§ 28. Mr. GINNELL
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will say what was the average price paid for coal in Great Britain by Italian purchasers in May, June, and July, 1914; what price is being paid now by Italian purchasers; and, seeing that Italy is now allied with and receiving financial aid from this country, and that therefore the increase is being paid indirectly by the people of this country to the coal owners, what action he proposes to take to stop this abuse?
The declared value of coal exported to Italy in May, June, and July, 1914, averaged 14s. 1d. per ton. In the first half of the present month it was about 18s. 9d. A direct limitation of the price of coal exported to Italy would raise very difficult questions, and I am not prepared to promise any action in the matter at present.
§ 34. Sir A. MARKHAM
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, seeing that the official proposals relating to the fixing of maxima prices of large house coal would apply to less than 8 per cent. of the total output of this country, he is aware that the coal owners, during the long time he has been negotiating with them, have now practically completed all their house coal contracts for 798 the ensuing twelve months; whether his proposals, even if effective and agreed to by every coal owner, would now apply to less than 3 per cent. of the total output; whether he is aware that the House and the general public in no way realised that his proposals applied to but a fraction of the output which could in no way affect prices and could easily be evaded by any coal owner who so desired; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?
I hope that any arrangement I may be able to make will not be limited in any of the ways suggested by my hon. Friend. If an arrangement is not reached very shortly more drastic steps may have to be taken.
§ 35. Sir A. MARKHAM
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the price of Welsh coal is 35s. per ton as against 17s. to 18s. during last year, and small Welsh coal 22s. per ton as against 5s. to 8s. during last year; and whether, seeing that our Allies, the Italians, have no longer access to the German and Austrian coal fields and that a very heavy burden will be placed on Italy unless the Government of this country restricts prices, he will say whether he will take immediate steps to regulate the price of coal at the pit head?
I am aware that the price of Welsh coal has risen considerably. It would be difficult to restrain prices of coal in accordance with the destination of each shipment, and I am not prepared to undertake such a regulation of prices on this basis.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Has my right hon. Friend received representations through the Foreign Office from the Italian Government on the matter?
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Does the right hon. Gentleman not think it scandalous that the price of coal should be doubled to our Ally who is fighting our enemy?
I do not think my right hon. Friend is really doing good service when he suggests that we are exploiting Italy. In answer to a question earlier in the afternoon, I pointed out that the average price of coal exported to Italy is only 18s. 9d. per ton.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Italian contracts fall out within two months from the present time, and that the price will be £2 or 35s. a ton?
§ 37. Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to secure the restriction of the price of coal to home consumers in Scotland; whether he has yet been in direct communication with the Scottish coal owners on the subject; and whether any agreement has been arrived at?
I have not yet been in direct and separate communication with the Scottish coal owners, but I hope that I may ultimately be able to make satisfactory arrangements in all districts.