asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the proposed prohibition of the payment of a poundage by purchasers of utility clothing in respect of the credit facilities afforded to them by the credit trading firms will have for effect the bringing to an end a system which has been operating for 60 years and will involve the credit trading firms in immediate heavy losses, arising out of the credits outstanding; and will he therefore suspend the Order until the matter has been further examined?
I presume that both Questions refer to the form of credit trading known as check trading. I have made an Order under the Defence Regulations controlling check trading, and issued a Direction under it which prohibits the charging of poundage on checks supplied by check trading companies and similar businesses. After discussion with representatives of the interests concerned, I have decided that this prohibition will not come into force until 1st October. This will give the companies time to collect their outstanding debts and to make the necessary adjustments in their businesses. The purpose of the Order is to protect the buyer of clothing and other necessities against excessive charges.
Is the right hon. Gentle-man aware that the personnel engaged in this organisation exceeds 12,000 and that they contend that the Order will put them out of business and employment? Further, will he consider some scheme whereby an appropriate quota from this organisation can be released for the national effort while permitting the structure of check trading to continue to give service to the masses, as it has done for many years past?
I would not, without notice, like to accept the hon. Gentleman's figure of 12,000. I think it may be an understatement, and, if so, that only indicates that it would be in the national interest to reduce the scale of these operations. I cannot believe that this large number of itinerant travellers is really necessary in order that people shall be able to get their necessary supplies. I would point out that postponement of the Order until 1st October should assist the transition which the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I am also advised that these check-trading companies get a large part of their revenue through the discount they get from retailers.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that these people will be forced out of business? How can he reconcile that with his statements in the past that it is not the policy of the Government to put anybody out of business?
I have never said that it is not the policy of the Government to put anybody out of business. It is our policy to see that our labour forces are most effectively employed in the winning of the war, and I cannot believe that the vast army of people engaged in this business is really contributing to the winning of the war.