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Coal Exports

Volume 363: debated on Tuesday 30 July 1940

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asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any statement to make on the reduction in exports due to the loss of French and Italian markets; and whether he has any plans for the creation of new markets to make up the deficiency?

Coal was by far the largest item of our exports both to France and Italy. Since the war, the total volume of all exports to France had much increased, and considerable changes also took place in the make-up of the trade, owing to France's situation and war needs: In this period, indeed, our exports were made more to assist our Ally in the struggle against the common enemy than for commercial reasons, and the loss of the French market must not therefore be regarded as comparable in its effects with the loss of a neutral market taking a similar amount of exports. A considerable proportion of the goods exported to France would have been very valuable to our own war effort. Every effort is being made to find other markets for those goods which do not fall into this category. Of these, coal is much the most important and, as my hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines stated in reply to a Question on 23rd July, the coal industry is being consulted as to the best methods to promote this trade.

Do we understand from the answer of the right hon. Gentleman that the loss of the French market is of little consequence, despite the fact that we exported coal and other commodities which are of primary importance; and can he rely entirely on the good will and the efforts of the coal industry in regard to facilities in the search for new markets?

I have not said, and I hope I have not implied, that the loss of the French market is of little consequence.

Are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman that the export of goods to France meant very little to us in war-time?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite the appeal that people should store coal or coke, it is impossible in many parts of England to get coal or coke, and that this is a source of purchase which is available?

I hope I did make it clear that our export trade to France for the last few months consisted in part of many things which would have been welcome at home, and that the loss of the market of France in those products is not really a loss to us at all. On the other hand, for the other part, which we would gladly export to France, it will be our task to find an alternative market.