asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the closing down of pottery works in North Staffordshire owing to lack of coal due to the combing out of miners for the Army; and will he take steps to secure an adequate labour force for the maintenance of this staple British industry in view of the fact that America has 20,000,000 men of military age anxious to make the world safe for democracy?
The Prime Minister has asked me to answer this question. The shortage of coal in the potteries in Staffordshire at the present time is not only due to the comb out of miners, but to the unfortunate influenza epidemic which has raged during the last month; and while it is hoped that an improvement in the output will now take place, it will still be necessary to ration the pottery industry, and the Controller of Coal Mines has agreed with the National Council of the pottery industry that this body should undertake the rationing on his behalf within the limits of the amount of coal which it is possible to allot to the industry. Every effort will be made to avoid unduly interfering with the industry.
Will my right hon. Friend see, in allotting a certain amount of coal to the Staffordshire industry, that they are given priority in the pits in the district?
No; I could not undertake to give any such promise. We have to have regard to the needs of the country as a whole. We could not allot output of any particular mines to the area in which the mines are situated.
Does the right hon. Gentleman understand that it is important that we should get the coal and not be given a certain ration which it is impossible to supply to us?
I think it may be accepted that if the Coal Controller does give a particular ration for this industry, he will take steps to see that the coal is provided.