Catalogue description Records of Defence and Civil Emergencies

Details of Division within MAF
Reference: Division within MAF
Title: Records of Defence and Civil Emergencies

Records, mainly of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's Emergency Services and Defence Division and predecessors, relating to food supplies and distribution in case of nuclear war, civil unrest or nuclear accident.

The records relate to:

  • Agricultural defence planning: MAF 355.
  • Arrangements for emergency feeding: MAF 357.
  • Defence and emergency services: MAF 250.
  • Investigation and enforcement of rationing: MAF 321.
  • Emergency feeding measures, London: MAF 330.
  • Emergency services, regional and local organisation: MAF 341.
  • Food control and emergency feeding, general policy: MAF 340.
  • Food dehydration for long-term storage: MAF 353.
  • Food Control Policy (DEB Series): MAF 468.
  • Nuclear energy and food safety: MAF 298.
  • Preventing introduction of rabies: MAF 693.
  • Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee issues (RWAC): MAF 742.
  • Rationing arrangements: MAF 313.
  • Safeguarding of food supplies during civil emergencies: MAF 394.
  • Storage and transport: MAF 325.
  • Supply of food to the armed services: MAF 376.
  • Government Decontamination and Recovery Service (GDRS series): MAF 762.

Date: 1931-2005
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 2001-

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Defence, Emergencies and Crop Improvement Division, 1970-1974

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Defence, Emergencies, Fertilisers and Feedstuffs Standards Division, 1974-1981

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Emergencies Division, 1981-1989

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Emergency Services and Defence Division, 1964-1970

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Emergency Services Division, 1960-1964

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Emergency Services Division I, 1955-1960

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Emergency Services Division II, 1955-1960

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, European Community Division II, 1980-1994

Ministry of Food, 1939-1955

Physical description: 17 series
Administrative / biographical background:

Emergency Service Divisions to 1955

The question of government control of the supply and distribution of foodstuffs was first considered in 1904-5 by the Royal Commission on the Supply of Food and Raw Materials in Time of War. This concluded that, except in the event of a severe naval disaster, there was no serious threat to Britain's food supplies. There was, therefore, no change in the Board of Agriculture's activities in the early years of the First World War. However, the advent of unrestricted submarine warfare, coupled with the poor harvest of 1916, led to the creation of the Ministry of Food in December 1916, and the Food Production Department responsible to the President of the Board of Agriculture, in 1917. The department was wound up in 1919, and its remaining functions were either passed to agricultural committees of county councils, or absorbed by the Board.

Inter-war emergency food and agriculture planning was driven by the experiences of the First World War, and the Food (Defence Plan) Department of the Board of Trade was responsible for co-ordinating departmental planning. These plans were implemented on the outbreak of the Second World War with the establishment of the Ministry of Food by an Order in Council of 8 September 1939. For the duration of the war, several new divisions were created within the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to protect supplies of particular goods and farm machinery, but overall planning for food supplies and distribution remained the responsibility of the Ministry of Food. This responsibility remained with the Ministry of Food after the war.

Emergency Service Divisions from 1955

On the merging of the Ministry of Food with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in 1955, MAFF took over responsibility for defence and emergency planning for the supply and distribution of food in time of war or during civil emergency. These duties included the co-ordination of the Ministry's plans with the defence plans of other departments. All of the Ministry's headquarters divisions remained responsible for devising plans in their own particular spheres, and Regional Controllers bore the responsibility for deciding how the plans should be implemented in their own areas. While the Ministry produced food defence plans for the whole country, emergency feeding in Scotland and Northern Ireland was the responsibility of the Departments of Agriculture for Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively. Plans were put into action to deal with, for example, food supplies and emergency feeding during the east coast floods of 1953, the railway strike of 1955 and the shortages caused by petrol rationing during the Suez crisis of 1956-7.

Planning in MAFF was initially carried out by Emergency Services Division I (dealing with central policy, planning and guidance to other divisions of the Ministry, maintenance of total supplies and stockpiling, import programmes, control schemes, supplies to the armed services, atomic energy, civil emergencies, salvage and decontamination) and Emergency Services Division II (dealing with rationing and regional and local planning and commodity distribution plans). In 1956-7 Division II was briefly made responsible for miscellaneous and manufactured food commodities, in addition to its other responsibilities. In 1960 the two divisions were abolished and a single Emergency Services Division was formed. In 1964 its name was changed to Emergency Services and Defence Division, reflecting the increasing importance of civil defence planning in the event of nuclear conflict.

In 1970, following an internal reorganisation, the Defence, Emergencies and Crop Improvement Division was established, having responsibility for administering the Agricultural Lime and the Fertiliser Subsidy Schemes (both of which were intended to increase the productive capacity of the land and so help guard against food shortage in the event of an emergency), and for over-seeing fertiliser and feedingstuffs legislation, in addition to the usual defence planning duties. The Fertiliser Subsidy Scheme was wound up in 1975, and the Agricultural Lime Scheme in 1977. The name (though not the major functions) of the division was changed in 1974 to the Emergencies, Fertilisers and Feedingstuffs Standards Division.

Following further internal reorganisation, this division was split up in 1981, and an Emergencies Division dealing solely with emergency planning for food and agriculture was created. In 1987 responsibility for the co-ordination of departmental transport interests was added. Further responsibilities were added in 1989, when the division took over all action to deal with unsafe food, and responsibility for the inland disposal of radioactive waste. To reflect these changes, the division was renamed the Emergencies and Food Protection Division.

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