HC Deb 11 June 1956 vol 554 cc10-1
13. Mr. R. Bell

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will now end fuel rationing.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

It is my aim to end restrictions on domestic coal supplies as soon as conditions permit; but to end them now would necessitate further imports of large coal at a considerable cost to our balance of payments, and I could not advocate such a course at a time when our foreign exchange reserves must be most carefully husbanded.

Mr. Bell

Is it true that to abolish domestic coal rationing would cost only an additional 1 million tons of coal? If so, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that coal miners receive 8 tons of concessionary coal a year compared with the 34 cwt. enjoyed by my constituents? Will my right hon. Friend consider applying the policy of fair shares to coal supplies and thereby avoid the expense of domestic rationing?

Mr. Jones

As to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question and his estimate of 1 million tons, estimates vary and are difficult to make, but I would suggest that a minimum estimate would be at least 2 million tons. As to the second part, that is an entirely different question which, I believe, is on the Order Paper for next week, and I would rather not reply until then.

Mr. J. Griffiths

When the Minister makes his statement about concessionary coal, will he point out to his hon. Friends and to the country that for generations concessionary coal has been part of miners' wages and that if it were abolished there would need to be wage negotiations in every pit? Will the right hon. Gentleman, when making his statement, please make this clear to his hon. Friends, who are profoundly ignorant of the fact?

Mr. Jones

In past answers I have given on this matter, I have been at pains to point out that it is part of wage settlements.