§ 82. Mr. BUTCHER
asked the President of the Board of Trade the names of the members of the Petrol Control Committee, the number of persons employed by them as clerks or otherwise, the remuneration, if any, of such persons, and the total cost, approximately, of such Committee?
The members of the Petrol Control Committee are Mr. Oliver Bury (Chairman), Mr. A. E. Bowen, Sir John Hewett, G.C.S.I., and Mr. P. G. L. Webb. The number of persons employed as clerks or otherwise is 288, exclusive of a number of clerks engaged on evening duty. This number includes twenty clerks borrowed, irrespective of their rates of pay, from other Departments, who bear the cost. The remaining 268 cost £325 per week, exclusive of war bonus and payment for overtime. The total approximate cost of salaries and incidental expenses down to the 30th September is about £7,000.
§ 83. Mr. BUTCHER
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that many persons who applied for licences for petrol to the Petrol Control Committee received no answer to their applications or to further letters requesting attention to their cases; whether the existing staff is sufficient to answer or to acknowledge such communications sent to them; and, if not, whether he will make such further additions to the staff as may be necessary?
Some 250,000 petrol licences were issued to applicants during July and August. The number of persons who received no answer to their applications was comparatively small, and, in many cases, the failure to reply was caused by an insufficient address being given, or some other reason beyond the control of the Committee. After the issue of the licences some 100,000 persons wrote complaining that their allotment of petrol was inadequate, and for several weeks the number of letters received every day exceeded 5,000. In spite of every effort that was made, it was impossible for the new and untrained staff then at the disposal of the Committee to deal with such a mass of 193 correspondence. The arrears of work, however, are now almost overtaken, and the staff, which has been gradually strengthened, should now be sufficient to keep well abreast with the work.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in many cases where licences were duly applied for the applications were never even acknowledged?
§ 84. Mr. BUTCHER
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the Petrol Control Committee, before issuing licences for petrol, made any inquiries as to the accuracy of the statements of applicants as to the purposes for which the petrol was required or as to the amount required?
The statements furnished by users of motor spirit as to the amount of petrol they required and the purposes for which it was required were made under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, and were generally accepted by the Committee as accurate. Any obvious cases of over-estimation of requirements have been subject to inquiry and special reduction.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in some cases owners of two-seated cars applied, for pleasure purposes, for 100 gallons and got twenty-five gallons?
85. The HON. MEMBER
asked the President of the Board of Trade upon what principles the Petrol Control Committee proceeded in deciding the amount of petrol to be allowed to owners of private motor cars?
The principles upon which the Petrol Control Committee proceeded in deciding the amount of petrol to be allowed to owners of private motor cars were fully explained by my right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works in his statement to the House on the 1st August last, and I do not think I can usefully add to that statement.
§ Mr. P. MEEHAN
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the allotment of petrol in Ireland is absolutely unsatisfactory; that there is a total disregard of the wants of the applicants; and that surveyors and officials of corporate bodies are only allowed 10 and 20 per cent. of their 194 actual average supply, whereas owners of big pleasure cars are allowed double the quantities they previously used?
I think the hon. Member must be mistaken about the proportion allowed. I am not aware of any cases in which the allowance to officials of public authorities has been cut down to anything like that percentage.
§ Mr. H. SMITH
Has the right hon. Gentleman at his disposal any machinery by which he can trace these private owners—there are a good many of them—who, by improper representations, are getting an excessive supply?
I am afraid that the creation of machinery for the inspection of 250,000 garages is more than we can tackle, but we do take means, through the local authorities and otherwise, to investigate suspicious cases.
§ Mr. MEEHAN
If I give the right hon. Gentleman the case of a man who only bought a car this year and has been allowed 60 gallons a month, will the Committee take action?