§ 58. Sir Percy Harris
asked the President of the Board of Trade how the present price of tea compares with prices prevailing in 1914 and 1932, respectively; and whether he can give any explanation for the present high prices?
The average retail price of tea, in the working-class trade, as recorded by the Ministry of Labour for 1st November, 1937, is 2S. 2½. per 1b., as compared with an annual average price of 1s. 9d. per 1b. in 1932, and an average price of 1s. 6¼d. per lb. on 1st July, 1914. In comparing these prices with 1030 those prevailing at the earlier dates it is necessary to bear in mind that there have been increases in the costs both of production and, as regards, at any rate; the comparison with 1914, of distribution. The present rates of duty (standard rate 6d. per 1b., preferential rate 4d.) are 2d. per 1b. higher than those imposed on 10th April, 1932. Tea was duty-free in the first part of that year and subject to a duty of 5d. per lb. at 1st July, 1914. The hon. Member will recollect that it was the low prices which tea growers were then getting which led to the institution of the International Tea Scheme early in 1933.
§ Sir P. Harris
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it was stated by his party that if they imposed food taxes they would take off the duty on tea; and will he therefore consult his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in order to persuade him, in view of the high price of tea, to withdraw some of the duty in his next Budget statement?
I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend's answer to the question suggested by the hon. Baronet would be that he should await the Budget statement.