HC Deb 08 September 1942 vol 383 cc16-8
27. Sir H. Williams

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the opposition on the part of wage-earners to the order which prohibits poundage in connection with check trading, he will withdraw this order so as to avoid the hardship which otherwise arises to both sides in check trading transactions?

31. Mr. Hannah

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the growing concern felt by many over the proposed prohibition of check trading, and the fact that many large clothing and provident societies in different parts of the country could not carry on their work under any other system; and will he consider his decision?

32. Mr. Goldie

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the extent to which the check poundage system is utilised for the purchase of clothing and other necessaries by the working classes and of the anxiety felt at the suggested abolition or modification thereof; and whether, in the interests of such purchasers, he will ensure that there shall be no interference with a method of purchase which is of assistance to the industrial community?

38. Mrs. Cazalet Keir

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has reconsidered his decision to abolish all charges of poundage on check trading companies in view of the great hardship this will cause to a large number of people?

Mr. Dalton

While I have received a large amount of correspondence on this subject, I have seen few signs of spontaneous opposition on the part of wage-earners to the prohibition of poundage, and I see no reason for altering my decision, which was arrived at after the most careful consideration, and does not imply the prohibition of check trading, but only of additional charges to purchasers over and above the maximum prices now fixed.

Sir H. Williams

Is it not a fact that the bulk of the correspondence has come from wage-earners who like this system of trading, and are angry over the action proposed?

Mr. Dalton

I am anxious to be perfectly frank with the House about this matter. It is a difficult question. There has been considerable agitation about it, instigated wholly by the check traders. There are a large number of other forms of credit trading available to persons of small means—there are the credit given by retail shops, direct credit traders who themselves deliver goods through travellers to the purchasers, which the check traders do not, clothing clubs of many kinds run by shops and co-operative societies, and mail order and other agencies. All these have accepted my Order and accepted the new situation under which all credit charges, all organiser's commissions, and the like, must be included within the margins allowed in the Order. I could only agree to make a special concession to check traders if it could be shown on the one hand that they were performing a specially valuable social function which would otherwise not be performed, and, secondly if it were equitable between different sections of credit traders, and neither of these conditions can be satisfied.

Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare

In view of the fact that I know of 30,000 persons whose standard of living will be very seriously affected, will my right hon. Friend receive a Parliamentary deputation on the subject from Members of all parties who are interested in this question?

Mr. Dalton

I am not sure that they would speak with one voice if I were to receive them. I have gone into this matter exceedingly carefully. Two deputations from the check traders have been received by my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who has also gone into the matter carefully, and my officials have received a number of representations, and I think I really do know all the facts, and I do not feel there would be any advantage in my receiving any further' deputation on the subject, but, naturally, I am always very glad to see hon. Members of this House who wish to consult me.

33. Sir Robert Bird

asked the President of the Board of Trade the man-power estimated to be released on 1st October for the war effort as a consequence of the Control Order issued by him, operating on this date, which prohibits the poundage charge by check trading companies in respect of the purchase of utility clothing and footwear?

Mr. Dalton

I regret that no close estimate can be made, since it is impossible to foresee to what extent the prohibition of poundage charges will affect the activities of the check trading companies. Nor is it known exactly how many persons they now employ. But the number is certainly considerable and I am informed that one company alone still has over 9,000 employees. I am in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour with a view to ensuring that all persons released as a result of this measure are directed to essential war service.

Sir R. Bird

Is the right hon. Gentleman that in the case of one of the leading companies one-third of the agents are engaged only in their spare time and are already otherwise fully employed on war work, and therefore they cannot be reckoned as not making a contribution to the national effort, and that the remaining two-thirds consist of military rejects and males of 60 to 70 years of age?