§ 10. Mr. HOUSTON
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the state of chaos existing under the Coal Controller's Regulations; that bunker coal for ocean steamers in the port of Liverpool has to be obtained by coasting steamer from South Wales, costing at present £7 9s. 6d. per ton for large coal plus 4s. per ton for putting on board and trimming; that steamers in Liverpool are prohibited by the Coal Controller from taking coal from North Wales, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire, and the Midlands, while coal from these coalfields has been shipped in the Mersey by coaster for Fowey, Darmouth, and other English Channel ports for bunker purposes; that coal from North Wales and Staffordshire 876 was sent during the month of January to Cardiff by rail, and that in one instance at least it is alleged some of this coal was shipped in a coaster at Cardiff for Liverpool for bunkering purposes: and that coal has been sent from the Midlands to Plymouth and Southampton for bunkering purposes, entailing a railway charge of about 12s. per ton when the said coal could have been sent to Liverpool for about 4s. per ton, but this was not permitted; if he will explain why coal from Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottingham, North Wales, and Staffordshire is barred for shipment as bunkers in Liverpool while it has been diverted to English Channel ports for bunkering purposes, entailing long railway carriage and a wasteful use of wagons; whether he is aware that the price of bunker coal and detention to steamers waiting for bunkers increase the price of food and other commodities in this country; and if he can state what steps are being taken to remedy this chaos and waste?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
My hon. Friend is correct in stating that bunker coal for steamers in the port of Liverpool has to be obtained by coasting steamer from South Wales, and that coal from North Wales, Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Midlands is not permitted to be shipped as bunkers in the Mersey. The prices as stated by the hon. Member are approximately correct. It is not the fact that coal is permitted to be shipped from the Mersey to Channel ports for bunkering purposes; coal so shipped is shipped under permit for use as house coal only. North Wales and Staffordshire coal is not permitted to be sent to Cardiff by rail; nor is coal from the Midlands area permitted to be railed to Plymouth or Southampton for bunkering. If any coal has been sent by rail from the Midlands to Channel ports or to the Bristol Channel, it has been in direct contravention of the Controller's directions to the collieries. The railways have been advised that the traffic must not be accepted, and the Coal Mines Department's representative in Cardiff has been instructed to stop shipment of any coal improperly sent down. The Coal Mines Department has no knowledge of any coal so sent down having been shipped from Cardiff back to Liverpool. There was a rumour to that effect, which, notwithstanding enquiry, has never been verified.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that seaborne coal is being delivered at Dartmouth which puts at least an extra £1 per ton on to the consumer?
§ Sir A. SHIRLEY BENN
If coal cannot be sent from the Midlands to Plymouth for bunkering what coal is sent for bunkering?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I could not answer that without notice. I should have to refer to the Coal Controller. But I will find out if the hon. Member puts down a question. As regards the hon. and gallant Gentleman's question I cannot say exactly what the figures are.
§ 11. Mr. HOUSTON
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that during the month of January at least 3,140 tons of coal were shipped at Liverpool in coasting steamers for Fowey, Cornwall, and another English Channel port for bunkering purposes, while at the same time ocean-going steamers in Liverpool were prohibited by the Coal Control Department from taking any bunker coal at Liverpool unless the same was brought by coasting steamer from South Wales; whether he is aware that the steamer "Clonlee," at Garston, on the Mersey, at the end of January, loaded Lancashire coal for Fowey or Dartmouth, and that the Coal Controller subsequently ordered the discharge of this coal from the steamer into lighters, thereby causing delay to the steamer, expense and waste; whether he is aware that South Wales coal, brought to the Mersey in coasters, has had to be discharged into lighters, again discharged 878 from the same into railway wagons and conveyed to the coal tips, before it could be placed on board an ocean-going steamer at Garston, entailing an extra cost of 9s. per ton, the bunker coal costing £7 14s. per ton; whether he is aware that the prices paid for bunker coal, which in 1914 only cost 13s. 6d. per ton at Liverpool, adds greatly to the cost of food; and if he will state what steps are being taken to remedy these arrangements?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. Member. is correct in stating that during January certain shipments of coal from the Mersey to Channel ports for bunkering were made in contravention of the directions of the Coal Mines Department. Measures have been taken to prevent these irregular shipments. The "Clonlee" was an instance in which, contrary to the directions of the Department, local coal had been sent down to be shipped to a Channel port for bunkers, and the coal was taken over by the Department's officer at Liverpool and diverted for local consumption. Full particulars of this transaction and of the cost of bunkers at Garston are not available without further enquiry.
§ 12. Mr. HOUSTON
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the Coal Controller has issued instructions that coal is to be supplied at Cardiff in the following order of priority: Home railways and public utility undertakings; coastwise bunker requirements; bunker supplies to vessels ordered abroad in ballast by the Ministry of Shipping; and foreign coaling depôts; whether he is aware, that during the past 14 days homeward-bound steamers with cargoes of foodstuffs have been unable to obtain any bunker coal at the coaling depôts at St. Vincent and the Canary Islands; and if he will state what steps are being taken to remedy this state of affairs?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
By priority of supplies at' Cardiff the hon. Member presumably refers to priority in respect of shipments from the port of Cardiff. The present order of priority applicable to coal shipments in the Bristol Channel is: First: bunkers for vessels engaged in the United Kingdom coastwise trade, second: cargoes for vessels proceeding to destinations in the United Kingdom (including the Channel Islands and Admiralty requirements); third: bunkers 879 for vessels leaving for foreign destinations in ballast; fourth: bunkers and cargoes for vessels loading for bunker depôts. It is because of the shortage of supplies at the coaling depôts that vessels loading for these depôts have been given, for the time being, this priority of foreign coal cargo shipments, in order that the position may be remedied. Cargoes destined for home requirements, therefore, take precedence of all others. As between different home requirements, the priority is (1) household, (2) public utility, (3) rail, (4) industrial.
§ Mr. G. TERRELL
Will the hon. Gentleman answer the last part of the question as to the 14 homeward bound steamers which are unable to obtain bunker coal at the coaling depôts at St. Vincent and the Canaries? Are they really held up?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. N. GRIFFITHS
If they are held up, would my hon. Friend make representations to the authorities with a view of shipping coal to the Canary Islands from that source?