Prices.

Oral Answers to Questions — Coal Industry. – in the House of Commons on 15th February 1938.

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Photo of Mr David Grenfell Mr David Grenfell , Gower

asked the Secretary for Mines the number of complaints made to his Department by industrial consumers on the grounds that prices are excessive and that they are unable to secure redress or consideration by the investigating committees for the area, with the aggregate tonnage involved; and whether he has been able to offer any promise of satisfaction to the aggrieved parties?

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

Three complaints, involving in the aggregate about 275,000 tons, have been made to my Department by persons who have failed to convince committees of investigation that their complaints against the price of coal were well-founded. The assurances by the coal industry announced in the House on 7th February, and the provisions of Schedule 8 of the Coal Bill, which provide for an appeal from the decision of the committees, are generally designed to meet these and other difficulties brought to my notice.

Photo of Mr David Grenfell Mr David Grenfell , Gower

Am I in order in asking the Prime Minister whether, when a question has been put to a Minister repeatedly and no information is forthcoming, he will authorise the Minister to obtain it?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

The hon. Member can hand in a question at the Table.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

The hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to be called the Minister for chloroform.

Miss Ward:

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he will institute an inquiry into the discrepancy existing between the ascertained pithead price for coal and the prices charged to the general domestic consumer?

Photo of Mr Ellis Smith Mr Ellis Smith , Stoke-on-Trent Stoke

asked the Secretary for Mines whether, in view of the wide margin between the pithead price of coal and the price charged to the domestic consumer, he will take steps to have the matter investigated?

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

No, Sir, but I understand that in most districts the question of the margins between wholesale and retail prices of coal is at present being reviewed by the selling scheme authorities and by representatives of the distributors.

Miss Ward:

In view of the expression of opinion in all quarters of the House, would it not be in the general interest for an investigation to be instituted?

Mr. De la Bère:

"Polly winked an eye, Polly gave a sigh."

Miss Ward:

What pressure would bring an answer from my hon. and gallant Friend?

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

In view of the undoubted grievances of coal consumers, particularly domestic consumers, in relation to the disparity between pithead and retail prices of coal, and more particularly because of the confusion that ensued in the Coal Bill Debate in Committee, will the Minister advise his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to institute a public inquiry into the whole of these transactions?

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

That seems to be the same question in another form.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman furnish any adequate and substantial reason why there should not be a public inquiry at a time when consumers are stating their grievances all over the country?

Photo of Mr Ellis Smith Mr Ellis Smith , Stoke-on-Trent Stoke

Is not the Minister aware of the deep public concern about this question?

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

Is there any reason why these Departments are not interested in the consumer and why we should be ignored, and is it not the special responsibility of the Secretary for Mines to see that the public are protected?

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

I have already answered the question. I have said that I understand certain of these problems are being considered.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Might I also ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman—

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

This is a very important matter. I beg to give notice—

Photo of Mr Ellis Smith Mr Ellis Smith , Stoke-on-Trent Stoke

On a point of Order. May I give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the replies?