§ 50. Mr. W. THORNE
asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that Home-produced beef has advanced 33 per cent., Home-produced mutton 27 per cent., pork 18 per cent., chilled hinds of beef 59 per cent., chilled fores 81 per cent., frozen hinds 50 per cent., frozen fores 75 per cent., frozen mutton 50 per cent., etc.; and whether he will appoint a small Committee to inquire into the cause of the increased price of meat, and place upon that Committee a retail butcher and a working-class representative connected with the meat trade?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am informed that, in general, the figures stated represent approximately the changes in the wholesale prices of meat in London, as compared with those quoted twelve months ago. I am not disposed to think that any useful purpose would be served by the appointment of the Committee suggested by my hon. Friend.
§ 51. Mr. MOONEY
asked the Prime Minister on what date were Messrs. J. P. Morgan and Company appointed by the Government their sole agents in the United States For Admiralty and War Office requirements: on whose recommendation was this appointment made; whether Messrs. Morgan are paid by commission and, if so, at what rate; and if he can state how much commission has been paid or is due to Messrs. Morgan up to date?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The appointment was made by the Government, after full consideration, on 15th January, 1015. I must refer the hon. Member for the rest of the question to the written answer given by the Financial Secretary to the War Office to the hon. Member for South Devon, which is given in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 15th March.
§ Mr. MOONEY
May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is aware that that answer does not disclose what rate of commission is paid to Messrs. Morgan; will he also state whether the Government at the present time are reconsidering the terms of their appointment, and, if so, will he see that in future Messrs. Morgan are not allowed to buy at one price and sell at another?
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
Will the right hon. Gentleman state whether this country is 966 not under many and unspeakable obligations to this firm?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Government have no reason to doubt the value of the services which Messrs. Morgan have rendered.
§ 89. Mr. W. THORNE
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether an Advisory Committee consisting of the High Commissioner of New Zealand, the Agent-General for Queensland, and certain capitalist meat importers has been appointed to assist the Government in the disposal of the surplus meat imports from Australia and New Zealand; whether, in view of the ruin and disaster caused to hundreds of small frozen meat butchers by the artificially high prices of frozen meat prevailing since August last, he will appoint to this Committee a practical retail frozen meat butcher; and, as the working classes consume practically the whole of this meat, will he also appoint a working class meat trade representative so that the consumers' interests may be studied in the deliberations of the Committee?
As my hon. Friend is aware, the Government have requisitioned the whole of the meat supplies from Australia and New Zealand, and it is proposed to put upon the market for the use of the civilian population those parts of the supplies which are not needed for the use of the armies. With a view to preventing any undue increase in the price of meat such as might arise from the shortage of supplies, the High Commissioner of New Zealand, the Agent-General for Queensland, and Sir Montague Nelson have been asked to consult together and to report as to the manner in which the surplus meat should be put upon the market, and as to the conditions, if any, which should be attached to its sale. These three gentlemen have already made their report, and their recommendations are at present under consideration. The expert, knowledge which they have been good enough to place at the service of my Department has been of much advantage to the national interests. I can assure my hon. Friend that I fully share his anxiety in the interests of consumers and their needs have throughout had my close attention.
I do not think it will be necessary to publish it. I hope that administrative action will follow.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
If the national interests have been served by New Zealand taking this step, why do not the Government do something here instead of doing nothing?
Nothing could be more inaccurate than for my hon. Friend to say that the Government have done nothing. We have been acting throughout with the New Zealand and Australian Governments.
§ 90. Mr. PRATT
asked the President of the Hoard of Trade whether he has entered, or proposes to enter, into communication with the corporations of Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, and other large cities, as to the accumulation of stocks of coal in these cities, as he has done in the case of the London County Council?
The recommendation of the Retail Coal Prices Committee as to the accumulation by local authorities of stocks of coal related only to London, and I have not communicated with the local authorities of the cities mentioned by my hon. Friend. Those places are situated much nearer the coalfields than London is, and their difficulties as regards coal supply for domestic purposes would appear to be less acute.
§ 91. Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the Coal Owners' Association for the Midland counties' of England have decided to recommend to the coal owners of the district that the price of coal for home consumption should be restricted, while the Scottish coal owners are demanding from home consumers the top price that they can obtain for shipment; and whether, in the event of the Scottish coal owners not agreeing to restrict their prices, he will take steps at once to regulate the price of coal in 968 Scotland in order to relieve the severe burden laid upon the poorer classes of consumers?
I have received a resolution passed by the gas coal producers of the Midland area which is no doubt that to which my hon. Friend refers. The whole question of the coal supply and coal prices is receiving the most careful consideration, but I cannot at present add anything to the reply which I gave to the questions asked by my hon. Friend and other hon. Members on Wednesday last.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any steps will be taken at an early moment to prevent the exploitation of the poorer classes of the consumer by the coal merchants of this country?
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Has not the Government been considering this question for three months, and has it not by the appointment of the Committee baulked the question?
Already on two or three recommendations of the Committee the Government have taken action.