§ MR. H. H. MARKS (Kent, Thanet)
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that at a meeting of members of the retail tea trade, held on May 7th at the London Chamber of Commerce, at which over 20,000 shops in various parts of the Kingdom were represented, it was resolved that, notwithstanding the proposals contained in the Budget, no reduction should be made in the price of tea; and whether, having regard to this action on the part of the leading firms in the trade, he intends to adhere to his proposals, or can he see his way to so revise them as to give consumers the benefit of the reduction in duty which the trade has resolved to withhold from them.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I have received a communication from the chairman of the meeting referred to, stating that the decision arrived at was that the present retail prices of tea should be continued, and that the quality of the blends should be improved to the full extent of the reduction, thus placing the large and small purchasers in a position whereby they equally benefit. If this decision is acted upon, the consumer will in fact receive the full benefit of the reduction in duty. I was quite aware, when I proposed the reduction, that the benefit to the consumer might take the form of an improvement in quality instead of a reduction in price, and I said so in my Budget speech. I may add, however, that I am informed that an actual reduction in price has been made by many retailers in view of the reduction of duty—even in anticipation of its taking effect. It is not improbable that the force of competition may compel others to follow suit.