HC Deb 16 February 1989 vol 147 cc480-1
9. Mr. Allen

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will re-examine the arrangements for distribution of surplus European Economic Community food to pensioners and others.

Mr. Ryder

The current scheme for the distribution of surplus European Economic Community food was introduced in 1988 and is to be reviewed after two years' operation. Charitable and non-profit-making organisations were invited to participate on this basis, and they will be consulted shortly about detailed arrangements for the 1989 distribution.

Mr. Allen

Is the Minister aware of the antagonism among those pensioners who are not entitled to receive any of the surplus butter, beef or whatever? Will he ensure that any future scheme is far fairer to all pensioners so that that sort of local problem does not arise? After all, £112 million was spent on surplus food in the redistribution. Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that either there is no problem, because there is no redistribution, or, if there must be redistribution, it is carried out fairly?

Mr. Ryder

About 6 million people are entitled to receive the food under this scheme and they fall mainly into three categories. They are those receiving family credit or income support, those of no fixed abode, and those living in welfare hostels. Many pensioners already fall into those three categories.

Mr. Kilfedder

Is the Minister aware that a vast number of deserving and needy pensioners in my constituency were denied the opportunity to benefit from the surplus EEC food because of the nonsensical distribution arrangements? I am sure that the Minister will ensure that this year's arrangements are fair and that pensioners will get a fair deal.

Mr. Ryder

I have already explained to the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) that many pensioners already fall into the three categories which I mentioned. In all, 6 million people are entitled to receive the food, many of whom are pensioners.

Mr. McGrady

Will the Minister take into account the fact that the distribution of surplus EEC foodstuffs in Northern Ireland was a complete disaster? Will the Minister investigate the allegations that certain bodies—even those with political connotations—were selling that food to people who were not within the categories which the Minister mentioned?

Mr. Ryder

If the hon. Gentleman has any evidence about the abuse of this system, I hope that he will present it to Ministers as soon as possible.