§ Mr. STRAUSS
I beg to move, in page 2, line 36, to leave out the word "six" and to insert instead thereof the word "twelve."
We are dealing to-day and we were dealing yesterday with two Bills, the less important of the two being the Sunday Performances (Temporary Regulations) Bill. It is proposed, however, that that Measure should continue for 12 months whereas this Measure is only to continue for six months. I do not know why there should be that distinction. There is every argument why this Measure should be continued for 12 months. Everybody hopes that the present financial situation may be cleared up in six months' time, 1033 but I do not think that anyone in his senses really believes it possible that such will be the case. It is most unlikely that the situation which the Bill is designed to meet will have ended at the period when the Bill is due to expire with the powers which are given in it. It would be reasonable to extend the period for a year, and I suggest that it will possibly be necessary, in any case, before the end of six months to extend the Measure for a further period. It should at any rate be made to operate at the same period as the Sunday Performances Bill.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Major Lloyd George)
I am sure that the Committee will not expect me to go very deeply into the point raised by the hon. Member. He wants to know why this Bill has not been made to run for 12 months instead of six and he seems to compare this Bill with the Sunday Performances Bill. Of course, no such comparison is possible and the reason why the period of six months has been taken for this Bill is because that is the approximate time for which it is expected that it will be necessary, and that is the period of time which has been fixed in the Measure already passed dealing with the Gold Standard. I disagree with the hon. Member's view that there is no possibility of the stabilisation of the currency before the end of six months, and I do not think that it would create a good impression if we were to make the period of this Bill 12 months instead of six. Everyone, in the House of Commons and outside, hopes that before the end of six months we shall have done something in the way of stabilising our currency, and if our hopes in that respect are not realised, then it will be possible to extend the period of the Bill.
That really means that the Government have been unwise in the action which they have taken. The danger of profiteering is not going to be done away with before the date which has been fixed in the Gold Standard Measure. It is quite likely that that danger will continue. There is a Resolution on the Paper to-day which will have the effect of saving from the executioner's axe the London Passenger Transport Bill which had already passed 1034 through nearly all its stages. That shows how the Government could have dealt with this situation without fixing any date of this kind. They could in 24 hours have passed the Consumers' Council Bill, which had already progressed through all its stages with the exception of Report and Third Reading. That would have given a much juster position for both the consumer and the producer and would have placed upon the Statute Book an Act of a permanent character about which there need have been no anxiety as to its duration. It would have been there for all time as a good deterrent to would-be profiteers and it would have given a just method of procedure where inquiry or action became necessary.
The Government, however, have failed to enact a Measure which took so much precious time in this House and in Committee and instead they give us a Bill which is not likely to operate effectively and which is to be limited to a period of six months after which we are told there is likely to be no need for it. Some of us believe that the need is likely to be continuous. I notice in "The Times" to-day a reference to the purchasing power of the pound at wholesale prices being 98.6 per cent. of the pre-War level. If we take into account the actual cost-of-living figure to-day it would appear that the internal purchasing power of the pound is about 45 per cent, or 50 per cent. below the pre-War purchasing value indicating quite clearly the continuous discrepancy between fluctuations in wholesale prices and fluctuations in retail prices. There is clearly a need for some more permanent Measure to deal with the possible exploitation of the community. This Bill will not do so. It is temporary; its form indicates that the Government are not going to use it in dealing with undue opportunities of overcharging consumers and, it is, as I have said, purely for election purposes.
Mr. H. W. SAMUEL
I support the Amendment. This Bill has obviously been produced for the purpose of dealing with the present financial situation and if the present financial situation continues the need for the Bill will continue. Let us assume that the Committee passes this Amendment. If the Bill continues for 12 months no harm will be done, even though the present finan- 1035 cial situation should come to an end within one month. If the Bill is on the Statute Book and the present financial situation only lasts for another month, the Bill will not be required but if the present financial situation continues then the Bill with this Amendment will be very much needed. It will not be necessary to come back here for the purpose of extending the period of the Bill's operation. Therefore, I suggest that the Amendment could very easily be accepted. It plays for safety, and no harm can be done by accepting it.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended, considered.