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Industrial And Domestic Supplies

Volume 529: debated on Monday 28 June 1954

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asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much of the proposed coal imports will be destined for the domestic market to alleviate the house-coal shortage.

To save a long supplementary, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he and, indeed, everybody would read the leading article on page 6 of yesterday's "Sunday Times"? It would do them all good.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will now make a statement upon house-coal supply prospects for next winter, in view of increased coal imports.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what further steps he is taking to expedite summer stocking of coal, in view of the threatened shortage of house coal in the coming winter.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make a general statement about the coal and fuel prospects for next winter; and what particular steps industry and householders should take in preparation for the winter months.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what advice he is giving to industry, particularly the textile industry, about stocking coal for the forthcoming winter

Consumers generally should buy and stock as much coal as they can during the rest of the summer. So far, I am glad to say that distributed stocks are somewhat higher than last year. But the purpose of my answers last week was to emphasise the danger that will arise in the winter if consumption continues to rise as at present and production remains broadly static. The Government and the coal industry as a whole fully appreciate the gravity of this prospect.

As I announced last week, the Government have already decided to import more coal, but the fundamental need is for greater production, and this has been stressed by the N.C.B. and in the recent report of the Executive of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Can my right hon. Friend give an asurance that the Coal Board, in the course of the next nine months, will deliver to merchants all over the country a total quantity of coal which will enable the merchants to honour their obligations in supplying the maximum allocation to householders, namely, 34 cwt. in the South of England and 50 cwt. in the North of England?

It depends upon the level of production which Members in all quarters of the House and, indeed, people throughout the country wish to see increased.

Does the Minister anticipate that all the steps that he has now planned will be as effective as the precautions which he took in the middle of last summer?

That is the reason why the Government have taken their decision with regard to importation, and it is because of the gravity of the prospects for the winter that we hope that these steps will result in our getting through next winter with the same success that we had last winter.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that domestic consumers are stocking up in the summer as they should?

So far, they have taken about 300,000 tons more than in the same period last summer.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the difficulty of certain people in stocking up in the summer? Will he do what he can to see that people who cannot stock up in the summer can get their coal in the winter?

Yes. That is one of the reasons for encouraging those who can get it now to do so. We recognise that not all people can stock up in the summer, but it eases the problem of serving those who cannot stock up in the summer if those who can stock up in the summer do so.

Is the Minister aware that in view of the difficulties which we are likely to face this coming winter, the N.U.M. are doing all they can to get the men to work on Saturdays during the summer months to meet the situation?

Yes, and I think that this House and the country appreciate the firm and frank leadership of the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers. It is a fact that, no doubt following the lead that has been given, some districts and some coalfields have decided to work every Saturday this year.

Could the Minister give an estimate of the amount of coal which he expects to import this summer?

No, Sir. I would not like to give such an estimate. As I explained last week, it is undesirable to do so because it might prejudice the best buying of the coal at the best price by the Coal Board.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power his plans to ensure adequate supplies of coal and coke for industrial and domestic users in Wales and Monmouthshire next winter.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware of the concern that is felt in Exeter, and other parts of the West Country, at the possibility of a breakdown in the supplies of coal next winter; and if he will ensure that adequate reserves in the area are built up to prevent this.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will give an assurance that there will be adequate stocks of fuel available in Heston and Isleworth this coming winter.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will take steps to ensure that coal merchants in the London area receive enough house coal to enable them to meet in full demands for the full ration of 34 cwt. for the year which includes the winter months.

The National Coal Board assures me that steps will be taken, in co-operation with the organisations representing the merchants, to ensure that all districts receive their fair share of the total supplies available next winter.

May I ask the Minister whether the problem in South Wales is very different, in scale or severity, from what it is in other parts of the country and, secondly, whether South Wales ports will have an opportunity of importing some of the coal which he proposes to buy from abroad?