HC Deb 15 February 1938 vol 331 cc1705-7
64. Mr. D. Grenfell

asked the Secretary for Mines the number of complaints made to his Department by industrial consumers on the grounds that prices are excessive and that they are unable to secure redress or consideration by the investigating committees for the area, with the aggregate tonnage involved; and whether he has been able to offer any promise of satisfaction to the aggrieved parties?

Captain Crookshank

Three complaints, involving in the aggregate about 275,000 tons, have been made to my Department by persons who have failed to convince committees of investigation that their complaints against the price of coal were well-founded. The assurances by the coal industry announced in the House on 7th February, and the provisions of Schedule 8 of the Coal Bill, which provide for an appeal from the decision of the committees, are generally designed to meet these and other difficulties brought to my notice.

Mr. Grenfell

Am I in order in asking the Prime Minister whether, when a question has been put to a Minister repeatedly and no information is forthcoming, he will authorise the Minister to obtain it?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member can hand in a question at the Table.

Mr. Thorne

The hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to be called the Minister for chloroform.

65. Miss Ward

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he will institute an inquiry into the discrepancy existing between the ascertained pithead price for coal and the prices charged to the general domestic consumer?

67. Mr. E. Smith

asked the Secretary for Mines whether, in view of the wide margin between the pithead price of coal and the price charged to the domestic consumer, he will take steps to have the matter investigated?

Captain Crookshank

No, Sir, but I understand that in most districts the question of the margins between wholesale and retail prices of coal is at present being reviewed by the selling scheme authorities and by representatives of the distributors.

Miss Ward

In view of the expression of opinion in all quarters of the House, would it not be in the general interest for an investigation to be instituted?

Captain Crookshank rose


Mr. De la Bère

"Polly winked an eye, Polly gave a sigh."

Miss Ward

What pressure would bring an answer from my hon. and gallant Friend?

Mr. Shinwell

In view of the undoubted grievances of coal consumers, particularly domestic consumers, in relation to the disparity between pithead and retail prices of coal, and more particularly because of the confusion that ensued in the Coal Bill Debate in Committee, will the Minister advise his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to institute a public inquiry into the whole of these transactions?

Captain Crookshank

That seems to be the same question in another form.

Mr. Shinwell

Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman furnish any adequate and substantial reason why there should not be a public inquiry at a time when consumers are stating their grievances all over the country?

Mr. E. Smith

Is not the Minister aware of the deep public concern about this question?

Sir P. Harris

Is there any reason why these Departments are not interested in the consumer and why we should be ignored, and is it not the special responsibility of the Secretary for Mines to see that the public are protected?

Captain Crookshank

I have already answered the question. I have said that I understand certain of these problems are being considered.

Mr. Shinwell

Might I also ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman—

Mr. Speaker rose

Mr. Shinwell

This is a very important matter. I beg to give notice—

Mr. E. Smith

On a point of Order. May I give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the replies?