HC Deb 13 December 1928 vol 223 cc2306-8
47. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Prime Minister which Ministry will be responsible for the Department under Mr. Curtis-Bennett set up to co-ordinate charitable efforts on behalf of the distressed districts; and whether the expenses of this Department will be borne by the Treasury or by the voluntary funds?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

I may refer the hon. and gallant Member to my reply on the 10th instant to questions by the hon. Members for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) and Gateshead (Mr. Beckett). The arrangements outlined in that reply do not comprise the creation of a Government Department; but the administration expenses involved will be met out of public funds.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in that reply he did not state what Minister in this House could answer questions about this Government service, and can he inform me on that point?


That is implicit in the question, I agree, although it is in another form. I shall be very pleased to answer that question on Monday.


May we have a statement in regard to the co-ordination of these efforts?


I hope to be in a position on Monday to make a general statement, and I shall then, I hope, be able to indicate to whom questions should be addressed on such points as that on which the hon. and gallant Member desires information.


asked the Prime Minister whether the Government is prepared to advise the controllers of the Lord Mayor's Fund, or of any projected co-ordinated national scheme of various relief funds in aid of the distressed mining areas, to make their purchases of goods with the local trades-people in each of those areas, as otherwise the local trades-people will suffer additional trade losses to those they have already necessarily incurred in connection with the distress which has obtained in most of these mining areas for a considerable period?


While I have every sympathy with the position of shopkeepers in the distressed areas, I do not think this is a matter on which the Government could usefully make any suggestion.


I do not question the Government's sympathy in this matter of co-ordinating the relief funds, hut does the Prime Minister realise that the local traders have also suffered serious losses due to the prolonged period of distress in the mining areas; and does he not appreciate that the funds raised should be spent with the local traders, at, of course, approved prices, wholesale and retail?


I am afraid we should be entering into a Debate very quickly if we argued the merits of the case. Quite shortly, the position is this: So far, the Lord Mayor's Fund is dealing with boots and clothing alone, as I understand, and the administration of it is being carried out under their guidance, and is being attended to by the Lord Mayors of Cardiff and Newcastle. The only point that I wish to make to the hon. Member is that, first of all, the additional losses of the tradesmen cannot well be considered, because the boots and clothing are given specifically to people who could not otherwise afford to buy them. The practical difficulty of taking such a course as the hon. Member desires is that it would make another charge; by allowing a profit to the tradesman it, would diminish the amount that could be spent. After all, we should only be in a position to offer advice, and it is sometimes very difficult to offer advice.


The Prime Minister appears to have misunderstood part of my question. I realise that the arrangements with regard to boots and clothing are all right, and must stand, but in so far as large money contributions are made to the relief funds, would it not be better and fairer to spend the money with the local traders at agreed fair prices? Otherwise, the local traders, who are already badly hit by the distress, will suffer still further loss of trade by this way of distributing the moneys in the relief funds.


The hon. Member is now speaking of something which I could not discuss with him.


Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it is degrading on the part of the Tory Government to organise charity?