Mr. KENNEDY JONES
asked the Minister if he is aware that the tea market in this country is utterly congested; that some common brands of tea have been sold in Mincing Lane as low as 1½d. and 2d. per lb., and that good Indian tea is being sold wholesale at 6d. per lb., making, with the duty, 1s. 4d. per lb.; is he aware that at 1s. 6d. a lb. such tea would yield a satisfactory profit to the retailer, and in that case will he explain the present high retail price of this commodity?
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I am aware that there is some surplus of common grades of tea on the market in this country, due in part to the importation of unusually large quanities following restriction of imports during the War, and to the reduction of the Russian demand. I have no information that any good Indian teas have been sold as low as 6d. per lb., but I understand that certain common Java and Indian teas have been sold wholesale at about 2d. per lb. and 6d. per lb., respectively. These common grades of tea, however, are not such as normally in this country pass into consumption unblended. Before tea reaches the retailer the cost of brokerage, sampling, blending, packing, carriage, and other charges and wholesaler's profits have to be added to the price. Tea is now being sold by retail at prices ranging from is. 8d. per lb., upwards. I may add that tea is scheduled under the Profiteering Act, under which the Board of Trade have full power to deal with any case in which it can be proved that excessive prices have been charged.