§ MR. WINGFIELD-DIGBY
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, having regard to the serious position created in this and other countries by the sudden and abnormal rise in the price of bread, he will consider the advisability of taking measures, in conjunction with other Governments, to stop the speculation which is carried on in the corn trade, thus hindering the operation of the natural law of supply and demand, whereby the world at large is prevented from arriving at any true estimate as to its real position on this all-important point?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I confess I look with some scepticism at endeavours to check by legislation the discretion of those engaged in any particular branch of commerce, and I greatly doubt 1548 whether such interference would, in the long run, have the effect of giving freer play to the natural operations of supply and demand. As regards the last paragraph, I believe the available information as to stocks of wheat in the world is greater now than it has been at any previous period.
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the Governments of America, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Russia, and Switzerland have initiated inquiries respecting prospective legislation, or have passed Laws regarding gambling operations in food stuffs; whether he will inquire into the results of those inquiries and legislation; and whether he will suggest to them the desirability of Governmental co-operation to prevent corners in grain and artificial prices, obtained by corn exchange speculators in options?
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. C. T. RITCHIE,) Croydon
Reports have been obtained from Her Majesty's representatives in all the Foreign countries referred to with regard to the subject to which the Question relates, and were circulated on Saturday last. Reports have also been received from Canada. It is impossible for me to give within the limits of an answer to a Question the effect of these Reports, but I may say that the one received from Her Majesty's Ambassador at Berlin concludes with these words—It is considered by some people to be most probable that the abolition of this law will eventually be sought for by the very persons who urged its adoption.I have no intention of taking such action as is indicated in the last paragraph of the Question.
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether, seeing that an Act was passed in 1867 prohibiting fictitious sales and purchases of shares in joint-stock banking companies, he will introduce a Bill prohibiting gambling in food stuffs?