HC Deb 16 April 1948 vol 449 cc100-2W
Mr. Dye

asked the President of the Board of Trade what amendments he proposes to make in the Standstill Orders which come into force on 26th April.

Mr. H. Wilson

In general, the Orders follow very closely on Statutory Instruments Nos. 348, 349, 352, 353 and 354 of 1948 presented to the House on 24th February and suspended by Statutory Instrument No. 508. I have, however, been giving consideration to the problem of goods not similar to those sold in the basic period. I am anxious not to prevent the development of new types of goods, apart, of course, from new types produced simply to evade price control, and I have decided, therefore, to make the control more flexible in this respect. I am accordingly proposing to replace the original form of control for these goods by a provision that the maximum price for goods not similar to those sold in the basic period shall be the costs of production and sale plus 5 per cent. thereof. As with other cost plus provisions, these costs may not include increased costs due to increases in wages, salaries or commissions agreed after 4th February, 1948. Applications for an increase in the margin of 5 per cent. will be considered wherever it can be shown that it is unreasonably low for particular sections of industry; similarly, the margin will be reduced it it should appear that a lower figure would be appropriate in particular cases.

I have received assurances that these arrangements will not be used to break the Standstill. The second point to which I have given further consideraltion, and on which I have consulted with the interests concerned, relates to quantity discounts and allowances. The new Order makes provision for these and for the adoption of an earlier basic period for seasonal goods which were not being sold in the 1948 period.

Thirdly, as the Standstill control is designed primarily to cover goods sold to the public, the new Order excludes from its scope goods purchased for use in the manufacture of other goods.

Finally, the opportunity has been taken to clear up a number of other points on which representations have been made to us.

Additions to the price in the basic period are being allowed for goods made wholly or mainly of leather from which the subsidy was removed on 1st January, for cotton cloth where there have been large increases in yarn prices and also a wage increase since the beginning of the year, and for certain paper goods where the raw material is a very large item of cost and its price has recently increased considerably; the Schedule of goods has been amended in a number of instances by the inclusion or exclusion of particular types of goods; specific provision has been made for sole distributors, for delivery charges on small parcels and for cash discount to be compulsory only where it was allowed in the basic period; and distributors' margins have been adjusted where it has been shown to our satisfaction that the margins normally taken in December, 1947, were other than those specified in the original Order. As the House knows, the Orders were intended in the first place only as a standstill of prices and Departments are about to embark on discussions with distributors with a view to margin reductions wherever possible.

The new Orders, which revoke and replace the present Orders, will be published in the latter part of next week. In order to give traders time to study them, we shall arrange for the Orders to come into operation on 3rd May, apart from the revoking provisions which will be made operative by 26th April, this being the date on which the present Orders would otherwise have come into force.