§ 76. Mr. ANDERSON
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether his attention has been called to the injustices involved in the present method of sugar distribution; whether he is aware that the stipulation that other articles must be purchased along with sugar has the effect of diverting trade generally from the grocery or provision shops which do not stock sugar to those that do, thereby setting up an unfair discrimination between traders; that the imposition of a monetary test before sugar can be purchased acts unfairly between rich and poor and even between one working-class family and another; that in order 2003 to buy sugar a number of families are driven to buy commodities they would otherwise do without and are thus prevented from exercising general economy; that certain shopkeepers are using the present arrangement to push their goods generally and are even dictating what other articles the customers must purchase; and that certain people go round from shop to shop, making purchases in each shop, and so obtaining extra supplies of sugar, whilst others find it impossible to get sugar at all; and what steps he proposes to take to abolish these hardships and to set up a system of equitable distribution?
It has not yet been possible to establish a system which will entirely prevent the difficulties to which the hon. Member refers, but considerable progress has been made in the direction of adjusting the irregular distribution of sugar. As regards the imposition of conditions by shopkeepers on the sale of sugar, I would refer the hon. Member to the answers I have previously given to the hon. Member on the 15th February, and to the hon. Member for West Ham on the same day.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the imposition of a monetary test, sometimes as high as 8s., is leading people to buy all sorts of things they do not want at all, and so far from promoting economy it is encouraging extravagance?
As I have already explained to the House, the whole of the sugar question is going to be investigated by the Food Controller immediately he returns to his duties, and in the meantime to impose a condition involving the outlay of 8s. or 12s. will be severely noticed by the Food Controller?
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
Is the policy of the Department with regard to the establishment of rations a policy of "Wait and see," that is waiting until the emergency arises before taking action?
No, Sir. I can truly say that that expression in no way applies to the alert Department which I have the honour to represent.
Mr. A. RICHARDSON
Can the hon. Member state if the Sugar Commission 2004 releases sufficient sugar to the trade to enable every man, woman and child to have ¾ lb. of sugar per week?
Yes, undoubtedly there is enough sugar in the hands of the Sugar Commission at present to allow for that quota per head, but owing to the difficulties of distribution, unfortunately, a great many persons are no: obtaining their quota.
Is the non. Member aware that some of the co-operative societies, who have every member registered, and therefore do deal out fairly their quantity of sugar, are only allowing ½ lb. per head for each family, that being the quantity the societies are receiving?
In consequence of representations made by the Co-operative Wholesale Society, twenty of the leading centres of population in the country have been provided with special allowances of sugar, of which the co-operative stores have obtained a very large proportion.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir H. MEUX
Would it not be very easy to solve this question by the men of the country leaving off sugar in their tea, which is quite unnecessary, and then there would be plenty for the women and children?
If those who can well afford to buy substitutes are prepared to adopt that suggestion it would show a patriotic spirit on their part.
§ Mr. G. FABER
Will the hon. Member promise that as soon as the stock fails to supply ¾ lb. for each person he will come at once to this House and announce a smaller amount?
The matter is in the hands of the Food Controller and not in mine. I am not going to make any rash promises.
§ 80. Sir JOHN AINSWORTH
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he can see his way to arrange that a reasonable quantity of sugar can be sold to a customer without rendering him liable to the purchase of other articles at the same time?
I must refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave to the Member for the Attercliffe Division of Sheffield on this subject on 15th February.
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
Supposing Lord Devonport is unable to return immediately to business, will the hon. Gentleman inform the House how soon he can give an answer on the point as to the liability of the public to pay for other articles if they cannot get sugar?
For good and sufficient reasons this practice was to a certain extent approved and authorised by the last Government, and it is not proposed to abandon it altogether without being quite sure something more effective takes its place.
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
Would my hon. Friend say categorically how soon he expects to give an answer to the question?
I have already given a good many answers on this question. I doubt whether I shall be able to give one which will satisfy my hon. Friend, at any rate, until next week.
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
Will the hon. Gentleman say on what day the office he represents will give an answer?
§ 78. Mr. FIELD
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that the supply of sugar to Dublin city is inadequate and that its distribution is not equally administered; whether he will arrange that the supply shall be increased and every trader receive his due portion; and whether an Irish Sugar Commission will be appointed?
Two officers of the Ministry of Food are at present in Ireland investigating the present conditions of sugar supply and distribution. Their inquiries will shortly be completed, but until their Report has been received I am not in a position to add anything to the answer given to the hon. Member for county Meath on 12th February.
All I can say is that the question of appointing an Irish 2006 sub-committee to deal with the distribution in Ireland is at present under the consideration of the Food Controller.
§ Mr. CRUMLEY
Is it not a fact that there are three or four merchants in Dublin who are getting an unusual quantity of the sugar imported, and Jonathan Hogg is one of them?
If the hon. Member will bring any specific case to my notice I will see if one of the inspectors in Ireland can investigate it.