Temporary Shops, Plymouth

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th September 1948.

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Photo of Mr John Belcher Mr John Belcher , Sowerby 12:00 am, 16th September 1948

Not from devastated cities, but there are other matters to be taken into consideration. It may not be just a question of building a shop in a devastated city, but an extension to a factory which will make goods to sell overseas to provide food and raw materials without which we cannot exist, and we have a number of cases of that kind.

I was rather sorry to hear the Member for the Sutton Division (Mrs. Middleton) making a criticism of regional officials. I know that she did not suggest they were not doing their job to the best of their ability, but my own experience, and it is by now pretty considerable, of the work of regional officials is that it is of a very high order indeed. They take their jobs very seriously and co-operate very closely with the local government officials. I do not know that local government bodies would welcome the suggestion that we should deprive them of their staff in order to staff the regional offices of the Ministry, but I do know, as far as Plymouth is concerned, that the regional officers have not only tried to be most helpful, but, in fact, have been.

We do realise the difficulty in which Plymouth is placed because of the loss of so much of its shopping space during the war, and these difficulties are all the greater because, as two hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree, it is not a question of meeting the shopping needs of Plymouth alone, because Plymouth is the great shopping centre of the whole of the South-West of the country and represents a special problem for that reason. I am told that before the war Plymouth probably catered for the shopping needs of about 500,000 people.

It is not true, of course, that nothing has been done. Quite a good deal has been done in rehabilitating on a temporary basis towns like Plymouth. Every application that we have had for the rebuilding of shops has been considered on its merits, having regard to the claims of housing, very important in the case of Plymouth, and the industrial building and the limits imposed upon us by the available labour and material. By the middle of 1947, the local authority had erected 58 temporary shops, mainly Nissen hutting, with a total area of 60,000 square feet, for allocation to blitzed traders. In addition, 46 applications for about 50,000 square feet had been approved by the Board of Trade for the reconstruction and repair of existing premises and the erection of temporary shops by private traders. In addition to these, there are the applications approved by the Ministry of Food, with which the Board of Trade has not been concerned.