I recognise that it is an honour to be called upon to open a Debate on this most interesting question. In view of the number of Questions that have been put down recently about it—and, indeed, for a long time past—this matter of food supplies is, we can take it, a very interesting one indeed.
I should like to remind hon. Members of a pronouncement made by Dr. Boyd-Orr—as he then was—a little before the war about the nutrition of our people. For that purpose the period from 1934 to 1938—which I shall refer to as the prewar period—was taken. He stated that in 1936 there were 4,500,000 of the population who spent 4s. per head per week on food; that there were 9,000,000 who spent 6s. per head per week on food; and that there were 9,000,000 who spent 8s. per head per week on food.
The comment he made then was that the nutrition of the 4,500,000 who spent 4s. per head per week on food was inadequate in all respects; that the 9,000,000 who spent 6s. a head per week lacked proteins and fats; and that the 9,000,000 who spent 8s. a head a week were below a sufficient standard in vitamins and minerals. That was the pronouncement which we had at that time, and we were not at all happy to hear it, although we had to accept it because it was made by a man of such great eminence.
I would ask hon. Members to consider the quantities that were consumed at that time in dairy products. Let us take milk, for example. In the pre-war period which we are considering, 216.9 lbs. per head of liquid milk were consumed per year and 12.3 lbs. per head of condensed milk. What were the conditions? There were houses outside which several quarts of liquid milk were left daily, but there were also houses into which no liquid milk went. I very well, remember many years ago, as secretary of a school-care committee, having to go into the homes of many people upon whose tables I saw nothing but skimmed and condensed milk. The reason for that was the small amount of those families' incomes and the small amount of money per head that they had to spend on food.
What is the position today? Per head of the population 336.7 lbs. of liquid milk are consumed, but the position is different because today we portion it out, so that while the ordinary consumer is allowed three pints per head per week, there are priority consumers who have more. Among them are expectant and nursing mothers and young children, who get seven pints a head per week; and after the age of five, children are secured three and a half pints at home, and, of course, school milk, too. Therefore, they are able to obtain this most valuable food, and, as far as nursing and expectant mothers are concerned, at a price they are able to meet.
Let us look at oils and fats. First, butter. We all regret that those who were able to consume a reasonable quantity of butter before the war are not now able to get it because of the distribution of butter today. The average pre-war individual consumption was 24.8 lb. a year; now it is 12.5 lb.; but we are assured at the present time of 4 oz. per head per week. A substitute—margarine—has been introduced into generai consumption. We remember the very glowing advertisements of pre-war days saying margarine was a substitute for butter—that margarine was excellent and was good for people. So I am quite sure that nobody can complain that now there are 4 oz. per week per head. Taking our total consumption of fats, we find that pre-war it was 45.3 lb. a year, but today the average individual consumption of any person is 40.6 lb. a year. Therefore, there is certainly no room for complaint to be made about the shortage of fats of this kind. There is very little difference between the pre-war and present day total consumption, and that is mainly, of course, because these fats are so much more evenly distributed.
Next let us take the question of meat. There are a number of folk who regret the absence of meat from their tables. However, as we travel round the country we can see the fine porkers running about, and the increasing number of fat cattle. I cannot remember having seen the country looking so fit as it is today, and that is because of the encouragement the present Government have given to our agricultural lands. A farmer would be lost for conversation if he had no grouse, and yet we can detect the pride in his voice and the delight in his eye today, as he extols his stock.
I have had the great pleasure of going among a number of Somerset farmers. One of them had been in business as a milk retailer, but decided that that business was rather difficult and went into farming, and I heard him say, "Yes, my boy, yes; and I advise everybody to go in for farming: you cannot go wrong." The agricultural labourer also has a very much better position today, and, therefore, is able to get much more of the food he himself is producing, and is able to enjoy a much better and more comfortable life.
In place of meat, we have fish as an alternative food for main meals, and we warmly welcome today the better distribution of poultry and rabbits. As we pass through our main towns we can see rabbits and poultry offered for sale in the windows of the shops. It is very welcome. Consumption of cheese has varied very little. Before the war the average was 8.8 lb. per head, and now it is 8.4 lb.—very little difference in the total consumption. The ration is 2 ozs. per head per week for the ordinary consumer, but it is 12 ozs. for vegetarians and certain classes of workers. Therefore, in fish and cheese we have alternatives to meat.
Let us look at eggs. The pre-war individual consumption of shell eggs per year was 21.3, and now it is 17.8; but that 17.8 is rationed, so let us consider how that ration is apportioned. All the expectant and nursing mothers have an allocation of two, and they have a packet of dried eggs every eight weeks. With this allocation of eggs, and with her milk and fat ration for herself, her baby and her children, a mother is better off now than she was before the war.
I would remind the House that the expectant nursing mother also has an additional half meat ration, with her supply of orange juice, cod liver oil, and vitamin A and B tablets. The milk in schools for the children has also been continued, and the meals in schools extended as rapidly as accommodation is made available. For infants from six months to two years there are three priority eggs per week; and for certain infants there is also extra milk. National milk cocoa for young persons who are employed workers, students or members of youth organisations at l½ d. per one-third of a pint.
For the old folk there is the extra ounce of tea in addition to the 2½ oz. per week on the ration, and 4½ oz. per week on the sweet ration. I include the sweet ration because, in addition to the fact that more jam is available today, which increases the whole sweet allocation, we must remember what happened when sweets went off the ration, and how terribly difficult it was for those who were not able to afford to buy supplies of sweets, to get any at all.
I happen to be a rationed consumer, and the strange thing was that the whole time that sweets were off the ration I did not get one sweet because I was not able to spare the time to go looking for them.
Nor was I of a mind to go and buy them in a shop other than that in which I had been expecting to get them, which would have been at the expense of others. I heard that some women were able to get pounds of chocolates because their husbands happened to be working in a place where chocolates were made. When a person says a thing like that, I assume that that individual was glad enough to get those chocolates in that way. The sweets situation at that time was something of a warning for all those who previously, by getting a ration allocated to them, had been sure of the things that were essential and clearly necessary.
The increased fruit supplies have been most welcome. We have seen fruit coming back again into the greengrocers' stores. That is the kind of thing we have looked for, and which we warmly welcome. The greater variety of fruit that we now have makes things very much easier. Cereals also are much easier; they are not now rationed because there are more available, and they add to the variety of food that can be put on the table.
What is the measure of value? When we look at the food supplies and food consumption of the United' Kingdom, looking back over those years at food distribution and the manner in which it has been carried on by rationing, can We say it has been of real value to the whole of the population? Or is it true as people sometimes say "We are the worst-fed nation in Europe"—it was once said in this House? Is it true to say "We are very badly off; we have to stand and wait and wait, and then cannot get the goods we want"? During the past month I travelled up to Liverpool, and in the carriage was a man who said that he was a Dutchman. I asked him what he thought of England, and he said, "Oh, England will pull through." He had no doubt about whether England was all right. I then asked him how they were doing in Holland,. and he answered, "Well, we are free from controls, but in Holland we could not get a meal like the one I have just had for 4s."
The question of nutrition very definitely enters into the question of the measure of value. Our maternity mortality figures and our infantile mortality figures are the lowest on record: 53 in 1938, 34 last year, down to 30 in the June quarter of this year. For some time I was closely associated with local authority work, particularly in connection with maternity and child welfare, and I always watched most carefully to see how this was going. It is one of the greatest joys that anyone who has been doing this kind of work can feel and deeply appreciate. Our mothers are better cared for and our babies are better born than ever before in our history.
Vital statistics depend upon vital nutrition. Professor Bonnet, when reviewing the situation, said in a survey in 1948:
In 10 years England will have a generation of young men and women superior physically and mentally to that of any other European country. I am convinced that the excellent physical condition of these children is due to their feeding. Their diet is perfectly balanced, and the system of milk in schools, school feeding and extra vitamin nourishment provided by clinics has had obvious results.
That was the comment of a leading French specialist, when looking at our English children in our schools.
I therefore commend the Government for their wisdom in continuing rationing, so securing fair shares to all and bringing a stability into our national life, which is felt and spoken of by all who come to our country, and is having its effect on those engaged in production. The position today is such that we can measure the value of continuing to give fair shares to all, and giving that stability which ensures that the range of things a person wants is there within the limits of his purse. The consequence of that is shown everywhere in the vital statistics and in the comments of people who visit our country, both of which I have already quoted.
I am sure we all welcome the White Paper on Food Consumption Levels in the United Kingdom, because in it people can see the trend of the supplies which have been made available for the whole population, and the way in which they have been distributed. We should consider this White Paper as a most valuable contribution to the thought of the people as a whole. Those who read it will be able to understand it because it is in simple language. It is not all in terms of calories but has been brought down to the measurement of pounds, which is the sort of thing the housewife is accustomed to using. I therefore very heartily commend the White Paper, not only to hon. Members, but to everybody who has the opportunity and the will to read it.
We have all listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for South Battersea (Mrs. Ganley). We appreciate her sincerity, and we know that she believes what she has said.
I must admit that I am always a little anxious when I listen to speeches from hon. Members opposite, because they are so complacent. For them everything is all right; everything is perfect. My experience is that no Government and no individual is ever quite perfect. There is no question on which experts differ more widely than on the question of nutrition. Hon. Members will remember cases which they have taken up with the Ministry of Food in which the experts—doctors and specialists—who have been dealing with these cases over many years have differed profoundly from the doctors who advise the Ministry of Food. I do not think that I have very often been successful in my battle with the Ministry of Food over these cases, and I only mentioned them to show that on the question of nutrition experts can differ profoundly.
Statistics do not prove everything. The present Government take the credit for everything—perhaps we ought to be getting used to that—but I am not going to allow them to get away with the idea that they alone are responsible for the position which exists today. Improvement in the nutrition of our people has been taking place over a long period of years—certainly over the last 50 years. Many of us remember, in the years before the war, the work which was being done in the training and feeding of babies and small children in the clinics, babies' clubs and welfare centres and the talks with parents on how a baby or small child should be brought up. Those who have helped in welfare centres and clinics know that there was an enormous improvement in the feeding and handling of small children in those years with resulting improvement of their general health.
I also wish to quote from Lord Boyd Orr. In his book "The Feeding of the People" he said:
The rate of increase in improvement in the feeding of the people has shown a great and continuing acceleration over the period 1914-1939, particularly in the latter part.
He gives tables confirming this. Perhaps I might remind the House that milk for school children was first introduced by the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut-Colonel Elliot) who introduced the Bill into this House. It was the late Sir Kingsley Wood who was mainly responsible for initiating the supply of other foods, such as cod liver oil and special food for mothers, and I feel that it is only fair to give them credit for that. That was before the war. To hear some hon. Members opposite speak one would think that nothing had ever been done until 1945.
What of the period of the war itself? It was a period of very great achievement on the part of Lord Woolton, who showed a remarkable ability for overcoming difficulties far transcending any with which the present Government have had to deal. It would indeed be shocking if the standard had not improved in the post-war years, and if the improvement during the war had not been maintained. I feel that Lord Woolton did more in regard to nutritional work than any other person. In "The Labour Party Manifesto" the work he did has been brushed aside as if it were of no importance. In all fairness, I think it right that these facts should be stated.
I want to speak now of the present and the future rather than of the past. We have all seen the report which Sir Wilson Jameson has just published, "The Health of the School Child." It gives, on the
whole, a most encouraging picture. I would remind the House that the children spoken about are the children who benefited and whose mothers benefited from the measures to which I have referred. The report states:
In terms of avoirdupois there has been no significant change for better or for worse in the nutrition of the average child. If, however, it is admitted that increased susceptibility to infection and minor ailments may be the precursor of defective nutrition, then, it is clear that there are now fewer 'average' children than there were two or three years ago.
That is only a small pointer, but it is a pointer that should not be disregarded.
I want to speak now about the position of a mother. That position is not so satisfactory. I will quote an extract from the report of the Ministry of Health for the year ending 31st March, 1948:
Indeed the nutritional state of the great majority of the adolescents examined was very satisfactory. In view of this finding it seemed likely that the brunt of any food shortage in families of adolescents and grown-ups was being borne by the housewife. An attempt was accordingly made in London and other cities to assemble for nutritional assessment representative groups of mothers of families of adolescent age and over. It was not found possible to secure representative groups, and while this made any general statement about the nutritional state of this class of mother impossible, the nutrition of those examined was certainly less satisfactory than that of any other group of the population.
This is not a new problem. The mother has always tended to neglect herself so that her husband and children may benefit. Obviously, the health of the housewife and mother is, in the end, the foundation of all national health. I think that I am right in saying—the right hon. Lady will correct me if I am wrong—that some propaganda was put about a short time ago urging mothers to use special protective foods. It may be that something more could be done in that direction, because I think that it is extremely important.
I cannot claim to have medical knowledge such as the right hon. Lady possesses. I am merely an ordinary person, I judge from my own observations and from ordinary contacts, but Members who had the opportunity of visiting Germany after the war were, I am sure, struck, as I was struck, by the appearance of the middle-aged housewife and young mother. There was a greyness of the face which was very marked and which showed what these women had been through—starvation or very near starvation. In France, in the first year or so after the war, the appearance of the women was very much the same. Perhaps it was not quite so bad, but we know that they were near starvation in many parts of France. I am not talking about Paris, but of other parts of France.
When I was in France about a year ago, I noticed a marked improvement, and I know that what I am saying is borne out by others from both sides of the House, because I have had an opportunity of talking this matter over with some hon. Members on the Government benches. An extraordinarily marked change had taken place, and it was particularly marked among the class of women to whom I have referred. There was a different expression of face, colour of skin, brightness and enthusiasm which was not apparent in the period shortly after the war. I am quite certain that is due to the fact that meat, cheese and fats were far more easily available. France was then producing meat as hard as she could produce it, A great many of the controls had been lifted. The enthusiasm for production had been increased, and the result was very remarkable indeed.
No doubt the right hon. Lady will tell me, when she replies, that the only place they could get that food was in the black market, and that had I been in the big towns I would have seen people in a much worse condition. I am judging the real France—not the big towns. In the small shops which I visited, used by the workingclass people, meat was available at very reasonable prices, and I was told on all sides that people were able to get almost as much meat, cheese and fats as they required. The whole atmosphere of the country had changed.
In this country, before the war, the Sunday joint played a much bigger part in the life of a family than it does today. The dripping, pot and bones—very important—bacon fat and offal—what would we not do today to get a bit of offal!—were all part of the usual household supplies—not the rich household but the ordinary household. Children of the workingclass household before the war could usually get dripping on their bread; it was the best possible food a child could have. The pre-war meat was not frozen but chilled. The Parliamentary Secretary, replying to a Question yesterday, told us that we are having frozen meat from the Argentine, which we know is not as good as the chilled meat we had before the war. That must make a great deal of difference in this building-up food that gives us energy.
There is a lassitude today which we certainly did not see before the war. It is apparent in all sections of the population. The effect of all this is cumulative. Actually, the lowest point in our diet was in 1940, but I think I am right in saying that the strain of the war was not felt until 1944. That was because we had reserves in us, and because heavy killing off of herds resulted in more meat for everyone. The present lassitude is obvious to all, and particularly to those coming from abroad.
I had the opportunity of talking to two Australian doctors the other day who were in this country for many years before the war as students. They have now come back to this country for the first time since the war, and they are deeply distressed at what they see, particularly the appearance of the ordinary housewife. They felt she was showing more signs of a lack of the right kind of nourishment than any other section of the population.
Those who feed in canteens do not need stimulating foods as much as the miners, the agricultural workers and the housewives. The improvement that is seen in France should surely be seen now more clearly in this country, but the Government have made vast mistakes in handling the feeding of the people. If the rebuilding of our pig stocks and beef herds had received far greater encouragement immediately after the war and more feedingstuffs imported we should now be seeing a different state of affairs. If the buying of meat from foreign countries had been better handled, we could have increased the meat supplies and given the people the food that builds up and energises the body.
People are being asked to work much harder today than before the war, and to produce more on a diet which, according to the White Paper, has ony just reached the level of pre-war in quantity, but certainly not in quality. This is making a demand which cannot be fulfilled; it is as when Pharaoh asked the Egyptians to make bricks without straw. This was not looked on as an act of statesmanship nor was he regarded as one who understood how to deal with the problem. If this discussion is treated from a realistic point of view and not from a party point of view, it should do good. If this Debate results in more rapid steps towards the fulfilment of our desires, then it will have been worth while
I wish to say how profoundly I agree with many of the statements made by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson). I agree that nutrition has been improving steadily, but I would point out that the improvement in the children during the years since the war has been really extraordinary. I have travelled in other countries in Europe since the war, and I have looked at the children, particularly in France, Switzerland, Roumania and Germany. I must say that I have never seen in any other country such bonny children as we have here.
The hon. Lady pointed out, with great truth, that the recovery in France recently has been very extraordinary, and that a certain amount of nourishing food can be obtained there even by the working classes. I would remind her, however, that in France and most of the other countries of Europe the workers have to make use of a much higher proportion of their wages to get sufficient food than is the case in this country. Unless something like three-quarters of the wages was spent on food in France, at any rate until quite recently, a sufficient amount of food was not easily obtainable In our approach to the important question of food, we must realise that the situation is not confined to this country. There is a world shortage of food, and we must all be affected by it. There is a hold-up of food production as a result of the war, and there is an increasing world population. The less highly developed countries are now less ready to suffer privations than before the war, and they are demanding their right to a fair share of the world's supplies. The fact that the average age of death in New Zealand was 67, whereas in some Eastern countries until recently it was nearer 30, shows how bad must have been the living conditions in those countries and how short they were of food. As a country, we must not be too greedy. We must take account of the needs of other countries, and not demand more than our fair share of the world supplies.
The question that now arises is how we are faring. By rationing of food we have provided to some extent fair shares for all, and by food subsidies on some of the most important foods we have been able to ensure that these foods are within the reach of even the poorest section of the community. Since the war and during the war great things have been happening in the distribution of food, as compared with pre-war. About one-fifth of the people are now getting less food than before the war, and about two-fifths are about the same, but the remaining two-fifths, who were very badly fed before the war, are now receiving much more food. As a result, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Battersea (Mrs. Ganley) has pointed out, the health of our people has, on the whole, been extraordinarily well maintained.
I am not forgetful that at the present moment there is a very high incidence of tuberculosis, but this is probably due to the fact that the disease is much more frequently recognised than it was before the war. There is no clearevidence that the death rate from tuberculosis is increasing. It is the death rate that is the really important guide as to. the nutrition of the people. During the first world war, Denmark which we all know is a great country for producing milk, bacon and milk products, exported a great deal of its food. Then, in 1917, with the intensification of the submarine campaign, these exports suddenly ceased. The result was that whereas before 1917 the death rate from tuberculosis steadily went up, after these exports ceased the death rate rapidly went down.
Some 2½ years ago, as Members will remember, there appeared a letter in one of the lesser-known medical journals, called "Dying England." It was written by Dr. Bicknell. It began by saying "England is dying from starvation." This article was hailed as a godsend by Members opposite, and was quoted throughout the country. I very much doubt whether Members opposite maintain today that England is a dying nation, because today the health of our people is better than it has ever been.
I believe that the most important factor is food supplies. I have been most interested in reading the White Paper on Food Consumption Levels in the United Kingdom. On the whole, it is most reassuring. However, I am a little unhappy about two things. I am wondering whether we are getting quite enough vitamins and fats. I learn from this document that the fats we are now obtaining are some 16 per cent. below pre-war.
The one thing we must all be very glad about is the satisfactory condition of the milk supplies. We are now drinking 55 per cent. more liquid milk than pre-war. I am quite ready to admit that this is in part due to the fact that milk is no longer used to the same extent in making butter and cheese, but there is no doubt that from the dietetic point of view it is much more economical to drink liquid milk than to turn milk into butter, cheese and cream. We must be grateful in these days to the domestic cow, which is able to produce from grass or hay, containing no fat whatsoever, butter fat in great quantity. The domestic cow must form a good example to the groundnut scheme in efficiency.
I maintain that this document indicates very clearly that, except perhaps for vitamins and fats, we are doing very well and I am encouraged in that view by the experience of Switzerland during the war. In 1940, Switzerland, a country of four million people, surrounded by countries at war, with whom it was difficult to trade, came to the conclusion that they were likely to be very short of food. They set up a Federal Commission on Food under the chairmanship of Professor Fleisch. They determined on strict rationing. They had black bread in rationed quantities and—I would stress this—one and a half pounds of meat a month, an occasional egg and very little milk.
But what they did was to develop their fruit and vegetable growing industry. When I went there for the first time after the war, in 1946, I was impressed by the number of young fruit trees which had been recently planted, and the excellent quality of fruit as well as the large quantity of vegetables that had been grown. People then got a good deal of green vegetables and they had, roughly, about one pound of potatoes a day per head. The total number of calories right through the war years in Switzerland averaged only 2,160, compared with our present day calorie figure of 2,980.
The result of this was that there was no deterioration of health at all; there was a slight increase of indigestion and influenza, but there were no epidemics of disease, and much less appendicitis. People were strong and healthy, and the increase of weight and height in the children was greater than ever before. Professor Fleisch put this down to the absence of meat in large quantities and to the large quantity of vegetables eaten during the war and also to the frequent meals, of small amount.
I wish we were taking more fresh fruit in this country. According to the figures in the report on the Food Consumption Levels in the United Kingdom we have increased our vegetable supply, compared with pre-war, by 10 per cent., but have reduced by 8 per cent. the amount of fruit which is eaten. I wish my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary would assure the House that we are doing all we can to increase the quantity of vegetables and fruit used in this country. I hope she is exercising her mind about the marketing of these important food products, because to my knowledge apples were rotting on trees and on the ground in the countryside this year. Even the apples which had been gathered could not be sold at any price at all. These are such valuable protective foods, containing vitamins in some quantity, that I ask my right hon. Friend whether something cannot be done to increase the supply of these to the general public.
This report, which was placed in our hands a few days ago, shows that thanks to the excellent work of the Ministry of Food the amounts of necessary foods provided for ordinary people in this country are approximately what they need and that they have a fair share of the foods that are available to the world today.
The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) has addressed his mind to this problem from the medical point of view in which he is well versed. I was concerned, however, when he seemed to recommend to this country a diet under which we would eat less meat. He said that this was a reassuring document, but I am wondering whether it is not a little too reassuring. Comparing it with the last document produced by the Ministry of Food on food consumption, which was for 1947, we find that the British people are eating 20 lb. less meat per head per year. We do not need to copy what Switzerland did during the war through force of circumstances, because the results now show that Switzerland has had to change her policy entirely.
We here in this country are eating 40 lb. a head less than before the war, and that is a serious deficiency, especially hard on the working population. In my constituency it is not easy at the present time for agricultural workers to do a full day's work on the small amount of meat which they get. The right hon. Lady who is to reply to the Debate, will no doubt say that they are getting extra cheese. The cheese which she looks on with such favour is inadequate after a hard day's work, and we have to remember, too, that the extra cheese only comes at certain times in the year.
The other part of our diet with which I am concerned is sugar. It is very unsatisfactory today that we are eating 18 lb. less per head of sugar. If we as a nation could increase our meat and sugar supplies, there would be a tremendous increase in production by all members of the community. What are other countries doing in this respect? In meat before the war Denmark was the only country that ate more meat than we did. Now not only Denmark but Switzerland, France and Sweden are all able to eat more meat. I think I heard one hon. Gentleman opposite remark "Only certain sections." May I remind him of his own document.
If the hon. Gentleman would allow me I want to answer a remark made sotto voce by an hon. Member opposite. As I was saying, I would remind the hon. Gentleman of his own document. It is entitled "Fact" and is a Labour Party bulletin for October, 1949. It has examined this question of meat, and it says there:
Although the consumption of meat in most continental countries is still below its pre-war level, only in the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, and Bizonia has consumption fallen to a relatively greater extent than in the United Kingdom.
I am quoting from" Fact," which is amongst the bulletins issued by the Labour Party, and it is one to which I am sure the hon. Member for Barking will attach some importance. Only in those four countries is the position worse, and while I do not want to introduce the word "indictment" into this Debate, surely it goes to show that it is a cause of great concern to this country that other parts of Europe are getting better meat rations than we in this country at the present time. I do not know if the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) wants to put his question now?
The hon. Gentleman has got an easy remedy. He can leave the Labour Party and form a medical party of his own.
Why is it these other countries are doing better in meat than this country? The fact from which we cannot get away is that all the countries used Marshall Aid dollars for obtaining feedingstuffs. but the British Government have stated that that is not a course which they can recommend. So far as I know—and we have been asking questions in this House about it up to now—the British Government have not used any Marshall Aid dollars for feedingstuffs. It was in July, 1948, that the policy of the British Government in this matter was given to us by the Minister of Food, whose absence from today's Debate owing to sudden departure we all note, and which some of us may regret. He said: "I had a calculation made, and it is the case today that for every £ spent on the importation of coarse grains we get only about a third as much meat—animal protein—as for a £ spent on importing meat … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 12th July, 1948; Vol. 453, c. 879-90.]
That policy, in my view, decided the attitude of the present Government to- wards this question of future meat supplies, and because they did not import feedingstuffs, we are now feeling the effect in the fall in consumption of 40 lb. per head compared with pre-war years.
It is a very serious position when we look at the actual feedingstuffs situation. I do not like boring the House with statistics, but I should like to give these figures and the House can see the matter in its true perspective. Taking the main cereal feedingstuffs of barley, oats and maize, in pre-war days we used to import some 3¼ million tons during the first 10 months of the year. I have to use the period of 10 months in order to get comparable figures. In 1948 we imported two million tons; this year 950,000 tons. In other words, we are getting only half as much cereal feedingstuffs as we did last year, and our present figure is less than one-third of what it was pre-war. I do not attach too much importance to cereal feedingstuffs. We have to look at the protein feedingstuffs and see what the position is there. We used to import before the war 1½ million tons of protein feedingstuffs. In 1948 we imported 700,000 tons, which is less than half, and this year it is down to 500,000 tons, or less than one-third of what it used to be. That is the reason at the present time for the great shortage of meat in this country.
It is not only a question of imports. I do not think the people of this country realise that the fall has been far greater in home-produced meat than in imported meat. The figures show that pre-war we slaughtered 400,000 more cattle, 4 million more sheep and 4 million more pigs. We get the figures from the statistical summary which show where the failure is and the short fall in imports is about 223,000 tons. The short fall in home-produced meat is something in the region of 300,000 to 400,000 tons. As I see it, we have got to tackle this problem and put it right. Sir Henry Turner, in a speech at the farmers club last week, said we required in order to feed our people properly an extra 600,000 tons of meat. I ask the Government to devise a policy that will secure an extra quantity of meat.
Let me deal first of all with imports. I am not satisfied that we could not get more meat imported into this country.
I should like the right hon. Lady to explain something that has puzzled many, many people. When we are supposed to be so short of imported meat how is it that we are able to store meat at a cost of £3 10s. per ton in 13 liners, and in addition are, I imagine, using the 30 new cold stores which were built during the war as well as in the great bulk of the cold storage capacity of this country? I believe that we could get more meat from abroad and turn it over more quickly. I personally believe—this is the only part of what I have to say to which some hon. Members opposite may take violent objection—that State trading is hampering the business of getting meat. I believe that if we gave British meat buyers greater freedom of buying, within certain—
I am not talking about dollars. If they were told to spend "so much," I believe that we would get more meat for the country. It is wrong that these British buyers can, and do, buy meat for every other country in the world, but not for Britain.
Let me leave what is probably the more contentious part of my subject and get to the part on which I believe I shall get more agreement. We have to see that 400,000 extra cattle are produced in this country. This is a task on which all parties must give their co-operation and advice. I am sure that among the 16 million acres now classed as marginal land, we could obtain some 1,500,000 acres to produce those 400,000 cattle. What is required is assistance and encouragement, not as in the present marginal grant scheme merely for annual expenditure, but for putting down great covered yards in those marginal areas, for encouragement to farmers to produce cattle at a rather younger age than they do at present, and for the diversion of some of the upland farms from milk production to beef.
Let us see exactly what is going to happen. The hon. Member for Southwestern Norfolk (Mr. Dye), who is showing great interest in what I say, will know the position. By 1951 we shall have all the liquid milk, and more, than we require. Then we shall have to make a decision whether we are going in for manufacturing milk or for beef. What is the position? The upland farmers have probably a yield of something in the region of 450 gallons of milk per cow. I believe it would be far better if they were to go in for large-scale beef production.
I believe that the February price review is the best way of getting the true relation between price and commodity. I am certain that there is great scope for the production of stores and beef in the upland areas where, at the present time, farmers are uneconomically producing milk. That is my belief, and other hon. Members can make their contributions on the point. It is clear that there are vast areas of England which at one time were occupied by farmers looking after cattle and were peopled so to speak by cattle, and which are now derelict. That is a great waste of a national asset and we should not tolerate it.
I would say a short word on sugar. At a time when world production is higher than it was before the war we are receiving less sugar in this country. Our ration has, in fact, been cut. I want to ask the right hon. Lady to explain why that is and why, at the producers' conference, when the West Indians said that with a guarantee they would largely increase their production, they have been very disappointed? I am certain that if we wished we could produce far more meat and far more sugar. [Interruption.] I would ask hon. Gentlemen on all sides of the House to try to bring less party politics and more unity into this question of getting more meat and more sugar. [Laughter.] I have tried very hard to avoid making any attack upon hon. Gentlemen opposite. I could do so if I wished, but I believe this matter is vitally urgent for the future of this country. I believe that the time has come when we should call a conference of home and Empire farmers together on the question of securing more meat and more sugar. Just as our farmers receive a guaranteed price from the February price review, so I believe we could work out a guaranteed price for Empire and home farmers. I hope that the Government will act quickly in this matter.
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) except to make one or two comments on what he said. To begin with, he states that the document before us is a little too reassuring. I dare say that statistics, however accurately presented, can be twisted to some extent and that one cannot pay too much regard to statistics, however well they are presented. In the years before the war, if such a document as this had been brought forward to us we should not have felt we could rely upon its figures, because the average consumption per head of the population of butchers' meat—about which the hon. Member has just expressed so great a concern—simply meant that some were able to hog at the table and others got nothing at all. That is why I think that this document is a little more reassuring, because the change that has taken place in the nation ensures that of butchers' meat, each shall have his or her fair share.
I was a little dismayed to hear the noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) tell us how the mothers could have the dripping for their children in the old days. It reminded me of the story of the lady belonging to the party opposite, who went round during the First World War telling the women what good soup could be made from a cod's head. At question time at one of her meetings an old lady very timorously arose and said, "We are making soup from the cod's head, but who is getting away with the cod?" When the noble Lady talked of the dripping that was available, I wondered who was getting away with the sirloin.
On reading this document we can at least say that the average distribution is much fairer and that we really can place emphasis on the "average." The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) must have missed this very important sentence in the document:
The change in the composition of the national diet so far as its energy value is concerned since 1946 may be summed up by saying that the rise in the consumption of butter, margarine, lard and sugar has made good the loss of calories resulting from a reduced meat consumption.
When I hear hon. Gentlemen opposite talk, as they so often do, about the grand time that people are having in other countries, I wonder where they make their habitation when they visit those countries. Many people visiting this country and knowing of nothing other than the Dorchester, the Mayfair and so on, can can go back saying what a marvellous country Great Britain is.
This has been said so often that it really warrants an answer. When we travel to other countries we do not rely only on our own experiences. We go round asking questions of the people in their homes. I lived for six weeks in the Baltic on a small boat. My wife has shopped in exactly the same way as any other housewife would have shopped in Denmark, Sweden and Schleswig-Holstein, and there was no question whatever that from the points of view of price, amount and quality in their ordinary cottage homes those people were living far better than people in England.
My reply to that is that I have been in Norway, Sweden, France and Switzerland, and I have repeated my visits to some of those countries. I have gone at my own expense, which will show hon. Members that I had to live rather humbly and among the people of those countries. I wonder how much butter mothers are able to purchase in France when it is 7s. 6d. a pound against 1s. 6d. here. How much butter are my Scotswomen in Norway—they are married to Norwegians and I have met them—purchasing there? They tell me they are purchasing none because it is 5s. a pound. They tell me that they seldom get eggs and that they get butchers' meat perhaps once in six weeks. How much do the peasant people of Switzerland get? I will tell hon. Gentlemen—an amount corresponding to the number of nylons a British woman gets in relation to exported nylons. In Switzerland everything is also for export. Even in Switzerland butter is 5s. a pound—
Not per kilo. On my last visit to Switzerland I felt tempted to bring back some food, but when I learnt that tea was 12s. a pound and butter 6s. a pound—at that date—not per kilo but per pound—I can assure hon. Members that I brought back a very small parcel indeed. However, I do not intend to allow the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) to take my speech from me through his interruption.
While this document is very important and statistically correct, and while we are all very anxious that our people shall have a very high standard of nutrition, we have to avoid malnutrition, and that is what we must set ourselves against in future. I consider that the more money we leave in the hands of people the less fear there is of malnutrition. Unlike hon. Members opposite, who seem to place a great deal of importance on the amount of the supply, I think that more important is the availability of the supply to the people. The supply has been more available to the people in the last two years than ever it was in the past.
The noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead spoke about mothers and their children. Never before has a baby come into the world without some preparation in the way of saving for months beforehand for the doctor's fee. Miners have told me how they had to put half-crowns into a dish for months beforehand and then, when they had gathered a little pile, unemployment might occur and absorb what they had saved for the arrival of the baby. Now a young mother can go into hospital for her confinement and all the fees are paid for her.
Even national dried milk of excellent nutritional value is provided for the baby at 10½ d. a tin. Hon. Members opposite would like to claim credit for all these things—I grant that the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) is interested in the milk scheme—but I would point out that there used to be distinctions between the children obtaining the milk. What was said was, "Your father is unemployed and therefore you do not pay. Your father is employed and you pay." There grew up among the children a shrinking from taking the milk if their father was unemployed because getting it free seemed to mark them out from the children whose fathers were able to pay for the milk. Believe me, among themselves young children can be pretty good snobs. It was the late Ellen Wilkinson who announced from this Front Bench that on and after 7th August, 1946, all children would have milk as a natural right.
I wonder if hon. Members opposite will be able to continue our achievements, because I know that all the factors which influenced malnutrition are with them. For instance, if the rents go up, is there not likely to be less available money to spend in the shops? Will not all the people who want to raise the rents of properties and amend the Rent Restriction Acts, support hon. Members opposite?
And all the old ladies who hate free milk in the schools and have always told us that it is wasted by the teachers. Will they also support hon. Members opposite? And are not all the people who think our food too cheap and who want the subsidies to go—as the hon. Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Tweedsmuir) wrote in an article the other day—the many hon. Members opposite, who have told us they want the food subsidies to go, and all the people who want food to rise 100 per cent. in price—will they support hon. Members opposite at the poll?
How then can they square their pretence of wishing to see a continuance of the virility of the children and the mothers of our nation with what we know they actually stand for? I would hesitate to say to hon. Members opposite that they would be so cruel as to wish for unemployment, but statements have been made here and there which lead us to believe that there are many in their ranks, and many supporting them, who feel that a little competition—11 men for 10 jobs-would be a good thing. If we are to have that, how can we have a full policy of nutrition? How can hon. Members opposite criticise this document or anything else that this Government has done?
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) because she has made a speech which she will give 40 or 50 times at the General Election. However, I agree with her in welcoming this Command Paper and the information it gives. I am glad that it does not say too much about calories because they can be muddling things, just as they have muddled the hon. Member for Coatbridge. After all, they are only a way in which to measure the energy value of food. One cannot get any nourishment out of calories any more than one can get nourishment out of a tape measure. What is nourishing is a balanced diet.
It needs a certain number of calories to give an adequate diet, but it must be composed of all the necessary things, such as fats, sugar, carbohydrates, proteins, salts and vitamins. If there is any deficiency in one of those things, one will not get a well nourished body or good nutrition, no matter how many calories there are. One could give a diet of double the number of calories we are getting at present but, if there is a deficit of carbohydrates or fat, they will result in the death of the individual and not in a healthy body.
The pattern we have developed in this country over many years has provided a diet suitable for the climatic conditions and the industrialisation that we have here, and this Command Paper shows certain deficiencies in that diet as well as certain additions to it. I shall deal first with the additions which, in respect of calcium and iron, are extraordinarily good, and I hope will so continue. The Mellanbys who between the wars worked in Sheffield, found that there was a great deficiency of calcium in the diet of our children and nursing mothers—in fact of everybody. And calcium was first added to the diet of our school children and nursing mothers by the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and by Sir Kingsley Wood in the milk scheme.
The good teeth of our young people and their continued increase in weight and height, and also the fact that there is no rickets in this country is chiefly due to the work of the Mellanbys and the help given by the then Minister and by every Minister of Health since. However the present Minister of Health, by destroying the priority scheme, has done his best to do some harm to the teeth of the children. [An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."]
I remember during the war seeing in a flour mill, shovels of calcium being added to every sack of flour. I believe that is still going on. When one of my constituents complained that he thought flour was being adulterated by chalk, I wrote to the right hon. Lady and I received from her a most remarkable reply which was almost equal to the judgment of Solomon. She said that it was not being adulterated by chalk but fortified by calcium.
As regards grave defects, the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) has mentioned our losses in vitamins, fruit, animal fats and animal proteins. If we are to get the most nutritional and attractive diet, we must have more meat, more animal fats, and more animal proteins. It is essential to make the diet attractive because, however good food is, if it is unattractive and not eaten it can be of no value whatever.
The hon. Member for South Battersea (Mrs. Ganley) mentioned some vital statistics in speaking about the infantile mortality figures and the maternity mortality rate. We all rejoice that these rates come down every year, but the hon. Lady said that this was the best year for both rates. As a matter of fact, the hon. Lady could have said exactly the same thing every year in this House. She ought to have mentioned other factors which have helped to make that rate come down. Not only food but also—
The hon. Lady has spoken in the Debate and there is not much time. Penicillin and sulph-onilamide have made their contribution to the constant downward trend of those rates.
The hon. Member for Barking, who made a useful and constructive contribution to this Debate, spoke about tuberculosis. There is no doubt that the tuberculosis death rate in England and Wales is slightly declining at the moment, in which we all rejoice, but the rate of notification of that disease is increasing and this should cause us all much concern. When one comes to Scotland, one finds that the mortality rate there is increasing—
—and the Secretary of State has set up a commission to investigate the increase. Although there has been an increase in tuberculosis notification in this country, we find that in France, where no food is rationed, the curve has already started to go down, not only in mortality but also in notifiable T.B. Then, since the war we have had in this country two of the worst epidemics of infantile paralysis we have ever had. There has been little research into that disease, and I ask the right hon. Lady whether she thinks diet has anything to do with infantile paralysis? In her view, could the shortage of animal proteins and fats have anything to do with those epidemics?
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the infantile paralysis figures for the United States are much greater per 1,000 of the population than they are here, and yet in the United States there is ample food?
I know that, but there is evidently some factor in this country which has caused us to have two epidemics as suddenly as that, and within such a short time and to such a great extent. I want to know if food has anything to do with this. I hope that consideration will be given also to the question of food poisoning. We have never had so many refrigerators as we have today. Whilst the handling of food is not in any way ideal, it is certainly better than in the past, yet we have never had as much food poisoning as we have at present. Does the right hon. Lady think that this is because nowadays food is probably more adulterated than in the past; or can she give us any other reason?
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us the calorific value of the diets which heavy workers—farm workers, miners and bricklayers—are now getting. Does she think that they are getting a big enough diet for the hard work they have to do? Is the lower production in the pits and in building in any way due to the fact that these workers require more food?
I know of that statement, but with what year are the figures being compared: with 1938, 1942, or when? It should not be overlooked that there is now a greater amount of mechanisation, which should have made output go up out of all proportion.
The right hon. Lady will say that the nutrition and health of our people are good, but I believe that both could be better. In every country outside the Iron Curtain rationing has now been swept away, and I am quite sure that if we get rid of rationing, as we must at some early date, and if the private trader is allowed to go out and buy the foods which our people need, not only will nutrition improve but the health of our people will improve also.
I am very glad to have the opportunity of taking part in this important Debate. My interjection about medical statistics was due to the fact that this Debate is one which pre-eminently ought to be kept as far above the ordinary party level as possible. This is a matter with which every citizen and every Member of Parliament, on whatever side of the House he sits, is intimately concerned.
I want to draw attention to the fact that the White Paper on "Food consumption levels in the United Kingdom"—I have heard all the speeches up to now, but as far as I am aware, this fact has not been mentioned—sets out the position regarding the distribution, and not the consumption, of food. It shows what food is available. It must be remembered that the present situation with regard to what food is consumable, is very different from what it was in, for instance, the inter-war years. In those years there was food for those who could buy it, but there were Very large numbers of people who could not buy it because they did not have the money. That is a very vital difference between then and now.
Take, for instance, the well-known fact that in the early part of this century a very great deal of poverty, malnutrition and disease arose from these conditions of poverty, and that now, when everyone, because we have for all intents and purposes full employment, has the money with which to make purchases, those conditions do not arise in the same way. Having the money to buy the food is just as important as having the food available.
Listening to the speeches this afternoon I could not help feeling that some hon. Members, at any rate, do not realise how very poor were many of our people in the inter-war years. I remember a little street called Ethelm Street, behind the Union Jack Club, opposite Waterloo Station. Possibly by this time that street has been renamed or there has been a reconstruction; I have not been there for a year or two. When I used to be a school doctor in that neighbourhood before the First World War and visited people in that street, it was commonplace to see children running about in no other clothing than a shirt and to go into houses and find the utmost destitution and poverty inside. As far as I am aware, those conditions are not now found anywhere in the London area. Conditions of that kind are a measure of the poverty which then existed.
At that time I was one of the first people in London to conduct a food experiment in the Addington Street school for the London County Council. A very large proportion of the children were extraordinarily badly fed. When they were given good food they did not at first know how to digest it, and actually for the first week or two went down in weight and not upward. Those conditions help to illustrate the distance we have since travelled.
Much of the London County Council school feeding which has been done in past years has had admirable results. I wish to point out the changing conditions
over the years and to remind hon. Members of the reports of the investigation carried out by Mr. Seebohm Rowntree and recorded in his extraordinarily valuable book, "Poverty and Progress." Let me give a quotation relating to the conditions of people in the town of York, whose position was paralleled, unfortunately, in many towns and villages all over the country, in those not so long ago days of the 1930's. The book was published in 1935. This is what Mr. Rowntree said:
Thirty per cent. of the workers have incomes so small that it is beyond their means to live even at the stringently economic level adopted as a minimum in this survey…. Almost half the children of working-class parents spend the first five years of their lives in poverty and almost a third of them live below the poverty line for ten years or more.
Those conditions have now disappeared—I hope, permanently.
In 1935, in the area where my duties as a candidate took me in the county of Brecon, I inquired what amount of meat the miners were then getting. I was told that the weekly joint for the families of miners in many homes cost 1s. 6d. They certainly did not have a very large quantity of meat, and to some of them no doubt this represented the dinner they had on Sunday.
How different are conditions today. Young people of the generation of the 1920's can hardly believe how badly placed were their parents in the years which have gone. Within a few years the young people will look back on records and such things as medical reports of school doctors, the reports of Mr. Seebohm Rowntree's book and things of that kind, almost as fairy tales; yet they are true, and those conditions might even return if the deplorable advice given by the hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey and Otley (Colonel Stoddart-Scott) were taken and food rationing was abolished. Food rationing, price control and strict control are absolutely essential in order to maintain the nutrition of this country at the proper level. We do not live in a vacuum; we live in a world in which there are patches of poverty where the demand for food is much greater than here.
I was talking to an eminent Indian statesman not long ago—it was a private meeting—and he said to me, "How wonderful it is that during this first year of the liberation of India we have been able to give all the people of India a handful of rice every day, and that there has been no famine." Think of the difference between that level and the level at which the people of this country live. We are living at a very high standard of nutrition. The vigour and vitality of the nation are very great, and food rationing, price control and subsidies are all necessary in order to maintain that standard. The policy is a very good one, and I believe that the results, as shown in this White Paper on Food Consumption Levels in the United Kingdom are of the utmost possible importance.
Before I sit down, I should like to ask my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary if she can answer one or two questions. Can she say what is the condition of different groups of the population as regards nutrition, and, if that is not known, could a survey be made to determine it? As to the condition of the children, I do not think there is much doubt about that being very good. Could she also say what is the condition of workers in factories, in agriculture, and, particularly, the condition of old people and sick people living on pensions and allowances, either in their own homes, in institutions, or who are being looked after by relations? Is there a difference between the workers in the towns and in the countryside?
I want to have the technique of the Rowntree investigation of York applied to other sections of the population in order that we may get a view, not only of distribution, but of the effects of consumption. I believe it would show that the people of this country are at a higher standard of nutrition than the people of any other country in Europe, and that that high standard can gradually be increased in future as the admirable policy of this Government over the years produces even better results than it has up to the present time.'
The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) finished on a note which I hesitate to call complacency, although it might almost be called that because he said that the standard of nutrition would be likely to increase. I want to call the attention of the House to the recent interim report issued by the Food Committee of O.E.E.C. on the food position of the world, particularly as it affects Great Britain and the West. The report makes it perfectly clear that if we are to maintain even our present standard of life we must double the food production of this country and of Western Europe. That is the challenge we have to meet, and it is a very serious challenge. There is no ground whatever for complacency by any party in the State. This is a very important subject, and I agree that it goes far beyond party prejudices.
There are three small points I wish to make. The first is that many hon. Members have referred to the fairness of rationing. But there is one section of the community—and in my opinion, perhaps the most important section—to whom that fairness is not really so apparent. I refer to the housewife and the mother of children because, as a father and as a husband I know—and I am perfectly certain other hon. Members will agree with me—that it is always the mother who gives up her food to the children, and, quite often, to her husband. If there is one person in the community who is not getting a fair deal under the rationing system it is the housewife and mother in this country.
Secondly, I want to put in a plea—as I have done before—for the agriculture worker. It is a special plea, but those who live in the towns must remember that the agricultural worker does not get the advantages of factory canteens, and the like. Therefore, I think it is only fair that he should be allowed to draw such extra rations as he may have himself. I should also like to ask the right hon. Lady to see if in the country districts she cannot improve the distribution and selectivity- of these particular rations for the hard-working men in the agricultural industry.
Finally, whatever the nutrition standard is today, we need a change in our diet; we need something a little more exciting. During the war we found, when we wanted to give a little bit of incentive and encouragement to our fighting men, that if we gave them exciting kinds of food—that is, in the gastronomic sense, of course—it made them feel fit again. I hope that can be done. Surely, one way in which it could be done, even if we cannot provide extra rations, is by better cooking. On that simple plea, which is certainly a non-party point—and I hope my wife will not be angry with me for making it—I shall conclude my speech. I believe that if we could only manage to improve the standard of cooking in this country we might then, perhaps, enjoy our food as well as just eat it.
We have had not only an interesting Debate, but a businesslike Debate in which the speeches have been commendably short, and I shall do my best to follow that example. Perhaps it is due to the fact that we have had several of the ladies speaking, and, contrary to what is usually said by unkind critics, if we want a really long-winded speaker in this House we shall never find one with long hair and skirts.
I say that it has been an interesting Debate because a number of interesting aspects of this matter have been broached, and also because hon. Members have been—I think with great success—attempting to avoid the more blatant forms of electoral argument, which are a great temptation to us all, because with the approach of the Election the desire to put one's best case forward from the party point of view is almost insuperable. But as was said by several hon. Members, this matter transcends many of the issues we shall have to raise on the hustings The hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Guest) was very obviously torn between the two points of view. His sentiments were most admirably expressed—his desire for a non-party line or argument—in the opening sentences of his speech, but I am afraid that the Old Adam rather got the better of him towards the end of his remarks. If the same thing happens in my case, I trust that the House will regard it with toleration because I am a naturally argumentative sort of person, and this is a subject in which I take a very great deal of interest.
I think we were all indebted to the hon. Lady the Member for South Battersea (Mrs. Ganley) for her opening remarks. If I may say so, I thought she chose a somewhat awkward example from the point of view of her own case in quoting a young Dutchman whom she had met on the train. I was looking up the Dutch vital statistics, and really they do not bear out the suggestion that all the food in Holland is only eaten by very rich people who can afford to go to great lengths on the black market. Otherwise, the whole of Holland must consist of such persons. The vital statistics of Holland are not only resplendent, but show a very great improvement on those of almost all other countries in Europe in recent years. The Dutch birthrate, which in 1943 was 23, is today 27.8—a great deal above anything that we can show. The Dutch death rate, which was 10 in 1943, is 8.1, and the Dutch tuberculosis rate, which was 70 in 1943. is 37 today.
These points show that whatever the nutrition policy of Holland may be, it has not been unsuccessful, because if we could show such results we should be justifiably proud. It is not possible to suggest that the food system of all other countries has been unsuccessful because the figures for many other countries show very great advances in the post-war years. It is in fact a common phenomenon of the post-war years in Western Europe that there has been a recovery. There has been a striking recovery in respect of many forms of illness, particularly tuberculosis, to which I would particularly draw the attention of the hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) because she, too, lapsed a little from the strict line of absolute non-party objectivity to which it has been suggested we should address ourselves.
Indeed I will. The hon. Lady is very rash. I shall also quote some of the figures from other countries and the figures, say, of the constituency of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food, who is unfortunately absent from our counsels. I shall quote many things. There are many crows which I wish to pick with the hon. Lady but I shall refrain. I shall not descant on the housing situation in Glasgow and how much better it would have been had she, during her term in Glasgow, maintained the housing rate which the Moderates maintained when they were in office.
I think that the figures will show that during my period of con- venership of housing, I completed 4,000 houses a year, and that the average for the 15 years before my convenership was 2,500.
The hon. Lady forgot to say that the figure of the outgoing Moderates was 6,000 houses per year, and that the 4,000 houses per year which she completed was due to the hangover—the run-off—of the Moderate programme, and that as soon as it ran off the figure fell to some 2,500 houses.
Surely the hon. Lady is not going to say that the whole of Glasgow Corporation was dancing attendance at the beck and call of any Government whatever, any more than was the L.C.C. when the present Lord President of the Council took vigorous action in the case of Waterloo Bridge? However, this is a Debate not on housing but on nutrition, and I think I have dealt quite sufficiently with the hon. Lady so far as housing is concerned.
I now turn to some of the other points about which she seems to be anxious. Let us take some of the matters which she was pressing so vigorosly upon the House. There are the statistics in relation to schoolchildren. I have here a very interesting book which you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will not, in your neutral position, have seen—the "Speakers' Handbook" of the Labour Party. It draws attention to the improvement in heights and weights of the schoolchildren in Glasgow, which will be a subject not unfamiliar to the hon. Member for Coatbridge. These illustrate very well the continuity of the progress which has been made during recent years, which is the argument I intended to bring forward. This continuity of progress was stressed by my noble Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson). It is well worth stressing and repeating that the whole of that credit is certainly not due to one party or the other; it is due to long-continued efforts extending over many years.
When I find this little book emphasising so strongly the improvement in heights and weights of Glasgow children in the years 1938-48, I am very glad to note that such an improvement has taken place. The five-year-olds are one inch higher and two pounds heavier and the 13-year-olds are one and a half inches higher and seven pounds heavier. Hon. Members opposite are of course entitled to rejoice, as are we, at these figures, but it is a pity that we could not get the same exuberance and enthusiasm from them in the years 1928-38. The five-year-olds during that period were 1.1 inches higher and 1.3 lb. heavier; the 13-year-old boys were 1.2 inches higher and 4 lb. heavier, and the girls—this will be of special interest to the hon. Lady—were 2.3 inches higher and 8.7 lb. heavier. I simply say that these figures are evidence of a continuing improvement. It is very rash of any particular party to try—to use the hon. Lady's vigorous expression—to "hog" the whole of the credit for them.
The hon. Member is quite wrong. He is quoting a certain echo from Lord Boyd Orr's book in which he pointed out how very great had been the improvement from 1935, when his first survey was made, to 1939, when his second survey was made. There are points in regard to which there has been a recession since that time, notably in respect of tuberculosis, on which I shall have something to say to the hon. Lady, who seems to challenge those figures.
I am under a pledge to leave the right hon. Lady at least half an hour in which to reply. I have done my best to squeeze up my remarks because of the interesting nature of the Debate, and I do not wish to spend too much time on interruptions such as that which the hon. Member has just made.
One of the strong points of the argument which has been brought forward is that a great improvement has taken place in the dairy produce side of our diet. It is admitted on all sides that our general diet is only just up to pre-war. Yet, as one of my hon. Friends has said, a much greater effort is being called for from the people than was the case pre-war. On every side we are being adjured to work harder so there should be if anything a higher intake of food than we were getting before the war. In fact, it is just under that of pre-war and I think that most of us would say it is not equal in quality to the pre-war diet. That is one of the points which is generally conceded.
It is said, however, that there is a great improvement in the case of milk. The White Paper refers to an increase of consumption of liquid milk of 55 per cent. and of dairy products as a whole of 30 per cent. I am not quite sure whether that includes butter. It is well worth noting that the number of cows in milk has not greatly increased and that the production of milk in this country has really not increased substantially. All that milk was being consumed pre-war in some way or other.
No. The hon. Member is a little optimistic about the number of pigs in this country before the war. We had before the war, in 1933-39, 3,270,000 cows in milk, in 1945-46, about 3,540,000 cows in milk, and an output of milk in 1938-39 of 1,463,000 gallons, and in 1945-46, 1,444,000 gallons. It is true that a much larger amount of milk has been sold off the farms, but that is simply a statistical point. The annual output of milk has not, I think, increased so much as these figures in the White Paper would suggest and it is also true to say that some other valuable products have been lost.
It is not enough to say that butter has been substituted by that delightful category in the White Paper, "fats and oils." If any of us, having a bazaar in our constituency, put up a pound of butter for auction, we will have a very much more vigorous response than if we put up a pound of fat. The enthusiasm of the buying public is very much more marked in the one case than in the other, and its effect on production is also very much better.
Our calorie consumption is certainly high. It may be said to be adequate. It was 2,890 in 1948 and 2,998 in 1948-49. I was looking up some comparable figures from overseas. The Nigerian figures are 2,639 in Beda and 2,947 in Zuru. I apologise for mentioning these places, but they are on the other side of Africa from the one where the dispute is going on just now. Still the Nigerian farmer has got 2,947 calories and it cannot be said that any effort is being exacted from him comparable to that which is being-exacted from the people of this country.
I think that a more generous as well as a more stimulating diet is certainly one of the desiderata. Any complacency, which was detected by certain speakers on this side in the speeches from the other side of the House, is out of place, so long as our diet remains as it is today. I do not wish to do more than mention that because the need for further stimulating foods, particularly meat, was stressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead and by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Mahon (Mr. Turton).
I would say a little more however about disease and the mortality rate, for that is in a way the acid test of the whole thing. We can argue this way or that way on the adequacy of the diet and the lassitude or vigour of those engaged in it; but I quite agree that at the end of the day the vital statistics must be the final test. In fact hon. and right hon. Members are entitled to take credit for the falls in several of the figures. Some of them are however undoubtedly due to the very powerful new drugs which have been brought into play.
There are the sulfa drugs. The right hon. Lady will remember that long ago in the earliest of her days in the House, when our positions were reversed, we had some argument about whether the sulfa drugs were sufficiently accessible to the ordinary practitioners in their ordinary work. The right hon. Lady may have forgotten it, but it remains very sharply in my mind because I feared there were not enough of these medicaments being made available to our ordinary general practitioners. However, that has all passed. There is no doubt that these powerful drugs are in the hands of the ordinary medical men. and are making a great difference.
Some of the death rates which are certainly not affected by nutrition have fallen very sharply. In cerebro-spinal fever, for instance, the percentage of deaths to certifications was 50 per cent. in 1937 and fell to 18 per cent. in 1947. The percentage of deaths in pneumonia was 17 per cent. of notified cases in 1937 and it came down to 8.9 per cent. in 1945. The percentage death rate of puerperal sepsis, which was 15 per cent. in 1936, fell to 4.6 per cent. in 1945.
These facts of course undoubtedly have something to do with the fall in maternal mortality which has taken place though I think that hon. and right hon. Members are entitled to all the credit which this little book seeks to obtain for that. Again, the rate of infant mortality, for instance, fell between 1935 and 1938 by 7 per cent. and between 1945 and 1948 by 26 per cent. I say that that is a very great thing, for which we should all be grateful. I have the curve here with which I shall not weary the House—that steep fall seemed to begin about 1938, but we may say that the recovery to that steep decline after the interruption of the war years, was a great achievement. I give the Government full credit for it. But the contention which is advanced by many speakers that the whole of the credit is due to the Government is not borne out by the facts.
I have here a very interesting lecture, one of the Milroy lectures, given by a member of the Medical Research Council and published recently in the "British Medical Journal," showing a very remarkable clearing up of tuberculosis in Western Europe since, say 1921. The whole of the black areas, which were areas with a rate over 150 per 100,000 have been almost entirely swept away not merely in most of the Western European countries but in other countries. In the years around 1947 the fall in France particularly has been most spectacular. The rate of decline is greater almost there than anywhere else. The lecturer draws special attention to that and I think it shows that there are lessons to be learned from other countries as well.
These rapid falls which have taken place in other countries are worthy of our attention. What exactly they may be due to, I do not attempt to go into this evening in the short space of time which remains, because I wish to say a word about tuberculosis in our own country. Here again I quote the lecturer. He says:
Since 1941 the tuberculosis death rates in England and Wales have gradually declined though they have not reached the level that would have been expected if pre-war trends had continued uninterrupted.
That is in England and Wales. When he conies to Scotland, of course, he draws a picture with which we are all well acquainted, but which for some reason or other seems to be queried by the hon. Member for Coatbridge. He says:
The tuberculosis trends in Scotland merit particular study as this is the one country which after having been seriously affected by the war, has shown no improvement since the end of the war. There has even been a rise to a rate that was a peak during war time.
I hope that the hon. Lady does not query that.
Yes. I think that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and myself have both for a number of years been very greatly concerned with this subject and particularly its application to Scotland. Neither of us feels very proud of the situation, but I must quote from the latest figures of the Registrar-General on Scottish vital statistics published on the 9th of last month: The deaths from all forms of tuberculosis were 59 per 100,000, seven below that for the third quarter of 1948 and nine below the average of the best five years. For deaths from respiratory tuberculosis, the rate was 51—four below average; and for deaths from other forms of tuberculosis, it was eight—five below average.
Yes, but I think that the hon. Lady is mistaken, first, in confusing the non-pulmonary and pulmonary rate and, secondly, in the undeniable fact that the trends had actually brought the tuberculosis rate in recent years in Scotland above the worst period of 1930-31.
The hon. Lady is a little in error in this matter. She cannot get away with the argument that mass radiography is detecting corpses, because it is not. The death rate is the statistical figure for deaths, and the actual deaths, even in England, remain remarkably high. The deaths in England and Wales in 1946 were 19,365; in 1947 they were 20,156; and in 1948, 19,087. In Scotland, as the hon. Lady well knows, the figures showed a steep and continuing rise and, what is more, they are terribly high as compared with many of the countries quoted by one of my hon. Friends whom the hon. Member for Coatbridge denigrated in rather an off-hand manner.
I promised to give the figures. The figure in Scotland in 1946 was 77; the figure in Amsterdam was 51; the figure in Copenhagen was 44; and the figure in Stockholm was 56. These were the Baltic countries. The hon. Lady said that my hon. Friend did not know anything about the life of the common people there. These are the death rates of the common people. When we come to the death rates for the constituency of the Minister of Food, in 1938 the figure was 82, and in 1946 it was 87.
Does not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that the deaths in Scandinavian countries from respiratory tuberculosis have always been below the death rate in this country, at any rate for many years?
Yes, but I was quoting the fall. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will admit that the fall is important. In Copenhagen the figure is down from 51 to 44, and in Stockholm the figure is down from 94 to 56. In Dundee it had gone up from 82 to 87.
I ought to point out to the hon. Lady that these interruptions delay the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman which, I think, is timed to come to an end by arrangement.
I am most anxious to come to a conclusion. While I was Secretary of State for Scotland the figures were much lower, and the figures which I am quoting are figures which are worse than, those for 1931-32. But, Sir, I have been reminded—and I am indebted to you—that we are under a pledge to bring this discussion to a close in order to allow time for another discussion, which I must say, from every point of view, seems to me an infinitely inferior one to that upon which we are now engaged. However, it no doubt attracts the House more. There is more of the cut and thrust of debate about it.
I only say that the figures in Britain show that many of the important curves of vital statistics have gone down, but that some of the significant curves have remained up; and that the figure for tuberculosis, in particular in Scotland, is higher than it ought to be if the only explanation of our good health was good rations and equal shares for all. It may not always be that equal shares for all are fair shares for all. I am sure that there is much heavy work done—more in the north than in the south—for which equal shares do not make an equal contribution to health.
I would say that the desire of the ordinary person for variety in his diet is a desire which should be acceded to, if possible; and that the desire of the people of this country for a high meat diet is one of their traditional desires which they have always exercised whenever they could. If we are to continue to progress, we must do our utmost to see that a more varied diet is available for the people and that, where it can, it moves towards the traditional high-protein, big-meat ration, and does not depend so much upon the large starch—the large carbo-hydrate-ration, upon which we are being adequately, though I think rather monotonously, maintained today.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) warned the House that whereas many speakers had tried to address themselves to this question of nutrition in an objective manner he might find it difficult, because he was of a controversial nature, to rise above party polemics. There is no doubt that once again he has failed to be as objective as he would like to be on this last-but-one important Debate in this House before Christmas. He devoted a great deal of his time to looking up the handbook published by the Labour Party, quoting from it and trying to catch out my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann). He should recognise, of course. that these methods can be adopted by both sides.
I am afraid I have to remind the right hon. and gallant Gentleman of something he said which, in my opinion, completely torpedoes the argument which he has just put forward about the tuberculosis mortality rate in Scotland which, he implies, must be related to the nutritional policy pursued by this Government. If he does not relate the high tuberculosis mortality rate in Scotland to the nutritional policy of this Government, then surely he should not have devoted most of the time in which he has spoken to that subject. This summer I took away for my holiday reading a copy of the "British Medical Journal" in which I found a very interesting and important article which, I understand, was recorded from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's Presidential Address to the Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene. The address was given on Thursday, 26th May. The "British Medical Journal" has headed it:
Tuberculosis: Certain unexplained mortality figures.
I remember reading this very well, because I was by the seaside and I could just lie and digest these figures. I was most impressed. I found that this was an objective approach to a very important subject. My opinion of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman—we must have been many miles apart at that time—went up considerably.
This afternoon we have heard the same right hon. and gallant Gentleman come here and, in order to prove his argument to this House, and recognising as he does that he is for the most part talking to the lay public—there are perhaps only one or two people here who have read this article in the "British Medical Journal"—he advanced an argument trying to prove that the high tuberculosis rate in Scotland can be attributed to the nutritional policy of the Labour Government.
These are the conclusions of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on the high rate of tuberculosis in Scotland when he is speaking to a meeting of professional men who understand the question very well. Although I am left with only 20 minutes for my speech, I must say that it is in the interests of the whole country that I should read the conclusions of the
right hon. and gallant Gentleman's article because, I am most concerned with what those poor patients sitting in Scotland will think when they read his speech. I am also concerned since perhaps the reputation of my Department may be at stake. After this long speech, the conclusions of the right hon. Gentleman are these:
Wild speculations may be made; they are as likely to be right, or at any rate to form as reasonable a point of departure, as any other at the moment. One speculation is that there may have been an introduction of a more active strain of infection into Scotland in the considerable Polish migration that took place in the early days of the war. It may not be so; but, at any rate, there certainly was a mass movement to our country of a population which in its own country is highly susceptible to tuberculosis and has a high tuberculosis rate—a population which afterwards was intermingled very intensively with the Scottish people. That may be an entirely erroneous line of inquiry. But when you are faced with an unexplained set of facts you must consider all the likely and all the unlikely explanations. It is possible that the unlikely explanations are quite as right as the likely explanations. Here, then, is a fascinating problem of public health to which no solution has yet been found. I commend it as an example of how today it is still possible to find unexplained problems, and of how it may be possible, by the use of intelligence and by industry, for any investigator to find an explanation of facts which so far have baffled everyone.
I think the explanation of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is a little weak. There he was, discussing a matter in front of professional people, and not for one moment did he advance this argument which he has advanced this afternoon. Therefore, I think he has been dishonest with the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Yes, professionally dishonest. I was hoping that he would come forward and address his professional mind to this document which we have before us—the White Paper on food consumption levels in the United Kingdom. This is a factual document, and we do not try to prove that at the moment the national diet is at its optimum.
I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree, however, that the overall position has much improved. It is possible for anybody to examine this document and find gaps in it; I would not accept any statement to the contrary, but it is surely quite wrong for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to deduce from the Scottish statistics what he has deduced today, considering that the statements in this scientific paper do not warrant those conclusions.
I want to say this, and I think it is rather important: Some of the figures in the White Paper have been interpreted wrongly. I think it would be for the benefit of the whole country if I were to show just how they have been mis-interpreted. One or two of the intelligent newspapers, I observe, have made mistakes, and I can understand how it is possible sometimes to confuse averages with specific allocations. For instance, one newspaper pointed out that, in Table IV, it is stated that boys of from 16 to 20 years should have 100 grammes of protein, whereas it is stated in Table III that the total amount of protein that they are receiving is 88.2. Well, of course, the 88.2 is an average, and the figure of 100 is not. The 88.2 in Table III should be compared with the 65, which is the average, in Table IV.
I have given this illustration in order that there shall be no confusion in the minds of hon. Members as to the real meaning of some of these figures. Again, of course, calorie values can be confused. The hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey and Otley (Colonel Stoddart-Scott) explained in, I think, a rather elementary manner to the House, just what a calorie was, and later on asked me whether I thought the heavy workers were having a diet which, in terms of calories, was sufficient. He also must recognise that, if the calorie consumption averages 3,000 a day, and since perhaps a small child only requires a few hundred, the average figure of 3,000 must mean that the heavy workers are consuming something in the nature of 4,000 or 4,500 calories.
Now I come to the two gaps which I have already said can tasily be observed if anybody cares to analyse the figures. They might be described as the gaps in the consumption of sugar and meat. In the last three years, that is, years 1947-48-49, there has been a slight increase in sugar consumption, but hon. Members know full well, that we get our marginal supplies from dollar countries. I was very surprised that the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) should ask why we have not got more sugar. He has been present at Question Time and has in fact asked Questions himself, and he must have heard me, time after time, tell the House that we can get more sugar from Cuba, but that we have not the dollars with which to pay for it. He must also know that conversations have been taking place recently with Commonwealth representatives but have not fructified yet. I am quite unable to say what the future position will be, in answer to the hon. Member's question.
Again, he asks me about meat, and I am certainly not satisfied that all the meat that we should like to have is now available in this country. We should like to have more, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows very well, while it is very important to produce more meat in this country, we always have had to import large amounts from other countries. The hon. Gentleman quoted conditions in certain European countries. He knows full well that those countries are self-sufficient so far as meat supplies are concerned. Our position is entirely different, and we are dependent on 6ther countries for much of our meat supplies.
I think it was significant that the hon. Gentleman asked me, "Why do we not buy more meat from abroad?" Once more, like other hon. Members who challenge this Government and ask us to buy more from abroad, he did not indicate where we were to get it from. We want to be told. We have a representative in every meat-producing country in the world, and they are out there trying to find available meat supplies which they can obtain for us. It is no good hon. Members getting up and saying, "We are not getting enough meat; why do you not buy more?" Let them tell us where to get it, and we will send a man out and see if it is really there. The truth is, of course, that it just is not there.
I think the right hon. Lady has misunderstood what I said. I said that if, instead of her representatives, the private trader was allowed to buy the meat for this country, we should get more.
The hon. Gentleman had already mentioned in his speech the name of Sir Henry Turner, and he knows what the reputation of Sir Henry Turner is in the meat world. He was a private meat trader, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that he has not changed and become now unable to make a good bargain.
Many hon. Members have mentioned the milk supply, and the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities was quite right in saying that the production of milk has now increased very considerably, but we have, of course, been using some of it for cheese manufacture. Consumption is 55 per cent. greater than it was before the war, and it has been steadily increasing since 1940. I am very pleased to tell the House that a further improvement is expected in 1950. I am not sure whether hon. Members opposite will be as interested as my hon. Friends behind me in a little survey we have made this year. We regard milk as of unique nutritional importance and are, therefore, very concerned whether it is consumed to the maximum and just where and to whom the milk goes. Many hon. Members have mentioned the importance of welfare schemes. This year we decided to carry out a survey of approximately 2,400 households, representative of all economic classes and the results are very striking.
It will be remembered that in that little classic, which has been mentioned so often today, "Food, Health and Income," by Lord Boyd Orr, it was stated that in the years 1932-35 the highest income groups of the population were drinking 5.4 pints per head, while the poorest had 1.1 pint.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his fertility. I am sure that in the circumstances he will be even more interested in milk.
In our study, which was made in May, 1949, when milk was unrestricted—the House will remember that it was unrestricted for 15 weeks this year—the range of consumption, we discovered, was between six pints and four and a half pints per head per week as against 5.4 pints in the highest income groups in the 1930's and 1.1 pint in the lowest income groups. We discovered that while in the highest income groups of the population the consumption was 10 per cent. higher in May, 1949, than before the war, in the lowest income groups the liquid milk consumption has trebled since that time. I think that hon. Members and right hon. Members on both sides of the House must feel that this beneficial change in the consuming habits of the lowest income groups is something with which we must all be satisfied.
I now come to fats. My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) who, I think the House will agree, made an excellent speech, asked whether I was satisfied as to the consumption of fats. No, as far as nutrition is concerned, it takes a lot to satisfy me. I should-certainly like to see more fats, but I would like my hon. Friend to know—and in this my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health will bear me out—that a clinical survey has been made on this subject and there is no sign of there being a fat deficiency in this country. We have increased the fat ration and I am glad to say that in the case of butter, margarine, cooking and other fats which were at their lowest level in 1947 when the supply was something like 75 per cent. of prewar, the consumption was 90 per cent. of prewar for the year 1948-49 and, for the whole of 1949, it is 98 per cent. of prewar. I think the House will agree that this is a very satisfactory measure of progress.
I rather hesitate to mention butter and margarine, but the facts are that the country is consuming only half the amount of butter consumed before the war, but twice the amount of margarine. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey and Otley, who rather criticised, in a very pleasant way, a letter of mine in which I said that bread was fortified with calcium carbonate, will not criticise, but will probably agree, that it is good to have margarine fortified with vitamins A and D. Nutritionally, the margarine of today is infinitely superior to that rather evil-smelling, yellow grease which was used very many years ago.
There is evidence of a very interesting trend in regard to flour consumption which is being replaced calorifically by the extra fats now available. Since July, 1949, flour consumption in this country has decreased by 6 per cent. It is interesting to note that, while flour consumption has decreased—and, by the way, that decrease is equivalent to 60 calories a day—the fat consumption has increased and the extra fat consumption is equivalent to 75 calories a day. In other words, there is evidence that the 60 calories which constitute the flour consumption have been replaced by fats consumption. I know that every doctor in this House will be very satisfied with that, because all will recognise that this means that the quality of the diet has improved and that now people have even greater protection from disease than ' they had before. I think this trend will continue.
It is most unfortunate that I have only three minutes left. I shall have to devote that time to the question of public health, because it is so very important, although I wanted to mention the vitamin content of the diet; but it would be wrong on a Debate on nutrition entirely to ignore the effect of our nutritional policy on the public health of the country. The most spectacular change which has taken place in this country is the almost complete elimination of rickets. I wonder if the House realises that at the beginning of the century one-third of the London children had rickets. They either had bandy legs, knock knees, or pigeon chests. Now it is possible to walk down one of our crowded London streets and not see one pair of bandy legs, or knock knees. The outstanding cure and preventive for rickets was cod liver oil.
The noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) said, quite rightly—and I try to be objective, unlike the right hon. Member for Scottish Universities—that cod liver oil with the vitamins which it contains was recognised as being a cure for rickets and that it was distributed in the past. But she must remember—I do not want to make a cheap debating point—that cod liver oil is now distributed free in this country and one teaspoonful a day can prevent a child getting rickets, while a little higher dose can cure it.
The difference between the treatment in the past and now is that this Government do recognise that this is an essential which must be provided free if we are to give every child a fair chance. I do not believe that a pair of knock knees, bandy legs, or a pigeon chest gives anyone a fair chance. They start off with a sense of inferiority which nothing can cure. Therefore, we are trying to translate theories which were expounded in the past into practice and bring these things right into the home of the poorest. That is why I say that while I recognise what was done in the past in the field of child welfare, this Government is not withholding any of these important nutrients from the very poorest income groups in the country.
Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have mentioned the low infant mortality rate and the low maternity mortality rate. I have always felt that the work of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Food are complementary to each other, and that wise feeding is one of the greatest weapons that preventive medicine can wield. We look forward to the day when we can allocate that balanced diet, which has its full complement of every nutrient that hon. Members of the House would like to see, without having to consider the supply question. But, despite our difficulties, I think hon. Members will agree that we are progressing, that the hard pressed housewives of the country can feel satisfied that the dark days of 1947 have gone as far as food supplies are concerned and that they may look forward to the future with confidence.
I hope the House will endorse wholeheartedly the policy of my Government—
—of His Majesty's Government, that we should continue to give fair shares of the available food, and that in those cases where food is scarce then that food should be shared among those who have the greatest need.