HC Deb 14 August 1916 vol 85 cc1391-2
9. Mr. W. THORNE

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many resolutions he has received from various organisations in the different parts of the country protesting against the Board of Trade giving power to the South Wales colliery owners to increase their price of coal from 4s. to 6s. 6d. over and above the pre-war prices; if he is aware that it means increasing the price of coal from at least 4s. per ton over and above the prices paid before the extra 2s. 6d. was put on; and if he intends taking any action in the matter?


About twenty resolutions have been received. I am afraid I do not follow the second part of the question, as an increase in the maximum price of 2s. 6d. should not produce an increase of 4s. in the prices charged.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the organised workers of South Wales and in this country have protested in a most emphatic manner against the action of the President of the Board of Trade, and whether he thinks if he had come to this House for permission it would have been absolutely refused?


I said that resolutions of protest have been received.


Is it not a fact that when prices are increased at the pit's mouth the merchants and the dealers put something on that price?


There has been an arrangement made between merchants in London and in the large provincial towns to prevent that.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that large gas consuming corporations are to-day being charged by coal owners anything up to 4s. a ton above the standard price fixed under the Act?


Do the Government intend to keep to the price as fixed, or are they going to make any alteration? Do you think you are going to get the support of the Labour party if you exploit the consumers in this way?


asked whether any decision has been reached in regard to the application received from the coalowners of the Forest of Dean for permission to increase the price of coals; whether he is aware that the owners of this district at the time of the passing of the Price of Coal (Limitation) Act were granted the concession of charging 5s. per ton above pre-war prices, as compared with 4s. a ton to other owners; whether he is aware that some collieries in this district have made large profits in consequence; will he state on what grounds the owners now apply for a further concession, seeing that nearly the whole of the coal produced in this district is for home consumption; and what steps, if any, the Board of Trade proposes to take to ascertain the cost of production in this district since the passing of the Act?


I have not yet been furnished with definite particulars of working costs in this case. As I informed the hon. Member on the 24th July, the application was made by the Forest of Dean Joint Minimum Wage Board on behalf of the miners as well as the owners, and it is largely based on wages considerations. The increase of the standard amount to 5s. was granted in order to avoid a reduction of wages, and only operates for a portion of the year, and I have no reason to think that large profits have been made in consequence of this increase.