HC Deb 20 June 1916 vol 83 cc19-22
22. Mr. W. THORNE

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the discontent expressed both by the meat trade and the working classes, concerning the disposal of the surplus meat importations, he will now see the inadvisability of relying exclusively on the advice of the meat monopolists, but will appoint a practical butcher and a working-class representative connected with the meat trade to consult with him in addition to his existing Advisory Committee?


I hope there is no discontent regarding the manner in which the Board dispose of their surplus supplies of Australian mutton and lamb. The Board do not rely on the advice of meat monopolists in this matter. They have no Advisory Committee, and, therefore, no representatives can be added.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are a great many complaints from local butchers in consequence of the inadequate supply of meat sent down to the poorer parts of London?


I am very sorry if that is being done. I hope it will cease.


So do I.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, if he is still resolved to maintain a maximum price at which Colonial sheep and lambs are to be marketed instead of offering the same at an open market price, he will call in a couple of practical butchers used to the cutting up of sheep and lambs, and fix also maximum prices at which the various joints shall be sold to the public in retail shops, and will call in some working-class representative who under stands the meat trade to see that the prices so fixed represent fair and not excessive profits to the retailers?


The Board of Trade do not maintain a maximum price as suggested by my hon. Friend, and I do not think the course suggested is practicable or desirable.

24. Mr. THORNE

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the advance in meat prices and the almost absolute certainty that if the War lasts another twelve months meat prices must advance further still, he will now consider the question of commandeering and organising the whole supply on a national basis and issuing meat tickets so as to ensure an equitable distribution of the limited supply through all sections of the population?


In view of the supplies available, economy in the consumption of meat is certainly necessary in the general interest. I cannot agree that the meat-ticket system would necessarily ensure an equitable distribution, and am not at present prepared to recommend the adoption of that System in this country.

25. Mr. THORNE

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any statistics which will give an approximate idea of the total amount of Home- grown barley used in the manufacture of beer during 1915 as compared with imported barley, and the total amount of Home-grown hops as compared with imported hops?


Inquiries made by His Majesty's Commissioners of Customs and Excise indicate that about 70 per cent. of the barley used by breweries in the year ended 30th September, 1915, or 1,500,000 quarters, was Home grown. The total quantity of hops used was 23,000 tons and the imports of hops in the same period was 10,000 tons, so that the quantity of Home-grown hops used may be taken as approximately 13,000 tons.

26. Mr. THORNE

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether since his statement on the charge of mismanagement and favouritism in the distribution and sale of surplus Colonial sheep and lambs his Department had received any complaints from London butchers on the matter; whether, as Colonial lambs in limited quantities are being offered at 2d. and 3d. per pound below the market value by his agents, and as records are kept of all purchasers, he will state how many New Zealand and Australian lambs during the last four weeks were sold to Eastmans, Limited, David Greig and Company, John Rose and Company, Selfridge and Company, Harrods Stores, Limited, and John Sainsbury, respectively; and how many during the same time were sold to butchers in the Metropolitan boroughs of Shore-ditch, Stepney, and Poplar, and the county borough of West Ham, respectively?


I am satisfied that the sale of meat is proceeding through the same channels in which it usually passed before the War, and I do not see that there would be any advantage in furnishing the particulars asked for.


(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the constitution of the Committee on the high prices of food recently appointed by the President of the Board of Trade; whether four of the five members of Parliament on the Committee are Free Traders and supporters of the late Radical Government; and whether, in view of the far-reaching importance of the findings of the Committee and that the country is being governed by a Coalition Government, he will see that additional members are appointed, so that the Conservative and Unionist party, at present the largest party in the House of Commons, is fairly and equitably represented?


The members of the Committee were selected without any reference to their fiscal views; nor do I see how the fiscal question can arise on the terms of reference to the Committee.

Sir J. D. REES

Has not the chairman of the Committee by writings and speeches been a most conspicuous defender of free imports?


The fiscal question does not arise in any way.


Will the right hon. Gentleman endeavour to take care that in all these appointments of Committees the great party on this side of the House shall have fair representation?


I am surprised to hear it suggested that they have not been given fair representation.


Is it not the fact that these gentlemen were all appointed simply because they were the best men possible?


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to refer the question of the selection of these Committees to the Committee of Selection?


Certainly not!