I am not saying that the shops can be relet for exactly the same business purposes, but I am saying that with the decreasing volume of properties in the country there is no case for allowing the money from this fund to by-pass the shopkeeper and get into the hands of other commercial interests who are not ostensibly included in this scheme at all. Under this scheme the retailer who remains in business will not pay the levy. He only becomes the tax collector, the agency for getting the money, because he will be able to pass this charge on to the public, on to his customers.
I ask the Committee to follow the sequence of my reasoning. When the Government have considered the general problem of citizens whose occupations have been affected by the war, people who have lost their professional incomes or have lost commercial positions through the war, they have always resisted their claims to any compensation. The Government adopted that position to protect the taxpayer, and having taken up that attitude I say the Government are not entitled to implement a scheme such as that we are now considering which will throw a burden upon the citizen in his capacity as a consumer. Hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people have been injured by the same processes as have affected retail shopkeepers without securing any compensation. I would give another instance of what has happened. When meat control was introduced 14,000 slaughter houses were shut down automatically and no compensation was paid. None of the persons who were employed in connection with those slaughter houses got any compensation and there was no appeal. If those 14,000 businesses could be closed down without any effort being made to meet the situation what case can be made out for meeting the claims of people who voluntarily withdraw from business? In my final word I would urge upon the Government and the Board of Trade that they should have no part in operating this scheme. If, as I have said, the Government are prepared to meet the point as to treating the levy as a business charge for taxation purposes, I think various groups of businesses may devise method's which will ease the impact of war conditions.