§ 67. Mr. John Lewis
asked the President of the Board of Trade the percentage increase in the output of footwear of all types for each full year since 1945; and how the present output compares with that in 1938.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. John Edwards)
The percentage increases in production of pairs of footwear of all types over production in 1945 were 23, 38 and 55 in 1946, 1947 and 1948, respectively. The production of rubber footwear, which includes plimsolls, was very small in 1945, but by 1948 it had increased sevenfold. Without rubber footwear, the percentage increases over 1945 were 15, 24, and 37 in 1946, 1947 and 1948, respectively. There are no comprehensive production figures for 1938, but what evidence is available indicates that the present output of footwear of all types is probably slightly higher than it was then.
§ 68. Mr. J. Lewis
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that price control of footwear is responsible for higher profit margins than would normally be made by wholesalers and distributors, which results in the consumer paying the maximum prices permissible under Government regulations; and whether he contemplates any change in these regulations.
§ Mr. Lewis
If, as my hon. Friend pointed out in reply to my first Question, the output of footwear, especially 1908 leather footwear, is higher today than in 1938, does he not realise that prices would fall immediately if he took away price control, in view of the fact that there is no monopoly in this industry and that dozens of small manufacturers are engaged in it and that a price control is maintained to ensure a margin of profit, which in normal circumstances would not exist?
§ Mr. Edwards
I cannot accept my hon. Friend's conclusions. The fact that boots and shoes are relatively plentiful does not mean that we can safely withdraw price control.
§ 69. Mr. J. Lewis
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that, as a result of the increased output of footwear of all kinds, the lifting of the price controls in this industry will result in a drop in prices to the consumer by an average of several shillings per pair; and if he will state how long he intends to maintain price control.
§ Mr. J. Edwards
We are of course aware that the output of footwear has increased, but recent reductions in the price of footwear have been achieved through price control. We cannot accept the suggestion in the first part of the Question, and price control will be maintained until we are satisfied that it can be removed without any risk that people will have to pay more for such important things as boots and shoes.
§ Mr. Lewis
While agreeing with everything my hon. Friend says, if there is evidence that there are more leather boots and shoes available than are required by the public or than there is purchasing power to take up, surely if price control goes, the effect will be that prices will immediately go down?
§ Mr. Edwards
I am not satisfied that the present supply position is such that price control could be removed without some danger to the public.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Can the Minister say whether there is anything to prevent the shoe manufacturers dropping their prices at the present time without him interfering?