asked the Secretary for Mines if he can give the reasons why miners are receiving low wages while the price of coal to the consumer is so far above pre-War levels; and if he has the figures to show what factors prevail to cause such wide divergence between pithead prices for coal and the cost to the consumer?
In a reply given to my hon. Friend the. Member for Keighley (Sir R. Clough) on the 29th May, I gave the figures supplied to me by the Coal Merchants' Federation, giving the various items accounting for the difference between pithead and retail prices for coal. Since then there has been a considerable reduction in the retail prices in London, and I have asked the Coal Merchants' Federation if they can give me similar figures applicable to the present position. As regards miners' wages, I am to-day giving in reply to the hon. Member for Farnworth (Captain Bagley) some figures relating to the average weekly wages of miners. But the chief cause of low earnings in many districts lies in the fact that short time is being worked owing to the industrial depression.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say why it is that the consumer has to pay such large prices for coal when the miners are receiving such low wages?
If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the answer to which I have referred him, he will see that the prices for London were given, including pithead prices, railway charges, distribution charges, clerical charges, and so on, which account for the whole sum; but, as I have said, since then there has been a reduction in the price in London, and I am asking for further figures, because the old ones cannot be quite up to date.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how a sudden reduction in the price of coal in London can be made when there has been no corresponding sudden reduction in the wages of the miners, or in railway freights or any other particular?
That is exactly the question I have put to the Coal Merchants' Federation.