§ 44. Mr. Harrison
asked the Minister of Food what steps he has taken to ensure that supplies of what were points goods are continued to individual retailers and shortages to certain consumers thereby avoided.
§ The Minister of Food (Mr. Maurice Webb)
These kinds of canned fish, canned fruit and dried fruit which were on points will still be distributed to retailers in proportion to the number of their registered customers. Wholesalers and manufacturers are responsible for the fair distribution of the other foods formerly on points, but I have had satisfactory assurances from the wholesale trade on this matter, and from my inquiries I am confident that the manufacturers also are seeing to it that their goods are fairly shared among retailers. Indeed, it is obviously in their own interest to do so. All the evidence since we made the change shows that there is no need for any anxiety about this problem. I should add, however, that we are vigorously trying to make supplies equal to demand which of course is the only effective solution.
§ Mr. Wilkes
Can my right hon. Friend say whether, since the abolition of the points system, he has been able to increase any raw material supplies to the manufacturers of goods formerly on points, because that would seem to be the core of the matter? Has he been able to give any increases?
§ Mr. Webb
When points rationing ended I arranged for a close and comprehensive investigation of the result. I have had detailed reports from each region, all of which, I am happy to state, show beyond all doubt that the removal of points rationing has proved beneficial and agreeable to the housewife. Some of the foods, as I stated when we made the change, are still scarce, but there is ample evidence that their distribution is being arranged by the grocers on a fair basis and is giving satisfaction to the overwhelming majority of the buying public.
§ 52. Mrs. Castle
asked the Minister of Food what guarantees he received from the grocers' associations that they would distribute goods in short supply fairly, before he decided to abolish the points system.
§ Mr. Webb
The points rationing system was abolished, as I have already explained, because it became impossible to ensure fair shares and balanced distribution on so limited a range of goods. Even if there had been no assurance of fair distribution by the grocers the rigidity of the reduced points scheme made the decision to end it inevitable. However, I am glad to say that the responsible spokesmen of the organised grocers gave my Ministry acceptable assurances that they would try to ensure fair and equitable distribution of any goods which remained in short supply.
In any event, as I have also announced, we shall continue our established controls over the distribution of these goods to retail distributors. For example, many kinds of canned fish, canned fruit and dried fruit will be allocated to retailers in proportion to the number of registered customers for rationed goods. I am confident that these arrangements will ensure fair distribution. Indeed, all reports show that this change is proceeding smoothly with general appreciation by the housewife.
§ Mrs. Castle
Is my right non. Friend aware that many shops have been selling 217 syrup, biscuits and dried fruit freely to all comers, regardless of registrations, since the points scheme ended, and is he satisfied that supplies will continue to come forward in sufficient quantities to enable this to be done without unfairness to any consumers?