HC Deb 08 March 1966 vol 725 cc1895-7
34. Mr. J. H. Osborn

asked the Minister of Power what were the stocks of smokeless fuels in the Yorkshire and East Midland region on 1st March 1966; how they compared with stocks on 1st February and 1st January respectively; what information he has about shortages of supplies during February; and what is the present position.

Mr. Frederick Lee

Merchants' stocks of all types of solid smokeless fuels in the North Eastern and North Midlands Regions are estimated at about 51,000 tons on 19th February, 1966, compared with 57,400 tons on 22nd January and 73,200 tons on 25th December, 1965. Stocks of gas coke, including premium varieties, held by the North Eastern and East Midlands Gas Boards totalled 60,400 tons on 20th February, 79,700 tons on 23rd January and 96,200 tons on 26th December. Questions about local supplies are matters for the suppliers.

Mr. Osborn

Can the Minister explain why the Sheffield area has had long delivery times, particularly from the National Coal Board, to retailing organisations and limited choice? Is he aware that his reply does not satisfy many people in the Sheffield area who have had to go without certain smokeless fuels this winter?

Mr. Lee

As I have said, questions about local supplies are not for me but for the suppliers.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Would not the Minister agree that the situation has been aggravated by the apparent failure of the Bronowski process for making smokeless fuel and that after many years and the expenditure of many millions of £s, there is practically no end product at all?

Mr. David Griffiths

Is my right hon. Friend aware, regardless of the imputations or implications from the benches opposite, that the distribution people and not the Coal Board are responsible for the shortage?

35. Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

asked the Minister of Power whether, in the public interest, he will give a general direction to the National Coal Board to restrict sales promotion schemes until smokeless fuel supplies are generally available.

Mr. Frederick Lee

I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) on 22nd February.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

Does the Minister realise that there is a grave shortage and that local suppliers cannot obtain the supplies they need? In these circumstances, will the right hon. Gentleman consult the National Coal Board as to the wisdom of employing glamorous young ladies to push the sale of this non-existent fuel?

Mr. Lee

As the hon. and gallant Member knows, we asked the nationalised fuel industries not to do any advertising during a three-month period, and that was quite effective. Supplies of solid smokeless fuels for the open fire—Coalite, Rexco, Cleanglow, Phimax and Gloco—are generally in satisfactory supply.

Mr. Peyton

Does not the Minister recall that early last year the Coal Board and the distribution industry combined in a large advertising campaign and that promises were made that these fuels would be available, but that production has been extremely disappointing and those promises have nothing like been met.

Mr. Lee

Demand for boiler fuels has, of course, been at a very high level. One of the chief problems has been that during the freezing weather in January, the washeries were not available. The question is now largely one of getting enough fuel through the washeries. The position is improving rapidly.

Mr. David Griffiths

Is my right hon. Friend aware once again that the emphasis which is laid by right hon. and hon. Members opposite is not quite correct? Only last week I was dealing with officials of the Coal Board—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must put a supplementary question.

Mr. Griffiths

I am implying, Mr. Speaker, that the implications which have been made are not correct.

Mr. Lee

My hon. Friend will know that the successes are not all advertised but that the very few failures always are.

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