HC Deb 11 June 1964 vol 696 cc611-3
10. Mr. Willis

asked the Minister of Power if he will make a statement about summer price reductions for coal.

15. Mr. Farr

asked the Minister of Power if he will make a statement on the seasonal reductions in the price of coal.

Mr. Peyton

The object of the recent price changes is to encourage coal merchants and their customers to stock up in summer.

The differential between summer and winter prices has been increased and the summer season extended to November and, next year, April as well.

Mr. Willis

Is the Minister satisfied that the price reductions are being passed on to the consumer?

Mr. Peyton

That is not a matter for me. It is the responsibility of the merchants. I very much hope that members of the public who know of these price reductions will compare he prices offered by different merchants and act accordingly.

Mr. Farr

Can my hon. Friend tell me why these reductions do no apply to smokeless fuels? Is he aware hat there are many newly designated smokeless zones where great concern is being expressed because people are net able to buy smokeless fuels at seasonally reduced prices?

Mr. Peyton

There have been some temporary reductions in the price of smokeless fuels. I cannot go beyond what I said just now, namely, that the price of these fuels must reflect the cost of their production.

Mr. W. Hamilton

Is the Minister aware that the cost of production bears very little relationship to the cost of coal to the housewife when it arrives on the doorstep? Is he aware that the cost of production is very much less than the price paid by the housewife and that the answer is to examine the distributive processes?

Mr. Peyton

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for amending my answer. Of course the price must reflect the cost of distribution as well.

Colonel Lancaster

Is my hon. Friend aware that this extension of the summer price period by two months will give a great deal of satisfaction in the country? Would he see that the utmost publicity is given to the statement that he has made this afternoon?

Mr. Peyton

Yes, Sir. I entirely agree with my hon. and gallant Friend.

Mr. T. Fraser

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that his repeated declaration that the cost of these fuels must reflect the cost of production is very difficult to reconcile with the decision of the Coal Board to introduce summer coal price reductions? He will appreciate that there was no great reduction in the cost of producing coal at the beginning of May. Is not it his responsibility to ensure that price reductions offered by the Board are passed on to the consumer and also to ensure that those who make smokeless fuels from coal bought at lower prices during the summer pass the benefit of that reduction to their customers?

Mr. Peyton

No, I am not responsible for prices.

11. Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Power whether, in view of the growing number of flat dwellers with limited storage facilities, he will introduce legislation to ensure that they enjoy the full benefit of coal and coke summer price reductions.

Mr. Peyton

No, Sir.

Mr. Lipton

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that in Brixton and many other places in London and other towns an increasingly large number of people are living in flats or houses of multiple occupation where there are not storage facilities? Is there any social justice in a system which gives the benefit of the price reductions in fuel only to people who live in large houses with large coal cellars who are able to stock several tons at a time?

Mr. Peyton

Of course, I realise that there is a problem for those who have not adequate storage facilities, but it is in the general interest that heavy pressure on deliveries as far as possible should be relieved in the four winter months. I remind the hon. Member that the extension of the summer period of reduced prices should be of great value to these people as well.

Mr. Lipton

The concession is made at the expense of poorer consumers. The poorer one is the less benefit one gets from summer prices.

Mr. J. H. Osborn

Would my hon. Friend agree that there is sense in drawing the attention of local authorities to the value of providing more extensive space for storage and that if this cannot be provided in flats where there is a transport problem, there are other sources of heat?

Mr. Peyton

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government will take note of what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Holt

Further to the Answer the Parliamentary Secretary gave to a Question from the Opposition Front Bench when he said that he had not responsibility for the price of smokeless fuel, will he tell the House exactly what the responsibility of his Department is in regard to the successful carrying out of the Government's smokeless zone policy?

Mr. Peyton

Not in answer to this Question.