The Cabinet Secretaries' Notebooks (CAB 195/7)

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Census of Distribution

Census of Distribution

H.W. 

As in memo.
Means of minimising political impact.

R.S.C. 

Essential to planning - esp. natl income and consumption - to get this informn as quickly as possible.
Only quick means of discerning disinflationary tendency. No means now of knowing how spending is related to a normal.

H.D. 

Recognise importance of getting informn.
Five year intervals : means won't help much on disinflation.
Politically unwise to do it just before election. Esp. in rural areas.
Small shops won't find this easy. Their diffies will be exploited by Tories.
Advantages of doing this in 1950 don't outweigh political embarrassment.
Electorally wise.
P'pone for one year.

H.M. 

On merits undoubtedly desirable. V. bad luck that it is timed like this.
Cd. political effects be minimised eg. Press conference, help to small shops.
If it has to be, sooner it's announced the better.

B. 

Not Departmentally urgent to us.

C.K. 

P'ponemt. involves diffy. over accommn for census staff. Wd. mean finding it in Ldn. in 1950.

H.W. 

600 staff to be kept on from M/P.

H.H.M. 

I cd. p'pone my re-orgn for 12 mos. with diffy.

A.B. 

Popn census will also be held in spring of 1951.  An argument against p'ponemt.

P.M. 

[Eases the ques. "another little census won't do us any harm".

H.D. 

Or more vexatious.

P.M. 

No. Makes it fall naturally into place as an ordinary affair.]

A.B. 

Don't favour p'ponement. H.D. under-rates intelligence of electors.

P.M. 

P'ponement wd. give an argument to pol. opponents.

H.W. 

P'ponement wd. strengthen a nascent campaign v. Prodn Census.

G.A.I. 

Against p'ponement.

A. 

Support H.D. Don't even like this on its merits.
E.g. small shops selling many things. How will we select first 4.
How will it cover costs of distribn Or it's misdirection.
Can deal with this problem only on commodity basis. This won't help you to formulate a policy.
Para. 14.
This return won't give informn required.
Politically, this wd. be folly.

P.M. 

Ques. 12. is diff. for village general shop.

R.S.C. 

Most people wd. be able to select 4 things they sell most.
Will show general pattern of consumption and local differentiation.

A. 

M/F. know that.

R.S.C. 

Only as regards rational goods.

P.M. 

Random sampling wd. give you as much informn.

E.B. 

Purposes for which it would be used?

R.S.C. 

E.g. purchase tax.
No basic pattern to which to apply sampling.

H.W. 

Pressure for a "distribution policy". I am sceptical. Many people mean by this reducing no. of retail shops. W'out statistical informn. no one can say what wd. make sense.

H.D. 

Will this help? Obvious tht. distn cost cd. be reduced by massacring small shops. It's the political diffy. of doing it.
We can't frame a policy w'out this informn.

H.M. 

I begin to be doubtful. Collecting informn with a view to killing small shop.

R.S.C. 

Cttee recommended this. Parlt. passed it w'out divisions. Because it was thought obviously right. Do you want to go back to 'hit and miss' methods?

J.S. 

Tho' M/F. can p'pone, they do want the informn.

H.D. 

And I agree that it is wanted.

G.T. 

a) statement on form tht. informn won't be available to other Dpts.
b) no one who has made income tax return will have any diffy. with this form.
Let us be practical. If this is needed, ignore political arguments.

H.H.M. 

This is biggest gap in our informn eg. growth of retail trade in depressed areas.
For planning if you reduce distr. margins wd. that give you result.
How many people wd. be affected by redn of 10%.

E.B. 

P'pone. Results won't justify political diffies.

C.J. 

P'pone.

C.K. 

P'ponement means for 2 years not one, doesn't it?

A.B. 

Does this discn mean that you can never have any intelligent economic planning in a political democracy?
"Immaculate conception of safe seats". Rubbish. Safe seats were made by political courage.

E.B. 

Must be able to say what you want this informn for. No one will tell me.

R.S.C. 

We don't know the patterns of trade. We are guessing at consumption totals. Want better informn for purposes of fiscal and economic policy.

E.B. 

Taxation

R.S.C.  

Not mainly - for economic policy generally.

A.V.A. 

This argument shd. have taken place before Act passed. Assume no argument now on merits.
If it's right, we shdn't be deterred by political inconvenience.
If you are going to discuss with certain interests a distribution policy and at same time deliberately p'pone getting agreed informn.
The form itself is, however, inadequate. Will this give you much more than genl. impressions from Co-ops etc.

P.M. 

Large degree of scepticism re value of this informn.
Feeling that value will endure to another C/Exchequer.

A.B. 

Cd. we canvass opinions outside Cabinet? Advice on effects of doing this. eg. from organisers.

P.M. 

And other members of Govt.

H.M. 

Danger of leakage.

H.W. 

Wd. prefer decision to p'pone one year than p'pone decision any further.
The political effects of prelimy. forms and notices cd. be accepted.

R.S.C. 

Can then become election issue wthr. you take the census or not. For notice will have been given.

H.W.  

Answer to that is easy.
Agreed : P'pone for one year.

Taken from C.M. 1(49) - Meeting held on 12 January 1949.