§ Mr. GINNELL
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, in view of the facts that Messrs. William Whiteley and other large traders quote exactly the same price for Irish-cured as for English-cured bacon, and that such firms as Kearley and Tonge quote smoked Irish bacon at a margin of 19s. per cwt. above the price paid for green Irish sides, thus repriving the consumer of any advantage resulting from the forcible reduction of the price of Irish bacon, and giving all such advantage to such firms and to the members of the Home and Foreign Produce Exchange, will he explain the reason why, in the sole interest of those firms and members and with no advantage to consumers. Irish bacon-curers, farmers, and 928W cottagers are compelled to sell their property at a lower price than English property of the same class?
In normal times the price of Irish green bacon was invariably quoted lower than English. Prices of both Irish and English bacon at the beginning of the year were inflated, and were both proportionately reduced. The current prices were fixed after careful inquiry from representatives of all the parties concerned. They were not fixed in the interests of particular firms. These prices will come periodically under revision.
§ Mr. GINNELL
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if he is aware that the firms of Messrs. Denny, Government brokers for the purchase of Army supplies, and Messrs. Denny, bacon curers, are composed of the same persons, and thus able to give preferential treatment to themselves; if he will state the rate and weekly amount of the commission paid to them as Government agents; whether this commission enabled them, without loss to themselves as bacon curers, to inflict loss on their competitors by agreeing to the reduction of the price of Irish bacon to 140s., while no competitor could, without loss, take less than 145s. per cwt.; and, seeing that the forced reduction in the price of Irish bacon, effected at the expense of bacon curers and pig raisers and by the expenditure of public money, does not reach consumers, but is absorbed by Messrs. Denny as buyers and Messrs. Kearley and Tonge as traders, whether the reduction made, in effect, for the benefit of those and similar firms will be withdrawn forthwith and Irish producers be paid for their produce on the scale on which consumers are charged for it?
§ Mr. FORSTER
As regards the first part of the question, Messrs. E. M. Denny and Company, of London, are the agents employed by the War Office for the supply of bacon to the Army. This firm is distinct from the firm of Henry Denny and Sons. Limited, bacon curers, of Cork, though the partners of the first firm have an interest in the second. It is the rule that the agents shall not buy from Messrs. H. Denny and Sons, except in so far as the quantities required for the Army are not obtainable from other sources and the amount thus bought does not exceed 2½ per cent. of the total purchases. As 929W regards the second part of the question, the rate of commission is three-quarters of 1 per cent., with an annual maximum of £25,000, which includes the firm's expenses. In the year 1915–1916 this worked out at two-fifths of 1 per cent. on the total value of the purchases made. The arrangement with Messrs. E. M. Denny and Company has been considered on three occasions by the Advisory Committee on Army Contracts, and it has on each occasion been confirmed as the best practicable method of securing the supplies required. I am not sure that I follow the argument in the third part of the question, but it follows from the above figures that the commission on bacon at 140s. per cwt. would amount only to about 7d. per cwt. and would not compensate for a reduction in price of 5s. per cwt. The fourth part of the question does not, therefore, appear to arise.
§ Mr. KENNEDY
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether Messrs. Kearley and Tonge quote Irish leanest sides; if so, what was the quotation for the same in mid-March; and is this bacon in competition with Canadian leanest sides?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The quotation referred to was 159s. per cwt. at the date named. All classes of bacon are, in the usual course of business, in general competition with each other.
§ Mr. JOYCE
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether the Food Controller has allowed English bacon-curers to quote special wet English sides at 14s. per cwt. over ordinary English sides; whether Irish curers are entitled to the same privilege; and, if not, why they are denied it?
The "wet special sides" quoted in the list of maximum prices at 14s. above the ordinary English maximum price, are a special cut and are not made in Ireland. I may add that they are not complete sides and are boneless.