HC Deb 17 July 1919 vol 118 cc598-600
63. Dr. M'DONALD

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the price of coal in this country, he will take immediate steps to inquire into the possibility of procuring a cheap supply from the easily-accessible coal fields of Spitzbergen; and whether he is aware that coal can be procured, ready for shipment, at less than 7s. a ton in this area?


I am not aware that development is sufficiently advanced to justify the hope that there will be any very material assistance in the way of a substantial supply of cheap coal from Spitzbergen in the immediate future, particularly having regard to the question of freight, but I am causing inquiries to foe made into the matter.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in the event of the postponement of the 6s. per ton advance on the price of coal for the experimental period of three months, he will take steps to ensure that any stocks of coal during this period are not unfairly depleted by those holding Authority to draw a large ration and able to pay cash down partly with the object of saving the possible extra charge and partly to fill their cellars against a shortage of supply; and whether he will take all possible steps to see that the requirements of those not able to stock coal and less able to pay are justly and fairly met?


Under the House-bold Fuel and Lighting Order, 1919, local fuel overseers have power to prevent coal merchants and dealers from making deliveries for stocking purposes to large consumers until they have established reserve stocks for the use of small consumers during the winter months. By exercising this power the requirements of the small consumers will be looked after as far as possible.

65. Colonel BURDON

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will cause to be made out and lay weekly upon the Table of the House the total output of coal from mines in the United Kingdom and the separate output for each large coalfield, with the number of men employed each week in this industry?


Complete returns of output and employment are obtained from the collieries for four-weekly periods, and a weekly return of output of a provisional character is also obtained. I am afraid that it would not be practicable to obtain the former return for weekly periods, but as the number of men employed now shows only comparatively small deviations over periods of four weeks, I think that it will meet the purpose which the hon. and gallant Member has in view if I lay upon the Table of the House each week the provisional weekly outputs, together with the final output and employment figures for each four-weekly period.

Colonel BURDON

Could the hon. Gentleman not give the figures for the different coalfields, because that has a great bearing on the question?


I think that is what I have undertaken to do.

67. Mr. CLOUGH

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any American coal is being imported into this country, and what is the rate, freight included, at which such coal can be imported?


I understand that certain negotiations have taken place with a view to the importation of American coal into this country, but I am not aware that any definite arrangements have been made. The usual prices, including freight, quoted for American coal delivered at European ports are from 30 to 33 dollars per ton, or 133s. to 147s. per ton at the present rate of exchange; the lowest firm offer of which I have received information is 23 dollars, or 100s., per ton, delivered at an Italian port. The f.o.b. price included in these figures may be taken at about 20s. to 23s. per ton.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

May I ask if there are any import restrictions on coal coming into this country, in view of the shortage?


I should like notice of that question.


If these negotiations are ratified, will that coal be carried in American or in British bottoms?


I cannot answer that.