HC Deb 06 November 1940 vol 365 cc1336-7
61. Mr. Radford

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that, since his circular letter to local authorities of 12th July last, only 120 tons of coal have been received by the Manchester Corporation under the Government's stocking scheme for Manchester, as compared with an average weekly winter consumption in that city of not less than 30,000 tons; and what steps he is taking, in conjunction with the Ministry of Transport, to expedite deliveries to Manchester?

The Secretary for Mines (Mr. David Grenfell)

I am well aware that, owing to the heavy demand from consumers for stocking, the margin of supplies available for putting into Government dumps in Manchester has hitherto bet n small, and I am taking steps, in consultation with the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Shipping which should result in increased deliveries. In this connection I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. E. Smith) on 23rd October.

Mr. Radford

In view of my hon. Friend's explanation that the London Midland and Scottish Railway was unable to deliver these extra quantities of coal, how is it, since we control the railways, that we cannot order the London Midland and Scottish to carry the additional coal needed?

Mr. Grenfell

I am afraid I cannot satisfy my hon. Friend on this occasion. There are conditions which are very difficult for all traffic working.

Mr. Radford

Is it not a fact that Manchester is in the centre of a great coal-producing area, with Lancashire, Nottingham and Yorkshire all within reasonable reach?

Mr. Batey

Is it not a disgrace that this state of affairs should prevail when there are thousands of miners out of work?

Mr. Grenfell

I do not know whether it is to be described as a disgrace. If so, I am not responsible for it.

Mr. Thorne

Has the Minister power to deal with the question of stocking?

Mr. Grenfell

The position in regard to stocking generally is not as bad as seems to be assumed. There are very considerable stocks, even in Manchester. It is not true that the fact that the Government have been stocking coal indicates that there is any shortage. There are enormous reserves of coal in this country. Government stocking was left until the last, in order that private supplies could be filled up. There are very substantial stocks in every town in this country.

Sir P. Harris

Will the hon. Gentleman co-operate very closely with the Minister of Transport, in order to ensure that where coal is available transport shall be found?

Mr. Grenfell

There is the closest co-operation between the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Shipping, and myself. A special committee has been set up to deal with this question, and we are achieving important results.

Mr. Tinker

Will my hon. Friend take an early opportunity of making a statement to the House on the whole position?

Mr. Grenfell

I shall he very glad indeed to do so.