HC Deb 20 July 1950 vol 477 cc2452-5
16. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that there is a shortage of nylon stockings and ladies' gloves in the retail shops of Aberdeen; and if he will take steps to increase the supply of these much-desired articles of apparel to that city.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Harold Wilson)

The shortage of nylon stockings in relation to the demand for them is not confined to Aberdeen. I am not aware of any shortage of women's gloves and understand that in fact some of the Aberdeen shops have large stocks of these.

Mr. Hughes

Is my right hon. Friend able to promise some improvement in ladies' sartorial styles, at least in the Festival of Britain year?

Mr. Wilson

I cannot make any such rash promises. The supply of nylon stockings to the home market is increasing, and I am at present inquiring into the whole question of their distribution.

Mr. Spence

Would the President of the Board of Trade consider restricting the supplies of nylons which go to the spivs in Oxford Street, and see that they go to the shops?

Mr. Wilson

As the hon. Member will realise, the distribution of nylons is undertaken by private enterprise and not by my Department. I have, however, called for a report on the whole question of distribution and I hope to have something to say about it in due course.

Mr. Osborne

Is the Minister aware that many machines which were imported from America with Marshall Aid dollars for the specific purpose of manufacturing nylon stockings are now having to use other material because nylon yarn is not available? When will the Minister make more nylon yarn available, so that the machines we already have can be fully used?

Mr. Wilson

When I get enough polymer from Imperial Chemical Industries and enough nylon yarn from the British nylon spinners.

18. Mrs. Jean Mann

asked the President of the Board of Trade the retail prices of first, second and third-quality nylon stockings; and what measures are taken to ensure correct prices for each quality.

Mr. H. Wilson

The statutory maximum retail prices of nylon stockings range from 6s. 9d. a pair for utility seamless stockings to 12s. 11d. (including Purchase Tax) for fully-fashioned non-utility stockings, except for the very finest quality, made from 15 denier yarn and so marked, for which the maximum price is 17s. 6d. (including Purchase Tax). When a utility stocking fails to comply with the specification laid down by the Board of Trade it must be marked "substandard" and the manufacturer may not charge more than 50 per cent. of his maximum price.

There are no separate maximum prices for "seconds" and "thirds," these being terms commonly used by the trade to describe imperfect stockings. I understand that it is the practice of manufacturers to sell imperfect stockings at lower prices than "perfects."

Mrs. Mann

Can my right hon. Friend indicate how the purchaser can be protected in regard to prices? Will he insist on the prices being stamped on the stockings as they leave the factory?

Mr. Wilson

I shall be glad to look into that, but I can see a lot of difficulties.

Mrs. Mann

If I submit to my right hon. Friend samples which have been sent to me from my constituents, will he investigate the prices and quality?

Mr. Wilson

Yes, Sir. I will certainly be prepared to look at any evidence my hon. Friend sends me.

19. Mrs. Mann

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many pairs of first-quality nylon stockings are reserved for the home market; and how many pairs of seconds and thirds.

Mr. H. Wilson

The total supply of nylon stockings to the home market is now at a rate of about 24 million pairs a year. As regards the proportion of "perfects" in this supply, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) on 13th July.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

By way of solving this problem on a more or less permanent footing, will my right hon. Friend do his best to encourage and make more fashionable the use of lisle stockings as an alternative?

Mrs. Mann

Since the supply of nylon has so greatly increased, has my right hon. Friend made any arrangement for additional timber for the under-the-counter trade in nylons?

Mr. Wilson

I have made clear that I have already called for a report on the distribution of nylons, with a view to seeing that the available supplies are distributed as fairly as possible.

Mr. Maudling

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange to make suitable samples available in the Library?

20. Mr. Dodds

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many prosecutions against offenders for selling imperfect nylon stockings at excessive prices have been initiated by his Department.

Mr. H. Wilson

During the first six months of this year there were 85 prosecutions for overcharging for nylon stockings, but I am unable to say how many of these concerned imperfect goods.

Mr. Dodds

In view of the able-bodied "spivs" to be seen every day on the London streets, not only defrauding women but, what is more pathetic, defrauding men who are anxious to buy stockings for wives and sweethearts, does my right hon. Friend really think the number of prosecutions is satisfactory and, if not, what will he do to deal with this widespread evil?

Mr. Wilson

Some 77 of the 85 prosecutions were against street and market traders and I understand that a further 135 cases have been recommended by the Central Price Regulation Committee for prosecution, most of them against such traders.