§ 19. Mr. Tinker
asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware of the fact that some coal merchants are making a profit of as much as 14s. on each ton of coal they sell, and that this represents approximately 40 per cent. on the pit-head price of coal; and whether he will have inquiries made into the matter?
§ Mr. Grenfell
No, Sir. I am not aware of any coal merchant who is making or is likely to make a net profit of 14s. per ton of coal sold. It may well happen that the total merchant's margin, represented by the difference between the cost of the coal to him and the price at which he sells, will amount to 14s. per ton, but out of this sum he will have to bear his labour and cartage costs and his office expenses. I have had inquiries made into the particular case raised by my hon. Friend in the course of the Debate on my Department's Vote, and these inquiries show 1791 quite clearly that the Sheffield coal merchant who claimed to be making a profit of 14s. per ton was referring to his total margin without allowing for his expenses, and not to his net profit.
§ Mr. Tinker
Is it not wrong that a statement like that should appear in the Press, since it gives to miners the idea that their labour is being used in the making of profits for these people?
§ Mr. Grenfell
The prices and expenses allowed to merchants are based on a kind of scale all over the country, and are related to the actual cost of distribution in each area. This 14s. is the margin between the cost of the coal allowed to the merchants and the price charged to the consumer. I do not know what the actual net profit was to the merchant himself.