HC Deb 13 March 1947 vol 434 cc1474-7
42. Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how far an apprenticeship scheme is now in operation it the coalmines.

Mr. Shinwell

The National Coal Board have taken over and are continuing to run local apprenticeship schemes for electricians, mechanics and other tradesmen and are considering the establishment of a national scheme for electricians and mechanics. They will also have the opportunity shortly of considering the report of a Departmental Committee on apprenticeship for coalface workers, the chairman of which was my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. W. Foster).

Mr. Lindsay

Can the Minister say when it is proposed to start the scheme and at what age apprenticeship will begin?

Mr. Shinwell

I am sorry that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman detailed information, but I shall be glad to obtain it and send it to him.

19. Mr. Keeling

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in cases where coal merchants are unable to supply current allowances of coal to their registered customers, he will allow the allowances to be carried forward to the next period.

Mr. Shinwell

I regret that the shortage of coal supplies makes it impracticable to make good in one period deficiencies arising in a past period.

Mr. Keeling

Does the Minister realise that it is purely a matter of chance whether a particular householder gets his allowance of coal in a particular period? Would it not be fair to make the arrangement I suggest?

Mr. Shinwell

Domestic coal is in such short supply that it is quite impossible—[Interruption.] No one has ever denied it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members opposite can use their imagination if they wish, but I repeat that no one has ever denied there is a shortage of domestic coal, and while there is a shortage of domestic coal it is obvious we cannot put coal that is not requisitioned into a pool and save it up for people.

Mr. Jennings

Is the Minister net aware that the method he is adopting is very unfair, because one person may get two allocations of coal, whereas another who has not been able to claim gets only one? Surely that is unfair?

Mr. Shinwell

If a householder does not claim the coal to which he is entitled, it obviously indicates he does not need it at the time. On the other hand, if a householder is unable to get the coal to which he thinks he is entitled, it is because the coal is not there.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the Minister aware that the Paisley Co-operative Coal Society have a distribution scheme through coal checks which ensures a fair deal for all registered customers? Will he examine this scheme and see if it could be recommended generally?

Mr. Shinwell

I would assure the hon. Member and others that having regard to the availability of domestic supplies, the method of distribution is satisfactory on the whole.

Mr. Osbert Peake

Are we to understand from what the Minister has said, that where a coal merchant, through weather conditions or other difficulties, has been unable to supply the ration during the current period, that ration is to be forfeited altogether?

Mr. Shinwell

I have never said anything of the sort. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is the Question."] It depends entirely on what the right hon. Gentleman means by "period." It may well be if there happens to be abnormal weather conditions in one week and the ration cannot be supplied, and the weather improves in the following week, the coal is supplied.

Lieut.-Colonel Corbett

Is the Minister aware that many country districts have been cut off from their coal supplies for at least six weeks, and that their supplies must be made up? I know of many cases where people have borrowed coal from their neighbours, and these people must be paid back.

Mr. Shinwell

That is an entirely different question. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If, because of abnormal weather conditions, householders do not receive their permitted ration, naturally, if application is made to the local fuel overseer, the matter can be corrected.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Is the Minister aware that people in my constituency have lost their coal, although they have claimed it, because the merchants cannot deliver it for some reason, and cannot get it made up even after they have been to the local fuel overseer?

Mr. Shinwell

If my hon. Friend will let me have particulars. [HON. MEMBERS: "We all have them."] I will deal with the matter at once. If hon. Members opposite are so sure and can put specific instances to me, I will do it in their case.

22. Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in view of the continued irregularity and inadequacy of domestic coal supplied to Bedford, he will arrange for the early delivery to the town of a tonnage which will enable local merchants to honour the quantities allocated to users by his local fuel overseer.

Mr. Shinwell

Bedford has received its full share of the domestic coal supplies coming forward into the Eastern Region, and during the past four weeks received 243 tons in excess of its allocation, in addition to a consignment of 350 tons coalite. Winter supplies to Bedford, together with merchants' stocks and reserves from Government dumps, have been sufficient to enable merchants to maintain a reasonable level of deliveries to consumers, including those with special needs.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Will the Minister look into those cases about which I have correspondence from constituents, who say they have definitely gone short during recent weeks and are having to break rules by using electric power because of shortage of domestic coal?

Mr. Shinwell

As I have informed the hon. Member, the allocation, having regard to the availability of supplies, is, on the whole, reasonable, but whether or not there has been a shortage of fuel in some households, I cannot say. Obviously, something of that kind must happen in the case of abnormal transport conditions.

Mr. Dumpleton

Can the Minister say whether the excess of allocation to Bedford is the reason for the shortage a little further down the line at St. Albans?

Mr. Shinwell

I should not be surprised if the hon. Member has got more than his entitlement.

Lieut.Commander Braithwaite

Are not Bedford and St. Albans suffering from the decision of the electorate?

Mr. Shinwell

No one is suffering from the decision of the electorate except the Conservative Party.

Mr. D. J: Williams

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is plenty of coal in South Wales if the citizens of Bedford and St. Albans will come and get it?

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