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Supplies, Birmingham

Volume 486: debated on Monday 9 April 1951

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asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he has investigated the case of Mrs. Siviter of Leahouse Road, Birmingham, to which his attention was drawn on 12th March; how soon after having submitted a medical certificate she was supplied with coal; what representations were made to the Birmingham fuel overseer on her behalf; and what action was taken to deal with the complaint.

When, on 9th January, 1951, Mrs. Siviter presented to the local fuel overseer a medical certificate which was dated 6th November, 1950, it was found that she had a supply of coal in her house. She was advised that, if she were in danger of running out of coal, she should contact the local fuel overseer at once. The local fuel overseer was told on 29th March that Mrs. Siviter was without coal. He at once issued a priority certificate and it was honoured on 31st March, when a delivery of 6 cwt. was made.

Has the Minister seen a copy of the "Birmingham Mail" for Saturday last, 7th April, in which a grave reflection was made on the local fuel overseer in connection with this case? In view of the fact that this was the second report—the first being on 12th March—affecting one of my constituents, each report being totally untrue and false, is the Minister willing to take action to ensure that the public are properly informed in Birmingham and to deal with these abusive reports, especially as one was inspired by the right hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)?

I will consider what my hon. Friend says. I must say that I do regret that the right hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) should have asserted that priority certificates had not been honoured without verifying the facts and, so far as I can discover, without consulting the local fuel overseer in the matter.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this lady informs me that she approached the local fuel overseer with a doctor's note in October, and in February, and that on one occasion her doctor also telephoned to the office? It is typical that it was only after the matter was raised in this House that she received the extra coal allocation.

All the facts are on record in the overseer's office, and if the right hon. Gentleman could make it convenient to go there he could see them for himself.

Is not the object of medical certificates to get an extra supply of coal into the house and not to create the possibility of a coal supply when the existing one has already run out?

I did not say when it ran out. The purpose of the certificate is to ensure that people are not without coal when they need it, and that is what happens.

Can the Minister instruct a local official to answer these reports, which have caused very grave concern among the people of Birmingham because of their untruthful nature?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that even graver concern has been caused by attempting to minimise genuine hardship?

No, Sir. Neither I nor my hon. Friends have attempted to minimise anything. The fact is that assertions that priority supplies are not honoured have always been proved to be untrue.