HC Deb 09 March 1948 vol 448 cc993-5
18. Major Guy Lloyd

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he has taken with regard to the request to see a deputation from the Council of Retail Distributors either in Scotland or in London, with a view to hearing further evidence with regard to insecurity of tenure of shop premises in Scotland and arbitrary notices to buy or quit shop premises.

Mr. Woodburn

I am considering the possibility of legislation in the light of the available evidence, and I am taking account of the representations which have been made to me, including those by the Council of Retail Distributors. I regret that I have not yet had an opportunity of meeting a deputation from the Council.

Major Lloyd

While welcoming the Minister's statement, and understanding as a result that he realises the urgency of this matter, may I ask would he be good enough to see this deputation, which is most anxious to put evidence before him?

Mr. Woodburn

I shall do my best, but I hope the hon. and gallant Member will assure the deputation that the mere fact that I have not seen it, does not mean that I am not conscious of the points it puts forward.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

In view of the many occasions on which the Scottish Labour Members have pressed the Secretary of State and his predecessor on this issue, would he consider trying to get legislation in time to prevent further injustices being done to Scottish shopkeepers before the May term; and at the same time, may I welcome the conversion of hon. Members opposite on this problem?

Mr. Woodburn

Since I appealed to the hon. Member to send me the information he had, I have received a very great deal of evidence from both sides of the House. That information is certainly sufficient to justify the step I have taken of investigating the possibility of early legislation.

Mr. McGovern

Will the Minister try to convert the Cabinet to the idea of passing legislation through this House in time to assist all small shopkeepers who otherwise will be evicted at the May term?

Mr. Woodburn

That is a point we are investigating.

Major Lloyd

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his very fair statement that he has had information from both sides of the House is sufficient answer to the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan)?

Mrs. Mann

Is my right hon. Friend aware that every day, not only shopkeepers but tenants of offices have demands to "buy or quit"; that the prices asked are exorbitant; and that very often the shopkeepers are soldiers who have spent their entire gratuity, and are faced with eviction?

Mr. Nally

Will the Secretary of State bear in mind that the Council of Retail Distributors, founded and financed for most of its career by a Conservative newspaper, is not regarded by the best elements in the business as being a bona fide trade organisation.