HC Deb 06 February 1940 vol 357 cc20-2
43. Mr. Neil Maclean

asked the Secretary for Mines whether, as the conditions prevailing in industrial areas during the past six weeks with regard to the lack of coal supplies are due to faulty methods of distribution, he is considering the organisation of districts in a systematic manner and so obviate a recurrence of the present chaos?

39. Mr. James Griffiths

asked the Secretary for Mines what steps he is taking to prevent a recurrence of the acute shortage of coal experienced in many places during the past few weeks?

40. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Secretary for Mines what effective action he took during the past few days to secure supplies of coal for all areas; and will he make arrangements to have adequate stocks available in all areas to meet similar emergencies of the kind experienced during the past few days?

Mr. Lloyd

In such exceptionally severe weather conditions as have been experiened in these last few weeks nothing would prevent the occurrence of temporary difficulties in the distribution of coal. Those difficulties were not due to any shortage of coal but to the impossibility of moving it even in some cases when it was already at depots in towns where supplies were needed. To meet immediate needs I made arrangements in co-operation with my right hon. Friends the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Shipping, for special consignments of coal to be sent to places most seriously affected and these arrangements were carried out quickly and effectively.

As regards the future, our efforts to build up stocks will be continued and intensified, but even such measures cannot ensure that in such very exceptional circumstances as those which have been experienced recently, no interruption of supplies to individual consumers will occur.

Mr. Maclean

Does the hon. Gentleman not consider that it was not due to supplies at the depots being insufficient? What I am asking for is a rearrangement of the methods of distribution, because in some places during the inclement weather you would find eight or nine lorries distributing coal and in other districts you would not find one lorry within a mile. It is that method which I regard as wrong, and I wish to know whether other methods will be adopted?

Mr. Lloyd

If the hon. Member will give me specific details of cases I will look into them.

Mr. Craven-Ellis

Is there any foundation for the statement that there was an embargo upon railway transport in the Southern part of England and that this was the cause of coal being short?

Mr. Lloyd

There is no foundation for that statement.

Mr. Leonard

Is the hon. Member aware that his chief officers in Scotland informed his local officer in Glasgow that 1,500 tons had been directed to him, were addressed to him, and that when the coal did arrive two days behind time it was found not to be addressed to the local fuel officer at all but to certain merchants in the city, which made for maldistribution? Will the hon. Member consider the personnel of his local supply officers as regards their previous connection with merchants?