§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
asked the Food Controller whether he is aware that the Government sold 86 chests of tea at public auction on the 6th instant at 1s. 8d. per lb.; that they had bought this tea at 7.7755d. per lb. at the port of shipment; and that, after paying all charges, there was a profit of 10d. or 11d. per lb. to the Government; in what way does the consumer benefit by this profiteering; and when the Government proposes to withdraw the regulation which authorises these transactions?
I find that the eighty-six chests in question were purchased by my Department f.o.b. Calcutta at the price of 7.7755d. per lb. To this must be added the cost of freight, war risk, marine insurance, landing, warehouse, and other charges, amounting in all to 5.045d. per lb. The total cost of the tea was, therefore, 12.8155d. per lb., and as it was sold in the public export sale at 1s. 8d. per lb. the total profit realised on this particular parcel amounted to 7.1845d. per lb. I would add that after the conclusion of the Armistice it was considered desirable that the export trade in tea should be restarted at the earliest possible moment. As my Department were the sole holders of firsthand tea in this country, it was decided, after consultation with the trade, that the Government should allocate a certain amount of the lower grades of tea to be sold in public auction for export only, so that all traders might be able to obtain a proportion at the current market price. The profit realised in these export sales will, if necessary, be utilised to reduce the general average price at which tea is balloted by the Government to the trade; otherwise it will be utilised for the general benefit of the taxpayers in this country. As I stated last week, my Department will cease to sell tea for export as soon as there is a sufficient quantity of tea imported on private account to enable export sales to be resumed.
§ Captain HACKING
asked the Food Controller if, in view of the understanding 1397W that the restrictions are shortly to be removed from the sale of tea and that the price may be fixed at lower than the present controlled price of 2s. 8d., and in view of the small margin of profit fixed by the Government at present, he will see his way to grant a rebate on present certified stocks equivalent to the difference between present and future prices, or obtain for the grocers a period of time to dispose of present stocks before the new price is brought into force?
It was announced in the Press on 21st February that the suspension of the Orders governing the distribution and price of tea would come into operation on 24th March next, and the trade have, therefore, received more than the month's notice suggested. In view of this notice, it is not proposed to make any arrangements for giving a rebate to grocers or allied traders in respect of stocks of tea which they may be holding on 24th March; and, in any event, it does not follow that any loss would be incurred by them on the sale of such stocks after that date.
§ Sir PHILIP PILDITCH
asked the Food Controller whether, in removing the control from tea or other commodities usually sold by small traders, he will give adequate notice so that they may be able to dispose of their existing stocks before the control is removed, or whether any consideration by way of rebate on any stocks then hold by the trade will be granted?
As regards tea, it was announced in the Press on 21st February that the suspension of the Orders governing distribution and price would come into operation on 24th March next. In view of this notice it is not proposed to make any arrangements for giving a rebate to traders in respect of stocks of tea which they may be holding on 24th March, and in any event it does not follow that any loss would be incurred by them on the sale of such stocks after that date. In any other cases care will be taken to give adequate notice.