HC Deb 19 October 1954 vol 531 cc1031-2
52. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Prime Minister whether he has now decided when the Ministry of Food is to be closed down.

The Prime Minister

The announcement published yesterday will have made it clear that the Ministry of Food is not being closed down at the present time. This war-time Department in its greatly reduced form is now being combined with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries under a Minister whose responsibilities will cover those of both the previously separate offices. As already stated, this process is expected to take six months to complete, during which all aspects of the problem will be freely considered.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Does not that answer mean that to all intents and purposes the Ministry of Food is to be continued, and will the right hon. Gentleman please say what considerations of public policy have led the Government to the conclusion that the Ministry of Food must be continued in some form or other?

The Prime Minister

I do not say that the Ministry of Food must be continued, but it is quite clear that there are some of the functions of the Ministry of Food whose permanent location in our system of Government must be carefully considered.

Mr. Attlee

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he gave consideration to the point that the Ministry of Food was essentially placed there to protect the consumer and has now been joined with the Ministry of Agriculture? Is not the amalgamation rather like that of the young lady and the tiger?

The Prime Minister

I feel quite certain that my right hon. Friend who is taking charge of both Ministries will not act in such a one-sided manner as the right hon. Gentleman in his similitude seems to suggest.

Mr. Woodburn

The Ministry of Agriculture runs in England only; the Ministry of Food runs throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. What arrangement is the right hon. Gentleman making in this new set-up about the Ministry of Food as it at present exists in Scotland?

The Prime Minister

I need scarcely say that this was not overlooked. Very few things connected with Scotland are overlooked. When the amalgamation has been completed the main duties of the two offices will be combined in a single Ministerial post, and the responsibility now discharged by the Minister of Food in relation to Scotland will then be transferred to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Dr. Summerskill

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it has not always been easy to reconcile the interests of the farmers with those of the consumers, and therefore would it not have been more appropriate to amalgamate this Ministry, if it were necessary to amalgamate it at all, with another Department, say the Board of Trade?

The Prime Minister

I do not exclude full consideration of the future of any of the functions of the Ministry of Food which will have to continue. I certainly feel that the interests of the consumers require most careful consideration.