HC Deb 31 October 1939 vol 352 cc1734-7
42. Mr. Lipson

asked the Secretary for Mines the amounts of coal and coke, respectively, consumed for domestic purposes in the last recorded year; and what percentage of each he hopes to save by the rationing scheme?

Mr. Lloyd

The annual consumption of coal for domestic purposes, including coal for domestic industries and miners' coal, is estimated at 36,000,000 tons. After allowing for freedom from rationing of small consumers it is estimated that a saving of 7,000,000 tons of coal a year will be effected by the rationing scheme. I have no figures of the domestic consumption of coke.

Mr. Lipson

In view of the fact that the prospective savings on fuel is so small, would my hon. Friend consider whether it is really advisable to continue this scheme?

Mr. Lloyd

I could not agree that saving 7,000,000 tons is small when it is considered in relation to the export of coal from this country.

Miss Wilkinson

In view of the fact that so many miners are on public assistance because they cannot produce the 7,000,000 tons of coal, what is the use of saving it?

Mr. Lloyd

I have pointed out before that it is a question of transport.

Mr. Benjamin Smith

Would it not be better to utilise the hauliers and put other workers on road transport?

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot discuss the transport question. The importance of saving coal for domestic consumption is to enable it to go into the export markets which are vital to this country.

65. Mr. Boothby

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he will now discontinue the rationing of coal?

70. Sir Frank Sanderson

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that there are over 80,000 miners out of work and many pits working three days or less a week; and whether, in view of this fact, he will reconsider his rationing plans with a view to the complete withdrawal of the rationing scheme as long as there are any miners unemployed, so as to produce more coal for export and find more work for miners?

Mr. Lloyd

The question of coal rationing is kept under constant review by the Government, and I am at present engaged in examining the state of stocks and consumption after two months of war and one month of rationing, especially in the -areas of large consumption, where transportation might be affected by enemy action. I am, therefore, not at present in a position to add anything to my pre- vious statements on this subject, in particular to the reply which I gave on 24th October to the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson).

Mr. Boothby

Is my hon. Friend aware that available supplies of industrial coal are now being withheld from public utility and other undertakings, with the result that railway sidings are congested with wagons which ought to be used for other purposes. In considering this whole question, will he bear in mind that the coal industry of this country can produce all the coal we require?

Mr. Lloyd

I would point out that rationing has been relaxed in regard to public utility undertakings producing gas and electricity; and that brings out the fact that the real difficulty is not rationing, but transport.

Mr. G. Griffiths

Will the Minister bear in mind that miners working only 2½ days a week are very bitter about this rationing?

66. Mr. Crowder

asked the Secretary for Mines what instructions have been given to local fuel overseers to enable them to increase the rations to householders who, on account of having refugees in their houses, will require more coal and gas, especially for cooking purposes, than last year?

Mr. Lloyd

Local fuel overseers have power to grant increased allowances where they are satisfied, in view of the reasonable requirements for coal, gas or electricity, that such increases should be given. They have been instructed to give sympathetic consideration to the needs of householders where there are evacuees.

Mr. Crowder

Is my hon. Friend aware that some local fuel overseers are telling householders whose households have been augmented by evacuees that they do not know what their powers are and what coal these people may expect to get? Could he give more specific instructions to overseers?

Mr. Lloyd

Perhaps my hon. Friend will let me have the details. I will certainly consider them.

68. Mr. Lipson

asked the Secretary for Mines the estimated cost of the administration of the coal and coke rationing scheme?

Mr. Lloyd

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 10th October to the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey).