asked the Minister of Food, in view of the widespread complaints now being received from retailers and the consuming public about short weights experienced by retailers when receiving goods from wholesalers, if he will endeavour to stamp out these dishonest practices by detailing inspectors to supervise and check packages and produce at the producing end by calling in local food officers and weights and measures inspectors to assist wholesale enforcements, by making it compulsory for all wholesalers to supply retailers with proper invoices without prior request, and by securing the release of paper and other materials to seal packages and so prevent pilfering.
Is the Minister satisfied that everything is being done by his Department to prevent these dishonest practices? Is he further aware that I have had an opportunity of examining the weights, and that investigation revealed that short weight was being supplied in as much as 80 per cent. or 90 per cent. of cases?
Wherever we get sufficient evidence of a flagrant case we take action, but in some cases we cannot get it. Take potatoes at the moment; because they cannot get all the earth off them, farmers find it very difficult to give exact weights. The producers are doing their best in these cases, but where there is flagrant repetition of the offence of giving short weight and we can get evidence of it, we certainly institute a prosecution.
Does not the Minister recognise that coal merchants can be prosecuted if the hundredweight of coal is not exactly 112 lb.? If it is 110 lb., a coal merchant can be prosecuted. Why is it that right throughout the range of products from the farmers, both agricultural and horticultural, they are, in the main, sold to retailers below weight? This has gone on for a very long time. Cannot something be done to deal with it?
As I have tried to tell the House, it is an offence against the maximum prices order to charge those prices for short weight, as obviously the retailer is exceeding the maximum price for the amount. There is that point, but it is often very difficult to give exact weights. Allowances are made in our prices in all cases for a drop of about five per cent., which is the normal evaporation which takes place in products coming from the farms.