§ Mr. SEDDON
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade whether if the owners of the various tin mines in the Camborne-Redruth area are prepared to amalgamate their interests, an immense annual saving would thereby be effected in the crushing and concentration of the ores, provided up-to-date machinery were erected; whether the principal objection cited against this course in the evidence before the Nonferrous Mines Committee was the difficulty of raising capital to properly equip the scheme; and whether, if the owners are prepared to submit a scheme of this character, he will state if the Government are prepared to give assistance by way of loan towards giving such an enterprise an effective send-off?
§ Mrs. BRIDGEMAN
The whole position of the Cornish Tin Mining Industry has received the very anxious consideration of His Majesty's Government, in the light of the Report of the Departmental Committee on Non-ferrous Mining and the representations made by the Joint Industrial Council and other interested 673W bodies. Though more economy in working costs might be secured by a scheme of amalgamation, it appears to be clearly established that the only possibility of the maintenance of some of the Cornish Mines of a remunerative basis lies in the discovery of new lodes as the result of development work; but it has been definitely stated by those concerned that it is not possible for them to raise any of the capital necessary for such development. His Majesty's Government fully appreciate the difficulties in which the industry is placed, and the unfortunate consequences which may follow the closing down of the mines, but after carefully reviewing all the circumstances, in view of the present position of the national finance, the unwillingness of private enterprise to invest further capital in the undertakings in question, and the uncertainty as to whether any development work is likely to place the industry on a permanent sound basis, His Majesty's Government regret that they do not see their way to ask this House to vote financial assistance in this case.
§ Mr. SEDDON
asked the President of Board to Trade whether a petition has been received from 700 men employed in Dolcoath Mine, Cornwall, who are threatened with dismissal through the closing down of the mine; whether he is aware that this mine has been worked continuously since 1746, and has paid the State millions in taxes and rates; whether, in face of this fact, he proposes to refuse this mine the few thousands requisite for endowing iti with a fresh lease of life; whether he is aware that 60 per cent. of the surface men and hands employed upon the crushing and concentrating plant are men over 40 years of age, and thus too old to emigrate metalliferous mines abroad; that, in addition, 30 per cent. of those working below are also over 40 years of age; that the average service of the above 700 men is 23 years, thus indicating their generally steady character; and wages in the past have been too low to enable much saving; whether he is aware that these facts also apply to Grenville United Mines, where the men are also under notice; that at the time when unemployment benefit was being paid these two mines though losing money, continued to employ their men, and thereby saved the State many thousands in unemployment relief 674W payments; and whether, if unable to assist these mines financially, he will reestablish control over the production, importation, and sale of tin, and prohibit further importations, except under licence, until arrangements can be made to continue the mines and save the men from becoming a burden to the State?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The petition has been received, and its receipt acknowledged. I am aware of the general circumstances of this mining district. As regards the suggestion that control should be re-established and the importation of tin prohibited, such a course would be ill-advised in the case of an important raw material produced largely within the British Empire, on which other and larger trades depend, and of which the whole production of this country is not likely in the most favourable circumstances to meet more than a fraction of the home demand.
§ Mr. SEDDON
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the attacks now being made at largely attended meetings of miners and public of Cornwall upon the methods of the London Metal Exchange and the allegations that the crisis in Cornwall has been created by persons who are nothing but nominees of those who are excluded from trading in Britain by the licensing system of the Non-ferrous Metals Act, and that the object of these people is to destroy all home production of tin in Britain, in order that the British market may be entirely at the mercy of Eastern and foreign producers and dealers, he will direct the Trusts Committee of the Profiteering Act Department to at once hold an investigation into the methods of the London metal exchange and of the action of the alleged gamblers in tin and other metals?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
My right hon. Friend is not aware of any foundation for the suggestions referred to in the first part of the question, and, as at present advised, sees no reason for an inquiry of the kind suggested; if, however, any realprimâ facie evidence in support of the allegations is adduced to him he will be prepared to consider the matter further.