HC Deb 18 May 1965 vol 712 cc1194-5
20. Mr. Palmer

asked the Minister of Power if he will make a statement on the Government's policy of sanction for capital expenditure in relation to the rationalisation and concentration of depots in order to make for the better organisation of the retail coal trade.

The Minister of Power (Mr. Frederick Lee)

I understand that in the relatively few cases involving substantial outlay on mechanisation, the depots are owned by the distributive trade or leased to the National Coal Board. There is no question of the Government having to approve the capital expenditure.

Mr. Palmer

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that a number of years ago an expert committee reported on this issue? Is he satisfied that any real progress has been made since that time?

Mr. Lee

Yes, Sir. About 200 non-mechanised depots calling for very little or no capital expenditure have been established since then.

Mr. Costain

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that sufficient consultations take place with local planning authorities before these depots are commenced?

Mr. Lee

Yes, Sir, I am. To take Bristol, for instance, the present plan is that the city should be served by three mechanised depots, one operated by Cooperative traders and the others by local distributors.

Miss Quennell

Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether there is a programme of rationalisation which is to be pursued and whether there is any means whereby hon. Members can obtain a copy?

Mr. Lee

Perhaps the hon. Lady will give me notice of that. I could not say offhand.

Mr. McBride

Would my right hon. Friend pay attention to the difficulties of South Wales coal depots in view of the 18 per cent. degradation of coal as compared with other places and the impossibility of securing mechanical handling with particular reference to the depots in Swansea?

Mr. Lee

We have set up tripartite committees representing the railways, the National Coal Board and the distributive trades and these function at national, regional and local levels.

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