HC Deb 26 February 1917 vol 90 cc1662-4

(by Private Notice): beg to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Food Control Department whether he is in a position to make any statement as to the immediate steps to be taken by his Department to secure that retail prices of certain foods of which there are abundant stocks in this country shall not be advanced to the public in consequence of the restriction of imports announced last week?


There is, of course, no justification for an increase in the retail prices of those food commodities of which there are abundant stocks in this country, in consequence of the proposed restrictions upon their importation, announced last week by the Prime Minister. My attention has been called to cases in which such an increase has already taken place. The Food Controller will not hesitate to take drastic action in the event of an increase in the price of any food commodities taking place which is not justified by the circumstances. I should like to add that the inflation of food prices has, in some cases apparently, resulted from anticipatory statements in the Press, and in the interest of consumers it is hoped that such statements will be made with great caution.


Will the hon. Gentleman say what he means by "drastic steps," seeing that within an hour after the Prime Minister's statement grocers were charging increased prices for commodities which they must have had in their possession?


I have only just received notice of this question, and I am not entitled to speak to-day for the Food Controller as to the steps he will take, but I hope the House will rest satisfied with the expressed "drastic" without asking me to further explain. It was obviously impossible for the Food Controller, or anyone, to take any action whatever within an hour of the statement made by the Prime Minister.


But when will steps be taken? The increases are now actually taking place.


I am not prepared to add anything to what I have said.


May I ask whether people are entitled to continue consuming these specific articles at the old rate of prices? If not, how are the prices to be regulated?


I should like to ask my hon. Friend if he will take the opportunity, when dealing with the question of prices, to inform the House what steps can be taken to enable the public, and especially poor people, to obtain sugar without being obliged to buy other articles at the same time?