§ Colonel LANE FOX
I beg to move, in page 8, line 35, to leave out paragraph (b).
Paragraph (b) empowers the executive boardto collect from the owners of coal mines in the district levies, imposed upon them at such times and for such periods as may be determined in accordance with the provisions of the scheme in proportion to the output or disposal of their respective coal mines in the district, for the purpose of facilitating the sale of any class of coal produced in the district.In other words, it raises district levies from coal that has to be consumed at home in order to sell it at a cheaper rate below the cost of production either for export or for special purposes, or for special industries. Ever since the Committee deleted the original proposal for a central levy, the value of this district levy has become less, and I do not see why the Government should cling to it with the determination with which they are apparently prepared to do. Under the paragraph which I am proposing to delete, before any district scheme of this kind can be accepted, it must receive the consent of the central council. It seems to me very unlikely that the central council, consisting of representatives of the various districts, are going to give one district an advantage which they cannot claim for themselves. We have been assured by the President of the Board of Trade that it is exceedingly unlikely, and in fact almost impossible, that all the districts will join in all forming district schemes, and thus defeat the purpose of this House in deleting the central scheme. Therefore, we are left with the district schemes which have to obtain the consent of the central council. It seems to me that under these circumstances the statutory power of compulsion will not be used, and therefore there is very little use in retaining words which will have no effect.
1296 There are other far more cogent and potent reasons for deleting these words. The principle of this sort of levy is thoroughly bad when applied in statutory compulsory proposals of this kind. It is quite true that under the Five Counties Scheme a policy of this kind was carried out, but anybody who considers this question seriously must realise that that was a thoroughly voluntary scheme peculiarly suitable to a certain area where the proportion between the export trade and the home consumption of coal was something like 8 per cent. and 92 per cent. Therefore, it was to the advantage of the whole district that the large proportion who wish to sell their coal inland should pay a levy in order to get rid of the small proportion of export coal which would otherwise hamper their transactions.
That is a situation which may easily arise again, and the mere fact that they are able to carry that scheme out shows that it is perfectly possible to do it by voluntary methods. Therefore, the proposal to do it by a compulsory statutory provision is entirely unnecessary. We are told that paragraph (b) is absolutely necessary for Scotland, and that the home consumers in the Lanarkshire coalfield must have some provision of this sort to enable the Fife export trade to be carried on to remove obstruction from the path of the Lanarkshire coalfield. If this provision is so much desired by Scotland, why is it that the Scottish coalowners are utterly opposed to this Bill? I cannot believe that if it were so necessary to have this provision in Scotland, as the President of the Board of Trade has made out, we should have this wholesale opposition to the Bill which apparently there is in Scotland.
The general principle of unfairness to home industries is, of course, apparent, and it must be remembered that this is not the only proposal for raising prices against those who wish to consume coal at home. It is the third proposal of that kind in the Bill. First of all, we have the quota, the effect of which, obviously, if you reduce the output of a mine and retain its standing charges at the same figure, must be to raise the cost of production. We also have the special power of fixing prices, which must operate against those consuming coal at home. Obviously, it cannot operate 1297 against those who are trying to export coal against foreign competition. Now we have this third power to make coal dearer to those who wish to use it at home. It is a very unfair burden on our home industries, and, although the President of the Board of Trade has told us that this will be a method by which coal can be sold at a reduced rate to the heavy industries, who require it so much and whose prosperity is so vital to the coal industry, it is obviously perfectly possible, under a voluntary scheme, to sell coal to those particular industries as and when the coal industry wishes to do so, without having a compulsory statutory provision of this kind.
A statutory compulsory provision of this kind assumes that the price in other directions is going to be fixed so high that a compulsory provision of this sort is absolutely necessary in order to make it possible to keep down the price which is to be charged for export coal, and to enable operations of that sort to be carried through. As I have said, in circumstances in which it is really desirable and necessary, it has already proved possible to make such arrangements, and, therefore, this provision is not needed in this Bill; and, as it is mischievous in many other directions, I desire to see it eliminated.
§ Major GEORGE DAVIES
I beg to second the Amendment.
It is not difficult to understand why the President of the Board of Trade has indicated that he does not propose to accept this Amendment. As my right hon. and gallant Friend has just pointed out, on account of the previous action taken by the House in Committee, a certain provision which ran more or less parallel with this one was eliminated from the Measure, but the President of the Board of Trade is clinging, like a dying man to a log, to that portion which is still left, making provision for raising a district levy. It is interesting to try to ascertain the real basis and reason for bringing this matter forward in the Bill at all. When we consider the various stages through which the Measure has passed, and the various speeches on the different provisions, it becomes clearer and clearer that the Government, in undertaking to carry out 50 per cent. of 1298 a promise given before they were in office, have been compelled to find means whereby that promise may be implemented without irretrievably damaging those in whose interests they are purporting to act, namely, the coal miners of this country.
It is clear that, if there is a provision for fixing prices, it must work in the direction of raising prices, and the President of the Board of Trade is faced with the difficulty which that entails, namely, the impossibility of even keeping our present proportion of the export markets of the world, which we have managed to hold with very great difficulty at the low prices which are forced upon us by world competition. When his Bill seeks, by these other measures, to raise the price of coal, he finds himself faced with the necessity of putting in some provision that is going to undo what would otherwise be such a menace. It has been cut out of that part of the Bill which deals with the central organisation, and we are left with that part of it which deals with the district organisation, and which is a mere shadow of what was originally proposed.
It seems to me quite obvious that, as far as proportion is concerned, the real basis of this particular feature has been eliminated, and, as my right hon. and gallant Friend has pointed out, it is improbable that what is left will be able to operate in the way proposed in the complete scheme. It has been proved that under special conditions it may have been worth while to do this by a voluntary arrangement, but one of the objections that many of us have to this Bill is that it makes statutory and compulsory, and therefore inelastic, certain action which may be taken in the ordinary course of industry of various sorts, with which a number of Members of this House are more or less familiar, when special conditions from time to time arise which need to be dealt with in special ways. That is the case in trying to capture a certain deal in a market, whether at home or abroad, whether in connection with coal or anything else. When a voluntary organisation, which has complete freedom of action, considers such a problem in all its aspects and deals with it in the way that it considers best, no one can criticise action of that sort. 1299 The function of the Government in this House is to see that no action is taken by any part of the community which is going to hold up the community and exploit it. This Measure, so far from doing that, purports to exploit the community by means of an Act of Parliament. It is quite feasible and proper for such action to be taken voluntarily, and to be taken successfully, as in the case of the much quoted Five Counties Scheme, but it does not follow that it is sound policy to put such a provision into an Act of Parliament, particularly when 75 per cent. of the original proposal has been eliminated already, this being merely the redundant remnant. I feel that under these conditions the President of the Board of Trade might well face the situation which has been forced upon him, and might realise that the postcript should disappear with the main letter.
§ Sir PHILIP CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will reconsider the arguments which he addressed to the House the last time this proposal was before it. I think that everyone in the House will agree that we were all taken by surprise when the Government declined to accept this proposal consequent upon the decision of the Committee to exclude the central levy. We all thought that as a matter of course, and almost as a matter of necessary consequence, when the central levy was gone, these district levies would go too, because there really is no argument, as far as I can see, which could have been advanced in favour of the central levy which could not be advanced in favour of the district levy, and certainly there is hardly any argument which can be advanced against the central levy which would not be advanced with equal force against the district levy. I do not think I am putting it too high when I say that the House was taken entirely by surprise by the decision of the right hon. Gentleman to ask it to reject the proposal to abandon the district levy.
What is the objection which is common to the central levy and to the district levy? It is that in both cases you are forcing coalowners against their will to conduct their business in a way which they think unsound. It may be said that that is incidental to a Bill which forces 1300 everyone into a compulsory trust, whether they like it or not, but do let us have some limit to compulsion. This proposal of a district levy goes a great deal farther, and it goes unnecessarily far. You not only force the dissentient owner against his will to conduct his business in a certain way, but you force him to pay a levy, that is to say, to pay a tribute, to add to his costs in a way which he thinks is thoroughly unsound. And what do you do with the levy when you have got it. You do not apply it to the general benefit of the community. You apply it to the benefit of those particular competitors of the coalowners who happen to be engaged in the export trade or the particular trade you desire to subsidise. It is open, if a district likes, to have a levy for a common purpose, and all the people in the district, or, say, 70 per cent. think it good business, but if 30 per cent. stand out, why are you forcing them in? You are forcing them to pay a levy simply to give an advantage to their competitors as against themselves, not in the public interest but in the interest of some competitors in the trade. That seems to me to be wholly unfair in itself. It is an entirely novel proposition. I have heard of a levy imposed on a trade in order to buy somebody up, so that all who are left behind may derive a common advantage. That is done under the Licensing Act. But there is no common advantage here, because it will damage the people forced to come in against their will, and make the competition keener against them. There is really no argument for the trade itself, and you cannot say that it is in the public interest. You are going to do something which is inherently unjust. You might have the over-riding argument that you are seeking the public interest, but you can advance no such argument here. It is as much, and indeed more, against the public interest than it is against the interest of the dissenting coalowners themselves.
If you put a levy on a dissentient coal-owner, he has to find the money somewhere, and the only way to find it is out of the proceeds of the coal he sells. You are adding to his costs, and the only way he can recoup himself for the levy is out of his sales in the home market. He cannot recoup himself from any other source, and, therefore, by this levy upon dissen- 1301 tient coalowners, you are putting up the price of coal still more against the home consumer. Admittedly—and the right hon. Gentleman himself has made no secret of it—the whole object of this levy, as it was of the central levy, is in order that you may create a bounty on export coal. I do not want again to go over all the arguments which have been advanced against that, but from every quarter of the Committee the right hon. Gentleman was assailed with irresistable arguments that this was inverted Protection, and that of all the extraordinary proposals ever advanced, the proposal to put an additional tax upon the home consumer of coal in order to make coal cheaper for the foreign competitor, was the most astounding proposal that has ever found itself in a Bill. The right hon. Gentleman was defeated on the proposal for a central levy. The Committee, as I think he will admit, was dead against giving him power to make a general levy against the home consumer in order to subsidise export coal.
The argument receives increasing weight from the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is even at this moment conducting negotiations with foreign countries in order to try to induce them to abandon subsidies on exports. I do not know how far he has got. He promised us when he returned to Geneva that he would pursue his negotiations actively. I wish him well in the attempt, but how can he go forward with any hope of success in that attempt if in this Bill he deliberately takes power to levy upon the coalowners a subsidy in favour of export coal, and do by Statute exactly what he is now complaining that foreign countries are doing by administrative action. He cannot begin to conduct the case of appeal against these foreign countries if the one weapon with which he acts is this Bill under which he takes power to do precisely the same thing. It is unnecessary in this Bill. It is not a vital part of the Bill. It is unjust to the dissentient owners. It is hopelessly unjust to the consumers of coal in this country, and I do beg of the right hon. Gentleman not to load the dice any more heavily against British industry. This is a matter which, as I understand, is so little a vital part of the Bill that the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have taken the 1302 same view that I took on this question on the last occasion. After negotiations had been successfully concluded for the future conduct of this Measure, hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway held that they were perfectly free to oppose this proposal. I sincerely hope that they may take the same view to-day, as I suggest that it is altogether outside the essential scope of this Bill. I am sure that it is contrary to the general sense of the House, and I very much hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree to abandon these proposals.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
The position in the Committee stage with regard to this general proposal was very clearly decided. The majority against the proposal was quite decisive. I do not think that there was any doubt in any part of the Committee that the general feeling was opposed to the raising of the levy against the home consumer for the benefit of the foreign consumer, and it was a great surprise to every hon. Member with whom I discussed the subject to find that the district levy is left in when the national levy comes out, and still more a surprise to those who know anything about the interests of the local coal people.
There was something to be said for a national levy, but not for a district levy. The national levy did, at all events, raise the levy over a national area, but, under this arrangement, districts like Yorkshire will be able to raise a very much larger levy in the lump sum, although the same rate per ton may be charged, than in the case of Northumberland, Durham or Fife. It means that really in competition between Northumberland, Durham, Fife and Yorkshire, this proposal will give an unnatural advantage to Yorkshire which it would not otherwise obtain. The Yorkshire coal district is in a very strong position, and is exploited by men of great skill. It is not far from the ports of shipment, and can hold its own very well without any artificial assistance; but, under this arrangement, it will be able to raise by 3d. per ton such a large sum of money that it will be able to beat the other export centres of England and Scotland easily in competition for Scandinavian and northern European markets, and, indeed, elsewhere. In these circumstances, the President of the Board of Trade is perpe- 1303 trating on districts a greater injustice than the national levy. If the national levy were discarded by the Committee, how much more should the House discard this?
There is another aspect which will arise on the next Amendment. We were not told on the Committee stage what was to happen with regard to bunker coal. Indeed, when the proposal was put to the Committee, the Deputy-Chairman called on the Member to move the bunker coal Amendment, and he promptly said, as the main thing had gone, and obviously the bunker coal Amendment had become superfluous, he did not move. That was accepted by the Committee as being a natural proposal, and now we find the district levy in and no statement made by the Government as to bunker coal. We are, therefore, in a new difficulty, and I shall be interested to hear the President of the Board of Trade say how he proposes to meet this point.
I need not repeat the bunker coal arguments, which, I am sure, are familiar to the right hon. Gentleman, but I can summarise them very easily. Is bunker coal to be treated as export coal or not? If it is to be treated as export coal, obviously the levy which is contemplated in this paragraph will be available for providing bunker coal to ships of all nationalities on the export price. If, however, it is not to be treated as export coal, then bunker coal will be sold not at its natural market price, but this price plus the levy, and will be regarded as internally consumed coal, and there will be an extra charge put on it.
The effect of that will be, in the first place, to make bunkering in this country comparatively expensive. It will be more expensive than bunkering abroad. Surely that is against the national interest. We want to attract as many vessels as possible to this country. There are some of our principal ports in the north, some in Fife, and certainly on the Tyne, where special provision has been made for bunkering vessels on route from Scandinavia to North America, which find most convenient bunkering places on the Tyne and elsewhere. These vessels we want to see coming back in increasing numbers. Harbour authorities have made provision 1304 for them. It is a very usefu1 traffic, and we sell this coal at a profitable rate. It brings income not only to the coal-owners, but to the harbour authorities. To diminish that traffic to any extent is not only bad for the locality, but for the country as a whole.
What will happen if the right hon. Gentleman adheres to this proposal, and does not regard bunker coal as export coal? It means that bunkering abroad will be relatively cheaper than bunkering in this country even with the same coal. I cannot think that that is really the intention of the President of the Board of Trade, but if he leaves the Bill as it comes from the Committee with this provision that is actually what will happen, unless he is going to treat bunker coal as export coal. I would much rather he left the thing alone and did not define bunker coal as export coal, but left it out altogether along with the local levy, and then we should get rid of one unfair advantage given to foreign stations where they supply our own coal at a lower rate than we can do it ourselves, and also get rid of this rivalry between the various coalfields. The only coalfield which would get any large advantage would be South Yorkshire. I do not want to say anything against South Yorkshire. I would like to see them all flourish, but I do not want to see Yorkshire, with all its natural advantages, given this artificial advantage. In these circumstances, and certainly bearing very closely in mind what was the decision of the Committee on the principle, I hope the President of the Board of Trade will not press for these proposals to be incorporated in the Bill.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. William Graham)
The subject which is raised by this Amendment was discussed at considerable length during the Committee stage of the Bill, to some extent on the national levy, and also to a large extent on the district levy, and it would be idle for me to say that I can offer anything new this afternoon. But, in view of the interest of the subject and its undoubted importance, the House will bear with me if I summarise the position as the Government see it. It is perfectly true that in Debate in Committee, and on a narrow Division, the central levy was deleted from the Bill by eight votes, but, after discussion, the 1305 district levy was retained by 47 votes. Those are the broad facts of the decisions of the House which, in a preliminary way we have to bear in mind, and I ought to make it plain also that at no stage during the Second Reading or in Committee did the Government indicate in any way that they would abandon the view which they held regarding either the national or the district levy. I do not think anyone in any part of the House will suggest that I have given any promise or pledge in that connection.
If I may refer to the national levy, I regret its disappearance from the Bill, because, as is indeed recognised in the speech which the right hon. Gentleman has made, it, may be that the owners would initiate a scheme of that kind in the coalfields as a whole, and the only effect of its disappearance is that, apart from the loss of the compulsory powers regarding a minority, it probably makes it impossible for the Board of Trade to have any kind of view—I do not say supervision—regarding that feature in the scheme if it functions on those lines. Moreover, the disappearance of the proposal will raise very great difficulty in Northumberland and Durham and certain other exporting districts.
I am not disputing that there is much that is similar between a national and a district levy, but, coming to the actual proposition before the House, I quite definitely took the view during the Committee stage that there were important distinctions. What are these considerations applying to the district levy? Of course, I should not be in order in discussing the national proposition. First of all, if we take the case of the Five Counties Scheme, it is true that in that great area, which covers Yorkshire and the Midlands, and also Lancashire and Cheshire, there was in the main a home demand, and it is also admitted that it was possible by a very small levy to provide substantial support for export coal and to send out an increased quantity of exports. That was done under the Five Counties Scheme, but, of course, the position is different when we pass to the other districts in which the proportion of the export trade is very much higher, Northumberland, Durham, the East Coast of Scotland, and South Wales.
It has been suggested that this is some form of subsidy for export coal, or a step 1306 which will confer advantages upon our industrial or other competitors in other countries. But the right hon. Gentleman, when he used the argument on the de-rating scheme as applied to export coal, in February, 1929, supplied the very answer to that. It is just as valid to-day as it was then, and I do not dispute it now any more than I disputed it then. This export coal does not go to industrial concerns in other countries. The great bulk of it goes to shipping or public utilities, and the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion resisted this argument by pointing out that there was no competition in that sense as between steelworks there and steelworks here, because, as he quite correctly said, these collieries on the Continent are already linked up to the iron and steel works, or the iron and steel works to collieries, and consequently our export coal was going to an enterprise which was largely non-competitive. But even if this argument were not valid, it has never been proposed under the district levy, any more than it has been proposed under the national levy, to export coal at less than the world price.
The central consideration which I have always had to bear in mind is this: If we cannot export coal at that price, we cannot get the trade, and, so far as I am concerned, that appears to be the end of the story in this connection. It has been to some extent suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) that this leads to discrimination between one district and another. He thinks, perhaps, it is only the Yorkshire area that would benefit, but, as has been pointed out, it is expressly provided in the Bill that any district will be subject to the co-ordination of the central body and under this scheme the whole of the coalfields of the country are brought into one central organisation whose duty it is, as I understand it, to have regard to the interests of the different districts and to see that justice is done as between one and another.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
This is a very important question of fact. Under the Bill as it stands as I read it, it would be perfectly possible for any one district to impose a district levy here and for other districts to object, and there would be no power in the central board.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
Probably this is what has led to misunderstanding. The right hon. Gentleman used the word "co-ordination." The word in the Bill is not "co-ordination" but "consent."
§ Mr. GRAHAM
I hope I have made it plain in all these Debates that the object of this central machinery is to achieve as much co-ordination as ever they can in the industry in all parts of the country, and there are rights of arbitration in any matter affecting the districts—as this matter does—just as there are rights of arbitration between individual coal-owners in any matter that applies to them. So that the danger of district competition on the lines suggested by the right hon. Gentleman does not really apply.
There is another and a more important consideration. It has been suggested over and over again in these Debates that the export trade gets an advantage at the expense of the home trade but, as I imagine anyone familiar with the Five Counties Scheme or any other scheme will see, the home trade gains advantages at the same time. First of all, there is, as regards the industry as a whole, the undeniable advantage of getting a larger volume of trade, and I have pointed out that unfortunately there can be little hope of much greater elasticity in the home demand for coal. That hope of elasticity and improvement lies very largely in the export trade. We are not subsidising the export trade. We must sell coal at the European price, and I should have thought increased outward coal cargoes would appeal to a representative of shipping, apart altogether from the beneficial effect on consumers in this country in stimulating as much cargo one way as the other. But in addition to that advantage in the aggregate volume of trade, and as applied to that part of the trade where there is a chance of elasticity, there is the further consideration that in so far as we help export we take a certain quantity of coal off the inland market where there might be difficulty in selling it at a remunerative level. There are advantages to the home market, and I have heard it said by representative owners that where they have paid that levy they have got a return for it in a better level of prices at 1308 home. An economic level of prices at beginning to end is what I have alone had in view in this legislation.
Now may I refer to some other points which have been raised in the Debate. Why do we regard this district levy as necessary, and why do we intend to press our point to a Division if a Division should be called? Take the case of Scotland, which is one wages ascertainment district. We have the trade in that country divided into the Lanarkshire area, which is very largely a home trade, and the Fifeshire area, which is very largely export. Assuming that there is a better inland price for coal in Scotland under this scheme, it is clear that that better inland price, which again I describe as an economic price, will lead to an improvement in the wages ascertainment in Scotland, as indeed it is only fair that it should do, and must do, if the position of the industry as a whole is improved. That means that these additional wages must be paid over the whole of Scotland, and they must be paid in the exporting districts in Fife as well. If the situation worked out in that way, as it must, clearly Fife is not able to compete in its export trade unless a device of this kind is available to the owners. It will be suggested that they will be driven to do this in the districts as they are driven to do it in the national scheme. That may be. This is purely permissive in the Bill but it is important that we should have some kind of power. For these reasons I am obliged to put it to the House that the Government regard this as of very great importance and that we must adhere to the view we have taken.
I feel compelled to add a word or two about bunker coal, since the right hon. Gentleman has virtually raised that point. Though it is the subject of a separate Amendment, it may shorten the discussion. The broad facts in connection with bunker coal are that, generally speaking, it is rather higher in price, free on board, than export coal. The right hon. Gentleman seeks, under the proposal he has in view, to say that the price of that bunker coal shall never be higher than export coal, that in other words they are to be assimilated for all future purposes under the Bill, assuming that the levy is introduced. I observe that he has not now attached his name to that Amendment, and that it stands in the name of three 1309 Conservative Members of the House, and I should hope that my argument on this point will prevail, because the right hon. Gentleman is the last whom I would accuse of seeking any preference to one branch of industry which is not afforded to all others.
It may be suggested that, unless something is introduced to assimilate these prices, vessels may be tempted to bunker abroad, and we may lose a certain part of the bunker trade. But surely it is not the intention of the industry to lose any part of its trade, and, in any case, what are the obstacles that would require to be overcome before it would be more profitable to them to bunker abroad? Surely they have to look first of all to the charges for loading in this country plus the freight of the coal to the foreign port. I exclude the cost of bunkering here and the cost of bunkering there, because on this analysis one may be set against the other, although in Great Britain they are usually rather higher than abroad. It would require to be a very remarkable subsidy or subvention which would lead to that result, even if the owners were foolish enough to risk anything of the kind. They have no intention of taking such a step. Their whole object will be to preserve their bunker trade and, if they can, to increase it. There are the safeguards of the committees of investigation as to price, together with the manifest desire of the industry to get all the trade it possibly can. In these circumstances, could my right hon. Friend seriously suggest that we should do for the shipping industry in Great Britain what we have done for no other class of trade under the Bill, namely, put in a statutory protection as regards price to say that under no circumstances will that charge be higher than that of the export price? I do not think that my right hon. Friend would press it. For these very weighty reasons, as I regard them, I am unable to accept either this Amendment or the one which follows.
I want to add these words of a personal kind, which, I am sure, hon. Members in all parts of the House, but particularly on the Liberal benches, will appreciate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) yesterday said that in the last propositions which were put to the Government their case had been met, and I need only 1310 state this afternoon that no reference was made to the position of bunker coal. As I understand the position, hon. Members on the Liberal benches, while disliking the district levy, were not prepared to vote against the Government in our insistence that this part should be retained. No reference was made to bunker coal at all. In that connection, it is my duty to say that we regard an Amendment of this kind as of great importance and one which we could not accept without creating grave anomaly in the working of this scheme. I have done my very best from beginning to end to meet hon. Members in all parts of the House, and I think I can say without fear of contradiction, as indeed the right hon. Gentleman indicated, that everything of substance has already been covered, and I trust, therefore, that we can go to this Division confident of a majority for the proposal of the Government.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
On a point of Order. My name is attached to the next Amendment—in page 9, line 3, at the end, to insert the words:Provided that no moneys so raised shall be applied to facilitate the sale of any coal to be exported at a less price than is charged for such class of coal for bunkering ships.Are we to have a Debate on bunker coal now, or may I reserve my arguments until that Amendment is called?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Although the two things are rather closely connected, I think that it would be better to have a Debate on bunker coal separately.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
There are two points to which I want to call the attention of the House and of the President of the Board of Trade. He has, as usual, made a very able speech in support of the retention of paragraph (b) which my right hon. Friend has moved to omit, but he has had to make the best of a very thin case indeed. There is one part of the argument used in favour of the district levy which has not been dealt with as fully as it should be dealt with before the House comes to a decision on this question. From time to time in the Debates on this question of levy, both district and national, hon. Members on this side of the House have tried to find out what class of coal consumer is really going to pay the cost of this levy. I 1311 should like to take the matter step by step. It is clear that you cannot have a levy raised as this paragraph proposes upon all the coalowners of a district in proportion to the output or the disposal of the products of their coal mines without adding to the price which they will have to ask in the aggregate for their coal. The particular paragraph of the Bill goes on to say:For the purpose of facilitating the sale of any class of coal produced in the district.Broadly speaking, we have said that the purpose of these levies is to facilitate the export trade at the expense of consumers of coal at home. The President of the Board of Trade has told us in earlier Debates that that is not necessarily so. He mentioned again to-day that the levy might be used for facilitating the sale of coal to steel works and to other industries of that sort in this country. When we have been met with that argument, we have said that it will be the users of domestic coal who will really pay the increased price. When that argument was brought forward, the President of the Board of Trade indicated that the coal which he really had in mind as going to have to pay the cost of the levy was coal used by the public utility undertakings of the country. It has been made abundantly clear since that statement was made in the House that the public utility undertakings in the country look with great misgivings and with some resentment on the proposal to charge more for coal used for domestic gas and purposes of that kind in order to facilitate the export trade of coal. It has also been shown that somebody has to pay more if somebody is going to pay less. They are not a class of coal users whose coal can be increased in price without those coal-users increasing the cost of gas, which is just as great a necessity as coal to the poor people throughout the country.
I should like to ask the President of the Board of Trade—perhaps the Secretary for Mines will say a word on the subject later—who are the users of coal who are to bear the extra cost of coal due to these district levies. The President of the Board of Trade just now referred to the fact that under this proposal there would undoubtedly be an opportunity for what he termed a better 1312 inland price. He instanced the Fife coalfield and said what a good thing it would be for coal miners in the County of Fife to have a better inland price, because that would be a reason for better wages. I want to point out that what is a better inland price from the colliery point of view is, for every user of coal in the country, a worse inland price. It is the definite proposal, on the lines of the argument of the President of the Board of Trade, to charge something either to every industry or coal user, or to some selected industries or coal users in order to create this better inland price which the President of the Board of Trade regards with such equanimity.
When he was dealing with the export trade, the right hon. Gentleman tried to prove to the House that the district levy would not be used in any sense as a subsidy for coal for export. Therefore, he said, the very powerful argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister) as to the position of the President of the Board of Trade in going to Geneva to ask foreign countries to do away with export bounties when he is enacting, by Statute, a system of providing export bounties for coal, fell to the ground. Why? Because he said that it was never their intention to sell coal under this levy system at less than the European or the world prices.
I am surprised that the President of the Board of Trade should put forward such a thin argument as that. Anyone familiar with the export trade in any article, whether it is manufactured or is coal or raw material, knows perfectly well that if you want to get an increase in export trade and secure some portion of the export trade now done by your competitors, you have not an earthly chance of doing so if you only quote European prices or world prices. You have to do something more than that. You have to show your customer some argument why he should change from his present source of supply and give you the order, and the only argument you can bring to bear upon him is that you have a better article at the same price or an article of equal value at a shade lower price. Therefore, it is idle for the President of the Board of Trade to say that there is nothing in my right hon. Friend's argument, because he him- 1313 self does not propose to go below the general European price or the world price. You cannot increase your export trade unless you are prepared to compete, and you can only compete by giving a turn below the prices at present existing.
Therefore all the arguments brought forward as to the incidence of the actual levy fall to the ground when it comes to be charged to somebody. We have had no indication from the President of the Board of Trade that there is any body of consumers in this country who can afford to pay this increased price without doing injury to the general interest and the general industries of the country. When the right hon. Gentleman tries to meet the other argument that we are really introducing a system of export bounties, which we so much decry when other countries do so in our home market, by the very thin argument that he does not propose to undercut the European price of coal, I think it can clearly be shown that he has put forward no case for the retention of these district levies. The national levy having gone, these district levies are less defensible even than that other form of national levy which the House decided against.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
I want to put a point to the secretary for Mines concerning the inland trade upon which I am not quite clear. It arises out of the remarks which were made by the President of the Board of Trade in the Committee stage on this clause. He told the Committee that probably there would be a levy, except in a few districts, and that it would only be applied in order to facilitate the sale of certain classes of coal particularly export coal and coal for heavy industries. Will it be possible on this assumption for, say, a colliery district in Scotland, or the executive board in charge of the district, to come to the conclusion that the iron and steel trade or any other heavy industry should receive coal at a cheaper price? Having come to that conclusion, should we authorise a levy for the benefit of those particular industries when, perhaps, in another district, say, in Durham, the executive board might take an entirely contrary view in regard to the iron and steel industry in their own area? If this is possible, will not this position arise? If the iron and steel industry in Scot- 1314 land obtains subsidised coal, will not pressure be brought to bear on the executive boards by the iron and steel industry in Durham and in other parts of Great Britain, to impose a levy for their benefit? You would be getting by a sort of back door method exactly what you are trying to avoid, namely, not cut throat competition in prices, but cut throat competition in levies. I may be under a complete misapprehension, but I shall be obliged if the Secretary for Mines will let me know whether there is any risk of such a thing taking place?
§ Major COLFOX
It will be interesting to see what part the Liberal party take in the Division. The Naval Conference is still sitting. Half an hour ago the right hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) addressed the House apparently as representing the leader of his party, who at that moment was sitting by his side, and he made a very brave gesture, which indicated that he and his party disapproved strongly of the Government's action in resisting this Amendment. He suggested, however, that if the Government were prepared to consider favourably the later Amendment with regard to bunker coal, perhaps he and his party would withdraw their opposition to the Government in respect of the Amendment then under discussion. The President of the Board of Trade, in his reply, as far as I could interpret it, in his usual very pleasant way, flatly turned down the offer which had been made to him by the right hon. Member, and threw back the Liberal party on their Naval Conference excuse once again.
I suppose that it is almost too much to expect the Liberal party to carry their convictions and their real beliefs into the Lobby with us on this Amendment. It was interesting as a spectator to notice the interchange of pleasantries and pseudo threats by the right hon. Member on the front Liberal bench, and the way in which he was turned down by the President of the Board of Trade. If the right hon. Member for St. Ives was speaking, as I imagine he was, as representing the leader of his party, and since his proposal was turned down by the Government spokesman, then, if he and his party have any wish to be true to their principles, their convictions and their speeches, they will vote with us on this occasion. It is almost too much to 1315 expect the Liberal party to do anything except to consult the expediency of the moment, and therefore I presume that they will once more fall back upon their Naval Conference excuse, and support the Government.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 252; Noes, 147.1317
|Division No. 246.]||AYES.||[4.17 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Messer, Fred|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Middleton, G.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Groves, Thomas E.||Milner, Major J.|
|Altchison, Rt. Hon. Cralgie M.||Grundy, Thomas W.||Montague, Frederick|
|Alpass, J. H.||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Morley, Ralph|
|Angell, Norman||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Arnott, John||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Mort, D. L.|
|Ayles, Walter||Hardle, George D.||Moses, J. J. H.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilsten)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Haycock, A. W.||Muff, G.|
|Barr, James||Hayday, Arthur||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hayes, John Henry||Murnin, Hugh|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Bellamy, Albert||Herriotts, J.||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Oldfield, J. R.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Oliver, George Herold (Ilkeston)|
|Benson, G.||Hoffman, P. C.||Palin, John Henry|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Hollins, A.||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hopkin, Daniel||Palmer, E. T.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Horrabin, J. F.||Perry, S. F.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Phillips, Dr. Marlon|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Bromfield, William||Johnston, Thomas||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Brooke, W.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Potts, John S.|
|Brothers, M.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Price, M. P.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Raynes, W. R.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Kelly, W. T.||Richards, R.|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Kennedy, Thomas||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Buchanan, G.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Burgess, F. G.||Kinley, J.||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Kirkwood, D.||Ritson, J.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Knight, Holford||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Caine, Derwent Hall-||Lang, Gordon||Romeril, H. G.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Lathan, G.||Rowson, Guy|
|Charleton, H. C.||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Chater, Daniel||Law, A. (Rosendale)||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)|
|Church, Major A. G.||Lawrence, Susan||Sanders, W. S.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Sandham, E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lawson, John James||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Compton, Joseph||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Cove, William G.||Leach, W.||Scurr, John|
|Daggar, George||Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)||Sexton, James|
|Dallas, George||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lees, J.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Day, Harry||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Shield, George William|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Logan, David Gilbert||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Devlin, Joseph||Longbottom, A. W.||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Dickson, T.||Longden, F.||Shinwell, E.|
|Dukes, C.||Lovat-Freser, J. A.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Duncan, Charles||Lowth, Thomas||Simmons, C. J.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lunn, William||Sinkinson, George|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||McElwee, A.||Smith. Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Mackinder, W.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||McKinlay, A.||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Freeman, Peter||MacLaren, Andrew||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||McShane, John James||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Gibblns, Joseph||Mansfield, W.||Snell, Harry|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||March, S.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Gill, T. H.||Marcus, M.||Sorensen, R.|
|Gillett, George M.||Markham, S. F.||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Gossling, A. G.||Marley, J.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Gould, F.||Marshall, Fred||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Mathers, George||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Matters, L. W.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Coine)||Melville, Sir James||Sullivan, J.|
|Sutton, J. E.||Walker, J.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)||Wallace, H. W.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Wellhead, Richard C.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Thurtle, Ernest||Watkins, F. C.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Toole, Joseph||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Tout, W. J.||Wellock, Wilfred||Wilson R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Townend, A. E.||Welsh, James (Paisley)||Wise, E. F.|
|Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|Turner, B.||West, F. R.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Vaughan, D. J.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Viant, S. P.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Walkden, A. G.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W.G.(Ptrsf'ld)|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||England, Colonel A.||O'Neill, Sir H.|
|Albery, Irving James||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s,-M.)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Everard, W. Lindsay||Peake, Capt. Osbert|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Penny, Sir George|
|Atkinson, C.||Ferguson, Sir John||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Fermoy, Lord||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Fleiden, E. B.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Bellairs, Commander Cariyon||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Berry, Sir George||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Grace, John||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Ross, Major Ronald D.|
|Bracken, B.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hammersley, S. S.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l d'., Hexham)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hartington, Marquess of||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Haslam, Henry C.||Savery, S. S.|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Carver. Major W. H.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Simms, Major-General J.|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||Hoare, Lt-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. sir J.A.(Birm.,W.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Hurd, Percy A.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Christie, J. A.||Iveagh, Countess of||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cockerill. Brig.-General Sir George||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Train, J.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ward, Lieut-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Cowan, D. M.||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Cranbourne, Viscount||Long, Major Eric||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Lymington, Viscount||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Macquisten, F. A.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Dairymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Withers, Sir John James|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Davies, Maj. Geo.F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Mond, Hon. Henry||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Duckworth, G. A. V.||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Muirhead, A. J.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Sir Frederick Thomson and|
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I beg to move, in page 9, line 3, at the end, to insert the words:Provided that no moneys so raised shall be applied to facilitate the sale of any coal to be exported at a less price than is charged for such class of coal for bunkering ships.We have heard something about the question of bunker coal during the discussion on the last Amendment. I am in a somewhat unfortunate position, inasmuch as the President of the Board 1318 of Trade has intimated that he is not able to accept this Amendment, unless in the meantime he has changed his mind after consultation with hon. and right hon. Members, and struck a bargain with them. The votes recorded in the Division would seem to indicate that something of that sort has happened. However, I am an optimistic person, and I move the Amendment in the hope that we shall be able to carry it.
1319 5.0 p.m.
The President of the Board of Trade has supplied me with a few points on which I can base my arguments. He spoke in the early part of his speech, before he came to the question of bunker coal, of the effect which the export trade in coal would have upon certain industries. He referred to the industries in foreign countries which are mainly responsible for taking our export coal. He emphasised the fact that it would not interfere with the manufactures of this country because the bulk of this coal goes to public utility undertakings, to railways and to shipping. I want the House to bear in mind the word "shipping," because it is on behalf of the shipping of this country that I am moving this Amendment. We have the clear argument advanced by the President of the Board of Trade that a good portion of this export coal goes to shipping, which takes its bunkers in other ports. He also told us that we were not paying higher prices f.o.b. than was being paid in other ports. I have some figures which have been supplied me in connection with the Five Counties Scheme, not by colliery owners or those responsible for that scheme, but by the people who have to pay for this bunker coal. Not long ago the subsidy on export coal was ls. 6d. per ton, and within the last two or three weeks it has been increased to 3s. per ton, to date from the 1st March. The consequence is that export prices have dropped from about 17s. 3d. to 16s.; and the price we are paying at Grimsby for bunker coal from the Five Counties Scheme is 18s. 6d. per ton, f.o.b. I suggest that the contention of the President of the Board of Trade is not quite accurate as regards the present position and as shown by the operation of the Five Counties Scheme.
What has happened there? They are now drawing only 65 per cent. of their capacity, as against 72½ per cent. a short time ago, and this has been dropped to 60 per cent. for the moment. There is a considerable amount of coal in the districts covered by the Five Counties Scheme. The result is that pits will draw less coal and export more. If they have this extra subsidy for export coal they are going to increase their export trade, with the result that there will be less 1320 coal available for bunkers in this country and for other trades and industries. What will be the result? There can be only one result, and that is that prices must harden against the home consumer and the people who have to bunker coal. That is the reason why we are so concerned about this matter. The right hon. Gentleman says that we cannot expect to have any advantage over any other trade and industry. That is a reasonable argument, if he was carrying it out under this Bill. But under the district levy scheme district committees will have power to make concessions to any class of coal. For instance, they could make a concession to the iron and steel industry, and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman's argument that this would give us something different to other industries falls entirely to the ground, unless he is prepared to place bunker coal in the same category as iron and steel.
If we are looking for a precedent in this matter it can be easily found. When we passed the Railway Freights Rebate Act of 1928 a special appeal was made by myself and other hon. Members representing ports where the matter was considered one of great importance, and we put up so strong a case that the Government accepted our Amendment and included, along with export coal, the relief under that particular Act to bunker coal and to bunker coal for fishing vessels. We shall certainly suffer if we do not get this concession on behalf of fishing vessels and those which take large quantities of bunkers in the Humber in competition with Continental ports, particularly the Hook of Holland, Rotterdam, Hamburg and the Keil Canal, as regards vessels proceeding to and from the Baltic and the Mediterranean. These ports have other advantages over our own ports. They are more on the direct routes. That is an advantage which we must accept, we cannot alter it. They have the advantage that port charges are much less than they are here. That is a difficulty, and I am afraid I cannot suggest a remedy for it. Then they are prepared to bunker ships at any time of the day or night, including Saturdays or Sundays; there is no restriction on bunkering. I am not going to suggest that our men should work under the conditions which prevail at Continental ports. I do not want to see that at all; and the men I represent 1321 do not want the same conditions. But we have to face the fact that we have this competition and that they are in a position in these ports to offer these extra facilities.
If on the top of all these advantages we have also to face the fact that they can supply British coal for bunkering at a less price than we can supply it here then I must ask the Government to consider the position in which our people at home will be. It may be said that they will be taking in foreign coal in these ports, but investigation has proved—and I have no doubt the President of the Board of Trade knows all about it—that, while the coal supplied at these ports is chiefly German, Dutch and occasional and little Belgian, there is also quite a considerable quantity of British coal; and there will be more supplied if this Amendment is not accepted. And we shall have the spectacle of encouragement being given by this country for the bunkering of ships in foreign ports with cheaper British coal than we can supply in our own ports. That will be a great loss to our workers, and I am surprised that the Transport Workers' Union have not taken a more active interest in this matter. It will considerably affect them. The coal trimmers will lose considerably. In the case of some of our fishing vessels the coal has to be man-handled, and it means far more wages paid to the workmen than is the case with large vessels. The point of view of the men who work at these ports should be taken into consideration.
We should lose in many directions. We shall lose in port charges and light dues, which all go to maintain our ports and waterways. When these vessels come in for bunker coal there are always large orders for stores. Many vessels come into Grimsby and Immingham simply for the purpose of bunker coal, not to take cargo, and a considerable trade has been created for the district by taking in supplies and stores. Naturally this has been very helpful indeed. Vessels come into these ports which would never have used them but for the bunkering facilities and the reasonable price of coal; and some of them have consented to take cargo. In time a considerable business has grown up which otherwise would never have been created, because vessels going to 1322 Australia and abroad would never call there in the ordinary way. It is just as easy for them to call at a continental port as at Immingham or any of our East Coast ports, and if they can get the same quality of coal at a lower price in these continental ports there is no doubt that they will take advantage of the opportunity. A considerable amount of work is also created by the repairs which are sometimes necessary. They may be small repairs, but it means employment to a considerable number of men and is of great advantage to our East Coast ports.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am very interested in the speech of the hon. Member. Will he explain to me how he thinks it is possible to send our own coal as export coal to Hamburg, with extra freight, and then sell it cheaper than coal in Immingham and Hull?
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
If the hon. and gallant Member will consult the people in his own port of Hull who are responsible for exporting this coal and who have had to work under the Five Counties Scheme he will get that information without any difficulty. I am speaking now on behalf of those who know and understand this industry through and through, and who foresee that if this Amendment is not accepted we shall be in the very condition which the hon. and gallant Member believes cannot exist. I speak also on behalf of the fishing industry in this country. We argue, and I think fairly, that coal consumed on fishing vessels is really export coal because it is consumed outside this country, outside the three mile limit. Therefore, it cannot be said that it is used for any home industry. We have to compete with German, Belgian and Icelandic trawlers, who use our ports but who do not, and will not, take our coal unless it is to their advantage. We want to be able to compete with them on fair and square lines.
It is not a question of the inland consumption of coal. This coal is consumed in the same way as export coal; that is, outside the United Kingdom. This industry alone takes 3½ million tons of coal per annum from the coal mines of this country. Grimsby alone takes a million and a quarter tons of coal, and the industry keeps in employment full 1323 time all the year round over 6,000 miners. We do not want to see any of that trade going to foreign ports; and it is possible for trawlers to coal at ports other than their home port. We do not want that. These foreign trawlers, who use our port freely and who have to pay no more than ordinary British trawlers for the facilities provided, will be able to get their coal cheaper from their own home ports and then compete with our own people in our own markets here. That is not fair or just.
We have had considerable experience of the Five Counties Scheme in Grimsby, and the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) will know exactly what has happened in the City of Hull. Under that scheme we have the alternative of being able to buy elsewhere in the United Kingdom if we do not get satisfactory terms from those responsible for the Five Counties Scheme. It may be argued that as this is a district scheme we shall still be able to do that, but the words of the President of the Board of Trade clearly indicate that he is endeavouring, through this clause, to get a sort of codification throughout the country and that we shall not be able to go from one district to another and get a better price quoted. That I take it is the object. In other words, although we are not to have what is called a national scheme, we are to have a district scheme which will really operate as a national scheme when it comes to the quoting of prices.
We realise that if we are to be absolutely in the hands of the coalowners of this country and of those responsible for fixing prices things are going to be very difficult for us in the fishing industry. It is not merely a question of the owners of these vessels losing money over this deal. It is well known to hon. Members that the crews of these vessels are paid on shares. Some of them are working on shares alone, and their earnings depend entirely on the earnings of the vessel. Not long ago I quoted in this House some figures showing that 1s. per ton on the price of coal would make all the difference to the earnings of the men.
This is not merely an owners' question; it is a workmen's question. The fish has to be sold in the market by public auction. It is all very well to say, "You 1324 can pass it on to the consumer." They cannot in this case. The fish has to be sold at the quayside. If it fetches a good price that is all the better for the man who has risked his life in getting the fish. If it is sold at a low price he has to grin and bear it and hope for better times. What he does know is that 25 per cent. of the cost of running a vessel is swallowed up by coal, and that with dear coal it is not possible to make the vessels pay at all. I am assured by those who know the business through and through that if 3s. a ton is added to the cost of coal—that was a figure mentioned by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George)—it means practical ruination for the fishing industry. I ask the House to consider whether it is right to attempt to destroy any industry in this country when it is possible to have a fair and square deal between all the parties concerned.
I have been asked by my people in Grimsby to press this Amendment for all I am worth. It is not a question of looking after something that they feel may not happen. They are indeed very much concerned about the matter. It is true that contracts have been made for some time ahead. There is some little difficulty about these contracts, and although I cannot go into that matter on this Amendment I want the President of the Board of Trade to give it serious consideration. We discussed on the Committee stage the question of the contracts already entered into. According to my reading of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment those contracts hold good, but it does seem to me that there is going to be great difficulty in regard to one party to the contract, that is the coalowner, in carrying out the arrangements. I may have a chance to speak on the subject on the Third Reading. If my Amendment is accepted all those difficulties will go by the board. We are quite prepared to pay for the bunker coal used by our fishing vessels the price charged to the foreigner for his coal. That would be a fair and square deal. We do not want to set our men against the miners. We are keen to see that the miners have as good a living as our own men. But we cannot see any sense in putting our people at a grave disadvantage compared with the foreigner with 1325 regard to bunker coal for shipping generally and particularly with regard to bunker coal for fishing vessels.
§ Sir BURTON CHADWICK
I was not here to move this Amendment, to which my name is attached, but I should like to support it. Throughout the Debates very little has been said as to the effect of this Bill on shipping. With my hon. Friend who has just spoken I wish to press this Amendment with all the energy available. I am particularly glad to see the Lord Privy Seal present, because I know how dear to his heart is the question of shipping. I cannot help recalling a very important speech that the right hon. Gentleman made in this House, I think it was on the Consolidated Fund Bill a few weeks ago, when he told us of his trip to Canada and of an endeavour he had made to arrange an interchange of wheat cargoes with coal cargoes. So hopeful was he as to the result of his trip that he said British shipowners had been encouraged by what he had done and that they were there and then contracting for no less than 35,000 tons of new ships to put into this new trade. I am, therefore, sure that the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the point that we are stressing in this Amendment. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman hoped that the new trade would be carried in British ships. It is obvious that one of the main charges in this new business or in any business of the kind is the freight. In the freight one of the main charges is the cost of bunker coal. In that respect the two great industries of shipping and coal are completely inter-dependent. Anything that affects the price of coal affects the price of the whole.
As far as I can see in this district council or other body that has to arrange for the levying of a subsidy to facilitate trade in any particular class of coal, there would be no representation of the shipowner. I do not find anywhere in the Bill that the immense shipping trade is to have a voice in the settlement of the matter. It is true that the shipowner may come in at a late hour on another Committee for examination, but that will be far too late and will be merely a kind of coroner's inquest after the event. The shipowner is not to have a voice in the preliminaries. In answer to the question raised by the hon. and gallant Mem- 1326 ber for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), as to the impossibility of Welsh coal competing in a Continental port with coal in a British port, let me say that I have this moment returned from Antwerp. There I saw two ships loading cargo for Buenos Aires. One Ship was bunkering with German coal. The other ship had gone to Antwerp loaded with Welsh bunker coal obtained in this country.
Let us assume that this Bill becomes an Act and that the South Wales district has decided to put a subsidy on the export of the class of South Wales coal which is used for ships' bunkers. Three shillings a ton has been mentioned, but there is no limit in the Bill to the amount of the subsidy. Let us suppose that there is a subsidy of three shillings a ton on exported Welsh coal to Antwerp. The ship that I have seen in Antwerp buys this subsidised Welsh coal in Antwerp. Another British ship loads in Antwerp having taken in unsubsidised coal at Cardiff and having paid 3s. a ton more for it. Both ships go out to Buenos Ayres and discharge their cargoes. They are both competing for a cargo of wheat to be brought back to this country. Let it be remembered that there are more ships than cargoes to Buenos Ayres today. Obviously the foreign ship, having bought bunker coal at a cheaper rate, has a distinct advantage compared with the British ship.
It is a matter of pence per ton in Buenos Ayres. It does not matter to the shipper there what ship carries his wheat; there is no sentiment about nationality or the flag or anything else. A great firm like that of Dreyfus or any other firm shipping wheat in Buenos Ayres must get it carried at the lowest possible rate. As I say, it is a question of pence per ton. The ship that has the subsidised coal has an advantage of several pence per ton compared with the British ship, and it gets the cargo of wheat. The British ship is left lying empty at her moorings in one of the most expensive ports in the world. This is a most serious question. It is not a good answer for the President of the Board of Trade to say to me, "But if this concession is granted to British ships the steel industry and other industries will have an equal claim on my consideration." The competition in shipping is 1327 different from that in any other industry.
If a British ship is driven off a trade route anywhere in the world immediately there is a foreign ship available to take its place. Physically a foreign ship is competing with the British ship ton per ton of cargo and pound per pound of freight on every trade route in the world. Our shipping has to meet far harsher and more strenuous competition than any other British industry. Of all the shipowners of the world British shipowners are least inclined to ask for Government assistance, although they compete with ships which have the advantage of every kind of subsidy and Government assistance and a very much lower wage standard. The shipping industry to-day is in such a condition as has never been known in the memory of any shipowner. Every thing must be taken into consideration in passing a Bill of this kind. With all the vehemence at my command I would urge the President of the Board of Trade to take this very serious matter into earnest consideration, and at least to permit this modest safeguard in a clause which, as it stands, may do harm that is incalculable.
§ Mr. RUNC1MAN
My hon. Friends have stated the case so well and so persuasively that it is scarcely necessary for me to give it any further support, but I thought I detected in the speech of the President of the Board of Trade on a previous Amendment, a suggestion that I was asking that a privilege should be given to the shipping industry which was not to be given to other industries. I think my right hon. Friend's logical mind has got a little out of gear. What is the privilege which I was asking for British shipping? It was that British shipping and all other shipping using our ports—because I carefully said "shipping under all flags"—should have the advantage with regard to bunker coal which is given to other consumers of British coal abroad. That is to say, that if there is to be a subsidy of 2s. a ton given on coal mined in this country and sent abroad to foreign consumers, we should also provide that that 2s. a ton will apply to bunker coal as well as to coal sent to other consumers abroad. What discrimination is there in that proposal? I merely asked 1328 that British shipping might be put on the same footing as foreign manufacturers, foreign gas consumers, foreign railways. That is all I ask—no discrimination but exactly the same footing as the other foreign consumers of coal.
Then my right hon. Friend came down to the argument of figures. Let us see exactly what his proposal amounts to. I am leaving out the subject of discrimination, because I really do not think that he is making a fair charge when he puts that point against me. All I am asking for is equality. But I wish to argue the question on its merits, not as a matter of theory but as a matter of actual practice. What does the right hon. Gentleman's proposal amount to as it stands if he does not count bunker coal as export coal? If there is a 6d. levy on inland consumed coal, and if that 6d. levy produces a 2s. subsidy, what is the result? These figures, I may say, are an underestimate in both cases, because there has been in South Yorkshire, under the Five Counties Scheme the instance of a 3d. levy producing over 3s. of a subsidy, and therefore I am keeping well within the mark. I apply that addition and subtraction to the normal price of bunker coal as it was a few weeks ago in the River Tyne—not even to the prices today when they are abnormally low. Bunker coal was then being sold at 15s. a ton on board ship at the Commissioner's staithes which is the usual bunkering place there. If this Bill goes through unaltered, it means that that 15s. will normally rise to 15s. 6d. because there will be a 6d. levy on to the 15s.; and at the same time, that coal, if it went abroad to the foreign consumer, would be landed in the foreign port and sold to them at 13s 6d. plus freight. One price would go up to 15s. 6d. and the other would come down to from 13s. to 13s. 6d.
My right hon. Friend may say that that will not enable the foreign ports to compete, but that is exactly what it does. If you add 6d. on to the one, and take 2s. off the other, you then make a gap between the two of at least half-a-crown, and it may be more. Then what happens abroad? The right hon. Gentleman apparently thinks—and I imagine the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) was also in some doubt about this point—that because the coal 1329 has to go abroad in ships, that, fact must equalise matters. Let me again give the actual facts. Only last week British coal was bought in Rotterdam and Flushing at 21s. a ton. Exactly the same coal was supplied to British ships in the Thames at 26s. 8d. per ton. That difference was not due to the machinations of the merchants or to something which is wrong with the capitalist system. Nothing of the kind. It was the bald cost of the coal plus port charges and handling charges and the dues which had to be paid in respect of it. Those are the facts.
When we come to a comparison between bunkering at Flushing or Rotterdam or the Hook, and bunkering at Immingham or the Tyne or Leith—very common bunkering places—what do we find? We find that the advantage which the Tyne and Immingham and Leith possess is offset by the fact that when a foreign vessel comes into any one of these three ports to bunker it has to pay port charges. I take a normal illustration. A vessel comes into the Tyne or Leith to take 400 tons of bunker coal. These 400 tons of coal at recent prices would have worked out at a cost of about £300 free on board, but the vessel would have had to pay port charges varying according to the size of the vessel from £75 to £125. Therefore, the total cost which the vessel has been put to by coming into one of these ports—with port charges, pilotage, dues, and all that added together—comes to from £375 to £425 according to the size of the vessel. If that vessel had taken the coal at Rotterdam or Flushing at 21s. it would have been put to exactly the same expense, but there would have been no loss of time, and I need not tell my right hon. Friend what a valuable thing time is in connection with shipping. The vessel would not have lost any time there; it would have bunkered there as soon as it had discharged its cargo brought in from the River Plate or wherever it came from, and would have been ready to go off elsewhere.
The advantage, therefore, lies at the present moment, by the mere throw of perhaps 6d. or 1s. a ton, with the foreign ports. We do not want that to go on, but under the Bill, if the right hon. Gentleman leaves it as it is, not only will that go on, but it will give them an 1330 advantage of 2s. 6d. a ton into the bargain. He cannot mean to do so. I am sure he does not intend to do so, and if anybody were to accuse him roundly of wishing to add to the disadvantages under which we already labour, a matter of another 2s. per ton, I feel sure that the right hon. Gentleman would repudiate the accusation. He would say that we had misconceived his character and his intellect in making such a suggestion. Yet that is actually what he is doing under these proposals. He does not seem to know that he is doing it, but he is doing it. I am not criticising my right hon. Friend for not knowing. He cannot be expected to know the technicalities of a business of this kind as intimately as those who live by it, but I assure him that in what I have just said I have understated every figure, and that I could give him dozens of instances of exactly the same kind of thing.
In these circumstances, is it unfair to say that when the coal leaves our ports, when it goes down the spout into the hold of the ship, it should always be regarded as export coal rather than that we should draw this artificial distinction? The reason why I say that is because you cannot discriminate, when the coal goes abroad, between bunker coal and other coal. If you put the other coal that goes abroad and the coal used for bunkering purposes on the same level, the discrimination which we are now describing would not arise, but under the Bill simply because coal goes into a foreign port to be used by foreign consumers it will receive the advantage of this bounty which is really placing our bunkering ports under a disadvantage.
I will tell my right hon. Friend what I should do with regard to any vessel with which I had to deal in these circumstances. I manage a vessel as a trustee, and it is my duty to get as much profit out of her as I can. I would have to bunker her abroad. I would do that with any vessel, because I do not want vessels to be laid up at a time when something like 300 ships are already laid up in British ports. I want to keep the vessels going, and in order to do that I am bound to do my bunkering in the places where I can do it cheapest, and if it is proposed to give an artificial advantage to me for bunkering in Rotterdam or Flushing, then I am bound to 1331 do it there and not to bring the vessel over here for bunkering purposes. Other people suffer in consequence. There are the trimmers, a very important class of the community, pilots, port hands and other men engaged in work of that character—they suffer as a result.
It might not be my duty always to cut the thing as fine as all that, and there is the advantage in bringing a vessel into the home port for bunkering that you can see it for yourself, but do not let us wipe out that advantage by unfair inverted and artificial discrimination of this kind. I think that my right hon. Friend cannot really have taken into account the effect of this artificial discrimination. I noticed that in the course of an earlier speech he made some reference to the price of coal, and I forget whether he said that bunker coal was dearer or Cheaper than other cargo. [HON. MEMBERS: "Dearer!"] I went to the trouble of refreshing my memory from trade sources by ascertaining the prices obtaining yesterday on the Newcastle exchange, and one cannot say that it is either dearer or cheaper. One cannot draw a distinction. What are known as "D.C.B.," which is a trade term for a fine standardised coal, was sold yesterday on the Newcastle exchange at from 14s. 3d. to 14s. 6d., according to the quantities taken. Tyne prime large were sold at from 13s. 9d. to 14s., and what are called best Durham bunker sold from 14s. 6d. to 15s. 6d. Turning to gas, I find that best Durham gas coal sold at 16s. and Wear special gas at 16s. 9d. What deduction can be drawn from these prices? Not the deduction drawn by my right hon. Friend. The deduction is that it is impossible to draw any trade distinction between bunker coal and coal which is sent for export. Every kind of coal is sent abroad as export coal—some of it is gas coal, some of it is coal to be used for lighting, some of it is coal to be used for railways, some of it is coal to be used for ships.
A very large proportion of our coal which goes abroad now is used as bunker coal ultimately, although it may not be called bunker coal when it goes from here. How does it go? It goes in the same ship as the other coal. It is let down the same spout as the other coal. 1332 A vessel goes alongside the stage, and she first gets coal put into her No. 2 hatch and her No. 3 hatch; then she has coal put into her No. 1 hatch and her No. 4 hatch. Then she takes coal into her side bunkers, and it is all the same coal. It all goes down the same spout, and ultimately it may be used for exactly the same purposes. If it goes to a coaling station, what does my right hon. Friend say? He says, "I have to draw a distinction between the coal in No. 1 hold and the coal in No. 2 hold although there may be nothing but a wooden partition between them." Is that logical? Is that sensible? Does it bring any advantage to the mining industry? That is what my right hon. Friend has at heart in this Bill. He wants to help the mining industry, and so do all of us. There are some of us who have given considerable pledges in regard to that matter, and have done so against our own personal interests. We all want to help the milling industry, but we cannot do so by the manipulation of an artificial discrimination of this kind.
If the right hon. Gentleman adopts this plan, I feel sure that in practice he will very soon want to abandon it. The only deduction to be drawn from it is that you are giving an artificial advantage to foreign coaling ports. You are placing a premium on the bunkering at foreign ports, not only of foreign vessels, but of British vessels and British fishing vessels, to which the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) referred with great exactitude and no exaggeration. Do not let us take any action of that kind. The trade is in a precarious enough state without placing it under any artificial disadvantages, and I beg of my right hon. Friend not to adhere too obstinately to the views which he has taken on this matter. He may say that it is logical. I am not an authority on logic, but I do pose as an authority on the price of coal. I have had to buy so much of it in my life that I know more or less what the conditions of the market are, and let my right hon. Friend believe me when I say that, if we pass these proposals as they stand, we are going to place British ports and our coaling stations under a grave disadvantage.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The case which has been put forward by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment 1333 and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) on the surface appears very strong indeed until one comes to examine it a little more closely. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken told us about the coal which was put into the No. 1 and the No. 4 holds of a ship, and then into the side bunkers for the engine-room, and he tried to make the House believe that a wooden partition dividing these different compartments would separate coal charged at different prices—the difference amounting to as much as 3s. according to the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley). [Interruption.] At any rate, the hon. Member said that there was a very substantial difference in the price. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has had a great deal to do with coalowners and has, I suppose, bought millions of tons of coal during his long and distinguished association with the shipping industry. Does he suppose that the coalowners are such lunatics that by putting a heavy difference, like that indicated by the hon. Member for Grimsby, on the coal supplied for bunkering and the coal supplied for export, they are going to kill their own business?
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
The short answer to that is that it is happening now under the Five Counties Scheme. I quoted figures given to me—and they are authentic—to the effect that at present export prices are 16s., and they are charging 18s. 6d., and there is a rebate on the export of 3s.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
That is a very narrow margin, but in any case this Five Counties Scheme has been praised up to the skies from the other side of the House. I have been taken to task and criticised for daring to lay my hand on that sacred ark of the covenant of the Conservative party. The Five Counties Scheme, as I have said before in this House, has put us to grave inconvenience in the fishing ports of this country. That was an ad hoc scheme, without any power of compulsion, entered into by amateurs, for selfish reasons, without the Board of Trade having any power or, under the late Government, any will to interfere; but under this Bill there are many safeguards. Let me, however, return to the right hon. Member for St. Ives. His shipowner friends are not going to be so mad as to differentiate 1334 between these two kinds of coal. They will get no advantage from so doing, and, if they do, remember that they are only encouraging the use of oil in British ships. If they make it more difficult for ships to bunker in our home ports, they will have more ships turning over to oil.
Again, you have to remember that this bunker coal will have to compete with Continental bunker coal. There is no special virtue in our bunker coal, and a great many ships bunker on the Continent with Continental coal. If business is conducted by coalowners according to the picture drawn by the right hon. Member for St. Ives, Heaven help this country! No Bill like this will save us. Only Socialism will save us. The right hon. Member quoted the case of Antwerp and the price of coal there, as compared with the price at the Port of London, but it is notorious that there has been a great deal of weak selling, with semibankrupt stocks of coal, and with the market very abnormal, and that is probably the explanation of those prices.
There is also this point to be made, that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the coalowners from giving the same advantage to bunker coal as to export coal. Have not the shipping interests got sufficient influence with the coal-owners to be able to point out to them that they are being hardly treated and that these losses are occurring in British ports, if they find that such is the case? As I say, as I read the Bill, it is only permissive, and they could give the same advantage to bunker coal as to export coal. All these things are raised up as a kind of bogy. I hope they are bogies, and I believe they are bogies.
I am waiting with great interest to hear what my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has to say with regard to the safeguards that I know he has considered very carefully in order to prevent these terrible things happening. My right hon. Friend, as President of the Board of Trade, is the father of British shipping. I believe he is a kindly father, and I believe that if our ships are driven to bunker in Hamburg or Antwerp, and if the shopkeepers of Hull and Grimsby and other places lose their trade—
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
The hon. Member always seems to think we are talking about a tariff on potatoes. The Government would hear from me very soon if these terrible things happened in Hull, and my right hon. Friend knows that, and he is prepared also for the representatives of the trimmers, for whom the right hon. Member for St. Ives has discovered some affection—
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
—and for the wharfingers, the men who assist the docking of the ships, and all those poor fellows who, the right hon. Member for St. Ives has suddenly discovered, will be hard hit. I welcome my right hon. Friend's interest in these shore workers, shopkeepers, and others, because I have heard him on other occasions declaring that they are most unreasonable in their demands on the unfortunate shipowners. But this point has been overlooked by the three hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have spoken. Is there not in the Bill a right of appeal by people who are aggrieved under the Bill? Are there not investigations to be made? Can they not, in the last resort, go direct to the Board of Trade? Cannot Parliamentary action be taken? All these things can be done, but under the Five Counties Scheme none of these things could be done, and that was the mischief of it. We could only raise complaints against the Five Counties Scheme, when the right hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Commodore King) was at the Ministry of Mines, as an act of grace, and he made inquiries and in due course got a reply from those who worked that scheme. Here it is totally different. This is a Government scheme, and if these things happen, we can apply for relief. If I thought that the case made out by the hon. Member for Grimsby and the right hon. Member for St. Ives was a real reflection of the facts, I would vote for the Amendment without hesitation.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I certainly would. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) has, I think, been in one short Parliament with me, but he should know that I should vote for anything that I thought was right, even if 1336 the best Government which we have ever had sitting on that bench was not in existence.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
If I thought these things would happen to the British fishing industry—because we export a great deal more coal from Hull than they do from Grimsby, and we bunker many more ships at Hull than do Grimsby and Immingham put together—I would join in defeating the Government on this clause, and indeed on the whole Bill, if necessary; but I do not think these things will happen, because I believe the coalowners are not going to be so stupid as they are made out to be, because I believe that the safeguards in the Bill will operate, and because I believe my right hon. Friend is just as much exercised for the prosperity of the shipping industry as is the hon. Member for Grimsby. As long as he is President of the Board of Trade, I am sure he will see that none of these disabilities apply. Therefore, I intend to support the Government on this Amendment.
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
I am sure that, brilliant though the speeches have been on this side of the House, none of the speeches could have afforded my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade so much uneasiness as that of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthv). The hon. and gallant Member may talk about bogies, but he knows there is no bogy here, and he knows perfectly well there is a very real problem to be faced.
The whole of the first part of his speech was an argument in favour of the Amendment rather than against it. He says there is to be no discrimination against British bunker coal in favour of export coal in foreign ports. Then why is there any objection to accepting the Amendment? If there is not going to be any difference between the prices charged at Goole, Hull and Immingham for coal for bunkering ships, either British or foreign, and coal bunkers at the Hook of Holland, 1337 or Helsingfors, or Flushing, or Rotterdam, then there is surely no case for the right hon. Gentleman getting up and saying that this Amendment is unnecessary, and if it is unnecessary, we may as well have it. But if, on the other hand, their fears, quite obvious under the heavy humour of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull, that there will be damage done to the bunker trade, are real fears, we had better have the words in the Bill now, so that when there is discrimination exercised bunker coal shall be treated as export coal.
In regard to the ports, we have not been influenced in this matter mainly by shipowners and the Chamber of Shipping. We have been influenced because of representations made by those who handle this trade in the ports, not merely by those who handle bunkers in the ports, either ordinary foreign trade or coastwise traffic, but because of the trawlers also. I beg the House to give weight to these points. Every port in the land is exercised in its mind about this matter, and when the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade puts up his usual arguments, I cannot find them convincing. He says that all that is designed under this clause is to sell coal at the European or world price. Surely that cannot carry conviction. Surely his mind is too good and clear to be influenced by his own statement.
If there is to be a larger export of British coal in Europe, it must be through one of two things. It must either find a new market somewhere, which does not appear on the surface at the present time, or it must undercut the price or coal that is competing with it. There is no possibility of enlarging the market unless you are able to lower the price. If that be so, the lower the price for export coal goes, the greater the discrimination, unless this Amendment is accepted, which will be shown against coal shipped into bunkers in our own trawlers or for our own ships here. Take my own port of Leith. This is what happens there. Leith is a fishing port, not one of the biggest, but a considerable one, and I have here a telegram from the Secretary of the Trawlowners Association there, in the following terms:Three hundred thousand tons coal shipped annually Leith Granton trawlers bunkers.1338 That is the amount of the trade there, and they have to compete with the trawlers to which the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) has referred. Take the trade in bunkers. That is a trade that has been steadily going up this last year or two. Our bunker trade in 1926 for coastwise traffic was 112,512 tons and for foreign traffic 205,203 tons, or a total of 317,715 tons. Last year, 1929, it was 163,180 tons coastwise and 218,083 tons foreign trade, or a total of 381,263 tons bunker trade in the Port of Leith alone. Is it to be wondered at that those who handle this traffic are in the gravest alarm at a possible diversion of that trade? Let me read to the House a typical letter which I have received from one of those engaged in the traffic. This is the view of a practical man, and it is a letter from a shipowner who is daily engaged in this business. He says:There can, of course, be no question that steamers requiring bunkers will be influenced as to their choice of a bunkering station by the price at which they can get the coals. For instance, German coals are always in good supply at the Hook of Holland, and that port is also in many ways convenient and cheap, and is in keen competition with British ports for bunkering purposes.6.0 p.m.
If that is so now, what is to be the effect if we not only have to compete in bunker trade with German coal, but with British coal, sold in those ports at an artificially low price because of this particular Bill? It is useless for the right hon. Gentleman to repeat his arguments about this matter. If they are going to increase the export of coal, they will have to lower the price. If they do not do that, they will not increase their markets. If they do that, unless they make sure that there is no discrimination used against the British bunkering trade, we shall have sorry results for unemployment all round the ports of the land, including the port of Hull. I can imagine the kind of speech which the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull would have made about these proposals if the right hon. Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister) had brought it in last year. I beg the President of the Board of Trade at this last moment to bring an open mind to this matter, and to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
I have already explained to the House in the Debate on 1339 the preceding Amendment the reasons why we must regard this as an important point, and why we must adhere to the view which we have taken. I can only repeat that that remains our view. So far as I could, I have covered the ground in the reply to the previous Amendment, but I should like to try and deal with one or two of the points which have been raised in this Debate, which has covered a pretty wide ground. My hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley), and also to some extent my hon. Friend the Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown), put the case for the fishing industry, and indicated how unfortunate it would be if by any chance they were placed at a disadvantage in having to bunker elsewhere. I want to assure the hon. Members that there is no consideration of that kind before us in this Bill.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
The point is that if the price is lowered to foreign trawlers, that will be unfair to our men.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
I am coming to the questions which the hon. Members raised. The condition in the ports is quite plainly a subject which is very far removed from, or at all events cannot be dealt with, in the limits of this Amendment. One hon. Member said he did not want to see the conditions of the men employed in this country brought down to the level of conditions abroad, but that is a matter for international labour regulations. It is not a matter which we can properly deal with here; all that we are trying to do is to secure that coal is sold at an economic price. A large part of the argument has turned on the point which I endeavoured to make on an earlier Amendment, and the constant suggestion that this device for facilitating the export of coal is designed to place that coal on European markets at something less than European price. The hon. Member for Leith has just repeated that argument, and argued that, in fact, there would be some form of subsidy in the strict sense, that British coal would be exported and sold at a price undercutting the European price, and that only in that way should we be getting the market. If a proper analysis is made of this, that is to a large extent the very evil that this Bill is designed to cure.
1340 There is the very recent experience of placing coal from certain export districts in this country, from Northumberland and Durham, on the Belgian market at prices below the prices obtaining in the coalfield of South Wales, because in one case you had some form of order or regulation, while in the other you had unregulated competition between British exporters. It is to deal with a situation of that kind, both at home and abroad, that this Bill is designed. I cannot make it too plain that this device, in so far as it will be used, is designed to enable us to compete at the European price, and, unless we can compete at the European price, we shall not get that trade. But if we can compete at that price, then beyond dispute the quantity of the coal exported from this country will be the important consideration. Side by side with that argument, hon. Members have suggested some very large suggestions of differentiation in price, and they have founded that suggestion upon the Five Counties Scheme, which was able to give a levy ranging up to 3s. 6d. a ton. The conditions there may be so far regarded as exceptional, because, as I pointed out earlier in the Debate, they have an enormous inland trade on which to impose that levy, and have only from 8 to 10 per cent. of export trade, which they have increased in recent times. That is not a state of affairs which obtains in any other export district in the country.
While I cannot for a single moment indicate the kind of levy which would be imposed if this is ever used, or the assistance which will be given to facilitate the sale of that class of coal, I would be inclined to say that it cannot be on the scale of the Five Counties Scheme. I do not exclude the possibility of this being done nationally by the owners, although that is not provided for in this legislation, but let the House remember that, so far as the Bill is concerned—and that is all that is before us, because we have no control over what the owners may do in the ordinary practice of the trade so long as the trade is not nationally controlled. That is not touched, but so far as the Bill is concerned there can now be no control over any voluntary national levy. That is precluded under the Bill as it is now. This consideration really forms 1341 the basis of the reply to hon. Members, who seem to think that the shipping industry will be prejudiced unless the export and bunker prices are assimilated. The real reply, perhaps the only reply, to the defence which I have offered on a previous Amendment is surely this. I did not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) claims special consideration for shipping. That was not the way, unless I expressed myself badly, in which I intended to put the case, but in practice, in my view, that would be the effect of this Amendment if it were carried, because the only practical result would be that the price of bunker coal is assimilated to export coal in so far as the sale of the coal is facilitated by this levy in the districts.
My right hon. Friend quoted very recent prices from the north-east coast, and he concluded by saying that he really could not say that these prices are higher or lower as between bunker and export. That may be on the figures of to-day. I do not profess to be an expert on the shipping industry or on bunker prices. All I have professed from beginning to end of this Bill is not more than a reasonable knowledge of the conditions gathered from a very wide circle who know the industry, and all sections of the trade. My information is to the effect that, taking similar grades of coal over broad periods of time, bunker prices are generally higher than export prices. Here is the position which my right hon. Friend made, that he wishes to insert a provision under which the present trade practice would be altered and the shipping industry given a privilege which would not be extended to any other industry. In my view that interpretation cannot be disputed. He may contend that practice is to be regretted, and so far as the sale of export coal is facilitated, the bunker price and the export price ought to be on the same basis. That is not the state of affairs at the present time, and I do not think you could really give that privilege to shipping in justice to this Bill unless you were to do it over the whole range of industry, and that is not suggested.
I beg the House to remember that it is not the case that this device will be used to facilitate the sale of export coal to all markets. That has never been 1342 suggested. It will only be used to facilitate the sale of coal to those markets which require this form of assistance. It may be large or small, but at any rate, that is the proposal of the Bill. If we cannot assimilate the prices in this way, it remains true that bunker coal may be regarded as a class of coal under the Bill and could itself be assisted; as indeed my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) reminded the House, it may be a class of coal quite entitled to special consideration, either in this respect or in regard to the quota, from time to time. I have expressly refused to mislead the House by saying that it will necessarily be a class of coal to be specially treated under this provision, and it would be improper for me or for any Minister in charge of the Bill to say anything of the kind. The class of coal for that purpose could only be determined when circumstances demand that delimitation and that assistance.
That is a possibility under the Bill, and as a matter of fact, if we were in danger of the loss of that bunker trade, in my judgment it would be wrong and foolish beyond description if the coalowners were to take any action which might result in the reduction of that trade. Further, there are safeguards also as regards the consumers. If it is suggested that they are in any way prejudiced, either in price or in anything which is done under these schemes, which in their view prejudices them unfairly, they have the right to raise it through the Investigation Committee, and if they can convince that committee that there is substance in their complaint, the matter proceeds automatically to arbitration and a decision. I cannot possibly agree to a provision in this Bill which, however well intentioned, and for which my right hon. Friend argued so ably, would have the effects I have described. The suggestion that is involved would in practice alter the existing custom of the trade, and put this bunker coal in an exceptional position as compared with other classes of coal. I have endeavoured to explain to hon. Members opposite that I have met the points they have put in the other stages of the Bill. The Government must regard the question now before the House as an important matter, and we must adhere to our position in the Division Lobby, but I hope that the 1343 explanation which I have given, which in my judgment affords adequate safeguards, will enable us to get this clause
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
I am bound to say that the explanation which has been given by the right hon. Gentleman carried little conviction. I have seldom heard a Debate which has been so completely one-sided. The speeches made by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Sir B. Chadwick), the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) and by my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) brought forward most cogent arguments, and I am quite sure that any Member, in any quarter of the House. who has listened to the whole Debate. without having a closed mind, must have come to the conclusion that the balance of argument rests emphatically on the side of those who criticise the proposal in the Bill. The President of the Board of Trade has repeated that all that this provision in the Bill purports to do is to secure that British coal shall be sold at the European price. What is meant by "the European price"? When the matter is examined economically, one sees that there is no such thing as a European price. It is wholly a question of geography. There is one price for coal in one part of Europe and another price in another part of Europe, and the competition of the British coalfields as against the Polish or German coalfields or the French coalfields is wholly a question of the proximity of a market to a coalfield. It is a question of radius, of distance. When the Royal Commission went into this matter, it was clearly shown to us that it was wholly a question of geographical areas. In certain places British coal can compete without difficulty and can command the market; in other markets, which are closer to their coalfields, Ruhr or Polish coal can command the market; and then there are the intervening areas, where competition is exceedingly keen, and within those areas are some of the ports.
The prices which are fixed in the market are determined not solely by the price at which German or Polish coal is sold, but also by the price at which British coal is sold. The British price is a determining factor in the various prices of coal in different parts of Europe. To take an extreme case, if we gave a sub- 1344 sidy of 5s. a ton on every ton coal exported to Europe, the European price would be greatly affected, and in many markets of Europe prices would be lowered by the subsidy we had given. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman speaks of "the European price," as though it were something absolute, to which this country must conform, his argument does not carry conviction. But, in any case, that point, if it were relevant at all, was relevant on the previous Amendment, and not on this Amendment. Let us assume for a moment that a subsidy is to be given an order to enable British coal to be sold at what the right hon. Gentleman calls "the European price." The question we are now discussing is what would be the effect of the subsidy upon British bunker coal and upon our ports, which live very largely by the bunkering which they carry on. He said the suggestion of 3s. a ton must be an exaggeration of the amount involved, because we are simply on a district basis and not on a national basis. The answer to that is that the Yorkshire scheme will remain under this Bill and will be given the advantage of legislative authority and compulsion. If it has been possible hitherto for Yorkshire to give a 3s. bounty on its export coal, it will also be possible in the future. That 3s. has been granted. I do not know what the figure is at this moment. [Interruption.] Oh, it is now 3s. The difference, so far as Yorkshire coal is concerned, will still continue. Scotland will be able to subsidise Fife coal by putting a levy not only on Fife coal but Lanarkshire coal; and a figure of 3s. for certain classes of coal is, I submit, no exaggeration.
Then the right hon. Gentleman says we should be putting the shipowner in a position of unfair privilege in relation to the other industries of the country: that we should be securing to him that his coal should be free from the levy and be given a subsidy, while the coal for steel manufacturers and for cotton manufacturers had no such advantage. If I understood the right hon. Gentleman rightly, that was his argument, that we are putting this coal in a special class; but, is the House seriously asked to believe that the British shipowner is competing as regards the price of his coal with steelworks or cotton manufacturers? A 1345 British ship is not competing with a British steelmaster or a British manufacturer in Birmingham, or wherever it may be. The British ship is competing against the foreign ship, that is where the competition is, and so far from our asking for the British shipowner to be put in a position of privilege, we are only begging the right hon. Gentleman not to put him in a position of disadvantage as compared with the foreign shipowner to whom we are going to present a bounty, it may be of 3s. or 2s., in the price of coal which he is able to purchase in his world-wide competition with our shipping.
The position is perfectly clear. The right hon. Gentleman has made a speech which was really relevant to the previous Amendment but not to this one. There are two perfectly simple questions: Will there be a subsidy, or will there not? He says that possibly there may be and possibly there may not be. If there is not to be, then there is no reason why this Amendment should not be accepted; but if there is to be, the fact remains that coal which is bought for bunkers abroad will be cheaper than coal which is bought for bunkers here. That is certain on the facts, and the result must inevitably be that our ports will be put at a disadvantage and all those who gain a livelihood from the bunkering trade will be under a disadvantage.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
All that could be done now, but in practice it is done only in very few cases.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
It might be a question whether Parliament should forbid it. Now we are asked to make it legislative, and to give coalowners power to compel everybody to pay those levies. At present there is no obligation upon any mine-owner to pay this levy at all, but we are going to compel him to do it by Act of Parliament, and that may lead to a much larger extension of this scheme. Then there is this further point, upon which the right hon. Gentleman did not touch, a point made with so much cogency by the right hon. Member for St. Ives. A ship comes to a port in England and takes on board coal. That coal will have two prices. The coal which is put into the bunkers in order to enable that ship to make its voyage is to be at the ordinary normal price, plus a levy. The coal which is to be taken in the same ship to a foreign port to be sold to foreign ship- 1346 owners is to have no levy charged on it and is to be given a subsidy. Is it conceivable that that plan can be defended? No wonder the right hon. Gentleman, with his acute mind, did not even venture to give an answer to that question.
Lastly, the right hon. Gentleman said that in any case, when this Bill becomes law, the coalowners will be able to declare that this is a special class of coal and to say that the levy shall not be made upon it or that the subsidy may apply to it, one or the other, or both. I have no doubt that is so. He says that coalowners in this country will be fully alive to the circumstances, and will realise that it would be a great advantage to their trade and to our ports if they were to do what this Bill as it now stands enables them to do. But he could not give any pledge. He said he would be wrong in saying that they would exclude bunker coal from the levy and would treat it as though it were export coal, although he said that in his opinion the industry would be wrong and foolish—those were his words—if they did not do so.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
May I explain that point? All I said was that, if there were any danger of the loss of that trade, bunker coal could be classified for special consideration under this proposal, just like the coal for iron and steel or any other class of coal. I cannot say that will be the case, but I do go so far as to say that the industry will take care not to lose the trade if those facilities are required to keep it.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
The right hon. Gentleman said it would be "wrong and foolish" if they were not to classify it separately if there were any prospect of such a loss. That is what we ask. When the Bill comes into law the right hon. Gentleman will have to approve the schemes. Parliament will still have a certain measure of control through the Government of the day, because he is responsible to Parliament, and Parliament will watch carefully what is done. In view of the very strong feeling which is evident in the House, and the strength of the arguments, I venture to ask whether he could not give us some assurance that he will safeguard the interests of our ports in the manner which has been desired. If he will do so that will certainly influence our course of action.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
Will my right hon. Friend permit me to reply at once? That has always been a consideration which has been before the Government and before me, very clearly, at the Board of Trade. I have always tried to make it plain to the House that I must bear all these considerations in mind, and I can give my right hon. Friend complete assurance on that point.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I understand, then, that the right hon. Gentleman will make sure that the evils which have been prognosticated as possible, in so far as there is a reasonable chance of their occurring, will be safeguarded against by him, that he will not permit such an arrangement to be made under this Bill that our British ports will be put at a financial disadvantage compared with other ports with regard to bunkering coal and with regard to the other points raised? If I understood that from the right hon. Gentleman, and I do not think I misunderstood him—
§ Mr. GRAHAM
The position is that we have to approve the schemes, that we have to satisfy ourselves that the machinery of all the schemes is appropriate, and protect all classes of demand; and side by side with that I must use such influence as I possess, in constant touch with the industry, to see that those abuses do not arise. I may say that, all along the owners have never suggested that there should be other than a very clear understanding that the whole object is to safeguard legitimate interests. It is their advantage to do so.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I am sure, then, that the right hon. Gentleman will see to it that the coal which is sold to British ships for bunkers shall not be at a disadvantage compared with similar coal exported for similar purposes for either British ships or foreign ships; and that being so, I will consult with my hon. friends about the course which we will take.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has any power to do this. I would put two points to the House. It has been the immemorial custom of the House in framing legislation to frame it in a form which will carry out what is proposed. 1348 Over and over again we have had instances where the House has been told that the Minister would take action in a particular way, and it has been said, "If that is the action which you propose to take, put it in the Bill. You give an undertaking to the House, but you may be out of office to-morrow and there may be somebody else in your place." [Interruption.] This is not a dialectical point. It is a regular constitutional way of doing things. If you want an Act of Parliament to have a certain effect, the proper thing to do is to see that the Act of Parliament does it, and it is a novel proposition deliberately to leave out of an Act the words which will give you the security, and rely upon an undertaking by a Minister that he will exercise his discretion in a particular way. This undertaking operates in two ways. The President, in the first place, has to approve the scheme. The scheme need not provide in the first instance for a levy to subsidise exports. I do not understand that it would. make that provision, because the President of the Board of Trade said that we should not know, to start with, whether it would be required or not, and the right hon. Gentleman has told us that it is a thing which the coalowners will have to decide as they go along.
They may find that no such provision is necessary, and they may find that they are not called upon to meet competition for which the scheme is supposed to provide. The scheme will not provide that there shall be a levy upon coal in a certain district, and that it shall be applied for a particular purpose. That will not be the case. What will happen will be that the scheme will give a general permissive power to the coalowners to impose a levy at some future time for such purposes as they think fit. That is the scheme. That scheme comes to the President of the Board of Trade, and he may approve of it, or he may disapprove of it. Therefore, the undertaking which the right hon. Gentleman has given to the House is really quite valueless for the purpose of making proper provision in these schemes, and I hope that no one will run away with the impression that what has been promised is a possible way of giving effect to the intentions of this House. In these circumstances, I hope that the Amendment will be carried.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. LAMBERT WARD
The President of the Board of Trade has given to the House a promise that steps will be taken to see that the state of affairs which we fear will not take place. As far as the rest of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, I must express my disappointment, and also the disappointment of many hon. Members on this side of the House. The President of the Board of Trade gave a long dissertation upon what could not possibly take place, and what was not at all likely to happen. Let me deal with what is actually going on at the present time. At the present moment, under the Five Counties Scheme, coal can be bought in the ports of Belgium and Northern France at a ridiculously low price—lower, in fact, than it can be bought in this country. At the present moment, passenger boats are bunkering on the other side at foreign ports with British coal, and a very large number of British steamers are beginning to take their coal on the other side instead of taking it at our own ports where they normally used to take on British coal. The effect of this Bill will be to give legal sanction to what is now being done under the Five Counties Scheme. It will give legal sanction to that practice, and the only result will be the establishment of a line of coaling stations along the whole coast of Western Europe to catch British ships, and sell to them bunker coal at a lower price than they can buy it at the bunkering ports in this country. That is already being done at the Hook of Holland and staithes are being erected at Flushing to catch vessels coming from Antwerp for the purpose of selling them bunker coal there.
The result will be that a vessel coming from the River Plate to Antwerp and on her next voyage taking coal out from Cardiff, instead of bunkering at Cardiff, will drop into staithes at Flushing, take her bunker coal at Flushing and proceed to Cardiff to take up her cargo. The shipowner will not suffer, because he will get his coal at a lower price, and his vessel will have something inside her to keep her quiet if she meets with a gale. The coalowner will not suffer, because he gets a subsidy. There is only one person who will have to pay the piper and that is the coal consumer, who has to pay an 1350 additional price for his coal in order to subsidise the coal which is sent abroad. What applies at the Hook of Holland and Flushing will also apply at Dunkirk or Havre. Vessels will take their bunkers before they leave continental ports, and in the long run this kind of thing is bound to have an adverse effect upon the trade of the ports of this country where those vessels normally used to bunker.
The case of the shipping trade has been very ably put by several hon. Members below the Gangway. What we are complaining of will adversely affect the British trawlers; in fact, it will very seriously affect British trawler owners who are now suffering from competition with German coal. The Germans have a lower standard of living, and the lower wages which the Germans, the Dutch, and the Danish fishermen are prepared to accept on trawlers going to the Northern fishing grounds and coming back to sell their catches in Hull enable them to sell their fish at a price with which a British trawler cannot possibly compete. This Bill will put a premium on British trawlers going to continental coaling stations in order to take their bunker coal. There is one other additional fact which ought to be of considerable interest to hon. Members who represent Banffshire, Aberdeen and Moray. In future their constituents, when they see a vessel flying a foreign flag trawling in the Moray Firth, will have the satisfaction of knowing that she is being fired with subsidised British coal. Further, they will know that the coal with which the fishermen at home are attempting to keep their home fires burning have paid a levy to enable the foreign poacher in their waters to get his coal at less than cost.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
We cannot leave this question where it is at the present time. I am sure that it is the opinion of an enormous majority of the people that British shipowners ought not to be unfairly penalised. That is a point upon which we all feel very strongly. We ought not to subsidise foreigners, and, at the same time, require our shipowners to pay the full price for British coal. Nobody wants that to happen, and I would ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is really in a position to carry out the undertaking which he has given to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). The posi- 1351 tion of the Liberal party on this Amendment is more extraordinary than ever, and we want to know how long they propose to play with the House of Commons over this Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen made two brilliant speeches, and presented a number of cogent arguments in favour of this Amendment. After that the President of the Board of Trade said that he would certainly undertake to use his influence, as far as he could, to see that British shipowners were not unfairly penalised as against their foreign rivals and competitors. We have a right to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is really in a position to carry out any undertaking on this matter at all. I do not think he is. I do not believe he is in a position, in connection with any particular scheme, to give such an undertaking one way or the other. I think that is beyond his power under the terms of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman himself represents a constituency in which there is a large number of fishing ports, and I would like to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any authority to carry out the undertaking which he gave to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen.
§ Mr. EBENEZER EDWARDS
I should not have risen in this Debate had it not been that, in my opinion, the speeches which have been made on this Amendment have not really dealt with the subject of the Amendment. The question before us is that of facilities for the sale of coal, and this Amendment seeks to restrict those facilities; in other words, while the object of the Bill is to assist the mining industry, this Amendment is put forward in the interests of a distinct industry apart from that of mining. The point that we have to face, and the reason for the introduction of the Bill, is that, as must be recognised on all sides, the coal trade of this country has lost its place and prestige in the markets of the world. Starting from that basis, we have to remember that there is clear proof that, while in 1913 this country was supplying 12.9 per cent. of the world's consumption, we dropped in 1925 to 8.5 per cent., in 1927 to 7.8 per cent., and in 1928 to 7.4 per cent.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is now dealing with the Bill as a whole, 1352 but what is before the House is a particular Amendment to deal with the bunkering of ships.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
The proposed Amendment will restrict the facilities of the employers to carry on this industry efficiently. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) has indicated the price that will have to be paid in the port of Newcastle. He knows as well as I do that prices at Newcastle have dropped from 23s. 11d. in 1921 to 10s. 11d., so that, in other words, our men have been levying on their bodies in this industry, and facilities are needed for making the price within the industry at least sufficient to give our men a living. I hope that the Amendment will not be accepted.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
I have listened to this Debate with considerable interest. It affects many places of which I have considerable knowledge, not from the point of view of the big shipowner, but from the point of view of one who has been in continual touch over his whole life with a large number of small ports, and there is no reason why their point of view should not be put to the House. There is another point on which I desire first to comment, and that is the amazing position which has been taken up by the President of the Board of Trade. It is an amazing position even for him. Just now he informed the House that he would do his best to see that nothing happened in the way of dangers of the kind which have been illustrated from all quarters of the House, but it is not in his power to do anything. All that he can do is to use his good offices, and say to these committees, "Please do not do this," or "Please do not do that." What we are afraid of, and what we wish by this Amendment to prevent, is the possibility of subsidising coal so that foreigners, or, for that matter, British ships bunkering in foreign ports, should be able to buy coal more cheaply than they can buy it in their own home ports. In other words, we do not wish to do anything to help the foreign port against the British port. We do not ask for any particular help for the British port; we know that it would be perfectly hopeless to do that with the President of the Board of Trade; but we do ask him not to weight 1353 the balance against the British port, as we are afraid may happen under this clause.
Our fears are not groundless. Earlier this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman said that he wanted to help forward the export trade in coal, that he wanted to get the trade away to those foreign ports so that they could get coal there on easy terms. Again, when he spoke just now of the export trade to markets which require this kind of assistance, the kind of assistance to which he was referring was of a very simple kind. It will enable, under this particular provision of the Bill, not necessarily a subsidy—it need not be called by that name—but an assistance of, it may be, as has been pointed out from below the Gangway, several shillings a ton, to be given to this coal which goes abroad for the bunkering of vessels in Hamburg, Antwerp, or any other foreign port.
That is a point which I desire to raise with the President of the Board of Trade himself, but there is another point in connection with this Amendment which I think might fairly be considered. We have round the coasts of this country a large number of very small harbours and ports—places like Brixham, Falmouth, St. Ives and Penzance—which, during recent years, as far as the coastal trade is concerned, have been suffering from very bad conditions. I think that theirs is the last appeal which could be neglected by anyone with a knowledge of these small ports, with all their difficulties, such as have been pointed out by the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E.
§ Brown) with regard to his own town, or Grimsby, or the other small ports which I have mentioned. It is quite conceivable that, under the Bill as it now stands, their conditions may be made worse. All that we ask is that the Government should accept this Amendment, which will do something to secure that, at any rate, the balance is not put further against them than it is at the present time.
§ Mr. BEAUMONT
I agree with the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) that we cannot leave this matter exactly where it is. Several very pertinent questions have been addressed to the President of the Board of Trade by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister), and not only have those questions received no reply whatever, but during the last part of the Debate there has been on the Front Bench no representative of the Board of Trade at all. I think it is treating this House with a great deal less than courtesy that, on an Amendment which is admitted in all quarters of the House to be a very important one, not only has no answer been given to these questions, but the Board of Trade has not even troubled to have a representative on the Front Bench. We all pay tribute to the courtesy with which the President of the Board of Trade has treated the House during these Debates, and we regret very much that he should have lapsed from it on such an important Amendment as this.
Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 165; Noes, 271.1357
|Division No. 247.]||AYES.||[6.50 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Briscoe, Richard George||Croft, Brigadler-General Sir H.|
|Alnsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd'., Hexham)||Crookshank, Capt. H. C.|
|Allen, Lt.-col. Sir William (Armagh)||Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Culverwell, C. T. Bristol, West)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Carver, Major W. H.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Atkinson, C.||Castle Stewart, Earl of||Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Balniel, Lord||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Davies, Dr. Vernon|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Chamberiain, Rt.Hn.Sir J.A. (Birm., W.)||Davison, Sir W. H. Kensington, S.)|
|Bennett, Sir Albert (Nottingham, C.)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Dixey, A. C.|
|Berry, Sir George||Chapman, Sir S.||Duckworth, G. A. V.|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Christie, J. A.||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Eden, Captain Anthony|
|Blindell, James||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Colfox, Major William Philip||England, Colonel A.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)|
|Boyce, H. L.||Colville, Major D. J.||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Bracken, B.||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Cowan, D. M.||Fleiden, E. B.|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Cranbourne, Viscount||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lymington, Viscount||Savery, S. S.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Simms, Major-General J.|
|Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Marjoribanks, E. C.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam).|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Spender-Clay. Colonel H.|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Hanbury, C.||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Muirhead, A. J.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Harbord. A.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsl'ld)||Train, J.|
|Haslam, Henry C.||O'Neill, Sir H.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Penny, Sir George||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.|
|Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Ramsbotham, H.||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Rantoul, Sir Gervais S.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Reynolds, Col. Sir James||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Ross, Major Ronald D.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir kingsley|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Young, Rt. Hon. sir Hilton|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Long, Major Eric||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart||Major the Marquess of Titchfield|
|and Sir Victor Warrender.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Clarke, J. S.||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Cluse, W. S.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Herriotts, J.|
|Altchison, Rt. Hon. Cralgie M.||Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hllisbro')||Compton, Joseph||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Cove, William G.||Hoffman, P. C.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Daggar, George||Hollins, A.|
|Angell, Norman||Dallas, George||Hopkin, Daniel|
|Arnott, John||Dalton, Hugh||Horrabin, J. F.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)|
|Ayles, Walter||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Isaacs, George|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bllston)||Devlin, Joseph||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Dickson, T.||John, William (Rhondda. West)|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Dukes, C.||Johnston, Thomas|
|Barr, James||Duncan, Charles||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Batey, Joseph||Ede, James Chuter||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Bellamy, Albert||Edmunds, J. E.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Kelly, W. T.|
|Bennett, Capt. E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Freeman, Peter||Kennedy, Thomas|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.|
|Benson, G.||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Kinley, J.|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Gibbins, Joseph||Kirkwood, D.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs. Mossley)||Knight, Holford|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Gill, T. H.||Lang, Gordon|
|Bowen, J. W.||Gillett, George M.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Gossling, A. G.||Lathan, G.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Gould, F.||Law, Albert (Bolton)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Graham, D. M. (Lanark. Hamilton)||Law, A. (Rosendale)|
|Bromfield, William||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Lawrence, Susan|
|Bromley, J.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Coine)||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)|
|Brooke, W.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lawson, John James|
|Brothers, M.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Groves, Thomas E.||Leach, W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)|
|Buchanan, G.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lees, J.B|
|Burness, F. G.||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Lindley, Fred W.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Hardie, George D.||Lloyd, C. Ellis|
|Caine, Derwent Hall-||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Cameron, A. G.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Cape, Thomas||Haycock, A. W.||Longden, F.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Hayday, Arthur||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hayes, John Henry||Lowth, Thomas|
|Chater, Daniel||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Lunn, William|
|Church, Major A. G.||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Pole, Major D. G.||Strauss, G. R.|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Potts, John S.||Sullivan, J.|
|McElwee, A.||Price, M. P.||Sutton, J. E.|
|McEntee, V. L.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Mackinder, W.||Raynes, W. R.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)|
|McKinlay, A.||Richards, R.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|MacLaren, Andrew||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|McShane, John James||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Mansfield, W.||Ritson, J.||Toole, Joseph|
|March, S.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Tout, W. J.|
|Marcus, M.||Romeril, H. G.||Townend, A. E.|
|Markham, S. F.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Marley, J.||Rowson, Guy||Turner, B.|
|Marshall, Fred||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Vaughan, D. J.|
|Mathers, George||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)||Viant, S. P.|
|Matters, L. W.||Sanders, W. S.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Melville, Sir James||Sandham, E.||Walker, J.|
|Messer, Fred||Sawyer, G. F.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Middleton, G.||Scrymgeour, E.||Wellhead, Richard C.|
|Mills, J. E.||Scurr, John||Watkins, F. C.|
|Milner, Major J.||Sexton, James||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Montague, Frederick||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Morley, Ralph||Sherwood, G. H.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Shield, George William||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Mort, D. L.||Shillaker, J. F.||West, F. R.|
|Moses, J. J. H.||Shinwell, E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Simmons, C. J.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Muff, G.||Sinkinson, George||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Muggeridge, H. T.||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Murnin, Hugh||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Noel Baker, P. J.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Palin, John Henry||Snell, Harry||Wise, E. F.|
|Paling, Wilfrid||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|Palmer, E. T.||Sorensen, R.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Perry, S. F.||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Stephen, Campbell||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Phillips, Dr. Marion||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. B.|
|Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe||Smith.|