§ 10. Mr. GINNELL
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if he is aware that the firms of Messrs. Denny, Government brokers for the purchase of Army supplies, and Messrs Denny, bacon curers, are composed of the same persons and thus able to give preferential treatment to themselves; if he will state the rate and weekly amount of the commission paid to them as Government agents; whether this commission enabled them, without loss to themselves as bacon curers, to inflict loss on their competitors by agreeing to the reduction of the price of Irish bacon to 140s., while no competitor could, without loss, take less than 145s. per cwt.; and, seeing that the forced reduction in the price of Irish bacon, effected at the expense of bacon curers and pig raisers and by the expenditure of public money, does not reach consumers but is absorbed by Messrs. Denny as buyers and Messrs. Kearley and Tonge as traders; whether the reduction made, in effect, for the benefit of those and similar firms will be withdrawn forthwith and Irish producers be paid for their produce on the scale on which consumers are charged for it?
§ Mr. FORSTER
As regards the first part of the question, Messrs. E. M. Denny and Co., of London, are the agents employed by the War Office for the supply of bacon to the Army. This firm is distinct from the firm of Henry Denny and Sons, Limited, bacon-curers, of Cork, though the partners of the first firm have an interest in the second. It is the rule that the 1104 agents shall not buy from Messrs H. Denny and Sons except in so far as the quantities required for the Army are not obtainable from other sources and the amount thus bought does not exceed 2½ per cent. of the total purchases. As regards the second part of the question, the rate of commission is¾ of 1 per cent., with an annual maximum of £25,000, which includes the firm's expenses. In the year 1915–16 this worked out at 2–5 of 1 per cent, on the total value of the purchases made. The arrangement with Messrs. E. M. Denny and Co. has been considered on three occasions by the Advisory Committee on Army Contracts, and it has on each occasion been confirmed as the best practicable method of securing the supplies required. I am not sure that I follow the argument in the third part of the question, but it follows from the above figures that the commission on bacon at 140s. per cwt. would amount only to about 7d. per cwt., and would not compensate for a reduction in price of 5s. per cwt. The fourth part of the question does not therefore appear to arise.
§ Mr. GINNELL
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that most of the fourth part of the question and the whole of the parts do arise; is he aware that what he calls the first-mentioned firm has a controlling financial interest in the second-mentioned firm; is he aware that £25,000 is a substantial sum to enable one firm to eliminate competitors; whether the War Office agrees with that conduct; and whether he has given attention to the fact that no representative Irish bacon-curers except Mr. Denny consented to]40s. as the maximum, and that the consumers in this country do not get the benefit of the reduction because it is absorbed by the middlemen?
§ Mr. GINNELL
May I ask whose matter? Is it or is it not the fact that of the representatives of the bacon curers of Ireland only Mr. Denny consented to this, and will the price be maintained under those circumstances?
§ Mr. PETO
May I ask whether the result of the inquiries the hon. Gentleman has made has been to show that the employment of this firm, whose principal business is Irish bacon, has not operated 1105 to the disadvantage of Wiltshire and other brands of English bacon which certainly has not had a fair share in Army orders?
§ Mr. FLAVIN
Have Irish bacon curers residing in and killing the meat in Ireland the opportunity of supplying meat direct to the Army, or must they supply it through Mr. Denny, the War Office representative here?
§ 25. Mr. GINNELL
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, in view of the facts that Messrs. William Whiteley and other large traders quote exactly the same price for Irish-cured as for English-cured bacon, and that such firms as Kearley and Tonge quote smoked Irish bacon at a margin of 19s. per cwt. above the price paid for green Irish sides, thus depriving the consumer of any advantage resulting from the forcible reduction of the price of Irish bacon, and giving all such advantage to such firms and to the members of the Home and Foreign Produce Exchange, will he explain the reason why, in the sole interest of those firms and members and with no advantage to consumers, Irish bacon curers, farmers, and cottagers are compelled to sell their property at a lower price than English property of the same class?
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of FOOD CONTROL (Captain Bathurst)
In normal times the price of Irish green bacon was invariably quoted lower than English. Prices of both Irish and English bacon at the beginning of the year were unduly inflated and were both proportionately reduced. The current prices were fixed after careful inquiry from representatives of all the parties concerned. They were not fixed in the interest of particular firms. These prices will come periodically under revision.
§ Mr. GINNELL
Does the hon. Gentleman dispute the fact that large firms quote exactly the same price for English and Irish bacon, and does he dispute the fact that no Irish curer but Mr. Denny, the agent of the Government, consented to the lowering of the Irish price?
I am not aware of the latter allegation. As regards the first, the hon. Member in his question is not comparing like with like; he is comparing 1106 green bacon with smoked bacon and wholesale prices with retail prices. The difference that he mentions represents carriage, cost of smoking, etc.
§ Mr. GINNELL
Has the hon. Gentleman given any attention to that part of the question which points out that the consumer in this country does not benefit by the reduction in the price of Irish bacon and that it is a tax on the producer without being any benefit to the consumer?
§ Mr. FLAVIN
May I ask if the hon. Gentleman is aware that in the official trade organ in this country. "The Grocer," the leading houses in London quote English and Irish bacon at identically the same price, and if that is so, will he show me any official quotation which places the price of Irish bacon at 10s. a cwt. under that of English?
I am having the prices stated in the newspaper known as "The Grocer" carefully investigated; so far as I am able to ascertain, they do not appear to be official market prices.
§ Mr. FLAVIN
Is he aware that at Whiteley's, Harrods', and Self ridge's the prices of English and Irish bacon are quoted at the same price side by side, and ought not that to be sufficient indication of the equality of the prices of English and Irish bacon?