HC Deb 26 October 1926 vol 199 cc688-90

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that five trucks of coal consigned to flour mills in Hull by a coal merchant, at 22s. 1d. per ton, were held up, under the Emergency Regulations of the Mines Department, until the end of July; that, in the meantime, the flour mills had been forced to buy foreign coal owing to their supplies running out; and that, finally, these five trucks of coal were released to other concerns and the merchant allowed to charge 52s. 1d. per ton for the five trucks, thus making an additional profit of 30s. per ton, amounting in total to between £50 and £60 above the normal profit which he would have made by selling it to the flour mill in question at the contract price; and, if so, what action he proposes to take in order to recompense the mills concerned, who had to buy coal from other sources at the higher price, and what steps he is taking to prevent such anomalies?

The SECRETARY for MINES (Colonel Lane Fox)

I am aware that permission for these trucks to be delivered to their original destination was refused, and that they were eventually released to meet acute shortages of coal at other essential undertakings. This was done in the normal course of the policy of the Government to regard all coal in transit at the beginning of the stoppage as a common stock to be conserved for the most urgent needs. I am not aware either of the price at which the coal was originally consigned, or of that at which it was ultimately delivered, but I cannot admit that anyone has a claim to compensation.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that where coal is being produced in British pits the price of £4 per ton is asked at the pit head, in spite of the fact that there has been a reduction of wages?


If the coal was held up by the Mines Department, surely the Mines Department know to whom they released it, and ought to know what price was paid for it?

Colonel LANE FOX

They were two totally different transactions. The coal was stopped because it was not going for an essential purpose. [An HON. MEMBER: "Flour!"] It was not wanted for that particular industry so much. It was afterwards released when coal was further needed—at a considerably later date. The two transactions were totally different, and the question of price does not arise.


Does this case not come under the Regulations in regard to profiteering? The right hon. Gentleman asked for instances to be given in the House, and is not this an instance requiring investigation?

Colonel LANE FOX

It is not a case of profiteering exactly. It is a case of the market price at two totally different periods. In the first transaction a certain amount of coal was due to be delivered, which was not delivered. Later on, a certain amount of coal had to be delivered to another place, and the transaction was a totally different one.


Does the right hon. Gentleman consider a profit of 150 per cent. profiteering or not?