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Lloyd George defined ‘profiteer’ more than a century ago. It may be time to revisit it | Tim Adams

The scandal of PPE procurement is surely reason enough for the term to be debated in parliament

The last time that the UK parliament tried to define the word “profiteering” was in 1919, as the country emerged from war and unscrupulous traders made fortunes by criminally inflating prices on everything from shoes to building materials. David Lloyd George’s government was moved to attempt to outlaw those practices that fed on national scarcity and that signalled corruption to the wider world. For the purposes of that debate. his trade minister, Auckland Geddes, argued that “‘to profiteer’ is to make unreasonably large profit by the sale to one’s fellow-citizens of an article which is of common use by or for the majority of the population”.

There was universal agreement about the immorality of the trade, but plenty of scepticism about the chances of the legislation, not least from Colonel Josiah Wedgwood, great-great-grandson of the potter. “So long as human nature remains what it is every man is going to get as big a profit as he can,” Wedgwood argued. “From my knowledge of human nature that is likely to continue in spite of any Act of Parliament…”

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Read the original article at The Guardian

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