HC Deb 06 May 1957 vol 569 cc625-6
31. Mr. Moss

asked the Paymaster-General what quantity of coal is currently held in distributed stocks; and what quantity remains undistributed.

Mr. Maudling

16.5 million tons and 3.7 million tons, respectively, at 20th April, 1957.

Mr. Moss

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that miners in the Warwickshire coalfield and, I believe, elsewhere have become increasingly alarmed at the visibly growing stocks of surplus coal in spite of assurances given by the National Coal Board to questions by the National Union of Mineworkers? Will the right hon. Gentleman take the opportunity of telling the miners that there is no danger of working short-time because of this?

Mr. Maudling

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me the opportunity of saying that no one in the mining industry need be in any way concerned that we now have large stocks. They exist because of the recent exceptionally mild weather. There can be no doubt that for many years to come we shall need all the coal we can get.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a possibility of stocks piling up at the pithead and in sidings which might lead to some brief unemployment? Could he take into account Question No. 30, which asks whether the allocation of coal scheme ought not now to come to an end?

Mr. Maudling

The National Coal Board is well aware of the danger of allowing pithead stocks to rise to a point at which production would be impeded, but I am sure that is not happening at the moment. The question of rationing coal is a different one. The problem there is of large coal of domestic grades, which is far from being in surplus at the moment.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

How do the figures compare with those of the same time last year?

Mr. Maudling

The stocks are much higher than at the same time last year; in fact, I think that they are the highest since 1948.