HC Deb 09 November 1953 vol 520 cc573-6
2. Miss Burton

asked the Minister of Food the amount of meat per ration book and the off-ration allowance for the weeks of September and October to the latest convenient date; and the average take-up of meat per person for the same weekly periods.

Major Lloyd George

During the six weeks ended 10th October the butchers were, on average, offered each week 3s. 7d. worth of meat per head of the population. This was to cover the ration of 2s. 4d., the off-ration allowance of 6d., and allowances for caterers, schools and institutions, and for manufacture. The butchers actually took about 3s. 1d. per head on average. No records are available of the precise quantities of meat sold to domestic users on the ration or off.

Miss Burton

Would the Minister agree that it is most misleading for the Government to state that the average amount of meat consumed per head of the population has gone up during recent months? Would he not agree that the average take-up figure given does not represent the take-up per person and that, as we on this side of the House well know, many people have had a great deal more and others have had a great deal less?

Major Lloyd George

The only satisfactory way to use figures is to use them on a comparable basis. The average take-up figures that I have used here can be compared with those for 1950 and 1951. Whereas last year the amount taken up was 3s. 1d., in 1950 it was 2s. 10¼d., and in 1951 it was 2s. 11d.

3. Miss Burton

asked the Minister of Food if he will conduct an inquiry among butchers and grocers to ascertain the number of ration book holders taking up their weekly ration of meat, butter and bacon.

Major Lloyd George

No, Sir.

Miss Burton

Why does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman persistently refuse that information to this side of the House? Is he aware that we are concerned not with the amount of meat that has gone to the butchers, but with the amount that has gone out to the ration book holders? If the people are taking up their full amount, why are the Government so afraid of finding out the facts?

Major Lloyd George

We are not afraid of finding out the facts, because the facts are very much better than they used to be. We have had a survey. As the hon. Lady knows, this is the survey which was frequently used by the last Government, and which is based on a very good cross-section of the population. I do not think there could be any possible justification for conducting an inquiry such as the hon. Lady has in mind.

Sir H. Williams

Mr. Speaker, would not greater light be thrown on this subject if we could have more light in the Chamber?

Mr. Speaker

I have already asked for more light to be provided.

11. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Minister of Food how he accounts for the fact that 22 per cent. of the margarine entitlement, equivalent to 13,300,000 rations, was not taken up during the four-week period ended 3rd October last.

Major Lloyd George

The hon. and gallant Member's figures relate to deliveries to the trade. These fluctuate from period to period, and no sound inference can be based on the figures for a single period.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Does not the Minister consider that it is deplorable and disgraceful that so many millions of people are obviously unable to take up their margarine rations, if the figures have been as bad as those disclosed in this Question?

Major Lloyd George

The non-take-up of butter in the same period was very much less, and it is, therefore, nonsense to suggest that this matter has anything to do with money.

Mr. Gibson

Will not the Minister get his Department to make some detailed inquiries into this matter in various parts of the country? Our experience is that these foods are not being taken up to the full extent of the so-called official ration.

Major Lloyd George

Beyond going from door to door—which is impossible—there is no method which can be adopted except the one which the previous Administration followed, which gives a very fair cross-section of the country.

14. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that there has been a decline in the take-up of bacon, meat, butter, margarine, cooking-fats and cheese, varying from 1.7 per cent. for butter, the equivalent of 900,000 rations, to 14.2 per cent. for bacon, the equivalent of 8,200,000 rations; and whether, in view of the fact that millions of people are thus unable to afford their basic rations, he will restore the food subsidies or make some arrangement for reducing the price of some of these basic foodstuffs, so as to enable the poorer sections of the population to take up their rations.

Major Lloyd George

During the second quarter of this year, when food prices were slightly higher than they are now, the National Food Survey shows that on the average households in the lowest income group spent on all these foods only 4d. less per head per week than households in the highest income group. This suggests that the availability of ample supplies of all kinds of food was the main reason for rations not being fully taken up, and not the price.

Mr. Lewis

That is a nonsensical reply. Even so, is the Minister not aware that for an old age pensioner who has to count all his coppers before he spends them, fourpence is a lot, and that the old age pensioners cannot afford now to take up their rations? Has not his attention been drawn to the statement made by the old age pensioners at their conference last week at Westminster? Is it not about time that he did something for the poorer sections of the population?

Mrs. Mann

Is the Minister aware that the suave replies that delight his own people are not carrying any weight with the shipbuilders, the engineers, and the mining industry, who are laying wage claims today? Is he further aware that his policy is crippling the export drive of our country?

Major Lloyd George

I am perfectly certain that this greater availability of food is much more popular than the hon. Lady thinks.

Mr. Nabarro

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that now that Tory abundance is replacing Socialist scarcity the majority of housewives are delighted with his policies and that there will be further changes in the pattern of consumption?

Mr. Speaker

These are all general questions that can be debated tomorrow.

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