asked the Minister of Food to what extent a bigger share of pointed and rationed goods are allocated to the Co-operative Wholesale Society's factories and co-operative retail shops.
Rationed foods, dried fruit and imported canned foods directly controlled by my Department are allocated to co-operative and private traders on precisely the same basis. When last Autumn we were able to give some extra sugar to all manufacturers we departed from the previous method of distribution according to pre-war usage because this basis had become more and more unfair with each year that went by, since it made no allowance for the transfer of customers from one type of shop to another. For example, the number of customers dealing with Co-operative Societies had grown very markedly since the datum year of 1938. If we had reallotted the sugar in proportion to present registrations, as there is a strong case for doing, the Co-operatives would have got far more. The adjustment which we made still left the Co-operative Societies at a distinct disadvantage as compared with private traders.
In view of that reply, may I ask if the Minister's attention has been drawn to the advertisement inserted in the popular Press by the Co-operative Wholesale Society in these terms:
[Interruption.]—and in view of the Minister's previous statement on policy will he stop this cruel deception for attracting the consuming public?"Register all your ration books at the Co-op—you'll get a bigger share of scarcer goods that way!"
No, Sir. I see no element of deception in the Co-operative Society's advertisements. They claim to distribute their products more equitably between customers. It is not for me either to endorse or to comment upon that claim.
As there was a total increase of the membership of Co-operative Societies and the Minister admits that there was a case for an even further increase of sugar, which is not denied by anyone on the benches opposite, will the Minister take into account the necessity for that further increase?
Certainly my only doubt in the steps we took at that time was whether they were adequate or not.
Is it not a fact that private retailers have also increased the number of their customers in view of the great increase of the whole population?
Yes, Sir, but not in proportion.
Is not the greater opportunity for getting a larger share in a Co-operative shop due to the fact that all the goods in those shops are above the counter?