FROM HANSARD 11/11/1947
Mr. Lambert ( Torrington, National Liberal- in practice Conservative )- asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that one thousand farmers and farm workers in Devonshire require [ i.e lack ] Thermos flasks; and that what steps he has taken to remedy the shortage, and when such flasks in sufficient quantities will be available.
Mr. T . Williams, ( Labour, Don Valley, Minister of Agriculture 1945-1951 ) The distribution of permits to buy Thermos flasks is undertaken by farmers’ and farm workers’ organisations, which consider the needs of each county, but as my Department’s allocation is only 14,000 permits a month for the whole of England and Wales, applicants have to wait their turn for flasks as for other scarce goods. I understand that it is not likely that the total allocation [of Thermos flasks] can be increased immediately, but I would point out that farmers and farm workers receive nearly fifty percent of the production under the present scheme.
1] In the absence of a free market in Thermos flasks how was the correct number of flasks to be produced in each month arrived at?
2] Further, what rational basis was there for assuming that half this number should be allocated the farmers and farm workers? Was this proportion too high, or too few, or just right?
3] How were “needs” each county for Thermos flasks to be assessed? What criteria were to be used?
4] In the event of a county being allocated fewer flasks than the number that were requested, who was to be given the right to buy a Thermos and who denied it? And on what basis were such decisions to be made?
5] And so on, and so on…
ADDITIONAL NOTE: This was not an exceptional situation in Mr. Attlee’s utopia. And nor did such episodes only arise in respect of trivial goods. There was a similar exchange between the same two men about tractor tyres just over a month later.