asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether he will arrange for coupons to be issued to troops entitling them to purchase a certain number of cigarettes at pre-Budget price at any recognised Service canteen;
(2) whether he will arrange for the Service canteens which are not controlled by the Council of Voluntary War Work to be given the same facilities for supplying Service personnel with cigarettes at pre-Budget prices as are proposed for Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes and Council of Voluntary War Work canteens?
In order to secure a fair distribution of the supplies available to all entitled personnel and to prevent sales to those not so entitled, it has been necessary to arrange that sales at the privilege price shall only be made by Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes canteens and approved canteens operated by the constituent bodies of the Council of Voluntary War Work. Other canteens will, however, be able to buy supplies of cigarettes and tobacco, as before, for sale to Service personnel, or otherwise, at normal prices. The arrangements' to secure equitable distribution to entitled personnel were explained to my hon. and gallant Friend in an answer given him on 19th May. It is not considered that the introduction of coupons will be necessary.
Does my hon. Friend realise that that answer will cause disappointment to those concerned and that probably 90 per cent. of the independent canteens are in the smaller villages where they are the only sources from which the troops can buy cigarettes? Surely those are the very sections of the Army which we should be most concerned to help?
My hon. Friend will appreciate that we must be extremely careful to avoid abuse of this privilege. We have therefore had to lay down a rule that cigarettes shall not be sold at two different prices in the same canteen. I think the arrangements we have made are the best that can be made in the circumstances. The improved method of control about which the House has been told in a previous answer is being introduced on 1st June, and I hope that it will secure equitable distribution.
It is because we have to ensure that the canteens which are included in the scheme sell cigarettes only at the privilege price. A great number of the canteens to which my hon. Friend refers sell to outside persons who are not entitled to the concession.