HC Deb 04 March 1920 vol 126 cc618-21
29. Mr. DOYLE

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the constantly increasing prices, the progressively heavy demand for higher wages, and the alleged profiteering of many manufacturers and wholesalers, he will consider the advisability of appointing a Royal Commission, whereon members of the consuming public shall find a place, to inquire into every phase of the question, to take evidence on oath, and to make a speedy Report, with a view to such drastic action as will bring relief to the community?


I do not think the question of high prices is one which lends itself to enquiry by a Royal Commission. The prices of many important commodities have been, or are being, investigated by Committees under the Profiteering Act. The more general economic causes underlying recent movements of prices are for the most part matters of common knowledge, and the question of the steps which can be taken to hasten the return to normal conditions is receiving the anxious consideration of His Majesty's Government and of the Supreme Council.


Will the right hon. Gentleman believe me when I say that the continued rise in prices is making it difficult for us to keep industrial peace in the country and we shall be unable to do it unless something is done?


When will the Debate take place in the House?


There is a question later on on that point.


Has the Committee under the Profiteering Act any power to summon witnesses and take evidence on oath?


I do not like to answer that without investigation, but I think it is.


asked the Prime Minister whether he can inform the House as to whether any decisions were reached at the Peace Conference discussion on the question of high prices; and whether the Government is now able to make arrangements for a day to be set apart to discuss this important matter in the House of Commons?

48. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Prime Minister whether the question of the international control of food and raw materials, with a view to reducing prices, has been or is being discussed at the Peace Conference; if so, what nations were or are represented at the Conference; whether it was or is intended to invite representatives from all nations to the discussions, and, if so, when; whether any decisions arrived at will be laid before Parliament; and on which Vote or Votes this matter can be discussed?


asked the Prime Minister when he proposes to give the House an opportunity for discussing the high and constantly increasing prices of necessary commodities?


The Supreme Council has had under consideration the general question of the rise in prices in' all its aspects. Representatives or France, Italy, and Belgium, as well as of Great Britain, have been present at these discussions, and a statement of the conclusions arrived at will be published as soon as possible. As regarda the general discussion, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House stated yesterday, it is proposed to arrange for it on the Civil Service Vote on Account on Monday week.


Will the decisions of the Supreme Council be in the hands of Members before the Debate takes place?


I hope it will be ready in two or three days.

61. Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. WARREN

asked the Prime Minister if his attention has been called to the large number of petitions of protest Members of this House are receiving from the women of the country, wherein they express the opinion that the continued rise in prices is due to Government extravagance; and if he can give an assurance that the utmost vigilance and economy is being exerted by the Government with the view of doing all in its power to meet the situation?


The rise in prices is the inevitable result of a great and costly war. All countries alike are suffering from this increase in the cost of living. This country suffers less in this respect than any European country. Public and private economy on expenditure will assist to improve matters, and, in so far as Government expenditure is concerned, it has been scrutinised with the greatest care with a view to effecting reductions.


Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to remain in the House during the Debate this afternoon so that he may judge what the opinion of the House is in connection with Government extravagance?

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