HC Deb 28 November 1955 vol 546 cc1918-9
24. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how stocks of house coal, at the latest convenient date, compare with one year earlier; how much higher in price, per centum and in shillings per ton, the retail price will be, at an average, in respect of current house coal stocks both in merchants hands and otherwise, compared with one year earlier; and if he will give an assurance that current house coal stocks are suitably distributed and adequate to meet maximum household allocations during this winter.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

Merchants' stocks on 12th November were practically the same as last year. Average prices for all householders are not available but, in the zone which contains Kidderminster, the present maximum price for Group 4 house coal is 15s. 3d. per ton (13 per cent.) higher than a year ago. Some maldistribution of stocks still remains as the result of the rail strike, but this should be corrected before we reach the worst months of winter. The householder's allocation is met primarily from current production, the level of which cannot be guaranteed in advance, but every effort will be made to supply merchants with enough coal to meet demands.

Mr. Nabarro

Does that reply mean that all grades of house coal are available in all parts of the country to meet a normal winter demand?

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

No, Sir. I am afraid that I cannot go as far as that. As my hon. Friend knows, Group 1 and Group 2 house coal, for instance, are a very small proportion of the total and are certainly not sufficient, in any event, to be available in all regions to meet all demands.

Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

Does not my hon. Friend's answer prove that the mining industry has most loyally operated the golden rule set by all nationalised industries, which is to give the wretched public worse quality at increased cost?

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

No, Sir. I cannot accept that from my hon. and gallant Friend. The steps which the National Coal Board is taking to improve quality are very substantial, and they are meeting with success.