HC Deb 31 January 1952 vol 495 cc340-2
10. Mr. Eric Fletcher

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any statement to make about the future of the utility clothing scheme.

11. Mr. F. A. Burden

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement regarding the future of the utility scheme.

13. Mr. George Chetwynd

asked the President of the Board of Trade his policy in regard to the utility clothing scheme; and what changes have been made in it since November, 1951.

16. Mr. Anthony Greenwood

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is now in a position to give some indication of the Government's policy towards the utility scheme for cloth and clothing.

Mrs. Jean Mann

On a point of order. Before the Recess I put in at the Table Questions similar to Nos. 10, 13 and 16, and they were returned to me on the ground that it was inopportune to ask a Minister to express his intentions. Is there one law for males in this House and another for females?

Mr. Speaker

There is no discrimination in this House on that score. I will inquire into the hon. Lady's complaint.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

No, Sir; but I have the matter under consideration. The only recent change of any importance in the utility clothing schemes has been in the method of controlling distributors' prices for some classes of utility cloth, clothing and household textiles.

Mr. Fletcher

Will the Minister give us an assurance that whatever decisions are ultimately announced he will see that the public are protected as regards both prices and quality of goods which are now sold as utility goods?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I suggest that it would be well to await the report of the Douglas Committee appointed by the previous Administration, in which the whole range of this very complicated matter is gone into in very considerable detail.

Mr. Chetwynd

In view of the campaign which is being waged against this system by vested interests in the trade, will the Minister take note of the great consumer interest involved and do his utmost to look after that interest as well?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The terms of reference of the Committee were that they should have regard not merely to international problems and those of manufacturers at home, but those of consumers at home at the same time.

Mrs. Mann

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that any alteration in this scheme that throws up high prices without any protection of standards—which means shoddy articles for high prices—will receive the utmost opposition from housewives? May I warn him—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I think he should accept a friendly warning, but I will correct my approach. Is he aware that all the analgesia in Great Britain will not kill the pain that he will have if he allows this to happen?

Mr. Douglas Jay

Can the right hon. Gentleman, to relieve consumers of anxiety, at least give the assurance that the Government will not impose Purchase Tax on textile goods which are now within the utility scheme and are, therefore, tax-free?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I think that the right hon. Gentleman might await the report of the Committee appointed by his own Government.

Miss Alice Bacon

Is the President of the Board of Trade aware that only this morning I received a letter from a firm in my constituency—which is, incidentally, the biggest clothing organisation in the world—saying that the abandonment of the utility scheme, as advocated in some quarters, would have a most disturbing effect on the public and would once again create chaos and confusion in the industry?

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

We must go on to another Question.