§ 7. Mr. WILLIAM THORNE
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attenton has been called to the report of the W. and C. T. Jones Steampship Company, Limited, of Cardiff, for the year ended 30th June, which shows that the profit on a fleet of thirteen steamers was £524,855, representing 187 per cent. on the company's capital; whether he is aware that the previous year's earnings were only £87,105, which allowed a dividend of 15 per cent.; and if he intends taking action to prevent such exploitation, which to a great extent is the cause of food prices advancing, on the admission of the Board of Trade, to 62 per cent.?
My attention has been called to the Report referred to in the question. As my hon. Friend will be aware, a very large proportion of these high profits pass to the Exchequer in the shape of Excess Profits Tax, Income Tax, and probably Super-tax. So far as can be gathered from the Report, the total amount proposed to be distributed as dividend for the year in question is £70,000, part of which will probably go in Super-Tax. Excess Profits Duty and Super-tax absorb £320,000, and the bulk of the remainder is allocated to depreciation, reserve, etc. The freight problem is a very difficult and delicate one, largely because of its world-wide character, but the present situation is not satisfactory,; and the Government are taking measures which they hope may cause an improvement. At the same time, the effect of freights on food prices may easily be exaggerated. I have no reason to suppose that the increase of freight rates is, as suggested in the question, to a great extent the cause of the rise which has taken place. However, as my hon. Friend is aware, the whole question of the causes of the rise of prices is being explored by a very competent Committee.