HC Deb 15 May 1947 vol 437 cc1702-3
65. Colonel Wheatley

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power, if, in view of the abuse of the Coal Distribution Order, 1943, sales in small quantities and the consequent inability of merchants to supply their registered customers owing to their stocks being consumed by small sales, he will consider limiting this order to sales to registered customers.

Mr. Gaitskell

The provision allowing sale without registration of up to 28 lb. of coal or 56 lb. of coke is intended primarily for the benefit of poor persons who have no registrations and normally buy in these small quantities but the exemption also affords a useful means of meeting urgent consumer need when severe weather interferes with merchants' deliveries. I am aware that there has been some abuse of this exemption but, according to reports I have received so far, not sufficient to warrant its withdrawal. The matter will, however, be considered again when fuller reports have been obtained on the operation of the exemption during the past winter.

Colonel Wheatley

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that people are going round from coal merchant to coal merchant collecting and buying coal, and obtaining in this manner eight or nine hundredweights a week?

Mr. Gaitskell

I should be very surprised if that were so, because there is no obligation on the coal merchants to supply them, and they would be very unwilling to do it, except to regular customers.

Mr. Dumpleton

Is my hon. Friend aware that the people collecting this fuel are people with cars, who can do it easily, whereas people without cars cannot?

Mr. Gaitskell

We are looking into this matter, but I would ask the House not to take these rumours for granted, as I do not think that the position is nearly so bad as people try to make out.

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