HC Deb 19 November 1940 vol 365 cc1851-3W
Sir L. Lyle

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that there is still a great shortage of coal in many southern and south-western areas; whether he can explain it; and whether he can definitely undertake that before the close of November ample supplies for the winter will be available?

Mr. Grenfell

I am aware of temporary local shortages in certain parts of these areas, but the Hon. Member will appre ciate that the movement of coal both by sea and rail to destinations remote from colliery districts may at times be subject to interruption. For that reason it would be quite impossible for me to give the undertaking desired by the hon. Member. I am endeavouring, in co-operation with the other Departments concerned, to ensure that as much coal as possible will be made available for the increase of winter stocks to meet whatever emergencies may arise.

Mr. Tinker

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that local authorities have been advised to get in stocks of coal to meet emergencies; that difficulty is being experienced in doing this; and will he make a statement to the House as to what his Department are doing to remove this feeling of anxiety?

Mr. Grenfell

Ever since I took up my present office last May, I have been pressing all classes of consumers to make the fullest possible use of the available transport facilities to lay in stocks of coal for the winter. In order to make sure that no such facilities should go unused I obtained the approval of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a large programme of stocking on Government account, and the ready cooperation of local authorities in putting it into execution wherever a surplus of supplies became available. The response of consumers to my appeals has, however, been so great and continuing that no very great quantity had become available for Government stocking before the intensive air attack on this country developed. Steady progress is still being made with this stocking as circumstances permit. Meanwhile we have the reassuring fact that we are facing the difficult period that lies ahead with far greater reserves of coal distributed over the country than at any previous time in our history. In a war in which all transport services, here as well as in Germany, are very much in the battle-line, it is inevitable that, in spite of the courage and devotion to duty shown by all ranks engaged in them, local shortages of coal should arise from time to time, but I can assure hon. Members that my colleagues and I are doing, and will continue to do, everything in our power to remedy them as rapidly as possible. In this matter we are promised the fullest co-operation of the distributive trade, and consumers themselves can render great assistance by exercising the most rigid economy in fuel in areas where shortages are most likely to arise. In so far as it may be impossible in all cases to avoid some temporary inconvenience—and indeed discomfort—I am confident that the general public will bear these with the same fortitude and cheerfulness with which they have met the more obvious, and far more dire, results of enemy air attack.