HC Deb 05 November 1940 vol 365 cc1188-90
37. Sir W. Davison

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that, notwithstanding a special appeal made by the Government to London boroughs so long ago as April last, to assist the Government in finding suitable sites, so that stocks of coal should be accumulated by the Ministry of Mines for the supply, during the winter months, of coal to householders who had not accommodation to store coal themselves, only comparatively small amounts of coal have so far been provided for such storage, though sites have been specially selected and approved for the purpose in many cases; and what action is being taken in the matter, in particular in making provision for the necessary transport and stacking of supplies of coal which will be required immediately?

The Secretary for Mines (Mr. David Grenfell)

I am glad to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the response made by local authorities, including the London boroughs, to the circular letter which I issued in July, suggesting that to supplement the large volume of stocking by public utilities, industrial undertakings and householders, local authorities should assist in finding additional sites for Government stocks. No fewer than 69 Government sites are now in use in London, with a total capacity of 670,000 tons. Further sites are continually being inspected and brought into use.

The quantity of coal certified by the contractors as having been stacked at these Government sites up to 26th October is a little over 122,000 tons. There has been some difficulty in certain London districts in obtaining haulage facilities and stacking labour, but the obstacle has been overcome in many instances by the willingness of the local authorities to undertake the work themselves. The rate of supply to Government sites has, however, been limited by the extent to which coal and transport have been available in excess of the requirements of the trade and consumers generally, both for current consumption and for stocking on their own account. The House will be aware of the appeal I made to all classes of consumers to stock coal and will, I am sure, approve the wisdom of concentrating on the satisfaction of these demands in the first instance. All possible steps are being taken by my Department in consultation with the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Shipping, to maintain an adequate supply of coal to London.

Sir W. Davison

Does the Minister agree that an accumulation of even 60,000 or 70,000 tons throughout London is inadequate, and that many boroughs, such as Chelsea and Kensington, are, I believe, without any storage of this kind for householders who have no means of providing storage themselves?

Mr. Grenfell

The hon. Member will be glad to learn that his assumption, based upon partial figures, is misleading. The fact is that there are about 2,500,000 tons of coal in stock in London at the present time.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Is the Minister aware that even Lancashire local authorities who want to stock coal and who are near the Lancashire coalfield, right in the centre of it, have to apply for coal from Durham and Yorkshire?

Mr. Grenfell

I am afraid that that is so, and it is unavoidable. We cannot exercise our choice of coal from particular pits in these days. We must take coal from where we can get it.

Mr. Graham White

Are the efforts, which the Minister described as being made in regard to London, applicable to the great areas in the Provinces, where the same need exists?

Mr. Grenfell

We are making a very special effort to serve the needs of Merseyside and the district which the hon. Member represents, and special action has been taken in the last few days.

Mr. Craven-Ellis

May I ask the Minister whether any special steps have been taken to supply coal to Southampton?

Mr. Lawson

Why should there be a shortage of coal anywhere in the country while masses of men are idle among the miners?

Mr. Grenfell

The answer is that there is no shortage of coal anywhere in this country attributable to lack of production. There is a margin of productive capacity. The trouble which we have experienced is due to transport.

Sir W. Davison

Can some steps be taken to provide storage in Chelsea and Kensington?

Mr. Grenfell

I will look into the matter.