HC Deb 22 February 1951 vol 484 cc1427-9
6. Mr. Geoffrey Hirst

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many officials have been, or will be, involved with work in connection with the Census of Production and the Census of Distribution; how long they have been, or will be, occupied on this work; and what is the estimated annual expenditure of each census.

Mr. H. Wilson

The number of officials engaged on work in connection with the Census of Production and the Census of Distribution was 1,126 on 1st February, 1951, and approximately this number will be required for the remainder of the year. In the first half of 1952, the number will be gradually reduced to about 750, as work on the present Census of Distribution approaches completion. A Census of Production is taken every year and a Census of Distribution in any year prescribed by order of the Board of Trade. Expenditure on Census of Production work during 1951 will be approximately £175,000; and that on the first Census of Distribution is estimated at £577,000, spread over about three years.

Mr. Hirst

Is the Minister aware that the numbers involved in industry, the time taken and the cost to industry and commerce are even greater than the phenomenal figures he has announced? Is he aware that delay in the compilation of Census of Production returns makes comparison wholly useless? In connection with the Census of Distribution, is he aware that the imposition of an omnibus return of that nature at this time is quite out of accord with the needs of the country?

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He cannot complain both that we have too many staff on the Census of Production and that the results of that census are too long delayed. There has been widespread feeling in all parts of the House that we needed the information which will be provided by the Census of Distribution. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that information of this kind is regularly collected in the United States.

Mr. Keeling

Is the President aware that the Central Organisation of Citizens' Advice Bureaux has been asked to lend a hand in the Census of Distribution by giving instruction to small traders? How can he reconcile that request with the cutting of the grant to the Bureaux?

Mr. Wilson

I am sure that the Advice Bureaux will help traders very greatly in this matter. The question of the grant is one to be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Marlowe

Is it not the case that the Census of Distribution was decided upon long before the present rearmament programme arose; is it not now wholly out of accord with the present situation; and ought it not to be dropped?

Mr. De la Bère

It is utterly unjustifiable.