HC Deb 12 March 1941 vol 369 cc1280-1
42. Mr. Gordon Macdonald

asked the Secretary for Mines what action has been taken to reorganise the wholesale and retail distribution of coal, in order to release as many men as possible for other work of national importance?

The Secretary for Mines (Mr. David Grenfell)

As a result of the operation of the various district schemes established under the Coal Mines Act, 1930, considerable progress had been made before the war with the simplification of the wholesale distribution of coal. More recently, the urgent need to ease the heavy burden now falling upon the railways has led my right hon. and gallant Friend, the Minister of Transport and myself to give constant attention to the movement of more coal in full trainloads and, in so far as present abnormal conditions permit, to the avoidance of unnecessarily long hauls. We are very hopeful that, with the assistance of the colliery owners and of the distributive trade, acting through the House Coal Distribution (Emergency) Scheme, we may be able to achieve substantial further progress along both lines. Economy in the labour employed in the retail distribution of coal was another of the objects for which the House Coal Scheme was established last autumn. The progressive loss of men engaged in this work has now, however, attained proportions that are causing me much anxiety, and I am considering with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service how this essential national service can be safeguarded.

Mr. Logan

In regard to the deputation which approached the Minister from Liverpool last week, can he say whether the special arrangement will be applied to the City of Liverpool?

Mr. Grenfell

I do not think that the deputation from Liverpool had regard to this question at all.

Mr. Logan

It was on a question of coal.

Mr. Grenfell

Yes, Sir, certainly, but not this question of coal. There are many other aspects to this question of coal.

Sir Joseph Lamb

Is it possible to consider whether canals can be used for the carrying of coal?

Mr. Grenfell

Canals are being used for the carrying of coal. This is a very old question indeed. It is probable that, if action had been taken a long time ago in this direction, more coal could now be carried on the canals. It is not now possible to provide much extra facilities for the transportation of coal by inland waterways.

Mr. Burke

Does the Minister realise that there are dangers in reducing the number of mineworkers, because mills in Burnley on Government work have had to close down this week, owing to coal shortage?

Mr. Grenfell

Yes, Sir. I am meeting the Minister of Labour, and we are going very closely into the question of retaining men for work of national importance in the mines.