75. Mr. J. WALTON
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that prices of most articles of agricultural produce have fallen to the level of, approximately, only 30 per cent. over 2194 those obtaining in 1914 and that super-phosphate, largely used by farmers as a fertiliser, is still 90 per cent. above pre-War prices; whether, notwithstanding this relatively unfavourable position for farmers, the manufacturers of this fertiliser are seeking to inflict further burdens upon agriculture by attempting to induce the Board of Trade Committee to impose a duty on imported superphosphate equal to 33⅓ per cent. of its declared value; and whether he will taken any necessary action on behalf of agriculture to prevent raw materials of the industry being artificially increased in price?
§ Major BARNSTON
The statistics of market prices collected by my Department indicate that prices during February of the principal agricultural products taken together were about 80 per cent. above the average of the three years 1911–13, while prices of superphosphate were about 70 per cent. above the average of those years. As regards the latter part of the question I may remind my hon. Friend that no Order can be made applying Part II of the Safeguarding of Industries Act to any article except after public inquiry by a Committee constituted for the purposes of the Act, and such a Committee would be required to report on the effect which the impostion of the duty would exert on employment in any industry using goods of the class in question as material. I understand that representations with regard to super phosphate have been made to the Board of Trade, but that no prima facie case for reference to a Committee has been established.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
May we take it that the Government do not intend to impose a duty of 33⅓ per cent. on imported superphosphate?