HC Deb 21 February 1939 vol 344 cc173-4
7. Mr. De la Bère

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will have some inquiry made as to why bread is 50 per cent. dearer than in 1914, seeing that wheat is approximately 40 per cent. cheaper than it was in 1914?

Mr. Stanley

The price of bread has been the subject of a number of inquiries by the Food Council, the latest of which, relating to the price of bread in London, was published in July, 1938. In these circumstances, I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by further inquiry now.

Mr. De la Bère

Will my right hon. Friend, notwithstanding that answer, once again point out to the Food Council that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction in the country over this matter?

Mr. T. Smith

Has any action been taken as a result of these inquiries?

Mr. Stanley

It was reported that this increase was due almost entirely to two factors: the increased cost of coal and the fact that during that period wages in the baking trade had gone up by 100 per cent. Hon. Members will agree that the conditions in the industry before the War were such as we do not want to return to.

Mr. Banfield

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the statement that the wages in the baking trade have gone up by 100 per cent. is not borne out by the recent investigation of the Ministry of Labour? Is he not aware of the necessity for setting up a trade board for dealing with the low wages in the baking industry?

Mr. Stanley

That is another question. What I have said is that the Committee, having examined the problem, said that these were two factors which contributed to the increase.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the same disparity to be found in the profits of the milling combine?

Mr. Stanley

That is a different matter.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is it not a fact that the output of the baking industry has gone up by more than 100 per cent. as the result of mechanisation in the industry?

Mr. Stanley

It has gone up. I think anybody is entitled to claim that the wages should have gone up. The Committee did not put this 100 per cent. increase forward as something wrong, but they mentioned it as one of the factors.

Mr. Benjamin Smith

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that they have made a statement which is entirely erroneous? To say that wages in the baking industry have been doubled is to say something that anyone with even a superficial knowledge of the industry knows to be incorrect?

Mr. Stanley

This is since 1914.