HC Deb 12 March 1951 vol 485 cc1054-6
40. Mr. Braine

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what arrangements he has made to ensure that emergency stocks of coal are held to meet the needs of invalids possessing a doctor's certificate.

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)

The first claim on the coal supplies in any area is always given to anyone who satisfies the local fuel overseer, either by medical certificate or otherwise, that he is in real need of coal. These arrangements have worked extremely well, and I think there is no need for any change.

Mr. Braine

While I quite understand that these arrangements are supposed to work well, might I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will not agree that recent correspondence which I have had with his Department shows that there is a wide gap between theory and practice? May I urge him to look into how these arrangements work in order to ensure that no sick person in need of coal goes without it?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I am always ready to look at any special case. I have made inquiries into many special cases and have always found that the arrangements have in fact worked well.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Has the Minister's attention been called to the case of Mrs. Vernon of Birmingham, who last Friday told the magistrate that she had been in bed for a fortnight and had been unable to obtain any coal?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me if she had sent a message to the local fuel overseer?

Mr. Mellish

Does my right hon. Friend agree that coal merchants themselves have, through illness of their staff and not because of shortages, not been able to deliver the coal and that in fact it has not been the Ministry that has been at fault?

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Is the Minister aware of the case of Mrs. Sirriter, of Leahouse Road, Birmingham, aged 71, who has been in considerable distress, without coal, although she sent a doctor's note when applying for the extra supply? Does the Minister realise that this is a good scheme on paper but that it is not working in practice?

Mr. Noel-Baker

No, I realise nothing of the kind. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will send me the evidence that these ladies applied to the local fuel overseer and did not receive the coal.

Mr. Yates

Is my right hon. Friend aware that so far as hon. Members on this side of the House who represent Birmingham are concerned, every case that has been submitted to the local fuel overseer has been dealt with favourably and sympathetically? Will my right hon. Friend take some action to see that Members who raise matters like this shall submit the evidence on which they raise them?

Mr. Angus Maude

Is the Minister aware that in the case of one of my constituents, of which I have now sent him particulars, the correct formalities were exactly complied with but that it took the local fuel office eight days to send her the required form to fill in?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I will certainly look into that case when I receive the particulars from the hon. Member.

Mr. Maude

They were sent a fortnight ago.

Mr. Braine

On a point of order. Since the Minister knows quite well——

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order; it is a supplementary question. I had decided that we would move on to the next Question.

Mr. Braine

On a point of order. In view of the totally unsatisfactory answer given by the Minister, I beg to give notice that J shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at an early date.