Retail Trade Committee (Report).

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Commerce. – in the House of Commons on 7th July 1942.

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Mr. De la Bère:

asked the President of the Board of Trade, on what date the Government are prepared to make a statement arising out of the last Report of the Retail Trade Committee; and whether, in connection with the proposals for concentration entailing the closing down of a large number of small shops, the Government will give an assurance that this concentration will be on a voluntary and not a compulsory basis?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given him on Thursday last by my hen. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. Before reaching a decision on this Question, I must be in possession of the views both of the other Departments concerned and of the interests affected.

Mr. De la Bère:

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that public opinion is most stirred and perturbed throughout the country because of the Government's treatment of the small trader and retailer; and will he take steps to find out the views of chambers of trade and chambers of commerce throughout the country and really to expedite the whole matter, as so many of these people are daily going out of business, and it is a matter of life and death?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

I am also aware that opinion is divided, even among the interests affected, upon the particular recommendations, and it is, therefore, important, as I indicated, that I should make myself acquainted with these views.

Photo of Sir Patrick Hannon Sir Patrick Hannon , Birmingham Moseley

Will the Minister take counsel with chambers of commerce in those districts where the small shopkeeper is very hard hit by the proposals for concentration; and will he exercise his judgment carefully by not compelling these poor people to lose their businesses without further consideration?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

I fully appreciate the importance of the question, and I am therefore wishing to take consultation with them. I cannot undertake myself to see representatives from every district, but I hope that I shall see representatives from the national point of view of all these people.

Mr. De la Bère:

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that over a million people are involved in this matter?

Photo of Sir Herbert Butcher Sir Herbert Butcher , Holland with Boston

asked the President of the Board of Trade why the estimated printing and publishing costs of the Third Report of the Retail Trade Committee, consisting of 38 pages, amounted to £258 whereas the Second Interim Report consisting of 40 pages, was estimated to cost only £100 for printing and publishing?

II. Mr. De la Bère:

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the exceptional high figure of £258 given as the estimate for printing and publishing the Third Report of the Retail Trade Committee, he can give some explanation of the cause?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

At the request of the chairman of the Committee some alterations were made when the report was already in the press, and additional expense was, therefore, incurred. This, together with increased printing costs, accounts for the extra cost of printing the Committee's Third Report.

Photo of Sir Herbert Butcher Sir Herbert Butcher , Holland with Boston

In view of the obvious substantial expense of preparing and printing this Report, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that these recommendations will be implemented as soon as possible?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

No, Sir, certainly not. I have given an assurance that, before reaching a decision, I will consult all those interests which are directly concerned. As I have already said, it is evident that there is a wide difference of opinion regarding the recommendations even among the interests concerned.

Photo of Sir Herbert Butcher Sir Herbert Butcher , Holland with Boston

Is the Minister aware that this is no new problem and that it has been with his Department since the outbreak of war and is frequently referred to in this House, and is it not a little late for consultations still to be going on in this matter?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

I can well imagine what my hon. and gallant Friend would say if I had no consultations.

Mr. De la Bère:

Is it not the sole purpose of setting up committees that the Government should be guided by their recommendations? Why do they hedge and run out at the last minute? The whole thing is most improper.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

The Government would indeed be wrong if they accepted any recommendations of a body without considering them on their merits, and that is what I intend to do with regard to the interests concerned in this case.

Mr. De la Bère:

The speedier the right hon. Gentleman does it, the better.