HL Deb 20 July 1959 vol 218 cc165-6

2.36 p.m.


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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether further consideration has been given to the question which he raised on 16th December last relating to the encouragement, or subsidy by the Government, of the purchase by house-holders of enclosed stoves suitable for burning small coal and, if so, with what result.]


My Lords, despite considerable experimental work by the Government, research bodies, and private industry, an enclosed stove has not yet been developed which will burn small coal both efficiently and smokelessly. By small coal I mean, my Lords, the fine ungraded coal which forms a large proportion of our coal production. Work in this field is therefore being mainly concentrated on the development of new methods of processing small coal into briquettes and smokeless fuels, so that it can be burned efficiently in modern domestic appliances. This work is proceeding very successfully. Grants are already available in "Smoke Control Areas" to assist householders to install modern appliances in place of those which cannot burn smokeless fuels.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for the interest which he has taken in my Question, may I ask him whether he agrees that the British people are backward in using enclosed stoves and that if, over a period of years, it were possible to persuade them that they would get better value that way we might at the same time go some way towards curing the abundance of small coal which is now troubling the coal industry? Will he therefore pursue this matter vigorously, and see whether such encouragement as he can give will bring about this desirable result?


My Lords, I cannot say that the British people are backward; that is the last thing I would say. This problem of burning what is known as small coals efficiently and smokelessly is not an easy one. It may be that there is some confusion in my noble friend's mind between smokeless fuels and ordinary small, ungraded coal, where I can assure him that there are technical problems which so far have not been overcome. It is, I know, a common fallacy to think that the price of these small coals could be reduced and that they could be sold easily for domestic consumption; but they are not suitable for domestic consumption.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether his answer refers to the use of anthracite, or to purely smokeless coal?


No, my Lords. Anthracite is capable of being used efficiently and smokelessly in enclosed stoves.


My Lords, are not most of the well-known small, enclosed stoves omnivorous, so that they can burn, one could say, almost anything?


No, my Lords; that is not the case. I wish it were the case.


Would my noble friend consider giving some publicity to what the Coal Board and his Ministry are doing, and have done, in the way of the development of smokeless fuel? Because the general public have heard a great deal about experiments, but so far the smokeless fuel on the market is very expensive and by no means always plentiful.


My Lords, I am very grateful for that suggestion. I am having, and have had for some time now, the whole question of smokeless fuels, the work that has been done on them and the work which requires to be done on them, examined, and I hope to present a report to the public later this year.

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