HC Deb 21 March 1944 vol 398 cc670-2
56. Major Lyons

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that the chairman of the Price Regulation Committee for the North Midland Region has announced that departmental instructions have been issued to prevent the publication of the observations by the Committee on the refusal to control the price of spirits; whether he can make a statement thereon; and whether he will now publish the matter in question.

Mr. Dalton

No such departmental instructions have been issued. But the chairman of the Central Price Regulations Committees has asked the chairmen of the local Price Regulation Committees to convey direct to him, and not through the Press, any representations they wish to make on price control questions. The control of the prices of wines and spirits is, in any case, not for me, but for my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Food. On receiving a communication on this subject from the chairman of the North Midland Committee on 21st February, I wrote to him, saying that I had forwarded it to the Ministry of Food, for their consideration, and that, in these circumstances, I must ask him to refrain from publication.

Major Lyons

In the case of this chairman was some special instruction given not to send to the Press observations of the Committee?

Mr. Dalton

No special instruction was given. This particular chairman is apt to run to the Press more often than all the other chairmen put together [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] The others do their work very quietly and effectively.

Major Lyons

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this gentleman is looked upon with much respect and appreciation by the people over whom he presides?

Viscountess Astor

Is the right hon. Gentleman against publicising anything to do with drink? Why should that not come out in the Press as well as other things?

Colonel Arthur Evans

Is it not true to say that, if local officials of Price Regulation Committees persist in using the columns of the Press, instead of the accepted channels in communicating with the national chairman, it not only makes efficient administration practically impossible, but the position of the national chairman himself most difficult?

Mr. Dalton

That is quite true. The chairman of the Central Price Regulation Committee is always very glad to hear from local chairmen any matters which they wish to bring before him, and he holds periodical conferences which they attend. In fact all the local chairmen, with one exception, work through these channels without continually sending to the Press material which ought in the first place to be referred to the chairman of the Central Price Regulation Committee.

57. Mr. Shephard

asked the Minister of Food if his attention has been drawn to the notice issued by the North Midland Region Price Regulation Committee calling attention to, and exposing profiteering by, certain hotel and boarding-house proprietors in Nottingham; and what action does he propose to take in the matter.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Mr. Mabane)

My right hon. Friend has not seen the notice to which my hon. Friend refers but a letter has been received from the Secretary of the Committee with which he forwarded a number of extracts from letters complaining of excessive charges for accommodation and meals. This communication is being considered.

Mr. Shephard

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that as much as 25s. is being charged for inferior accommodation and breakfast per night to men serving not only in our Forces but in those of our Allies? Can he not put a stop to this exploitation?

Mr. Mabane

I should be very glad to have evidence of that, because we want to pursue inquiries, which we cannot do until we get evidence. Will the hon. Member be so kind as to give me the evidence?

Major Markham

Did not Sir Douglas McCraith, North Midland Regional Price Regulation Chairman, circulate actual examples?

Mr. Mabane

I am aware that a document was sent with anonymous complaints, without date, and relating to no specific place. I want specific evidence.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Is it not well known to enforcement officers that all the tricks and forms of cheating under the Order are clearly established in every part of the country? It is not time to revise the whole Order regarding billeting, boarding and hotel catering?

Mr. Mabane

It is no Order of ours, Let us have the evidence so that we can get at it.

58. Major Markham

asked the Minister of Food whether -he has considered representations from the Nottingham Price Regulation Committee relating to profiteering in sales of wines and spirits; and whether he has any statement to make.

Mr. Mabane

The reply to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." In reply to the last part of the Question I have nothing to add to the answer which my right hon. and gallant Friend gave to the hon. and gallant Member for East Leicester (Major Lyons) on 9th February.

Major Markham

Is the Minister aware the answer permits the continuance of profiteering in wines and spirits, and does not he think the time has come when the Ministry should take some action to prevent it?

Mr. Mabane

I have nothing to add to the statement made by my right hon. and gallant Friend on 9th February, when he gave the reasons.