HC Deb 22 May 1939 vol 347 cc1910-3
46. Mr. Windsor

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that an order from Denmark for thousands of tons of British gas-coke to be exported over the period June to December, 1939, could not be accepted because the International Coke Convention regulations prevented producers from disposing of the whole of their standard export tonnage; and whether, in the interests of the British export trade, he will take steps to ensure that orders coming from abroad, which can be met, will be granted reasonable trading fluidity?

The Secretary for Mines (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)

His Majesty's Government is not a party to the convention, and I am not aware of the case to which the hon. Member refers. I would add that, according to my information, the convention is operating to the advantage of the coke export trade of this country, and that the share of trade to which, under the convention, it is entitled has been fully secured.

Mr. Windsor

Will the hon. Member give further consideration to the matter if I send him the appropriate information?

Mr. Lloyd

Yes, if the hon. Member will furnish me with particulars.

47. Mr. Windsor

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he can give any information regarding the recent visit of a Danish delegation to this country in connection with the purchase of 200,000 tons of British coal to be shipped during May and June, 1939; whether he is aware that the delegation has returned to Denmark without any promise that the coal in question will be forthcoming from the United Kingdom, and that as a result of this indecision the coal export trade of this country is being penalised with advantage to certain other coal exporting countries; and whether, having regard to the maintenance of a fair trade balance between this country and Denmark, and to the circular issued by his Department regarding exceptional facilities offered for a short period for trade with Denmark, he will have immediate inquiry made into the matter?

Mr. Lloyd

In this case the Danish Coal Committee stated that they were unable to secure in the United Kingdom, for prompt delivery, 250,000 tons of coal of the type, size and quality required or suitable substitutes at a comparable price. Under the terms of the Anglo-Danish Trade Agreement, 1933, it was open to the Danish Government to authorise the purchase of this quantity of coal elsewhere, leaving His Majesty's Government to denounce the agreement if they did not accept the reason given. His Majesty's Government are grateful to the Danish Government that this course was not adopted but that instead they arranged for representatives of the Danish Coal Committee to visit this country. As a result it was possible to arrange prompt supply of part of the coal required and to secure that any deficiency in this year's imports up to 200,000 tons would be made up subsequently—thus avoiding any question of a breach of the agreement.

Mr. T. Smith

Can the hon. Member say what class of coal it was that they could not secure?

Mr. Lloyd

It was large screened steam coal.

Mr. G. Griffiths

Is the hon. Member aware that he can supply hundreds of thousands of tons in Barnsley—the best stuff going?

Mr. Shinwell

Is it not a serious matter that we are not able to comply with an order of this kind? Are we to understand that there are no means available for producing coal of this kind?

Mr. Lloyd

I should like to emphasise three points; (1), that there has been a very sudden increase in the demand for coal recently; (2) that the Danish Government require this coal for prompt delivery; (3) under the arrangements made it is now proposed at a later time when the market is slack that this 200,000 tons will be added to the amount which the Danish Government will buy from this country.

Mr. George Hall

Were the coalowners of South Wales consulted?

Mr. Lloyd

I understand that the coal-owners were consulted to see whether it was possible to supply this particular type of coal.

Mr. T. Smith

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the question of price was the main factor?

Mr. Lloyd

I understand that all relevant districts from the point of view of coal production were consulted, but that the Midland type of coal was not regarded by the Danish authorities as suitable for the purpose they had in mind. With regard to price, I do not say that it was a predominant consideration, but, of course, it must be a matter of consideration.

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