§ Mr. JOWETT
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food if he is aware that the position with regard to the potato supply in Bradford is that the merchants' price of £10 10s. per ton which, with the addition of the necessary cost of carriage for distances of between twenty-five and forty miles, lands the potatoes in the Bradford market at 11s. 10d. per bag of 9 stones; that retailers cannot therefore buy at all for less than 12s. 6d. per bag of 9 stones or put potatoes into their bins at a less cost than 1¼d. per lb; that even at this price retailers can only buy in small quantities on account of farmers holding back large stores for more money in April and May, whilst potato merchants for the same reason do not care whether 1104W retailers buy their stocks or not, and say so openly; and what action, he intends to take in the matter?
If, as the hon. Member states, a retailer in Bradford has to pay 12s. 6d. per bag of 9 stones (i.e. £11 2s. 3d. per ton) for his potatoes, the difference between his buying price and the permitted selling price of l½d. per lb. is £2 17s. 9d. per ton, which appears to give a sufficient margin of profit. If the hon. Member has evidence that farmers are holding back large stocks of potatoes, I shall be glad if he will supply me with particulars.
§ Mr. HASLAM
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the great scarcity of the potato supply at Newport, Monmouthshire, and district, and of the allegations made by the retail dealers in that district that such limited supply is not being evenly distributed owing to the practice of wholesale dealers selling their supplies to retail customers at retail prices in certain cases by the hundredweight; whether he will take steps to amend this condition of distribution by limiting the quantity which may be sold at retail prices on any day to any one person to a weight not exceeding fourteen pounds or meet the difficulty by other means?
I am aware that there is a scarcity of potatoes in Newport, Monmouthshire, as there is in certain other parts of the country. It has not been brought to my notice that it is the practice of the wholesale dealers in that town to sell their supplies to retail customers at retail prices. Such action by a wholesaler who is not also in the ordinary way of business engaged in retail trade would be illegal under the Potatoes, 1916, Main Crop (Prices) Order. If any specific cases are brought to the notice of the Food Controller proceedings will be taken. The suggestion made in the last part of the question does not appear to be practicable.
§ Mr. O'SHAUGHNESSY
asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) what is the price of potatoes in Ireland as laid down by the Food Controller which the growers have to sell at for the months of March and April, 1917; and whether it includes the cost of delivery?1105W
§ Mr. DUKE
Under an Order dated the 24th ultimo the maximum prices at which growers may sell potatoes or offer them for sale are as follows: For the month of March £9 per ton to a consumer or wholesale merchant, free on rail but exclusive of the cost of bags or packages. To a retailer £10 10s. per ton, bags or packages included, and the actual cost of transport by rail or water. If not transported by rail or water, a reasonable charge, not exceeding 10s. per ton, may be made for transport. The corresponding prices for delivery after 31st instant are £10 to a consumer or wholesale merchant and £11 10s. to a retailer.