Industrial Concentration and Retail Trade.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 23rd July 1942.

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Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

Yes, certainly. I have explained that one of the reasons for the whole utility policy is that it facilitates price control by defining and limiting the range of articles. All these utility goods will be subject to price control, subject to recommendations made to me by the Central Price Regulation Committee on the one hand and by my officials who study these matters on the other.

I am anxious to turn at this point to what is, I think, the most difficult problem facing the Board of Trade, namely, the question of non-food retail shops. I know that many hon. Members are anxious to speak on the subject, and I wish myself to say something on the topic now. One of the reasons why the problem of true retail trade is so difficult is the lack of reliable information. Looking back to the days before the war when everything was so much easier, we must all regret that no proper census of distribution was ever taken. We have information about many industries, such as mining, but our information about the retail trade is seriously deficient. That circumstance greatly increases the difficulties of our task now in dealing with the problem. On the other hand, we know a great deal in broad outline, and I would like to give the Committee the most accurate picture I can of the present situation in the retail trade. First of all, we know the volume of the turnover, the quantity sold in the non-food shops. I am speaking entirely of non-food shops, because food shops come under the Ministry of Food and are not in Order on this Vote. That volume had fallen substantially before the war, and it is also quite certain that it must fall further in the period ahead, as a result of the regrettable but inevitable further diminution of the total available civilian supplies.