HC Deb 30 March 1908 vol 187 cc65-7
SIR SEYMOUR KING (Hull, Central)

To ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to the large amount of low-class China tea which has of late been consigned to this country; whether he is aware that a large portion of it is lying unsold in the bonded warehouses, the quality being so low that the trade refrain from purchasing it, even for blending purposes; and whether he will take steps, in the interest of the consumers, to prevent the importation of teas of such an undesirable quality, which are quite undrinkable by themselves and only used for adulterating pure Indian and Ceylon teas.

apart from the petty sessional division in which it is included, but I have had the following figures extracted for the hon. Member's convenience:—

(Answered by Mr. Asquith.) The Board of Customs have no official information as to the importation of low-class China tea, nor as to a large portion of such tea lying unsold in bonded warehouses. The powers of the Board with regard to the quality of imported tea are defined in Section 30 of The Sale of Food and Drugs Act, 1875. They are satisfied that the duties of inspection and analysis are properly carried out and that they are effective for the purpose. I may, however, point out that, under the powers referred to, tea cannot be excluded from consumption merely bemuse it is of low character. It must be so bad as to be "unfit for human food" before it can be so dealt with by the Commissioners of Customs. I understand that the increased demand for tea in various countries has caused prices to harden considerably, and that the enhanced value has attracted to this country importations of low-class tea for blending purposes to meet the demand for tea at a low price. Such tea, though of low quality, would nevertheless not be unfit for human consumption, and I do not think it would be in the interest of the poorer classes of the community to discourage the use of the cheaper kinds of tea.