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Local Overseers' Duties

Volume 486: debated on Monday 16 April 1951

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asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what the duties of fuel overseers are; and how far these officers are responsible for dealing with complaints from consumers.

The local fuel overseer is responsible, subject to my directions, for the administration in his own district of the Coal Distribution Order, 1943, which provides for the regulation of supplies to domestic, non-industrial and small industrial premises. The main provisions are those relating to the licensing of coal merchants, the registration of consumers with specified merchants, and the restriction of coal supplies.For the administration of these provisions, the object of which is to secure a fair and equitable distribution of the limited supplies available, the local fuel overseer is required by the Order to keep a register of merchants and of their customers. He is empowered to issue to consumers licences for additional supplies where warranted by the circumstances, for example, to meet the needs of large families and of families dependent on coal for cooking; to meet hardship arising from illness or other causes; and to provide for the special needs of non-industrial and small industrial premises. He also issues certificates for priority deliveries in necessitous cases under a scheme arranged with the merchants. If a merchant fails to honour such a certificate, the local fuel overseer can use his powers under the Order to direct him or some other merchant to make immediate delivery.In his relations with consumers and merchants, the local fuel overseer deals with complaints on any matters arising from his statutory duties, including the inadequacy of the supplies received by a consumer from his merchant or general complaints of unsatisfactory service. The local fuel overseer has no duties or powers enabling him to investigate or arbitrate on complaints of quality, which must be settled in the normal way between buyer and seller. Where the differences between the parties cannot be resolved he may authorise the transfer of the consumer's registration to another merchant at any time during the year.Finally, the local fuel overseer has additional work in connection with the preparation and circulation of price schedules to merchants.