HC Deb 23 November 1953 vol 521 cc14-6
24. Miss Burton

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in view of the increased price of fuel, he will consider making this available to old age pensioners at reduced prices during the winter months.

27. Mr. Morley

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make arrangements to allow old age pensioners to have a reasonable supply of coal during the winter months free of cost, or at reduced cost.

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply I gave to the hon. Lady on grounds of principle on 19th November, 1951.

Miss Burton

On the grounds of principle, may I ask the right hon. Gentle man whether he is aware that Mr. Good, of 18, Delius Street, Coventry, an old age pensioner, who worked for 18 years in Blackhall Colliery, County Durham, has had his allowance of coal refused by the Coal Board? Is he aware—

Sir H. Williams

On a point of order. Is it not the rule that we are not allowed to ask Questions about the day to day working of the National Coal Board? Does that not apply not only to the original Questions but also to the supple-mentaries?

Mr. Speaker

I allow certain Questions under the rule the House has asked me to operate, which are of a general character, and I thought this Question was.

Sir H. Williams

I am referring, Mr. Speaker, to the supplementary, in which the hon. Lady referred to a grant of coal to a particular person by the Coal Board. Surely, that is day to day working.

Mr. Speaker

I think that would be day to day working.

Mr. Holmes

Further to that point of order. It is not the case that the hon. Baronet the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) is always asking Questions about absenteeism in the collieries, which is day to day working?

Mr. Speaker

Two wrongs do not make a right.

Miss Burton

On a point of order. May I ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker? The Minister referred, in his answer, to matters of principle. I was dealing with a matter of principle. I realise that one cannot, of course, put down Questions about the day to day administration of the Coal Board. I tried to, and, quite properly, was refused. However, the Board have an agreement with employees with regard to the allowance of coal, and if that agreement is broken does it not then become a matter of principle? This old age pensioner has been refused this coal. He is 77 years of age. He lives in Coventry, where we have a coal mine. I wish to ask you if it is not disgraceful that the Coal Board should refuse him his allowance of coal and insists that he should pay for it? He has been informed that if he has the money to pay for the cartage this coal will be sent to him. That is the point of principle I wish to raise with the Minister.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Lady has made her point, but it is not a point of order. That would be day to day working.

Mr. Morley

Is the Minister aware that the price of coal in the South of England is now about 7s. cwt. and that many old age pensioners cannot afford to pay that price? Has he noticed, in the "News Chronicle" this morning, the statement that many old age pensioners can afford a fire on only one day a week? Would it not be possible to make an arrangement with regard to coal on the lines of that made for tobacco, and let old age pensioners have it at a cheaper price?

Mr. Lloyd

Fundamentally, the price of coal depends upon the costs of production of the Coal Board. Since the war the price of coal has, unfortunately, gone up a great deal—much more, incidentally, during the time of the last Government than during the present Government's time. When questioned on this very subject during the last Administration my predecessors took up exactly the same ground as I am now taking up, the ground of principle.

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