HC Deb 08 November 1916 vol 87 cc236-8W

asked the President of the Board of Trade what has been the advance in the price of wheat since the Royal Commission on Wheat Supplies issued their circular of 10th October offering to take over at the fair market price of 9th October all holdings or contracts existing at that date for the purchase of wheat or flour already arrived in the United Kingdom: or shipped for countries other than the United Kingdom; was this circular issued to all importers and millers throughout the country; did the Commission, before taking delivery of the wheat offered in response to this circular, instruct the persons from whom they purchased that they were at liberty to resell it on condition that Is. per quarter net was paid to the Government; what was the object of this circular: and has the stock of wheat in the United Kingdom increased since 10th October?


The price of wheat in exporting countries has advanced since the 10th of October by about 8s. to 10s. per quarter. The circular referred to was issued through the Corn Trade Associations to all holders of imported wheat. As it was important not to interfere with the free sale of wheat, the holders of stock taken over by the Commission were instructed to place it on the market in the usual course as agents for the Commission who guaranteed that if prices fell below those of 9th October during the ensuing month they would themselves accept all wheat unsold on 9th November. At the same time, to avoid interfering with the sale of this wheat and to avoid the possibility of having to accept unsold wheat on the 9th November, the agents of the Commission were, in the first instance, instructed not to ask less than 1s. per quarter above the prices ruling on 9th October. The main object of the circular was to avoid interference with the regular supplies to millers pending the completion of arrangements for the transfer of the whole business to the Commission.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that No. 1 Northern Manitoba wheat was sold in London on 7th October at September 72s. 6d., September-October 70s. 6d., October-November 69s. 6d., and that after his announcement of the appointment of the Wheat Commission it has risen continuously and was quoted at No. 1 Northern Manitoba landed 86s. 6d. to 87s. on 1st November; whether he can state what this rise has cost the country; whether it is due to the Government's action and the paralysis of all private sources of supply without the simultaneous substitution of any Government machinery to take its place; and if he can hold out hopes of an immediate improvement in the situation?


I am aware that the price of wheat has undergone a marked advance during the last month, but I cannot accept either my hon. Friend's figures or his deductions as to the cause of the rise in price. My hon. Friend has probably noticed that prices have fallen a little since 1st November. I hope that the position may improve further before long.


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he can state on the latest date available the price of the 4 lb. loaf of bread, or its equivalent, in the cities of New York, Paris, Petrograd, and London respectively?


The price of 4 lbs. of household bread on the 6th November was l0d. and l0½d. in London; 7d. in Paris; 1s. 4d. in New York. The price in Petrograd of rye bread, which is the kind most commonly consumed in that city, was 4½d., and of wheaten bread 8½., taking the rate of exchange at par, or 6¾d., and 1s. 1d. at the present rate of exchange. It will be understood that these comparisons are subject to the qualification that there is no international standard quality.


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will take steps to commandeer this year's crop of potatoes and thus put an end to the prices being asked for such food and prevent gambling in potatoes as to possible prices?


At present I cannot add to the reply which I gave on Thursday last to a question asked by the right hon. Member for Woolwich with reference to the supply and price of potatoes.

Sir J. D. REES and Sir J. LONSDALE

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will say when he proposes to introduce a Bill dealing with food prices?


I hope to be able to introduce the Bill in the course of next week.