asked the Minister for Supplies whether he has now inquired into the costings of manufacturers to whom utility shirting print has been allocated by him; whether he has satisfied himself that a retail price of 14/11 each, a wholesale to retail price of 126/-dozen, and a factory to wholesale price of 108/- dozen are justified for utility tunic shirts.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Shirt Prices.
From the form in which the Deputy has put his question it would appear that he is not aware of the methods of price control which have been adopted in regard to clothing.
The Deputy appears to be under the impression that specific prices have been fixed for classes of shirts and that these specific prices would be uniform as between different manufacturers. This impression is incorrect. In the case of shirts, the majority of the larger manufacturers determine their own prices in accordance with arrangements entered into with my Department for the control of prices and profits. These arrangements limit the rate of gross profit to be taken by any manufacturer, but the actual manufacturers' prices for the articles produced are not fixed by me. It will be obvious that with the variety of firms that exist in the shirt industry, there is a wide disparity of cost as between one firm and another and there is consequently a wide variety in manufacturers' prices.
Under the Order made by me on the 21st instant wholesalers' and retailers' margins on shirts are limited to maximum percentages. Where the manufacturer's price for shirts of any particular kind is 108/- per dozen, the price mentioned in the Deputy's question, the wholesale and retail prices set out would be well within the maximum prices calculated in accordance with the provisions of the new Order.
As I intimated to the Deputy when dealing with this matter a week ago, I will be prepared to have investigations made into the specific prices charged by any firm of manufacturers, if he will give me the name of the firm which he has in mind and if I find that these prices are inconsistent with the price arrangements entered into by that firm, I will be prepared to take any additional measures necessary to enforce control.
Does the Minister consider that a price of 108/- per dozen from manufacturer to wholesaler is justified under the terms of his new Order in view of the circumstance that the shirts for which this price is being charged cost the manufacturer 66/- per dozen to produce? Does he consider it is a proper use of the utility shirting, for the distribution of which he has taken responsibility, that it should be converted into tunic shirts which cost the manufacturer 66/- per dozen to produce, which are sold by the manufacturer at 108/- per dozen to the wholesaler, at 126/- by the wholesaler to the retailer, and at 14/11 each by the retailer to the consumer? If the Minister does not think these are proper margins on the original cost price of 66/- per dozen, would he cause an inquiry to be made in the trade, and will he take all such steps as may be necessary to prevent an exploitation of the public of this character?
I am not aware of any manufacturer who is charging this price. If the Deputy is, why will he not name him?
I name each several shirt manufacturer in Dublin and I declare that certainly up to last Saturday week each several shirt manufacturer operating in the Dublin area, using the utility cloth distributed under the Minister's aegis, was charging this price. I name them or I name any one of them at the Minister's choosing—the shirt-manufacturers operating in the City of Dublin. I state positively that the shirts cost 66/- per dozen to produce. I state positively that each and all of them were charging 108/- per dozen to the wholesaler and the wholesaler 126/- to the retailer. Now will the Minister answer?
The Deputy has obviously got the wrong end of some story. If he will refer to the answer I have just read out, he will see that the system of price control does not include the fixation of specific prices for shirts. The system of price control is on a different basis. If he will go to the trouble of reading the reply I have given, he will find that his information is obviously inaccurate, and perhaps he will then go to the trouble of finding out what the position is.
I appreciate what the Minister said, that his system of price control takes cognisance of the general margin of profit and limits it. I ask if, in this specific case, he will use all such other machinery as is available to him to control a specific case of gross exploitation by the producer of the consumer. Has not the Minister price control machinery in his Department, or in the Department of Industry and Commerce, which enables him to investigate a specific case of overcharging?
I publicly allege that shirts costing 66/- to produce by the manufacturers are being sold at 108/-to the wholesalers and 126/- to the retailers.
The Deputy said that twice.
I ask will the Minister use his machinery to investigate that allegation.
A specific point relating to a particular manufacturer will be investigated.
I make it in respect of each manufacturer in the City of Dublin.
I know the allegation has no foundation.
Will you examine it?
The accounts of the manufacturers have been and are being examined. Each of them was working to a fixed profit margin and in no case is the margin anything like that suggested by the Deputy.
Might I say that the abuse I allege only took place in the course of the last three weeks and no account could possibly show that to the Minister as yet? The evil ought to be put an end to. The evil I allege is happening now.
The Deputy is making a series of speeches.
How could the accounts show the Minister an evil which is only in existence for three weeks? He will only see the accounts at monthly or six monthly intervals. I make a specific allegation. Surely the Minister can say that he will investigate it. That is all I want.
A specific complaint of over-charging will be investigated.
That is fair enough.