106. Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS
asked the Minister of Food whether, when the price of flour was advanced last September, the retailer was protected against loss but prevented from making a profit by an adjustment of account; and whether, in the same way, arrangements 2401 will now be made to credit bakers with any loss which may be incurred by using their stocks at the new retail prices for bread, in view of the fact that a uniform price must be charged for bread and flour in each district, and that the public cannot be expected to take into consideration the varying stocks of flour which may have been bought by retailers from the Government at a higher price?
§ 108. Sir T. BRAMSDON
asked the Minister of Food why, in the recent reduction of 4s. per sack in the price of flour, the bakery and flour trades were not protected against consequent loss, whereas upon each advance in price this year the Food Ministry took measures to prevent the trades gaining any benefit; and whether compensation will be paid to those trades which have sustained loss by the fall in prices?
§ Mr. McCURDY
With regard to the position of retailers I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given yesterday to the hon. Member for Morpeth. With regard to the position of wholesalers whose sales remain subject to maximum prices, I am considering the possibility of dealing with individual cases of proved hardship.
Is it not a fact that accounts were adjusted when the price was recently raised by the Food Controller even in the case of retailers, and is it not equally practicable and essentially fair that the converse should take place now to prevent these same retailers suffering loss?
§ Mr. McCURDY
On the occasion on which the price of food was advanced as the necessary machinery for giving effect to the decision of the Government to reduce the bread subsidy, steps of that kind were taken, but they did involve the most extensive account-taking, which, as a matter of fact, took a great many months. Should we be faced with a fall in the world price and the necessity of a fall in the price of flour in this country, it will be quite impracticable to continuously follow the precedent set on that occasion.
Sir F. HALL
If for the purchases the Government are making with regard to wheat now they are making them for ward, are they making them at the present price or a reduced price in anticipation of a considerable reduction?
Is it not a fact that it is quite impossible for retailers in any one district to charge prices in accordance with their stocks, and a man who holds a big stock is therefore bound to suffer very heavily, and is not the solution of the difficulty that to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, of continual adjustments of account, to remove the food control of wheat and flour?
§ Mr. McCURDY
The fact that retailers necessarily suffer loss upon their stocks upon a falling market is an economic truth wholly independent of the existence or non-existence of control.
§ Mr. FRANCE
Is it not a fact that when the price was going up the Minister prevented the ordinary economic rules applying, and prevented any adjustment or balance which might have taken place?