HC Deb 17 February 1949 vol 461 cc1315-7
6. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that the supplies of house coal to the North-Western region for the period 1st November, 1948, to 30th April, 1949, are not sufficient to provide the maximum permitted quantity of 30 cwts. to every customer; and, as this quantity is in any case inadequate for reasonable comfort in the weather conditions of this region, whether he will take steps to have supplies for the North-Western Region increased.

Mr. Gaitskell

The answer to the first part of the Question is: 'Yes, Sir." With regard to the second part of the Question, I would naturally be extremely glad to increase the allocation of house coal, but I cannot hold out any prospect of this in view of the urgent need to increase exports of this type of coal. Since, however, the North-Western Region has received a slightly lower proportion of its allocation than the average for the country as a whole, I have arranged for some additional coal to be sent to that region in the next few weeks.

Mrs. Castle

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that almost satisfactory reply, may I ask him whether the amount which he is prepared to send to the region will bring up the consumers' allocation to the maximum permitted quantity?

Mr. Gaitskell

No, I am afraid it certainly will not. The allocation to the region has for a long time been far below the maximum permitted quantity multiplied by the number of consumers, and that applies to every other region as well.

Mr. Oliver Stanley

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the statement in the hon. Lady's Question that in any case this quantity is not sufficient for reasonable comfort?

Mr. Gaitskell

Yes, Sir. I would not deny that there are many people who would like to have some more coal.

Mr. H. D. Hughes

As there are many complaints about the inadequacy of the supply in the West Midland region, will my right hon. Friend consider taking the same action in that area?

Mr. Gaitskell

If the proportionate alocation which they are receiving is below the average I will certainly consider it.

Mr. Sutcliffe

What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that at the earliest possible moment supplies will be adequate?

Mr. Gaitskell

That question can hardly be answered in one sentence.

13. Mr. Lipson

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will increase the ration of coal and coke allowed to domestic consumers.

Mr. Gaitskell

There is a big demand in overseas markets for the type of coal required by domestic consumers, and owing to the necessity for exporting as much coal as possible I see no prospect at present of increasing the maximum quantities of house coal. As stocks of gas coke, on the other hand, are high, it may be possible to increase the maximum permitted quantity before long.

Mr. Lipson

Until the Minister can increase the quantity of house coal, will he not take steps to improve the quality by asking his regional officers to get into touch with the collieries in their areas and see that the consumer gets better coal than he has been getting up to now?

Mr. Gaitskell

Steps are always being taken to try to improve the quality, and there is perfectly well understood machinery for handling complaints of that kind. They can go through my regional coal officers, but that is not necessary in every case.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Is the quality of coal for export of the same standard as that of household coal?

Mr. Gaitskell

The quality of coal for export varies just as the quality of household coal varies.

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