HC Deb 23 February 1954 vol 524 cc198-9
36. Sir H. Sutcliffe

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the difficulties of some retailers of sweets and tobacco in obtaining a sufficient allocation of cigarettes for their customers; and whether he will consider referring to the Monopolies Commission the present arrangements for the wholesale and retail distribution of cigarettes in this country.

Mr. H. Strauss

There is no general shortage of cigarettes, but I am aware that some distributors may not be able to get as many cigarettes of certain brands as they would like. I do not think that there are any grounds for referring this matter to the Monopolies Commission.

Sir H. Sutcliffe

May I ask my hon. and learned Friend whether there can be any justification for the fact that the most popular brands of cigarettes are still "under the counter" in some areas in the north of England, and only in the north of England, and that traders are receiving only one-third of the quantity they can sell of these cigarettes? Is it not also very wrong that some wholesalers are making it a condition of supply that the retailer must sell a certain quantity of confectionery, in the case of mixed businesses, so that the rationing of cigarettes is bound up with confectionery supplies?

Mr. Strauss

While there are restrictions on supplies of dollar tobacco it is impossible to increase the production of certain brands beyond a certain point. I do not think there is a case for referring this matter to the Monopolies Commission, but it may be that some aspects of the distribution arrangements fall within the scope of the general inquiry that is taking place under Section 15 of the Act.