HC Deb 22 February 1912 vol 34 cc881-2W

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the increase in coal consumption during the last forty years, and of the circumstance that in any event the duration of the known and workable fields is limited and their exhaustion at the present rate of consumption can be approximately determined, the Government are satisfied to rest on the opinion of the Royal Commission that the rate of increase in output would become slower, to be followed by a stationary period, and then a decline, as affording sufficient ground for assuming that no steps are necessary for the conservation of this source of energy, instead of regarding it as an indication of increasing difficulty in maintaining the supply; or, having regard to the vital national importance of industrial energy supply, will the Government consider the suggestion of Sir William Ramsay, the president of the British Association, that a small commission should be appointed, sitting permanently, to inquire and keep the Government advised as to the rate of exhaustion and probable further duration from time to time, and as to what, if any, steps should be taken in the light of further knowledge to conserve and utilise remaining supplies to the best advantage of the nation?


I do not think anything would be gained by appointing a permanent Commission to inquire continuously into the total amount of our coal supply and its rate of exhaustion. Those are questions which cannot be dealt with piecemeal, but require a thorough and exhaustive investigation of the whole situation. Such an investigation was made by the Royal Commission which reported in 1905, and a long interval of years should be allowed for the accumulation of fresh data before another inquiry of the same kind is undertaken. But whether our coal supply will last for another 400 years, or will at the present rate of consumption be exhausted in 200 years, I recognise the importance of economising that supply, and I am considering whether a Government inquiry could with advantage be made in two directions: First, what measures are possible to prevent waste in the getting of coal—e.g., by wasteful methods of working or by levying unnecessary barriers between royalties; and, secondly, what economies can be effected by stopping waste in the consumption of coal and by its more scientific use in the production of energy.