AN EXPERT ON THE COAL PROBLEM
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]
SIR,—Perhaps I may be permitted to reply to your reviewer's comments on my letter relating to " The Economics of the Ceal Industry,", by. Mr. R. C. Smart.
As regards the first point—Mr. Smart's qualifications to write on the industry as a whole and as the Vice-President of the National Association' of Colliery Managers—that has already been dealt with by Colonel. Lewis, the Secretary, in a letter published in your issue of March 8th.
As regards the comparative degree of rationalization in this country and in Ruhr, your reviewer is perhaps unaware that at least, fifty-two colliery undertakings in this country each produce over 1,000,000 tons per annum and that many of these are themselves grouped in one or other of the big amalgamations ; that these undertakings produce more than two-fifths of the total output of British coal ; and that in South Wales, for instance, out of a total output of forty-nine million tons, no less than thirty-three million tons are produced by seven groups each controlling more than two million tons per annum.
From the, above examples it should be obvious that, in so far as rationalicetion implies amalgamation, the industry is fully alive to the possibilities of amalgamation where practicable. Whereas, however, the Ruhr is a highly compact coalfield, the coal-producing areas in Great Britain are widely separated and the process of combination is therefore more difficult. Whatever yoth. reviewer may think, it is not the view of the Gentians that the British industry is " steadily becoming more and more behind " ; on the contrary they regard the progress of rationalization in this country with increasing alarm since they realize that they have done their utmost and that we are overtaking them.
Finally your reviewer sneers at the BritiSh coal industry because, in 1928, it was only paying *ages at a rate of forty- four per cent. above pre-War, whereas the_ cost of living was sixty-six per cent. above that level. I suggest to him that this is rather a remarkable achievement since the average pithead price of coal was only 21.4 per cent. above pre-Wae level ; especially when this figure is compared with that of _forty for wholesale prices generally.—I am, Sir, &c.,
5 New Court, Lincoln's Inn, W.C. 2. PHILIP GEE.
[Our policy on the coal question has been explained in several leading articles. This correspondence is now closed. —En. Spectator.]