Order No. 1600 has been withdrawn, and Order No. 1920 has been substituted; the explanatory notes are understandable, but the rest of the Order is incomprehensible, and I hope will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny later.
In general, I think it is agreed by all that the cost of living must come down; and that applies to the nationalised industries, to coal, transport, gas and electricity, and we welcome any efforts to reduce the cost of living. But our objection here is that the cost of living is being reduced through these orders by reducing the earnings of one section of the community alone. It is unpalatable to hon. Members opposite, but this is something which does play an important part in our national economy.
Our second objection to these price reductions is that they have been brought about without any proper consultation with the industry. Nothing has emerged from this Debate which has altered our view that the right hon. Gentleman could have carried the industry with him had he had proper consultations. In one and the same sentence he talked contemptuously about getting into a huddle with industry—as if that were not one of the duties of the President of the Board of Trade—and a moment later he talked of conferences with deputations which if they had happened before, might have prevented a great deal of misunderstanding.
I do not want to prolong the discussion tonight, but these are three orders out of many, and we shall have other opportunities to examine this principle in detail. These orders are now in operation and to revoke them would cause a good deal of confusion in retail distribution. We are sensible of our responsibilities in this matter. We know that there are other orders which we are watching carefully, and though we do not propose to divide the House tonight against the orders, we shall watch most carefully any future orders of the same kind.