§ MR. OLDROYD (Dewsbury)
I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, having regard to the large stocks of currants now in the hands of the trade, he will consider the expediency of deferring the reduction of the duty on currants until Monday, the 1st of September, the date at which the importation of the new crop practically commences?
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I hope the House will allow me to answer this question somewhat fully, as I have received an enormous number of letters and telegrams on the subject. I have done my best to see what would be the fairest manner of acting under the circumstances with regard to this reduction of the duty on currants; and I have distinctly come to the conclusion that it would be a great mistake, and would hamper business in a manner not to be sanctioned, if a postponement to the 1st of September were to take place. I have taken the opinion not only of importers and of wholesale men, but also of grocers and retailers in various parts of the country. The stocks are unusually low; and if a postponement to the 1st of September takes place it would disorganise the whole of the trade and would diminish the consumption of the article, while it is doubtful even whether it would benefit the people who ask for the postponement. The majority of the comparatively small number who ask for the extension are Co-operative Societies. I should be very sorry to 1275 inflict any loss upon these Societies, but they are precisely the bodies who can best recoup themselves; because, if they reduce the price of currants while they have got duty-paid stocks at the higher duty, their members, if they lose as co-operators, would gain as consumers at the cheaper price. So it strikes me that the loss would not be so great as these Societies anticipate. At all events, the general upshot of the inquiries is that it would be impossible to grant the long delay which has been asked for. Comparatively few demands have been made for an extension of a fortnight or a month. Practically the same considerations apply to the reduction of the Tea Duty; but the enormous majority of the grocers who have been consulted, and of all persons connected with the trade, beg me not to postpone the reduction of the duty beyond the 1st of May. Many of them have already made their arrangements, and in many cases the prices have already been reduced. I have been informed, and believe, that great confusion would arise from any change in the dates originally fixed. The allowance of a drawback in the case of tea and currants would be quite out of the question. I hope that hon. Members will allow me to make this public answer to the numerous private communications that have been made to me on these subjects.