HC Deb 29 January 1941 vol 368 cc566-7
65. Mr. Culverwell

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he has considered bringing suitable labour from other coalfields to Somerset in order to meet the demand for coal in the Bristol area so as to obviate the necessity for overloading the railway system with mineral traffic from distant coalfields?

The Secretary for Mines (Mr. David Grenfell)

I am fully aware of the need for increasing the production of coal in certain districts so as to reduce as far as possible the load upon the transport system. During the month of January I have promoted negotiations between the bodies concerned in order to overcome the obstacles (such as housing, difference in wage rates and working conditions) to transferring unemployed miners from the South Wales district to Somerset.

66. Mr. Cocks

asked the Secretary for Mines what steps have been taken to accelerate the unloading of railway coal wagons; and what progress has been made?

Mr. Grenfell

Depot managers have now been appointed under the House Coal Distribution (Emergency) Scheme for all depots in the South of England, with one or two exceptions, and for the great majority of depots in the rest of the country. The hon. Member will appreciate that the steps which need to be taken vary with local circumstances, but arrangements have been made for cases of difficulty, which cannot be disposed of locally, to be reported to my Department and to be dealt with by day to day action between the Department, the House Coal Scheme and the railway companies. These arrangements have been working very satisfactorily and I am glad to be able to say that the figures show a considerable improvement in the rate of clearance of coal wagons during recent weeks.

Mr. T. Smith

Where these wagons have been held for a good many months and are now being unloaded can they be sent to other districts where they are working short time?

Mr. Grenfell

I will not guarantee that wagons will be sent to a certain area, but it is true that there has been an increase of wagons in the Midland area and that output has been higher than at any time since last July.

Mr. Culverwell

Will my hon. Friend consider a further increase in the demurrage rates in order to increase unloading?

Mr. Grenfell

Negotiations are taking place at the present time on that problem.