HC Deb 07 October 1942 vol 383 cc1202-3
33. Sir Patrick Hannon

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is satisfied that full advantage is being taken of the facilities offered by the canal system in the Birmingham and Black Country area for the improvement of coal distribution; whether the canal-loading wharves in the Cannock Chase area are utilised to full capacity; and whether he has in process a practical scheme for the full employment of canal-transport facilities in the Midlands?

Mr. Noel-Baker

In co-operation with the Ministry of Fuel and Power, my Ministry have made every effort to increase the use of the canals for the transport of coal, both in the Birmingham area and elsewhere. The principal difficulty in employing the full capacity of the canal system has been the shortage of labour for the canal wharves and for the crews of the canal craft. Women are being trained to man the craft, and several crews are already at work.

Sir P. Hannon

Is my hon. Friend giving serious attention to the facilities that canals afford in the Midlands for the distribution not only of coal but for goods generally? Do the Government still regard the canals as of no particular consequence in transport?

Mr. Noel-Baker

No, Sir; we attach great importance to the use of canals to their maximum capacity. I have for the last few months given close personal attention to the problem and I hope to secure good results.

Commander Locker-Lampson

Are not the canals the property of the railway companies in many cases, have they not been closed down, and ought not all of them to be opened?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Less than one-third of the capital invested in canals belongs to railway companies. Many of the railway canals are working. They are under Government control and we hope to make as good use of them as of the rest.