HC Deb 21 March 1955 vol 538 cc1740-1
53. Mr. Collins

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will lift present restrictions so that domestic consumers can purchase coal from any merchant.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

I regret that this is not possible at present.

Mr. Collins

Is the Minister aware that many merchants, particularly in London, have informed their registered customers that they cannot deliver orders for as long as four weeks and that unless a temporary relaxation of present arrangements is made large numbers of people have no hope whatever of getting any coal at all? Will he therefore consider a temporary relaxation to help such people?

Mr. Lloyd

It was with that object that I made the statement that I did last week.

15. Mr. Langford-Holt

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will introduce a coal rationing system with a minimum ration instead of an allocation system which is a maximum allocation.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

I should be reluctant to make any change such as that proposed by my hon. Friend which would make more elaborate our present administrative arrangements.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Can my right hon. Friend assure me that the people in my constituency who are entitled to it could have the total allocation by the end of the summer months?

Mr. Lloyd

I will write to my hon. Friend.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Is my right hon. Friend aware that production and productivity are often increased by allowing the law of supply and demand to operate in the original market? Why is it not possible now, in the present state of coal production, to allow not only a consumer to change his coal merchant, but the merchant to change his mine, or source of supply?

Mr. Lloyd

Fundamentally the reason is that, unless there is a system of ration books or some method of that kind, the only way to enforce the restrictions on coal deliveries—which are, unfortunately, still necessary because production is not sufficient to enable rationing to be abolished—is for the merchant to keep records. We cannot, therefore allow consumers to change their merchant frequently, otherwise the records would get into a state of complete confusion. I have, however, moved in the direction desired by my hon. Friends by increasing from one month to four the period during which consumers can change their merchant.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Is not there something very unsatisfactory about the present system if, as is quite obvious, the Minister has been given completely inaccurate information about the position of coal stocks in London, Shrewsbury and all over the country? Will not the right hon. Gentleman examine the system to see that at least he gives accurate information to the House?

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