HC Deb 06 June 1940 vol 361 cc991-3
Mr. Shinwell

(by Private Notice) asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is yet in a position to give information regarding the further limitation of home consumption?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Major Lloyd George)

Yes, Sir. The Board of Trade have to-day made an Order restricting supplies to retailers by manufacturers and wholesalers of a wide range of goods, including hosiery, pottery, glassware, cutlery and hollow-ware. The restriction, to operate over the next six months, is by one-third of the value supplied in the corresponding period of 1939. The main purpose of the Order is to liberate labour, material and productive capacity for essential war purposes and exports.

The restriction of one-quarter imposed on 16th April on supplies of cotton piece-goods and made-up goods to the home market operates until the end of September. After that date, the reduction will be by three-quarters of the quantity supplied in the corresponding period of the previous year.

Under another Order made to-day, the supply of certain types of machinery, otherwise than for Government Departments or export, is prohibited except under licence. The labour released by the operation of this Order will be of the type urgently needed for munition production, while there will also result an important economy of steel and other metals.

Finally, the system of import restriction is to be made comprehensive. Under the new Order all goods, except certain live animals, will be brought within the import licensing system.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it the intention of the Board of Trade to extend limitation to a further range of commodities including articles of a luxury character, and, in view of the possibility of scarcity, will steps be taken to tighten up the Prices of Goods Act?

Major Lloyd George

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Prices of Goods Act has now been extended to cover a very wide range of articles, and I have no evidence that it is not satisfactory. The present Order, which will soon be available in the Vote Office, covers a very wide range of articles indeed.

Mr. Thorne

If there are some articles which are not covered by that Order and the supply of which is bound to be re- stricted, is it not inevitable that the prices of those articles will go up?

Major Lloyd George

There is practically no article of common use, and practically nothing in the Order, which has been issued to-day, which is not now covered by the Prices of Goods Act.

Sir Herbert Williams

Having regard to the very widespread unemployment which prevails in the South and South-East of England, has any attempt been made to ensure that people released from, employment as a result of this decision will be found other employment?

Major Lloyd George

I have no reason to think that the demand and supply of this particular kind of labour will not dovetail quite easily, but the hon. Gentleman appreciates that the particular labour which will be displaced by these restrictions is more suitable to work of national importance at the present moment.

Sir H. Williams

Is the Minister aware that many of my hon. Friends in the South-East, including myself, represent constituencies where unemployment has increased since the war broke out, and that all our efforts to find employment for these people have been fruitless?

Mr. Hammersley

Have steps been taken to keep in touch with the Ministry of Supply to make sure that manufacturers of these commodities will not find their works stopped, and that they will in fact be turned to work of national importance?

Major Lloyd George

There is the closest co-operation between my right hon. Friend and the Ministry of Supply.

Mr. Levy: Does the Minister realise that if a rigid price commodity control would help in stabilising wages it should be in the mind of the Minister of Labour to bring such a control into being?

Major Lloyd George: The purpose of the Prices of Goods Act is to see that prices are increased only so far as is justified by increased costs.