HC Deb 14 November 1960 vol 630 cc25-6
39. Mr. Owen

asked the Minister of Power what steps are being taken to ensure adequate supplies of smokeless fuel during the winter; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. George

Although there is always the possibility of local shortages of particular fuels, no serious shortages are anticipated. Stocks of solid smokeless fuel are about the same as last year, and coke supplies in particular are abundant.

Mr. Owen

Some retail merchants do not share the Parliamentary Secretary's optimism. Is he aware that in some areas there are less than two weeks' supply in the stock yards? We are approaching what might be a severe winter. Is it true that there is a bottleneck in supplies, or is transport the problem? Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to have a look at the problem and take urgent action?

Mr. George

There is always a possibility of local shortages and of differing local tastes making demands upon particular brands of smokeless fuel. My Answer was that in general there are ample supplies to face this winter. Railway and other difficulties may crop up, but, in the opinion of my right hon. Friend, there are ample stocks in the country to meet the demands likely to be encountered this winter.

Mr. Dodds

As the Minister has just made an optimistic statement, can he give an assurance to people living in north-west Kent and south-east London, who last winter had to wait from 4th December to the first week in February for coal to be delivered? Are we to take it that, with short stocks on the ground in those areas, there will be no difficulty all through this winter in the delivery of coal by rail or road?

Mr. George

The hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension, The Question refers to smokeless fuel.

Mr. Mason

When a smokeless zone is declared, the general impression created is that coal is a banned fuel. Is it not up to the Ministry to intervene and try to secure better liaison between local authorities and the National Coal Board so that, when a smokeless zone is declared, adequate supplies of smokeless fuel are readily available?

Mr. George

No smokeless zone is allowed to be created before authority is given by the Ministry of Power. Authority is not given until local committees, composed of distributors and producers, have ben consulted. On no occasion has authority had to be refused because of shortage of supplies.