HC Deb 08 June 1915 vol 72 cc173-4

asked the President of the Board of Trade when the Report will be issued containing the evidence and appendices laid before the Committee on Retail Coal Prices?


The evidence is in the hands of the printers and is expected to be issued this week.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the continued high price of coal, which is advertised by the London coal merchants as at the lowest summer prices; whether he has arrived at a satisfactory understanding with the merchants with regard to the limit of their profit; whether he is in consultation with the coalowners, and has any understanding been arrived at with them; and, if not, whether it is the intention of the Government to take action to secure a lower price at the pit's mouth?


As has already been announced, I have arrived at an understanding with the principal London coal merchants for a limitation of profits during the summer and, I hope, the winter months also. I have been for some time in communication with representatives of the coal owners supplying London with a similar object in view. They have made a proposal which I cannot at present regard as satisfactory, and I am not yet in a position to announce a definite arrangement.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that the price of coal at present being charged to our Allies the Italians for the use of the Italian Navy and Government is 35s. a ton, whereas prior to the War the Italian Government were buying coal from us at 17s.; and is my right hon. Friend going to take steps to prevent our Allies, the Italians and French, paying these enormous prices for coal?


Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the North of England the price of coal to household consumers in the last few weeks has been raised as much as 7s. 6d. at one time, and whether he proposes to take action to prevent that?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the Potteries there has just been an increase of 2s. 6d. a ton on coal?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the London merchants had been told by the coal owners that instead of prices going down they would continue to rise into the winter? Will the right hon. Gentleman take speedy action in this matter?


In answer to the last supplementary question, my information is that the price is not likely to rise this winter, so far as those with whom I have been in negotiation are concerned. I do not wish to make any arrangement with them to start off at too high a level. The various questions put to me on both sides are more or less new to me, and I cannot answer them without notice.


Will the right hon. Gentleman adopt my proposal and fix a limit at the pit-head based on the prices of the preceding year?


Yes, Sir. I am not at all anxious to withdraw from my hon. Friend the credit of that proposal. That is exactly the basis on which I have been negotiating with the Midland Coalowners.