HC Deb 01 April 1941 vol 370 cc828-9
1. Mr. Evelyn Walkden

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that, in towns and villages in South Yorkshire, there is an acute shortage of cigarettes, whilst soldiers and airmen in the same area can usually obtain generous supplies from their canteens; and, in view of the information already sent to him, will he arrange for a more equitable distribution of supplies in favour of the civil population?

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Lyttelton)

I am aware that the demand for tobacco and cigarettes exceeds the available supplies. I am not satisfied that the present distribution is the best that can be arranged, and I am taking special measures to try to ensure that each part of the country gets its fair share. I am satisfied, however, that the difficulties to which the hon. Member refers are not due to disproportionate supplies being allowed to Service canteens.

These supplies are now being limited, and nine-tenths of the manufacturers' production at the present time is being distributed through the normal channels.

Sir Richard Acland

Is the Minister aware that it is the other way round—that civilians can get cigarettes and the Services cannot?

Mr. Walkden

Will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to a scheme of registration and rationing of the general public, which retailers themselves have had to introduce, and would he not also consider transferring some of the surplus stocks from the London area to the Midlands and industrial North, particularly Yorkshire?

Mr. Lyttelton

No, Sir. I am not prepared to consider a scheme of rationing until I am satisfied that other measures are unfruitful.

Colonel Arthur Evans

May I take it that my right hon. Friend does not propose to limit the supply of cigarettes to His Majesty's Forces serving overseas or to sailors serving in His Majesty's ships?

Mr. Lyttelton

That is quite another question. I am dealing only with supplies in this country.

Mr. T. Smith

Is the Minister aware that in certain parts of Yorkshire one can occasionally get higher-priced cigarettes and tobacco, but that there is a great scarcity of the cheaper varieties?