HC Deb 10 October 1939 vol 352 cc155-7
40. Mr. Batey

asked the Secretary for Mines why he has decided to ration coal when so many pits are still closed and so many miners still unemployed?

61. Major Milner

asked the Secretary for Mines what is the object of reducing the production of coal gas, having regard to the ample supplies of coal and labour available in the mining areas of this country?

Mr. Lloyd

One of the main reasons for rationing coal, gas and electricity was the risk of dislocation of coal transport and distribution facilities. This risk remains and with it the need for rationing.

Mr. Batey

Is the Minister aware that at the present time there must be nearly 100,000 miners unemployed and that this Order is simply making things worse? Why prevent the sale of coal when there is a bigger demand for coal in war time?

Mr. Lloyd

In reply to the question of coal production and unemployment among miners, the Mining Association and the Mineworkers Federation of Great Britain are, at my request, at present considering the methods by which the anticipated increase for coal in war time can be met. That is the general question and they are dealing with it in that general way. It is indeed true that the coal output is rising, and in recent times miners formerly unemployed are being absorbed, but there is the particular question, which is separate from the broad general question of the increased demand for coal, of the difficulties in the exporting districts, where, owing to the convoy system only coming gradually into operation and the dislocation of shipping, there is difficulty in the export of coal, more especially on the North-East Coast.

Mr. Batey

The Minister said that more miners are being employed. Is he aware that only last Thursday the Minister of Labour said that 76,000 miners were unemployed, and that in Durham 14 of our largest collieries are standing idle?

Mr. Lawson

In view of the widespread dissatisfaction in the country on this matter not only among miners, but among the general public, who have not been behind in accepting any restrictions or limitations, will the Minister reconsider this decision, as the answer he has given is vague and gives no reason at all?

Mrs. Tate

Will my hon. Friend make a great effort to ensure that where the population of a town has been largely increased by reason of the introduction of evacuees, it shall not be rationed on its consumption of previous years, but on the consumption of the present population?

Mr. Lloyd

I would say to the hon. Lady at once that that is certainly one of the matters which comes within the competence of the organisation of the local schemes.

Mr. T. Smith

Can the Minister say why so many pits are working short time that cater for home consumption and not for export?

Mr. Lloyd

What I think is true is that there has not been an increase in unemployment in pits that are working coal for home consumption. Actually what has taken place is that the demand for coal is so good that the coal output is rising and unemployed miners are being absorbed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Very slowly."] That is acording to my information. The only men who have been falling out of work, or who come under the system of short-time, are in those districts which export coal. With regard to the output of coal for the home demand, as I have said, the Mining Association and the Mineworkers Federation are at work on that problem at the present time.

Mr. Batey

Owing to the very unsatisfactory reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment either to-night or to-morrow.

42. Mr. Batey

asked the Secretary for Mines the cost of the Department for the Rationing of Coal and the number of persons engaged in it?

Mr. Lloyd

It is not yet possible to estimate the cost of the organisation dealing with coal, gas and electricity rationing, since the administration of the Fuel and Lighting Order, 1939, is a matter for local authorities, to whom the Department has undertaken to refund reasonable expenses incurred. The number of persons at headquarters engaged on the administration of the Fuel and Lighting Order, 1939, is at present nine.

Mr. Batey

Has the Minister realised now that whatever the expenditure, it is a waste of public money?

Mr. Davidson

Surely, the Minister must have made some provisional estimate as to the probable cost, and cannot he tell the House?