§ 29. Mr. ANDERSON
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, when he was considering the application of the South Wales coalowners for an advance in the selling price of coal by 2s. 6d. per ton, he received a request from the Miners' Federation of Great Britain that they should be heard before the decision was reached; whether he agreed to meet the deputation from the Miners' Federation, but before meeting them announced his decision to concede the claims of the coal-owners; and if he will state the reason for such action?
I explained the circumstances fully to the deputation. The delay in receiving them was to suit their convenience, not my own.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
Is it not the case that in the interval when the Miners' Federation were asking to be allowed to place their views before the right hon Gentleman that he came to his decision? Was it not a wrong thing to come to a decision before the miners' point of view had been stated in this matter?
When I offered the Miners' Federation a very early date for the deputation they said that week would be inconvenient to them. I therefore offered them another date in the following week, but I took pains to write to them at the same time, saying that I was obliged to give my decision on the other matter before I could see them on the day that was convenient for them.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
Was the other matter so urgent that the right hon. Gentleman had to come to his decision inside a week? Is it not the case that the Miners' Federation could not attend because that week they were holding their annual conference?
Yes, it was to meet their convenience that I postponed the date, but I felt bound to come to my decision, because the matter had been under the consideration of the Board of Trade for several weeks, and I had promised the South Wales coalowners that I would accelerate the decision.
§ 30. Mr. ANDERSON
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether be is aware that the average selling price of South Wales coal, which was 16s. prior to the War, has now risen to 24s., an increase of 8s. per ton; that the South Wales coalfields have been exceedingly prosperous during the past twelve months, as shown by the movement of shares and the dividends1 declared by many of the companies; whether before granting to these coalowners the concession of an additional 2s. 6d., in addition to the extra 4s. per ton already granted, under the Coal Prices (Limitation) Act, he caused any investigation to be made of the books of the following companies: The United National Collieries, Limited, the Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company, Limited, the Penrikyber Navigation Colliery Company, Limited, the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, Limited, and the Consolidated Cambrian, Limited; and, if so, will he state the measure of impoverishment revealed?
The rise in the average price of South Wales coal is due to the rise in the price of export and bunker coal, to which the Price of Coal (Limitation) Act does not apply. The accounts of individual collieries were furnished to the Board of Trade in some cases, but I am not prepared to give names. I may, however, observe that very little of the output of the five companies mentioned is sold for home consumption, and the increase in the maximum price would have little effect on them.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
Is it not the case that the increase of 2s. 6d. per ton will add very largely to the profits of the companies that are already making very large profits?
§ 60. Mr. ANDERSON
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the fact that coal is being retailed from trolleys in South London at 1s. 11d. per cwt., or at the rate of 38s. 4d. per ton; whether he is aware that the price is rising steadily and that customers have been warned of another early increase of 3s. per ton, and that the prevalent view is that coal prices next winter will exceed all previous records and will inflict hardship on poor people; and whether, in view 2052 of that, he will grant time for an adequate discussion by this House of the concessions in regard to prices now being granted by the Board of Trade to the coalowners?
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
The price quoted by my hon. Friend appears to be within the terms of the. agreement with the London merchants. I do not know that there is at present any great reason to anticipate a rise of prices. I understand that the general question will be raised on the Motion for the Adjournment.