HL Deb 12 May 1942 vol 122 cc948-64

LORD ARNOLD rose to call attention to the high consumption of beer; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the subject which I am raising to-day is one which has received far too little attention in Parliament during the war, far less attention than during the last war. It is indeed almost incredible, at a time when nearly everything of universal consumption is rationed or is going to be rationed, and when we have fervid appeals on the wireless to do with less of almost everything of general consumption, that nevertheless the consumption of beer should remain, and should have remained throughout the war, at about the highest point for the last tea years. According to the latest official figures, that is what has happened. Of course it is possible that the extra twopence per pint put upon beer by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the recent Budget will do a little to reduce consumption. Judging from the figures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself he contemplates that this extra twopence will reduce consumption by one-tenth, but it is noteworthy that the previous threepence a pint put upon beer did not reduce consumption at all. However, the Chancellor of the Exchequer evidently thinks that the extra twopence will reduce consumption by about one-tenth.

Even so, the consumption of beer would remain about nine-tenths of that of 1939, which was the highest year for consumption in the last ten years. Of what else can that be said? Can you get nine-tenths of meat, nine-tenths of jam, nine-tenths of cheese, nine-tenths of butter, nine-tenths of eggs, nine-tenths of milk and so on? Your Lordships know perfectly well that the consumption of all these; very valuable foodstuffs has been most drastically cut down. You cannot get anything like that proportion of them. It is true that in some districts there is a shortage of beer, but that does not affect my argument. That is due to uneven distribution, to movement of population, to difficulties of transport and so forth. It does not alter the fact that over the country as a whole the consumption of beer has been at about the highest level for the last ten years. I know it is said that the specific gravity is lower, that the beer is weaker. That is true, but what that means is that more beer than ever is being consumed. It does not mean that there has been a reduction in the amount of foodstuffs diverted into the manufacture of beer. It simply means that there is more water in the beer. I do not object to that. In fact, I think it would be a good thing if it were all water.

But do not let people be deceived into thinking that, because the specific gravity is lower, there has been a saving in the foodstuffs used in the manufacture of beer. It really is not so. Actually the brewers have been using more barley than before the war, and this at a time when poultry keepers have had their barley cut down to nearly one-sixth: about five-sixths of their barley has gone. Despite all this, despite the urgent need for food, the Ministry of Agriculture have even urged the hop growers of Kent to increase their acreage this year by 10 per cent. If the consumption of beer were halved—I know that could not be done at once— it would release enough barley to feed about 18,000,000 hens, and that would be sufficient to give about four eggs per family per week throughout the country—a very different state of things from that which has been obtained. All this consumption of barley and also of sugar— because a large amount of sugar is used by the brewers—is for the benefit of a comparatively small section of the population, as I will prove to your Lordships, and I hold that to be grossly unfair.

The majority of the population, including the children—and of course they ought to be included especially in a matter of foodstuffs—do not drink beer or other alcoholic liquors at all, and they are suffering, very materially many of them, from this diversion of foodstuffs into the manufacture of beer. Let me carry this point a little further. There are, I suppose, somewhere about 30,000,000 people in the country over eighteen years of age. Now of those about 10,000,000 are teetotallers. Then, from 10,000,000 to 15,000,000 are what are called moderate drinkers. Thus there are probably about 5,000,000 to 7,000,000, of whom one-sixth are women, who drink heavily. And it is for this comparatively small proportion of the population, which amounts now, I suppose, to about 46,000,000, that this large usage of valuable foodstuffs is taking place. That seems to me to be altogether inequitable.

But the Government do nothing effective to deal with the drink problem. As I have said, the threepence a pint which they put on beer did nothing to reduce consumption. It is very difficult to reconcile this attitude of the Government with what has been said by various Ministers of the Government. I will quote to the Minister of Food; I will give him two or three instances of what I mean, including quotations from his own utterances. Mr. Oliver Lyttelton, the Minister of Production, said this: Whenever a ship makes an unnecessary-journey, whenever something we could do without, such as silk stockings, beer or private motor cars is delivered to the public, victory is postponed.

Then the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, said, and I have no doubt that he was quite right: The food situation is graver than it has ever been, and I cannot impress it upon you too strongly. Every extra hundredweight of food and every gallon of milk will count.

Now I come to the Minister of Food himself. Only a few weeks ago, he said: The time has come for a call for great personal austerity, austerity in living, austerity in working, and austerity in thinking.

I do not quite know what that means, but that is what he said, and he went on: I shall have to give you many opportunities for practising austerity.

Yes, my Lords, but there is not to be austerity in beer drinking. Beer is sacrosanct; it must not be touched. Now what is the defence for this policy, if it can be called a policy? I will try to put it as clearly as I can. First of all the Minister of Food has said that he must not use his powers to introduce social reform. There is really nothing in this point.


Please finish the sentence. I hope your Lordships will forgive me for interrupting, but this is the second time that the noble Lord has forgotten to finish a quotation.


I do not think that it makes any material difference. The point I am making is that the Government have passed a large number of measures, of a socialistic kind, during the war and no one has taken any particular objection to them because the Government have recommended them. Many measures of that description have been passed. Moreover in the last war—and this is a point which I wish especially to put to the noble Lord, the Minister of Food—the Food Controller was not deterred by any such considerations as the noble Lord has used, and he cut down drinking by nearly two-thirds. Then again the noble Lord, the Minister of Food, has said that it would be wholly wrong for him to use his powers to do something which would not pass a free vote of both Houses of Parliament.


That is the finish of the quotation.


There is nothing in that point. It is an entirely new doctrine in war-time, and I have not heard any one else put it forward, In the last war the Controller did not care a rap what any one thought: he went ahead and he did what he thought was right in the national interest. If the Government put it to Parliament that, in the national interest, in order to provide more foodstuffs for the people and for the children it was desirable that there should be some cut in beer, of course Parliament would support the Government whether the vote was free or not. If the noble Lord had been longer in Parliament he would know that, but of course he has not been in Parliament very long. As I have said, there is nothing in that point.

The noble Lord also said: You must not reduce beer drinking because otherwise the morale of the workers may be affected. Once again I say that, in the last war, drinking was cut down by nearly two-thirds. I do not say that everyone was pleased, I do not say that there was not some grumbling, but noble Lords who remember those days will agree that there was no material difficulty about the matter. I want to put this point to the Minister. Is it seriously argued that the essential characteristics of the working man have so changed in the last twenty-five years that whereas m the last war he was subjected to the most drastic curtailment—much more drastic than I propose—in the supplies of beer, yet in this war he will not submit to any cut, or to any cut worth speaking of? Is that the contention? If it is it will take a great deal of substantiating. The Liquor Control Board, in their Report in the last war, referred to the increased efficiency of the workers as the result of restrictions on drinking.

Now we go to the argument so often used, that you must not reduce beer drinking because to do so would be a loss to the revenue. I have dealt with this subject before at some length, and no reply has been attempted to the considerations which I have advanced. I will just say a few words about it now. As a matter of fact several financial and economic authorities, including Chancellors of the Exchequer, have held that the revenue from drink is, on balance, dearly bought. Sir George Murray, when Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue, said that it was impossible for the State to make anything out of the liquor traffic; the profits never balanced the losses. What is the present position? The total revenue expected from beer in the current year is £209,000,000. Incidentally, the revenue expected from tobacco is £304,000,000, so that tobacco has beaten beer. Tobacco has, in fact, beaten the total revenue from beer and spirits, which is now about £271,000,000. In the current year, in all probability the country will spend on drink of all kinds well over £500,000,000, and on tobacco about £400,000,000, so that on drink and tobacco together the country will be spending nearly £1.000,000,000, which is nearly a quarter of its total war expenditure.

As regards drink, this beer revenue of £209,000,000 is a little more than is. 6d. in the pound in relation to the total revenue of the country. That is not a very high proportion, and if, as a result of reducing it by degrees—not all at once—to half, there was on balance a deficiency for the lime being of, say, £50,000,000 there would not be the slightest difficulty in making that good by borrowing. In any case we shall be borrowing between £2,000,000,000 and £2,500,000,000 in the present year, so that an extra £50,000,000 is neither here nor there, especially bearing in mind that the net cost to the country of borrowing now, taking taxation into account, is only about one per cent. As a matter of fact—although I shall not take up time in dealing with this—there are many considerations which point to the fact that on balance the country would gain by reducing the consumption of beer. I have referred to what the Liquor Control Board have said, that even moderate drinking impairs to some extent the efficiency of the workers. If beer drinking was reduced there would be a bigger output, and any loss of revenue would soon be made good, and more than made good, by the increasing return of the Income Tax and of other taxes, owing to the beneficial effects of the decreased consumption of beer.

In spite of this, the Minister of Food has consistently refused, although approached by deputation after deputation, to do anything; he has not done a single thing to deal with this problem. In fact, he belittles it, and he has said that very many people believe that a glass of beer does nobody any harm. That sentence is greeted with cheers, but surely the noble Lord knows, as other noble Lords know, that it is not simply a question of one glass of beer per man. I can refute the noble Lord by quoting one of his principal colleagues, the Minister of Labour, Mr. Ernest Bevin. On the one hand we have the noble Lord, the Minister of Food, saying: There is not the slightest evidence that the amount of beer available at the present time is doing anything at all to reduce the output of munitions or to curtail the amount of work that is being done by the public. That is obviously an overstatement. I have now been in Parliament for nearly thirty years, and I always think that it is a great mistake to overstate one's case. That is obviously an overstatement, and I can refute it by quoting what was said by Mr. Ernest Bevin. Mr. Bevin did not say that at all. In seeking to justify his policy of wet canteens for war workers, he said: I did it deliberately, because I found that men who had to travel long distances to their homes were faced with temptation and that disastrous things were going on. I found that in dock areas and in other places some men working overtime went out and drank far too much. It will require a great deal of ingenuity on the part of the noble Lord to reconcile that statement by Mr. Bevin with his own position.

I know that there is a general idea in many quarters that there is not much drunkenness in the country at the present time. People often say to me: "There does not seem to be much drunkenness; I do not often see a drunken man." First of all, I should like to point out that my Motion does not deal with drunkenness; my Motion deals with the high consumption of beer, and the vast quantity of foodstuffs which is being diverted from more beneficial uses to the manufacture of beer. It is no reply to that whatever to contend that drunkenness is less than it used to be, even if that is true; and nobody knows whether it is true or not, because we have had no official statistics since 1938. In some places there is less drunkenness; in some places there is more. The last available official statistics, those of 1938, show that, as compared with 1932, drunkenness had increased by nearly 60 per cent. I say that there are no official statistics. Even if there were statistics now, they would not be comparable with the position before the war, because, as we all know, a certain amount of drunkenness is dealt with by the military authorities, and does not come before the civilian courts at all, and that fact has to be taken into account. I submit that it is only reasonable to assume that, as the consumption of beer has been at about the highest point for the last ten years, the amount of drunkenness has also been at that highest point. I think that that is a reasonable assumption, I put it to your Lordships and I leave it there.

It is no use any one getting up and saying: "I do not think that there is more drunkenness." In London there has been a great evacuation, and probably there is less drunkenness there; but the fact remains that over a long series of years—I am not now dealing with the last ten years only—speaking broadly the curve of drunkenness corresponds with the curve of beer consumption. Therefore I think that I have proved my point, that the probability is that there is just as much drunkenness now as there was in 1938. It is at any rate very difficult to argue to the contrary. As a matter of fact, many Chief Constables have reported at the Brewster Sessions that there has been an increase of drinking amongst young people, and that is not surprising, having regard to the high wages which they are now receiving. There cannot be any argument about that. That is true in many districts, and particularly in Birmingham, where high wages are being paid and where more people are working than before the war.

Before I pass on, I should like to give another quotation from a colleague of the noble Lord. This is from another noble Duke—the Dukes are doing very well in this matter! The noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, according to the Derbyshire Times of 27th February, said: If we are really going out for the war effort, no one would so much as smoke one cigarette, or drink one glass of beer, or indulge in any other luxury. That is going rather far; it is going much further than I have gone or suggested. I had even thought of asking the noble Duke whether he would say a word or two in support of my Motion, but his views are rather extreme. I should very much like to know what the noble Lord, the Minister of Food, has to say about that, and how he can reconcile his consistent refusal to do anything about beer with these words of his colleague the noble Duke.

I know that it is customary to regard anybody in this or the other House who opposes the drink trade as a teetotal extremist. If that charge is brought against me, I am at any rate in very good company, for I find that at the present time the Prime Ministers of nearly all British Dominions are teetotalers, and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland also; and many of the Dominions have done much more than the Mother Country to deal with this problem. The Mother Country has in fact done nothing to deal with it. I find further support for what I am saying in the words of Marshal Pétain, who said in August, 1940, not long after the fall of France: Alcoholism is destroying our race. And a few days later the Vichy Government reported that alcoholism was one of the four main causes for the national collapse of France. Then your Lordships will remember—I know that my noble friend Lord Addison will remember very well because he was then in the Government—that Mr. Lloyd George in the last war said: Drink is doing more damage in the war than all the German submarines put together. Therefore I submit that the attitude of the noble Lord opposite has been wrong, and that he ought to take steps to reduce very substantially the amount of barley and sugar which is being diverted into the manufacture of beer.

I have tried to be fair and to put the case moderately. I am not emulating the noble Lord, Lord Snell. We know that he revels in polysyllabic verbiage, and at a meeting at which I was present he described beer as "unprofitable hog-wash." I have not done anything like that, it has not been necessary. It is not needful to go to extremes when your case is strong enough without, and I maintain that my case, is quite strong enough. I have endeavoured to rely on facts rather than on rhetoric, and I hope the noble Lord opposite will deal with the facts, and not deal with other facts of his own, but deal with my facts. I have great respect for the noble Lord, in spite of what I have said. He has a fine record at the Ministry of Food. He has done many great things there, things which, when he lays down his office, he will be able to look back upon with satisfaction and pride.


Hear, hear.


Yes, but his handling of the drink problem will not be one of them, I beg to move.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord at any rate for his closing words. I am afraid that I am not going to give him very much satisfaction to-day.


I did not expect it.


I gather that he takes a poor view of my colleagues as members of the Government, since the quotations he has made from their words are being used against me, and he does not know what I mean when I talk about austerity in thinking. I fail to understand what policy he is urging on His Majesty's Government. I know that there are people who, from a deep and religious conviction, regard the consumption of alcohol as an evil thing, and believe that the sale of it ought to be prohibited in this country. People who hold that belief have made great efforts to convince their fellow-citizens both of the righteousness and the wisdom of that view, and if they had succeeded the Government of this country would have expressed its views in legislative form.

The noble Lord has not addressed the House as one who urges the complete prohibition of the sale of beer, but has urged that we should deliberately create a scarcity. In spite of his knowledge of the fact that beer has been difficult to obtain in many places during the past year, he urges us to reduce production by a half. I cannot conceive it as right that any Government should deliberately create a scarcity of an article in very wide consumption unless they were at the same time prepared to take steps to reorganize the distribution of this commodity so that all those who wanted it should have a fair share. I do not propose to add to the problems of the Government by rationing beer, and I wonder what the noble Lord would say if I were to come before this House and say that I proposed to ration beer. I venture to suggest to your Lordships that the noble Lord in the presentation of his view has done something less than justice both to the people of this country and to the Government. The Motion of the noble Lord calls attention to the high consumption of beer. That, I submit, is a somewhat misleading phrase. It is not the name that matters but the contents. The consumption of beer, in terms of its content of grain and alcohol, is not high. It has been systematically restricted to approximately the same level as before the war. The larger bulk barrel-age now being drunk consists of extra water—a beverage which in theory at least is approved by the highest authorities.

In this country to-day we have a larger employed population than we have ever known. We have a large standing Army reinforced by troops of other nations. It is a well-recognized fact that men engaged in heavy work for long hours may find most congenial social recreation in the evening in a glass of beer with their friends. And I say, why should not they? In consequence one would normally expect beer consumption in the country at the present time to show a marked increase. Certainly there would be a danger that any severe restriction of it would result in widespread industrial discontent, as it did in the last war, with a harmful effect upon our war effort. Such actual increase as has taken place however has consisted of added water, not of more alcohol.

There are three principal reasons which might be urged by different groups of critics for advocating the restriction of the amount of beer we produce. The first would be the view of the temperance reformer to which I have already alluded. On the assumption that alcohol is an unmitigated evil he would desire to see its production reduced to the lowest level. But that point of view does not command approval in this country and no democratic Government could adopt it. The noble Lord says that I have not been in Parliament as long as he has. I agree. But at any rate I have a profound respect for Parliament, and it would be wrong, in my opinion, for any Minister to use the powers that are given him under exceptional circumstances to bring in laws which would not receive the consent of Parliament if they were submitted to it.

The second ground would be the interference with our war effort caused by drunkenness. The noble Lord has referred constantly to what happened in the last war, but he has not compared the relative strengths of the beer in the last war and in this war. It was the amount of drunkenness in the last war that was the sole ground that determined the steps which were taken to control the sale of liquor in this country. Surely we have a story to tell here that is creditable to the people of this country—and creditable to the way His Majesty's Government have managed this problem. At the present time there is no evidence that drunkenness is interfering with our war industries. On the contrary all the evidence goes to show that, in spite of the fact that the working population have more money in their Dockets than for many years past, and have fewer objects upon which they can congenially spend it, the amount of drunkenness in the country since the war has declined.

Let me quote you the figures of prosecutions for drunkenness. The noble Lord said there were no figures—that is the opposite of austerity in thinking. In the year 1914 in the county boroughs of this country 75,000 people were prosecuted; in 1939, 22,000; in 1941, 18,608, or one quarter of the 1914 total, and 15½ per cent. below the 1939 level. I am assured by the Home Office that these figures may be regarded as typical of the trend in the country as a whole. In the Metropolitan Police District prosecutions for drunkenness in 1941 were only one-sixth of those in 1914 and nearly 30 per cent. below the 1939 level. In Scotland the figures are most encouraging. In Glasgow, in 1914, 11,317 people were convicted of drunkenness; in 1938, 5,800; in 1941, 3,182. In Dundee since the outbreak of war the convictions have dropped by 30 per cent. In Scotland as a whole the figures have dropped from 11,700 in 1940 to 9,055 in 1941. These figures show pretty clearly that there is no rise in drunkenness during the present war such as was experienced in the first years of the last war, and that there is no reason on this ground for urging a reduction in the supply of beer. Substantially we began in this war where they left off in the last war. Let us give ourselves some praise for toe restraint we have learnt!

There remains the third ground to which the noble Lord has drawn attention: the saving of foodstuffs and the increase in supply of other forms of food which would result from a reduction in the amount of grain allocated to the brewing industry. It is the business of Government to estimate the relative national advantage of food and shipping usage and to give priorities accordingly. It is of course obvious that if the grains which have been utilized for brewing had not been so used they would have been available for some other purpose such as the feeding of pigs or hens. But it would be a mistake to assume that such a diversion of their use would have had any very marked effect upon the general level of food supply in this country.

In the first place it must be remembered that when grain is used as an animal feeding stuff, only a very small proportion of it ultimately materializes in the form of meat or eggs. The bulk of it is used up by the pigs or hens in the maintenance of their own private lives; 360,000 tons of barley would produce 50,000 tons of additional pigmeat. Assuming that beer production had been cut in half, and that the barley thus saved were all given to poultry, it has been calculated that the net result would be sufficient to feed 7,000,000 hens—not 18,000,000, as the noble Lord said. The result, I am told—and I only repeat the calculation that has been made—is that we should have an increase of one egg per month. This egg, however welcome, would be dearly bought at the expense of the very widespread discontent and, maybe, a decline of industrial production which would follow so drastic a cut in the beer supplies. It is perfectly true that my very respected predecessor in office, Lord Rhondda, in the last war did cut down the beer supply. It is also true that he had to put some of it back because of the amount of industrial discontent and the loss of industrial production that resulted.

But that story of the use of the grain and the egg is not the whole story. The grain used in brewing is not utterly destroyed in the process. Brewers' grain results—a valuable cattle food, fed to dairy herds, one of the best types of fodder for stimulating milk production. In spite of what the noble Lord said about nothing having increased during the war—everything else having dropped—milk consumption has increased by 200,000,000 gallons during this war. I need not enter into any discussion of the food value of beer itself, which is subject to varying estimates from people with different prepossessions, but if the noble Lord will refer to a report to the Board of Trade by a Committee of the Royal Society in 1917 he will see that no use of the barley short of direct employment as a bread stuff—a use to which we have not needed to resort—would result in a larger supply of human food than its conversion into beer and milk.

I have, perhaps, taken a view rather antagonistic to the noble Lord. I have not said the last word on this subject on behalf of His Majesty's Government. We do not know what the future position will be. I have spoken of the position as it is now, and as it has been up to now. I agree that we have to examine and reexamine, almost day by day, the uses of the foodstuffs that we have available. I can assure the noble Lord that we shall continue to study these foodstuffs so as to give to the country the best possible use of all the things that are available. We do not want to consider this only in terms of the human body. We shall consider it also in terms of the human mind, and the psychological as well as "he nutritional factor has to be taken into account. Let me just say one other thing. I was among those—not with such extreme views as, in my opinion, the noble Lord had—who were very anxious to see some reduction in the amount of excessive drunkenness that there was, particularly among the poorer section of the population, in the slums of this country 25 years ago. Then the thing for which all of us begged and prayed was a light drink which the working people of the country might have that would give them more pleasure and satisfaction without the bestiality that followed from excessive drinking. We have got that beer now, people are enjoying it, and it is doing them at any rate very little harm. I have at some length outlined to your Lordships the policy that on behalf of His Majesty's Government I have pursued, and the policy that I intend to pursue. I believe that it is one which is meeting with the approval of the country. I know it is one which will meet with the approval of your Lordships' House.


My Lords, before the Motion is withdrawn I would like to say two or three things. We have; had the usual unsatisfactory and disappointing reply from the noble Lord. It is exactly what I expected. He said just the same a year ago. He did not bind himself to the future a year ago. He said precisely the same thing, and I have no doubt if he is still at the Ministry, which may not be the case, he will say just the same again twelve months hence. He says that it is difficult to conceive any reason why the Government should reduce beer consumption. I am not going through the argument again. It is really a very extraordinary statement to make. There is no real argument about it, and to compare two things, as he did when the difference is not as glaring as the noble Lord suggested, is to put the matter quite unfairly. The noble Lord says the content of the beer—I suppose he means the alcoholic content—is not high. As regards barley the brewers are using more barley than before the war, or at least they were doing so two or three months ago, but the twopence a pint may have made a small difference. My information is that in 1939 the consumption of beer and of the materials which make beer was at the highest point for ten years, and to come here and say that the content is not high is misleading seeing that the consumption of beer is the highest or thereabouts for ten years.

The noble Lord also said that we have a large standing Army here reinforced by other nations, but he did not point out to your Lordships what a large number of our troops we have sent abroad. He did not say anything about those troops, and I suggest that they should be taken into account if you are to take into account the troops which have come here from abroad. The two should be balanced one against the other. He said also, amidst the usual murmur of applause, "Why should not a man have a glass of beer?" He says there is no evidence of any widespread industrial effects, or, in fact, any effects at all from beer drinking. Against what the noble Lord says I would point out that I quoted the words of Mr. Ernest Bevin, who said bad things were going on as a result of beer drinking, and I prefer the evidence of Mr. Ernest Bevin, who is Minister of Labour. I think his word should hold the field.

Further, the noble Lord said it would be wrong of him to do something which would not receive the consent of Parliament. How was it, then, that in the last war Parliament agreed with practically no opposition—I was there myself—to a reduction bigger than I suggest, a reduction of nearly two-thirds on drinking? Does the noble Lord seriously tell your Lordships that if the Government came forward and said they had come to the conclusion, as so many other things are rationed, that it was necessary to have some cut in beer, that the Government would be thrown out?


No, certainly not.


Very well then, Parliament would pass it. The noble Lord admits that, so there is nothing in that point at all. He asks whether I want beer rationed. No, I do not want beer rationed; I want it cut down as it was cut down in the last war; perhaps not so much as it was then, but I do want it cut down. The noble Lord talked about figures relating to drunkenness and gave the figures for London. I have already pointed out that the population of London is much less than it was before the war. I have also pointed out—and it is most important—that I am bringing no charge whatever against the troops. I have the greatest sympathy with these men, but the noble Lord's figures do not include the drunkenness dealt with by the military authorities. I myself have seen lying in the gutter a soldier dead drunk and two police not far away; if he had been a civilian, the soldier would have been arrested, but he was not, and the police did nothing. I am not complaining. I am sorry for the poor fellow. He would be dealt with by the military authorities when he got back to camp. But let us have fair figures if we are to have figures. You must take the civilian figures as I gave them. These show that consumption is at the highest point or thereabouts for ten years, and it is only reasonable to suppose that drunkenness is about the same whatever the Home Office say about civilian statistics, which do not really cover the ground. Then the noble Lord says that if beer consumption were reduced the barley thereby set free would be sufficient for feeding only 7,000,000 hens, not 18,000,000, as I said. My figures were those of the Ministry of Agriculture.


My figures were supplied by that Ministry.


Mine were quoted from the official statement of the Ministry of Agriculture last year. The Ministry said it would make a difference, if the matter were dealt with in a certain way, to the feeding of 18,000,000 hens. After the last discussion on this matter the noble Lord was good enough, and I appreciate it very much, to enter into a correspondence with me which went on for some months. I did not accept the figures of the noble Lord.


Perhaps you would direct your remarks to the noble Duke who represents the Ministry of Agriculture.


I shall direct them to what was said by the Ministry of Agriculture last year. There is evidently some discrepancy which requires explanation. I could go on, but I am not going to do so. The noble Lord has not really replied to my point. He rides off on points of his own. That is not debate, whatever else it may be, but I do not think it worth while to take the matter further. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.