HC Deb 18 June 1956 vol 554 cc1023-4
5. Mr. Rippon

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what economies have been achieved in the administration of local fuel offices and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton

Between 1st January, 1952, and 31st May this year, the number of local fuel offices has been reduced from 1,453 to 492 by concentrating the work of the local fuel overseers in offices covering wider areas. This policy of amalgamation, together with other economies effected in the administration of the offices, has resulted in a financial saving of about £400,000 a year.

Mr. Rippon

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that reply, which I am sure will give general satisfaction. Can he confirm that these amalgamations will not result in any lowering of standards to the consumer?

Mr. Renton

Yes, Sir. Indeed, it is true to say that these amalgamations have resulted in only one complaint. That was a recent one regarding an office which was amalgamated only on 1st May and has yet to be investigated. I am satisfied, and so is my right hon. Friend, that the service which is being given now is as good as ever.

Mr. Mason

Does the Minister appreciate that this is only picking at the problem? If he wants economy with efficiency, would it not be far more profitable to allow the fuel overseers to operate either through the Ministry or the local authorities and to be the sole distributors of fuel, thus cutting out the most unjust and unprofitable system which exists at present to the cost of the consumer?

Mr. Renton

That raises a very wide and different question.

Mr. R. Bell

Will my hon. and learned Friend consider the further economy of abolishing these offices and fuel rationing altogether?

Mr. Renton

No, Sir. It is not possible to abolish fuel rationing at present without incurring a heavy liability for importing coal. Meanwhile, until we have enough coal to satisfy in full the needs of consumers, the offices are necessary to ensure a fair distribution and the relief of the occasional case of hardship.

Forward to