HC Deb 27 February 1940 vol 357 cc1862-3
3. Mr. Ammon

asked the Secretary for Mines whether the permitted increase in the price of coal of 2d. per cwt. in two cwt. lots and less, as set out in L.F.O. Circular No. 49, dated 20th February, is additional to similar increases operating prior to that date; if so, is he aware that such increase means a total extra charge to the small consumer of 5s. to 6s. per ton; and on what grounds is such increase justified?

Mr. Lloyd

The circular to which the hon. Member refers authorised local fuel overseers to increase retail coal prices by 2d. per cwt. as a temporary measure. The increase is to operate only in areas where deliveries are restricted to 2 cwts. per week, and only while this restriction continues. The present increase was authorised after careful examination in my Department, and represents the increased costs of distribution under present conditions arising out of the shortage of supplies and the necessity for restricting deliveries to small quantities.

Mr. Ammon

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that this means that coal is costing as much as 3s. 5d. a cwt. in very poor districts and that deliveries are being delayed in order that the coal may be delivered in small quantities?

Mr. Lloyd

It has not been a question of delaying but of delivering so as to secure a fair and equitable distribution.

Mr. Paling

Why should the extra cost always be put on those people who are least able to bear it? If it is necessary that there should be any extra cost, why is it not properly distributed?

Mr. Lloyd

The men who distribute coal in these small quantities are paid on piece rates, and unless this arrangement had been made, supplies could not have been maintained.