HC Deb 13 February 1922 vol 150 cc609-10
79. Major HILLS

asked the Secretary for Mines whether his attention has been called to statements that the deliveries by Germany of reparation coal to France has led to a diminution in the exports of British coal to France that has been disastrous to the British coal industry in the exporting districts; and whether the information in his possession confirms this?


My attention has been called to statements of the kind to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, but the information in my possession does not confirm them. Deliveries of reparation coal began in September, 1919, but, notwithstanding this, the demand for British coal was well maintained until September, 1920, and the volume of export was limited, not by demand, but by our inability to spare to France the quantity she was prepared to take. During the ensuing three months America temporarily captured the French market, owing to the troubles in the British coal industry, and for the first six months of 1921 the restriction of demand owing to industrial depression, combined with the recrudescence of our industrial troubles, prevented any recovery. Since the resumption of work in July last, however, there has been a very remarkable improvement in our exports to France; indeed, the exports during the last quarter of 1921 were up to the 1913 rate, while those for the month of December were actually in excess of it.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the coalowners are freely stating that the present position is owing to the reparation coal; is he aware that Lord Gainford informed the Government before the stoppage that the reparation coal had taken away the Scandinavian market?


I am not aware of any of those facts. If my hon. Friend will make himself responsible for any statements of the kind in a question, I shall be very glad to answer it. My answer is a correct answer, and I cannot, add anything to it.