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Coal Industry

Volume 440: debated on Thursday 17 July 1947

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asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what is the procedure which should be followed by any film producing company in order to be given full consideration in connection with receiving a commission for the production of films on coalmining, either by his Department, the Central Office of Information, or the National Coal Board, and from which of these funds are made available at the present time for the commissioning of new films or the purchase of films that have already been made.

The Central Office of Information at present commissions, or purchases, the majority of films required by the Ministry of Fuel and Power, or the National Coal Board. But, I understand that the National Coal Board is also prepared itself to devote certain limited funds to the production of films. Any film producer interested should approach the Films Department of the Central Office of Information, or the National Coal Board. The only films directly sponsored by the Ministry of Fuel and Power are technical films on training or safety which necessarily have a very restricted showing.

In view of the great improvement in production in those industries which have adopted methods of joint consultation, if it was proposed by a group of people to produce a film on such tried and effective methods for the coal industry, to whom should they apply to sponsor this film, or obtain permission for them to carry out this work?

I suggest that the best way would be to apply to the National Coal Board.

Domestic Allocation


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will now undertake to increase the six summer months' coal allocation of one ton, five cwts. to households with neither gas nor electricity.

Gaitskell: I am sorry that no increase in the domestic coal allowances is at present possible.

Would the Minister give further consideration to this matter, which is one of great importance, especially to farmers and people in isolated country districts, who have no gas or electricity, and have not the same benefits as people in towns?

We would be only too glad to increase those allowances if the coal were available. As regards people with no gas or electricity, they can get additional supplies if they have to cook by coal.

In this situation, is it really intended to pursue the five-day week?

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is particularly unfair to poor urban residents who have neither gas nor electricity?

I think the present arrangements deal fairly with the different classes of consumer.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is great dissatisfaction when those without gas or electricity see the full ration being delivered to those who have gas and electricity? Would he give instructions to his regional officers at least to give preference in regard to the rationed amount to those who have not gas or electricity?

All we can do is to fix the maximum amount. We have to leave the trade discretion in deciding how they share out supplies among their customers and they take into account the kind of points which my hon. Friend has raised.

It the Minister cannot increase the allowance of coal to those in rural areas, where they have neither gas nor electricity, will he at least remove from rural areas posters asking people to economise in the use of gas and electricity?

In cases where persons have neither gas nor electricity, how can they cook otherwise than by coal?



asked the Minister of Fuel and Power why fuel, such as anthracite grains, has been exported and is being exported from the United Kingdom, when it is urgently needed here at home in view of the grave shortage of fuel.

In the three months following the ban on coal exports from this country imposed in February last, shipments have averaged 43,000 tons per month compared with 420,000 tons for the corresponding period of last year. This coal is exported in the main to Eire, the Channel Islands, and His Majesty's Forces overseas. There are, in addition, a few special cases, where exports are permitted. One such case is the supply of a small quantity of anthracite to Canada.

Is not the same mistake as was made last year being repeated, namely, of exporting fuel urgently needed in this country, and will not such a policy, if pursued, aggravate the fuel crisis in the coming winter? What is the point of exporting anthracite grains to Canada, and then having to buy them back from the United States at a price which is three times higher?

The Canadian market for anthracite is of special importance, as many hon. Members know, and we are anxious to continue what is no more than a token export, in order to keep ourselves in that market.

Opencast Coal (Wastage)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the maximum and minimum figures from which the average wastage of 4 per cent. in opencast coal is derived; and in which areas the highest wastage has been apparent in the last year.

The estimate of 4 per cent. as the average rate of wastage of opencast coal between site and merchant relates to the whole period since the commencement of opencast operations in 1942. This figure was not built up region by region, but was calculated for the country as a whole, and I regret, therefore, that it is not possible to give the maximum and minimum regional figures. Regional figures are, however, available for the year 1946–47 during which period the average rate of wastage was 2.84 per cent. The highest rate was apparent in Scotland, but there is very little material difference between the remaining regions.

Is this in any way related to the thickness of the seams worked, in view of the Minister's previous assertion that the highest wastage takes place near the surface edge?

I think the greatest wastage is where the greatest amount of dirt is taken from the coal, and that very often applies to coal near the surface.

Underground Gasification


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power to what extent consideration is being given to the production of gas by firing coal underground.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan), on 1st May, to which there is nothing I can at present usefully add.

Closed Colliery, Llanelly Hill


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many men were employed at the Waun Nantyglo Colliery, Llanelly Hill, Breconshire, when it was closed down recently; how many have been transferred to other collieries; how many have left the mining industry; how many are still unemployed; and when employment is to be found for these men.

I am informed that 68 men were employed at the colliery when it was closed on 20th June. Forty-eight men have been transferred to other collieries, nine men are still employed at the colliery, and three have retired on account of age. Of the remainder, three have left the coalmining industry, two haulage engine drivers have not yet been placed in employment, and there are three other men, of whom full particulars are not at present available.

Industrial Allocation


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that there are industrial firms which are not receiving their normal allocation of fuel and are being compelled to use the stocks they were building up for winter use; and whether he will give an assurance that such deficits will be made good.

Up to now industry has been receiving in the aggregate the amount of coal programmed, but this has not been true of every firm in every area. Where the receipts of a particular firm are below the average, I can assure my hon. Friend that as far as possible action will be taken to increase supplies. If my hon. Friend knows of any particular cases of difficulty and will let me have details, I will be glad to have them investigated.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary give the further assurance that those factories which have been able to effect economies during the summer, and to build up stocks of coal, will not be penalised in the winter months if there is a short-fall in deliveries?

Yes, I certainly give that assurance. It was given by my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade, and I repeat it.