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