HC Deb 09 November 1960 vol 629 cc1032-4
26. Mr. A. Roberts

asked the Minister of Transport if he will give a general direction to the British Transport Commission to take all possible steps to avoid shortages of coal in the country by providing an adequate supply of wagons for moving coal from the collieries.

Mr. Marples

No, Sir. But I am in close contact with the British Transport Commission, which assure me that it in conjunction with the National Coal Board is taking all practical measures to secure the free movement of industrial and domestic coal during the coming winter.

Mr. Roberts

Does the Minister realise that unless the matter is put in hand immediately there is likely to be a shortage of coal into the Home Counties and into London? Will he also bear in mind that the crisis last year caused some unemployment and shortage of fuel throughout the United Kingdom?

Mr. Marples

I was in touch with Sir Brian Robertson, the chairman of the Commission, as long ago as the summer, and I am prepared to see him again, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is not so much a shortage of wagons as a shortage of staff in crucial areas such as London, Birmingham, and Salford. I am prepared to see Sir Brian Robertson again to see if anything can be done.

Mr. Popplewell

Does not the Minister realise that his proposal to cut the Commission's investment programme again this year is a contributory factor to many of the difficulties with which the Commission is faced in moving coal and other goods?

Mr. Marples

The difficulties with which the Commission is faced are caused by a shortage of staff, and the amount spent on investment does not affect that.

Mr. Callaghan

Can the Minister give me an assurance that in South Wales there will be no shortage of wagons this year, in view of the fact that last winter we lived under the almost permanent threat of a shortage any time there was an excessive cold snap?

Mr. Marples

I will take that up with Sir Brian Robertson, the chairman, because primarily it is his responsibility as a day-to-day matter.