§ 20. Mr. Gammans
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will consult with the National Coal Board with a view to taking the necessary action to ensure that miners who receive concessionary coal as an agreed part of their emoluments shall take a quarter of it in cash instead of in kind, in view of the fact that the saving thereby would largely obviate the need for any imported coal, and thus relieve both the dollar and the shipping situation.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
In many districts of the coalfields, the miners can, and do, surrender part of their concessionary coal in return for cash, and many miners voluntarily take less than the quantity to which they are entitled. But the arrangements governing the supply of concessionary coal are too various, and the issues raised too complex, for any useful result to be likely to follow from the proposal which the hon. Member has made. These arrangements, as I have explained before, have always been part of the wage agreements in the coal industry.
§ Mr. Gammans
Is it not a fact that if only a quarter of this coal were taken in 2082 cash instead of in kind it would make a very large difference to this very critical situation; and does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that if this were put to the miners as a patriotic gesture they would be the very first to consider it?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
This is a very difficult question. Arrangements about concessionary coal vary in almost every area. Many miners take less than their entitlement without expecting any payment; many miners put some of their coal into a pool for aged miners and the widows of miners. To try, in a precipitate way, to upset these arrangements might do much more harm than good. I think it is far better to leave it to the union and the Board to settle it.