HC Deb 22 July 1941 vol 373 cc780-2
44. Captain Profumo

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether, in view of the hardship to many small shopkeepers if they are denied supplies unless they have at least 25 registered customers, he will, to help economy in transport, consider a scheme of delivering supplies to each town to a central depot from where each small retailer may collect his supplies; and, in view of the unfairness of eliminating all bona fide small retailers because a few take advantage of the position to register as a retailer for the purpose of supplying their own families, whether opportunity will be given to each retailer to establish his bona fides and have his case for receiving supplies judged on its merits?

Major Lloyd George

The arrangements suggested in the first part of my hon. Friend's Question, while they might result in some saving of transport, would not in any way reduce the labour involved to traders in breaking bulk, packing, invoicing and delivering, nor the clerical work in the food offices in issuing buying permits. My Noble Friend is, however, anxious to do whatever is practicable to avoid inflicting hardship on any bona fide food trader, and he has therefore already issued to food control committees instructions to the effect that both in town and country districts registration below the 25 minimum should not be automatically transferred to other retailers and that before action is taken in this direction consideration should be given both to the convenience of the consumers and to the hardship of individual small traders.

Mr. Beverley Baxter

Is not my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that instructions have already been given out, or are about to be given out, ordering registered customers at these small shops to register elsewhere? That is information supplied by the Department. Should not the whole matter be held up?

Major Lloyd George

The new instructions will make my hon. Friend's suggestion possible.

Mr. Baxter

What discretion is used? The whole thing is most unsatisfactory and unjust. Is there not a tendency for the Government to punish the individual and to throw trade and business into the hands of the multiple shops and the great combines?

Major Lloyd George

If my hon. Friend will read my Answer, he will see that steps have already been taken to avoid hardship in individual cases.

Mr. Graham White

Would not my right hon. and gallant Friend look at this matter from the point of view of the morale of the people, and bear in mind that transactions of this kind have more effect upon the people's morale than being bombed out?

Major Lloyd George

I would ask my hon. Friend to read my answer. Discretion has already been given to food control committees in both town and country districts.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Is not the right hon. and gallant Member aware that a tremendous amount of hardship is caused to people, and would it not be better to prevent it than to take action after the harm has been done?

Major Lloyd George

We want to avoid hardship, but it is not easy not to take some measures to alter the present situation when we need to save transport.

Captain Profumo

Do we understand that the Ministry are prepared to approach this matter from a different angle and will endeavour to jump their fences without kicking down so many people?

Captain Strickland

Would my right hon. and gallant Friend consider the possibility of establishing central depots from which small shopkeepers might collect?

Major Lloyd George

I would again call attention to the terms of my answer from which it is clear that the bona fide trader is meant. Many of these people are not bona fide traders, but merely wish to obtain rationed food for their families at wholesale prices.

Mr. Baxter

In view of the still unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment.

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