HC Deb 10 November 1926 vol 199 cc1076-9
38. Sir W. de FRECE

asked the Secretary for Mines the pit-head prices for the ordinary types of coal used for domestic and factory consumption, respectively, on 6th November in comparison with the prices on 1st May last; whether he has considered the necessity for further action to protect the interests of the public from excessive prices; and, if so, what steps he proposes to take?

The SECRETARY for MINES (Colonel Lane Fox)

Pit-head prices varied widely in the different districts at 6th November, and in general were substantially higher than at 1st May. This upward movement—due to short supplies—has been checked by a voluntary reduction to 50s. per ton in certain coalfields; and I hope that reductions in the other districts now working will shortly follow. Steps are being taken to secure that the full benefit of these reductions is passed on to the domestic consumer.


Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries into the position in Scotland, where tenement dwellings are common, and where coal merchants are charging, to poor people living at the top of these dwellings, a considerable amount extra for delivering coal to them?


Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that no profiteering is going on in coal, particularly in Scotland, in Dundee and in the North-Eastern part of the country?

Colonel LANE FOX

I am waiting to hear with regard to Scotland. A meeting was to be held, and I am waiting to hear the result. I have put the whole position before the Scottish coalowners, and I hope they will act in the same broadminded manner as those in England have.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is not so much the coalowners as the direct merchants who are charging people in tenement dwellings, after they have paid their price of 5s. or 5s. 3d. for a bag, another 6d. or 1s. for removing it to the tenement? That is not a subject for negotiation with the coalowners, and what steps is the right hon. Gentleman taking to prevent it?

Colonel LANE FOX

I agree that that trouble has arisen, particularly, I think, in Glasgow, and I am trying to deal with it. I thought the answer I gave covered the general question, but I am looking into that particular point, and will see what can be done.


May I ask whether there is any reluctance on the part of Socialists to buy this blackleg coal?


Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the first part of the question on the Paper, as to what were the pithead prices of coal on the 1st May and what were the prices on the 6th November? That is the question; can the right hon. Gentleman answer it for the information of the House?

Colonel LANE FOX

The reason why I have not given a more detailed answer is that there is, as the hon Gentleman knows, a very large and varied number of prices in different parts of the country, and if I were to give an average ranging over so wide a variation it would be very misleading. The variation is very wide, and, as I have said, has arisen since the stoppage.


If the right hon. Gentleman knows the pit-head prices, and could give them, for the 1st May, why not give them for the 6th November? We ought to have that information.


Is it not the case that the policy of the Socialist party in trying to prevent the production of coal is quite incompatible with the provision of cheap coal for the poor? You cannot have it both ways.


Is not that the policy of the Tory party?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in the one area where he succeeded in getting a reduction of the retail price of coal, due to excessive profiteering—that is, in Dundee—after his back was turned they have raised the price higher than it was before he got it reduced?

Colonel LANE FOX

The hon. Member is quite wrong in saying that that was the only place where I have been able to get the price reduced. As he is aware, at this moment prices are being reduced in London, to give one instance. If he will give me particulars with regard to Dundee, I will go into the matter.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that arrangements are already being made to limit the pithead price of coal throughout the length and breadth of the country, and that those arrangements will be in force almost immediately?


Does not the figure the right hon. Gentleman has already mentioned of 50s. constitute a profit of 30s. per ton?

Colonel LANE FOX

Probably the House is aware that there has been a general arrangement to reduce prices—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"]—throughout most of the coalfields in England, and I think that is going to be general. That is the result of certain communications I have been able to make with the coal-owners. As to the profit this reduced price is still going to leave, I must remind the hon. Member opposite that we are living in exceptional circumstances, and if he and his friends will do their best—

Several other hon. Members having risen


We have already had quite a debate on this subject.