicated assent.

Forward to