HC Deb 04 June 1951 vol 488 cc676-7
31. Mr. P. Roberts

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will give instructions to his fuel officers to support any proper complaints made by merchants to the National Coal Board where it is proved that dirty and poor quality coal has been delivered to a customer.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

As the hon. Member is aware, the National Coal Board have agreed with the Coal Merchants' Federation and the Co-operative Union on a procedure for dealing with complaints about the quality of coal. I have no reason for thinking that this procedure is not working well, but if any merchant feels aggrieved by any decision which the Board may make it is open to him to complain direct, or through his trade association, to the appropriate Coal Consumers' Council. I hope the hon. Member will agree that, in these ways, the merchants are adequately protected against abuse.

Mr. Roberts

Is the Minister aware, however, that if a merchant returns dirty or bad coal to the Coal Board he is liable to have that amount knocked off his next allocation, thereby losing coal for his customers? As he is not very likely to do that if the suggestion about the fuel officer were adopted there might not be victimisation of that kind.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I cannot accept the word "victimisation." If such a thing occurs the Coal Merchants' Federation will take it up at once, and they have not done so so far.

Mr. Roberts

But is it not a fact that if a merchant returns coal it is not replaced?