HC Deb 01 June 1921 vol 142 cc1051-2
47. Mr. J. GUEST

asked the Prime Minister whether coal delivered by Germany as reparation to France and Belgium is now being offered by the French and Belgians for importation into this country; whether any and, if so, what quantity of such reparation coal has been imported into this country since the lockout in the mining industry; whether the German Government has protested against the re-export by France and Belgium of coal handed over under the reparations clauses on the ground that Germany was required to hand over coal solely on the assumption that France and Belgium urgently intended it for their own industries; and whether he will take steps to prevent this German coal being imported into this country?


Before this question is answered, may I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to a misstatement of fact? It refers to a "lockout." Surely it is a strike. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]


Do not be stupid!


I hope that hon. Members will have respect for one another's opinions, and in a matter of this kind use the word "dispute."

The SECRETARY for MINES (Mr. Bridgeman)

I have been asked to reply. Since the stoppage of work in the mines 94,000 tons of German reparation coal has been imported into this country. My Department has not heard of any protest being made by the German Government against the exportation of this coal by France and Belgium. I would remind the hon. Member that, under the terms of Annex V of the Treaty of Peace, it is nowhere laid down that the reparation coal delivered to France and Belgium must be consumed or retained in those countries. I see no reason to prevent the importation of this coal into this country.


I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman whether the effect of this importation of reparation coal is not to assist in beating down the British miners' wages? In the second place—


This must really be purely a matter of opinion. Question time is not the time to debate a question.


I would like to know whether this coal is paying the duty under the German Reparation (Recovery) Act?


I must have notice of that. I am not prepared to give an answer off-hand. I should like to be quite certain.


Has any protest been made by English coalowners in this country?


I think everybody recognises the duty of coal being found for the services which are vital to the existence of the people of this country and it is my intention to carry out that duty to the best of my ability — [Interruption, and an HON. MEMBER: "It is dirty; it is not playing the game!"]

Viscount CURZON

Is it a fact, as stated in to-day's news, that our late enemies, the Germans, are going to provide a subsidy for the out-of-work miners in this country?