§ 60 and 61. Sir H. NIELD
asked the Food Controller (1) whether he is aware that, under the scheme formulated by the Tea Controller, one class of wholesale dealers in tea is preferred to another, whereby the latter are being deprived of their business, in some cases established for many years; whether he is aware that in the administration of this scheme traders are compulsorily obliged to disclose the names of their customers and the method and details of their business, and that such information is used to the detriment of those who are so dealt with; and whether any appeal lies, and to whom, against the decision of the Controller; and (2) whether, when disputes arise under the Tea Controller's scheme with reference to the different classes of traders and the category in which the Controller has placed them and the rebates 1537 to which they are entitled, he will provide an independent tribunal of arbitration to whom such disputes may be referred for decision, and not compel traders to submit to his arbitrary decision except under terms of accepting arbitration and an umpire nominated by the Controller?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of FOOD (Major Astor)
There has been no undue preference in the case of wholesale dealers in tea, nor has any class of these dealers been deprived of its business. Brokers claiming allotments of tea have been required to disclose the names of their principals to enable their claims to be verified. Secondary wholesalers claim rebates through the primary wholesalers from whom they buy, and to this extent there is a disclosure of names, but not of the method and details of their business. Such information as is disclosed is certainly not used in the manner suggested in the question. The determination of the class to which particular traders belong under the tea distribution scheme must rest with the Ministry of Food.
§ Sir H. NIELD
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he maintains that the Food Controller's Department shall arbitrate in their own cause and stop a man carrying on his business by a decision which cannot be challenged?
§ Major ASTOR
The Ministry always consult experts. In the case which I believe my hon. Friend has in mind, the names of the experts whom the Ministry proposed to consult were given to the firm in question. They, however, declined their advice as experts.
§ Sir H. NIELD
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether they were perfectly independent persons or merely delegates of the Food Controller?
§ Major ASTOR
The persons were the chairman of the Tea Buyers' Association, the chairman of the Tea Brokers' Association, and the ex-chairman of the Tea Brokers' Association.
§ 62. Sir H. NIELD
asked the Food Controller whether he is aware that public money in the form of rebates is given by the Tea Controller under his scheme of distribution which vary in amount to the different classes of dealers in tea, and that the various classes are differentiated against to the exclusion of some who for years have carried on their business and 1538 can only carry on by inducing customers to voluntarily pay an additional price; whether he is aware that by the offer of a higher rate of rebate out of public moneys, customers are being induced to transfer their business to other and favoured classes of dealers; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?
§ Major ASTOR
Under the tea distribution scheme, tea is sold by wholesale dealers at the cost price to them, and those dealers receive rebates to cover their expenses and profit. These rebates are part of the cost of distribution, and are provided for in calculating the selling price of the tea. They vary in amount for different classes of dealers in tea, and have been arranged so as to retain business in existing channels as far as possible. If, however, a dealer employs the services of a buying broker, he must pay for those services out of the remuneration allowed to him under the scheme. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative; the third part does not, therefore, arise.