I am happy to inform the House that discussions which have been proceeding for some time between officials of the British and French Mines Departments have recently been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. It is expected that the arrangements made will remove certain difficulties in the administration of the coal section of the Anglo-French Trade Agreement of 27th June, 1934, which have been adversely affecting the United Kingdom coal trade in that important market.
Is the Minister quite satisfied that this new Agreement will secure for this country 49½ per cent. of French imports, which were guaranteed under the previous Agreement, and can he say whether at the same time it will effectively prevent the misuse of licences for the import of British coal, which has been taking place in recent months?
The Agreement is a highly technical one, but I think that when it is possible to publish the details the hon. Member will find that it is quite satisfactory on those points. The main object is to relate the issue of French import quotas as closely as possible to demand, so that there will be no obstacle to the full absorption of the British quota.
Can the hon. and gallant Member say whether this Agreement, much as we welcome it, interferes in any way with the broad principle of assistance to coal exports from this country, or whether negotiations are proceeding in connection with the wider question?
That is another question, which does not really hang on this particular Agreement. This Agreement is to make what is at present the system, more satisfactory to us.