10. Colonel NEWMAN
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that millers are compelled to pay 121s. per 496 lbs. ex warehouse for foreign wheat, whereas 95s. per 504 lbs. is all they have to pay for English wheat of equal quality; is he aware of the unnecessary increase in the price of bread which is entailed by this compulsory purchase of foreign wheat at an average of 25s. per quarter above its true price; and when will this anomaly be put an end to?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of FOOD (Sir W. Mitchell-Thomson)
I have been asked to reply. I would remind my hon. and gallant Friend that under a free market there always existed a margin between the price of certain kinds of imported wheat and that paid for home-grown wheat. To-day the prices charged to millers for imported wheat range from Ills. 6d. per quarter of 480 lbs. for No. 1 Northern Manitoba downwards at par of American exchange this price of 111s. 6d. would represent a price of 84s. per quarter of 480 lbs. for foreign wheat landed in this country, as compared with the maximum price for home-grown wheat of the 1920 crop, which is 95s. per quarter of 504 lbs., or 90s. 6d. per quarter of 480 lbs. The only compulsion on the millers to buy foreign wheat arises from the unfortunate fact that our home supplies provide only about one-fifth of our total requirements.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that as a matter of fact wheat to-day in New York is cheaper than it has been since 1915?
§ 44. Viscount CURZON
asked the Prime Minister whether, seeing that it would be possible to reduce the price of bread if all control of wheat were removed, he will state what are the reasons for continuing the control of wheat?
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I have been asked to reply. I would refer the Noble Lord to the answer given to a similar question on 23rd November to the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle East (Major Barnes).
§ Viscount CURZON
May I ask whether any new facts have not recently transpired which may somewhat alter the nature of the reply?
84. Colonel NEWMAN
asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the importance of the work done by the staff of his Ministry in their monthly comparison of food prices with those ruling before the War, and to the fact that the economies or readjustments which have had to be made by those families whose incomes are not automatically increased to meet the rise in the cost of living are not taken into account in the statistics as published, he will say what variation from the 176 per cent, rise would result in the event of foreign wheat being sold to the millers at a cost of from 90s. to 100s. per 496 lbs., as against the 121s. which is the price which millers are compelled to pay by the Ministry of Food for samples of equal milling value with English-grown wheat, although 90s. to 100s. represents the fair price for foreign wheat ex warehouse in this country?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY OF LABOUR (Sir Montague Barlow)
I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food that he is unable to accept my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestions as to the price at which wheat is issued to millers and as to what represents a fair price for foreign wheat in this country. I may say, however, that a reduction of Id. in the price of the 4-lb. loaf of bread, with an equivalent reduction in the retail price of flour, would reduce the Ministry of Labour's index number, relating to the cost of living, by nearly 2½ points. I understand that such reduction would correspond with a reduction of 8s. per 280-lb. sack of flour, or 10s. to 15s. per quarter of 480 lbs. of wheat.
Is the hon. Member aware that the general public have no confidence in the Committee of the Labour Ministry that prepares these figures?
§ 93. Mr. GEORGE EDWARDS
asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the price of wheat is now below the controlled maximum on account of the abnormal deliveries by farmers, and that the store places of millers are congested so that they can take no more deliveries; and whether, under the circumstances, he will now remove the control as an inducement to farmers to hold their wheat until the spring, when it will all be wanted?
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
Returns received to date do not support the suggestion made in the first part of the question. As regards the second part, it does not appear probable that, if the world market continues to fall, the removal of a maximum price for homegrown wheat could constitute any inducement to the farmer to hold.