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THE COAL-MINING INDUSTRY AND FREE TRADE Tariff Reformers described the removal of the export coal duty as the wanton abandon- ment of a considerable revenue (about £ 2,500,000 per annum) which was wholly paid by the foreign consumers of the coal, and which was not perceptibly injurious to the owners of our coal mines nor to the workers ( therein. The assumption is very generally made, and seems justified, that a Parlia- mentary majority favourable to Tariff Reform would also be favourable to the reimposil-ioll of a coal export duty either at Is. per ton or some higher figure. It is noteworthy with re- gard to this question that Tariff Reformers abandon altogether their usual contention that a Tariff duty must be borne in part, and may be borne' wholly, by the producers of the commodity taxed. Yet if the contention be true of any competitively produced com- modity that a Tariff duty may be paid out of the producer's profit margin, such contention would seem exceptionally plausible with re- gard to coal production, which is, in practical effect, a monopoly in the hands of the most powerfully organised and harmonious bodies of employers and employed in the kingdom. y I Obviously these contradictory contentions cannot, both be true. If the tax were wholly paid by the foreign consumer, and if it were no tax upon or hindrance to coal production, then there vould be nothing to depress coal prices at hone. INCONSISTENT EXPECTATIONS. Advocates cf an export duty on coal maintain 1. That' the duty would be wholly paid by the foreign consumer, and tiicrolore would not discourage the coal output. 2. That, nevertheless, a consequential effect would be the cheapening of coal ill some degree to the home consumer. Un- questionably -his anticipation is the cause of most of the jopular support given to the pro- posed duty. it That ou: exported coal is an important aid to foreigi manufacturers, many of whom are thus einbied to compete with British manufacturer much better than they would be able to <:Ie it they had not our coal, or if they had to ]ay a tax thereupon. 4. It is irged that the total producing capacity of coalfields in this country i; limited; that within a century or two our best coalficldswill be exhausted and that rhe consequent rie in cord prices will disable this country from competing with foreign manufactures. Therefore it is contended that in the interess of our posterity we ought to discourage the exportation of coal as far as possible. OPINION !N THE COAL TRADE. Coal owners and coal workers, who are surely in the bst position to know their own interests, were practically unanimors: in their opposition to te export tax on coal; and un- questionably their organised opposition caused its reptl. Their arguments were: 1. That the ix was very unequal and un- just in its inelenee. Most of the coal ex- ported natural] goes from those mines which are closest to he seaports fro:n which the coal can be sipped abroad. Therefore the pressure of tht tax fell almost entirely upon these collieries whilst inland collieries did not feel the exort tax at all. 2. That the ix on our export coal was in- deed paid by t3 foreign consumer, especially in the begSmg, before the trade had adapted itself ( the new conditions. But on the other hanft'-ffs extra shilling of cost to the foreign contmer afterwards perceptibly discouraged his leisand for British coal, and stimulated cometition from German and Belgian collierit, which were successful in obtaining large contracts for coal supplies that would othfv.:se have been met from RI';iil, collieries 3. That this iduced demand for the out- put of collieriei engaged in, and hitherto largely depends on. the export trade, forced these at>r to sell their output com- petitively agains the produce of our inland collieries, thus owering prices and profits for both. 4. That, althovh to this extent there was a downward tenency in the prices paid by home consumers,the gain of these consumers was wholly at tl expense of a single section of the comiiiiinit--iiaiiielv, coal owners and workers. These easonably contended that it was unjust and ppressive thus to confer a benefit upon hoii coal consumers by an arti- ficial restriction af their foreign market s. Moreover, it waseertain that the benefit to home consumers could only be temporary, inasmuch as th< coal output must in due course have bei restricted proportionately to demand by t! closing of the less profit- able collieries. 5. The gain t< foreign manufacturers by the use of Britis coal is limited to the dif- ference between lIe price of the British and the price of coneting supplies from other sources. 6. For this gai such as it is. to foreign manufacturers, w have surely adequate com- pensation in the fape of the extra employment, and resulting prits yielded by the export coal trade. Takg the average of the five years 1903-7, 29 per eeut. of all the coal raised from our ines was exported. There- fore, a stoppage the exports would be stop- page of 29* perent. of our coal workers. That is, out of o total of about 1,000.000 workers employec'n our mines, 300,000'would I be thrown entire idle; thus depriving about 1,500,000 of the opulation of their liveli- hood. Bevond tl there would be the great loss of British ravay traffic in the 63,000,000 tons per annum exported coal. True, an export tax of a hilling per ton is far from being a prohibiti of exports; but the tax was, and would 1 again, a hindrance and an injury to the tra proportionate to the Bcalo of the duty. 7. Far more erious than the railway losses, however, *uld be the loss of freights to the British shping, which carries abroad nearly the wholef these 63,000.000 tons of coal. Coal freigl are the bulkiest of all our exports—thejill, it is estimated, on the average, three-folks of the total cargo-space in all our outwd-bound vessels. Were it not for the coaixports. these vesels would have trifling at unremunerative outward cargoes. Consaeutlv shipowners would be compelled to clige double freights on im- port cargoes. Serai million tQns of export coal, carried onong voyages to the East or to South Ameri. earn much more in chip I freightage thanhe pit's-mouth value of the coal itself. Bing the incidence of the coal export taxnany shipowners maintained that the effect the tax was even more in- jurious to our ipping than to the coal pro- ducers. 8. As he limitation of our British coalfields and <' duty to econc mise coal con- fiumption for tisake of our posterity, such a far-seeing ecoiny, supposing it to be our duty, is Gurelyie duty of the whole nation, mitl not a bum that should be imposed on a single indusi or section of the nation. A, present-day pperity. consequent on the free use of ouioalfields, which makes certain the well-being)f our children and grand- children, i" comparably more in accord with practicalfommon 6en.sa than a foolish endeavour tou-rogate to the present day generation sujnatural powers of prophecy and dircctlOnl8 to the well-being of de- scendants margenerritiens further removed. W. R. Y. F. T. F.



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