§ 43. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
asked the Secretary for Mines if his attention has been called to the operations of the so-called five counties coal-marketing scheme, which came into operation on the 2nd of April last; if he is aware that this combine is restricting output, with consequent loss to the coal-export ports of the Humber; that during April the collieries affected were only allowed to raise 65 per cent. of their basis tonnage of output; and that, in consequence, since the 10th of April last it has not been possible for coal-exporting firms at Hull to obtain best South Yorkshire hards and washed smalls either for cargo or bunkering purposes and buyers have not been able to purchase either what is known as subsidised or non-subsidised coal, and ships of regular lines trading to Hull have been refused supplies and their custom driven elsewhere; whether he was consulted before this scheme was put into operation; and what action he proposes to prevent this artificial creation of unemployment and loss of trade and shipping to British seaports?
§ Commodore KING
I was not consulted before the Midland Marketing Scheme was put into operation, but I am aware that a quota of 65 per cent. of basic tonnage has operated for April under that scheme. I am informed that there has been a shortage of South Yorkshire bards and washed smalls for shipment from the Humber during the current month. This shortage is probably due 1071 partly to the closing of the pits for the Easter holidays and partly to the initial difficulties connected with the launching of the scheme. Further experience of the working of the scheme is, therefore, necessary before its effects can be judged. As the hon. and gallant Member may be aware, one of the principal objects of the scheme is to stimulate the export trade from the Humber.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that during the last 50 years we have never had a shortage of this kind; that the present scheme is driving British ships for bunkers to Rotterdam; that, since I gave notice of my question, small parcels of the best Yorkshire bards and washed smalls have been available at an advance in price of 3s. 6d. a ton for the hards and 2s. 3d. a ton for the smalls, and that, unless he does something, this is going to ruin a very important export trade?
§ Commodore KING
I have nothing to do with that matter. I was not consulted about the scheme, and I have no responsibility whatever for its effects. I am watching the scheme, and the answer I have given correctly describes the position. The Hull exporters are in close communication with the coalowners under this scheme.
§ Mr. B. SMITH
Is the Under-Secretary aware that the shipments are exported to a specification, and the holding up of any particular parcel for the mixing of that coal automatically has the effect not only of filling an empty road with full trucks of coal but of putting men out of work for the day?
§ Mr. PALING
Is the Under-Secretary aware that at a conference of these people yesterday it was stated that in fifteen days there has been 30,000 tons short of the quota in Hull alone, and that the price had been advanced by 3s. 6d. a ton. Is he also aware that at the same conference it was stated that in con- 1072 sequence of that thirteen pits in South Yorkshire would not work again this month?
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Having regard to the serious effect upon the trade of this country, and particularly upon the shipping trade, is it not desirable that the Department should keep in constant touch with the coalowners on this matter, and will he see that the coalowners are consulted in connection with schemes of this sort before they are put into operation?
§ Mr. PALING
Is the Secretary for Mines going to do anything to increase employment in those pits and endeavour to keep prices down?