HC Deb 29 January 1948 vol 446 cc179-80W
99. Sir G. Fox

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the number of house coal officers and depot managers employed at the present time; and how many of these are also concerned in the retail trade.

Mr. Gaitskell

The whole-time regional organisation of the House Coal Distribution (Emergency) Scheme comprises 12 regional house coal officers with 11 deputy and 38 assistant house coal officers. These officers have, as a general rule, been selected for whole-time service by virtue of their practical knowledge, experience and standing in the coal distributive trade. The part-time organisation comprises 650 district house coal officers and 4,850 depot managers, all of whom serve in a voluntary capacity and with few exceptions are actively engaged in the trade.

104. Major Bruce

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that the existing methods of coal distribution are uneconomical, give an undue profit to factors, agents and many other classes of distributor, and result in an excessive price being paid by the consumer relative to pithead prices; and whether he will instruct the National Coal Board to expedite publication of the results of its review of price structure to overhaul distribution methods with a view to securing a lowering of the profits margin between pit-head and coal cellar.

Mr. Gaitskell

As my hon. Friend will appreciate there are many difficult problems in raising the efficiency of retail distribution which are not all peculiar to coal. I have, however, no reason to believe that excessive profits are at present being obtained by coal distributors, and both wholesale margins and retail prices are, of course, controlled by Order. The National Coal Board are actively engaged on the formidable task of rationalizing the quality and size descriptions of the very numerous grades of coal at present being sold, and of determining proper price relationship between the various grades. Moreover, as I informed my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) on 20th November last, the National Coal Board will shortly be opening discussions with distributors on the general question of the Board's relationship with them. I have no doubt that the desirability of reducing distribution costs will figure prominently in these discussions.

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