Domestic Supplies.

Oral Answers to Questions — Coal Industry. – in the House of Commons on 17th March 1942.

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Mr. McNeil:

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the methods he proposes to employ to ensure that housewives occupying the higher flats of tenement buildings, will be given a fair share of coal available for domestic use?

Photo of Mr David Grenfell Mr David Grenfell , Gower

There is no reason why the occupants of upper flats should not get their fair share of the domestic coal available except for the physical difficulty of getting it upstairs now that the distributive trade is dependent on fewer and' older men. This is a local problem, not entirely for the Mines Department, but I am doing my best to encourage remedial measures, including the purchase by owners of blocks of flats of stocks of coal for collection by the tenants, and assistance by local authorities with labour, when conditions are particularly difficult in a cold spell.

Mr. McNeil:

Where there are coal and labour, has my hon. Friend considered cancelling retailers' licences if there is inequitable distribution of coal for top-flat dwellers?

Photo of Mr David Grenfell Mr David Grenfell , Gower

My Department is bringing the utmost pressure to bear on the household coal distribution scheme. I am ready to admit there have been very substantial difficulties in the way, and that these complaints which have been quoted in the House have frequently been well founded. I do not, however, blame, the distributors for all the difficulties which have arisen.

Mr. Maclean:

Would not the threat to take away the licence from a distributor help tenants in upper flats?

Photo of Mr David Grenfell Mr David Grenfell , Gower

It does not help in the case where a distributor has no vehicle or horses. There is a shortage of vehicles and of men at the present time.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

asked the Secretary for Mines whether negotiations have been opened between his Department and the representatives of the coal trade in Birmingham, with a view to effecting resumed deliveries of coal; and what action is being taken to effect such deliveries in the meantime?

Photo of Mr David Grenfell Mr David Grenfell , Gower

I assume the Hon. Member refers to deliveries of house coal from Government dumps and to a misunderstanding which arose regarding the margin to be allowed to Birmingham merchants drawing from those dumps. As the result of negotiations which were opened early last week, I understand the situation has been clarified and that deliveries from the dumps have been resumed. There was no stoppage of ordinary deliveries in so far as supplies were available.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

When my hon. Friend says that deliveries from dumps have been resumed, are we to assume that this whole matter is now completely cleared up to his satisfaction?

Photo of Mr David Grenfell Mr David Grenfell , Gower

There is no complete satisfaction on matters of this kind, but I am assured that the coal deliveries from Government dumps and merchant stocks are satisfactory.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

We must be quite clear about this matter. Is it not a fact that the absence of the use of these dumps has caused great hardships in Birmingham, and has not my hon. Friend had many representations made to him on this point? May we now take it that the changes he has made will prevent these hardships recurring?

Photo of Mr David Grenfell Mr David Grenfell , Gower

I made inquiries a few days ago and I was assured the changes were satisfactory. I asked for further opinion on the matter last night, and I was assured that the differences within the trade had been satisfactorily settled.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

Is the Minister aware that in Birmingham, and in the West of Scotland generally, there are grievous complaints about the quality of coal which is being delivered?