HC Deb 06 March 1941 vol 369 cc1018-20
56 and 58. Mr. Denville

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether he is aware that in Newcastle the tobacconists supply is 90 per cent. of the peace-time quantity, although there is in- creased demand owing to national effort; and whether he will inquire into the percentage per head as compared with peacetime;

(2)whether he is aware that a search for tobacco and cigarettes was made in 30 consecutive tobacconist shops in the city of Newcastle and that no supplies of any sort were available; and whether, in view of this, he will take immediate action?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Captain Waterhouse)

Supplies of tobacco and cigarettes for the whole country are go per cent. of last year, and although I am aware that demand is greater than supply in some areas, I am satisfied that manufacturers are distributing available supplies fairly throughout the country. I do not think that an inquiry into the percentage per head, as compared with peace-time in Newcastle, is either practicable or necessary. My hon. Friend will be aware of the dislocation of transport services to the North-West of England owing to the recent very heavy snowfall, which was responsible for the temporary acute shortage in Newcastle, but I am glad to be able to say that supplies are now moving more normally.

Mr. Denville

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that some retailers have not been receiving 90 per cent., and that in cases where, say, 50 lbs. a week were received, only about 2 lbs. are now being received; and is he further aware that, previous to the snowfall, I made inquiries throughout the whole district and found that 30 shops were not able to get any supplies whatever, and that in only one shop was I able to get a small packet of cigarettes?

Mr. David Adams

Is the Minister aware that, owing to the continued scarcity of tobacco in Tyneside, large numbers of smokers are threatening to give up this healthful pastime, to the serious detriment of the Exchequer?

Captain Waterhouse

I hope that the threats mentioned by the hon. Member will not eventuate. Regarding the previous question I did not say that all retailers were getting 90 per cent. I said that the proportion over the whole country was 90 per cent. I am aware that there has been a shortage at Newcastle, but I am informed that that has now been remedied.

Mr. Neil Maclean

Would the Minister be good enough to pay a visit to some of the tobacconists near the House of Commons, when he would find it impossible to get either tobacco or cigarettes?