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 Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

That is not the experience of this country in the past. Our experience is that after a war the manufacture of pots and pans grows enormously and the retail trade is well away before the export trade gets a start. I am pleased as a trade unionist that mention is made by the Committee of the necessity for establishing a proper wage scale and proper conditions of employment in the retail trade. [Interruption.] If the hon. Ladies opposite interrupt my speech, it will be much longer than I intended it to be. If they will remain silent, I will close my speech earlier, but that is difficult for both of them. We are dealing with the non-food trades and the House of Commons must face the fact that these people have had a very raw deal from the community. I do not know anything more catastrophic in the history of the war than the position of the small shopkeepers. I put a question to the hon. Member who spoke for the Liberal party when he suggested that the State should enter into retail distribution. I have no objection to that except that as a Socialist I would prefer the municipalities to deal with some of the retail distribution instead of the State.

It does not matter what Parliament wishes to do or what system of registration or licences there is, when the war is ended and thousands of men come back from the Forces, some of them wounded, some with a small pension, nobody will employ them in industry, and Parliament at one fell swoop will disregard all Regulations and allow them to open little shops everywhere. That is exactly what will happen, and it is no use Parliament making promises of any kind about registration and licences. Some people talk about planning retail distribution, but when I hear a person talking about planning I am always afraid that he has the elements of a dictator in him. Show me a planner, and I will show you a dictator. The small shopkeeper is gradually going by the board owing to two processes that are taking place. One is the Co-operative movement, which is growing by leaps and bounds every year and the other is the chain stores and multiple shops, which are expanding. The hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate on this side of the Committee was right. People do not go to small shops because they are small shops. Women go to the emporia and spend half a day to look at things and then come out without buying anything. The problem, in spite of all the President of the Board of Trade will promise, will be settled of its own volition. I would ask the Board of Trade when they deal with this problem to remember above all things that promises made during wartime will never be able to be implemented when the war is over.