HC Deb 30 January 1947 vol 432 cc1086-7
5. Mr. Butcher

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that domestic and industrial consumers now receive coal containing substantial quantities of stone or earth; and what steps he is taking to see that the restricted deliveries are equivalent in quality to those delivered before the war.

Mr. Shinwell

Consignments of inferior coal are occasionally unavoidable in present circumstances, owing to shortage of labour and machinery for sorting and preparing the coal for market. As regards the second part of the Question, it is the intention of the National Coal Board to ensure that everything possible is done to improve standards of quality.

Mr. Butcher

Could the right hon. Gentleman indicate to what extent the figures of increased coal production are inflated by the inclusion of stone and earth?

Mr. Shinwell

If the hon. Member will put down that question, I will certainly give him an answer.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise the annoyance and disappointment which are caused to people when they find a large proportion of slate, stone and rock in their coal; and is he aware that, in my constituency, I have received a large number of complaints on that score?

Mr. Shinwell

I should not be at all surprised if disappointment were occasioned by the inferior quality of coal, but that is nothing compared with the trouble that has been caused by the inferior efficiency of the industry in the past.

Mr. Holmes

Is the Minister aware that machine-mining methods make it extremely difficult to separate the stone from the coal, and is he also aware that many of the screening and washing plants are not competent to deal with machine-got coal?

Mr. Shinwell

I am fully aware of those facts, but all these matters are being rectified by the National Coal Board.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that prewar, when it was entirely under private control, this coal was screened, and that electricity companies received better coal?

Mr. Shinwell

The right hon. Gentleman is in possession of information which is not familiar to those who have to deal with this matter.