Orders of the Day — Potato Rationing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th November 1947.

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Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee 12:00 am, 10th November 1947

I do not believe that for one moment. The early potatoes came to the market in the normal way from the Scilly Isles, Cornwall and the rest. I do not think there was any question of a premature delivery of that crop. The hon. Member then dealt with a speech I made on the Estimates of my Department on 1st July, and I would like to repeat three things which I said on that occasion. The hon. Member quite fairly read out what I said—that there would be no food crisis before the 1947 harvest. I said that because I had been attacked and accused by him and a great many other hon. Members, and told that after the fuel crisis would come a food crisis in that year before the harvest came in, and I was able to say on 1st July that, not without difficulty and not without straining the resources of the import of food into the country, it was clear that we had got through to harvest without a food crisis.

As the hon. Member read out perfectly fairly, those were the words I used. I said something else—and this, of course, he omitted entirely, but he will find it in HANSARD —that in the coming year, the crop year 1947–48, it would be desperately difficult this winter—those were the words I used—for this country to secure its imports of food crops. I said there was a double problem, the problem of shortage of foodstuffs in the world, which continues, and added to that a shortage of foreign exchange, and in particular dollars, which could be made available to buy them. That was precisely what I said in respect of this year. I went on to say—and believe it, and repeat it here—that in the years to come, looking ahead to the prospects of this country, there is no reason to suppose that the people of this country will not be able to obtain an ample supply of foodstuffs, partly by growing them themselves, and partly by exchanging their manufactured products for foodstuffs. Any bogy which anyone in this House, quite irrespective of party, attempts to raise to the effect that there is something in the new world situation which makes it impossible for the inhabitants of this island to feed themselves in the rest of this century I believe to be completely untrue. Those were the three things I said on 1st July. I am repeating them this evening, and I am prepared to repeat them at any time, and to argue them.

To turn to the hon. Member's statement about potatoes, he says that the real error was that an adequate acreage was not planted. That is perfectly true of last year in the sense that the flood conditions, of which he knows, and which he quite rightly says reduced the acreage by at least 80,000, made it impossible to reach the target which had been set for the acreage of the country for the 1947 harvest. In my opinion, it is of the utmost importance that we should plant an adequate acreage of potatoes this year and in future years.