HC Deb 13 November 1950 vol 480 cc1359-60
21. Mr. P. Roberts

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what has been the result of his review with the National Coal Board of the problems of supply of coal which he undertook as a matter of urgent importance on 20th March, 1950.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

The Coal Board have made a redoubled drive for cleaner coal during the past six months. They have taken measures in all divisions to ensure the cleaner filling of coal and better picking. They have arranged for the discussion of the question in all colliery consultative committees, and. with the co-operation of the National Union of Mine workers, they have taken many other steps to make all their workers "clean coal conscious." After discussion with the distributive trade, the Board have withdrawn some coals which are inherently unsuitable for the domestic market.

The Board report, and the distributive trade agree, that there has been an improvement in the condition in which household coal now reaches merchants. The Board will not be satisfied until they have greatly increased their mechanical cleaning plant, and until the total output of coal permits them to supply the householders in each region of the country with the kinds and grades of coal, which they respectively desire.

Mr. Roberts

While appreciating that there has been some improvement in quality, may I ask if the Minister will assure the House that the Coal Board will refrain from forcing on consumers types of coal not suitable and, if evidence of this kind is brought to him, will he give attention to it?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Certainly, Sir. I will give attention to any evidence, but it is certain that some kinds of coal will have to be sent to districts which do not gladly receive it. Leicestershire coal is readily burned in grates in Leicester, but nowhere else, because people do not know how to use it. Merchants are trying to teach people how to use unfamiliar coals.

Mr. Henry Strauss

When the right hon. Gentleman said "redoubled" did he really mean redoubled, multiplied by four?

Mr. T. Brown

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of the clear coal seams, particularly in Lancashire, are worked out and that we have to resort to winning seams which bear a great percentage of foreign matter? Is he further aware that the screening plants in Lancashire are only 42 per cent. equal to dealing with the correct screening of the coal?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, Sir. I have masses of statistics which support exactly what my hon. Friend has said.