HC Deb 23 December 1915 vol 77 cc615-6

(by Private Notice): I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that on the 9th November last, the Board of Trade wrote in reply to a representation made by a special committee of bankers, merchants and brokers of the City of London, that while the restriction of the exportation of coffee should be maintained, licences should be issued freely for consignment destined for satisfactory consignees in Holland, and that such consignment should not be required to be addressed to the Netherlands Overseas Trust; that, on the faith of that communication, purchases of coffee were made on the market to fulfil orders from such consignees, but the purchasers found that the War Trade Department refused to grant any licences except to the Netherlands Overseas Trust, and that the Netherlands Overseas Trust absolutely refused to accept any consignment of coffee from England, while at the same time they are accepting shipments of coffee from other countries, including France; and that the executive committee of the Netherlands Overseas Trust consists of ship-owners and colonial merchants whose object is to annex the English freight and market in coffee; and whether in these circumstances the Foreign Office will put an end to the agreement with the Netherlands Overseas Trust and enable the promise of the Board of Trade to be honourably carried out?

Mr. BRIDGEMAN (Lord of the Treasury)

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative, but since the Board of Trade letter was written, arrangements have been made by which the Netherlands Overseas Trust will accept a definite quantity of coffee consigned from the United Kingdom to the Netherlands, and in view of the importance of preventing any of this coffee from reaching the enemy, this is considered to be a preferable arrangement.


Am I to understand from that the Netherlands Overseas Trust will accept a consignment for such contracts as already have been entered into, but that they will refuse any further consignments?


I will inquire about that, and let my hon. Friend know. I cannot answer it off-hand.


May I ask whether the hon. Gentleman has taken note that the amount of coffee sent to the Netherlands during the past year is infinitely greater than it was two years ago?


I cannot give the quantity, but I will look into the matter if the hon. Gentleman wishes.


Is it not a fact that the quantity is just double the number of bags sent in 1914, namely, 1,600,000?


The hon. Member has just said that he does not know the quantity.