§ 37. Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether, having regard to the loss of export trade for British coal to the Irish Free State, he will take steps to end the dispute which has resulted in the transfer of orders for a million tons a year to Germany and Poland; and whether, in the interests of unemployed coal miners in South Wales, he will attempt to negotiate a settlement of this dispute?
Mr. J. H. THOMAS
As I have said before, in reply to previous questions, I regret that the action which the Irish Free State Government have seen fit to take in pursuance of their dispute with this country has caused loss of trade to both countries. As regards the second part of the question, I have, on several 761 occasions, made it clear that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom remain desirous of a friendly settlement with the Irish Free State and I should at any time be ready to attempt to negotiate such a settlement—provided that I was satisfied that the conditions existed which would make such an attempt worth while.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the working people in the coalfield are looking to him to show an inclination to bring the dispute to an end and give them a chance to work?
I am sure the working people in the coalfield represent the feeling of the majority of people in the country and would desire us to take a stand on ground which they believe to be right.
§ Mr. BURNETT
Is it not the case that much of the coal that used to be shipped to Ireland is now being used for making the same goods in this country that used to be made in Ireland?
§ Mr. RONALD ROSS
Is there not a vast volume of goods entering this country without paying any duty at all, and will the right hon. Gentleman bear that in mind in view of attempts to interfere with British trade?
In imposing any duty we have never attempted to be vindictive. The object of imposing the duty was to secure to the revenues of this country money to which in our judgment we were entitled.
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
May we take it that the right hon. Gentleman is making no attempt at all to bring this unfortunate dispute to an end?
I have repeatedly stated that we will welcome any opportunity of bringing the dispute to a satisfactory conclusion, but no one knows better than the hon. Gentleman that an approach is sometimes interpreted as weakness. Our position has been made clear repeatedly. We have never slammed the door, we will not slam it, and we are open to negotiation at all times.
§ Sir MURDOCH McKENZIE WOOD
Does the right hon. Gentleman think the Empire would be shocked if the Government would concede to the Irish Free 762 State the question of the composition of the tribunal?