War Cabinet memorandum on the rationing of clothing, 1941, Catalogue ref: PREM 3/96/1
THIS DOCUMENT IS THE PROPERTY OF HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTY’S GOVERNMENT.
TO BE KEPT UNDER LOCK AND KEY.
It is requested that special care may be taken to ensure the secrecy of this document.
W.P. (41) 105.
COPY NO. 1
RATIONING OF CLOTHING.
Memorandum by the President of the Board of Trade.
1. As my colleagues are aware, supplies of raw material for civilian clothing have been drastically curtailed; the amounts of cotton and wool available are not more than about 25 percent, of the pre-war normal. Hitherto consumers have been drawing on the large stocks held by traders and have not felt the full impact of the severe cut in supplies. Stocks are now giving out and shortages are beginning to appear. These shortages will increase rapidly, and I fear that unless either supplies are increased, or the distribution of the existing supplies is equalized (which means rationing), some part of the population will have to go short of clothing in the autumn and winter; there will be panic buying and shop queues, prices will rise and the shops will be cleared by the better-to-do, leaving yet smaller supplies or none at all for the poorer classes. I need not dwell on the social consequences of such a condition of affairs.
2. I have considered very carefully whether supplies of clothing for the civilian population could be increased sufficiently to avoid rationing, but I am convinced that it is not possible. To meet my proposed rationing scheme would require some increase in the present allocation of raw materials for civilian clothing; I revert to this in paragraph 9…