THE CO-OPERATIVE UNION LIMITED.
NATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE AUTHORITY.
The representatives of the National Co-operative Authority wish to draw the attention of the National Council of Labour to the present chaotic distribution of foodstuffs which are at present unrationed and are in short supply.
This is raised not simply as a co-operative grievance but as a serious problem for the whole consumer population, of which the Co-operative Movement is the organised representative.
Soon after the outbreak of war, shortages of bacon, butter and sugar developed. The Ministry of Food met the situation by allocating supplies to traders on a datum line basis. Supplies were issued in proportion to the pre-war sales of traders. The arrangement was not satisfactory because -
(1) Evacuation changed the distribution of population.
(2) Well-to-do people were able to go from shop to shop, their patronage then being welcomed by traders who were able to push other profitable lines.
(3) It is doubtful whether all traders were able accurately to state the volume of goods sold by them in a given period.
The Co-operative Movement accordingly sent a deputation to the Prime Minister in November, 1939, and pressed him to introduce the rationing plans which had been accepted in principle by the Food Defence Plans Department prior to the war for immediate operation on an outbreak of war.
As a result of the deputation, interim steps were taken to allocate supplies according to retailers' registrations for rationing, and full rationing of certain main commodities was initiated on January 8th, 1940.
Vigorous opposition to rationing was maintained in certain quarters, notably in the Press, prior to and after its introduction. But certain organisations of private traders supported the policy of the Co-operative Movement. Any forebodings as to the effects of the operation of rationing were speedily disproved by facts. Rationing gave consumers a sense of security for they recognised that the Government guaranteed each consumer a fair share of available supplies. Trade conditions were eased enormously by rationing.
Now shortages of other commodities are apparent and the Co-operative Movement calls on the Government to insist that the Ministry of Food extends rationing to cover all the main foodstuffs in short supply. The Co-operative Movement is entitled to speak for consumers, because it is owned and controlled by domestic consumers. Its belief in rationing is based on proved experience of two wars that rationing is the only effective means of ensuring that each consumer gets his fair share of available supplies. The Co-operative Movement does not complain of shortages due to wartime exigencies (nor