HC Deb 24 March 1925 vol 182 cc257-63

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable municipal authorities to act as retail distributors of coal; and for other purposes incidental thereto. I bring forward this Bill because at present the supply of coal, more especially to those people who are obliged to buy it in small quantities, is extremely unsatisfactory. I hoped when I put the Bill down that we should be able to treat this as a non-controversial matter. There is nothing in it that brings any pressure or compulsion of any sort upon municipal authorities. The position as I see it is that where retail distributors for any purpose whatever, either through inefficiency or through greed, are failing to supply the public with one of their staple necessities it is the duty of the local authorities to do it, and the local authority should be empowered by the House to do so. The accusations which are being constantly made in the Press of all parties, from many political platforms, from almost every consumer, and especially the small consumer, are of two kinds. They say, first of all, that there is a very remarkable difference between the price which they have to pay for coal when they get it in their homes and the price it costs when it is dug out of the pit. One of the chief comments which, perhaps we on these benches have to make on the present system is that, although goods are produced by low wages by people living at a low standard of living, by the time they reach the consumer they have always risen to a price not justified by the wages and conditions given. People doing that work to-day in Cumberland and Durham, a coalfield which I know slightly, are producing good household coal at from 18s. to 20s. a ton. By the time it gets to London, after the mine owner has received his profit, the collier has received his wages, and the landlord has received his rent, it is under 20s. a ton. It goes at that price on to ships at the seaboard in Durham and Northumberland. It comes to London and it miraculously arrives at something upwards of 55s. or 60s per ton.

We also find, on investigating it more closely, that not only are the prices at which coal is retailed exorbitant, but in addition to that the quality varies very greatly. When the retail distributors are doing in the winter, when they find the demand is great and we have to take whatever they will supply us, we suddenly find that Derby Brights have a good deal more slate and stone in them than they have in the summer or in the time when they are not so busy. Not only are Derby Brights produced at the pit-head for something like 19s. 3d. a ton, but they are actually sold on the London Coal Exchange at from 27s. to 29s. a ton. Between their sale on the London Coal Exchange for 27s. and their delivery to the cellar of the consumer there is an increase up to 51s. a ton. It seems to me, after very careful study of the evidence supplied by the Conference held by the Minister of Mines last year, that we have two great basic charges to bring against the retail distributors of coal. The first is their inefficiency. They have dozens of carts, they are wasting dozen's of men's labour, they have no proper stores to keep supplies of coal in the summer, they have a small ring or group of eight or ten people who put prices up whenever the opportunity occurs, and what with their inefficiency in handling the trade, the lack of competition and the greed of the people engaged in the industry, great cities like London, Birmingham, Newcastle, Huddersfield and others, and especially the poor people of those cities, have to suffer terribly. We want the House to give local authorities the right to say to private enterprise, "If you cannot do your job, if you cannot pay proper wages, give a proper supply, and run your industry efficiently the local authority is going to do it instead." That is what the Bill is intended to do as far as the retail of coal is concerned. May I end with one quotation to give hon. Members some opportunity of seeing the kind of unscrupulous hands that the coal supply of London is in at present. This is taken, not from a Labour journal, but from the London Coal Market Report. It says: There is little or nothing to report in the retail section of the market. When, however, the volume of orders has increased to appreciable dimensions a revision of prices for the public will at once come forward. In other words, in the cold weather when the poor are starving, put up the price and pull down the quality.




Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman rise to oppose the Bill?


Yes, Sir. I oppose the Bill, not because the price of coal is

not very high—most people have suffered from the price of coal—but because I can see no reason for supposing that if this Bill became law the price would be reduced in the least. Nor has the hon. Member given the smallest idea of how the price can be brought down. I oppose the Bill in the interest of the consumers, because the price cannot be brought down by it, and also in the interest of the ratepayers, because if the local authorities are allowed to deal in coal, or any other commodity for that matter, experience teaches us that we may expect them to make a substantial loss in their trading transactions. That loss must be made up from the ratepayers' pockets presumably, and therefore the ratepayers will suffer. Since both the consumer and the ratepayer must seriously suffer if the Bill becomes law, I beg the House to refuse its First Reading.

Question put, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable municipal authorities to act as retail distributors of coal; and for other purposes incidental thereto.

The House divided: Ayes, 136; Noes, 237.

Division No. 58.] AYES. [4.0 p.m.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Groves, T. Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Grundy, T. W. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Ammon, Charles George Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Ponsonby, Arthur
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Potts, John S.
Attlee, Clement Richard Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Hardie, George D. Riley, Ben
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hayes, John Henry Ritson, J.
Barnes, A. Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)
Barr, J. Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Batey, Joseph Hirst, G. H. Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)
Beamish, Captain T. P. H. Howard, Captain Hon. Donald Rose, Frank H.
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Scrymgeour, E.
Broad, F. A. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Sexton, James
Bromley, J. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Jones, T, I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Kelly, W. T. Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Clowes, S. Kennedy, T. Sitch, Charles H.
Cluse, W. S. Kirkwood, D. Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Lamb, J. Q. Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Compton, Joseph Lansbury, George Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Connolly, M. Lawson, John James Snell, Harry
Cove, W. G. Lee, F. Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Dalton, Hugh Lunn, William Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon) Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Mackinder, W. Sprot, Sir Alexander
Day, Colonel Harry MacLaren Andrew Stamford, T. W.
Dennison, R. March, S. Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Maxton, James Stephen, Campbell
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley) Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Gibbins, Joseph Montague, Frederick Sutton, J. E.
Gillett, George M. Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Taylor, R. A.
Gosling, Harry Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Graham, Rt. Hon- Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Murnin, H. Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)
Greenall, T. Naylor, T. E. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Oliver, George Harold Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Palin, John Henry Thurtle, E.
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Paling, W. Tinker, John Joseph
Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Varley, Frank B. Welsh, J C. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Viant, S. P. Westwood, J. Windsor, Walter
Wallhead, Richard C. Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J. Wright, W.
Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen Whiteley, W.
Warne, G. H. Wignall, James TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline) Williams, David (Swansea, E.) Mr. Beckett and Mr. J. H.
Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda) Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly) Hudson.
Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Fielden, E. B. MacRobert, Alexander M.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Forestier-Walker, L. Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Forrest, W. Makins, Brigadier-General E.
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l) Fraser, Captain Ian Malone, Major P. B.
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby) Frece, Sir Walter de Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn
Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Margesson, Captain D.
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony Marriott, Sir J. A. R.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. Ganzoni, Sir John Meller, R. J.
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Gates, Percy Meyer, Sir Frank
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Gault Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-
Balniel, Lord Gee, Captain R. Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Goff, Sir Park Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Gower, Sir Robert Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Grace, John Murchison, C. K.
Bennett, A. J. Grant, J. A. Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph
Berry, Sir George Greene, W. P. Crawford Nelson, Sir Frank
Blades, Sir George Rowland Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H.(W'th's'w, E) Neville, R. J.
Blundell, F. N. Gretton, Colonel John Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Gunston, Captain D. W. Nuttall, Ellis
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh
Brass, Captain W. Hammersley, S. S. Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Brassey, Sir Leonard Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Briggs, J. Harold Harland, A. Owen, Major G.
Briscoe, Richard George Harrison, G. J. C. Penny, Frederick George
Brittain, Sir Harry Hartington, Marquess of Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Haslam, Henry C. Pilcher, G.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Hawke, John Anthony Pilditch, Sir Philip
Buckingham, Sir H. Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Power, Sir John Cecil
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley) Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton
Bullock, Captain M. Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Price, Major C. W. M.
Burman, J. B. Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P. Raine, W.
Burton, Colonel H. W. Henn, Sir Sydney H. Ramsden, E.
Butt, Sir Alfred Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A. Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by) Rawson, Alfred Cooper
Caine, Gordon Hall Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Reid, Captain A. S. C. (Warrington)
Campbell, E. T. Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Remer, J. R.
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Holland, Sir Arthur Remnant, Sir James
Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Holt, Captain H. P. Rice, Sir Frederick
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Homan, C. W. J. Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)
Christle, J. A. Hopkins, J. W. W. Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N. Ropner, Major L.
Cooper, A. Duff Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.) Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.
Couper, J. B. Hudson, R. S. (Cumb'l'nd, Whiteh'n) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Courtauld, Major J. S. Huntingfield, Lord Salmon, Major I.
Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L. Hurst, Gerald B. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe) Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's) Sandeman, A. Stewart
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Sanderson, Sir Frank
Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro) Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Sandon, Lord
Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Savery, S. S.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Kennedy, A. R. (Preston). Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mc[...]. (Renfrew, W)
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Kindersley, Major Guy M. Shepperson, E. W.
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) King, Captain Henry Douglas Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Dawson, Sir Philip Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst.)
Drewe, C. Knox, Sir Alfred Skelton, A. N.
Eden, Captain Anthony Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Edmondson, Major A. J. Loder, J. de V. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Ellis, R. G. Looker, Herbert William Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Elveden, Viscount Lord, Walter Greaves- Smithers, Waldron
England, Colonel A. Lougher, L. Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith Luce, Major-Gen, Sir Richard Harman Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South) Lumley, L. R. Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Falle, Sir Bertram G. McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Fanshawe, Commander G. D. MacIntyre, Ian Tasker, Major R. Inigo
Fermoy, Lord McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Croydon, S.) Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Tinne, J. A. Watts, Dr. T. Wise, Sir Fredric
Turton, Edmund Russborough Wells, S. R. Womersley, W. J.
Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P. Wheler, Major Granville C. H. Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Waddington, R. Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern) Wood, Sir S. Hill. (High Peak)
Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull) Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham) Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Warner, Brigadier-General W. W. Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Warrender, Sir Victor Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Waterhouse, Captain Charles Wilson. R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield) Major Colfox and Commander

Bill read a Second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Thursday.