In the absence of full information concerning the stocks of coal and other fuel held in domestic and other private cellars, it is not possible to give precise statistics of total stocks, but I think it would be true to say that there has been a progressive improvement in the stock position in the last two years. It must, however, be remembered that the consumption of coal by war industries, by public utilities and other vital services has greatly increased during this period and it is still rapidly increasing. We shall require every ton of coal that can be produced during this present winter in order to ensure a margin of safety for every essential consumer. The position for next winter when war consumption will have increased still further is now under review by the Coal Production Council and the Department.
When any trouble arises, cannot the Department take some action to negotiate with the parties so as to prevent any fall in output; and are local authorities playing their part in trying to get stocks together as they ought to do?
In reply to the first point, I am very anxious indeed to avoid any loss of production owing to disputes or stoppages within the industry, and I wish further to say that the local authorities are laying up stocks very much better than they were earlier in the war.