HL Deb 20 February 1946 vol 139 cc757-825

2.43 p.m.


rose to draw attention to the statements of His Majesty's Government regarding the Country's food supplies; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I placed this Motion on the Order Paper because I thought it was proper that the country should have an opportunity of hearing your Lordships' views on this urgent and national matter of food supplies. I hope that the debate will both give and get useful information. I know from fortunate experience the wealth of practical knowledge that your Lordships possess on this subject. During the time that I was in office, I never left your Lordships' House after one of the numerous food debates that we had without having received much information and many useful hints.

If I may say so, not least among your Lordships did I get these hints and that information from the noble Viscount who now leads the House. I should like to assure the Leader of the House that whilst we who sit on these Benches are indeed very critical of the present administration of food supplies, we hope so to conduct the debate as to keep it on the broadest lines of public interest and I do assure him that we do it without any thought of partizan advantage.

For the Minister of Food himself I have nothing but sympathy. In fact, I am very nearly as sorry for him as he appears to be for himself, because I observe that yesterday he said that he felt that he was the person who needed sympathy, and he has my sympathy. For here is a gentleman working under the greatest possible disadvantages. He is entrusted by the Prime Minister with the conduct of a large business organization involving the purchase and distribution of food to the extent of £660,000,000 per annum, food which he must secure in world markets. It is a very big job and on his ability to carry out that job every man, woman and child in this country depends for their sustenance and their health. It is a very big job and a very grave responsibility, but apparently it is not of sufficient importance in the eyes of his senior colleagues to justify his inclusion in the Cabinet. It may, indeed, have been some advantage to him, of course, to be free from the discussions which must have been the preoccupation of the Cabinet in these recent months—these conversations about how the economic structure of our society should be altered and improved— but whilst the Cabinet have been planning the new world in which we are to live, we seem to have been allowed to slip into a position in which we may have insufficient food to maintain our life and our health.

He is a Minister without Cabinet rank, a Minister who is only called in on occasions—I was not a Cabinet Minister—and a Minister who is only called in on occasions is in very poor shape to stand up for his job and speak up for it against the preoccupations of more highly placed Ministers. Especially is he in a very poor position indeed to stand up for his rights to the Treasury. I believe that Sir Ben Smith ought never to have been asked to take office under these conditions. The Minister of Food should have full Cabinet rank. What can be more important? for on him lies the responsibility of seeing that the Government fulfil what is surely one of their primary responsibilities. In these days, when currency and shipping and imports remain controlled, in these regrettable circumstances when the initiative of the private trader who used to go all over the world finding our food supplies is hamstrung, no office could be more important than that of the man on whom we depend for the sufficiency of our daily bread. The position is one which calls for administrative competence based on commercial knowledge and it requires all the support and prestige of high Cabinet rank. I noticed last night with alarm that in spite of the expressed doubts of the Government as to their ability to feed us as we should consider properly in these times, the Leader of the House repeated the determination of the Government to depend in future on Government bulk buying of food supplies.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I did not do anything of the kind. What I said was in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, with regard to our policy in regard to the Dominions. I said that in our view our reliance on bulk purchase from the Dominions would adequately maintain their position as food suppliers, but the noble Lord knows perfectly well that this country buys food from all parts of the world. I was only referring to the main- tenance of our policy in regard to the Dominions.


I should be very relieved if I could be told that His Majesty's Government did not propose, as the Minister of Food said and as I thought the Leader of the House supported last night, that the Government should be the purchaser of food supplies in the future, because there is nothing in their present position to justify them having that self-confidence in themselves or in assuming that they can undertake such a grave responsibility. A good deal of criticism has been levelled at the Government recently on the score that they have not taken the country sufficiently into their confidence. That is a criticism which has been levelled at them a good deal. With great respect to those who have made the criticism, I do not think that that is the major issue. I acknowledge very willingly the help that the public will give to a Minister when they are informed about what he is trying to do; but the first duty of a Minister of Food is to get food for the country. It is stocks anti not public relations that come first. If one source of supply dries up then it is the business of the Minister to find another source of supply or else alternatively, to find some substitute for the food he has failed to get.

Until we get back to the state in which the merchants and the importers are given freedom to use their initiative and to trade, the Government has the whole responsibility for securing adequate supplies. I well remember telling the supply departments of the Ministry of Food that every time they came to me to advise me to ration a commodity they must come in a spirit of humility, recognizing that they had failed in their job of securing supplies, and that what they were doing was asking me to use the power I had to deprive the country of some of their freedom. It was a very harsh doctrine for a Minister to give to his Department, but it was a very salutory one. The conditions of war made both rationing and scarcity inevitable. What were those conditions? I ask you to compare them with present-day conditions. Firstly, there was the U-boat campaign which in a month sank supplies we had obtained to the extent of hundreds of thousands of tons. Then there was the shortage of shipping consequential on sinkings and on the demands on transport for munitions and for the movement of troops. Thirdly, there were the long voyages that our ships had to make and the very slow turn-round of them in congested ports on our western shores. Those were very difficult times, but we got over them.

Now we hear of a series of world misfortunes emanating from the weather. There has been snow in Spain, said Sir Ben Smith yesterday. There has been drought in Australia, in Africa and in the Argentine. Well, local droughts are very unfortunate, but they are not without precedent, and the question I would ask is: What has been the effect of these droughts? Why has it suddenly become an urgent problem for the people of this country? Are these unhappy facts of nature being used as an alibi for lack of foresight in getting in supplies earlier on? Again, we are told that there has been a failure of the Indian cereal crop. This is the second failure of the Indian cereal crop in very recent years, so there is nothing very unusual about that. But it is one of the things against which prudent administrators insure. They insure against it by having other sources of supply available.

When we were in danger of a rice shortage during the war, because we did not get rice from Burma and did not get it from Siam, we sent over to Brazil to encourage the Brazilian rice planters, by giving them, large orders, to develop their production, and that was why we were able to maintain our supplies—not very good supplies, let me confess—of rice during the war, but we did maintain our supplies. I ask what this Government has done to increase rice production. I ask them whether they have approached Egypt, I ask them whether they have approached Brazil, for production is the solution of the whole problem of food supplies, and variations in production are something for which the competent administrator plans.

Now I come to the wheat position. I ask what are the facts? I ask the Government to tell us frankly: Has the drought really anything to do with British sources of supply of wheat? I ask them to tell us what is the present position. During the war, in spite of the U-boats, we kept in this country a minimum of fourteen weeks' supply of wheat and flour. When we were preparing for military operations in North Africa or for the landing in Normandy, which temporarily took all our ships, then we worked up our stocks to nineteen weeks. I ask the Government two questions about our wheat and flour supplies. Firstly, I ask them whether Canada has not now sufficient wheat and flour in stock to meet all our needs? Secondly, I ask them to tell us how many weeks' stock they had three months ago when this danger first became apparent. I ask them to tell us how many weeks' stock they have now.

Let me say this, in view of some of the criticism that has been levelled against the Government on the subject of bread. I do not think the public health is going to suffer in the least from an increased extraction rate of flour. I think it is a matter of public taste that is involved and not a matter of public health. I am, however, concerned about one step that is consequent upon this increased extraction rate of flour. I hoped that we were going to increase considerably our home production of pigs and poultry and, consequently, of eggs. We have great need of these things. We have, in fact, encouraged the farmers to embark on this course, and the failure of feeding stuffs is going to be very hard on the farmers as well as consequentially very hard on the public. Therefore I ask the Government what steps they have taken to import maize from the Argentine to meet this pressing need. In another place, Mr. Eden asked the Minister of Food for this information, but, probably due to the pressure of many questions in debate, he did not get the information, so I ask for it now.

I am informed that the Argentine has ceased to use maize to fuel their railway engines as a result of having got some supplies of oil. I am told they have ample supplies of maize to meet our needs, and I ask: Are we going to import maize to feed our livestock? I ask: Can the farmers of this country rely upon getting these supplies? That is the sort of information that the public wants. I noticed recently a statement in the newspapers that we are going to export to the Continent 2,000,000 young chickens. I have had some difficulty lately in getting chicken, and I wonder if we might ask the Government just what this means. I know they have no responsibility for things which appear in the newspapers, but, if the information is true, I ask diem to tell us what it means. Have we a surplus of chickens? I wish I knew where they were. Or is it the fact that Belgium is better off for feeding stuffs than we are, that they can do what we cannot do? I hear some very good accounts of the way Belgium is restoring her standard of living. In fact I noticed last night that Belgium is advertising for tourists with this very attractive advertisement: "There is no food shortage in Belgium."

Now I come to the question of fats, and here I must quite frankly, I think, in fairness admit some prejudice; I think that this subject is so important. I went to much trouble to study the conditions in Germany towards the close of the last war. I was led to the conclusion that it was shortage of fats that undermined the health and morale of the German people at that time. In this war I fortified myself with the best scientific information that I could get, and I then, on that advice—and I do not think the noble Viscount, who has more claims than I have to talk on scientific matters, will dissent from me—determined that eight ounces of fat per person per week represented the minimum on which the people of this country could maintain their health and their working power. I still retain that belief. The only occasion on which Sir Ben Smith asked me to come and see him, I pledged him my support on two conditions: one was—and I will come to this later—that he did not feed the people of Europe or anyone else at the expense of our already low minimum standard of rationing in this country; and the second was that he would maintain a minimum rationing of eight ounces of fat per person per week. If he failed on either of those two factors, then I concluded that his administration would fail.

In order to keep up the fat ration, it is necessary to look around a great deal. The failure of Indian supplies of ground nuts—ground nuts are used for making margarine, in case your Lordships do not know what your margarine is made of—is nothing that comes like a bolt from the blue. It has happened before. I very well remember sending to my noble friend Viscount Swinton, when he was Resident Minister in Africa, a message telling him that our fat ration was in great danger, and I asked him to beg the native chiefs of West Africa to come to our rescue by gathering more ground nuts. Well, his Lordship made great excursions. He had many very impressive palavers with the chiefs. I must say I almost envied him the dramatic position in which, in a great white 'plane, he came down to the native chiefs. It must have been a great occasion. He begged them to help us. I very well remember the joy with which I heard that the native chiefs had sent a message of loyalty to the Crown and had pledged themselves to meet our-deficiency. They were as good as their word. They sent us over 200,000 tons extra of ground nuts.

But the deficiency was not urgent and immediate; it was a prospective deficiency. It was something that I feared might happen, not something that had happened—it was more than six months off. I ask the Government, were they foolish enough to rely for their fat ration upon the elusive habits of the whales in the Antarctic? We are told that the whaling season has been a bad one. They ought not to have relied on that source. I am quite sure—and I speak with all seriousness on this matter—that it is not beyond human power and inventiveness to maintain for the people of this country this minimum and meagre fat ration of eight ounces on which I believe we depend for our health.

I think your Lordships would like to be told to what extent our food supplies are dependent upon the decisions of the Combined Food Board in Washington, and whether the United States of America, which is represented on that Combined Food Board, is making proportionate cuts in her domestic consumption of fats. When Mr. Attlee appointed a woman doctor as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food—a lady who, by the way, when out of office, had talked a great deal of the health of the nation, as she was entitled to do as a woman doctor—I was very greatly encouraged. I thought she, at any rate, would refuse to remain in a Department whose performance endangered the health of the nation, and I was disappointed that she, who had the knowledge, failed to convince either her Minister or her Department of the importance of this factor of fats.

If the Government were now to concentrate all their efforts on providing food for the people of this country, I believe they could fulfil their election pledges of a higher standard of living and of a greater variety in our food. I believe that they can get more meat for us, I believe they can get considerably more fruit, and I want to be assured that, at the very least, we can rely upon adequate supplies of orange juice and halibut oil to meet the demands of the infant welfare centres, so that the health of our children, maintained in war, is not impaired in peace. I ask them for information on this question, of which I have given notice, and I do know this: that nobody will be more sympathetic to that desire than the noble Viscount who leads this House.

Now I want to ask another question. Why is it that when the Prime Minister of this country cables to Australia asking for their help with our food supplies he gets an immediate response? What does it mean? To me it means only one thing: it means that the supplies were there and available, and if it had been done six months ago or even three months ago, we should not be in the position in which we are now. Australia and New Zealand have rendered very great and magnificent service to us. We no longer are in the position, as we were, of having to ask them to feed large American armies in the Pacific. Why cannot we get that meat that they used to send? What was the figure?—300,000 tons, or something like that, I remember. Cannot we get that meat that they used to send to the troops in the Pacific? Why cannot we get it here to improve our meat ration? We are very greatly in need of an increase in the meat ration. Why are we not getting it? What are the difficulties? I ask the noble Lord who replies to tell us, if it is transport that is the trouble, whether there is some failure in our transport organization. Are we short of ships? Where are all the ships we had in such abundance during the war?

Then I ask for information about the dried egg position. What really did happen? I suggest that what happened was that some British or American officials in Washington, impressed by the dollar position, decided that we could do without these dried eggs which every housewife in the county wants. The trouble I took to try to make housewives like dried egg when I was in office! Never one word of praise did I hear from them, until Sir Ben Smith said he was going to take dried eggs away. I suggest that the officials in Washington just got a bit misled as to what the feelings of the British housewife were on the subject. Perhaps if the British housewives had praised the eggs a little more when they got them, the British officials would not have been misled. And I suggest that the British officials got very considerable support from the Treasury representatives who were looking at the dollar position.

We hear of many reasons why we cannot have dried eggs. We hear that they are both expensive and scarce, but in America they are advertising dried eggs as being good for chicken feed. Therefore they cannot be so scarce, and I do not know whether they are expensive or not. The dried egg story as told by the Government leaves me unconvinced. If you are making excuses it is a very good rule to have only one and not a bunch. However, I gather that in spite of all the excuses we are still going to have the dried eggs. In the face of a very proper public protest the excuses are vanishing; we shall get the eggs, but the public will not be quite so convinced next time they hear all the excuses. We are going to get the eggs, and apparently we are going to get American films as well. For my part I put more food before films. I wonder whether those civil servants in well-fed Washington had not better come home for a spell so that they may see the conditions of life here and what is the standard of living of the ordinary people of this country. I hope the Minister will buy a considerable number of copies of this week's Punch and send them to the officials in Washington so that they may see the cartoon which appears.

In far away Washington I believe they are looking, as perhaps is their duty, at the world position, but I beg the Government not to be too internationally minded on the food front. Britain comes first with the people of this country, and I know it comes first with the Government. I beg them not too readily to accept the depressing statistics that emanate from the Combined Food Board in Washington as to the needs of Europe. I ask this as a direct question, of which I have given notice: How much food have we sent out of this country to Europe? I am not lacking in sympathy for the people of Europe, but it was only a few months ago that the people of this country were making observations about the general unworthiness of the German people because, at very great expense to British life and the Treasury, we were forced to struggle to victory in a war which they had provoked. Now that we are at peace human instinct prompts us to succour the needy among our late enemies. But how needy are they? You know they tricked us after the last war.

These globular figures about the European position are apt to be very deceptive. Where are the cereals that the German people used to produce, and where are the cereals they are now producing? Have they gone to Russia? Are the Powers who are jointly controlling ex-enemy territory at the present time jointly contributing from the production of the soil they are occupying, or are we being called upon to feed the starving German people whilst the Russians take to themselves, and exclusively, the products of the parts of Europe they are now occupying? I make no statement on this subject, but I do ask for information from the Government.

I believe that the Government, with all their stories of gloom and misfortune, are really misjudging the psychology of the country. Sir Stafford Cripps is urging us to export in order that we may have more food, and of course we want more food. Meanwhile the stocks of women's clothing, which they have not the coupons to buy, are filling the warehouses. Mr. Shinwell is nationalizing the mines in order that we shall get more coal for the future, but meanwhile we are enduring the present winter, and sickness and absenteeism are growing because we have not sufficient coal to keep us warm. We are not going to have sufficient fat, and Mr. Dalton is rejoicing in the fact that the people of this country now own the Bank of England. The people of this country are realists; they want more clothes and they want more food. These quite simple things of life are what they have been wanting for six years. These things can be found, and, if they are found, the productive capacity of the country will, I believe, go up very considerably indeed.

Increased food production here and overseas and foresight about what we shall need are the keys to our present problems and our present discontent. It is strange how this Government of the proletariat is becoming in a very few months divorced from the people, and seemingly unable to take note of the simple wants of the people. I hope I have not been unduly critical of gentlemen on whom very great burdens rest. I have tried, with such experience as I have had on these problems, to point the way to a solution of our troubles and to indicate ways of concentrating on getting supplies, and getting them well ahead of the time when they are needed for consumption. I do not imagine that His Majesty's Government require any help from me, and they have certainly never asked for it. I pray that they may succeed in their effort; I pray that they will give to the people of this country the standard of living which they deserve—the standard of living which, having regard to their record through the last few years, they have so richly earned. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.19 p.m.


My Lords, I notice that the noble Lord opened his speech with the assurance that he was not going to make hostile comments but that he was going to put the facts before us with entire impartiality. I fully expected, when he said so, that we should hear, shall I say, an amiable and constructive contribution to the solution of the problems with which we are confronted. All I have to say is that if the noble Lord's speech is the pattern of amiability I was led to understand it would be, then I still have something to learn as to the meaning of the term. But for all that, when he said that this Government of the proletariat was becoming divorced from the support of the people, or words to that effect—


I said the "needs of the people."


I do not know, I am sure, that we need object to it being described as a Government of the proletariat; that is what we have elections for.


Quite right.


I do not see any signs of the divorce either appearing in the recent by-elections, and so far as that is concerned I would say that that is a sort of aside which has little relation to the grave subject which is before us. Might I, however, just comment on one or two observations before I come to deal with the facts of the case on which the noble Lord is clearly entirely uninformed? He pointed out with great emphasis that in his view a Minister of Food should be a member of the Cabinet. Well, there is a great deal to be said for this; but the noble Lord himself, when he was Minister of Food, was not a member of the Cabinet.


But I was, as a matter of fact.


No, excuse me, the noble Lord became a member of the Cabinet when he was Minister of Reconstruction.


The noble Viscount must allow me to know what I was a member of. I took great care to know what I was a member of, and I know that I was not a member of the War Cabinet. The noble Viscount, who led the Opposition at that time, should be better informed.


I know there were various metamorphoses in the Cabinet dispositions during the course of the war. The noble Lord was a Minister of Cabinet rank and so is the present Minister of Food. But I think it would be fair to say that he argued he should be in a position of the highest authority and that it meant that he himself must have been dissatisfied with the position that he himself occupied because he was not in the War Cabinet and because he was not in, what shall we say, the circle which finally controlled policy. As far as that again is concerned, it appears to me to be an aside which has no relation whatever to the present situation. Then the noble Lord said that this Government was allowing the country to slip into a position in which people would not have enough to eat, or words to that effect. Now, I cannot help stating that it is appropriate to remind the noble Lord that the positions are a little different from what they were when he was Minister of Food. I will point to one or two of those differences.

When the noble Lord was Minister of Food there was Lend-Lease; he could buy as much as ever he liked; there was a bottomless purse to dip into without any question whatever. At that time, too, as he tells us, quite fairly, he was contending with grave dangers from sinkings. True; that is what he was contending against. But at that time his Government, in fact, all the Governments of the world, were not confronted with a position such as prevails at the present time where the whole of Europe is wanting food, where India and China and vast populations in Africa and elsewhere are clamouring for their share of what supplies there are. I would not minimize for a moment the grave difficulties with which the Government during the war, as we all know, was confronted, but the concentration then of such shipping as could escape the submarines was to bring supplies to this country. There was no claim on the available supplies from a hungry world as there is now.

It was a very different position in those days. So far as that is concerned the noble Lord's task was almost easy as compared with the present position. I will give the facts in a minute. Now there have been some recent changes in the position which your Lordships should realize. In the first place, of course, the harvests of the northern hemisphere cannot be estimated until September, October or a little after that; in some other countries they cannot be estimated until December or January or round about that time; so that the misfortunes from which the world has suffered during the past six months and to which the noble Lord made no reference whatever, have had, of course a determining effect upon the food position. There has been a drought in Africa; South Africa, to which I shall come back in a few minutes, has never been in such a perilous food position as it finds itself in to-day. There has been a failure of the monsoon in India, or in a large part of it, and floods in other parts; there has been an unprecedented drought in North Africa and there are no supplies available from the great Danube grain-producing areas which were, of course, available in former times.

Let me give one or two of the figures. When the noble Lord, or his colleague, was in office last year the actual stocks available of cereals (this is July, 1945) were estimated to be 22,918,000 tons, but the fact is that in the December estimates the actual figures were 12,000,000 and not 22,000,000. That means that the available world supplies were enormously less than had been anticipated. It was nobody's fault. It was not even the fault of this Government of the proletariat who had nothing whatever to do with it. Therefore I suggest that the noble Lord is not being quite fair when he said that it is our fault. Then, at the same time, we have to remember what are the demands which have been brought before the world during the last six months and which were not previously anticipated. Here let me say that it is not open to us, and it was not open to the Government even in the noble Lord's time, simply to take everything there is and bring it into this country.

The noble Lord himself was responsible for the establishment of the Combined Food Board, and the Combined Food Board is responsible for the allocation of what supplies there are. Therefore it is not within our powers, even if we had the dollars, to help ourselves in the free and easy manner that the noble Lord suggests to what production there is available. Now let me give another illustration of the increased demand. Since December, the estimated requirements of India for wheat, owing to the failure of its own food production—this is up to January 15th—had increased to the extent of 1,013,000 tons, an entirely unforeseen increase in the Indian demand for wheat; and we have had similar increases in other parts of the world. But you cannot simply calmly stand aside and ignore these terrible facts.

Let me give one or two other illustrations. The noble Lord referred, for instance, to what was being done about rice, and he referred us to Brazil. I have got the figures about rice here; we have been taking a lot of trouble about rice. Let us look and see what the figures are. The world needs of rice, as estimated for the current year, are 6,136,000 tons; those are the world needs in rice. The available supplies anticipated are 3,070,000 tons, so that there appears to be a world demand for rice of more than 3,000,000 which there seems to be no rice in sight to satisfy. Now we will look at the noble Lord's source of supply. The total production of rice for export from Brazil is 100,000 tons, and the world deficiency is 3,000,000 tons. What is the good of referring us to Brazil?


Egypt also, I asked you about.


The production of Egypt for export is 120,000 tons; the two together are 220,000 tons; the world deficiency is 3,000,000 tons. The noble Lord really should think about these things with a little bit more care before he makes these slipshod statements.


I did not make slipshod statements at all. I asked you for information.


No, no; you were accusing us because we have not looked to Brazil for rice. The place where rice is more plentiful than anywhere else is Siam. At the present time it is estimated that there are 1,200,000 tons of rice somewhere in the interior of Siam. The problem is how to get it; that is the difficulty. There was an arrangement made, for which the noble Lord's colleagues were responsible, and to which we were a party, under which over a million tons of free rice were to be delivered up by the producers of Siam as reparations. It is all very well to prescribe these things in a document in London or Yalta, or somewhere else, but it is a very different thing to get the rice. The rice producers in the interior of Siam have hung on to their rice; that is what has actually happened, and they have still got most of it. The amount of rice which it has been possible to extract from Siam (because that is where the big supply is) is very small comparatively.

The free rice which was to be obtained as reparation from Siam was, of course, to be paid for and dealt with by the Siamese Government, but unfortunately you have got a Government in Siam that does not seem to be able to deliver the goods. I am not complaining of the present Government in Siam, but that appears to be the unfortunate fact. That is why we are now sending out a special organization to Siam. We have modified the provisions which the previous Government arrived at with regard to free rice; we are sending out goods which the rice producers in Siam will wish to buy in order that they may be induced to part with their rice, because the Siamese peasant producer is not disposed to part with his rice unless he can get something in exchange for it which he dunks is worth having. That is the problem which we are now setting up a considerable organization in Siam to help to deal with The place to go to for rice is Siam, and not Brazil, because that is where the rice is.

So far as that is concerned, I can say with complete confidence that we are making exceedingly strenuous efforts to obtain the supplies of rice which India and other countries so sorely need; and nobody would be more glad than we should be if some rice were made available to the British housewife. Those are the actual facts with regard to the rice situation, and the circumstances of this post-war time make it such that the operations of the Combined Food Board and other organizations to satisfy the demand of all the world to get their hunger satisfied, which was all cloaked in time of war, make the circumstances of the times completely different.

The noble Lord suggested that what we have got to do is to let the merchants be free, and, if they were, they would do it for us. That was not the way he operated anyhow, and I cannot think now that it would be possible to cover these immense world deficiencies by any manipulations of that kind. I would much rather trust to the skill and experienced operations of the Combined Food Board, which does not consist of over-fed officials in Washington, but consists of capable business men who are doing their best to serve the world needs. I think it is very improper for the noble Lord to suggest that they consist mainly, or to some considerable extent, of over-fed officials in Washington. That is the kind of cheap sneer you might get in a ha'penny Press.


Of course I did not say it.


I am not going to let the noble Lord off.


But you might quote me correctly.


That was the suggestion, that they were being fed very comfortably in Washington, and in fact did not appreciate these things. I resent that. They are not red-tape officials, either. They are practically all of them experienced business men who have been doing all they can to help. I would like to say just a word about this fat ration. I know that, because of the failure of the crops and our inability to have diverted to this country sufficient fat-producing materials, we were unfortunately obliged to reduce the fat ration by one ounce a week and we all regret it, of course. The noble Lord said that his standard was that it should be eight ounces a week; the Ministry of Health required it; that was his standard. When this Government came in it is true that for a short time we did put it up to eight ounces but eventually we had to go back to seven ounces.


The fat ration, it is quite true, was put down by myself to seven ounces a week. I made an arrangement when I was in Washington, over the whole period up to June 30 next, and there was not enough fat for us to have had the eight ounces on all the year round. Wisely perhaps from a political view, but rightly I am certain from a nutritional point of view, I decided it ought to go down to seven ounces when people had more vegetables in the summer months. I had left enough to keep it at eight ounces for the rest of the year, for the whole of this winter period. I disliked doing it and I dislike the fact that my successors have had to do it now. I did hope that at any rate for the winter months we should keep this very vital ration up to eight ounces.


I am not in the least complaining of the noble Lord. I fully believe that he did what he did with immense regret; he was compelled to do it, because the stuff was not there. I am sure he did, and I for one never raised a word of protest at the time and I have never done so since. All I am commenting on is that the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, has charged the Government with reducing it, which we have done because there was not the stuff there, unfortunately, in the winter months. I wish we had not had to do it. All I have to say is that it would have made the work of the Government easier if he had addressed his exhortations to his colleagues of the Government at the time. It would be more appropriate than addressing them to us.

There are one or two other points upon which I should like to comment with regard to supplies available for export. Our friends in Canada; as everyone knows, when it was realized what shortages there were in different parts of the world responded nobly to our appeal, and so did the people of Australia. But it is not simply a question of supplies being in a country; it is a matter of getting supplies to the ports, of getting them moved to the ports. That applies practically to all countries—certainly to Canada, the United States of America and the Argentine. Let me say a word here about the Argentine, to which the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, has already referred. Great efforts have been made to get increased quantities of maize from the Argentine, and the country that needs them very badly indeed is South Africa. Now to get maize from the Argentine you have first to get the supplies moved down to the ports, and it was quite evident that the supplies, though abundant in the interior of the country, were not available for export. So what have we done? We have inquired into the causes of this apparent hold-up. First it became clear that there was a shortage of internal transport. That meant that there were shortages of petrol, tyres, vehicles—


And railway wagons?


I am speaking of road transport particularly. The United States of America, in co-operation with ourselves, have made arrangements for greatly increased supplies—and these things have already been sent—of tyres, tractors, petrol, oil and all the rest, in order to facilitate the moving of maize to the ports.

Let me mention, too, that South Africa has sent as much coal as she can to the Argentine in order to get maize in exchange. Very great efforts have been, and are being, made to get maize from the Argentine. I would refer further to the needs of our friends in South Africa. We, here, put the people of this country first—of course we do just as much as does the noble Lord, Lord Woolton. Our people have suffered enough, and if there were the supplies available in the world they would certainly have them and much more abundantly than they have got them now. But we have sometimes to look a little beyond our own shores. We have had most urgent appeals from South Africa for increased supplies. As a matter of fact, had it not been for the action that has recently been taken, there would not have been enough wheat in South Africa to make a bread loaf in the first week in April. We have had to divert cargo that would have come here to South Africa. Quite right too. We have no better friends in the world than the South Africans.


Hear, hear.


It is no good the noble Lord cheering me for saying that we have done that and asserting, at the same time, that we have neglected our own people. We have to consider other people. That is what we are trying to do. The world situation is exceedingly perilous at the present time, and we have to do the best we can in exceedingly difficult circumstances. I could give your Lordships a very large number of other illustrations, but I do not think that they are particularly called for, so I will now try to give the noble Lord answers to his questions, a copy of which he was good enough to supply to me in advance. First he asks about the actual tonnage of cereals due to come to this country: what actual tonnage has been lost by drought and what percentage does this represent? I have given your Lordships the gross figures. The main losses are of supplies from North Africa, India and South Africa. At the present time the import demands of those countries, together, for supplies that they are now wanting is 8,000,000 tons. Has not Canada sufficient wheat and flour in stock to supply our needs? No, it is subject to the allocation of the Food Board. Canada sends us every ounce she can, and she is making immense sacrifices in order to supply us. The prospective contribution of Canada for the coming year is 6,268,000 tons. I am sure that she will send us every ounce that she can ship.

The next question was: What steps are the Government taking to import maize front the Argentina to meet the need for foodstuffs for cattle and poultry? I have answered that, and if the noble Lord can invent any method for speeding up the transit of supplies from the interior to the ports and then get them to this country from the ports—not to other countries to which the people of the Argentine might prefer to sell them—he will render us a great service. We recognize that, unfortunately, the increase of the extraction will deprive poultry and pigs of considerable quantities of feeding stuffs. That is a most deplorable thing, but, of course, increased extraction of the wheat saves a very large tonnage of supplies. It has been done for that purpose, and we are all glad, I am sure, that President Truman has stated in America that the extraction rate is to be raised from 70 to 80 per cent. in order to provide more supplies. The noble Lord asked me to give a statement of our supplies. That I must decline to do. He, himself, never gave a specific statement of the supplies in stock nor shall I.


I do not press for it.


We know that if, in any particular case—and no one knows it better than Lord Woolton—you give an indication of any shortage of stocks, you immediately precipitate a run on the shops, so I do not propose to make any statement about that.


I am quite content.


The noble Lord further asked: Can we get adequate supplies of orange juice and halibut oil? There are adequate supplies, I am glad to say, of orange juice for young people. The quantity of halibut oil available is not quite so generous, but supplies are adequate, I am happy to state. What steps have we taken in regard to selling 2,000,000 chicks to Europe? That is another of these fairy tales. There was an application by U.N.R.R.A. for 2,000,000 young chicks for Europe from this country and we have refused to supply them. That is the answer to that.

Another question was, now that we are no longer asking Australia and New Zealand to feed the American Armies in the Pacific why not get the supplies here? We are getting more from Australia, but since December there has been an increase in India's requirements for wheat alone by 1,000,000 tons and the position with regard to rice is even worse. That is why we are trying to make special efforts to get rice out of Siam. He also asked to what extent our food supplies depend upon the decisions of the Combined Food Board in Washington. It is much the same as it was in the noble Lord's time. Finally, the noble Lord asked me how much food had been sent to Europe. The total amount of food sent to Europe from D-Day to the end of 1945 was 1¼ million tons and I can assure the noble Lord that he would not have been any more hard hearted than some of us have been when we have received the applications from U.N.R.R.A. U.N.R.R.A. is confronted with immense populations, large numbers of them on a ration not much more than half of our own and many not quite half the calorific value of our own, and the pressure on us has been very great indeed. But I am sure the noble Lord would not have been more obstinate in safeguarding our supplies than we have been in respect of these requests. I know that we are confronted with immense difficulties. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord (although I shall appeal in vain), I think the catastrophe which has overwhelmed the world in this respect is quite unprecedented and is not a matter which should be brought in and out of which Party capital should be made. Whilst I quite agree that in many ways very likely some things could have been presented more tactfully—and I agree that the noble Lord was a master of the art, and he did it in very special circumstances—the noble Lord was not confronted with a world pulling all ways apart as it is now, with everybody clamouring for supplies and everybody being hungry and trying to get food. It is an entirely different state of affairs. I suggest that the noble Lord did not make sufficient allowance for that.

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, I do not propose to discuss the details which the noble Viscount who leads the House has just raised in answering Lord Woolton. I am content to rest on the fact that while Lord Woolton was Minister of Food the country did very well even in days of war and now in days of peace we are not getting the alleviation that we all thought we had the right to expect. The point which strikes me about the present position is the suddenness with which this emergency seems to have overwhelmed us. We are told that we have a battle for food, that we are facing an economic Dunkirk and all sorts of similar phrases. We know how Dunkirk came about; the Germans broke through at Sedan and we were forced into a corner. What I am unable to find out, and I am afraid the very interesting speech of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has not cleared it up, is what broke the food-line on this occasion. I have carefully read the debate in another place and although there was a good deal of general conversation and a great deal of the kind of broadcasting of the "Woe, Woe" type which the Italians used to indulge in, there was no real explanation given or figures given which I think were satisfactory.

The noble Lord tells us that we are faced with a hungry world. We have always had a hungry world. What I want are some definite facts and figures. When the Government published a note of statistics I had hoped that at last the whole question would be elucidated, but quite frankly I found those statistics more mystifying than ever. I know that statistics are a dull line of approach, and that it is a much more telling thing in a debate to say that I had seen a man in a train who told me he had seen a child pick a crust out of the gutter. One can always find that sort of thing. I might speak of an incident which occurred to-day when on my way to London a woman rushed into the street and nearly caused an accident by trying to pick up a piece of wood. This sort of thing depends on what you are looking for. Mrs. Roosevelt, who is a lady of great experience and certainly not lacking in tenderness for any form of hardship, said that she found that the children in Germany were better fed than in this country and a U.N.O. official said something of the same sort the other day.

I think we are entitled to have facts and figures. If the case of the Government is good, and I am not saying that it is or that it is not, we ought to have these facts and figures. Let us consider the grain situation. Three quarters of the world's calories are derived from grain. Four hundred and fifty million tons of grain are grown in the world every year and that is enough to give everyone 1,900 calories a day. It is only in the last century when the United Kingdom started producing manufactures on a large scale for export and importing food, that a new era started where we got large populations dependent upon the imports of food. There are roughly four countries which export grain or, rather, wheat, and they are Canada, Australia, the United States and the Argentine. In all these countries except the United States the export of food is a business.

It is not as though we were getting only the marginal amount of food that is left over when the harvest is good and none when it is bad. These countries depend on their export of food. The amount which is exported does not depend very greatly on the harvest. It depends, shall we say, roughly in linear relation to the harvest. Harvests all over the world hardly alter more than 15 per cent per acre. I went through the statistics of the United States for the last thirty or forty years. There was scarcely one occasion when the harvest varied by more than 15 per cent. We cannot therefore regard it as likely that on this one occasion the harvest everywhere should have dropped by some colossal amount. I do not believe the total amount available for export is so very much less than it usually is.

Coming to the importing countries, far and away the biggest grain and wheat importing country in the world was the United Kingdom. In 1936 the United Kingdom imported 5,500,000 tons of wheat out of 7,800,000 tons imported into Europe altogether. Two-thirds of the wheat imported into Europe came to the United Kingdom. In 1938 it was 5,500,000 out of 9,400,000 tons. In 1938 admittedly Germany imported over 1,000,000 tons. If they imported something like that amount we may justly imagine, in my view that they did this with a view to storage in case of a war which they thought quite likely to come about. If it had been an ordinary peacetime year it would have been different. The United Kingdom imported by far the greater proportion of the actual wheat exported to Europe in 1936.

If we look at this picture we find a steady import of about 5,500,000 to the United Kingdom, all the other countries just getting marginal amounts to compensate at normal harvests, and I think we ought to be told, and are entitled to be told, whence comes this sudden demand? Which countries are demanding this huge amount of wheat? How much are they asking? What is being allocated to them? I looked into a statistical document that was published hoping to find something of interest and explanation. The only thing I found there was that before the Indian and South African troubles arose the demands for wheat were 17,000,000 tons in six months. The United Kingdom in the first half of 1945 only got 2,000,000. Whether we shall get as much this time, I do not know. Who is it that requires the other 15,000,000? What is it wanted for? I know we shall be told that we have got to feed the starving millions of Europe.

The noble Master of Balliol, who I believe is to speak today, had a letter today in The Times explaining that there were 100,000,000 who would be getting not more than 1,500 calories a day and 40,000,000 that were to get less than 2,000 calories. I wonder whether the Master of Balliol has really worked out those figures. Supposing they are true—I am not sure that they are—how much would you need to give everyone of the 100,000,000 people another 1000 calories, which, after all, ought to satisfy them? As a matter of fact I took a figure of 125,000,000 people, and worked out that to give them 1,000 calories a day each would need 7,000,000 tons, not 17,000,000. Where are the other 10,000,000 going?

What is this sudden scream for 10,000,000 tons of wheat extra over and above what is required to give 125,000,000 people an extra 1,000 calories a day? Who are the claimants? It is not Russia. She has removed rationing. She must have plenty of food. The whole population of Europe is only 400,000,000, and I really find it difficult to understand these figures. Europe lived for five years without any imports at all. Why is there this sudden catastrophe? What would have happened if we had not liberated Europe? Would they have been short of 17,000,000 tons, or even 15,000,000? Would it mean about 200,000,000 starving to death because they had nothing at all? Surely we are entitled to get some explanation. We are told the harvest will have dropped from 42,000,000 tons a year in the 1934–1938 period to 23,000,000 tons in 1945. That is also in the Government's statistical explanation.

Where do we get these figures? Can we really depend upon them? Are we sure they are comparable? On the face of it, they seem to me most unlikely. The 1945 harvest was planted in the main in 1944. What has happened in between? If we had not liberated Europe, had they only planted on the basis that 110,000,000 people would go short of 2,000 calories a day? Were they going to face that? Is that what Hitler was preparing the way for if he won the war? I do not think we should take these figures on trust. I have seen a great deal of statistics. I have seen them put forward from every side. I know it is a very unpopular question. I know that anyone who doubts the horribly urgent need of the people of Europe is considered to be callous, brutal and hard-hearted.

It is our duty in this House to risk unpopularity, even to be condemned by the right reverend Prelates Who are not here to hear my speech, but I do maintain that one of the justifications for a non-elective assembly such as this is that it can usually say things that cannot be said by people outside who have to depend upon the votes of their supporters to be re-elected. I know, of course, that people are very much disturbed and distressed by the heartrending stories which are told about the refugees and people starving in Germany. I have not the slightest doubt that those stories are true, and although I may not be able to show it in the same suitable manner, I am equally distressed myself at the thought of it, but is it not true that these stories only apply to a small number of cases? They do not apply to the whole population of Germany, and I do not think therefore that we ought to allow the thought that perhaps we have wasted some of our sympathy to deter us from looking into the facts—


May I say to the noble Lord that that letter which I signed referred to the population outside the actual rural population?


I would be very much surprised if there are 140,000,000 people in Europe living in urban areas. It would mean more than one-third were in the big cities.

I am perfectly willing to be convinced if I am given the facts and figures. I ask that we should be given these facts and figures. They are available. They are accessible. What I would like to know is: Where do we get those facts from? Where are those figures got; this 19,000,000 tons deficit, this 17,000,000 tons demand, and these 140,000,000 people starving? I have had a great deal of painful experience in this war in trying to discover facts and figures. In this country even when we have got full access to the whole of the figures of the Department, when people are trying to help, trying to tell you facts and figures, it is incredibly difficult to get accurate answers. Classification varies, quantities run between different dates, definitions vary. The whole thing is extremely difficult, even when you have got full access and everybody is trying to help. If people are not trying to help, if they are concerned to prove a case, if they are anxious to induce you to believe that their needs are very great, I consider it almost impossible to got accurate figures, especially when half the people are concerned, as I say, to overstate their case.

I think the figures we get in this way can scarcely be relied on at all. I ask: Have these demands for these 17,000,000 tons—before the Indian and South African matters came into the question at all—been scrutinized and criticized and screened? We got plenty of demands of this type throughout the war, of every sort, kind and description, even from our own English Departments. Demands are, almost always very much over-stated, and I cannot really believe those figures which, as I say, lead to such complete incompatibility. The figures purport to show that if we had not arrived 110,000,000 people in liberated Europe would have been short of 2,000 calories a day. I cannot believe that sort of figure is accurate. I claim that before our people have their allocation cut, before England submits to cuts in ration we are entitled to be told the details.

There are very disquieting rumours, as everybody knows, about a very large proportion of the food grown being grown for the black markets in foreign countries. Lord Lindsay said in the rural areas that people were well fed.


Would you mind telling us what the cuts are in rationing?


The cut in fats and the extraction, about which I am going to say something in a moment, which gives us less palatable bread, and also fewer eggs and less bacon. We are told that the towns are starving and it was only the rural areas that are well fed. Perhaps that may be so, but there is not a very big proportion of people in the towns; the main population of Europe is in the rural areas, and I do think it is a little hard that the British public should be asked to go short because the farmers and peasants in Europe do not think it worth while to feed their own towns-people. It is all very well, but if the German peasant does not think it worth while to send food to his relations in Frankfurt, it is a little difficult to justify that we in England should suffer in order to do so.

We are told that transport is short. That is a good argument and it has been put forward very frequently, almost ad nauseam. I am a little surprised at it, I must say, when we remember the huge numbers of lorries which were able to move full armies about in a matter of weeks over hundreds of miles. It is a little difficult to believe that it is impossible to get food from rural areas to the towns. No doubt that is the official argument. It seems we can get the foods from the ports to the towns all right. If transport is so short, why is it easy to get food from the ports to Frankfurt, if you cannot get it from Rhine-Hessen to Frankfurt? How can you say that you can get transport from the ports all right but not from the rural areas? I think it is the black market, rather than transport, that stands in the way of food getting to the towns.

I do not propose to talk about India, because that is a very special and difficult case and it is not concerned with the arguments I have been making. In India the population breeds right up to the subsistence level, and the figures are so enormous that when the monsoon fails you cannot really help. When you do get a 15 per cent. fall in harvest, as you may from time to time, then India is particularly vulnerable and it is extremely hard to help her. The more she is industrialized the harder it will be because there will be more mouths to feed and fewer producers of food.

There is another question which is mysterious—I think I know the official answer; the noble Lord adumbrated it—about the figures given in the statistical document. We get there an estimate of stocks of wheat in June, 1938, amounting to 9,455,000 tons. The stocks of wheat in June, 1946, a year after we have faced this world catastrophe, will be 11,800,000–2.3 million tons more than we had in June, 1938, and nobody talked about any sort of shortage then. Those are the figures given. The noble Viscount shakes his head. If he likes to add together the figures in the table given at the bottom of page 3 he will find that the total stocks in the principal importing countries in 1938 were 9,455,000 tons, and in June, 1946, the forecast was 11,800,000 tons, so there are 2¼ million tons more.


What was the first year?


1938, and nobody talked of any sort of world food shortage. On the face of it, it looks a little odd. I know what the departmental answer is all right—I do not think anyone need bother to go and get it. I can tell the noble Lord what it will be. The answer will be that the food is not available at the ports; that the main discrepancy arises in Canada, and that the wheat is all inland and they cannot get it to the ports to ship it in time. If that is so, it certainly shows great lack of foresight because, after all, the harvest figures for Europe (and we are considering the European shortages) were known last year. It is quite true that the figures for South Africa did not come through until November, and those for Australia and the Argentine until December. But everyone makes forecasts of the harvest. It is a matter of the acreage sown, rather than the weather, which affects the total output. If we knew that there was going to be a shortage in Europe, surely we could have taken steps to get the wheat moved to the ports. There are no munitions being moved this year. Last year and the year before millions of tons of munitions were being moved from in-land factories to the ports, and they might well be said to have been in the way of wheat getting to the ports. But this time surely it should have been possible to get the wheat forward so that we could have made shipments as and when required. As it is, the gap in Europe was foreseen, or must have been foreseen, although I do not think anyone at any stage would have thought of this so-called gap of 19,000,000 tons. There must have been knowledge, however, that there would be a demand for wheat, and apparently no great effort was made to get the existing stocks to the ports.

I do not know if any other steps were taken to meet the admitted urgency. We know that labour was called up and no directions were given to plough. What I want to know is whether we, in the United Kingdom, as against other countries, really had a bad deal in the allocations. We have already sacrificed by sending abroad 1,250,000 tons. The noble Lord says that we would not have been any more hard-hearted than he, and I have no doubt that is true; but I think we would have examined the figures more carefully. I certainly would have done so before I accepted the figures of the demands which were put forward.

I notice that Belgium. Denmark, Norway, and Czechoslovakia all get an 80 per cent extraction of wheat or better for their bread; we are to go up to 85 per cent wheat extraction. I know many food cranks prefer that. I believe some noble Lords even prefer it, so I had better withdraw the expression "food cranks." Many people claim to prefer what I have heard called "the bread of affliction" and think it wholesome. It may or may not be so. I have not been convinced that it is more wholesome. But I maintain that we have no right to force people to eat stuff they do not like, merely be cause some of us think it wholesome. It has been imposed on people for the six years of war, and now, after they thought they had got rid of it, they find this nasty, sour, grey bread imposed on them again, and I find it one of the most lamentable concomitants of our mealtime.

Of course a far more serious loss is that of animal protein. There is a letter in the Daily Telegraph this morning explaining that the Department of Agriculture in Cambridge showed that the protein conversion factors for hogs was 25 per cent and hens 30 per cent. It you could convert 300,000 tons with the lower extraction rate you would sacrifice 100,000 tons of eggs, about three eggs a month. I really think that is quite a serious matter.

I ask, has our case in Washington been put with proper force, authority, energy and conviction? No doubt other countries press their case—I am not concerned with them. What I am afraid of is that our representative may have over-emphasized the other countries' case and rather forgotten England. That is a very admirable and humane tendency, but it must have its limits. It is often said that with the Englishman charity begins abroad, and I have the unfortunate feeling that when this matter was put to the Combined Food Board in Washington (who, as the noble Lord said, have the last word), our case was perhaps rather forgotten in view of the humane pressure we brought to bear to obtain the maximum amount possible for the suffering peoples of Europe.

We all like to be generous, to relieve distress and to succour the needy, but we have no right to do it at other people's expense. As the noble Lord himself said, our first duty is to the British people. They have fought, worked and suffered for six long years and it is our duty to fight their battles for them now. I hope that the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, will persuade the Departments concerned to give us some detailed statistical material so that we may assure ourselves that the figures prove we do not deserve more than we are getting, and so that we do not go away with the unhappy feeling that we may have got less than we ought to have got because some people, not fully acquainted with our case, took too much at their face value the demands of other countries, who no doubt put their cases forward with great firmness and vigour. I think I have said enough, and I will now prepare to be flayed by the noble Lord, the Master of Balliol, who, I am sure, has much to say on the opposite side.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, before I begin to make the very short speech that I was going to make, I really must express very strong dissent from my noble friend who has just sat down. I think his attack on high extraction bread was most unnecessary. We have got to eat it, and we know that if it is properly baked it is quite excellent. I would have l00 per cent extraction myself. I am sorry that Lord Horder is not with us, for he would deal with this better than I can, but perhaps I may tell the noble Lord that I sat as Chairman of a Government Committee which discussed for two and a half years the question of the teeth of the people. The evidence I had before me convinced me that the teeth of the children of the country and of the mothers who produced the children were very much finer if they got, as far as possible, wholemeal bread. There is any amount of evidence to prove that if they did not get it, the children were not so well provided with teeth and the bones were not so good. If the noble Lord likes to read the report issued by the Ministry of Health he will, I think, alter his opinion.


May I intervene to say that I did not claim it was definitely worse for the people? I simply said I was not convinced by the evidence. My point is that even if you think it is better for the people, you have no right to force them to eat it. It would probably be better for everyone to run a mile in the park before breakfast, but you would not make that compulsory, I imagine, by Government decree. You are making it compulsory for the people to eat this bread that they do not like because you think it is better for them.


If the noble Lord had been here during the debates on the bread question he would know that we all said we wanted everybody to eat starch if they so desired, but we wanted the other bread to be available; and that was what I could not find whenever I went travelling about the country. So far in this debate nobody has touched on the question of home food production. Some of your Lordships will remember that I raised this question in 1941, when I said: "If the Government anticipate a short war, what they are doing now is all right; but if a long war is anticipated, then at the end of it the land of this country will be producing far less food than it is now." I am talking about human food. At that time I quoted the case of a particular farm and I will give your Lordships figures showing the effect on that farm of the policy, not of this Government, but of the last Government. The figures for 1944 as compared with those for 1939 show that the loss has been thirty-eight tons of pig meat, five tons of eggs and poultry, 250 tons of cereal, and quite apart from that there has been an enormous loss of fertility.

What I want to put to the Government is this. Do not think that because you feed to two animals a certain amount of human food, you are necessarily going to reduce the amount of human food produced on the land. As we all know, the land is not a factory; you must put something into it before you can withdraw from it goods in the shape of nutrition. Let me quote the very interesting example of Denmark. Denmark had no fertilizers during the war at all, but the situation to-day there is that she is producing enough to feed 1.9 persons per acre per annum, without one kilogramme of feeding stuffs being imported. We should look to see whether that standard can be attained here, and there is no reason why it should not, because in Denmark their land is not as good as ours and the climate is not as good as it is here. We have roughly 31,000,000 acres of cultivable land, not including 16,000,000 acres of rough grazing, so, if you work it out, we could, under pressure, on the basis of what Denmark is doing, grow enough food in this country for 60,000,000 people.

Our land is not as fertile now as it was at the beginning of the war. Do the Government anticipate that we are going to have a long period of shortage of foodstuffs in the world? We are not starting on the basis of 1939–40 now; we have lost all that fertility. One of the most serious questions we have got to decide is whether we dare reduce any more the animal population of the country. Perhaps I may refresh your Lordships' memory as to what the reduction has been. I will not give the reduction in cattle because I am not sure of it, but between 1939 and 1944 there has been a reduction of 6,500,000 sheep, 2,500,000 pigs and 19,000,000 poultry. My authority for those figures is the Ministry of Agriculture. You can see the terrific strain which there must be on the land to-day.

If we go on reducing, as I am afraid we are likely to do, because we are going to say that the animals will have to give us a certain amount of their nutrition, I am very doubtful whether the result will be that there will be more human food. The evidence is that there will not be. I do hope the Government will go into that question very seriously. Time and time again during the period I spoke of, I begged the Minister to give farmers the right to retain up to 10 per cent of the crops they grew to keep their animals going, and it was refused over and over again. Judging by results, I am quite certain that we should have had more food in the country for human beings if we had not adopted that particular policy.

Going back to the subject of bread, I can see a way of helping the situation. Where does Bemax come from? Where do wheatflakes come from? Where do all these processed foods out of which various people are making fortunes come from? They all come out of the wheat-grain. I say: "Stop that and that will help." It is worth thinking about. I notice my son likes wheat-flakes. Why does he not eat wholemeal bread? If he eats wholemeal bread then he will not want to eat all these other things. I do not eat them; I eat wholemeal bread. And he is beginning to do so, thank goodness… I want again to stress this question of fertility; it is really a serious one. The fertility of the country is enormously depreciated, and I do hope that the Government will take serious notice of that and maintain as many animals as possible with a view to getting more human food as a result.

4.31 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, first of all, to say, from this side of the House, how deeply we appreciate the magnificent response of our overseas Dominions to the appeals to meet the present food crisis in this country and on the Continent of Europe, and I am sure that an expression of appreciation in our home Parliament will appeal very particularly to those with whom I am most familiar in the Dominions of Australia and New Zealand. Their war effort has been magnificent, both in the Fighting Forces and elsewhere, and indeed, on the land in each country their effort has been without parallel, or at any rate has not been surpassed in any part of the British Empire. The noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition has spoken of the perilous world food position. Surely, what we ought most to concern ourselves with, bearing in mind whatever Lord Cherwell may have said with regard to statistics, is this. We all have to admit that the outlook in the matter of food supply is of unparalleled gravity. Therefore, we ought to bend our minds to the great problem of how to deal with this unprecedented food outlook. I hope that I shall not be considered unfair to those who have spoken from this side of the House if I say that production is at the moment even more important than recrimination.

We farmers in this country, as in most countries, have to plan our cropping programme in the early autumn, and what, of course, has thrown the programme out of gear for the moment is the appeal which has been made by the Government to alter that programme at this time of the year. I can speak confidently as the President of the premier agricultural society of this country when I say that farmers and other food producers in this country will do their utmost, if the weather be favourable and the labour available, to obey the behest of the Government in the matter of food production at home. As regards the sowing of wheat this spring and the ploughing up of temporary leys with this object, I hope that if the results are disappointing our farmers will not be blamed. The land has been for several weeks past in a sodden condition, and winter cultivations have been seriously delayed. Spring-sown wheats in the past have been regarded as a very uncertain crop in this climate and on our soils, but it is perfectly true that there are new varieties of spring wheat which have more than fulfilled expectations during, shall I say, the abnormally favourable seasons that we have had during the last few years. But spring wheats cannot be regarded as a wholly dependable crop for the production of bread grain.

As to the darker loaf, I share the views just expressed by my noble friend Lord Teviot and I will not go further into that debatable subject, except to say that I think there has been a claim in regard to pigs and poultry which has been unduly exaggerated. I have always held the view that with the comparatively small extra milling extraction, the benefit to humans is far greater than the loss to either pigs or poultry. The noble Lord, Lord Woolton, put forward a request which I should like strongly to endorse, namely, that an effort be made to import larger quantities of maize from Argentina and elsewhere. Incidentally, bearing in mind the unfortunate results of trying to put maize into our loaves during the previous Great War, I should like to suggest that maize is more suitable for feeding our live stock, especially pigs, than for incorporation into the loaf.

I have no doubt Lord Cherwell will not contradict me, eminent scientist though he is, if I suggest that fat has the highest calory value of all foods, and there is no more rapid means of producing it than by feeding pigs. But I think the pig has not received fair treatment during the late, or even the previous world war. I remember it being said by an eminent German scientist after the first world war that that war would have come to an end at least a year earlier if it had not been for the fact that German scientists concentrated their attention upon pigs and potatoes as being the best medium for reproducing most rapidly the protein, the fat, and the starch required for human food.

Nothing has been said about rye. I would venture to suggest that in the next two or three years it might be worth while encouraging greater production of rye in this country. It is undoubtedly of high nutritional value, and on our lighter soils can be produced with less risk than wheat. In the neighbourhood of York, large quantities of rye are produced. I may say that in almost every season the harvest is successful. Potatoes, I suppose, are the nearest starch equivalent to rice. One cannot help thinking that if we are in for what we may call a world rice famine, we might easily, in spite of the fact that potatoes are such an unpopular crop with the farmer, particularly when he is short of labour, make an effort to produce more potatoes, if not this year, at any rate in the next two or three years.

I would remind your Lordships that it is estimated that during this last war over one-tenth of the food output was obtained from allotments and gardens in this country. I think if an appeal were made at the present time by the Government to these small-scale food producers, all very patriotic people, there might be a very substantial augmentation of our food supply from those small areas. I should like to support what Lord Teviot said with regard to fertilizers, and especially the provision of phosphates. There have been given into our hands during the last few years immense quantities of phosphate rock in North Africa, which is now being converted, or a large proportion of it, into phosphatic fertilizer, but nothing like the amount that could be, if efforts were concentrated upon that source of supply, not only for our own requirements, but also very much for the requirements of Germany and other Continental countries.

The position in 1947 may be even more serious than in 1946. Let us, who belong to the agricultural community, know as soon as possible what is the desired food output from our own land in the next two years. Nothing does the agricultural community resent more than a sudden alteration in the Government's programme in the matter of what they are, in the national interest, expected to supply. Tell us early and tell us clearly, and, given labour, fertilizers, and reasonably good weather, we will do our best. May I just add this: we need more outside labour, whether German prisoners or others, on the land and a more nutritive ration for those normally employed on the land. If you could put more protein food into the British farmworker you would get a bigger food output from the soil that he cultivates.

4.41 p.m.


My Lords, it is not for a junior member of this House to congratulate a senior member like the noble Viscount Lord Bledisloe, but I cannot forbear thanking him for making that constructive speech. It is worth all the slanging matches in the world jolly and pleasant as slanging matches are. The noble Lord, Lord Cherwell is far too clever and far too quick-witted for a slow and stupid person like myself. I do not think it is any good complaining, but I must call attention to a slight inconsistency of the noble Lord. He started by saying it was no good doing anything with statistics. He mentioned the evidence of Mrs. Roosevelt, but that is not statistical evidence. I could have replied by giving evidence of people engaged in giving education in Germany. What is the good of trying to instill democracy into starving children. The nobel Lord is quite right, that you cannot take statistics without a great deal of examination It would have been very much better if we could have sat round a table with the things in front of us and talked it over.


It is not that I do not like statistics, but I do not believe those that have been given. When figures are incompatible with one another, it is time to criticize.


I still maintain that the fact is that the noble Lord does not like them. He may be right, and far be it from me to suggest that you should read statistics because they come from Government Departments, or even statistics produced by the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell or any statistical manufactory over which he presides. The noble Lord reminded me of an experience in 1925 when we had the pleasure of a lecture on the five-year plan from a representative of the Soviet Embassy whose name I have forgotten People came to this lecture in great excitement expecting to hear terrific things about blood and the gutters. Instead of that they got one long row of statistics for an hour and quarter. The only ones I could check filled me with great suspicion, and I said to the lecturer at the end that it had been my misfortune or at any rate my fate to have to deal with statistics, and they made me feel that I would never believe in statistics again In reply to this the Soviet representative said "Ah, Yes, statistics are very very illusory, but they are very very useful." I feel that in the way in which the noble Lord himself did.


Is that the way in which the noble Lord selected the figures he published in his letter?


It is no good unless you have had it out with one another. That, I think, is what we ought to try and do. That is what I got up to say. It is very difficult to speak in a debate which has been introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, because I think everybody agrees that he was a superb Minister of Food and almost carried the Conservative Party on his back. I am quite serious about this. I can remember all through the war, time and again, people grumbling about the Government, but they all said, "Food has been extraordinarily well done." I think the noble Lord is wrong when he deprecates public relations and does not realize how much his success was dependent upon the perfect way in which it was put across. I think it is important that when people have to accept privations they should know the reasons and that, I think, is what Lord Woolton did very well.

There is a story told of the late President Roosevelt that when he was staying at a place in the Adirondacks where people were fishing without any success, they asked him to try and give them some help. He went to the bank of the river and said, "My friends …. and the trout leaped out of the water. I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, telling us in that wonderful cooing voice of his that we must do with half an ounce less butter, and I could imagine people replying, "Oh yes, dear Lord Woolton, take an ounce." I think that was an important thing and I think that this Government has forgotten how important is psychology. I think that principle is more important in peacetime than in wartime. In wartime people will endure almost anything and they do not need so much explanation. In peacetime when that is gone and you think it is going to be all right, you need far more assistance and explanation. I do venture to say, though speaking from this side of the House, that that is really what is wrong.

It is very hard to say that the administration and the getting of the food was not really about as good as it could be, or that there have been mistakes about it, but I do not think we can doubt that the putting of it across has been bady done. I should like to urge the Government to take this with complete seriousness and try to see what matters very much indeed—that is, to get the British housewife cheerful and courageous and willing to bear the privations which will have to go on for much longer. It has been done before. It wants to be done more. I think British housewives would face having even less than they have if they had not got to spend such a long time in queues waiting for their rations and things of that kind. I am bound to say—though I gather that this is an unpopular thing to say—that it is really pretty extraordinary that we should have a debate which supposes that it is as important as all that—it is important of course—that we should have slightly worse rations (and I say this with all deference to Lord Cherwell) if it really is the case that there are going to be millions of people faced with starvation.

There is a charming old house by the banks of the Clyde, where Sir Walter Scott used to stay, which has inscribed in it the old family motto: "Thou shalt want ere I want" —as my great grandmother used to say of a rather similar motto which we had in my family, "not a motto for a Christian family." The trend of some of the speeches which have been made in this debate does seem to be: "You shall want ere I want" or—if we are to take Lord Cherwell literally "You shall want ere we have equally nutritive bread which we like less." If the facts are as stated, what we are apparently inclined to say is: "You" —meaning by that millions —"shall die of starvation sooner than we have seven ounces instead of eight ounces of fat." I do not believe for a moment, for all we say as to having to look after ourselves first, that that is what anybody in this House really thinks.


If the premise is true.


From the speeches of some of the noble Lords it might almost he believed that their view is really like that which I have indicated. We should not have gone on talking about dried eggs in this serious way, and the loss of them would not have been taken so seriously by the Press had we given our minds to these other facts if they are as stupendous as is made out.

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, I think it is a very good thing that such a keen interest should be taken in this vital problem of providing foodstuffs for the nation as a whole. After six years of austerity living, one can understand the feeling of the nation that there should now be not only greater supplies of foodstuffs but, indeed, greater variety. I am bound to say that I wish that the same keen interest had been displayed in the nation's food needs in years gone by. For, whilst we must admit that it is a tragedy that there is a world shortage of foodstuffs with all the terrible consequences which must ensue, I think also that we must not overlook the fact that ever since the Industrial Revolution there have been millions of people in this country who have always been short of food while there were adequate supplies. They were short of food in the midst of plenty for the sole reason that the economic buildup of this country did not permit of their drawing a wage sufficient to enable them to purchase the foodstuffs essential to both health and strength. I sincerely hope that this food question will always be given the sincere and sympathetic consideration in the future which is being given to it by your Lordships this afternoon.

I cannot forget that when there was an attempt early in 1939 by certain sections of the community to insist that rationing should be immediately introduced to secure that all should have a fair opportunity of obtaining their share of the supplies available, those responsible did not receive very sympathetic consideration from the Government of that day. Indeed, I recall that it was only very slowly and hesitatingly that the Government was forced to adopt the rationing system, by which means alone the working section of the community can be assured of a reasonable share of the supplies which become more difficult to secure. I have not heard any responsible persons suggest, nor have I seen in any responsible journal the suggestion that the present Government is responsible for the shortage of food, but I cannot help feeling that there is an attempt in some quarters—indeed I think Lord Woolton made this the burden of his statement—to suggest that had some other Government been in office there would have been supplies available in greater quantities, and in more abundance of variety. In my view, there would not.

The world shortage, it is known and has been recognized for some time past, was bound to ensue following the difficulties of the war. Nor ought we, in my view, to do anything to create the impression that the present situation is peculiar to Britain. The fact is, of course, that very few countries will fare so well as Britain in regard to food supplies. We shall be one of the few countries which will fare better than most. That, of course, does not mean, in my judgment, that we ought to be satisfied with the situation. It means that every opportunity must be taken to produce more food, to secure shipping, and to ensure also that there is a united effort by all countries to solve the problems inherent in the present situation.

I was very glad to note, from the report of the Conference of the United Nations, which took place at the Central Hall, Westminster, recently, that there seemed to be unanimity of desire on the part of the representatives of the other nations to help, along with Britain, to solve the problems with which we are faced in this connexion. It does seem to be essential in the present circumstances that we should secure the most equitable distribution of such foodstuffs as are available, and I would like to ask the Government to give some further consideration to the question of the distribution of certain "points" food upon the datum line principle. I have in mind particularly canned fish which the Government allocates to distributors on the basis of figures in 1936, 1937 and 1938.

Conditions to-day are entirely different from conditions in those years. Populations have moved. There is no provision when you allocate on a datum line basis for the movement of population. If we are to obtain equality, the foodstuffs must follow the population. It seems to me that it may be particularly hard on sections of the country like the northeastern area, South Wales and others which were depressed in those years, that because the people of those sections of the country, owing to the terrible conditions under which they were suffering, were unable to purchase canned salmon, they should be placed in a worse position than other sections of the country before securing articles of that character. I hope it will be possible to have that question of the datum line investigated.

It seemed to me, listening to the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, that he was endeavouring to suggest that the present situation should have been foreseen and that the Government ought to have taken some steps to deal with it. It seems to me that whatever action the Government had taken in recent months, they could not possibly have estimated the world shortage of many foodstuffs. Nor, indeed, could the Government have done anything to deal with the conditions which have been referred to by the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, in regard to the climatic conditions which have been responsible for the failure of crops in a large part of the world or have varied the ill-fortune of the whaling industry. Take, for example, Europe, which, before the war, produced 46 per cent of the foodstuffs of the world. The difficulty there is obvious. Between 1941 and 1945 there was no active warfare on the Continent of Europe between the Russian frontier and the Atlantic, and the production of agricultural products was going on peacefully and unaffected. But that is not the position to-day.

Within the last few years armies have marched over Europe. They have de stroyed the crops. It is not possible now for sowing to proceed in many areas, simply because one does not know where the mines have been laid, and lives are being lost every day by agricultural workers in the country because they are stepping on mines which have been left there as the armies marched to and fro. The noble Lord disagrees with my figure of 46 per cent It is suggested to me that occupied Europe has lost one-third of its horses, while in Poland in the latter part of last year I saw ploughs being pulled by men because horses were not available. One quarter of the cattle have been lost half of the pig population, and one-third of the sheep. What is left, it is suggested to me, is in many parts under-nourished and possibly unfit for breeding. What could the Government have done to remedy that situation in five minutes, or five weeks, or five months? It will possibly he a task of five years.

Many of the factors leading up to the present situation have only revealed themselves in recent times. So far back as last June, we were told at the Food Conference in London that there would be a shortage for two years to come at least, of sugar, oils, fats and live-stock products, and that supplies of live stock would be inadequate for three or four years. Again I say, what could Government action have done in these circumstances to improve the situation in the few months ahead? Again, I think that the great shortage of food grain was not foreseen. Had it been I cannot think that the Coalition Government would in February of last year have cut down the acreage subsidy from £4 to £2 per acre, a position which the Minister of Food has recently declared to be reasonable in the circumstances. In June of last year, it did not appear that there was any real fear in regard to the wheat position, for again, in the Report of the London Food Conference, I find it was reported that: If the means of transport both internal and on the high seas do not fail, sufficient wheat should be brought to the liberated areas to ensure that human beings, at any rate, obtain adequate quantities. That statement does not appear to indicate that there was any suspicion in June last that there would be a great shortage of food grain arising in a few months' time. The fact is that circumstances have arisen since that time quite beyond the power of any Government to foresee. They are the result of natural causes for which no Government could in any circumstances justly be held blameworthy.

I notice that the Minister of Food has started a newspaper advertising campaign calling on the nation as a whole to refrain from wasting bread. I think we shall all agree that everything which can be done to prevent wastage of bread must be undertaken. There is considerable wastage of bread. Of that I am perfectly convinced, and I think an inspection of many food bins would clearly show that to be the case. I think there is also a considerable wastage of bread and potatoes, both of which are heavily subsidized by the Exchequer, as a result of poultry keepers endeavouring to keep a number of birds very much in excess of that which can be maintained on the ration. I should like to see the Minister of Food issuing a strong warning against the use of bread fit for human consumption for the feeding of poultry. I know that rationing of bread would meet the situation, but I think that psychologically it would be a bad move. I want to follow up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, in regard to statements which have to be made by the Minister of Food in the nature of a warning or a suggestion, or an appeal. I suggest that the Minister should return to the practice, followed very successfully by the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, of making his appeals in person over the wireless.

Many people will read the newspaper advertisements, but I am perfectly certain that newspaper advertising does not make the personal appeal to the individual that an appeal over the wireless will do. Over the wireless each individual who is listening has the feeling that the Minister is making an appeal to him as an individual, and I am perfectly certain that that will bring a response in a manner which you will never get from newspaper advertising. May I make one further point on the question of bread? I should like to see the Minister coming to an early decision in regard to the restrictions on retail distribution. Staffs are coming back from the Forces. It is difficult sometimes to put our men back into the occupations which they had before the war as a consequence of the restrictions which exist. I make the point that it would have an effect in the saving of bread that through regular deliveries we should find the housewife ordering the bread she needed until the next delivery came round. At the present time the housewife often plays for safety, so there is more bread than is needed, and in consequence there is waste.

I should like to say something about the dried egg. What shades of war-time breakfasts does that not recall, with sausages with 30 per cent. of meat and last night's left-over potatoes? If I were the Minister of Food I would have investigated every hotel cookhouse, and where the cook could not prepare dried egg in a manner which could be presented in a pleasing-looking style at the breakfast table I would have refused to supply it because I am perfectly certain there is a tremendous quantity wasted in that way.

I am sure the Minister of Food was staggered at the reaction of the housewives to his decision with regard to dried eggs. Of course, so were many grocers. It would appear to me that this decision of the Minister to withhold supplies of dried egg for a period gave to dried egg a popularity which it certainly never previously enjoyed. The Minister has said that in August last when the entitlement was one packet for every four weeks the off-take was only one-half the entitlement. Certainly when the supply to the consumer was reduced from one packet in four weeks to one packet each eight weeks no comment was made, and even then in some areas at least the consumer had so little regard for dried egg that the entitlement was not taken up. If dried egg is now popular it is due entirely to the Ministry of Food, firstly for the great efforts which they made to popularise it by the issue of recipes and that sort of thing; and secondly, to the decision to hold up supplies for a period which has enabled many grocers to clear a stock which was cluttering up their shelves and moving but slowly.

May I in support of this statement quote an extract from a paper which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, will know very well, the Manchester Evening News? Mr. Alban Curtis, Secretary of the Manchester and Salford Grocers' Association, which has a membership of over 75,000 grocers in the North-West, said 'If Sir Ben Smith had not publicly announced the dried egg position, grocers in the North-West division could have managed with what supplies they had until the autumn when the next dried eggs can be expected'. And then: Councillor Hugh Lee, who is this year's Lord Mayor of Manchester, and owns a number of grocers' shops said to-day in his capacity as a grocer: 'Before the Food Minister made his announcement I had enough dried eggs in my warehouse to serve every one of my registered customers for three months. There was practically no demand for them, but since the announcement there has been a rush for them. I would suggest to the Minister he might do a very excellent service to the grocery trade if he would make an immediate announcement that he proposes to withdraw dried milk, for that seems to be about as popular as dried egg was.


And spam.


Yes, spam probably. The pity of it, it seems to me in this connexion, is that newspapers, to whom so many people look for news, omitted to make it clear that the withdrawal of dried egg was only of a temporary nature and that when the flush period for shell eggs was passed the supply of fresh eggs would be supplemented by dried eggs again. If they had made that clear, probably a lot of the comments we have heard about this matter would not have occurred.

I would like to say something on publicity, because it does appear to me—I must say this quite frankly—that the Minister did not make the best of the situation with which he was faced. When he was called upon to announce the recent change in rations I think he really had a much better story to tell than the one he put out. What is the position with regard to dried egg? It was never popular with the housewives. It was merely regarded as a substitute, as a second best, which they had to have because there was nothing better. The Ministry worked hard to popularise the substitute and even succeeded to some extent. But surely when the Minister announced he was going to withdraw dried egg, which was merely a substitute for fresh egg, and he was going to give the nation fresh eggs instead of dried egg which they did not like, one would have thought that that was an opportunity for gaining some credit for having done something in the interest of the nation. I am perfectly certain of this, if the announcement had been made by the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, he would have done it in such a way that the reaction of the people would have been entirely different to the reaction we have had to the recent announcement. To tell the public that he is giving them fresh egg for dried egg at the same time as he is able to announce an increase in the milk ration, more fish, a greater variety in the way of grapefruit and oranges, and lemons—


And tomatoes.


Certainly—that surely was an opportunity for gaining credit for the Minister of Food for having done something really valuable for the housewife. I think we must confess that the best use was not made of the opportunity which was available. But we should not make the mistake of thinking that publicity, or successful publicity, is as valuable as the food which the people need. So far as I am concerned, I am quite convinced that the action the Minister will take will secure for us all the foodstuffs which are available to us and which we need. I would not be prepared to say we must entirely ignore the claims of other nations. I could not possibly take that view. I am sure, however, of this, that in considering our relations with other nations, the Ministry will take every possible care to ensure that we do get the supplies which we need. I know this, that on the Government Benches in the other place, there are very many members to whom a shortage of food in their homes was a permanent situation. The knowledge of these days I am certain is sufficient to secure that they will never rest until everything possible is done to ensure that the larders and the kitchens of our homes in this country are stocked with that variety of goods which the people of this country certainly deserve after their efforts of the past years.


My Lords, I find it somewhat embarrassing that it falls to me, who have so recently made my own maiden speech, to congratulate the noble Lord who has just sat down, on a very fine maiden speech. I should like to say all the neat things which are usually said on these occasions, but I am afraid it is quite beyond me. I am no speaker but I do sincerely mean what I say when I congratulate him on his very useful suggestions in, if I may say so, the well-judged speech he has just made, and express the hope that we shall often hear him again.

There are only a few things with which I do not entirely agree, but I am not going to dwell on them. I would just like to mention the dried egg situation, because I think that greater significance has been attached to that than is really warranted. We are all aware of the outcry which arose when it was announced that the dried eggs supply was going to be stopped. I was of the opinion that it was not until after that outcry that it was announced that the supply was not going to be stopped permanently but only for a period. I may be wrong in that, but that is my impression and it is a very widely held one. The reduction of the subsidy for wheat I do not think has any significance, because in these days the war agricultural executive committee goes round and says: "You plant this, you plant that and what you get for it is nothing to do with you or anybody else." Therefore, except for the benefit of the Exchequer, and probably the farmers, I do not think it is of much significance.

I would like to deal with the question of the cultivation in Europe. I am afraid I was a little late in arriving and I did not get the full gist of this, so I can only say how it strikes me. I think that my experience is similar to the experience of a large number of people returning to this country who have been in the Forces and who have been recently "demobbed." Unfortunately, of course, any individual—myself or anyone else—only saw a small portion of the country in Europe, but when we were there the thing that struck us was the amazing speed with which the farmers got back on to the land and got it back into cultivation. In fact they were practically up in the front line; they were ducking and going on ploughing. That is the impression I got and I think it must be shared by the great number of people who are in the same position as myself.

Then there is the question of the wastage of bread. It is true there is wastage, but there is a point which has been very strongly brought out to those of us who have been in the Forces, and that is the enormous quantity of bread wasted owing to the shocking state of the teeth of the people of this country. The first thing all the men do is to tear off the crust I and throw it away. The average slice of bread is five inches by five inches, making twenty-five square inches. If you tear off one-quarter of an inch all round, that makes five square inches; therefore you are wasting one-fifth of your total quantity of bread. Now if you feed that crust, which you are going to waste in any case, to the chickens, and get eggs for it which you can cat without teeth, it seems all right to me. I agree that the throwing away of bread is reprehensible, but the prohibition of feeding bread to fowls would be wrong. If bread is short, people will not waste the part which they can eat. What they give to the fowls is the part they will not eat in any case, and I think that is good business.

I cannot talk as an expert on this subject, and my only excuse for intervening at all is that the question of food concerns everyone. The subject has been fully covered by the experts and there is nothing I can add on those lines. There are a few points, however, which I do not think have been covered to the satisfaction of one who like myself has no knowledge of the facts. All the knowledge we have is gathered from the garbled pieces in the newspapers, which we know are not official though nevertheless they get credit as being in large part official. I would like wholeheartedly to associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, and the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, which impressed me very much. Few would deny their right to speak with great authority on the matter. Many people outside think that we have either been let down by the Government or led up the garden path by them. That is the sort of general feeling one gets. There are two cases which read badly. One is the dried egg situation, which has probably been badly presented. Anyhow, the net result is that it has produced a bad effect. The other thing which has produced a bad effect is the fact that farmers are being urged to plant wheat at this time of the year instead of in November, when it should have been sown.




Well, November is the latest; you can plant it then. That makes people think, rightly or wrongly, that the Government have either only just now given them something which was unpalatable, or were not fully aware of it themselves. It gives the Government a very bad press, if I may use that expression. Another point which strikes young people like myself is the world food allocation. There is much talk of a fair share of the world's supply of food. If that is the case and food is to be placed on a world basis, I think we are entitled to know what is the American fat ration. It is all very well for us to have only seven ounces a week, but what are they getting? If they are getting seven ounces then it is perfectly fair, and the country would say so. The Government know these things but we outsiders do not, and therefore there is a lot of suspicion. In any case, do the Americans need more calories than we do to feed them and keep them warm?

Yet another point is that a number of men coming back, demobilized, consider that a fair share is not enough; we want a winner's share. We won the war, and therefore we want the winner's share. Many of us think, without knowing the facts—I cannot pretend to know the facts—that Europe fed itself somehow. The people in Europe did not die, and, from what we have seen over there, they all appear not really to have wanted for anything in these six years. We feel that wool has been drawn over our eyes. If they could feed themselves for these last six years with no imports, let them get on with it now and do it again for another six years. We think there is a lot of exaggeration. Supposing we were in a position to export coal to the Argentine, the maize position might become considerably easier. I only hazard that as a guess.

Finally, I want to say that I do not wish to cast any aspersions upon the Government. They have a stupendous task to do, but I do feel they should place less faith in their statisticians. In my short life I have supplied information from time to time to these gentlemen. There are many ways of supplying information to a chap if you know what he is driving at. I do not say it is not strictly the truth, but there are many ways of presenting the truth. I suggest that a much surer guide is past record. If people suddenly say, "We are starving; we must have millions of tons of wheat," then it is right to say, "In 1938 you had nothing; you were not starving then, so you must be better off now." It is far better to calculate the needs on the basis of past record, because there are many ways of presenting these statistics. I think I have said quite enough.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, after the very entertaining finish of the noble Lord's speech, which has, if I may say so, more than a germ of truth in it, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to address you for a short period. First, I should like to say that no one can be more sorry than I that these additional restrictions have had to be put upon the housewives of this country—that grand body of people who have done so much with so little for so long. And no one is more sorry than I—and I hope the noble Lord opposite will believe this—that the Ministry in which I am proud to have served for some twenty months has now fallen upon somewhat unpopular days.

It happened that during my tenure of office I was able to ease many of the restrictions, and in fact during the greater part of the time I was Minister of Food there was more food available to the people of this country than at any other time during the past five years. It is sad to think that nearly every improvement that I made except the extra tea, ice cream and oranges—and I am sorry to see in the paper that there is going to be a hitch in the supply of oranges now—has now had to be withdrawn, either by myself last summer or by my successor now.

I see that my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture in another place said that I had charged the world food crisis to the present Socialist Government in this country. As a matter of fact I did not do anything of the sort; I said it was hard luck on the people of this country, after the war, to have to undergo further cuts and I think we shall all agree upon that statement. I went on to say—with which noble Lords opposite probably may not agree—that I thought it was particularly hard luck that that should happen after the promises of plenty made by a number of Socialist supporters at the last Election. I do not say that any leading member of the old Coalition Cabinet made those promises, but I do know that, as Minister of Food, I was particularly vulnerable in my constituency. A rumour went from door to door and from meeting place to meet- ing place. After all, that is what one expects. I heard it was also happening in a number of other constituencies as well. However, that is a matter of the past, it happened at election time, and I make no complaint that I came to your Lordships'. House partly in consequence.

There are two or three matters with which I should like to deal, and a number of questions Which I should like to put. First let me say that, like the noble Lord, Lord Rusholme, whose maiden speech we were delighted to hear in this House this afternoon, I think the Ministry of Food had a great deal of success with its publicity about dried egg and was more successful than it realised. After all, practically every issue of Food Facts had an announcement urging people to use dried egg, and in addition the use of dried egg was urged on the film flashes, on the radio, and in practically every Food Advice Centre up and down the country. When I was Minister of Food I visited a large number of these Centres from the East End of London up as far North as Inverness, and in many places in between. Whenever I saw one of the charming demonstrators that we had showing people how to cook, she always seemed to start with the phrase, "Take a tablespoon of dried egg ". Quite frankly, I became rather happier in my visits when we got to fruit bottling time, and when there was another topic which was the main topic for these great ladies.

However, let us make no mistake about it; it pays to advertise. I think if you counted up the amount of money spent on advertising dried egg, under either my noble friend Lord Woolton or myself, you would find it has been advertised 'more than any other foodstuff throughout the whole history of the country. As a result, the housewife has come to rely on it; there is no doubt about that. After some time in office one gets to see how these things read, and it seems to me, looking at the answers to questions in another place, that neither the Prime Minister nor the Chancellor of the Exchequer knew anything about dried egg having been cut off. It savoured to me very much of a matter which had been dealt with just on the departmental level and which had never gone to the Cabinet itself. I think that is wrong, and I think there is a great deal to be said for the suggestion made by my noble friend, Lord Woolton, that the Minister of Food should be a full Cabinet Minister. I know he was not in war-time, but then we had a small war Cabinet, and there were many other very important ministers who were not in that Cabinet. In peace-time, however, I think you have got to look at things in a different light and I think it would be right and proper for that Minister to be a member of the present much-enlarged Cabinet.

Coming back to dried egg, I know it was expensive, and when I was Minister Resident in Washington I inquired about the expense. Of course, then it was under Lend-Lease, and in those days we did query its cost; it was left to the Lend-Lease administrators—great friends and supporters of ours—to arrange the contracts for us. The reason why the price of dried egg was so high was that the American administrators had had these plants built to supply it in the days when shipping space was the controlling factor. Of course, if you send over shell eggs or fresh eggs, whichever you like to call them, they take up vastly more space than dried egg. These factories were put up for the purpose of supplying this country with dried egg, and the administration wanted to recover, on current account the capital cost over a very short time, over three or four years, because they calculated that the plant would not be needed any more in the United States economy when the people of that country could get shell eggs. Therefore, if you compare, as has been done, the quantity of dried egg sent with the amount debited under Lease-Lend, you arrive at, it seems to me, quite a fictitious figure, because in that figure was included a great part of the cost of the plant itself. Things are different now that we have not Lend-Lease.

What I would like to know, if I can get an answer about it, and what I would like investigated if I cannot get an answer, is how far we have expanded our Food Mission in the United States. It was not a large body of men; they were very able men, and they were doing their job extremely well, but they were not the people who had the task of the procurement of the goods; that was done through the American agencies. If we are going, either under the Loan or by the dollars that we have to spend there, to buy our own eggs, we must, it seems to me, have our own men making the contracts with the individual firms, the producers, in the United States. It is no good still leaving it to the American administration.

We must do it ourselves. We must expand our staff accordingly. Let us send out good commercial men to do it, or, perhaps better still, give so much of the dollars to some of our good importing merchants before the war who know well how to do this business. They very likely can do it without it being thought that the British taxpayers' purse stands behind it, and so we shall get more things cheaply. We might easily be able to get dried egg and many of the other things we need much more cheaply than if we have to go to them always saying, "This is the British Government coming," which here is not a good approach to any commercial firm. Whether we have done that or not I do not know. It was quite clear that that alteration ought to have taken place as soon as we came off Lend-Lease.

Now with regard to wheat, it was quite true, as the noble Viscount the Leader of the House and the noble Lord, Lord Rusholme, said, that there were no anxieties about wheat last year. The noble Lord, Lord Rusholme, actually quoted a statement I made to a meeting of foreign Food Ministers over which I presided in this country. There were none and I think in those days in fact everybody said so. We were quite justified in taking those steps that we did. I am sorry that we have got to return to the darker loaf, because I had hoped that the 80 per cent extraction loaf was a permanent feature. At least I looked upon it as being a permanent feature, and I still think it was the right British compromise between the people who wanted to go right back to the 70 or 72 per cent. extraction rate and the people who wanted us to take more roughage into our stomachs, because it suits some who perhaps have what I might call somewhat constipated constitutions. At any rate, that was, it seems to me, a good compromise loaf which I had hoped would be acceptable for all time.

Nutritionally, of course, we shall not be the worse off for going back to the 85 per cent loaf; but what concerns us all is the fact that it indefinitely puts back our programme for the increase of our pig and poultry populations. We have got 330,000 tons of this roughage out of it, and it has put that back unfortunately indefinitely. I think that we might probably do more if we tackled this energetically by getting more maize out of the Argentine, but it is a question of sending them more coal or getting more oil to them. There were political considerations, which as a matter of fact I managed to get over when I was in Washington last Easter, which meant that oil thenceforth was sent to the Argentine where for two or three years before people had been doing a most wasteful thing. Because they could not get fuel from elsewhere, they were burning maize, and linseed too, which is the most important item in your fats and oil position, in their engines. Well, I got that started, and it is a thing which I hope the Government will energetically pursue because for too long has our traditional British dish of bacon and eggs been absent from our menus.

I well remember, when I went out to the United States as Minister Resident, staying the first night in a hotel and the next morning I said rather diffidently to the waiter: "Can I have an egg for breakfast?" He said: "Well, how many do you want?" I had two, and I do not mind admitting now that every day that I was in the United States I had an egg for my breakfast. You could always get eggs in the United States, and really it is' a bit hard on the people of this country that they have to go without when other people have got eggs and have all their hopes put back into the future. With regard to the other side of the matter, the question of bacon, a friend of mine who helps with these displaced persons, met a Dutchman who had been taken as forced labour from Holland and worked in Bavaria during the war. My friend asked him how he had been treated, and the Dutchman said: "Really, very kindly, but, oh, the food." So my friend said to him: "Well, were you starved or what was wrong with the food?" The Dutchman said: "No, but they gave me masses of ham all the time." That was in Bavaria, in the midst of Germany, and our wretched people here at home have not seen, I suppose, a ham for a very long time, or at least the great majority of them.

That brings me to the German position. When I was there, both in the American area and in our own, last July, I went round the fields and looked generally at the harvest, and the harvest promised extremely well. I should like to know how it turned out. We sponsored from Great Britain an operation that was called "Barley Corn" which was to release German agricultural labourers from among the prisoners-of-war we captured in the north of Germany. I saw these men coming back in lorries and going on to the fields. They were released in time for that harvest, and there is no reason why it should not all have been carried in. Let me say again that I have never seen a fitter or a better nourished population than the German population that I saw in the streets of all those Ruhr towns and as far as Frankfurt and Munich and places of that sort They had lived on the fat of the land of Europe during all the time when they got their foodstuffs and anything else they wanted from any of the areas they had captured. It all came in to Germany and I have little sympathy with them now. I think that we can quite easily get too much sympathy for them.

I should like to know who checks these demands that are made for wheat for Germany, because they want to be checked by real experts. They are made with the best will in the world by the military; indeed for all I know my noble friend, Viscount Stonehaven, may have made one or two himself; but the trained military man from his youth, one must realise, is always prone to over-estimate. He has been taught to keep one-third of his company in reserve, one-third of the battalion in reserve and one-third of the division in reserve and if you are not very careful he bases his food estimate on the same kind of reasoning. Another question I should like to ask is this: How much food, if any, is coming from the parts of Germany in Russian occupation into our side? All that part of Eastern Germany, East Prussia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the whole of the Danube Valley was about the most fertile part of the whole of Europe; certainly from it in peace days Germany drew large quantities. This is an issue on which the Government ought to stand up to the Russians in exactly the same way as the Foreign Secretary, to his credit, stood up to them in the United Nations, because there is no mention in the White Paper of any wheat going to Germany from those sources and I should doubt whether any food is crossing that frontier at all.

There is no reason whatever why Marshal Stalin should be put in the position of getting all that food and so being able to declare to the Russian people that he is going to take rationing off at the same time when the Minister of Food in this country has to come down to the House of Commons and tell them that he is going to restrict rations still further.

I noticed also the other day—and here again this rather reinforces my plea that the Minister of Food should be a Cabinet Minister—that we are taking into the British zone 1,500,000 Germans out of Poland. That may be politically the right thing to do, but when that decision is taken is there anybody there to say how you are going to feed all those people, because if the food does not come quickly we ought to be very chary of accepting into our zone people from the Eastern parts of Germany?

I think we should do something more here at home than we are doing. We must get more of our men back from the Forces on to the land. Whereas the quota has been given (and I think that is probably too small) of 18,000 men under Class B out of the Forces, we have only got 4,000 back. I made a plea in this House that we might give those men in Class B the same amount of money payment—although one would not say the same amount of leave—as the men who had served the same time. Then I believe you would get these men to accept release under Class B which at present they are unwilling to accept. They say. "In three months time we can get a large amount of pay on our release." I really believe that the Government ought to do that and get these men out in greater numbers than they have so far been able to do under Class B. I must say some lack of co-ordination in a Government which always preaches planning, was shown when the Minister of Labour just about a day or two before the Minister of Food's announcement, declared he was going to call up 8,000 new men for the Army. This great planning might begin at home.

Another thing we could do is this—and I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, is not in this House at the moment: There are large areas in this country still under Air Force or military occupation. There are a vast number of airfields that we had to have during the war. After all, we had a great part of the American bomber force here as well as our own. Service Departments are still holding on to a large number of those tracts of land. I know of one in Dorset. A deputation led by the Leader of the Opposition and my noble friend Viscount Cranborne went to the Secretary of State for War. The reply of the War Office, last October or November, was, "We are going to take a survey of all these things. We are sorry, but we cannot release any of them until the survey is complete." Well, let them get on with that survey and we shall be able to have the food.

Let us get the land out of the sterile occupation of Service Departments who are not using it. We look for some move in that direction. I remember in the past, when we were losing an immense amount of shipping from submarines, we had set up what was called (and there was no secret about it, I think) the "Battle of the Atlantic Committee" at the head of which sat the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill. He went into all these matters, as to whether there were enough bombers, what destroyers there were and things of that sort, with all these Ministers there, and they had to get on with the job. Let the Government do something of the sort in regard to this food position, which is an urgent matter. Let them get a similar Committee formed. Let the Prime Minister call in his Secretary of State for War and say "What are you doing about these things?" Let them get on with the job and really see whether we cannot produce some more in this country.

There is one other thing, if I may just say a word about the meat and dairy products position. I believe it was about meat that my noble friend Lord Woolton asked his question. I do not know quite why an extra appeal was necessary either to Australia or to New Zealand in regard to meat. Those two great Dominions have always done wonderful things for us in our food supplies, and I would be second to none in giving them great thanks and great credit for all they have done. Both of them signed a four years' contract while I was Minister of Food, and I signed on behalf of this country, to send us all their exportable surpluses of meat and dairy produce. I should have thought they were doing it without any additional appeal. At any rate, they have promised it, and of course I hope we shall see that we get it. The extra amounts that they have to give are, of course, largely due to the fact that the vast numbers of American soldiers, sailors and airmen they were feeding now no longer are being fed by those Dominions.

I want just to come for a moment or two to rice. The position has long been difficult, as is perfectly well known. One of the great difficulties is that the Indian population grows by about 5,000,000 persons every year, and they do not expand their food production in proportion to the growth of their population. They always in the past depended upon Burma for sending them a large part of their rice. On the day when Rangoon fell I agreed with the then Secretary of State for War (at least, he agreed with me on my application for it) to let some officers out of the Army at once to form up into a rice team and to go to Burma immediately to see what rice could be collected from there. I should like to know how this Mission has fared. They would probably have put in for barges; they would probably have put in for other forms of transport—lorries and things of that sort; and it is likely that they would have asked for the machinery in some rice mills.

I should like to see whether they have done so, whether they have got what they asked for, and whether we have got any rice out of Burma. I am glad that more active steps are now being taken to get the rice from Siam. The Siamese owe' it to us. As a matter of fact they have got off extremely lightly for declaring war against us, and we ought to insist in every possible way on getting that 1,200,000 tons of rice out of Siam. Here, I will put in a little plea for one of our Colonies. I know the Indians, the Government, and so on, clamour pretty loudly; but there is another Colony, which has stood by us extremely well in the war, which has produced practically all the rubber, all the tea and all the copra that we got—and that is Ceylon.


I am afraid I omitted it; and we are making special efforts with regard to Ceylon.


I am extremely glad, because they have had a much better rationing system than any other place in our Empire—I mean any Colony —and better rationing than India. They have served us extremely well. Therefore I am very glad of the noble Viscount's assurance that they are being supported in that way. Then, my noble friend Lord Woolton referred to orange juice. I am awfully frightened that orange juice will suddenly go the same way as dried egg. It is most valuable for the children in this country. It cannot be allowed to go the same way as dried egg.

When I was Minister of Food I took up with the Colonial Office the question of making concentrated orange juice in Jamaica, and I had an expert mission sent out to Palestine to try to teach the Jewish growers of oranges out there how to concentrate and bottle their juice. I also took this matter up, personally, with Field-Marshal Smuts when he was paying one of his visits to this country. This is vital to our people, and it is of great benefit to the Colonies and the Dominions which undertake the supply of the juice. You need not have full-size graded oranges to make it. You can use the small oranges which you do not want to sell under your brand name. I should like to know how these projects are getting on; whether we have had any report from Jamaica, Palestine, or South Africa? As I say, this is a matter of vital importance. I realized that we might become hard up for dollars, and I had this done in the sterling area so that we might never be short of orange juice if we could help it. I followed the policy of looking ahead in connexion with the supply of that vital food for our young persons. Lord Woolton started it, and I continued it. I have not the slightest doubt my successor is continuing it as well.

Now, as to the oils and fats position. The question was asked whether the Americans were on the same fat ration as ourselves. When I was in Washington last Easter, I made that arrangement. I would like to know whether it has lasted, for we then made an arrangement, going over to June 30 of this year, by which we gradually liquidated our stocks, and at the same time they promised to come down to the same consumption figure per head as we. Are they coming down to the seven ounces just as we are? We all realize that the fats ration is an absolutely vital one, which you have got to watch all the time, and I would like to know whether that arrangement, which I made for the whole year up to June 30 next, has been broken or kept.

I am very sorry that we have not succeeded in getting ground nuts from India. I had a bit of tough bargaining to do about that as well. The Indians, in the old days, never ate their own ground nuts. The Government of India, after a famine, tried to persuade the people to eat their ground nuts rather than starve, but they showed preference for cereals rather than ground nuts, and I made an arrangement, sanctioned by my colleagues, by which every ship which took wheat into India was to come back tilled up with ground nuts for the people here. I take it, in view of what is said, that they are now getting wheat and we are not getting the ground nuts. That was not the arrangement I made. I must say that I would have done my best to stick to the arrangement that they made with me.

I thank your Lordships for being so patient with me. I have asked a number of questions, and, in some respects, I hope, I have been helpful. In others, I think I may have been critical. But it is proper to be critical in the right way. The main criticism that I have to make is similar to that made by Lord Lindsay. As one who watches these things with, still, a certain amount of inside knowledge, I was, quite frankly, of the opinion that there could not be very much going wrong with the cereals position when I noted that the Minister of Agriculture announced, publicly, to the National Farmers' Union, some time in December, that there would be no directions for wheat. Similarly, when the Minister of Labour made his announcement, I thought that the supply position there must be all right. They were, I gathered, still going to call up people from the land. With the background of knowledge that I possessed, I was very much reassured. And many other people in the country must have been reassured also. But what has happened now does show a lack of co-ordination between different Ministers in the Government, and it has largely, I am certain, got them into their present difficulties. I hope that that will be remedied. But I believe—and here is just one parting shot—that it would be far better for this country if the members of the Cabinet devoted less time to putting their ideologies into the various Bills that are coming before us, and devoted more of it to the practical administrative problems which so affect the lives of every one of us. Let them look after the welfare of our people first and all the time, and let these ideologies, when they come, merely be added thereto.

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, my first duty, I feel, is to thank the noble Lord who has just sat down for his very helpful speech, the points of which I am sure will be taken notice of by the various departments in the Government which are concerned. I, of course, am not going to make any reference to his parting shot. We usually expect such shots—they are so familiar that I think that in this case I am not called upon to say anything. Perhaps I might dispose of the one or two questions which he has put, as they are still fresh in the minds of the House. The noble Lord's first question was with regard to the Mission to the United States. He wanted to know whether there has been any change. There is no change in the position in that respect since the noble Lord was at the Ministry. It has not been necessary so far, and it really does depend on the settlement of the Loan to a large extent as to what attitude will be taken in the future in that particular respect.

As to the noble Lord's question with regard to what is coming from Russia and so forth, I am not in a position to give any answer. No doubt notice will be taken of his remarks in the right quarters. Then he put a question about aerodromes. I can give him the assurance that that is a matter which is under constant discussion, and a good deal is being done with regard to it. Much is being done to get these aerodromes clear as soon as possible. A further question, of which he was good enough to give me notice in advance, related to the rice position in Burma. His first question was, What have the Rice Party done in Burma? There is no Rice Unit in Burma like the Siam Rice Unit. The procurement of rice in that country has so far been handled entirely by the Civil Affairs Service. That Service will, however, in the near future, hand over this responsibility to the Government of Burma, which has set tip a Rice Project composed of officials and of representatives of the commercial community, which will take over charge once the Civil Affairs Service transfers responsibility. Full and careful preparations for the actual taking over and for carrying on the business of procurement of rice on the conclusion of responsibility of the Civil Affairs Service have been made by this Rice Project.


Whatever they call themselves civil affairs, military or not, they were selected men because they knew about the procurement of rice and I want to know whether they asked for it or got it.


The only assurance I can give the noble Lord is that an important part of the project is the procurement of stores in connexion with getting out the maximum amount of rice and that is understood to be well advanced. That is all the information I have to hand. With regard to this question of Siam the total quantities of rice shipped or loaded or for which tonnage has been arranged up to February 5 is 147,000 tons. With regard to his further question as to lorries and barges, I am sure that the noble Lord knows that the Burma rice traffic largely depends upon water traffic more than upon lorries. The South-East Asia Command is doing everything possible to supply craft suitable for the purpose. The total number of vessels of all kinds, but not necessarily solely for the purpose of moving rice, is 570 and there are more to come. I think that answers the specific points he put to me except one question with regard to the fat ration. So far as we know the agreement holds good and it is working and we have no specific information to the contrary. May I turn to the—


I did ask about the scheme for orange juice in Jamaica.


Thank you. I had forgotten that. I think I can give the noble Lord a satisfactory answer with regard to it. He himself referred to certain projects he had when he was at the Ministry of Food. I can tell him that the plant has been sent out and should be there at any day now. It is hoped that it will soon be working and that quantities of concentrated orange juice will be available. I may say that the tests he put into operation were quite satisfactory and an agreement has been entered into with the Palestine Government that all the concentrated orange juice the fruit factories can produce is to be supplied to this country. Unfortunately, so far as Jamaica is concerned although we hope to purchase all their concentrated orange juice, the fruit crop has failed disastrously. We are hoping to get something from them but it will not be anything like what we anticipated.

Some doubt was thrown by the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, on the various figures and statistics which had been supplied. So far as we know they were all supplied from official sources, but I think that he rather explained his own state of mind when he said that people who entered these discussions expected what they were looking for and that they were concerned to prove a case. We may take it that the noble Lord was concerned to prove a case that all these figures were wrong, although he did not give us any broad basis for his criticism of them. May I repeat some of them? The exportable surplus in various parts of the world in June, 1943, amounted to 46,000,000 tons of wheat, but in July, 1945, it was down to 22,000,000. The anticipated return for next June, owing to the various climatic and other failures, is down to 12,000,000. So you will see, as my noble friend Viscount Addison said at the beginning of this debate, the position is really a very serious one and there is a great deal of difference to-day in comparison with the conditions when the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, presided so excellently—and we are all indebted to him for what he did—over his particular Department.

In those days there was a small group of food exporting countries, namely, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and we were the main recipients. Occasionally some went to India, but Europe and the Middle East were largely cut off. That enabled us to build up an amount of supplies which would not have otherwise been available to this country, and to that extent I think the noble Lord might have extended a little more sympathy to his successor as to the difficulties he appears to have inherited. The noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, raised the question of taste in bread. That is a matter I am not going to enter into. So far as I am concerned, whatever the experts may say, I do not like it. That is one of the things on which I object to having something good done for me. I am quite incorrigible on that. I hope I have not upset any of the noble Lords so far as that is concerned, but I know that that view is shared by a good many other persons.

The question of home production has also been raised. It was mentioned by Lord Teviot and also by Viscount Bledisloe, whom I should like to thank for some very useful suggestions that he made in a very constructive speech. But it is to be remembered that, after all, one cannot visualize or work out the main pattern of agriculture for the year 1946. It has to be worked out in 1946 for the summer of 1947 and largely the plan has been laid down and even the noble Lord himself had some part in this in relation to America. Certain steps were taken in that direction which afterwards proved a failure, not through any fault of his or through any misunderstanding on his part, but through the climatic conditions which ruined the crops. So the problem is one of movement rather than of supply. That is a matter over which we have no control and we can only hope that next season will give us a better result than has been the position hitherto. Lord Bledisloe asked a question about the Argentine and whether we had done anything to obtain maize from there. The Government have been in close touch with those concerned in the Argentine. It has to be recognized that there are many competitors in the same market and there can be no certainty as to the size of the crop, but the Government have put in a claim with a view to getting as large a share as it is possible for us to obtain. He also asked a question about the growing of rye. Rye is being grown on lands not suitable for wheat. There cannot be a very large quantity. That is all that can be said about that.

I should like to join the deserved chorus of praise which met the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rusholme. It fills us with the expectation of having his advice in the future. He raised the question of the distribution of points for rationed goods to traders on the basis of 1936 to 1937 turnover adjustment. On that matter the Ministry of Food issues to traders figures of population changes from time to time and asks them to adjust allocations to meet them. That, I think, is the answer to the noble Lord in that respect.


May I interrupt? I think that really was the system that met the case of all those people. It was the general allocation that was increased to the districts where the population had grown. That always has been the position.


I thank the noble Lord very much. Then the noble Lord also raised the question of dried eggs. We were all rather tired and sick of these. One does remember—I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, will remember—that he had to reduce the price in order to get people to take them and to eat them.


Quite right.


They came down from 1s. 9d to 1s. 3d. It is only, I think, since this unfortunate announcement that everybody has found the value of dried egg. I think one need not be very much troubled as to whether it is going to last very much longer. With regard to the noble Lord, Lord Rusholme's suggestion that we should have more broadcasts on the lines of the dulcet tones of Lord Woolton, that might have a good deal to do with it. It all depends. It all depends how people look at these things. I remember in 1943 we had a discussion in the other House which arose on an occasion when our arms had suffered some reverse, and the criticism was raised that sufficient information had not been given to the Commons, that had that been done they would have been better prepared for it. I ventured to join in that discussion and went so far as to say that I believed that were all the facts told to the people of this country they would be prepared to go on bread and water in order to secure victory. Well, between half-past two and three in the morning my telephone bell rang and I was no better pleased when a stranger in an angry voice said: "Who the hell are you to say we are prepared to go on bread and water in order to win this so-and-so war?" There are points of view different from our own which we are forced to take note of.

I have covered, I think, most of the points, because they were covered in anticipation first of all by my noble friend Viscount Addison. In the main they mostly consisted of helpful suggestions that came from subsequent speakers. The position so far as the wheat supplies are concerned is one over which neither this nor any other Government can have any possible control. It is well to remember, too, that the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, was only able to store up his supplies, because the supplies of wheat came into this country on the understanding—I think he will agree with this—that there should be supplies sent to the liberated countries as and when we were in a position to send them. So that we were under an obligation to meet some of the needs of those countries which stood in great necessity.


Of course that only applied to an earmarked portion of our stocks that had come from our purchases. That was the position with regard to that. It never reduced it below our minimum here.


All I am concerned to say is that you cannot say that all the wheat that came pouring into this country during the war years was meant solely for our own consumption. We were under an obligation to send some part of these supplies overseas. As to whether or not the nation is prepared to deplete further stores in order to meet the needs of other countries is a matter for the consideration of the Government and Parliament itself. I am sure much good has been done by the discussion we have had here, and the opportunity given to bring the facts before the House itself. We can only hope that better luck—if that is the right term—will await us so far as our future endeavours to raise the necessary crops and supplies are concerned. It is like reading a chapter out of Job; when you have got catastrophes they fall one after the other, and the last one came when the frost affected the oranges in Spain only quite recently. That I understand is not going to make a very great difference to the supply of oranges and orange juice that will be available in this country.

6.35 p.m.


Since the Motion is in my name, your Lordships will allow me, I hope, to withdraw it. In doing so, there are one or two things that I would like to say. I will be very brief. I hope that my observations were not unsympathetic. Indeed I have—and this is not a figure of speech—the greatest sympathy for the difficulties the Ministry of Food is in. The whole tenor of my speech was devoted to one thing it is not public relations that are going to matter. I do beg the Ministry to do what they can to make future provision for building up stock piles in this country because that is a safeguard against any future calamities, and calamities will obviously occur.

The noble Viscount, Lord Addison, refused to give some figures regarding the wheat supplies. I think he was probably quite right. The reason I asked for those figures was that I thought it might be possible for him to give them, and in the process of giving them—of course in peace-time normally they were common knowledge—to give a re-assurance. If my words count for anything with the public, I do beg them not to get into a panic about wheat, about flour, and about other foods that are not on the ration. In times of scarcity there are no supplies that can stand a panic run, and the public have been so good about these things in the past that I do hope they will trust the Government with regard to this wheat position. I hope they will not begin themselves to hoard, because if they did they would do themselves harm and would render a great disservice to the country. I only asked for that information because it might be that the Minister thought it wise to give it. If he does not think it wise, I do not take any ill view either of him for not doing it or about the position of the stocks in the country.

Let me deal with one personal matter. I am sure the last thing in the world the noble Viscount, who leads the House, would do is to misquote anybody. He said I referred to the welled civil servants. I looked it up and what I said was the people "in well-fed Washington." I was not referring to the civil servants themselves as being well fed, because, as the noble Viscount said, they are a body of gentlemen who rendered a very great service to this country. I am sure the noble Viscount will forgive me for taking him up on this point, because the last thing in the world I would wish is for them to think that I am personally ungrateful for the immense service they rendered to the country during the time when I was a Minister. But I do say it must be very difficult for people who have been out there for two or three years—one of them who had been out for four years came back to see me only the other day—living in an atmosphere so different from this country to know precisely what is happening here.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene for one moment to thank the noble Lord for what he said about stocks, and to take the opportunity of saying that there is no need whatever for any alarm at all. It was simply that my right honourable friend preferred not to give the tonnage of stocks, which was quite satisfactory in view of all the situation. There is no need at all for any uneasiness, and there is certainly no likelihood of the rationing of bread.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.