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Coal Industry

Volume 409: debated on Tuesday 10 April 1945

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Technical Advisory Committee (Report)

5.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power, what action it is proposed to take with reference to the recommendations of the Technical Advisory Committee on Coal Mining, Cmd, 6610; and whether, in view of widespread agreement that public control through an appropriately designed public utility company, or companies, is essential, he will introduce the necessary legislation forthwith.

9.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is in a position to make a statement on the Report of the Technical Advisory Committee; and what action he proposes to take in order to implement its recommendations.

My hon. Friends will appreciate that a report of this character must receive the most careful consideration before a statement can be made. There will be presented shortly a White Paper on the financial position of the coal mining industry dealing with the coal charges account, which will, I anticipate, further assist in presenting a picture of the industry at the present time.

In coming to a conclusion on the matter, will my right hon. and gallant Friend bear in mind that there is a large measure of support in all parties for a settlement on the lines indicated in my Question?

Is the Minister aware that no estimate of the cost involved was given in this report; and has he made up his mind as to the probable cost involved in the recommendations of the committee?

How many more reports must we have before some action is taken to put the industry on a proper basis?

The hon. Member will appreciate that there has never been a report of this sort made before. It is a very important report, because it is fundamental to, whatever approach is made to the settlement of this problem, and I am certain that nothing but good could come from the examination of this and other reports which I hope will be published. With regard to the cost which would be involved by the proposals in the report, that is, the other investigations and amalgamations necessary, it will be some time before we know what the costs will be.

Railway Wagons (Shortage, Nottinghamshire)

6.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether his attention has been called to the serious loss of coal output in the Nottinghamshire district during the last three months owing to the lack of railway wagons; how this compares with the loss in the country as a whole; and what steps he has taken to improve the supply of wagons in this district.

Yes, Sir, I am aware of the serious loss of output which has occurred in the Nottinghamshire district during the last three months owing to the lack of railway wagons. This loss represents about 28 per cent. of the loss in the country as a whole. These losses are accounted for mainly by railway operational difficulties arising from a number of causes including severe weather and heavy sickness among train crews. I am in constant touch with my noble Friend the Minister of War Transport and the railway authorities on this matter, and I am glad to say in the last few weeks there has been a substantial decrease in losses from this cause.

Can the Minister say how many tons he estimates have been lost, how many miners are unemployed in Nottinghamshire, and how much has been paid in wages without any results?

I cannot answer that question without notice. It varies from week to week, and the greatest loss occurred during the period of very severe weather when no work at all was possible. If the hon. Gentleman would like to know, I will get the figures for him.

Petrol Allowance (Summer Holidays)

8.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he has considered the possibility of granting a special petrol ration for travel during the summer holidays.

The petrol situation is kept under constant review but I regret that present conditions preclude any relaxation of the existing restrictions on Civilian consumption.

May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether, if the war in Europe terminates before that time, he will then reconsider the matter?

I did say in an answer to a previous Question that the decision depends on the situation at the time, and I am constantly looking at the matter. The position is governed by the situation.

Newfoundland Service Personnel (Home Service)

10.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he will give particulars of the home leave scheme now approved for the Newfoundland regiments.

The scheme provides that all men in the two Artillery Regiments who have been absent from Newfoundland for 4½ years shall be entitled to 28 days of home leave exclusive of time spent in travelling, or, in the case of soldiers with wives or parents in this country, to a similar period of leave here, if they so prefer. Subject to reinforcements being available and to operational requirements, a total of too men will be allowed to return to Newfoundland each month, 68 being taken from the regiment in Italy, 17 from the Heavy Regiment in Western Europe, and 15 from the Newfoundland Royal Artillery Depot in this country.

May I ask if my hon. Friend will consider an extension of the benefits of this welcome scheme to Newfoundlanders in other units, including the R.A.F.?

Clothing (Gift Parcels For Europe)

11.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how long the question has been under consideration of permitting parcels of clothing of under 5 lbs. each to be sent to France to other than French nationals, as have long been allowed to be sent to French people through the French Red Cross; whether this is now permitted; and, if so, through what agency can the parcels be sent.

The British Red Cross first approached the Board of Trade on this matter in February. Arrangements for a gift parcel service through the British and other Red Cross organisations to France, and other liberated countries, were completed last week and will be put into effect as soon as the Red Cross organisations are ready to handle the parcels.

Will the scheme include large-scale consignments for general redistribution as well as individual parcels; and how soon will it be time for donors to send in their individual parcels, as many are anxious to avail themselves of the opportunity?

We shall have to issue a Press announcement on the scheme when it has all been settled with the Red Cross organisations concerned. There is no delay as far as my Department is concerned. We are prepared to operate the scheme as soon as the Red Cross organisations are able to accept parcels, which are expected to be many. It is intended that parcels shall be sent from individual to individual, and not in bulk consignments.

Assurance Companies (Life Policies)

12.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the total number of life policies of the value of £1,000 or under estimated to be in force issued by assurance companies other than industrial assurance societies.

Under the Assurance Companies Act, 1999, life assurance companies are required to state, at least every five years, tile number of life policies and the total amount assured, but they are not required to state the amount assured under each policy or the total number of policies for £1,000 or less. There are about 6,250,000 current policies covering about £2,500,000,000, issued by companies established in the United Kingdom.

13.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been drawn to the hardships suffered by patentees in having the period of time for which the patent was granted curtailed by reason of the war and whether steps will be taken to extend patents taken out during the war for the period of time during which the war has made them inoperative.

Under Section 18 of the Patents and Designs Act, a patentee, who has suffered loss or damage by reason of hostilities, may apply to the Court for an extension of the term of his patent. The Patents Committee, which I appointed fast year, have made an interim report dealing with this point, and I have arranged for this report to be published and for copies to be available in the Vote Office on Thursday next.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these patentees have been deprived for nearly six years of the profits they were entitled to receive under their patents? Surely it is only fair that the time for which a patent is valid should be extended for a like period?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will read the report. This is a good Committee and they have gone into the matter very carefully.

Retail Business Licences

14.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the total number of licences issued to date under the Location of Retail Businesses Order since its inception to individual unit traders, branches of multiple shops and co-operative societies, respectively; and the number of transfers of licences which have been made to multiple stores and co-operative societies from independent traders.

Between 1st January, 1942, when the Location of Retail Businesses Order came into force, and the 31st De- cember, 1944, 9,329 licences were granted for the opening of new retail businesses. Of these, 218 were granted to multiple stores; 73 to co-operative societies; and 19,038 to other traders. During the same period, 9,197 licences were granted to traders who had acquired the goodwill of existing businesses. Of these, 213 were granted to multiple stores; 151 to cooperative societies; and 8,833 to other traders.

Clothing Coupons (Released Service Personnel)

15.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many clothing coupons are to be issued to service personnel on demobilisation of release from the forces after the war with Germany.

This matter is now being considered by the Board of Trade, in consultation with the Service Departments.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we may expect a decision, in view of the issue by the Ministry of Labour of a pamphlet, which is being sent to every Serviceman, and in which no reference is made to this matter?

It would not necessarily benefit the Servicemen if we came to a premature decision. They will not be drawing these coupons until after demobilisation, and it is to their advantage that we should look into the thing carefully in the light of the available supplies. I am anxious to do the best I can for them.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether anything is being done for the Women's Land Army in this connection?

Regional Technical Directors

17.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what are the qualifications for a regional technical director; what is his salary; and whether he takes precedence of, or has authority over, other Board of Trade technical officers in his area.

These officers deal only with engineering and must have a good general knowledge of the engineering industries. They are assisted, in each region, by a small staff, who have also been selected because of their experience of engineering. The salary range of the regional directors is £850 to £1,000 a year, plus Civil Service bonus of £60 a year.

Can the right hon Gentleman say what constitutes reasonably experienced men? Do they have to take any special qualifications?

No, Sir. I do not think it is difficult to decide whether a particular man has a good knowledge of engineering. We do the best we can in the light of our information about the applicants and they are a good body of men.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether one of these technical officers appointed with a good knowledge of engineering takes precedence, and has authority over a man who is, for instance, a chief engineer with a marine certificate?

I have tried to explain the position. In each region we are particularly concerned with reconversion from war to peace of the engineering industry. For this purpose we have certain officers whom we have appointed specially for this purpose. The regional director is the head of these officers in each region. He is not over other members of the staff.

Combines And Restrictive Aģreements

18.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action the Government propose to take to carry out Section 54 of the White Paper on Employment, involving obtaining power, to obtain information as to the extent and effect of restrictive agreements and of the activities of combines; and to take appropriate action to check practices which may bring advantages to sectional-producing interests but detrimental to the country as a whole.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) on 27th March.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that this is urgent; and will he undertake to introduce legislation at any rate some time before the end of this Session and the beginning of next?

Will the right hon. Gentleman consult with the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Information on this?

Aluminium Hollow-Ware

19.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will take steps to release for sale aluminium hollowware the production of which has been authorised by the Ministry of Aircraft Production.

The production of aluminium hollow-ware is at present limited to the articles most needed—kettles, stew-pans and steamers. Eighty-two firms have now been licensed to make these goods, and they have been asked to produce as much as they can with the labour available. Prices are controlled, but there are no other restrictions on the sale of these goods.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the principal manufacturers states that he is not permitted to sell what he has made?

In that case I think he had better get into touch with me, because he is misinformed.

But as he sells his own products and my right hon. Friend does not, is it not likely that he knows more about it than my right hon. Friend?

British Industries (Exhibitions)

44.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether it is intended to hold a British Industries Fair in 1946 and if consideration will be given to organising the pottery section exhibits at Trentham and cotton at Blackpool; and if he will make a full statement on the proposals for exhibiting British manufactured goods throughout the world after the war and on the organisation of suitable industry and trade films to be shown throughout the world.

As my predecessor announced, advice is being sought from the British Industries Fair Exhibitors' Advisory Committee as to the earliest date at which it will be practicable and desirable to hold the next fair. There are many difficult problems which must limit the effectiveness of any fair held at a short interval after the end of the European war. The importance of an early decision regarding a fair in 1946 is fully appreciated and I hope this may be forthcoming in the near future.

Distinction must be drawn between a National Fair on the lines of the British Industries Fair, which it is intended shall increasingly seek to attract overseas buyers, and a series of fairs representative of individual industries. There is a considerable volume of experienced opinion which holds the view that the use of a number of different centres reduces the appeal of a National Fair. It is my intention to discuss with individual industries their policy for exhibitions, both at home and abroad, or other methods to bring their goods to the attention of potential overseas buyers.

As regards the final part of the Question, my Department will use every opportunity to encourage industries and firms to arrange for the production of industrial films and to assist in securing their display abroad.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that Leipzig, Paris and Lyons were centres of trade attraction before the war and is it the policy of the Overseas Trade Department to take the initiative in order to see that some place in this country is made the centre of a European trade exhibition?

The policy of the Department is to give full weight to those who have experience of exhibiting in the past and to any other considerations which will make for the success of the British Industries Fair.