asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will reconsider the withdrawal of special licences granted to manufacturers to replace bombed-out stocks to retailers, as the present arrangement for retailers only to obtain commodities from normal quotas of manufacturers and wholesalers creates considerable hardship on themselves and the general public?
The general licences to which my hon. Friend refers have lapsed or been revoked, mainly because most kinds of essential goods are no longer subject to quota control. For goods still subject to quota control, it is open to a retailer, whose stocks have been bombed, to apply to my Department for the issue of a quota-free licence to his supplier. At present levels of production it is not of course always possible to replace stocks of non-essential goods.
Is there any real difficulty about bombed-out retailers getting sufficient supplies to replace the stocks they had, in order to carry on business? I understand that it is almost impossible to obtain supplies.
It is certainly not almost impossible to obtain them. It depends upon the class of goods. Where the goods are essential—clothing, for example—we do our utmost always to replace. On the other hand, there are some non-essential goods, which are in very short supply anyhow. If the trader had a stock of those, I am afraid that we cannot always undertake to replace it.