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Coal (Quality)

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 16 March 1943

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12.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware of the inferior quality of much of the coal, including domestic, due to stone and other non-combustible material being mixed therewith and now being brought to the surface, and of the waste of transport, labour, time and money caused thereby, together with frustration of statistics of output, etc.; and whether he will order more effective steps to be taken to secure that only genuine coal is put on rail?

Yes, Sir. My Regional Officers are keeping a close watch on the position and are taking all possible steps to maintain the standard of preparation of coal. Inquiries I have made indicate that over a considerable proportion of the national output the standard has been well maintained, but I would remind my hon. Friend that the position is now such that a use must be found for every ton of fuel produced, including some for which there was little or no demand before the war. It is mainly in relation to this inferior residue of the national output that difficulties arise.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman be good enough to inspect a sample of alleged coal which I extracted, and which represents 4 lbs. of solid stone in one shovelful of coal, from a truck in a siding in Buckinghamshire, supposed to contain the best house coal, for which £3 a ton is charged; and does he think it reasonable that poor people should be asked to pay this price for coal which undoubtedly is adulterated?

No, Sir, I do not agree that it is right that it should be sold. I should be glad to look into the case which my hon. Friend has in mind. I must add, however, that every type of coal has to be used at the present time, and most of the complaints are of the type to which the hon. Member referred. I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that there is a shortage of labour when it comes to the screening and sorting out of the coal, and that is one of the great difficulties.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that in certain areas there is a very definite complaint about this and that last week in Northumberland, in a supply of two tons of coal, there was from 50 to 75 per cent. of stone, and that I have a sample with me to show to him? Is he further aware that there is no shortage of men to do the screening work?

I cannot accept my hon. Friend's contention that there is no shortage of labour on the screening. That is not so. It may be the case in the particular instance he has in mind, and I will look into that case. I find it a little difficult to believe that 75 per cent. of stone was found in the coal.

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that industrial coal, to which the attention of his Department has been drawn frequently, contains more than 50 per cent. of moisture and incombustible material, and when wagons are brought a long distance, does not this represent a very serious waste of transport?