HC Deb 15 July 1941 vol 373 cc443-8
40. Mr. Purbrick

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he will enable coal rations, instead of being ton deliveries in every month, to be taken all together when the consumer so desires and can obtain delivery, so as to relieve the congestion through transport when the winter comes, and so making more transport available for those who have not the facilities for taking in a larger quantity at one time?

The Secretary for Mines (Mr. David Grenfell)

As I explained in the House on Thursday last, it is quite incorrect to regard the new restrictions on coal deliveries as a rationing scheme, as commonly understood. The main object is to prevent the accumulation of excessive stocks by fortunately placed individuals to the prejudice of other consumers at a later date, and action on the lines suggested would tend to defeat this object.

41. Sir A. Knox

asked the Secretary for Mines whether, in order to lessen the strain on the railways in the coming winter, consumers with sufficient storage accommodation will be allowed now to purchase coal up to the quantity consumed last year?

Mr. Grenfell

I am fully alive to the need for reducing the winter strain on our transport and for that reason have consistently pressed, this year as last year, for the maximum possible dispersal of coal stocks over the country during the summer months. But, as the hon. and-gallant Member knows, we are short of coal this year, and if essential war production is to be maintained, household supplies must be cut down. To permit those consumers with ample storage accommodation to lay down stocks equivalent to their last year's consumption, must result in others having to go short next winter.

Sir A. Knox

If these people cannot now get coal equivalent to the amount of stocks, what possible chance is there for people who have no. cellar accommodation getting coal in the winter when there is a general strain on the railways?

Mr. Grenfell

I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend would like to see everybody have the same opportunity to put by a little coal, and that is our object.

Mr. T. Smith

Do we not take it from that answer that the Minister is desirous to see that big consumers do not get stocks if that is going to prevent small householders from obtaining a fair supply?

Mr. Grenfell

There is no discrimination against anyone. We have to safeguard as far as possible the spreading of stocks so that everyone gets a little. We are not going to run the risk of sending all the coal now being produced to large consumers so that the small consumers are left out entirely.

Sir A. Knox

Is not a small surplus of coal now being produced in excess of the summer consumption; and would it not be better to get that into the cellars of those who have the accommodation, and so clear the way for poor people who have not the accommodation to store coal before the winter?

Mr. Grenfell

I am sure that if my hon. and gallant Friend looks into the answer closely, he will see that we are doing the right thing in the interests of the majority.

Captain Strickland

Does the Minister give full weight to the present allocation, whereby a person who necessarily has to consume more coal than another is prejudiced by the distribution of one ton per month, irrespective of the needs of the household?

Mr. Grenfell

There is permission to supply more than one ton of coal per month, but a case must be made out. Machinery has been devised to give full weight to all the considerations that hon. Members have mentioned.

Sir Francis Fremantle

Is the Minister aware that a case was so made out and permission given me for 60 tons for the nursery school in my house?

42. Sir G. Jeffreys

asked the Secretary for Mines how the new coal-rationing scheme will be applied to hotels, blocks of flats, and large houses, respectively, which employ central heating; and whether, in the case of large houses where there is no central heating but a large number of occupants, the ration will be the same as in the case of a small dwelling where the residents are very few?

44. Major McCallum

asked the Secretary for Mines whether, in the new domestic coal-rationing scheme, it is proposed that all households, regardless of the number of persons or size of house, shall receive the same allocation of coal per month; and, if so, whether he will reconsider the matter, with a view to allowing extra rations to households, both large and small, who are accommodating evacuees from dangerous areas?

60. Wing-Commander James

asked the Secretary for Mines whether the announcement made by his Department, on 3rd July, is intended to mean that a flat-rate issue of coal and coke for domestic consumption is intended, irrespective of the locality of the consumer, the size of the house, the number of persons in it, the methods of consumption installed, and all the other factors governing needs?

61. Sir Granville Gibson

asked the Secretary for Mines whether fuel-rationing schemes are meant to apply so that, for example, a provincial dwelling-house with six permanent occupants will be allowed the same basic fuel rations as a large provincial dwelling containing six permanent occupants plus eight evacuees, of whom some are children, but subject to the claim for hardship and local test, or will ration schemes be first based on so much per occupant without a test arising from a hardship claim and its irritating delays; and why were not automatic per head rations announced originally, so as to avoid uncertainties in applying the schemes at the outset?

Mr. Grenfell

As I have already explained, the restrictions which have been imposed for the present on the stocking and delivery of domestic coal, are not a rationing scheme designed to limit consumption, but are meant to prevent the accumulation by fortunately placed individuals of excessive stocks during the next few months at the expense of the public generally. I am satisfied that the figures which have been fixed are reasonable for the great majority of house-coal consumers, but in any case where, on account of the size of the premises, the number of occupants, the method of heating or any other factor, the occupier is of opinion that hardship will result from the application of the specified limits, he may make application to the local fuel overseer who will, if satisfied that the case has been made out, issue a licence under Article 5A of the Fuel and Lighting Order for the delivery of a larger quantity of coal.

Sir G. Gibson

Is the Minister aware that where households do not normally use one ton per month, it may conceivably happen that those householders, fearing they may not obtain a supply later on, may start hoarding now to the maximum quantity?

Mr. Grenfell

Yes, Sir, but it would not be a very large amount compared with some larger stocks which may be set aside unnecessarily.

Captain Strickland

Is the Minister aware that in Coventry to-day you cannot get a ton of coal per month, because the coal is not there?

Wing-Commander James

I beg to give notice, in view of the nature of the answer, that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment.

63. Sir G. Gibson

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he will accept the principle that where house coal, anthracite or coke is available, farms and houses in outlying country districts, which are difficult of access in inclement wintry weather, are permitted to store coal, etc., during the good weather period to cover the winter period, on condition that the total amount does not exceed the one ton per month allowed by the order; is he aware that the cost of delivering coal to outlying districts, sometimes many miles from the depot, in one ton lots will be excessive and consume unnecessarily large quantities of petrol and save heavy demurrage charges; and will he indicate a policy to meet these seasonal difficulties?

Mr. Grenfell

Instructions are being issued to my local officers that in dealing with applications from consumers for per-mission to acquire in any month a larger quantity of coal than than specified, they should have regard to various factors including those enumerated by the hon. Member. The amount which such consumers should be permitted to acquire would, of course, be determined by the available supplies and the reasonable requirements of the premises in question.

Sir G. Gibson

Is my hon. Friend aware that the scheme is so confusing and lacking in simplicity that he would be well advised to scrap it and confine his energies to getting more coal out of the ground?

Mr. Grenfell

I am sure that if we scrapped it, the evils would be much more serious. My hon. Friend may not yet know that there is a great disparity in the opportunities for stocking, and it is my Business and concern to act in the interests of the largest number

Captain Strickland

Is my hon. Friend aware that people do not stock coal for the fun of the thing but because they want it?

Mr. Grenfell

I am sure that I have more information on this matter than my hon. and gallant Friend has.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Will my hon. Friend see, that people with large houses are not able to yield an undue influence on controllers to get more coal than they are entitled to?

Sir William Davison

Will my hon. Friend consider allowing persons who have the means of stocking up to their ration to do so provided the coal is available?

Mr. Grenfell

It is not intended to curtail supplies for any consumer where the coal is available, but when it is short it is the duty of the Mines Department to see that the supplies are made equally available to all classes of consumer.

Mr. Shinwell

When coal supplies are short, why is it allowed to be exported?

Mr. Grenfell

My hon. Friend knows that the quality of the coal which is exported is not the same as the coal which is consumed for domestic purposes.

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