Small Shopkeepers.

Oral Answers to Questions — Food Supplies. – in the House of Commons on 17th July 1941.

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Photo of Sir Harold Sutcliffe Sir Harold Sutcliffe , Royton

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that certain local food officers are issuing notices in forming individual shopkeepers with less than 25 customers that rationed goods will not be distributed to them; whether this is the correct method of notification; whether the customers are to be told; and whether any official announcement has been made?

Major Lloyd George:

Yes, Sir, whenever a retailer does not secure a minimum of 25 registrations for any rationed food the appropriate food executive officer, after notification to the retailer, has been instructed to invite the consumers concerned to register with another retailer. In rural districts the food executive officer has, however, authority in exceptional cases to accept less than 25 registrations if he is satisfied that only by this means will, certain members of the public be able to obtain supplies. In reply to the last part of my hon. Friend's Question, a general Press announcement on the foregoing lines was issued on 4th July.

Photo of Sir Harold Sutcliffe Sir Harold Sutcliffe , Royton

How many shopkeepers are likely to be involved, and has any estimate been made of the saving in transport costs as a result of this drastic action?

Major Lloyd George:

I could not say without notice the exact numbers involved, but I can assure my hon. Friend that it does mean a saving. Any saving, however small, if we see that a certain method of distribution is wasteful, should be taken advantage of.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

Is there any estimate of the number of shopkeepers who will be put out of business as a result of this step?

Major Lloyd George:

I have no estimate, but I should think that it is extraordinarily small.

Mr. Graham White:

Is it proposed to give compensation to those who have their livelihood taken away by this action?

Major Lloyd George:

If my hon. Friend will consider what this means and will work it out, he will see that it will involve 25 registrations, which means at most six families. It means 25 books, not 25 families. My hon. Friend will see what that means in the volume of trade, and I do not think compensation is required.

Mr. White:

If my hon. and gallant Friend will look further into the matter, he will find that people are being forced to close their businesses and become a burden on the rates. Will he consider what effect that has on the morale of the people?

Major Lloyd George:

I do not understand how people can be forced to close their businesses and go on the rates before this has come into operation.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

Will the Minister bear in mind that when customers are forced away from these small businesses they will not go to them for anything else and that the shopkeepers will have to close?

Major Lloyd George:

I would point out that not all the rationed commodities are sold by any one of these people. We must get a proper sense of proportion. The question of hardship has been mentioned, and let me give one example, that of sugar. The gross profit to a shopkeeper selling sugar to 25 people is about 7d. a week.