HC Deb 10 July 1941 vol 373 cc317-8
66. Major Vyvyan Adams

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is conscious of the present confusion in the public mind respecting his coal rationing scheme; that the large majority of households in the country consume only a fraction of one ton per month, but that rationing invites the purchase of the permitted maximum: and whether he will make a clear and concise statement dissipating all these apprehensions?

The Secretary for Mines (Mr. David Grenfell)

I am glad to have this opportunity of making it clear that this is not a rationing scheme, as commonly understood, but a scheme for limiting stocks to ensure that the supplies available for domestic stocking are distributed to the best advantage. The limit of one ton per month on deliveries is intended to apply during the summer months, except in special cases which are to be covered by the issue of licences from the local fuel overseer. Householders who have small stocking accommodation are advised to buy even when they do not need the coal for current consumption, as they will then be enabled to build up a reasonable reserve before the winter sets in. There cannot be any guarantee that all consumers can be supplied with the quantity stated at any given time. The whole idea is that access to supplies can be more readily secured if the amount to be delivered to individuals is limited. The purpose of the scheme is to ensure that as much coal as can be spared shall be put into stock and that the supplies shall be distributed in such a way as to give the maximum benefit of stocking to the largest number of consumers.

Major Adams

As the object at present is not to waste fuel, can the Minister direct his attention to the part of my Question where it says that "rationing invites the purchase of the permitted maximum"? Will he consider reducing the permitted maximum and allowing licensing above that figure?

Mr. Grenfell

There is no publicly fixed maximum. There are uniform rates of supply, but there is no maximum, because if a householder can show that his need exceeds one ton per month, he is permitted to approach the local fuel officer and get a larger quantity. In regard to the smaller consumer who is permitted to buy one ton a month, if he does not use all his supply he can stock it for the winter.

Major Adams

Is the Minister not aware that the mere statement of a figure like this invites people to buy up to the maximum quantity?

Mr. Grenfell

I think this is one of the least harmful of many statements which have been made during this war.

Mr. Mathers

Is the Minister aware that the continued reference to the permitted supply of one ton per month is causing extreme resentment among people who cannot buy more than I cwt. per week? Is he further aware that that is furthering the demand, and justifying the demand, that there should be equitable rationing of coal supplies?

Mr. Grenfell

This is not rationing. We desire to help those who cannot stock enough for winter. I can assure my hon. Friend that the resentment of the consumers to whom he refers is more than cancelled out by the feelings of those who will obtain very much more coal.

Mr. Leslie Boyce

Is it not illogical to allocate one ton per month, irrespective of whether there are a dozen or a couple in the household, or whether heating, lighting and cooking are done by gas, electricity or coal?

Mr. Grenfell

If this were a rationing scheme, it would be related to the particulars enumerated by my hon. Friend. But it is not a rationing scheme. It is intended to safeguard everybody having an equal chance of stocking some reserve of coal for next winter. It does not prevent anybody from having larger supplies.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the Minister not aware that if the Government tackled the mine owners, they could get coal for everyone?

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