§ MR. ALFRED DAVIES
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether a Belgian company has secured a lease of a large area of Crown land at Llanelly noted for containing coal of a highly bituminous nature which is indispensable for the manufacture of steel, a staple industry of that district, the company intending to employ Belgian workmen and to ship the coal to Belgium; and, if so, whether he can inform the House if the covenants of the lease have been broken so as to enable him to cancel it, even if it be a sub-let, or if he can adopt some action which will prevent the steel manufacturers of Llanelly from being deprived of coal necessary for their manufacturing purposes, and British 1035 colliers from losing employment; and, in the event of the Crown Commissioner for Woods and Forests not being able to cancel the lease, whether, in the interests of British traders and British workmen, he can assure the House that in the future no Crown land will be sub-let or let to any foreign company.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,) Worcestershire, E.
The bulk of this area of Crown coal was let to some gentlemen at Llanelly in 1896 for a term of twenty-one years. They never succeeded in raising sufficient capital in Wales or England to work it properly, although they made great efforts to do so, and it consequently remained unworked. Recently an arrangement was come to by them with a Belgian gentleman who was willing to provide the necessary capital, and he has taken an assignment of the lease. The Commissioner of Woods has agreed to grant him a new lease for an extended term when he shall have sunk certain deep shafts. This agreement cannot be cancelled by the Commissioner. I cannot give an absolute promise of the nature suggested in the last paragraph, but such cases are not, I hope, likely to recur, and British subjects will, other things being equal, always be accepted as tenants in preference to foreigners or foreign companies.