Orders of the Day — Furniture (Maximum Prices)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26 June 1951.

Alert me about debates like this

10.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

I beg to move, That an humble Address he presented to His Majesty, praying that the Order, dated 28th May, 1951, entitled the Furniture (Maximum Prices) (Amendment No. 5) Order (S.I., 1951, No. 940), a copy of which was laid before this House on 28th May, be annulled.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

Order. If hon. Members would carry on their conversations outside we could hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

You will observe, Mr. Speaker, that there is another Motion on the Order Paper standing in my name, relating to Supplies and Services (Furniture): That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the Order, dated 18th June, 1951, entitled the Utility Furniture (Marking and Supply) (No. 2) (Amendment No. 2) Order. 1951 (S.I., 1951, No. 1070), a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th June, be annulled. As there appears to be the possibility of some overlapping between these two Orders, I should like to suggest that they be discussed together. They both relate to furniture and, though the second one may in a sense not be as important as the first, I think it would be convenient if they could be discussed together.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

That was my opinion, too. I think it may shorten the debate, and be for the convenience of the House, if we will take them both together.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

I am grateful for that decision, Mr. Speaker, because I think it will avoid a certain amount of undue repetition—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—on the part of those who may oppose me. At a rather early hour on the morning of 9th March I moved a humble Address with regard to Statutory Instrument No. 205, which relates to furniture prices. It may be remembered that hon. Gentlemen who were in the Chamber at that time were not as quiet as they might have been, and it took me about 50 minutes to say what I could have said comfortably in 10 minutes.

On the previous occasion I raised the question—and it is pertinent to what we are discussing tonight—whether certain documents had been properly laid. We now have four Related Schedules or Supplements thereto. It will be remembered that on that occasion the Home Secretary went out to the Vote Office and returned in great triumph with what he said was the Related Schedule. It turned out to be the wrong one; it was one which had been repealed, and not the one we were discussing on that night. I found out subsequently from inquiries made in the Library that the Order had been pro- perly laid but that, for some reason or other, copies were not available in the Vote Office. That caused some confusion, as hon. Members may remember.

At the end of my speech on that occasion my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) formally seconded the Motion, whereupon the Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, who specialises in moving the Closure, duly moved the Closure so that I did not get an answer to my speech, about which I felt a certain amount of grievance. That I was right to have raised the matter then is obvious from what has happened since. If hon. Members will go to the Vote Office they will find that, in addition to Related Schedule U.F. 5, which was the wrong one the Home Secretary found, and to Related Schedule U.F. 6, which was the right one, there has since been a Supplement to Related Schedule U.F. 6 and another Related Schedule No. U.F. 7, so that Related Schedule U.F. 5 has now had three children.

If hon. Members will look at Statutory Instrument No. 940 they will see that it refers to seven Acts of Parliament or Statutory Instruments. If they will look at Order No. 1070 they will find that it refers to about nine Acts of Parliament, or Statutory Instruments, and if they will look at Order No. 750, which Order No. 940 revokes, they will find that it refers to one Act of Parliament and five Statutory Instruments. If they will then look at Order No. 205—the one which we were trying to discuss in the early hours of the morning—they will find that it refers to one Act of Parliament and five other Statutory Instruments.

It is, therefore, not going to be easy for any hon. Member to find out, without very extensive research, how many parts of these Orders are still in operation. One of the difficulties that we must have when dealing with these Statutory Instruments is legislation by reference, but I will do my best, Mr. Speaker, not to get out of order.

I do not know whether hon. Members have read, for example, the pertinent part of Statutory Instrument No. 1070. I will take the liberty of reading paragraph (7), which is the new paragraph inserted in the earlier Order made in 1950: A person may in the course of his business use utility goods, being cloth of a description specified in relation to the specification No. 7585 in the Schedule H.T.5 to the Household Textiles (Marketing and Manufacturers' Prices) Order, 1951(g), in the manufacture of furniture, being upholstered divans, to which he intends to apply the utility mark in accordance with a licence granted under paragraph (2) of Article 1 of this Order. We then get the further illuminating words. A person may in the course of his business use utility goods, being cloth of a description specified in relation to—

  1. (a) the specification number 110 in the Schedule to the Utility Woven Cloth (Wool and Animal Fibre) (Marking. Supply and Manufacturers' Prices) Order. 1950(h), as amended from time to time(i), or
  2. (b) one of the specification numbers (whether or not preceded by the letter "Z") included in Part 1 or Part 2 of the Schedule to the Utility Upholstery Cloth Order, 1951(j),…
I hope that hon. Members understand that: I do not. I very much doubt whether the hon. Gentleman who is going to reply to the debate thoroughly understands it, unless he has had a long period of coaching.

When we had a debate in the early hours of the morning on the first Order this year on this subject, Statutory Instrument No. 205, I drew attention to a number of furniture prices—under some difficulties, as you, Mr. Speaker, will remember, because I was not the only person seeking to address the House at that time; there were several others. That Order, which was made on 7th February, and laid before Parliament on 8th February had a very short life because as soon as 30th April, the President of the Board of Trade—whose absence due to illness we all very much regret and whom we hope will soon be better—made another Order revoking Order No. 205 of 7th February. We then come to 28th May, less than a calendar month after Order No. 750 was made, and we get Order No. 940—one of the two Orders against which I am praying—which revokes the Order made only a month before.

I have not the slightest doubt that this increase in furniture prices is justified having regard to the inflationary policy being pursued by His Majesty's Government. I am asking why only the other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer authorised an increase in the fiduciary issue of bank notes to the tune of £50 million. If they want to stop prices going up, they must turn off the tap of the issue Department of the Bank of England which, in these days, is under the control of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

It is because of the inflationary policy of the Government that we get these constant rises in prices. My purpose in moving these two Prayers tonight is to draw attention to the causes which are leading to the ceaseless increases in the price of furniture, which is so very important to the relatively small number of people who can get a house under the deplorable housing plan of the present Government. That remark is quite in order, because if one cannot get a house one cannot furnish a house.

It is right that we should complain about this policy, which leads to this ceaseless increase in the price of things which are vitally necessary to all young people who are getting married, and to a few of their parents, who want a new divan, because that is one of the things we are discussing tonight. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will not merely get up and say that we cannot help price increases because the price of imports has gone up. [HON. MEMBERS: "So they have."] Who put them up? It was in October, 1949—

Photo of Mr John Haire Mr John Haire , Wycombe

Will the hon. Gentleman recollect that about a year ago hardwood was returned to private enterprise, and that since then there have been increases in the price?

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

That is one of the most unintelligible interruptions that I have ever listened to in my life. I was referring to what happened in October. 1949.

Sir Stafford Cripps, after, on many occasions, saying that he would not, not only devalued the pound but did something worse. Instead of allowing it to find its own level, he changed its value from four dollars three cents to two dollars 80 cents, and that led to a vast increase in the price of raw materials from which furniture among other things has increased steeply in price.

Photo of Mr John Haire Mr John Haire , Wycombe

It also happens to apply to home-grown timber.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

I have never discovered any market in which two lots of similar timber are sold at different prices. That is another unintelligible remark from the hon. Member. There is a high-class girls' school in High Wycombe. The hon. Member ought to take a few courses there, and he will then interrupt more efficiently than he is doing tonight.

Here we have prices chasing wages and steep rises in the price of timber. Within the last six months four orders have been published by the Board of Trade authorising increases in one or other of the scheduled items listed in these Related Schedules. That to me seems quite fantastic. I cannot blame the manufacturers for asking that they should be allowed to sell their products at a price which would not involve them in a loss. That is perfectly fair and reasonable, but we must criticise His Majesty's Government for pursuing a policy which is calculated to lead to more orders increasing the price of furniture and everything else.

On that night of 8th–9th March what was the purpose of the seven Prayers then moved? I drew attention to the increase in the cost of articles essential to the whole community in this country. My purpose tonight is a double purpose—to draw attention to further increases, which have taken place since the early morning of 9th March, and to ask on this occasion that the representative of the Government will answer me before the Whip who is on duty moves the Closure. That was the first occasion I can ever remember when a Motion was moved and seconded from one side of the House and there was no reply from the Government. Had the Parliamentary Secretary replied on that occasion he might have gone home a little earlier this evening and quite possibly would not have had to listen to my speech.

It is not a good thing for the Closure to be moved before anyone replies. Indeed, it is a very bad thing. The hon. Gentleman did not do it, and perhaps he had a marvellous speech prepared for the occasion. His grievance might be as great as mine, but it was deplorable that the Closure was moved on that occasion before he replied.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

The hon. Member is getting a little wide.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

I was drawing upon my recollection of what happened three months ago, Sir. I have made out the case which has led me to move this Prayer, and I will now leave my hon. Friend to second the Motion.

10.26 p.m.

Photo of Sir John Mellor Sir John Mellor , Sutton Coldfield

I beg to second the Motion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), has drawn attention to the complications of these Orders. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that it is the duty of the Board of Trade to simplify these matters, but they have not been very successful about it so far. Order 940 and its Related Schedules, which bring into force U.F. 7, could have been made into one document instead of two. Statutory Instrument No. 940 does one thing only, substitutes Related Schedule U.F. 7 for Related Schedule U.F. 6. U.F. 7 is brought into operation by Statutory Instrument No. 940.

I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary upon the fact that these two documents do connect. I have had reason often to complain that there is no identification between two documents that are supposed to relate to each other. Why these two could not have been made one document I do not know. We have often been told about the great convenience of these Related Schedules and how traders could have the one Related Schedule that they require and not bother about the others. If one looks at the Explanatory Note on Related Schedule U.F. 7, one finds: This Schedule must he read in conjunction with the Furniture (Maximum Prices) Order. 1949. S.I. 1706. Referring to that Order I find in Article 9 that any person engaged in a business to which this Order applies shall, if any retail customer shall have requested him to do so, show, or cause to be shown to him a copy of any Related Schedule. If we then turn to the definition of "Related Schedule," we find it is limited to this: 'Related Schedule' means a Related Schedule issued by the Board of Trade for the purpose of this Order and includes any supplement thereto. It means that a trader has to have, in order to show to any customer who demands it, any and every Related Schedule made in pursuance of the powers of that Order. There is no conceivable advantage in that case in having this separation of Related Schedules from Orders, so that the trader can pick and choose and have the one in which he is particularly interested. Traders have to have the whole lot in order to comply with the requirement of Article 9 of S.I. 1706, which is the parent Order.

The reason that has been given falls to the ground. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to say why, in this case, the Board of Trade could not have simplified the matter for hon. Members and the general public by making one document instead of two of S.I. 940 and Related Schedule U.F.7.

10.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

It sometimes seems that we are getting over-organised in our society mainly through legislation and subordinate legislation. We seem to be defeating our purpose. We are reaching a stage of anarchy produced by the complexity of modern administration; and this Order which we have before us tonight is a good example of it. The main purpose of Statutory Instrument No. 1070 of 1951 is to amend: the Utility Furniture (Marking and Supply) (No. 2) Order. 1950, as amended, by providing for the use of utility wool tapestry and utility wool moquette (specification No. 110) and utility upholstery cloth of rayon and cotton in the manufacture of utility upholstered furniture. We are told that is the purpose of this Statutory Instrument, and we learn that from the Explanatory Memorandum.

When we look at the Instrument, we find that there is only one paragraph of any importance at all—paragraph I, which provides a substitute for Article 7 in the previous Order, as amended. This new article is a most extraordinary piece of legislation. Both paragraphs start off with the proposition that A person may in the course of his business… Unless there is a clear reason why Parliament should assume that a person in the course of his business may not use a thing, I should have thought it unnecessary ever for Parliament to decide that a person in the course of his business may use such a thing.

Photo of Mr George Porter Mr George Porter , Leeds Central

The hon. Gentleman should not have stopped reading the Article at "business," but should have gone on. It says that A person may in the course of his business use utility goods,… That is entirely different from what the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He has anticipated the next point in my argument.

To find some justification for the first words used, one reads on in the hope of finding justification. Let us do so. We find that a person may use utility goods, and then the Article describes the utility goods which may be used. I should have thought it abundantly clear that a person in the course of his business would be allowed to use utility goods for any purpose whatever, if they came into his hands legitimately. I want to put my argument in the simplest possible way so that the Parliamentary Secretary can reply to it. So far as I can see, in a context like the present, there is no point in our legislating if it is necessary to enable somebody to do something which they could not otherwise do—that is, of our giving power; or of preventing somebody from doing something which they would normally be allowed to do.

As I understand it, the first of these propositions does not arise, and here we are trying to prevent somebody from doing something. If we are, we would have to consider the penalties that would have to apply. No doubt these are provided for in the Defence Regulations, but under the working of these two paragraphs, the only offence which they could prevent somebody from doing is to use these utility goods for the manufacture of prescribed goods to which he does not intend to apply the utility mark. If that is our intention, it is fair to people who may be in danger of committing a criminal offence that we should clearly say so.

We do not clearly say so, and bearing in mind that apparently this is our intention I cannot see, and I should be grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary if he will explain why, we need to tell them that they may use utility goods to which they may apply certain utility marks. It seems to me this is just another example of the excess of zeal, over-organisation, unnecessary application and extra effort which, in my humble opinion, is leading to a kind of anarchy in this country, anarchy created by administration in which the normal instincts of man break down and in which people are left in shear con- fusion. So that this Order may be justified I should be grateful for an explanation by the Parliamentary Secretary of the points I have attempted to make.

10.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Porter Mr George Porter , Leeds Central

If anybody ought to go to a girls' school it is the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton). Anyone who suggests that he can get anarchy by organisation apparently knows little about organisation. Not only has the hon. Gentleman shown ignorance about that, but he has shown ignorance of the particular trade to which this Order refers. The only purpose, of this Statutory Instrument, so far as I can read into it, is for the purpose of allowing wholesale upholsterers to use materials for covers which they have not been able to use up till now and call the goods, when completed, "utility articles."

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

Will the hon. Gentleman say what is preventing them from using the soft materials?

Photo of Mr George Porter Mr George Porter , Leeds Central

Previous Statutory Instruments already apply to the furniture trade. In the past a number of Statutory Instruments have been used to allow for a change in the weave of utility materials which were then being used. Manufacturers have been allowed to worsen the texture of the cloth for that particular purpose. Now they are being allowed to use other covers which they have not been allowed to use in the past and sell the completed article as utility furniture.

10.39 p.m.

Photo of Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan , Perth and East Perthshire

I realise how confused the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Porter) is about Order 1070. In the first paragraph of the Order—the object of an Order of this kind is, I understand, to facilitate trade, and he will no doubt, agree with that—it says: The Board of Trade in pursuance of the powers conferred upon them by Regulation 55 of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939 …"— that is the first point— … as having effect by virtue of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945(a) …"— that is the second— … as extended by the Supplies and Services (Extended Purposes) Act, 1947(b) …"— that is the third— … and the Supplies and Services (Defence Purposes) Act, 1951(c)…"— that is the fourth— ..and continued in force by the Supplies and Services (Continuance) Order, 1950(d)…"— that is the fifth— … hereby order as follows:"— that is the sixth— 1. The Utility Furniture (Marking and Supply) (Number 2) Order, 1950(e), as amended(f)"— that is the seventh— … shall have effect subject to the amendments that for Article 7 there shall he sub stituted the following Article…"— and that is the eighth.

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, in all sincerity: Does this make for simplicity in business? [An HON. MEMBER: "Or in a girls' school?"] I do not know anything of that, but if the hon. Member goes to a girls' school he may realise that to make eight separate orders to get one simple thing done is not the best way; and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some idea of the reason why it is necessary to issue all these which, with this Order itself, makes nine, to get one thing achieved.

Why cannot we have all this simplified? After all, it is the trade which should know what to do; the trade is perfectly well able to carry on if it gets one simple instruction. If the Government has to take part—and perhaps in these difficult times the Government must have some say in the matter—why have we to have nine orders for the purpose of getting one simple thing carried into effect? Let us not forget that it is the people who receive these Orders who have to work them; and they are not as the Parliamentary Secretary, who has a large staff of civil servants to draft these Orders for him and, what is more, tell him what they mean. He does not tell us; therefore, how are the people in the trade expected to be able to carry them into effect?

10.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

I think the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) has a very poor team on tonight.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

The hon. Gentleman had better be careful.

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

First, let me speak about Order 1070—

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

It looks as though we shall have to turn this into a "friendly."

Order 1070 is that about which most has been said, and I should have thought that this would have appealed to the hon. Member for Croydon, East, because, after all, this is an effort at tidiness. I should have thought that instead of praying against this Order, the hon. Member would have applauded it because it tidies up the provisions made in various orders which enable manufacturers to use utility upholstery cloth in furniture production. A very reasonable explanation has already been given by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Porter); but since hon. Members opposite ask for an explanation, I will try to give one.

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

Wait a moment; I cannot give way for the sort of point which the hon. Member raised before.

The Utility Mark and Apparel and Textiles (General Provisions) Order, 1947, lays it down that no person shall in the course of his business manufacture wholly or partly from utility goods being cloth, any other goods unless he is authorised so to do by, or under, an Order made by the Board of Trade, and no person shall supply any goods so manufactured otherwise than in accordance with such authority. I hope hon. Members have followed me. This is a rather complicated matter, and I am trying desperately hard to simplify some of these rather intricate orders. Utility upholstery cloth, made of rayon, cotton, or linen, has been marked as "Utility" under successive utility upholstery cloth orders. I hope that has registered. Wool upholstery has been marked as utility under the authority of successive Utility Woven Cloth (Wool and Animal Fibre) (Marking, Supply and Manufacturers' Prices) Orders.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

Sir H. Williams rose

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

Do not interrupt. I am only explaining why this comes about.

These are the orders under which the cloths are manufactured. One then has to have an Order to authorise the use of the cloths. The supply of these cloths has been controlled by successive utility upholstery cloth orders. Originally, these upholstery cloths could be supplied only to wholesalers or to utility furniture manufacturers, who were authorised to use the cloth which had been so reserved for them. That was because cloth was at that time in short supply.

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

Yes, scarce.

There were cotton, rayon, and linen upholstery cloths and also wool upholstery cloths. They were all in short supply and were reserved for the utility furniture manufacturers. Cotton, rayon and linen cloths became less scarce, so that it was possible to allow other people besides the utility furniture manufacturers to use the cloths which were freed. The same now applies to the tapestry cloths in the case of wool upholstery cloths. As the manufacturers of these cloths were having difficulty in trading and disposing of their cloths, it was arranged—

Photo of Sir Frederick Burden Sir Frederick Burden , Gillingham

Is it not a fact that these cloths were, in many cases, not produced originally as utility cloths, but were produced as general cloths by the manufacturers and were afterwards converted without any regard to the makeup of cloth except that which the converter so wished to have?

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

It was because there were no other cloths of the specifications available; they were transferred by special orders.

We decided that it was no longer practicable to reserve utility wool upholstery cloth in general for the exclusive use of utility furniture manufacturers and we felt also that it was untidy to provide in a cloth order—I think the hon. Gentleman follows me if nobody else does—for the use of cloth in the manufacture of utility furniture by utility manufacturers. We therefore decided to cater for the use of all utility cloth by utility furniture manufacturers by means of the Utility Furniture (Marking and Supply) Order and to cater for any other uses of these cloths in their own cloth orders.

A convenient opportunity arose when the utility upholstery cloth order had to be amended to allow price increases. So we took the opportunity as from yester- day to tidy it up so that we have a clean run through now—

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

Whatever the day —25th June or was it 18th June—I forget which. That is why this Order has been brought in.

I will go on now to the question of Statutory Instrument No. 940. The hon. Member for Croydon, East made some comments about the celebrated late night when we finished up in good order, though I do not think he was satisfied with the results of the evening.

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

There was no opportunity to reply. I had a perfectly good answer. If he wants it and the House can stand it—it is very boring—I can give it him now.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

I have the debate here. Mr. Speaker gave a ruling which restricted the debate, quite properly, so I said: … I … beg to move the Motion. My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir John Mellor) said: I rise to second the Motion. Then, HANSARD goes on: MR. R. J. TAYLOR (Lord Commissioner of the Treasury) rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 888–9.] So there was a denial of the opportunity of a reply.

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

Anyway, I know that Mr. Speaker said that what the hon. Member for Croydon, East, said that night was nonsense. I have HANSARD here, too and I can quote as well. He will find that is so if he reads on.

The Statutory Instrument now before us orders the substitution of Related Schedule U.F. 7 for Related Schedule U.F. 6 and Supplement No. 1 which went with it. That Related Schedule U.F. 6 and Supplement No. 1 were given force by that simple Order, the Furniture (Maximum Prices) (Amendment No. 4) Order, 1951. Naturally, by the Amendment No. 5 Order which introduces U.F. 7, which replaces U.F. 6 and Supplement No. 1 Amendment No. 4 is revoked. This U.F.7 sets up manufacturers' maximum prices and distributors' overriding maximum prices for new utility furniture made in the United Kingdom. These distributors' overriding maximum prices apply to second-hand utility furniture as well. They are also the distributors' maximum prices for new imported utility furniture.

It is a fact that manufacturers' production costs have necessitated these increases. Increases are also allowed for spring mattresses and one item of upholstered furniture—the nursery chair. The hon. Member for Croydon, East, smiles but he would not be interested in that anyhow. The prices of spring mattresses, woven fibre chairs, cane and willow chairs and nursing furniture have been increased to take account of the increased production costs, and the price of the nursing chair has been increased to promote the production of a better quality chair. The new prices for cabinet furniture are interim prices. That is important.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

Are they going up again?

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

Not necessarily. We are having a cost investigation. We received urgent representations from the industry that some immediate increases were necessary to avoid large-scale withdrawal of utility furniture from the scheme.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

Is this a further increase in addition to the Order we are discussing tonight?

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

No. This is the reason for the increases in the Order we are now discussing.

In the case of cabinet furniture the prices laid down in this Order are to some extent interim because of the cost investigation which is taking place. In the case of furniture, price control takes account of the competitive conditions which apply—in the furniture industry. Many makers —in fact I should say 75 per cent. of makers of furniture are really competing on grounds of price at the moment. The makers of top quality furniture, who make up the other 25 per cent., might have been forced out of the utility scheme if it had not been for our bringing in this Order.

Photo of Sir Harmar Nicholls Sir Harmar Nicholls , Peterborough

The hon. Member states that this is an interim price, which clearly suggests that we are to have a different price in a very short time, after a costing inquiry. What sort of inquiry did he have to arrive at the interim price?

Hon. Members:

An interim inquiry.

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

We have had no detailed cost inquiry on which to go for these cabinet items, but the interim price increases we are granting are designed to enable the producers of top quality furniture to continue to produce their quality of furniture within the utility scheme.

The hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) talked about the Related Schedule. I sympathise with him about this. We used to have four at the Board of Trade for furniture alone, and we have reduced that to one. If he will be patient a little longer, by the time the next Order comes along—which I hope will be a long time—we will try to wipe out the remaining related Schedule. I think everybody will be pleased if we do, none more than ourselves.

Photo of Sir John Mellor Sir John Mellor , Sutton Coldfield

That is most encouraging. But would the hon. Gentleman explain why on this occasion he could not merge the Order and the related Schedule into one document? The Order does nothing but bring the Related Schedule into force, and the Related Schedule was printed at the same time as the Order. Why could they not have been printed together in one document?

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

That is just what I said. If the hon. Member will be patient against the next time I will see that it is done.

Turning to the argument of the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan), may I point out that here we are quoting the powers under which the Orders are issued? That gives the hon. and gallant Gentleman the opportunity to see that we are not exceeding our powers. If we had not put it in, no doubt there would have been even more trouble. I hope the debate will finish on a friendly note and that the Motion will be withdrawn.

Photo of Sir Frederick Burden Sir Frederick Burden , Gillingham

The hon. Gentleman's explanation clearly shows to the House and, I hope, will show to him, the need for constantly and continually speeding up the process of pruning and cutting down these statutory orders. The position is quite fantastic. I think the hon. Member will agree that not only in the furniture trade but in every other trade as well there is a need for constant revision with a view to cutting down the number of these orders so that there is some cohesion and that people can understand the position. I think most of us are left with the impression that even the hon. Gentleman himself is in a maze, out of which, he has difficulty in finding his way.

10.59 p.m.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

I made it clear at the beginning that I was not seeking to take this to a Division, but that the purpose of the Prayer was to ventilate the difficulty which exists. I regret that the Parliamentary Secretary has said nothing about the reasons for these increases in costs. I made some reference to devaluation, which certainly was a major factor. That has had an influence on wages, which is another factor. I think the time has come when the hon. Gentleman and his associates should devote their minds to this problem of rising prices.

It is obvious that, faced with these increased costs, manufacturers have to go to the Department to seek permission to sell at higher prices. I cannot blame them. It is perfectly reasonable that they should do so. But the House is entitled to try to find out what is the cause of what we used to call an inflationary spiral but which I would call an inflationary spider, because it gains momentum at such an enormous speed these days.

That is the point we are discussing, but the Parliamentary Secretary has not mentioned it at all. He did not say one word as to the cause of the increased prices. We cannot go on, it is obvious. We shall get to the condition we got to in the year 1920, when prices climbed up and up, and then there came the crash. Curiously enough, it started in Japan, spread to the United States, a few weeks later it was here and six months later a million people were out of work. That was the beginning of the great depression between the wars.

On this occasion there has been delay, but we are reading of what is happening in New York. We may be at the edge of a price collapse that will bring widespread distress throughout the world. There are justifications for these higher prices. I cannot blame the manufacturers for applying for higher prices, otherwise they would be in bankruptcy, and then there would be no utility furniture. I think the hon. Gentleman should devote himself a little more to the fundamental causes.

We are delighted we have at last knocked on the head the nonsense of the Related Schedule. The Minister of Food has never indulged in that folly. His documents are in one piece. Why should a document be referred to another document? When they were first brought out they were exceedingly difficult to get hold of. We could not get them on 9th March, when the Parliamentary Secretary ran out and obtained five copies—

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not relevant.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

We did not get a reply on 9th March and the order has been modified by this Order. The related schedules on that occasion were not in the Vote Office, and the hon. Gentleman went out and obtained some copies. It does not surprise me, but having regard 'to the promise he has made that, in future, the Department will stop this nonsense of related documents and will have the whole document on one piece of paper. It does show the value of these Prayers that we have exposed the follies of this procedure. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.