HC Deb 24 May 1954 vol 528 cc12-3
22. Mr. P. Roberts

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will set up a committee to include Members of this House to investigate the price structure of coal in this country, with a view to readjusting the scale of prices so as to bring money value into closer relation to the efficiency value of the coal.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

My right hon. Friend has considered this suggestion but does not think an investigating committee necessary at the present time. The National Coal Board's present pricing policy is designed to secure a close relationship between price and quality although there are other important factors in determining a price.

Mr. Roberts

As the National Coal Board is a national monopoly, is there not a special duty on this House to know the basis on which the prices are charged? In view of the fact that the N.C.B. will not state this basis, is it not now time that some method should be devised to find out this fundamental fact?

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

The counterpart—if I may so call it—of the statutory monopoly that was set up was the statutory Consumers' Council, and that Council is taken into consultation by the National Coal Board on price structure.

Mr. Roberts

But is my hon. Friend aware that the Consumers' Council cannot obtain information from the Coal Board about the basis on which prices are fixed?

Mr. Hamilton

What investigations are being made into the difference between the cost of coal at the pithead and the price asked of the consumer? Is the Minister aware that there is a considerable amount of dissatisfaction among consumers at the fact that distributive costs are excessive?

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

No investigations are being made because the answer is well-known. It is made up of transport charges and distributors' costs and margins.

Miss Ward

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the point is that we are getting worse coal at dearer prices, and the consumer wants to know why. Is it not up to this House to try to reassure the consumer so that he knows what the position really is? He is getting fed up with it.

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