HC Deb 30 January 1947 vol 432 cc1089-90
16. Mr. J. Langford-Holt

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether a weekly return of coal consumed was made by Austin Motors, Limited, for the four weeks prior to Christmas.

Mr. Shinwell

Regular weekly returns of consumption and stocks were made by the Austin Motor Company, as by other large consumers during the period referred to.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how it was that an announcement was made, if not by him, certainly on his behalf, that his Ministry were not informed of the position of the Austin motor works' coal stocks?

Mr. Shinwell

I am replying to a Question on that matter later.

29. Mr. Blackburn

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the result of his inquiry into the Austin Motor Works coal shortage in December, 1946.

Mr. Shinwell

I have now completed my inquiries, during the course of which I have met representatives of the company and had also an exchange of letters. I agree with the company that for some time deliveries of coal to their works had been falling considerably short of allocation owing to the heavy and increasing demands that were being made on the available supplies of coal. In accordance with the arrangements which were then in force for providing special assistance to firms whose stocks were getting dangerously low, my regional officers on the 5th and again on 19th December had arranged such assistance, and supplies did in fact reach the works by 28th December. The representatives of the company accepted the evidence of this. Further supplies were arranged as a result of the receipt of a telegram from the company on 20th December.

I am satisfied that everything possible was done to assist this company, and that only the heavy commitments in other directions prevented a larger measure of assistance being given to them and others similarly placed.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the best way to run a planned economy is to allow the allocation of coal to individual factories to turn on the row or otherwise made by the local Member of Parliament? Is this the reason why the allocation has been taken from his hands and given to the Board of Trade?

Mr. Shinwell

That may be the hon. Member's conception of how to run a plan, but it is not ours. All that happened was that the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) quite properly sought to serve the interests of his constituency. He made representations accordingly, and of course I took those representations into consideration.

Mr. Nicholson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are grave allegations of a failure to reply to correspondence on the part of his local representatives, and that that is one of the real causes of the mishap?

Mr. Shinwell

Those allegations were completely dissipated when I met the representatives of the firm.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Is the Minister aware that in many quarters there is a feeling that there were political motives behind the representations and fuss made by this company?

Mr. Shinwell

I am not prepared to agree that an industrial undertaking would seek to influence the Government because of political differences.