HC Deb 24 November 1926 vol 200 cc414-6

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary for Mines whether, in view of the improved outlook in the coal industry, it is not now possible to relax the Coal Emergency Directions?

Lieut.-Colonel WATTS-MORGAN

Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, I want to ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on a point of Order with regard to Private Notice Questions. Is it competent to give private notice of a Question when it is known that the Question was ready last Monday, when the Minister himself has disclosed the fact that he knew of the Question on Tuesday, and also when other Questions were put on the Order Paper to the Secretary for Mines on Monday last?


It does seem to me to be a matter of some urgency, as it affects so many industries and such a great deal of employment.

Lieut.-Colonel WATTS-MORGAN

My point is that this Question was known on Monday last, and there is also a Question on the Order Paper for to-day to the Secretary for Mines on the subject—Question 54. I submit that this Private Notice Question should have been put on the Order Paper on Monday. The Secretary for Mines knew of it yesterday; he referred to it yesterday. I agree with you that it is a very important matter, but I submit that the Question should have been put on the Order Paper last Monday and should not be asked as a. Private Notice Question to-day.


The answer yesterday was that no information could, then be given.

The SECRETARY for MINES (Colonel Lane Fox)

It is, in my opinion, to the best interests of the country to relax these restrictions at the earliest possible moment, even at some risk. Although, therefore, supplies are still far short of the normal demand, output is steadily increasing, and I think that the time has come when practically all the restrictions, except that which prohibits the export of coal, ought to be withdrawn, and freedom restored both to consumers and to the trade.

The restrictions on the use of gas and electricity for lighting, heating and power and on the use and acquisition of coal by industries and businesses will be withdrawn as from to-morrow; the restrictions on the domestic consumer will continue only to the end of the present week.

As from to-morrow, also, collieries will ac given freedom to dispose of their coal as they please in this country, subject to their fulfilling any allocations made upon them by the District Committees.

I regret that the situation does not yet justify removing the prohibition on export, but as from next. Monday shipments will be permitted freely to Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State.


May T ask the. Secretary for Mines whether, in view of the probable rush of demands for coal, he intends to take any action on the subject of price?

Colonel LANE FOX

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will find in a short time that the natural competition and the increase of supplies in relation to the demand will bring down prices.


May ask what steps will be taken to ensure that the poor consumer will be able to get any supplies at. all, in view of the known demands that will he for the coming from the richer sections of the community?

Colonel LANE FOX

Yes, Sir; we have taken full power to deal with that. If there be a shortage in any particular district, which cannot be supplied, we have power to make an allocation and to divert supplies to that district.


Does the answer mean that the supply of hunker coal will be free as from to-morrow? Is the Secretary for Mines aware that the position is very acute in all the ports of the country, particularly in the North East ports, and that the position has become more serious within the last 48 hours, although there is an ever-increasing supply of coal?

Colonel LANE FOX

The position is that for coastwise traffic, bunkers are free. As regards foreign bunkers, applications will have to be put in, and they will be dealt with on their merit.


Does the answer mean that fishing vessels will be able to get their supplies as from to-morrow without any restrictions?

Colonel LANE FOX

That has already been done. Fishing vessels have full right to get their supplies either from Scotland or South Wales.

Captain BENN

May I ask whether a corresponding relaxation will be made of the restrictions on personal liberty?