LETTERS TO THE EDITOR [Correspondents are requested to keep their
letters as brief as is reasonably possible. The most suitable length is that of one of our " News of the Week" paragraphs. Signed letters arc given a preference over those bearing a pseudonym.—Ed. THE Sracmron.]
THE TRAGEDY OF COAL
[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.] Sin,—Your correspondent, Mr. Jones, appeals to the coal distributing companies to justify the cost of coal, and particu- larly the increase in cost from pit to consumer, and we, as distributors of over 600,000 tons of coal per year, are quite willing to do so.
Unfortunately the only figure published for the price of coal at pit and the figure upon which Mr. Jones bases his argument is an average covering inland, export and bunker coal, and including Slacks, Peas and Pea Nuts.
It is well known that the inland market has for years been paying a higher price than the export market—subsidising it if you wish—and this reduces the average figure per ton at pit. Secondly, between 30 per cent. and 40 per cent., of the coal mined is clack, Peas, Pea Nuts, or poor quality coal sold at prices from Os. per ton upwards. The balance of good and medium quality house coal must, therefore, be sold at prices from 16s. to 25s. pit, and we are sending you, Sir, the price list of one of the larger Derbyshire companies, from which you can see that this is no exaggeration.
Let us follow the price of Derby Brights and see how the cost rises before being delivered to Mr. Jones' house at St. Albans.
Price at Pit .. .. , .. .. 25 0 Railway Rate to St. Albans • • .. 10 4 Wagon Hire to St. Albans • . • . . • 1 8 Average short weight in wagon, 3 cwts. © 37s.
in 10 tons.. — .. • • • • • •
Slack, 5 cwts. es 37s., sold at 20s. .. ..
37 ll A merchant has so far had no influence on the cost of the &a From this point a detailed analysis of the cost of hand- ling over , 200,000 tons in London in pence per ton during one year shows these figures : Pence Per Ton
Rents, Rates, Taxes
5.7 Stamps, Stationery, Advertising
4.6 General Expenses ..
4.9 • Branch Office Salaries
31.6 Yardmen's Wages
23.6 Carters' Wages..
30.9 Cartage Expenses ..
25.9 Insurance and Depreciation ..
Iad, Debts; Discounts, Allowances . •
2.5 Intereet ; .• • • •
6.8 Head Office Expenses.. • •
,We are quite aware that this 12s. 94. conk' be reduced if we, employed unskilled labour, if we delivered the coal that suited us and not what the customer wishes, if we did not have to carry large stocks of many kinds of coal, if the public bought evenly all the year round, and so on ; but from our own' experience we know that although first-class fuel service costs, more than unreliability the public wants it, and is willing to pay for it. .
We should like to make it clear that coal coots vary in every place, and that these figures, although, accurate in this case, do not necessarily apply elsewhere. .We hope, however, that we have convinced your correspondent that any increase in miners' wages, if placed on to the price of the house coal, must be passed on to the consumer.. But when trying to increase the average price is it not better to raise the lowest prices, particularly since the Peas and Pea Nuts are becoming the most Valuable part of the output for steam . users, and yet, are sold; below the cost of production ?—Yours faithfully,