HC Deb 03 February 1947 vol 432 cc1401-3
Mr. Blackburn

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Supply what steps he is taking to avert a protracted shut down of the Austin motor works.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. John Wilmot)

As my hon. Friend is aware, available supplies of fuel are being distributed on the basis of a general allocation system to industrial concerns. I regret that it is not possible to give a preferential allocation to the Austin Motor Company.

Mr. Blackburn

Perhaps I should put this question to the President of the Board of Trade. If I can show the Minister later on today that the whole basis of the allocation of coal for Messrs. Austin under the Cripps plan is unworkable, will he consider revising the allocation?

Mr. Wilmnot


Mr. Clement Davies

Is it not a fact that the position of many companies, whose production is vital both for home consumption and export, has been worsened under the Board of Trade scheme, and as that is inevitable when the right hon. Gentleman applies a rule of thumb system, would it not be better to revert to the scheme under the Ministry of Fuel and Power where the regional controller was responsible?

Mr. Wilmot

I do not think there has been sufficient experience of the working of the scheme.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that a large number of factories in Lancashire are being very hard hit by the coal shortage, and that any discrimination in favour of a powerful firm would be greatly resented there?

Mr. Wilmot

That is a very relevant consideration.

Mr. Eden

How can the right hon. Gentleman reconcile this state of affairs with the statement last October of the Minister of Fuel and Power that everybody knew that there was going to be a crisis except the Minister of Fuel and Power, and when he added, "I want to tell you there is not going to be a crisis in coal"?

Mr. Wilmot

As the right hon. Gentleman is no doubt aware, there is a coal shortage, but it is hoped to avert a crisis by the steps which have been taken.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Can the Minister account for the abnormal publicity which has been given to the Austin case?

Mr. Wilmot

No, Sir.

Mr. Hogg

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why he, and not either of the right hon. Gentlemen who are his colleagues, has been put up to answer this Question?

Mr. Wilmot

It happens that the Ministry of Supply carries the departmental responsibility for the motor industry.

Mr. Blackburn

In view of the question asked by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it has never been suggested at any time that particular discrimination should take place in favour of the Austin motor works?

Mr. Henry Strauss

Does the right hon. Gentleman make any complaint of the publicity in this matter? Would he prefer that great industries should be closed down without the public knowing about it?

Mr. Wilmot

No, Sir.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I think we had better get on to the next Business.