asked the Secretary for Mines whether the recent reduction in coal prices in London will have any effect upon miners' wages; and what part of this reduction, if any, is borne by the London coal merchants?
The SECRETARY for MINES (Mr. Bridgeman)
I am informed by the Coal Merchants' Federation that this reduction was made on account of the stagnation of trade., in the hope of attracting business, and that it has been accompanied by a drop of about 7s. in the pithead price at many collieries. On the relationship be- tween prices and wages, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave yesterday to the hon. Member for Morpeth.
Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to give an explanation of the fall of 9s. in the retail price of coal in London, similar to that which he gave a fortnight before this fall, explaining exactly what is going to be the effect upon the coal merchants themselves, seeing that they said a few days before this that they were simply getting 5d. per ton profit off their sales? I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give the House an explanation, because there is a feeling in the country that there has been criminal exploitation.
Of course, I am dependent on the Coal Merchants' Federation for any figures they are good enough to supply to me; I have no power to compel them. I think it is tolerably clear if the hon. Member will look at the analysis which I gave of the reports about a month ago, and read my answer to this question, that the probability is the merchants are standing the loss themselves as regards the difference between the two prices.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept the figures given by the London coal merchants that they were only making 5d. per ton profit before, in spite of the fact that they have now reduced the price by 9s. per ton?
I have no reason to suppose they are making any profit now. It is quite possible—and probable—they are making a loss.
Will the Prime Minister say whether the Mines Department cannot be empowered to get these figures, and, if not, should it not be done away with in the interests of economy?
That would involve legislation, and the question should be put down on the Paper.