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Sugar (Conditional Sales)

Volume 886: debated on Monday 10 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection how many complaints of sugar purchases being restricted to those who buy a minimum of £1 worth of other goods have been received by her Department and if she will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what representations she has received on the subject of supermarkets only being prepared to supply goods in short supply, subject to the purchase of a minimum amount or value of other goods.

The Minister of State, Department of Prices and Consumer Protection
(Mr. Alan Williams)

The 680 complaints about conditional sales which have been received since last July have all concerned sugar. About half quoted £1 as the minimum sum to be spent on other goods in order to obtain sugar. This practice is not illegal but I again urge that it should be applied with care to avoid unnecessary hardship.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he feel that he is speaking strongly enough to the stores concerned about this practice, bearing in mind the fact that the new sugar agreement which the Government have negotiated makes it less likely that supplies have to be restricted in this way? Is he aware that old-age pensioners especially are suffering from this restriction levied on them by the stores?

As my hon. Friend has said, it is less likely that this sort of practice will be needed in the future. I notice that many stores seem to have stopped the practice now. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, in advice to the trade, indicated that it was essential that it should take account of the needs of pensioners, those on low incomes and, where possible, regular customers. However, with mass supermarkets it is not always possible to identify the regular customer.

Does the Minister agree that, although restriction is clumsy and unfair, there is nothing wrong with a shop trying to ensure that regular customers receive supplies of sugar which are short?

This is the practical quandary. I am sure most hon. Members will recognise that shops wanting to be fair find themselves faced with individuals sometimes shopping around buying as much sugar as they can, and going back to the same store again and again. Perhaps it is a great pity that the practice of hoarding has been given the stamp of approval by the Conservative Party.