HC Deb 24 February 1937 vol 320 cc1979-81
30. Mr. H. G. Williams

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the reasons which led the Government of Malta to buy the cargo of Westphalian coal which arrived in Malta on 3rd February on the steamship "Fintra"?

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)

On 6th November last the Government of Malta invited tenders locally for the supply of 3,000 tons of Welsh washed sized coal for use in the Government Electricity Department. No offers were received by 18th December when the tenders fell due, and the Crown Agents for the Colonies were asked to assist by obtaining if possible smaller successive consignments from South Wales

I think the hon. Member is under a misapprehension. In my reply to him on Wednesday, 17th February, I did not say that the information could not be obtained, but that it would be of doubtful value for the reasons which I gave in my reply, and that the only method of obtaining it would be to call for reports from all commands and establishments. I am at present obtaining information of the number of ratings who have been reported on the special form and who are qualified to be recommended, and, if the hon. Member wishes, I will supply these figures to him when they have been received and collated. I think this information would be of more value to him than that for which he is now asking.

Mr. Shinwell

When does the right hon. Gentleman expect to reach a final conclusion on this matter?

Sir S. Hoare

I could not possibly say until I have the data.

Following is the table:

or elsewhere. They failed, however, to obtain any offer of coal of the kind necessary for the purpose in question. The Government of Malta was thus compelled to accept the offer of Westphalian coal to which the hon. Member refers.

Mr. Williams

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his very clear and frank reply, may I ask him whether he will be good enough to communicate the substance of it to the coal organisations in this country and to the Commissioner for the Special Areas?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I agree. This is the second time that this has happened. Malta requires about 14,000 tons of Welsh coal a year, and last time the same thing happened. Tenders were invited for Welsh coal, but no offer was made by any of the Welsh firms.

Sir Archibald Sinclair

Does it not mean that the quota system ought to be revised?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I am sure it has nothing to do with the quota system.

Mr. G. Hall

Will the right hon. Gentleman communicate with the committee in South Wales concerning this very important matter?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I think that public attention will be drawn to it by this question.