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Soap Supplies, London Area

Volume 411: debated on Wednesday 6 June 1945

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asked the Minister of Food if he is aware of the shortage of soap, soap powder and flakes, in the borough of Bexley and in London generally; and if he will take steps to enable housewives who were unable to get their last month's ration to draw it later.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." I am endeavouring to meet the increased demand for soap in the London area. I regret that I cannot adopt the suggestion in the second half of the Question.

Is the Minister aware of the hardship which is caused to housewives in view of the shortage of their ration? During the war period they have had no reserves, and really need their soap ration.

There are great distribution difficulties. In other countries, when people have not taken up their ration, in one period they are allowed to take it up later, but distribution becomes hopeless, and it is not a thing that I could contemplate doing here.

Is the Minister aware that many retailers were sold out of soap within three days of the commencement of the last rationing period?

The difficulty arose when we had to reduce the soap ration and a large number of people made a rush on the shops at that time. This was quite unnecessary, because there will be enough soap in the shops to meet the ration over the period. This rush put a strain on over distribution system, which cannot stand up to a great many people cashing their coupons on the same day. We are, however, getting the situation right.

Is it not a sine qua non of a rationing system that the Ministry should always honour the ration on time; and is not the necessity for doing so the reason always given for not rationing fish, for instance?

As I have said, there was this rush on the shops. Although the coupon is valid for a considerable period if everybody rushes into the shops in two or three days no system can quite stand up to that. During this period people will get their ration if they do not all rush to buy soap on the same day.

But is it not a fact that when women presented their demands for their ordinary month's ration the soap was not there? Why should not the shopkeepers have the soap, whether a woman wants to get it in the first, second, third or fourth week of the period?