HC Deb 13 May 1881 vol 261 cc474-7

, who had given Notice on going into Committee of Supply to call attention to Trade Combinations having for their object the undue diminution of the price for food payable to the producer, and the increase payable by the consumer, now rose for that purpose, and said, that for a long time it had been his intention to direct the attention of the House to this subject. It was a matter which seemed to him to be of considerable importance to a very large portion of the people of the country. It was hardly necessary to state that agriculture had been in a very depressed state. What he was content to observe was that at present they could not grow wheat at a profit. It was of the utmost importance that, as agriculturists could not grow wheat, and were discouraged from growing barley, they should turn their attention to some things which might be of great benefit. There were many products of the soil which might be grown to advantage, only that the way in which those products were dis- posed of often turned into a loss what might be sources of profit. At present we were paying foreigners many millions a-year for eggs, butter, poultry, fruit, and vegetables; and he did not hesitate to say that those millions might go into the pockets of our own farmers and market gardeners, provided what they had to sell could be sold fairly. It was a singular thing that we could get fresh fruit and vegetables from France, Germany, Holland, and Belgium at a cheaper rate than that at which our own producers could send them to market, and that arose partly from the system of railway charges, which he hoped the Committee on the subject would soon correct, and partly from the fact that the markets, and especially those of London, were carried on in a most artificial and unbusiness like manner. He knew the case of a respectable farmer in Suffolk, finding his agricultural produce fetch him very little, directed his attention to onions. He got Sutton's seed, the best he could procure, paid the greatest attention to the crop, and sent up the produce to London salesmen. But when the account of profit and loss was made up, he was out of pocket by what he paid for the sacks. Another thought he would grow cabbages, filled two waggons with them, which he sent up to market, and got the sum of 6d. for his profit on the transaction.


rose to Order, and asked, whether it was competent for an hon. Member, who had given Notice of a Motion on going into Committee of Supply, to move it on going into Committee of Ways and Means?


said, that if the hon. Member proposed to move on the present occasion he would be out of Order.


asked, whether it was not competent to raise any question on going into Committee of Ways and Means?


said, he could not give an answer on a point of Order not absolutely before the House. The Notice of the hon. Member was for a Motion on going into Committee of Supply; but the Motion now was for going into Committee on Ways and Means.


said, he rose at the proper moment; but he could not prevent the calling out of the Order for Ways and Means.


asked the Government to explain why they had taken the course they had in so suddenly closing Supply?


, in reply, said, that the Amendment having been carried on going into Committee, it was not considered advisable to set up Supply again after 11 o'clock; and in so doing they had acted in accordance with the usual custom.


then resumed his remarks, when


said, he must again remind the hon. and learned Member that it would be quite out of Order for him to move, on going into Committee of Ways and Means, an Amendment which he had given Notice of on going into Supply.


then said, he would content himself by making some general observations on the subject of his Motion without moving it. What he complained of was that, by the arrangements made between the salesmen to whom fruits and vegetables were consigned for sale in the great London markets, the produce found its way into the hands of middlemen, who arranged the prices at which they should be sold to the greengrocers and costermongers, so that the producer did not receive as much as he ought to do for what he had to sell, and the consumers were compelled to pay much more than they ought to do for what it was necessary for them to buy. The telegraphs gave means to the salesmen in the London markets to regulate the supply that should be delivered, and, therefore, to have control over the prices that could be commanded. As matter of fact, it was well known that the London markets were supplied very largely with the refuse of the Paris markets; and, as far as our home producers were concerned, that they often received not more than ¼d. each for cauliflowers, for instance, which were sold to the consumers at prices ranging between 4d. and 9d. The same rule applied to poultry and meat, which were brought to this country from France and America, and sold at enormous profit as the product of English poultry - yards and grazing and feeding farms. But the evils which existed in connection with vegetables, fruit, and poultry dwindled into insignificance when compared with the case of fish. On the average, an acre of sea produced as much food as three acres of good land, except in those parts of the sea to which fish did not go. Now, sometimes there was a great catch of fish, but the public was seldom allowed to benefit by it, the greater part being in most cases thrown back into the sea or allowed to rot. This was the doing of the salesmen, who regulated the supply according to their own wishes, with the object of keeping up the price of the article. Fish could be kept in ice for 12 or 15 days; and, therefore, there could be no excuse for throwing it away. Providence having given us the blessing of great abundance in fish, surely we should avail ourselves of it. His object was to have fish properly exposed for sale for a sufficient time to enable the public to buy it. In conclusion, he would observe that the question concerned Irishmen and Englishmen equally; and he could do no more, after what he had said, than to hope that the matters to which he had drawn attention would receive the careful consideration of the Government.