HC Deb 10 November 1926 vol 199 cc1071-2
28. Mr. LUNN

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that tobacco which was sold retail at 3d. per oz. in 1914 is now sold at 8½d. per oz., the same quality or inferior, and that matches which were 2½d. per dozen boxes in 1914 are now 10½d. per dozen retail; and whether the Government propose to take any action to deal with profiteering in these articles?


I am aware of the increases mentioned. These matters were considered in 1919–20 by committees under the Profiteering Acts, who were of opinion that in view of the increases over the pre-War level in Customs and Excise duties, and in other costs, the prices then charged were not unreasonable. I am not aware of any change since that time which would justify a contrary opinion now.


Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that since 1920 wages have gone down to the tune of hundreds of millions; and is it not time that the Board of Trade considered the vast profits made out of the manufacture of these articles, and endeavoured to see that some relief is given to those who consume these articles and reduce the profiteering that goes on?


Taxation accounts for the great bulk of this increase in price. The duty on unstripped tobacco has risen from 2¾d. per ounce pre-War to 6.12d. That is a very great increase and largely accounts for the higher prices. Of course, in the price of tobacco the enormous profits that are represented by the companies' sale of tobacco are shown over an immense turnover in regard to a commodity sold in very small quantities; therefore the infliction upon the consumer is relatively very small. The immense profits are due to the big sales of the companies.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that on the figures he has given to the House the cost of the actual commodity apart from taxation, is still 150 per cent. above pre-War?

Viscountess ASTOR

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether it is true that wages have gone down in this particular industry?


My answer to the last supplementary question is that I do not know. My reply to the hon. Member opposite (Mr. T. Williams) is that he is mistaken. I have quoted a figure which represents an increase of 4d. per ounce for taxation alone and in addition to that there is the extra cost of raw material which is to-day about 6 of a penny per ounce.