HC Deb 06 July 1926 vol 197 cc1860-1

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that foreign coal is being discharged at Dundee; whether he is aware that this coal is being purchased abroad at 30s. a ton and is being sold in Dundee at 3s. 6d. per cwt. or £3 10s. a ton; and what steps he is prepared to take to lessen retail prices in Dundee?

The SECRETARY for MINES (Colonel Lane Fox)

I understand that foreign coal is being delivered in Dundee at 3s. 6d. per cwt., but I do not know the price at which it was purchased. I do not think that there is any action I could usefully take in respect of prices of foreign coal.


Is it really outside the power of the right hon. Gentleman to take steps to stop this grave scandal; and is he aware that the result of his intervention already, in compelling these people to reduce their price by 6d. per cwt., has had a splendid effect, and could he not go a step further and stop this profiteering?

Colonel LANE FOX

The hon. Member's question refers to foreign coal, and it would be very undesirable at this time to attempt to stop foreign coal coming into this country. As regards home coal, that, of course, is different, and I am looking into that matter.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

With regard to the purpose for which the Government are about to ask for £3,000,000, will that coal be sent out to the consumer at cost, plus the necessary expenses?


It is with reference to foreign coal that I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take steps to see whether or not it is the case, as is openly alleged, that these people are able to buy this coal, received in Dundee, at 30s., and sell it at £3 10s.

Colonel LANE FOX

I do not think the hon. Member's figures are correct, but it is extremely difficult to say what the price is, there are so many different varieties of coal at different prices coming into the country. In any case, it would be very undesirable to take any steps which at this particular moment, when coal is so badly needed, would prevent supplies of foreign coal from coming in.


Can the right hon. Gentleman not assure the people outside that even in the circumstances in which the country is placed to-day, the coal that, is coming from abroad will not be used by coal merchants in order to profiteer? That is the question; why does not the right hon. Gentleman answer?

Colonel LANE FOX

I do not think that is exactly what the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) asked. In any case I am not prepared to discourage the flow of foreign coal into this country.

Commander WILLIAMS

Could not this question be very simply remedied by a resumption of work?


Will the hon. and gallant Member himself take a job in some mine and dig some coal?


In view of the allegation that coal is being brought from abroad to this country at 30s. and is being sold at a much higher price, not only in Dundee but in Yorkshire, will not the right hon. Gentleman make inquiry into this matter and see what is the actual position?

Colonel LANE FOX

I am making full inquiry but, as I have said, the prices vary considerably and what may be true in one place may not be true in another. You cannot place any definite price under such varying conditions.


Does that mean that supplies of coal coming in from abroad at. 30s. are to be sold at £3 10s., and that the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to stop it? I put a question to him a month ago—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech!"]—and he said then he would take every step to stop profiteering.