HC Deb 07 December 1954 vol 535 cc752-3
9. Miss Burton

asked the Chancellor of Exchequer whether he is aware that company profits have reached a record; and what steps he proposes to take to deal with the situation.

Mr. Maudling

The fact that, in our expanding economy, company profits have reached a record does not, by itself, call for Government action, any more than do the records reached by industrial production, wage rates and earnings. Such developments may, my right hon. Friend has often pointed out, raise new hopes and sometimes new problems for company managements. These are broad in their scope and better dealt with in debate rather than in reply to a Parliamentary Question.

Miss Burton

The hon. Gentleman will be a more regular reader of the "Financial Times" than I am. Has he seen its recent statement that the gross profits of the tea trade, taken from company reports published in the first 10 months of this year, are £24,795,000 as against £8,044,000 last year, that being an extra £16,500,000? Does he not agree that what we want is not a further increase in prices but an investigation into what is going on in the tea trade?

Mr. Maudling

If the hon. Lady will put a Question on the Order Paper dealing specifically with the tea trade, I will gladly give her an answer. However, it is wise in making comparisons to have regard not only to what the companies are earning when times are good, but also to the fact that companies were doing very badly when times were bad.

Mr. Osborne

Is it not true that the Welfare State could not be carried on unless companies made good profits and from those profits contributed to the revenue?

Mr. Jay

Does the hon. Gentleman's answer mean that the Government are completely indifferent to a situation in which tea profits and prices are simultaneously rising steeply? Do the Government not care at all about the effect on housewives?

Mr. Maudling

The Question which I answered dealt with profits generally, and my answer was that the Government are glad to see profits rising with incomes of all kinds.