HC Deb 19 November 1940 vol 365 cc1813-4
28. Mr. Cocks

asked the Secretary for Mines whether his attention has been called to the congestion of coal-laden wagons in railway goods-yards owing to the failure of individual retailers to clear the coal with sufficient rapidity; and whether he is taking steps by pooling or otherwise to deal with this difficulty?

Mr. Grenfell

I am aware that congestion is arising at certain depots from a variety of causes, and this is, of course, regrettable at a time when it is essential to make the most efficient use of every element in our transport system. I have been giving close attention to the matter in consultation with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Transport and the new House Coal Emergency Organisation. With the full co-operation of the merchants that has been promised, I am hopeful that the position may be considerably improved, but it must not be forgotten that they also are working under difficult conditions these days.

Mr. Shinwell

Where retailers and coal merchants decline to move coal with sufficient rapidity, cannot my hon. Friend use a little more compulsion or seek to impose a penalty in order to induce these people to move their coal at a faster rate?

Mr. Grenfell

I do not think it is a case of refusing to move coal. It must be remembered that the black-out and transport difficulties affect the disposal of coal at the depots as well as elsewhere. These people have a shorter working day, which is interrupted far more than in normal conditions, but I am pressing as hard as I can to see that no delay is experienced in discharging coal from the depots.

Mr. F. Anderson

Does that mean that all traffic is to be regulated into the depots that are continually congested? Has my hon. Friend found that a large number of merchants may have over a week's stock of coal while others have only two days? Are steps being taken to control the haulage at the depots that are being constantly congested because there is no rail regulation in supplies of coal?

Mr. Grenfell

I have no evidence that depots are constantly congested, although I know that a good deal of need exists for the divergence of traffic. Country depots are inaccessible and are as much influenced by conditions as are railway stations. It is not always easy to get a coal train moving any more than it is easy to get a passenger train moving. We have in my Department a Diversion Committee, which meets every day at eleven o'clock and sees that there is all the diversion possible, in consultation and co-operation with the railway companies. There is no record of long blockages at the depots.

Mr. Anderson

Will my hon. Friend make inquiries on this point?