HC Deb 13 November 1917 vol 99 cc214-6

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that on the 8th of February last the War Office issued an Order to all importers of timber stating that they had assumed control of all stocks of soft woods, planed and unplaned, in the United Kingdom, and that such goods could not be sold from that date, unless for urgent needs for which a permit had to be obtained, and that the price charged should not exceed that current for similar goods on 31st January; is he also aware that in May, acting on the instructions of the Director of Timber Supplies, the timber buyer requisitioned about three-fourths of the whole of the stocks then in the country for the Army Council at 31st January prices, and has been selling them over at a profit of from 25 to 40 per cent., in many cases to the customers of those who held the stock, as for instance, at Wisbech, where goods were bought at £34 to £36 10s. per standard and offered out at £44 10s. to £49 10s., at Hull, where goods were taken over at £38 10s. and offered out at £52, and at West Hartlepool, where goods were taken out at from £33 to £36 and offered out at £41 to £45; and will he explain why the Government buyer should be permitted to take such large profits, whilst at the same time prices are limited for the small portion of the stocks left in importers' hands to those prevailing on 31st January last?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. With regard to the second part, only about one-fourth of the timber was requisitioned, this having been done to constitute a Government reserve which has been added to by purchases made at current prices; deliveries from Government stock are always made at prices sufficient to cover cost of replacement, but as a fact only trifling amounts of timber requisitioned at January prices have been so released where it has been specially convenient. With regard to the last part of the question, the Controller has been advised by his Trade Advisory Committee to take no action in the direction of levelling up the rates for the stocks left in importers hands to which the 31st January prices apply.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great feeling of resentment in the timber trade at this unfair treatment, and does he consider 25 per cent. to 40 per cent. profit by the Government is not profiteering?


Has the attention of the Department of the hon. Gentleman been called to the fact that marked favouritism exists in the conduct of this Timber Controller in admitting imports from one importer and refusing them from another?


If the hon. Gentleman will give me any case of that kind I will have inquiry made into it at once.


Will the reporter of this case not be threatened under the Defence of the Realm Act?