§ Sir ALBION RICHARDSON
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture whether he is aware that an arrangement made by his Department whereby makers of sulphate of ammonia were required to supply this fertiliser for home consumption at a price considerably below its market value on the understanding that the balance not required for such purpose should be allowed to be exported is not being carried out; whether he is aware that the South Metropolitan Gas Company, having fully met all the demands made upon it for the home market, now have large and daily increasing stocks, licences for the export of which are obtainable only through the agency 1724W of a combination of trade competitors formed with the approval and receiving the support of his Department; whether the refusal to give licences without the consent of this agency is inconsistent with the undertaking given by his Department and a breach of faith with the South Metropolitan Gas Company; whether the encouragement of the combination referred to is opposed to public policy and calculated to create a monopoly that will prove prejudicial to home users of sulphate of ammonia when the present system of control is removed; and whether he will take such steps as may be necessary to ensure that the company's applications for licences shall be as favourably considered as those made by the members of the combination?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
The arrangement referred to in this question is in continuation of one which has been in operation since the summer of 1917. Continued supervision of the export of sulphate of ammonia is essential if sufficient is to be retained in this country for the urgent needs of home agriculture, and the Board see no reason for changing a method which has worked well, is perfectly equitable to all makers, and has been accepted unanimously by the association representing them. So far as the Board are aware the South Metropolitan Gas Company is the only firm of makers of sulphate of ammonia which has raised any objection. The Board have written to that company expressing their willingness that licences should be granted on the same terms as to the rest of the makers for the export of the appropriate proportion of the company's product, but it would not be in the public interest to make exceptional arrangements in their case. The Board do not regard the conditions imposed on the issue of export licences as in any way detrimental to the interests, financial or otherwise, of this company. As a result of the arrangements with the main body of manufacturers the market price for export has been stabilised in the interests of all manufacturers of sulphate of ammonia, and the fact that this fertiliser is being supplied during the next four months to home agriculturists at a price below its cost of production indicates that home users, so far from being prejudiced by the arrangements, have been considerably benefited.