Catalogue description Records of the Ministry of Food

Details of Division within MAF
Reference: Division within MAF
Title: Records of the Ministry of Food

Records relating to food production and supply during wartime, mainly those of the Ministry of Food during the Second World War and afterwards. Also includes records of the Board of Trade's interwar Food Department.

First World War records comprise:

  • First Ministry of Food (1916-1921): MAF 60.
  • Food Production Department: MAF 42.
  • Women's land army: MAF 59.

Second World War records comprise those of the second Ministry of Food, as follows:

Records in MAF 81 have been transferred to a different MAF series.

Date: 1873-1985
Related material:

See also Division within MAF

See also Division within MAF

The Ministry of Food (Cessation) Order 1921 is in BT 6/285

Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Ministry of Food, 1916-1921

Ministry of Food, 1939-1955

Physical description: 38 series
Custodial history: All documents of the first Ministry of Food, other than those retained by the Board of Trade Food Department after World War I, were deposited in the Ministry of Pensions Archives. They were then subjected to periodic weeding and destruction under Public Record Office Schedule until 1937, when further destruction was halted at the request of the Board of Trade. The papers were subsequently removed in lots for examination and many of them were registered in the 'FD' series. No further destruction took place and the remaining documents were eventually lodged with the second Ministry of Food Archives.
Administrative / biographical background:

Ministry of Food, 1916-1921

The first Ministry of Food was established on 22 December 1916 under a food controller who, under the New Ministries and Secretaries Act 1916, was empowered to regulate the supply and consumption of food and take steps for encouraging food production. The Ministry was dissolved on 31 March 1921.

Ministry of Food, 1939-1955

The second Ministry of Food was set up under an Order in Council of 8 September 1939, which transferred the functions of holding, using and disposing of stocks and other property held by the Board of Trade's Food (Defence Plans) Department. By another Order of 13 October 1939 the Board of Trade's functions relating to the acquisition, control, storage and prices of certain essential foodstuffs were also transferred. Thereafter the Minister of Food was the authority for making, amending and revoking Orders relating to the general control of the foodstuffs industry.

As with its First World War predecessor, the second Ministry of Food had no direct part in the food production campaign, (food and feeding stuffs import programmes and the control of sales and prices), which was the province of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Its primary responsibility was to ensure that all sections of the community could obtain necessary food supplies at reasonable prices.

In wartime its activities were associated with rationing and state trading. It was responsible for the administration of food subsidies and some of the deficiency payments schemes, and cooperated with other departments concerned in the annual farm price review and the working out of the future basis of guarantees for farmers. Other functions were food defence planning; research into the methods of preparing, marketing and preserving foodstuffs; maintenance and improvement of food standards; advising the public on cooking available foodstuffs; and providing for UK representation on various international food bodies.

Under the Ministers of the Crown (Transfer of Functions) Act 1946 the Ministry was constituted a permanent department of state. The main sections were the Central Secretariat, the Chief Scientific Adviser's Division, and the Establishment, Finance, Services and Supply Departments.

When food rationing ended on 3 July 1954 the Ministry's remaining functions were considered insufficient to justify its continued existence as a separate department. In October 1954 a single minister was appointed to the posts of Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and Minister of Food, and in April 1955 the two ministries were amalgamated. Primary responsibility for the main food hygiene functions in England and Wales was transferred to the Ministry of Health, and in Scotland to the Secretary of State, but all the remaining functions of the Ministry of Food passed to the new Ministry.

Ministry of Food, 1939-1955: Supply Department

The Ministry's organisation of food control was in terms of individual commodities rather than of the stages through which food passed between producer and consumer. The unit of control was the commodity division or branch, each in the charge of a trade director who had general responsibility for dealings in a particular commodity or group of commodities up to the point at which it passed out of the Ministry's control.

The Supply Department, created in 1940, contained all the commodity divisions, and other divisions responsible for services common to all commodities, such as freight and storage. In January 1947 it was reorganised into a secretariat and five commodity groups. The latter contained divisions dealing respectively with cereals; dairy produce and fats, which had responsibility for the National Dried Milk Scheme; fish and vegetables; groceries and sundries; and meat and livestock. The Supply Secretariat was responsible for general matters pertaining to the department, such as coordination of procurement and import policy and programming of supplies from abroad, and home agricultural policy.

Ministry of Food, 1939-1955: Services Department

At its creation in 1940 this was known as the Divisional and Local Services Department. It was responsible for the issue, renewal and maintenance of documents of entitlement to controlled food, and then included Divisional and Local Services, Emergency Services, Rationing, Point Rationing, Catering and Welfare Foods Divisions. After 1947 it consisted of three main groups of divisions: Distribution; Regional Administration; and Food Standards and Welfare.

The department also included a Secretariat which dealt with general aspects of nutritional and food consumption policy and the cost of living, distribution and marketing, and export policy; and a Public Relations Division which dealt with food advice and publicity arrangements generally.

Ministry of Food, 1939-1955: Establishment Department

This was responsible for the organisation, staffing and official management of the Ministry of Food. Under a Director of Establishments, it consisted of a secretariat and five divisions which dealt with conditions of service; personnel and complements; divisional and local food offices and staff training; organisation and methods; and the office controller.

Ministry of Food, 1939-1955: Central Secretariat

This organisation served the Permanent Secretary and was responsible for programme studies and intelligence and for legislative business. It was formed in 1947 from the secretariat of the former General Department, from which it also took over the Statistics and Intelligence Division. It also maintained a Surveys Branch which was responsible for the National Food Survey, wound up in 1947, and thereafter for the Family Food Survey.

Ministry of Food, 1939-1955: Finance Department

Under the Ministry's principal finance officer, the Finance Department was responsible for financial control generally and for estimates and accounts. It was organised in a secretariat and five groups: Supply Finance, Services Finance, Accountant General, Finance (General) Home, Finance (General) Overseas.

Ministry of Food, 1939-1955: Regional Organisation

The Divisional Organisation of the Ministry of Food consisted of nineteen Divisional Food Offices whose purpose was to oversee the work of the local offices and the functioning of food control generally. There were also regional Food Defence Plans Offices in five large towns. The local unit of the Ministry was the Food Office, of which there were some 1500 in England and Wales and 50 in Scotland, operating the rationing schemes for traders and consumers. Their organisation was based on the local government area. Much of the Ministry's work was carried out by Food Control Committees, responsible for the enforcement or Orders of the Ministry, licensing of local retailers and caterers, and registration of consumers. These were abolished after rationing and controls ended in 1954.

In February 1950, the title of Divisional Organisation was changed to Regional Organisation, and as controls were removed the numbers of regional and local offices were much reduced. After October 1954 the regional Food Defence Organisation remained under the control of a regional Food Defence Officer and eventually became part of the regional organisation of the merged Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food.

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