HL Deb 02 February 1949 vol 160 cc459-60

2.36 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government whether they are aware that the coal sold to domestic consumers contains large quantities of rock and other uninflammable material, and whether this is the result of nationalisation.]


My Lords, there has been a steady deterioration in the quality of house coal since before the war, mainly due to the increase in the proportion of coal mined mechanically without a corresponding increase in the amount of cleaning plant. The position is aggravated by the fact that a number of our best and cleanest seams are becoming exhausted, and others of inferior quality are having to be worked. Moreover, the need to export as much high-class coal as possible inevitably influences the quality available for the home market. In their Annual Report for 1947 (paragraphs 261–277), the National Coal Board have dealt at length with the problem of dirty coal, and with the short-term and long-term measures they are taking to improve the quality. This shows that for some years before the mines were nationalised the quality of the output had deteriorated steadily. The answer to the last part of the noble Viscount's question, therefore, is in the negative.


Is the noble Lord aware that the defects of which we complain are not just casual bits of dirt but lumps of stone of considerable size? These are sold with a thin layer of coal on them so that they are not perceived immediately, although they are the moment they are put into the fire.


My Lords, may I ask whether, since the rocks of which the noble Viscount speaks are now sold to the country for cash, His Majesty's Government will consider accepting the rocks back for cash in payment of income tax or other taxes?


The noble Lords will both appreciate, I am sure, that this is one of the results of the drive towards additional mechanised cutting, which everyone agrees is necessary in order that as large a quantity of coal as possible may be produced. In fact, merchants have been instructed to take particular care in respect of these large pieces, to which the noble Viscount refers, and to call in the Coal Board's officer on any occasion when a truck load is delivered which is not of reasonably good quality. If they are able to prove that the amount of dirt present is substantial, a due allowance will be made.

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