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asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that concern has been occasioned to the members of the National Association of Workshops for the Blind by the activities of persons and firms who market domestic articles at excessive prices by falsely representing that the goods they sell are made by, or provide employment for, blind persons; and if, in order to protect the blind and prevent fraudulent trading on the sympathy of the general public, he will introduce a regulation requiring that firms claiming to promote the interests of the blind, who are not already registered as charities or under the National Assistance Act, shall be compelled so to register and that authority shall be taken to grant or refuse registration.
I am aware of the concern which activities of the kind to which the hon. Member refers are arousing. Not only may these harm the interests of bona fide organisations and of the blind themselves, but I consider it most undesirable that by means of misleading representations public sympathy for the blind should be exploited. I am doubtful whether the method suggested by the hon. Member would be practicable, but I am considering the whole problem. Meanwhile, much can be done by suitable publicity. Moreover, arrangements have recently been made whereby my Department is consulted by the Board of Trade where a firm or company seeks the registration of a name which suggests the employment of disabled people, whether blind or sighted.
Whilst thanking the Minister for that very satisfactory reply, may I ask whether he is aware that this scandalous practice is on the increase and is no longer confined merely to firms using registered titles such as "Blind employment" who masquerade as the real thing, but includes firms who trade on the natural sympathies of the public and charge, for example. 2s. 6d. for this piece of rag which is not worth 2d., simply because they print on the envelope "Packed by the blind"? In his efforts to find a way out of this trouble and to stop it, will the Minister invite the cooperation of Members on both sides who are concerned to protect the interests and ensure the proper employment of the blind?
I will certainly do all those things. I am well aware that the steps we have recently taken concerning the registration of companies' names do not meet the entire problem, although, I hope, they meet part of it. I am considering the remainder and I will certainly invite the co-operation of Members on all sides of the House and will welcome the chance of discussing the matter with them at any time.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that this is a matter of urgency, because many fine organisations which are doing a great deal of good work will suffer if this threat overhangs them for a long time?