HC Deb 29 November 1951 vol 494 cc1791-849

7.0 p.m.

Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

I beg to move, That this House deplores the decision of the Government not to issue any additional food rations at Christmas. As I rise to move this Motion, standing in my name and in the names of my right hon. Friends the Members for Bradford, Central (Mr. Webb), and Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), I am rather surprised at the poor attendance of hon. Members opposite.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

Only 20 back benchers.

Mrs. Mann

I can remember when there were more Questions on the Order Paper on this subject from hon. Members than there are Members sitting opposite tonight. The House takes on a strange appearance in these days. No questions at all now from hon. Members opposite on this Christmas bonus issue and the Front Bench is strange indeed. Even the faces have altered; from being broad and exuberant they are now long and careworn, but perhaps not so care-worn as are the housewives whom they profess to serve.

Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)

They are two-faced as well.

Mrs. Mann

The question of a Christmas bonus is not new. We are not asking for something we did not have before. I find, going back to 1945 when my hon. Friends took over the Government of this country, that with a deficit of £860 million, with 9 million men and women in the Forces, Civil Defence and the armament industry all to be rehabilitated and with our export trade gone, yet the Christmas bonus came up year after year. I find that even in 1947, the year of the financial crisis, there was an extra 6d. worth of meat, 11 lb. of sugar and 4 oz. of sweets. In 1949 we had 6 oz. of sweets, 4 oz. of fat; the tea ration was increased to 21 oz. and the bacon increased to 4 oz. Last year we had 6 oz. of sweets, 11 lb. of sugar, 4 oz. of cooking fat and an extra 4 oz. of tea to all over 70 years of age.

Hon. Members opposite insisted that that should be so. No less a person than one whom we used to know as the Radio Doctor in a party political broadcast decried and deplored the miserable equality, the equal shares of misery that the Labour Government distributed. Hon. Members opposite are at some pains now to reconcile their audience with these statements that we were always too extravagant.

In a broadcast last year we had Mr. J. B. Priestley referring to the happy Christmas he had witnessed in 1949. The Radio Doctor in his broadcast said: Did you hear that great writer of fiction. J. B. Priestley, supertax payer—and good luck to him—did you hear him tell us that last Christmas was the best ever? Oh! Chuck it Priestley. Anybody would think that we had no memories. My mother bought better toys for a few shillings than you can get for a couple of pounds today. But we're getting 30 per cent. less meat, 60 per cent. less bacon, 20 per cent. less eggs. Indeed we are getting less meat and bacon and cheese than we were in 1945. You can't have steak but you can have a nice piece of boiled cod. The essence of a good meal, as distinct from a plate of calories and proteins, is that it should be something you like, something you have an appetite for. There's no need to tell us that, the experts are satisfied that we are having what's good for us. "Our diet is dull and dreary and we know it. Now the House is strange indeed, and time marches on, but the basic rations are still insufficient; and it is because these rations are insufficient that we feel we require extra at Christmas. There are 3 oz. of butter—a little piece of butter about two inches square—4 oz. of margarine and 2 oz. of cooking fat. There are mothers who have to manage with the entire family at home. Indeed if I may say so, if all the M.P.s were at home they would understand how poor, how miserable that ration is.

We have to use margarine, and if we use margarine to supplement our butter there is nothing at all for home baking or for frying fish or for browning stews and so on. Therefore, we expect that at Christmas we should have something extra. But there is a supply in existence all the time which supplements and augments the ordinary ration. Many workers, for example, eat in canteens and many people eat in cafés. I have already said that hon. Members of the House eat in the Dining Room. Many children have school meals.

This is the rub. We housewives have the necessity before us at Christmastime of having all our family at home and having to cater for visitors and for sitting up late, as we all do at Christmas, when perhaps we want an extra cup of tea in the early hours. We have the family gatherings we all love and to which we all look forward. In addition to this the members of the family throw their full weight upon the housewife by the closure of the canteens and so on.

I have been taking some quotations from the Ministry of Food Bulletin of 3rd November. I find there are 180,614,000 meals served weekly, on the average, and 254,000,000 hot beverages. I have excluded places that are likely to remain open at Christmas. I have included restaurants, cafés and teashops to a total of 45,853, civic restaurants numbering 350, and 32,899 residential catering establishments and hotels. I have had to include hotels because they are lumped with residential catering establishments. But as far as the residential catering establishments are concerned, I think we can reasonably assume that they include boarding houses and that the boarders will be home for Christmas.

Incidentally, I rather deplore that hotels will remain open. So many gentlemen—perhaps those who make these decisions at Cabinet level—will be all right while the hotels are open to them.

There are 8,333 Class A industrial canteens and hostels and 23,259 Class B—I think that must be the heavy category—industrial canteens and hostels, 8,337 staff dining rooms and luncheon clubs and 24,910 day schools and nursery schools. I have excluded clubs, snack bars, railway buffets, and fish and chip shops. The total number of establishments is 143,971 providing 400,000,000 meals and beverages. They have a special licence and a supply of food to relieve the housewife's difficulties. These will close and the housewives will have to face the entire burden alone and unaided with no catering licence and nothing extra for the home.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food what justification he has for this. Is he really plundering these supplies given in the ordinary way to the catering establishments and the canteens and the schools? If he is not doing that, I submit it is indefensible to rob the housewives of these supplies that are to his hand and which necessarily must benefit his Department by reason of the fact that they are not being used at these establishments.

When I asked questions in the House about the failure to provide a Christmas bonus the reasons given for the failure were the food supply position and general economic difficulties. Let us take the food supply position. It is not denied that the stocks are there. Indeed, later on in the same reply the fright hon. Gentleman said his intentions were to build up the rations by means of these stocks. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, Central will have something to say about this.

The Minister actually suggested that he would be able to maintain this present meagre ration only by poaching and plundering the housewives' jam sugar for next year. I should like him to tell us how much he is going to take. There does not seem to be any attempt on the part of the Minister to divert these supplies from the catering establishments to the housewives. Am I right in saying that there is a reserve, that provision was made for a Christmas bonus and that the right hon. Gentleman is dependent on Labour's foresight in providing that bonus to cover up Tory ineptitude and lack of policy?

As to the other reason—the general economic difficulties—is this something which has just been discovered? I understood from every Tory booklet and leaflet that I have read that this country was bankrupt, that it had been bankrupt ever since Labour got into power. Hon. Members opposite should drop the pretence about the skeletons and about discovering the skeletons only when they reached Whitehall. They were bringing the skeletons out of their brief cases and dangling them before every audience. According to them, the country was bankrupt; we were down and out, and with tearful voices they said they did not know what was going to happen when Marshall Aid came to an end. Strange to relate, never were there so many people tumbling over each other to take over a bankrupt concern. Never so many sending cash contributions to the noble Lord for this purpose.

It is the noble Lord in the Cabinet who is responsible for this shocking decision. He knew there was a deficit. He based his promises on a deficit. I have his broadcast speech. There was no dubiety about it. Before making the promises he said: You saw it only this morning in the papers, didn't you? We are down by something like £927,500,000 in nine months on the balance of our imports over our exports. We cannot think he made his promises in ignorance. He wooed the women with false promises. Never since the episode in the Garden of Eden were women so assiduously wooed and courted. One recalls the blandishments and the cooing, dove-like notes with which the noble Lord spoke to the women by the fireside—

Miss Irene Ward (Tynemouth) rose

Mrs. Mann

I will give way when I have finished my sentence. I was saying that the cooing, the blandishments and the dulcet tones with which we were addressed makes the great screen lover Charles Boyer but a clumsy lout.

Miss Ward

For the purpose of historical accuracy, I wanted to suggest to the hon. Lady, to whom I am grateful for giving way to me, that it was Eve who wooed Adam and not Adam who wooed Eve.

Mrs. Mann

I would refer the hon. Lady to the first Chapter of the greatest Book in all literature, and I think that she will understand that the analogy was not Adam but the serpent.

Mrs. Braddock

Is not this a subject which the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward) knows nothing about?

Miss Ward rose

Mrs. Mann

I would remind the House that the debate is very short: I do not wish to take up too much time.

I was referring to the blandishments and the promises. May I remind the House of some of them? I believe that one of the best things we could do to make us all feel able to work harder would be to give us more red meat to eat. Why close the canteens at Christmas and then not pass on the meat to the housewives? The noble Lord deplored our monotonous diet of not very tasty, starchy foods. We need a better diet and we can get it. Yet the first thing the Government have done is to cut down the supplies of tinned hams and meats, biscuits, preserves, confectionery, nuts, canned fruits, vegetables and fresh fruit. I say to hon. Members opposite: Another such victory, and you are undone. A remark more calculated to fetch the housewives than this one—it was in last year's broadcast—cannot be imagined: What is needed is that we should make the buy more. [Laughter.] I would remind the hon. Gentleman that he laughs best who laughs last. We Conservatives can do it. We must do it"— and then there is this definite promise: When the Conservatives return to power we will bring down costs and we will all be better off. Well, now, is this clear enough? I have said tonight, and I repeat it: 'We'll reduce the cost of living '.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

From which broadcast is the hon. Lady quoting?

Mrs. Mann

As I said, this was last year's broadcast. The disappointed housewives are not the only women who have been led astray by glamorous men, who have foresaken honest, homely men for glamorous promises; and they are not the only women to find that, when the time comes to put the promises into action, these gentlemen make themselves scarce. The noble Lord is in another place. Like Mark Antony, his credit now stands on such slippery ground. The Minister of Food said his decision was due to the general position and the food supply position. I think it is obvious that there is no policy. At any rate, it has not been put into practice. It is probably like the principles of hon. Members opposite, which are always good; they ever remain good because they have no intention of wearing them out in practice. I searched for the policy in the same broadcast, and this was it: that we relied on food traders in the old days to give what we wanted. This country was one of the best markets in the world for food. Food producers came here from everywhere to try to sell their goods to us and now, under Government control, we go to them. We go to buy.

I understand that we do not intend to send out these food traders to look for the food. I understand we have not the money. Well, someone might pass round the hat at least to pay their fares for them to see if there is anything which can be picked up reasonably cheap. The noble Lord said all we needed was to get rid of bulk purchase and the traders would be rushing to us. Well, where are they? Are they coming during the Recess? Are they coming at all?

Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Banbury)

Is not the hon. Lady aware that the Empire sugar producers are here at the moment?

Mrs. Mann

Then why not give us an extra Christmas bonus?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Because it takes five years from the planting of sugar to bring it to the consumer.

Mrs. Mann

I think that should have been mentioned in the broadcast. I think it was not unusual in the history of the Labour Government, not only for Empire producers to come about sugar, but for quite a number of others to come. Hon. Members opposite had quite a lot to say about the Cuban sugar growers being here.

The cupboard is not bare. The cupboard was well stocked for Christmas. The policy is bare, however, and the right hon. Gentleman knows there is no hope of the promises being implemented. The policy which has been put into operation is one to which I wish to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention. I have some questions to ask, which I hope he will answer. Instead of variety, as I have already said, cuts were imposed on the very varieties which made our tables attractive. Here is the first question. Why should food carry the highest burden of these cuts? Why not cut imports of wines and spirits, which are running at £16 million a year? Why should the luxury class of non-utility textiles be excluded from these cuts? Why should tinned meat and meat products be cut by such a high percentage—56 per cent. and 57 per cent.—while imitation jewellery and sports goods carry such a low percentage? Why should apparel, footwear, drugs, glassware, imitation jewellery, wine and spirits have priority over food?

I do not want hon. Members opposite to think that the women of this country are not conscious of the burden this little nation has been carrying since 1945.

Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)

A Socialist Government.

Mrs. Mann

If it were a Labour Government, why did the present Prime Minister tell Morgenthau of America that the country was bankrupt? Why did he go on to say: I hesitate to face the ex-Service men because I will be the most unpopular man in England I have said—[Interruption.]—of course, it is quite useless to talk to the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Colonel Stoddart-Scott); I can give him a reason, but I am sorry to say I can never give him understanding. As I have said, we, the women of this country, are fully conscious of our responsibilities to the nation. I do not wish to make party capital out of any issue as important as this, and I make an earnest appeal to the right hon Gentleman opposite—and I particularly address my appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary, who knows that the fuel for the engine is in good food. He knows that we must press our people, on both sides of this House, to work harder and to produce more, and I am sure he would agree that, if he had the whole of the British pharmacopoeia in front of him, there is still nothing to beat a good square meal.

Now, if that is agreed, why put the housewives at the end of the queue? The housewives ought to be at the beginning of the queue. As the noble Lord said, to work harder we must have some red meat. Perhaps the House will excuse a personal allusion. During the war I found my family of five, looking, as we say in Scotland, "peely wally"—looking under the weather. I knew we were not getting good food. One had absences from work, another difficulty in getting into an early class in medicine that started at 7.45.

I went out and I bought 12 black leghorns—good laying hens. I knew nothing about hens, but when they began to lay I was able to supply the family with poached eggs on toast, and they picked up immediately. They went out, and they went away smiling. I wish that that analogy would go home amongst hon. Members opposite. I wish they would press for more oil for the engines—and give it to the housewives to step up production.

I am afraid that they have started off on the wrong foot—or should I say with the right foot on the accelerator and with the left on the brake? I know that some of the back benchers need their plugs decarbonised. It is my belief that a higher level of feeding is required, and that that process should be embarked upon. I feel rather sorry for hon. Members opposite—

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Do not worry.

Mrs. Mann

—because of the position that they are in, having promised so much and on such a slender foundation, and having now a background which removes the decisions from their own level to elsewhere. I do believe that they themselves would have been more generous to the housewives of Britain. I do wish that they may be able to extract much more than they have got, and I believe that it is in the first interest of the nation that the housewives should have first priority.

Mr. J. Slater (Sedgefield)

I beg to second the Motion.

It is not my intention to take up the time of the House in seconding the Motion, which, in my opinion, has been most ably moved by my hon. Friend. I think she has covered a wide field and that she has presented a case on behalf of the Opposition in this Parliament that will be readily received by the people in the country because of the great promises that were made during the past election by the present Government.

7.40 p.m.

The Minister of Food (Major Lloyd George)

With a good deal of what the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) said towards the end of her speech—I emphasise, the end—a good many people would agree in all parts of the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Decarbonising?"] No. I would only say on that that putting the foot on the accelerator is not much use if one has not much petrol. It is quite obvious that this debate, up to now at any rate, has been conducted in the Christmas spirit. The hon. Lady enjoyed herself very much indeed at the beginning, and her hon. Friends enjoyed themselves even more. They referred to the careworn—and, I think, the thin—faces on this side, but they cannot have been referring to myself or to the Parliamentary Secretary.

I shall deal with some of the points later, but first I would remind the hon. Lady and her hon. Friends that her speech has been a very good indictment of the Government she supported in the last six years. She said the basic rations were not sufficient. She surely cannot blame us for that.

Hon. Members


Mrs. Mann

This side of the House recognised that they were not sufficient. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends told everybody they were not, but have done nothing. We always gave warnings.

Major Lloyd George

I am sure the hon. Lady does not want to be unfair. One of the things that struck me at the beginning of this Parliament was, that on the very first day hon. Gentlemen opposite expected that all things promised would be fulfilled on the very first day. It comes ill from people who made so many promises in the past and hardly fulfilled any of them.

I want to make one reference to what the hon. Lady said about the caterine establishments, canteens and school meals. I am sure that she will forgive me saying so. but when I was last at this Ministry I had a great deal to do with canteens and school meals. In fact, we were responsible for the development of most of them. [Laughter.] It is no use hon. Gentlemen opposite laughing. That is true.

Mr. Norman Dodds (Dartford)

We are talking today about Christmas, 1951.

Major Lloyd George

It is no use hon. Gentlemen opposite—[Interruption.] I am going to stand here until I have finished what I have to say. If hon. Gentlemen interrupt me it simply means that I shall take longer and that means that a few other people will not get in. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I hope that I may be allowed to make my speech as the hon. Lady was allowed to make hers. The hon. Lady asked me about the canteens. The catering establishments are based in their allocations of food on the meals they serve, and if the canteens or the catering establishments are not open on Christmas Day there is no allocation to those establishments. Their allocation is based on the meals they serve. That has been so a very long time, and that is the answer to the hon. Lady's question.

Let me come now to the position with regard to the bonus, to which the Motion refers. Everybody will agree, of course, that it would be a very good thing if we could at Christmas time give extra bonuses if they were available, but I confess that, in times such as these that we are going through at present, I would prefer to keep a reasonable even flow of rations rather than occasionally to dish up a little extra at Christmas time.

I realise that the amounts of some rationed commodities must be changed from time to time because of the very nature of those rationed commodities, but I cannot help feeling that we have had more changes than we need have had in the past, and particularly in regard to meat, the ration of which, since the war finished, has changed 32 times—I think I am right in saying; and this year alone there have been 12.

I cannot believe that that is a good thing. The principle I intend to work upon is to use available food supplies in keeping as steady a ration level and -as high a ration level as I can. But whether we believe in giving bonuses or whether we believe, as I do, in keeping the ration level at as high and steady a level as possible, giving a bonus depends on two things. It depends on the stock position, that is to say, what we have in the larder. That depends upon our supply position and what we expect to get in.

As I pointed out the last time I addressed the House, it is not customary in peace-time to keep over-large stocks of food commodities, but when we get into difficulties of supply, as at present, it is obvious that the stock position becomes of much greater importance. Let me say at once that on the stock position as we inherited it, and, more important, on the financial position as we found it—in other words, as the late Government left it—no Minister with a sense of responsibility would have given a bonus this Christmas.

Let us look at some of the suggestions made by the hon. Lady with regard to bacon and fats, tea, sugar and so on. With regard to bacon, this Christmas I am in the position to raise the ration to 4 oz. from 2nd December. Last year the ration stood at 3 oz. A Christmas bonus was given of 2 oz., which made the effective weekly supply 3½ oz. for the four-week ration period, and this year it will be 4 oz. [An HON. MEMBER: "The stocks must have been there."] We do not store bacon.

Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)

Is it not a fact that we do store bacon, that bacon was in cold storage in this country constantly throughout the war, and has been since the war?

Major Lloyd George

The point is that when large supplies come forward it has been the practice to pass it on and not to store it. That is the position. Of course there are stores but not sufficient.

Let me come to the next thing to which the hon. Lady referred—sugar. I would ask for her attention because this is a matter of some importance. This year, owing to bad weather at home, our own sugar crop will be 100,000 tons to 150,000 tons below what we expected. Owing to the very serious climatic conditions in Australia, as the right hon. Member for Bradford, Central (Mr. Webb), will confirm, the supplies from there, with the crop at home, will amount to stocks about 400,000 tons less than was expected. This deficiency can only be made up from dollar sources. There is no other source available.

The late Government cut the allocation of sugar to manufacturers and caterers by 75,000 tons in a full year. Since that cut was made, as the House knows, our financial position has worsened. This was forecast then, and it has made a Christmas bonus out of the question. At any rate, we have been able to maintain the ration at 10 oz. and I would remind the House that for most of the period since the war the sugar ration has more often been at 8 oz. than at 10 oz., and that it is an interesting fact that if all the bonuses of sugar that have been given since 1945 could have been used to increase the weekly ration, it would have enabled the ration to be kept over all those years at a level of 10 oz.

Mrs. Braddock

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether it is correct that Tate and Lyle in Liverpool have stopped a number of men within the last couple of weeks on the statement that there was so much sugar available that there is nothing for them to do?

Major Lloyd George

I know nothing about that. With regard to sweets, the cut in sugar made by the right hon. Gentleman, although when he made it the stocks of sweets was high, is bound to bring the ration down fairly soon. But since then the situation has worsened. A bonus would have eaten into the stocks very much more quickly. In any case, although the sweet bonus was 6 oz. last year the ration then was only 5 oz. This means that the ration plus the bonus last year, over the eight weeks in which it could have been taken, equalled only 5¾ oz. a week, whereas the ration this Christmas will be 6½ oz. a week.

The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie may laugh, but it is no use her laughing. She has asked questions and she must take the answers.

Several Hon. Members rose— —

Major Lloyd George

I cannot give way too much. The hon. Lady, when I answered a Question on bonuses some weeks ago, referred to the fact that butter was, I think she said, 6 oz. last year. There has been no butter bonus since the war and not likely to be.

Mrs. Mann

I said 6 oz. of sweets, 1½ 1b. of sugar and 4 oz. of fats.

Major Lloyd George

There has been no butter bonus since the war—[An HON. MEMBER: "In 1945."] The war was not finished then. Margarine and cooking fat imports include a substantial dollar element. My main anxiety is to prevent any reduction in the domestic ration. The import cuts which had to be made will involve very heavy cuts in trade allocations, and only by this means shall I be able to maintain the domestic ration as it is.

With regard to tea, a totally different position has arisen. In practice, we cannot give a bonus of less than a¼lb. of tea, and this would mean about 14 million lbs. The difficulty there is the question of supply. As the House knows, there have been very considerable difficulties in the unloading of tea. There was a time at the beginning of November when the ration itself might have been in danger and, therefore, it was quite out of the question to take any risks in view of the situation in the docks.

To summarise the Christmas position, there will be more bacon and sweets than last year. We are keeping up the sugar ration to 10 oz. instead of 8 oz. We intend to keep up the fat ration, and. in the case of tea, I have mentioned the special difficulties

Let me say a word about Christmas supplies of unrationed foods. Supplies of fruit and other Christmas fruits, like crystallised sweets, should be reasonably good. The Christmas allocations of dried fruits are in the shops or about to reach them, and they are only very slightly less than last year. A large distribution of canned fruit has been arranged to reach the shops in time for Christmas. There is always some uncertainty about the supplies of turkeys and poultry, and this year this has been particularly aggravated by the presence of disease in the exporting markets, but there has been a considerable increase in the quantity of turkeys and poultry from our own farms, and I hope this will be sufficient to bridge the gap. Although we cannot put up the ration of carcase meat, we are releasing 3,000 tons of tongue, which will be in addition to the usual supplies.

The Opposition have been trying to make party capital out of a situation for which we are in no way responsible. Hon. Members opposite must know perfectly well in their hearts that had they faced their responsibilities, as it was their duty to do, they would have had to make drastic cuts just as we have had to do.

Mr. Percy Shimmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

On luxuries but not on food.

Hon. Members

What about the promises at the General Election?

Major Lloyd George

It was the promises of 1945 which have got us where we are now. Hon. Members must realise what the position is. [Interruption.] They know perfectly well what is the case on their own side, and they should know that I am trying to develop my case. If they would listen and talk less they might learn something. [Interruption.] I do not want any more of that from you.

Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

On a point of order. In view of the threat by the Minister in saying that he did not want any of that from me, would you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, please inform me what protection a Member has? Will you kindly call the Minister to order, make him explain or make him withdraw what he said?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)

I did not hear a threat.

Mr. Popplewell

In view of the fact that the Minister said he did not want any more of that from me—[HON. MEMBERS: "And he does not"]—what other interpretation could be placed upon it?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Neither the right hon. and gallant Gentleman nor any other Member of the House has any right to address anyone except me.

Mr. Popplewell

But he was.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

If the word "you" was used then it must have referred to me.

Mr. Popplewell

It did. Will the Minister be made to withdraw such a statement?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I would just say that every Member of the House must address their remarks to me.

Major Lloyd George

If I may be allowed to proceed, I said that any Government with a sense of responsibility and in the last one that is a big assumption I am afraid—would have had to make the drastic cuts that we have been forced to make. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), said so in this House during the debate on the Address. He said that whatever Government came into power would have had to take drastic action quickly—[Interruption.] Hon. Members should allow me to develop by argument. I am not being allowed to go beyond one not being allowed to go beyond one sentence at a time.

What I was saying was that the right hon. Gentleman said that whatever Government came into power would have had to take drastic action quickly. Would that drastic action not have included cuts in food imports? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I say it would. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), whom I am glad to see in his place, said that had it not been for the help of our American friends we should have had big cuts in our rations. That was in 1948. The level of rations in 1948 was better than in 1950.

Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman should not bring irrelevancies of this kind into the debate. What I said about a period that has now passed was true, but that is no defence for what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is doing now.

Major Lloyd George

I do not agree. It is completely relevant.

Mr. H. Morrison

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman should not mind his Tory masters in the way he is doing now.

Major Lloyd George

The right hon. Gentleman says that what I said was completely irrelevant, but I say it is relevant and he does not like it. He said that had it not been for the help of our American friends we would have had to have big cuts in our rations. The point has been made that cuts in food imports should not have taken place, but knowing the facts perfectly well hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have had the effrontery to come here and criticise us for not having given Christmas bonuses. It reminds me of a debate which we had during the war when Stalingrad was in a critical state and the question was whether it was going to be completely captured. At that time there developed a discussion in this House, in which hon. Members took part, about the shortage of tomatoes.

If hon. Members opposite had faced up to the situation things would have been different today, and they must realise now that it is not a question of Christmas bonuses which are involved but the very rations themselves which may be in danger. The fact of the matter is that hon. Gentlemen opposite have deluded the electorate for so long that they have now succeeded in deluding themselves. We as a nation are not earning enough at this moment to give us all the good things which we want. We are bound to be in difficulties in getting the things we want, and particularly the food we want, and it is an especial tragedy that our position here should be so worsening that we have not only to curtail imports from dollar areas but from sterling areas as well, and particularly from our traditional markets in Europe.

I think we are entitled to inquire from the Opposition—they have asked a good many questions since this Parliament started—why the drastic action that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer said would have to take place whatever Government was in power did not take place before the Election? It was known that the situation was deteriorating rapidly. I was very interested in a speech by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Helens (Sir H. Shawcross) recently in the House in which he said that it was because they knew the seriousness of the situation that they went to the country in order to get a Government strong enough to put into operation the measures to correct it.

I have a few comments to make on that. Why did they not take the House of Commons into their confidence before the Election? Why did they not disclose the proper position and ask for power to apply the remedies which they said they had ready? I am satisfied that had they done the proposals made would have been supported by the overwhelming majority of this House. [Laughter.] The hon. Members who are laughing—

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman was not here.

Major Lloyd George

I happen to have been here on one occasion before when the Government of the day did disclose to this House what the situation was before they went to the country. That was in 1931, but when the Election was held the electorate were in full possession of the facts and cuts had already been made.

Mr. Callaghan

The right hon. and eallant Gentleman should remember that in 1931 the Government got back to power on the basis of a promise to keep Britain on the Gold Standard. Within a week they had gone off it.

Major Lloyd George

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I tell him that his observation was even more irrelevant than the observation of his right hon. Friend.

The point I was making was that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Helens had told the House that the Government had the remedies ready, and I suggest that the Government would have had the support of this House as, in fact, they had in 1931 when remedies had to be enforced. It was said that the party opposite went to the country to get a large enough majority to enable the measures they had in mind to meet the situation to be put into effect.

What I am saying is that it is rather surprising that the late Government did not disclose to the electorate the serious situation which existed. It is rather surprising that they did not tell the electorate what they wanted the majority for. We are constantly being told from the other side that the position was made clear all the time during the Election. I have been looking at one or two of the more important publications.

Mr. Dodds

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman should look at his own.

Major Lloyd George

Mine is the most gloomy document that has ever been written. I shall be happy to send the hon. Gentleman a copy. The hon. Member who made that observation hardly referred to the situation in his own Election address at all. The Labour manifesto did not once refer to the balance of payments position, and the late Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, who says he came along and gave plenty of warning, made hardly any reference to it in his Election address. The Prime Minister's broadcast, which lasted about half an hour, contained a reference of about five seconds' duration to the balance of payments. The rest of it was taken up with saying what a wonderful time we were going to have. Having gone through all these things, I find little cause for alarm for any timid elector about the terrible things that were going to happen, although we are told that they were made quite clear.

The real reason why the party opposite went to the country was that they hoped somebody else would be elected to clear up the mess. I am bound to say that they succeeded very well in that. The House will remember the declaration of policy which brought the first Labour Government into power in this country in 1945. It was called "Let us face the future." Since the beginning of this Parliament the party opposite have been more and more concerned to forget their immediate past. Their decision to hold an Election last October showed perfectly plainly that the one thing they did not want to do was to face the future.

The hon. Lady who moved the Motion said that she deplored the decision of the Government not to issue extra food at Christmas. She told a very moving story about the disappointments which people would suffer. Actually, it would have been more appropriate if she had addressed those remarks to my predecessor rather than to myself. Neither I nor the present Government have any responsibility for the position as it exists today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] None whatever. I think the House will agree that the hon. Lady has shown considerable skill in getting two of her right hon. Friends to put their names to this Motion. If the Motion is pressed to a Division she is to be congratulated upon having persuaded them to join her in doing what I have no doubt she has long wanted them to do, to move a vote of censure on her own Front Bench.

8.9 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has hidden himself behind a display of bad temper. He has repeated his rather unimaginative electioneering speeches to avoid replying to the charges now being brought against him. In the debate on the Address, the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, said that the Government were not looking for alibis. If that is their intention, there has been mutiny among the Departments for which Lord Woolton is responsible as co-ordinator, because the right hon. and gallant Gentleman since his appointment has done nothing but seek alibis.

He has rather changed his ground tonight, but he cannot escape from what he said previously. On every occasion that he has been obliged to make a statement which he knows very well will disappoint severely the many people who were duped by Conservative election propaganda, he has adopted the alibi that he has been driven to follow his particular course because of the low stocks of foodstuffs in this country.

That is not in accordance with the facts. If what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said so often and suggested tonight were true, the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought not to have done what he has already done. What the Chancellor said in describing the economies to which the Government were going to resort is that he was going to slow down the stockpiling of food. He is only in a position to do that because of the satisfactory progress in food stockpiling made by the Labour Government.

When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman shook us all, and especially hon. Gentlemen behind him, by saying that there were to be no Christmas bonuses, what did he tell the House? Not quite what he said tonight. When he was pressed, he said: I had to see what was there. I could only distribute what was there."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 977.] I am going to deal tonight shortly with what is there. I am in this difficulty. Of course I know full well what is there, but it is not my intention to reveal Ministry of Food stocks. I have always taken the view that commercial prudence meant that it was unwise and undesirable to reveal those stocks. However, if hon. Gentlemen opposite are of the same mind as they were in the last Parliament let them drive the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to reveal those stocks. I challenge them to do it. I will only deal with those stocks as they are dealt with by publishers of well-known statistical information.

First of all, sweets. There was a Christmas bonus last year. I gather from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that he is now saying to us on these benches that we gave our people too many sweets, but he made the point that the ration was—

Major Lloyd George

I did not say anything of the kind. I indicated quite clearly that the actual amount of sweets available to us would be greater than last Christmas.

Mr. Willey

The amount of sweets being greater on the ration this year is not an argument that there should be no Christmas bonus—unless the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is arguing that the present level of the sweet ration is too high. If that is his argument, he ought to have told the electorate that. The position in regard to sweets stocks is, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows and as the manufacturers and the trade have repeatedly called to our attention, that there are abnormally high stocks. That is why the manufacturers have consistently and repeatedly pressed for an increase in the sweet ration.

I remember one of the leading manufacturers making personal representations to me not very long ago, that he was embarrassed at the size of the stocks he was carrying. Talking about sweets, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot say: "I can only distribute what is there, and that is the reason for there being no sweets bonus." He can say, if he wishes, that there will be no sweet bonus because he is looking forward to next year and is doubtful whether he can maintain the ration. If he is saying that, he must accept responsibility. If the ration is to be cut it is not any action of my right hon. Friend that is at fault. It is the action which the present Government have taken in banning imports of foodstuffs containing sugar which were used by the manufacturers.

Tea has been mentioned. Although we were last year facing exceptional difficulties about the supply of tea—far greater than the difficulties being faced now—we gave all people over 70 a 4 oz. tea bonus. Looking at the Trade and Navigation Returns, it is clear that the imports of tea during the past 12 months have been greater than they were in the previous 12 months. Anyone making an elementary calculation, even if erring on the cautious side, must be driven to the conclusion that the imports have been greater than the rate of consumption, and so it must be a fact that the stocks are today higher than they were 12 months ago.

There are difficulties about tea, but the matter has been discussed in the House and we have explained the difficulties, and now it is incumbent upon the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not to refer to present difficulties but to say why he has not taken the action which my right hon. Friend took 12 months ago. I have mentioned tea and sweets first because the House ought to appreciate that the primary purpose of the Christmas bonus since it was first introduced has been to help the children and the old people. It is now for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to explain to these people why he has let them down this year.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to cooking fats. Was not my right hon. Friend very properly worried about the world position of oil and fats supplies 12 months ago? Has not my right hon. Friend faced very real difficulties over the past 12 months? However, he can say that, notwithstanding those difficulties, we have been able to obtain the whole of our programmed supplies. A significant feature about our supplies is that this year we obtained in lard greater imports than even pre-war, so far this year 76,000 tons against the less than 2,000 tons we obtained in the previous year. From a physical stock point of view, the position today is that we have the stocks—I am satisfied that we have them—to issue a bonus if the right hon. Gentleman chose to do so. He has admitted in the House that the position regarding world's supplies is considerably better than it was 12 months ago. It is for him to make out his case why, having the supplies available, he has chosen not to distribute them to the housewives at Christmas.

Sugar has been mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman was not in the last Parliament, and I excuse him for that, but that does not excuse him for not reading HANSARD. This is not the first time the House has heard about the difficulties in Commonwealth sugar supplies over the last 12 months. We had two debates during the summer. I then explained to the House the difficulties over the supplies from Queensland and Fiji. I made an estimate of the loss in supplies from Queensland. I was over-cautious, but I said then—it was in fact the supply position—that we should be able comfortably to maintain the present position through. out 1951.

During the second debate an hon. Member opposite claimed that we had an extra 1,500,000 cwt. of sugar in our bonded warehouses compared with the position a year ago. Looking at the returns, it is clear from the increased imports, the record beet sugar harvest last year, the consumption figures, particularly allowing for the effect of the cut in consumption by manufacturers, and the drop in exports, which has been particularly sharp following the cessation of exports to Persia, that we have the physical stocks and that the right hon. Gentleman could give a sugar bonus if he so wished.

What the right hon. Genteman has done in the case of sugar is something far more serious than not giving a Christmas bonus. In explaining the Christmas position to the House, he said that we should not only be forgoing our Christmas bonus but should also be forgoing some sugar bonuses next year. That is a cut in the domestic ration—

Major Lloyd George indicated dissent.

Mr. Willey

—because when we programmed our distribution we always made an allowance for the bonuses which would be given over the year. My right hon. Friend always explained to the House that his primary objective was to maintain the domestic ration for the housewife as a matter of policy. The right hon. Gentleman has already departed from that policy, and the House is entitled to a better explanation than it has so far had.

The right hon. Gentleman has also mentioned bacon. When the cut was made, it was expressly made as a temporary cut, and was expected to last for five or six weeks. It has lasted much longer. It is incumbent upon the right hon. Gentleman to explain to the House why he has been so dilatory in restoring the bacon ration. The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned the stocks as against the ration. Will it be his policy to hold the heaviest stocks possible? Will it be his policy to deter consumption? If that he the case, he is embarking on a very dangerous course, because this is livestock production and everyone knows the difficulties of encouraging increased production after one has once let it run down.

Butter was also mentioned by him. When the butter ration was cut again, it was cut temporarily. The present ration is not the basic ration. When we made our estimates as against supplies, we did not anticipate being on a 3 oz. ration. Owing to supply difficulties, we reduced the ration to 3 oz., and we said that that would be a temporary reduction. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean when he says that he wishes to keep the ration stable? If he wishes to keep the butter ration stable, that is, in effect, a reduction in the ration.

Here again, we know that the supplies are available. The right hon. Gentleman may not avail himself of the supplies because he has not the currency to do so, but, if that is the position, again it is incumbent upon him to explain to the House why he has not taken the opportunity of obtaining those supplies when the present ration is below what we on this side of the House, at any rate, regard as a suitable ration to maintain in this country.

I want to say a word about cheese. Why on earth has not the right hon. Gentleman given a cheese bonus? I fully explained to the House some time ago how we were driven to reduce the cheese ration and fully revealed what the supply position was, but, knowing full well what the supply position was, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite voted for the ration to remain as it was. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman curry favour with his hon. Friends by increasing the cheese ration?

Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House on what occasion the Socialist Party has issued a cheese bonus since 1945 for Christmas or for any other occasion?

Mr. Willey

I shall continue to make my speech in my own way. The point I was making, which I will repeat more simply for the benefit of the hon. Gentleman, is this: I have always regarded the view of the party opposite to be that they could make the cheese ration what they wished it to be, regardless of supplies. At any rate, they owe the House an explanation.

Mr. Nabarro

Where is the bonus?

Mr. Willey

Finally, I want to say a word or two about meat. The meat ration today is lower than at Christmas last year. I am sure we all know that the stocks of meat are higher now than they were then, but the position of the housewife is worse because, as the right hon. Gentleman said on an earlier occasion, whereas the meat products and ham that we were getting through private sources amounted on an average to about 3d. per person per week, they are now being drastically reduced and heavily cut. That is, in effect, a further reduction of the meat ration during the year as compared with 12 months ago.

It is also quite clear, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman said, and it has to be accepted by all of us, that the supplies of poultry will not be as great as 12 months ago and that there will be less available this Christmas. In these circumstances, why cannot we have an extra meat ration for Christmas? The right hon. Gentleman can do it if he wishes. I believe he could do it without any undue risk, even looking forward to the stock position that might obtain until next summer. I realise, of course, that that may not be so, because I am aware that the assumptions upon which the Ministry of Food act have to be altered from week to week in regard to the supply position.

If I am wrong, surely the right hon. Gentleman should come to the House and explain, if such is the case, that he is having current difficulties regarding the supply of meat from the Argentine. In view of the fact that it is the action of the Government that has prejudiced the housewife in regard to the extra meat she could have obtained for Christmas, we are entitled to a better explanation than we have had so far.

I remember very well how 12 months ago, when my right hon. Friend made his announcement about the Christmas bonuses, the Prime Minister, then the Leader of the Opposition, rose to his feet and rather sneeringly referred to us "graciously doling out favours." The present Minister of Food is an unrepentant, unreformed Scrooge. He is ungraciously withholding from the housewife supplies, which if she were fully cognisant of our supply position, she would choose to enjoy at Christmas.

8.28 p.m.

Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (Angus, North and Mearns)

When the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann), began her speech, she said that the House was a strange place. She said, "Time marches on." indeed, time does march on and this House is, in fact, a strange place. I enlivened some of the hours of the Sitting on Tuesday night by reading in the OFFICIAL REPORT one of the speeches which the hon. Lady made in a similar debate shortly before Christmas, 1948.

The hon. Lady, who said that she wanted to call the bluff of the Opposition, said: I say that, in spite of the shortage, there is hardly a housewife in Britain tonight who has not got a tidy bit of food stored away for Christmas. It would astonish most people to know what housewives have actually got stored in their Christmas stocking. That was in December. 1948. What was the ration at that time compared with the present ration? At present, the ration of sugar is 10 oz.; in December, 1948, it was 10 oz. The ration of meat today is 1s. 5d.; then, it was is. The ration of bacon today is 4 oz.; then, it was 2 oz. The ration of fats at that time was just the same as at present-9 oz. In 1948, the sweet ration was 12 oz. for a four-week period; now, it is 26 oz. Tea was 2 oz. then and is 2 oz. now—3 oz. in both cases for old people over 70 years of age.

On the whole, therefore, our rations are higher now than at the time when the housewives, as the hon. Lady, who is herself a housewife, told the House, had no reason to fear Christmas for they had got a good tidy supply tucked away in their Christmas stockings.

Mrs. Braddock

Is the hon. Member suggesting that my hon. Friend was referring to rationed goods? If so, he is completely wrong. People cannot store rationed goods. They have never had sufficient to be able to store them.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

Then I wonder why the hon. Lady the Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie said so?

Mrs. Braddock

She did not say "rationed goods." There was no reference to rationed goods.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

Very well, we will go by the words which the hon. Lady used. She said: I think we ought to adopt an altogether different attitude. I say to my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, 'Why this gloom?' That is what the hon. Lady said in an exactly similar debate about Christmas bonuses, three years ago.

Mrs. Braddock

Will the hon. Member answer my question?

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

The hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie went on to say: I close by telling hon. Members opposite that, generally speaking, the housewives throughout Britain are going to have a very fine and happy Christmas—ever so much happier than it would have been had hon. Members opposite been in power."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1948; Vol. 459. c. 929, 931, 932.]

Mrs. Braddock

Was not that Christmas happier than it is going to be this year?

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

I was going to pass to the question of the Christmas bonuses and the ration as a whole. Let us see the position as compared with recent years. We are to have, first, more sugar than at Christmas, 1949. As regards sweets, we are to have a higher average for the four-weeks period than we have had over the average of the last three years—1948, 1949 and 1950—even including the Christmas bonuses. But we are noticeably worse off in the case of fats, which at 9 oz. are back to the position in 1948, and in meat. No one would attempt to deny that in these two things we shall be worse off than in recent years. In both those cases—let us be honest about this—

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

Hon. Members opposite ought to have been honest in the Election.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

In both cases, my right hon. Friend the Minister was dependent entirely upon what he inherited from hon. and right hon. Members opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is perfectly true.

Mrs. Braddock

The hon. Member has not been listening.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

It would not be honest—I put this forward as my view, but I believe it is shared by a great many people in the country—

Mr. Shurmer

Try them and see.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

It would not be right and honest to convey an impression, which would be fictitious, of prosperity by making so-called bonuses at Christmas when the stock position and the position of the country as a whole would not warrant it.

I know that on the other side of the House there are a great many hon. Members who wish to speak and on this side of the House there are a great many who want to speak too, so, quite deliberately, I shall leave out a lot of things I had hoped to say, but, in conclusion, I wish to ask the Minister about the turkey position at Christmas. When the hon. Lady was speaking two years ago about the Christmas position, we were a great deal better off in our expectations of Christmas poultry and turkeys. At that time we were receiving turkeys not only from our own country, but imports of table birds—largely the smaller type of bird which is so badly wanted at this time—from Poland, Hungary, Denmark and France, a few from Sweden and a number from Holland.

It is an unfortunate thing that before the war, when we had an ample supply of meat for the people of this country, there was no restriction in the amount of poultry which came into the country. Poultry and turkeys came in great quantities and the shops were full of them, both home-grown and imported.

Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield)

And our agriculture was dead.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

I am not making a political point, but saying that it was unfortunate that before the war when we had a higher supply of meat for the people of this country we had ample supplies of poultry—

Mr. Shurmer

How much did a turkey cost before the war?

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

If the hon. Member would allow me to make my point it would be much kinder to his supporters, who are anxious to take part in the debate.

Now, when we have so little meat and so badly need these reinforcements of imported poultry and turkeys, supplies are shut down against us. It is not the fault of the present Government and I do not think it is the fault of the Government which preceded it. I do not think it was their fault, but, through no fault of any Government, there is an embargo on the importation from Poland, from Hungary, from Yugoslavia and now from France and from Holland. One of the last acts which was performed by the Government which went out of office last month was to place embargoes on imported poultry from France, Holland and Canada.

I hope very much that we shall get poultry from France, where there is a great supply of turkeys and poultry which has been eviscerated and is ready to be sent over to this country—turkeys which have been produced from parts of the country free from fowl pest and which have been properly inspected and tested. They are ready to come over and we fully need them here. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, who is to reply to the debate, if he can tell us what is the position about the importation of poultry from abroad this Christmas and, in particular, the position about imports from France.

8.39 p.m.

Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)

I am sure we all enjoyed the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann), which was very wittily expressed and made even the Parliamentary Secretary laugh at some jokes which were not his own. We are quite certain that there will be at least one article of Christmas fare which will not be in short supply for hon. Members on the benches opposite, and that is chickens which have come home to roost.

I am certain that the housewives of this country will feel that they have been let down by the Members of the Front Bench opposite, because we are convinced on this side of the House that this withholding of the bonus of Christmas food is a piece of deliberate hypocrisy. We have been assured by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey), who was until recently in the Ministry concerned, that the stocks are in fact there and could be distributed if it were the policy of the party opposite to do so. We believe they may be quite deliberately doing this so that they will be able to say, "Ah, the first Christmas after we came into power, because of the Labour Government, we could not give you any bonus." Then by next Christmas, if they are still, unfortunately, in their present position, they will say, "Look how much better we have done in this 12 months."

I warn the housewives that they should not submit to this policy of not having a bonus this Christmas because not only have we had the Election speeches ad nauseum but the constant pressure from hon. Members who now sit opposite when they were on this side of the House. I have here quotations from debates just before the summer Recess when right hon. Gentlemen opposite were pressing my right hon. Friend to take sweets off the ration, tea off the ration and margarine off the ration. The hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Cooper-Key) said on 25th July concerning margarine: The stocks are there. Why is this commodity still on the ration?"— [OFFICIAL REPORT. 25th July, 1951; Vol. 491, c. 603.] Sugar is something of particular interest to the housewife at Christmas time. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North, said, we had a very full debate on this matter last June. These difficulties about sugar supplies which the Minister mentioned as an excuse for not giving the housewife sugar this Christmas were fully known. The Queensland floods, Fiji droughts and the low sugar beet harvest in this country were all perfectly well forseen, but in spite of those difficulties, which were quite well known, my hon. Friend was able to say that it was the intention to keep the basic ration at 10 oz. and also to provide a bonus from time to time which in effect gave the housewife a ration of 12 oz. a week.

Now we are told that these bonuses are not to be forthcoming. I think that apart from the political hypocrisy involved in this issue, there is also a mistake in psychology, and possibly the Parliamentary Secretary, who will be replying, might instruct his right hon. Friend, as I believe he specialises in that.

I think this policy is mistaken and I am speaking for once as a housewife. Anyone who has studied industrial psychology knows that if a person is doing something which is very monotonous it is encouraging and stimulating to have an occasional bonus. I believe the housewives of this country prefer the system of having some extra food at the time when they most need it.

I therefore fully supported the policy followed by the last Government, particularly regarding the sugar ration, of giving the housewife some extra sugar at the time of the year when she needed it most, for the summer jam-making, and the Christmas period. If we do not have it when we need it it means that we try to keep it, and the men of the household are apt to take more.

Seriously, this question of Christmas bonuses is a very important one. In previous years we have heard a great deal from hon. Gentlemen opposite about the necessity to encourage home baking, for example. We have heard really sentimental speeches from some of them. But there is this justification for it: that at Christmas time in particular we like to have so far as possible our family meals and our little extras which make so much difference to the mother in the home who is concerned to give her family the extra enjoyments at Christmas to which they all look forward.

I do not propose to labour that point, but I think it is a matter of psychology, as well as physical supplies, which is of great importance to the housewife who has to face difficulties which we all understand throughout the rest of the year. She should have some extra alleviation at Christmas-time which will enable her to face the Christmas season, and to give her family the best possible fare over that period.

I do not wish to pursue the argument too far, except to make it very clear that we shall consider it our duty to inform the housewives of the country that we believe they could have these Christmas bonuses; and that we believe it is a deliberate act of policy on the part of the party opposite not to grant them this Christmas. We need not remind them, because they will know for themselves, that the party opposite made promises of which we heard so much and which they are now clearly failing to carry out.

Mr. Bernard Braine (Billericay)

The hon. Lady has said that she and her friends will consider it their duty to inform the housewives that she and her hon. Friends think these bonuses could be made possible. Would not it be more honest for the hon. Lady and her friends at the same time to make it clear that before the late Government went out of office this country was plunged into a crisis of the greatest magnitude?

Mrs. White

That question is hardly worth replying to, because the promises made by Lord Woolton and many others during the Election were made in the full knowledge of the facts.

8.47 p.m.

Mr. John Henderson (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I am extremely sorry that the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) is not present in the Chamber, because I want to say how much I enjoyed her speech up to a point. She was extremely entertaining and informative, and she went over a very wide field indeed. I think she was at her best when referring to her domestic affairs. She has a family of which she must rightly be proud. I happen to know them personally and they are a fine family indeed.

As their mother, she was rightly concerned when her sons were attending the University of Glasgow. She began to notice that they were drawn and not looking their best, "under the weather," I think was the term she used. Then she went into poultry keeping; after a short time, as a result of the poached eggs on toast which she was able to give to her family, she saw a remarkable change for the better. That set me thinking of the position of the Labour Government so far as poultry production is concerned.

On the question of Christmas bonuses, I do not think anybody worries about a sweets bonus. The shops are full of sweets. The trouble is the sweets are far too dear for many people to buy them—[interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to proceed with my argument. If he has any pertinent interjection to make I shall gladly give way. I do not think that the public are worried very much about sweets.

It may interest hon. Members to know that so far as shell eggs are concerned, for the 11 months of this year, according to their registration books, the people of this country have been deprived of 26 allocations—26 allocations short compared with what was supplied to them last year. I think we might take a family of four as a fair average; I do not think any hon. Member will differ with me on that. Every family of four persons in Britain has, during the 11 months of this year, received 100 shell eggs fewer as compared with the 11 months of last year.

If the two hon. Ladies opposite who have spoken and the Members of the Labour Government had faced up to this question of eggs alone, and had seen to it that the Ministry had obtained adequate supplies of this most valuable foodstuff, a great public service would have been rendered to the country as a whole. I can give the figures of some of the allocations. In September, there were only four allocations for the four weeks. In October, there were five allocations for the four weeks. In November, there were again only four. Yet, if there is one section of the agricultural industry which has responded to appeals for greater production, it is the poultry industry.

These are facts. The Tory Party, it is true, has made promises, but nothing comparable to the promises made by the Labour Party in 1945. Given time—[Interruption.] It is perfectly amazing to listen to some of the remarks from the other side. This Government has been in power for only four weeks. What do they expect? The former Chancellor of the Exchequer just before the Election told us how the gap in our balance of payments, which had been closing, had suddenly burst open again, so that we cannot balance our exports and imports. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite want us to run into debt, or run the country on "tick"?

Mr. Shurmer

We are not grumbling about what you are not giving to us, but about what you are already taking away.

Mr. Henderson

Since I have been in this House, you have been grumbling for 5½ years.

Mr. Snow

On a point of order. I did not hear you grumbling at all, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not think I have been grumbling, and I hope the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that I have.

Mr. Henderson

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I think you are aware that I would be the last person to apply any such remark to you.

In reply to the hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer), I would say that all I have been hearing from him during the last few years is "What about the means test?"

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

On a point of order. Is it not usual that, when a ham and egg merchant is dealing with these commodities, he should declare his interest?

Mr. Henderson

I am not a ham and egg merchant, and the hon. Member is misinformed.

I think the Minister has touched on the vital spot—the question of stocks and supplies—and I am convinced that, if the Ministry could buy the necessary stocks and see that further supplies are coming forward, he would be the first in this House to grant extra supplies during the Christmas period.

What has happened? My right hon. Friend has been left a legacy of incompetence, mismanagement and blundering, and yet, within four weeks of trying to right the old ship of State, which was almost on the rocks, he is assailed with this suggestion that we are trying to deny the housewives of this country of something to which they are entitled.

I hope that the House will show its good sense by rejecting the Motion which has been moved by the hon. Lady opposite.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. David Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)

I remember 12 months ago, and a matter of nine months ago, too, a deputation of the ladies of Liverpool coming to this House about food supplies. The deputation numbered 20. They travelled first-class on the railway and stayed in London hotels, which must have cost them at least a "tenner" a week. That represented £200. I have nothing to say about people coming up to London to make representations, but I would point out to the Tory Party—and there is a big assembly of 19 of them gathered on the benches opposite tonight—

Mrs. Braddock


Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)

We make up in quality.

Mr. Logan

I could talk for half an hour on this, but I do not want to because I promised to take only five minutes. I would point out to hon. Members that we have a poverty line in Liverpool, and I would have no fault to find with any deputation coming here which was truly representative of such people to put their case before the Members of this House.

I have received a telegram tonight from 59 families living in Victoria Square, Liverpool. I did not ask for it to be sent. The Tory Party are running true to policy. I remember not long ago a late Prime Minister getting up on the Front Bench opposite and saying that it was not wise to tell the people of this country the truth. His party won an Election on a falsehood. I make the same indictment against this Government. They won the last Election on a false issue because they were afraid to tell the people the truth. But we are now face to face with facts. The present Government told the people that they would do great things, but so far they have shown no ability in that direction, but only duplicity. They have got their position through fraud and have no right to be sitting on the benches opposite.

The people of this country know they have been fooled by the Tory Party. I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary who is a medical man. You must know from all your tuition and knowledge and from the speeches you have made on the radio that the policy being advocated tonight is one which should never have been brought in, and that every medical man would support me in that view. I do not know from whence you derived any knowledge at all.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am not a medical man.

Mr. Logan

When I said "medical man," Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I was not alluding to you. I was speaking to a responsible Minister from whom I want to know whether he thinks this is the right policy to pursue today. I suggest that every medical man in the country would agree that the people ought to receive these small benefits at Christmas time.

Our party ought to have an illuminated address made for my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann). Her words should be repeated from every public platform. She showed an example to all of us on these benches. I want to say to the poor people of Victoria Square, Liverpool, that their case has been well handled by an hon. Lady competent and clever enough to express it. The Government's Policy is wrong, and if there were another Election tomorrow they would be defeated.

9.1 p.m.

Mr. W. R. A. Hudson (Hull, North)

Like all hon. Members on occasions when they have a direct interest in the subject with which they are dealing, I must at once declare my interest in this matter. I have been in the business of buying and selling food for some 40 years. The hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) showed an admirable knowledge of human nature in her electioneering speech, which has been followed by many electioneering speeches from hon. Members opposite. But I do not feel that she showed a very great knowledge of the procurement of food. In fact she showed great ignorance of the grim economic facts which have obliged this Government to take the steps they have taken.

I want to deal with two points—one raised by the hon. Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie and the other by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey), who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food in the last Parliament. The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie suggested that as part of Conservative policy, declared in our Manifesto, it would be our intention to pursue the procurement of food by free enterprise instead of by bulk purchase. She suggested that the first result of our efforts in that direction had led us into the position of not being able to give the bonuses this Christmas.

I want to draw her attention to one simple fact. I think she mentioned the matter—if not it was the hon. Member for Sunderland, North. It was said that the supply of cooked hams had been part of the meat ration. Hon. Members should note that this was a reference to cooked ham at 10s. a pound. It was suggested that accordingly ration was now reduced.

The point to which I should like to draw the attention of the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie and other hon. Members is that during the period when cooked hams and other things of that kind were the subject of open licences a great quantity of cooked hams were obtained for the people of this country. The public were very glad to have them, and it was under a system of private enterprise that they were bought and brought from abroad to this country.

The hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie suggested that the producers in those countries were not coming to this country as readily as they should do. But they came with these hams when free enterprise was in a position to be able to procure them. I think I am right in saying that during the effective period upon which import restrictions are to be based, no less than £26 million worth of cooked hams were brought into this country.

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North, suggested his Government had provided for certain rationing to continue, with certain bonuses in prospect. If he made provision for the entry into this country of the necessary foodstuffs, what provision did he or his Government make to pay for them? That, of course, is the complete answer to any charge that may be laid at our door that we are not giving the people all the food that this country can really pay for.

So I ask him that question. It may be perfectly true that they had made such arrangements as were necessary to maintain the rations at the existing level, but they had indeed put the country into the position of not being able to pay for those rations or for anything in excess of those rations when they left the government to our hands.

9.6 p.m.

Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)

I am sure the whole House will sympathise with the three hon. Members on the Tory back benches who have had to join their right hon. Friend tonight in the apologia that we have heard.

My hon. Friend the Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) opened this debate with a devastating attack which so far has not been answered. I want to remind the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, who is to wind up this debate, of the main question that she put to his right hon. Friend and which, in fact, was not answered, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman before he concludes tonight will be able to give an answer to that question. Why do the proposed cuts, because of the world economic situation, have to fall solely or in the main on food when many other things could have been tackled with a great deal more profit?

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's difficulty tonight; I sympathise with him greatly. During the last few years he has not been in the same position as Lord Woolton and the Parliamentary Secretary in so far as he has not taken the opportunities that they have taken to go round the country slanging the Labour Government for faults which they now find were not faults at all. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman, the National-Liberal Tory-Unionist Member for Luton, when he comes to wind up this debate tonight, will be as successful in answering the points that have been made from this side of the House as he is in passing over the radio personal insults when there is no one on the other side of the table to answer him. I suggest that he should be very careful because he might be speaking in front of the children.

I think it is not unfitting that one Member of this House—and in this case from this side—who has been engaged all his life in the retail food trade should join with hon. Friends in the Motion which is before the House. I think I can claim that I have had a long shop experience. I am not declaring my interest in this matter—I no longer have a personal interest—but I think I can claim that I have behind me a vast experience in that regard, and it was my lot during the war to serve the Ministry of Food in the capacity of meat agent.

Up to the moment when I came into the House in 1945, I took my part in serving the meat ration over the counter to the housewives in the district in which I worked and lived. Because of my experience, I appeal to the Government Front Bench to remember the housewife's point of view, as I saw it, particularly at Christmas time.

I remind right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that at Christmas time there are two week-ends in seven days. The housewife's big problem in these days, as in all other days, is to provide the food at the week-ends. I noticed from Gallup polls recently that one-half of our population feed in canteens and cafés during the week. They will not be eating in those canteens and cafés at Christmas time, and the housewife and the mother will have the difficulty of providing rationed food for two week-ends for her family. That is the point we must bear in mind.

My shop experience taught me that at Christmas time, particularly since the introduction of controls and the problem of shortages, the housewife is up against it because she has to provide the weekend food and yet, by the Tuesday, as it will be this year, she is faced with the problem of finding food for the Christmas festivities. This year, in effect, the housewife will have her family at home from Friday night until the following Thursday morning. She has a great problem.

Mr. Peter Remnant (Wokingham) rose

Mr. Royle

I am afraid I cannot give way. The debate is running very late. I say with respect that hon. Gentlemen and hon. Ladies opposite come in the main from the higher income groups. They can afford to eat out at Christmas time. I have the honour to represent the working class constituency of Salford, West. I have referred to it before in this House as the constituency about which Walter Greenwood wrote when he wrote "Love on the Dole." Anyone who remembers that story and that play can imagine the district I have in mind. Can those people go into restaurants like those of the West End of London and buy expensive foods in the way so many people will be able to buy them this Christmas?

Mr. Remnant


Mr. Royle

The hon. Gentleman says it is rubbish. I am getting right under his skin. He knows that what I am saying is absolutely true. I make my statement based on the experience of the people I represent. I suggest that if the party opposite and the Government have a slogan, then we think that the slogan they have adopted is "Christmas cheer and joy through income." That will be the test this Christmas time.

I have been a meat trader, and my mind runs on those lines when I am taking part in a debate of this kind. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey), who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food in the Labour Government, has told us tonight something about the meat situation.

Out of my knowledge of the industry I am saying very determinedly that the Government could afford to give a meat bonus this time. What is the alternative to meat? One hon. Gentleman opposite talked about poultry, and the right hon. Gentleman said he hoped there would be quite adequate supplies of poultry. What is this poultry we are talking about? There is no price control. We are to have no Continental supplies, except a very small amount from France.

Look at the important point. I opened the trade paper this morning and saw the Smithfield quotations this very day for wholesale prices of poultry. The best chickens are quoted today at 5s. 4d. 1b. wholesale; ducklings are at 4s. 4d. 1b.; turkeys are at 6s. 3d. 1b. wholesale. Even then we are faced with a crazy marketing system which I know from my experience.

Mr. F. Harris

What were the prices last year?

Mr. Royle

Last year they went up to frightful prices. I am very glad at that interruption. This is late November, and I make bold to say that within 14 days of Christmas those prices will be as they were last year.

Mr. Remnant

What were they towards Christmas Day?

Mr. Royle

I know that market, and I have had to go year after year amongst the wholesalers busy with the Christmas trade, and they did not know how much to ask for their poultry. Experience in the retail trade during those three hectic weeks before Christmas is a miserable experience, and it has to be gone through year after year.

I wanted to say a lot more, but I was not successful in catching your eye, Sir, earlier, and I think that at this stage of the debate it is only fair that I should allow my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary full time to make their winding up speeches. So I shall end by saying that my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie told us what the bonuses were in earlier years and tried to compare them with the present spirit being displayed. I want to quote the Tory Election Manifesto at the last Election and remind the House of what it said: Our housewives have gone on bravely trying to feed their families on two ounces of this and ten pennyworth of that. I suggest that that is exactly how the Tory mind works. They do not appreciate what that 10d. means to the housewives of this country in the industrial areas. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that if it turned out that the stocks were as low as the Government are suggesting it would be very well worth while, over a month in the springtime, to make up what he now could give to the women in the form of Christmas bonuses.

Scrooge has been referred to tonight and during the last few days. I would remind hon. Members that in that great book of Charles Dickens that man had an awful dream, but, as the morning broke, he found it was Christmas morning and that his dream had been only a dream. He threw up his window and a boy was out in the street, and he ordered him to bring that one turkey that was left.

At this late stage, only a few weeks before Christmas, and at the end of this debate, the Government have the opportunity to change their minds, and, in spite of the things that have been said across the Table—for that sort of thing always happens in such a debate as this—I appeal to them to accept this Motion, re-examine their figures and their stocks, and try to make this Christmas as cheerful as possible for the people of this country.

9.20 p.m.

Mr. Maurice Webb (Bradford, Central)

I think that the simple question that the House must face in this debate is. Was this decision really necessary? Was it really something that we had to do at this time in the light of our stocks? After my experience in the Ministry of Food, I should be the last person to want to make improvident use of our resources. I know that they are limited, and that there are no resources that we can just throw around without care and concern. I must say, however, that I think it is a pity hon. Members opposite did not realise the inherent gravity of our food situation before they aroused expectations of some lavish increase during the Election.

May I say at once, bearing in mind all the shortages, that, despite these shortages, I believe, and I shall try to prove, that this decision was not necessary. I shall try to show that we can safely afford and should afford and can provide within our stocks, this essential extra home supply of food at the Christmas season. It is an extraordinary decision which the Government have taken in this matter. It is both callous and stupid. It is not only mean, but, even on the most cynical assumption of possible political advantage which they may have calculated, it really is a childish error of judgment.

I wonder who is responsible for it. In these days of super-Ministers it is very difficult to know to whom to attribute the blame and the responsibility. I do not know. It may be that the Minister is trying, as any Minister of Food ought to try, to safeguard the rights to the supplies of food of the consumers of this country. That may be so; I do not know. We can only hold responsible the Minister in the House of Commons. To judge the situation, as we must, we must judge it against some sort of accurate idea of our stock position. Since this Government came into office, every effort has been made to alarm the public and create the impression that our food stocks are non-existent.

The right hon. Gentleman said, in a previous debate on food supplies, that our foodstocks were worse than in 1941. His overlord, if I may use that phrase, repeated the same thesis in another place. He said that he was shocked to find that we were not carrying the stocks we had in 1941, and the same story has been told in Conservative newspapers, and in very many letters from back bench Conservative M.Ps.. There was never a more grotesque distortion of the situation.

Of course, the carry-on stocks these days are less than in 1941. Only a Government of half-wits would carry in peace-time the carry-on stocks that are carried in war-time. Nobody in his senses would at this time try to carry perishable stocks that he would try to carry under siege conditions. As a matter of fact, 1941 was the peak year for the supply of foodstuffs of all kinds. We decided for quite good reasons—I do not complain about them—that we would kill off a large part of our herds in order to grow cereals. Therefore, we had a very large meat supply. There was a consequent saving of animal feedingstuffs. We built up the stocks of those kinds of foods that we could store in those circumstances.

In 1941 under siege conditions we undoubtedly had large reserves of stocks of food. But, no one in his senses would dream in peace-time of carrying stocks of that order. The real test is not with 1941 at all. The real test is a very simple one. Do the stocks of our basic food supplies in this country provide the coverage which normal commercial prudence would regard as adequate? We must apply that test to our food stocks now.

I say at once that with one or two exceptions, due not so much to lack of currency but to inescapable world shortage, the stocks in the pipe-line, the reserve stocks of this country and the main articles of our diet are now and have been broadly upon the level which we should regard as safe and adequate in peace-time. It is true we should like more. All countries would like to have more stocks at their disposal, but it is grossly misleading the public and abusing their anxiety about our food supplies to make what I think is the erroneous and false comparison between now and 1941.

My difficulty is that I am not free to state facts which, for quite proper reasons, I cannot reveal. I say this—and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food who is going to follow me can refute my claims if they are wrong that in the case of some two-thirds of our basic rations the existing stocks for commercial use—that is supplies to the trade as distinct from our stock piles to which I will come in a moment—provide an average coverage of at least 12 weeks' or three months' supply. That in peacetime was regarded by the advisers I had as quite normal.

I want to make it quite clear that, taking the broad figures of our stocks, when I left office they were quite adequate for the purposes we are considering here tonight. In addition to that the Minister knows that in the case of at least two or three of these basic commodities, what we might call storable commodities, he is now holding strategic stockpiles which are abreast if not ahead of the buying programme worked out after Korea. None of us can feel easy with the food situation as it really is, but it is an abuse of public anxiety to create these alarmist pictures that our larder is denuded and empty. Apart from anything else, these suggestions are a grave reflection on the very skilful public servants who have worked in the Ministry of Food in the last 10 years to build up our supplies.

What I have referred to covers about two-thirds of the main foods and basic rations of this country, the things that go into the basic food stocks. In the case of the remainder of our basic foods, stocks are not high, for quite clear reasons. They are not high in the case of bacon and cheese because we do not normally stock bacon and cheese. They are things that you can stock, but you do not normally in peace-time try to stock them for a long time. Perhaps there is a seasonal shortage on top of the continuing shortage of foods in this country at the present time. Even here, in the case of this other third, something should have been done.

Let us take meat, which is in this category. Despite our acute meat position, some small extra supply of meat at Christmas should have been possible. When I settled, when I was Minister of Food, a long-term programme for winter and spring, I planned in detail the terms of the weekly ration, running down from the seasonal peak supplies, when the home-killed meat is at its peak, as it is in September and early October.

We agreed in the Ministry of Food, with the most expert advisers, who are quite objective people, on a basis of rundown which would provide a reasonable quantity, on a ration throughout the winter of Is. 5d., and a Christmas bonus. The details of that programme are on the record. It was agreed by the most responsible persons there that by running down as we did from the peak home kill we would have enough in hand to maintain the Is. 5d. ration right through until early summer, and to permit a small Christmas extra ration. I agreed to the programme on that understanding.

What has happened to that meat? Where has it gone? Where is it? It was there then. It cannot be said that supplies are not catching up, because Argentina is abreast of the programme on which we made that calculation. The right hon. Gentleman has had information from his Dominion sources of supply that they are pepared to come in and help us. There can be no complaint that supplies are less than they were then. They are, in fact, greater than those calculated supplies on which we programmed for the winter and spring and provided for a Christmas bonus of meat. I want to know what has happened. Where has it gone to?

Meat is only one of the extra supplies of food which people want at Christmas. The whole point about these extras is that they try to provide the answer to the special feeding problems of our country at that time, as has been well said by other speakers.

These extras at Christmas time are not some sort of bonus dished out by a rather kindly Government. They are simply a recognition of the difficult circumstances of that particular period. Factory canteens are closed, offices are closed, there are more family parties and cooking, and there is a diversion of our food supplies from other places to the homes. The whole of this was arranged on that assumption. These extras were not just a contribution to some sort of seasonal pleasure. They were always regarded as essential to the proper use of our food at this special holiday time. Yet this year of all years, this Government, of all Governments, which promised to waft us all so quickly into a world of plenty, has placed this grievous extra burden on the housewife.

Let us come back to the actual facts. I can perhaps put it most clearly before the House by stating, quite frankly, what I should have done in the light of the supplies which I know we have got. There should be the extra meat which I have mentioned. There ought to be, and could be, 1 1b. of sugar. There ought to be, and could be, at least 1 1b. of sweets. There could be a small allowance of cooking fats. I should have thought that an extra 2 oz. for each person would have been well within the stock figures on which the right hon. Gentleman is now sitting. For the old people at least, there should have been 4 oz. of tea at Christmas time.

I do not put forward these propositions recklessly. If we could not afford this, I should be the first person to say that it cannot be done. I did that from the Government side of the House, and was ridiculed by hon. Members who were then on the Opposition side. These are very modest demands indeed, and they are demands which I insist are completely within our available supplies at this time, and the Government ought to make them available to the people who ought to enjoy them.

I will now sum them up. I want to make quite clear what I am putting forward. If there is any answer to it, no doubt we shall have it. The meat ration for at least one week—the Christmas week—and possibly for two weeks, should have been of the order of Is. 7d. or ls. 8d. There should have been a special Christmas bonus of 1 1b. of sugar. There should have been, and could easily be—quite easily be—1 1b. of sweets for the children. There could have been 2 oz. of fats. There could have been 4 oz. of tea for the old people.

That is what I say. I am in the difficulty that I am not free to reveal the facts. The House and the country must make up their minds, but I say, with a very strong sense of responsibility, that the food supplies of this country at this time permit these very modest—very modest indeed—claims that we make. Why has this lamentable decision been taken? I do not know; it does not make sense to me. It may be for reasons of political calculation, but, if that is so, this is the first time any Government of this country has played political jiggery-pokery with the food of this country.

Mr. Nabarro

We have had it for the last seven years.

Mr. Webb

We announced a reduction in the meat ration the Sunday before polling day. That is not playing jiggery-pokery with our food supplies. Hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot escape their fundamental problems of food in this way. They can only solve them by accepting our idea of building them up through the kind of undertakings we have given to our Dominions to add to our food supplies. What the Government are trying to do in a position which is completely indefensible, is to try to create the impression that somehow it is all due to some neglect on our part. If that is their purpose, we are quite happy to allow them to live in that world of illusion.

What I say is simply this: This is a lamentable decision. We must now give some spur and fillip to our people. If we are going to face our economic problems, pay our bills and find a way out, we must give them some inducement. We shall never do that merely by driving them along, as right hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to think, by depriving them of what they are entitled to. We do not take that view. This decision was not needed. There is no case for it. It is a contemptible thing to have done. If it cannot now be altered, at least let us on this side of the House vote against it in the Lobby.

9.42 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Charles Hill)

In the relatively short time that is available to me—I make no complaint about that—I think that the House would wish me, in replying to what has been said, to concentrate on what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, Central (Mr. Webb) and at an earlier stage by his former Parliamentary Secretary, the hon., Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey).

The right hon. Gentleman posed the issue when he said, in an opening sentence: "Was it really necessary?" It has been put in other ways, as it was by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), when she accused the Government of hypocrisy. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is true."] In fact, she suggested that the Government willingly and deliberately took a step which it knows to be unpopular. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I propose to deal with that general allegation, bearing in mind that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North listed the various items in what would have been his own series of bonuses and bearing in mind that the right hon. Member has made specific reference to certain commodities. I propose to deal in turn with the commodities which the right hon. Member has cited.

I begin with meat. There was, of course, no meat bonus last year. There have been, I think, four since the outbreak of war. The right hon. Member said that a meat bonus is possible this year and that it is, to use his delicate expression. "jiggery-pokery" to deny it to the people. First of all, let it be plain that the stocks of meat are higher than they were a year ago—that is admitted. After all, a year ago the right hon. Member, for other motives—

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

He did it then.

Dr. Hill

—which I do not necessarily criticise. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the children?"] The right hon. Gentleman made his speech without interruption and I hope that the House will bear in mind the short time I have in which to speak.

Last year, the stock of meat in the country at this time was dangerously low. It is now high by comparison because we are comparing the dangerously low with the barely sufficient.

Hon. Members


Mr. F. Wiley rose

Hon. Members

Sit down.

Dr. Hill

I do not want to appear discourteous—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The time is very short before the debate comes to an end. I ask the House to give the hon. Gentleman a patient hearing.

Mr. Willey

The Parliamentary Secretary has wisely allowed himself a short time to reply. I was dealing earlier—

Dr. Hill

As the hon. Member suggested I had wisely left myself a short time in which to reply, whereas the right hon. Member knows I had no control over that and have deplored the shortness of time. I think I should proceed with my speech.

During the last year the meat ration rose to an unprecedented high level and the first point I would make, particularly as jiggery-pokery has been referred to, is that at a certain phase of the last year, short, but nevertheless there, the meat ration was raised above the level that in fact the meat position justified and was met only at the expense of imported meat which should have gone into store.

Mr. Webb

This, Mr. Speaker, is a most grave reflection on the Ministry of Food, on the people with whom the hon. Gentleman is now working. We must have this quite clear. The meat ration as fixed throughout that period was done on the advice of the responsible advisers. These are very serious things to say and I would beg the hon. Gentleman to con- sult the records in the Ministry of Food to see how far I in fact carried out the advice of the advisers.

Dr. Hill

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be a pity if in fact an attempt were made to bring into this field of ultimate responsibility the Minister's advisers in this matter.

The position now is, as the right hon. Gentleman himself announced, that it is only on the basis of certain assumptions, including the shipments from South America, that there is a prospect of maintaining the ration of 1s. 5d. He is not accurate in saying that these shipments are abreast of the target, or of the plan, for they are not. He is not correct in saying that in the calculation as to the possibilities of 1s. 5d. an allocation was made for a Christmas bonus. So, if the position is as he stated, that it is only with reasonably good fortune in relation to factors over which we have no control that the ration can be sustained in the months ahead at 1s. 5d., it would have been imprudent, unfair and senseless so to weaken the position—[Interruption.]

The right hon. Gentleman has said that a sugar bonus was possible.

Mr. Shurmer

Be sweet over it.

Dr. Hill

Yes, I will do my best. The right hon. Gentleman knows that in July last, because of the factors of Queensland and home production to which reference has been made, he was anxious about the sugar position; which led him to make a cut to manufacturers and caterers to the extent of 75,000 tons a year. He knows, further, that the position in relation to sugar is worsened as a result of the balance of payments position.

He knows that it has been necessary to make a substantial cut in sugar materials and he knows that in fact the dollar situation prevents us from obtaining more sugar. In other words, he was uncertain about the prospect of maintaining the ration as the position was in July last before the balance of payments assumed its worse proportions. He was uncertain then—the position has deteriorated—and he now tells the House that a sugar bonus at Christmas time is possible.

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North, referred to butter and cheese. Incidentally, there has never been a cheese bonus and there has not been a butter bonus—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nobody said so."]—but I am saying so. He knows that such is the supply position throughout the world—[Interruption]—

Mr. Speaker


Dr. Hill

—that there is no immediate prospect of a change in the situation. Knowing that, he tells the House that it would have been appropriate to have given bonuses in butter and in cheese.

A further line which has been taken in this Debate is that, as the balance of payments position has fallen on food, it has been asserted by some that it has fallen improperly on food, and should have fallen in other places. The right hon. Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), referred to this in a recent debate. In a speech full of charm and inaccuracy she asserted that the imports of tobacco in this country amounted to £126 million a year—approximately twice the real figure. The value of imports of dollar and non-dollar tobacco into this country is about £65 million in value, in respect of which the Chancellor receives rather more than £600 million.

I repeat that in respect of imports of tobacco to the value of £65 million the Chancellor receives over £600 million. And so, had there been a cut in tobacco, to take that as an example, of some 10 per cent., there would have been a contribution to the Balance of Payments problem of £6½ million. There would have been a fall in the revenue of the Chancellor by £60 million—and I doubt whether that would be regarded as a contribution to Christmas cheer anyway.

I want to come to the Election pledges. On 3rd October the former Chancellor uttered his warning in a Mansion House speech dealing with the position as it then was. He told the world the facts as they were at that time—

Mr. Ross

Not in front of the children!

Dr. Hill

That is appropriate, for the Socialist Party deliberately refrained from any mention of the balance of payments problem in its Manifesto. If the Prime Minister made some short reference in his broadcast, the "Daily Herald" in its report of that broadcast was very careful to omit those words.

I suggest that, perhaps, there is one reason amongst others why, in fact, this position of the great and growing gravity in the balance of payments field was concealed from the country. It is that the party opposite was much too busy trying to delude the people into believing that they were the angels of peace—[Interruption.]

May I come, then, to the desire of the House for red meat? The hon. Lady who opened the debate quoted the actual words: I believe that one of the things we could do to make us feel like working a lot harder would be to give us some red meat to eat. Anything wrong with that as a principle? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

This debate is really becoming much too noisy. It is impossible for the Chair to hear the words addressed to it. I hope the House will allow the hon. Gentleman to conclude.

Dr. Hill

I may summarise the position in this way. Our stock position, our prospective supply position and our economic position, in the aggregate, make Christmas bonuses impossible without imperilling the ration. The immediate stock and supply position and the financial position we inherited from the party opposite. Now, they find it difficult to conceal their glee that the responsibility for clearing up the mess has fallen to my right hon. Friend.

The right hon. Gentleman the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has made his contribution, for, speaking of Christmas bonuses, he said:

"It is a mean action, taken not for reasons of real necessity, hut as a matter of miserable political tactics."

I suggest to the House that, in fact, the party which is responsible for the stocks. position as we found it, the party that is responsible for the supply position as we found it, is the party which, by its actions and failures, makes the withdrawal of Christmas bonuses inevitable, and that those tactics we have witnessed tonight come within the category of miserable party tactics.

Question put, That this House deplores the decision of the Government not to issue any additional food rations at Christmas.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mrs. Braddock

(seated and covered): On a point of order. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is in order for an hon. Member of the party opposite to punch me on the other side of the Bar when I was on my way to the Division Lobby? May I have your Ruling on that matter?

Mr. Speaker

It is certainly completely out of order for any hon. Member to punch another.

Mrs. Braddock

The Member concerned is the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate).

Mr. Speaker

I will inquire into this after the Division.

The House divided: Ayes, 264 Noes, 301.

Division No. 23.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Acland, Sir Richard Bowden, H. W. Daines, P.
Adams, Richard Bowles, F. G. Dalton, Rt. Hon. H
Albu, A. H. Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Brockway, A. F. Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Davies, Harold (Leek)
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Broughton, Dr. A. D. D Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Brown, Thomas (Ince) Deer, G.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Burton, Miss F. E. Delargy, H. J.
Awbery, S. S. Butler, Herbert (Hackney. S.) Dodds, N. N.
Ayles, W. H. Callaghan, L. J. Donnelly, D. L.
Bacon, Miss Alice Carmichael, J. Driberg, T. E. N.
Baird, J Castle, Mrs. B. A Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Champion, A. J Edelman, M.
Bartley, P. Chapman, W. D. Edwards, John (Brighouse)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J Chetwynd, G. R. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)
Bence, C. R. Clunie, J Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)
Benn, Wedgewood Cooks, F. S. Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)
Benson, G. Coldrick, W. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)
Beswick, F. Collick, P. H Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)
Bevan, Rt, Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Cook, T. F. Ewart, R.
Bing, G. H. C. Corbet, Mrs. Freda Fernyhough, E.
Blackburn, F. Cove, W. G. Field, Capt. W. J.
Blenkinsop, A Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Fienburgh, W.
Blyton, W. R Crosland, C. A. R. Finch, H. J.
Boardman, H Crossman, R. H. S Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)
Bottomley, A. G Cullen, Mrs. A. Follick, M.
Foot, M. M. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Short, E. W.
Forman, J. C. McNeil, Rt. Hon. H. Shurmer, P. L. E.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Freeman, Peter (Newport) Mainwaring, W. H. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Slater, J.
Gibson, C. W. Mann, Mrs. Jean Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Glanville, James Manuel, A. C. Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A Snow, J. W.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield) Mayhew, C. P. Sorensen, R. W.
Grey, C. F. Messer, F. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mikardo, Ian Sparks, J. A.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Milner, Maj. Rt. Hon. J Steele, T.
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Mitchison, G. R. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Monslow, W. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Hall, John (Gateshead, W) Moody, A. S. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Hamilton, W. W. Morgan, Dr. H. B. W Stross, Dr. Barnett
Hannan, W. Morley, R. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith
Hardy, E. A. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Swingler, S. T.
Hargreaves, A. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Sylvester, G. O.
Hastings, S. Mort, D. L. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Hayman, F. H. Moyle, A. Taylor, Robert (Morpeth)
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A (Rowley Regis) Mulley, F. W. Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Herbison, Miss M. Murray, J. D. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Hobson, C. R. Nally, W. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Houghton, Douglas Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Hubbard, T. F. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J Thurtle, Ernest
Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) O'Brien, T. Timmons, J.
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Oldfield, W. H. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Oliver, G. H. Tomney, F.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N) Orbach, M. Turner-Samuels, M.
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Oswald, T. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Padley, W. E. Usborne, H. C.
Irvine, A. J. (Edge HIM) Paget, R. T. Viant, S. P.
Irving, W J. (Wood Green) Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Wallace, H. W.
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Watkins, T. E.
Janner, B. Pargiter, G. A. Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford. G.)
Jay, D. P. T. Parker, J. Weitzman, D.
Jeger, George (Goole) Paton, J. Wells, William (Walsall)
Jeger, Dr Santo (St. Pancras, S.) Peart, T. F. West, D. G.
Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford) Plummer, Sir Leslie Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John
Johnson, James (Rugby) Popplewell, E. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Porter, G. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Jones, David (Hartlepool) Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Price, Philips (Gloucester, W.) Wigg, G. E. C.
Janes, T. W. (Merioneth) Proctor, W. T. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Kenyan, G. Pryde, D. J. Wilkins, W. A.
Kay, Rt Hon C W Pursey, Cmdr. H. Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N)
King, Dr. H. M. Rankin, John Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)
Kinley, J. Reeves, J. Williams, David (Neath)
Lea, Frederick (Newton) Reid, Thomas (Swindon) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Leo. Miss Jennie (Cannock) Held, William (Camlachie) Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)
Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Rhodes, H. Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Richards, R. Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Lewis, Arthur Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Logan, D. G. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Longden, Fred (Small Heath) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
MacColl, J. E. Ross, William Wyatt, W. L.
McGhee, H. G Royle, C. Yates, V. F.
McGovern, J. Schofield, S. (Barnsley) Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
McInnes, J Shackleton, E. A. A.
McKay, John (Wallsend) Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
McLeavy, F. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Mr. Pearson and Mr. Holmes.
Aitken, W. T. Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Bullard, D. G.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston) Bullock, Capt. M.
Alport, C. J. M. Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.
Amery, Heathcoat (Tiverton) Bennett, William (Woodside) Burden, F. F. A.
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)
Arbuthnot, John Birch, Nigel Carr, Robert (Mitcham)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Bishop, F. P. Carson, Hon. E.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Black, C. W. Cary, Sir R.
Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton) Bossom, A. C Channon, H.
Astor, Hon. W W. (Bucks, Wycombe) Bowen, E. R. Churchill, Rt. Hon W. S.
Baker, P. A. D. Boyd-Carpenter, J A. Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M Boyle, Sir Edward Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)
Baldwin, A. E. Braine, B. R. Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.
Banks, Col. G. Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G.(Bristol, N.W.) Cole, N. J.
Barber, A. P. L. Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H Colegate, W. A.
Barlow, Sir John Brooke, Henry (Hempstead) Conant, Maj. R. J. E
Baxter, A. B. Brooman-White, R. C. Cooper, San. Ldr Albert
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Browne, Jack (Govan) Cooper-Key, E. M.
Ball, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)
Cranborne, Viscount Hutchison, James (Scotstoun) Raikes, H. V.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M Rayner, Brig. R.
Crouch, R. F. Hylton-Foster, H. B. H. Redmayne, M.
Crowder, John E. (Finchley) Jenkins, R. C. D. (Dulwich) Remnant, Hon. P.
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Jennings, R. Renton, D. L. M.
Cuthbert, W. N. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Roberts, Maj. Peter (Heeley)
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Johnson, Howard (Kemptown) Robertson, Sir David (Caith[...])
Davidson, Viscountess Jones, A. (Hall Green) Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Robson-Brown, W.
De la Bère, R. Kaberry, D. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Deedes, W. F. Keeling, F. H. Roper, Sir Harold
Digby, S. Wingfield Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) Ropner, Col. L.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Lambert, Hon. G. Russell, R. S.
Donaldson, Comdr. C. E. McA Lambton, Viscount Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Donner, P. W. Langford-Holt, J. A. Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Doughty, C. J. A, Leather, E. H. C. Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H Savory, Prof. D. L.
Drayson, G. B. Legh, P. R. (Petersfield) Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)
Drewe, C. Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T. Scott, R. Donald
Dugdale, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Lindsay, Martin Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Linstead, H. N Shepherd, William.
Duthie, W. S. Llewellyn, D. T. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M. Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton) Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Erroll, F. J. Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)
Fell, A. Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.) Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
Finlay, G. B. Low, A. R. W. Snadden, W. McN.
Fisher, Nigel Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Soames, Capt. C.
Fletcher, Walter (Bury) Lucas, P. B. (Brentford) Spearman, A. C. M.
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Speir, R. M.
Fort, R. McAdden, S. J. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale) McCallum, Major D. Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Gage, C. H. Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight) Stevens, G. P.
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) McKibbin, A. J. Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Gammans, L. D. MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Garner-Evans, E. H. MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Storey, S.
George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Glyn, Sir Ralph Macpherson, Major Niall (Dumfries) Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Godber, J. B. Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Studholme, H. G.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A Maitland, Patrick (Lanark) Summers, G. S.
Gough, C. F. H. Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E. Sutcliffe, H.
Gower, H. R. Markham, Major S. F. Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)
Graham, Sir Fergus Marlowe, A. A. H. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Gridley Sir Arnold Marples, A. E. Teeling, W.
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin) Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)
Grimston, Robert (Westbury) Marshall, Sidney (Sutton) Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Hare, Hon. J. H. Maude, Angus Thompson, Kenneth Pugh (Walton)
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Maudling, R. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Harris, Reader (Heston) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Harrison, Lt.-Col. J. H. (Eye) Medlicott, Brig F. Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield) Mellor, Sir John Tilney, John
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Molson, A. H. E. Touche, G. C.
Harvie-Watt, Sir George Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Turner, H. F. L.
Hay, John Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas Turton, R. H.
Head, Rt. Hon. A. H. Morrison, John (Salisbury) Vane, W. M. F.
Heald, Sir Lionel Nabarro, G. D. N. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Heath, Edward Nicholls, Harmar Vosper, D. F.
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Nicholson, G. Wade, D. W.
Hicks-Beech, Maj. W. W. Nield, Basil (Chester) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Higgs, J. M. C. Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)
Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Nugent, G. R. H. Walker-Smith, D. C.
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Nutting, Anthony Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Oakshott, H. D. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Hirst, Geoffrey Odey, G. W. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Holland-Martin, C. J. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Antrim, N) Watkinson, H. A.
Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich) Ormsby-Gore. Hon. W. D. Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)
Holt, A. F. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Wellwood, W.
Hope, Lord John Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N) White, Baker (Canterbury)
Hopkinson, Henry Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare) Williams, Charles (Torquay)
Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Partridge, E. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Horobin, I. M. Peake, Rt. Hon. O Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Perkins, W. R. D. Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Peto, Brig. C H. M Wills, G.
Howard, Greville (St. Ives) Peyton, J. W W Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Pickthorn, K. W. M Wood, Hon. R
Hudson, Rt Hon. Robert (Southport) Pilkington, Capt. R. A York. C.
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Pitman, I. J.
Hulbert, Wing Comdr. N. J. Powell, J. Enoch TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Kurd, A. R. Price Henry (Lewisham, W.) Brigadier Mackeson and
Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L Mr. Butcher.
Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Profumo, J. D.
Mr. Speaker

Does the hon. Lady the Member for the Exchange division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock) wish to renew her complaint?

Mrs. Braddock

I do, Mr. Speaker. I was proceeding into the Division Lobby, and from behind me I heard some rather angry words. I was outside the Bar of the House. I turned round to see what was happening and found the hon. Gentleman the Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate) having an argument with another Member of the House. I made some comment to the other Member of the House and immediately I was pushed on the left shoulder—

An Hon. Member

Dirty dog! [Interruption]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I beg the House to remain silent for the hon. Lady.

Mrs. Braddock

I was pushed very hard on the left shoulder and I commented about it. I do not know what happened afterwards, but I want to say that had that happened to me outside this House the hon. Gentleman would not have been on his feet for two seconds.

Mr. Arthur Colegate (Burton)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. Lady has begged her own case because she said that she did not see who pushed her on the left shoulder.

Mrs. Braddock

No, I did not say that.

Mr. Colegate

Apparently she thought that I pushed her on the left shoulder. So far from being true, the facts of the case are these. As I was going out I said to the hon. Member for the Spark-brook division of Birmingham (Mr. Shurmer) that I thought it was a pity that our man—I am quoting the words I used—was not allowed to speak with as much order as we listened to the ex-Minister of Food.

I think it was not an unnatural remark to make in the circumstances. Where-upon, the hon. Member squared up and was joined in an obviously belligerent attitude by the hon. Lady representing the Exchange division of Liverpool. But before anything else could happen. a Member of the party opposite, whom I cannot identify, quietly intervened and advised the people discussing the matter to go quietly to the Division Lobby. I immediately walked into the Division Lobby, but, as I went in, I looked back and saw what appeared to be an angry group of people discussing things, still in a somewhat excited manner. I will not repeat what has been said by former hon. Members of the House, but we all have a great regard for the pungent comments of the hon. Lady the Member for the Exchange division, and I can assure her that she was totally and entirely mistaken.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

On proceeding out to the Division the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate) came alongside me, Sir. There was not much room because all Members were crowding out. In a threatening attitude—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) has been mentioned in connection with this affair and he ought to be allowed to speak.

Mr. Shurmer

The hon. Member for Burton said, in a threatening attitude, "If your people start barracking our people we will barrack you." His attitude was definitely threatening. I immediately pushed him away from me—and that is the actual incident. Nothing would have been said had not the hon. Gentleman come forward in a threatening attitude and told us what they would do to some of us.

Mr. Maurice Orbach (Willesden, East)

As the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate) referred in friendly tones to my intervention in the early part of the fracas. I regret that he was not good enough to tell the House that in withdrawing from contact with my hon. Friend—[Interruption.] A moment later, when he realised what he had done, the hon. Gentleman said, "Anyway, I did not intend to." [Interruption.] I am trying to deal with this matter seriously, but hon. Members on both sides of the House seem to think that there is a double meaning to the words I am uttering. I think that if the hon. Member was good enough to make some sort of apology beyond the Bar to my hon. Friend, he should make an apology to this House.

Mr. Speaker

I have listened to this strange story with great interest. As Speaker, if an assault is seriously complained of, it is my duty to suggest that the matter be inquired into by the appropriate Committee, but if I may speak for a moment as an old Member of the House, and as the best of temper has hitherto been shown over this incident, I would advise all parties to put it out of their minds and to forgive and forget.

Mrs. Braddock

I am prepared to accept the hon. Gentleman's apology. The statement I made to you, Mr. Speaker, was perfectly true. I know nothing of what happened before. I accept the apology even though the hon. Gentleman has not yet made it.

Mr. Colegate

If I may venture to say so, Mr. Speaker, you diagnosed the situation very correctly. If any words of mine will help to smooth this over and to maintain the friendly relations that ought to obtain in spite of our party differences I shall be very pleased to offer them.

Postponed proceedings resumed.