HC Deb 01 May 1947 vol 436 cc2175-9
The President of the Board of Trade (Sir Stafford Cripps)

The Government have carefully considered what supplies of coal can be allocated to industry over the summer months from 1st June onwards. The full stock-building programme to power stations, gas works and other consumers as already announced will be carried out. While the manpower position in the mining industry has shown improvement since the statement I made during the Debate on the economic situation on 10th March, there is a clear risk in planning allocations to industry at a higher level than I then indicated, in view of the uncertainty which must remain concerning output during the summer. On the other hand, the Government cannot fail to be impressed by the fact that supplies at such a level would not only cause industrial dislocation during the summer, but would also create shortages of materials and components which must seriously prejudice the operation of industry throughout next winter.

Following consultation with both sides of industry, therefore, the Government have decided that supplies of coal to each industry between 1st June and 31st October shall be planned at a level equal to consumption during the summer of last year, subject to appropriate adjustments for factories newly started up, and for oil conversion, etc., In the case of the building materials industries, where there has been an exceptional expansion since last summer, an extra allocation will be made which will cover a proportion of the new production started since last summer. This extra allocation should enable these industries to obtain about 85 per cent. of their current solid fuel requirements. In general, this will mean that supplies to individual firms will be based on the same rate of consumption as last summer. It will be for firms to build up, from the deliveries they receive, a stock sufficient to meet three weeks' winter requirements by the end of October. If larger stocks are accumulated, these will not be taken into account in framing the winter allocations If firms fail to accumulate a three weeks' stock, the winter allocations will, nevertheless, be based on the assumption that such a stock is, in fact, held.

It must be appreciated that in estimating supplies for industry at this level a considerable risk is deliberately being taken, and that the success of this endeavour to avoid the grave results of cutting down industrial activity during the whole of the summer must depend both on the maintenance of a high rate of output of coal and upon the full co-operation of industrial undertakings in effecting all possible economies and in building up stocks for the winter. If we start next winter with insufficient stocks, we expose ourselves to even greater difficulties than we experienced last winter, and firms must make it their individual responsibility to lay aside for the winter a sufficient stock out of current deliveries.

Mr. Stanley Prescott

I take it that the announcement the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just made applies equally to the textile industry in Lancashire? That being so, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman this question? He said that the allocation to industry was to be an amount equal to the consumption of last summer. What estimate has been made for the Lancashire textile industry? Is it a fact that the consumption last summer was considerably less than the 75 per cent. of the present allocation? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the textile industry in Lancashire is finding it impossible to build up any stocks for the winter? Unless some special provision can be made it will be impossible to build three weeks' stocks out of the allocation he has indicated.

Sir S. Cripps

One would not expect people to build up stocks before 1st May. That is the earliest date from which stocks are ever built up. As to the rest of the question, I cannot confirm or otherwise the figures the hon. Member has given, because I have not the exact figures before me now; but my impression is that if the textile industry gets the same quantity of coal as it got last summer, it will get 75 per cent. of what it is getting now.

Mr. M. F. Titterington

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman indicate whether this includes the wool textile industry?

Sir S. Cripps

This statement covers all industries.

Mr. Martin Lindsay

What figure of stocks is it calculated we shall start the winter with, after the allocations, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just referred, have been made?

Sir S. Cripps

I said they would have three weeks' stock at the end of the summer.

Mr. M. Lindsay

On a national basis, as well as in factories?

Sir S. Cripps

On the national basis we gave the figure earlier, 15 million tons. This is allowing industry to use its discretion as to when it accumulates its stock.

Mr. Blackburn

In view of the great importance of allocations to factories, will the Minister indicate that where a firm does not agree with the allocation some form of appeal to the local committee will be allowed by the Minister?

Sir S. Cripps

Anybody can always protest against anything in this country, I think, and bring observations to the attention of the regional boards.

Major Haughton

May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to explain a little further his remark about the making-up trades? I gather that he said that because of the increased output they would get an extra allocation; and then at the end, I think, he said that the allocation would be exactly the same as that in the summer of last year.

Sir S. Cripps

So far as the building material industries are concerned, there will be an extra allocation because of their very exceptional expansion since last summer, and we hope that that extra allocation will enable them to get 85 per cent. of their current requirements.

Mr. Warbey

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether, in assessing the allocation to be made, regard has been paid to the needs of those industries which have been called upon to make a larger contribution to our export trade than hitherto?

Sir S. Cripps

The figures are taken on the basis of what was consumed last summer.

Mr. Jennings

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that both sides of industry had been consulted in regard to this scheme. Have they expressed any view that these stocks can be accumulated out of the supplies allocated? Because it is of no use to expect accumulations out of insufficient supplies.

Sir S. Cripps

My impression was that they took the view that it was a good thing to leave it to industry to decide how to get these stocks, giving them a lump sum.

Mr. Douglas Jay

Did I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say there was a special allocation for new factories opened since last year in the development areas and elsewhere? Is there to be a special priority allocation for particularly important industries, such as those of wool and cotton spinning?

Sir S. Cripps

Wool will get the same allocation as last summer, when it had a special allocation. As regards the new factories, where it is necessary, adjustments will be made in order to enable them to work.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

We are to debate the subject of fuel today on the Motion for the Adjournment. We are now merely wasting time.