asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will consider, in consultation with the President of the Board of Education, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the appropriate landowners and the local authorities concerned, organising, during the suggested stay-at-home summer holidays, parties to gather wood suitable for firewood in districts throughout England and Scotland, and arrange for the storage, sale and disposal of such wood under conditions which would benefit cottagers, small householders and others in villages and the smaller towns during the next winter and also save household burning of a quantity of coal?
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will consider means by which the large amount of branches, dead wood and tree trunks suitable for firewood, which are to be found in the woodlands in many parts of the country, could be collected and distributed, with a view to minimising consumption of household coal in country districts and to save transport?
In view of the shortage of labour and transport, and the very wide variations in local conditions, it is not practicable to organise on a uniform national basis the collection and distribution of waste wood for this purpose, but I have considered, in consultation with the other Government Departments concerned, the organisation of schemes for the collection of waste timber from woods and sawmills with a view to creating reserve stocks held centrally in appropriate districts. Our policy is therefore to enlist the assistance of local authorities to this end, and arrangements were made last autumn whereby any local authority could be empowered to undertake the necessary work on behalf of my Department. A number of schemes are already in operation. Further discussions are now taking place with several local authorities as a result of information recently obtained concerning the location of available supplies of surplus sawmill timber, and so far as Scotland is concerned, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has recently made a fresh approach to local authorities on the subject.
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware of the tens of thousands of tons of broken timber lying waste in the county of Sussex, and can he possibly exert pressure upon the local authorities to do something so as to sell all this timber to towns to help to avoid a coal shortage during the forthcoming winter?
In consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply I am considering the possibility of controlling the price of fuel wood; inquiries so far show that costs and prices vary greatly according to local circumstances, and where there is heavy cost of collection and cutting a price of 50s. a ton may not be unreasonable.
Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that in the case mentioned in the Question, before the war this wood was given away free by the timber yard as being useless, and that now they are charging 50s. a ton for it?
I think the hon. Gentleman is talking of rather exceptional circumstances. Even if it was given away free, it had to be shifted, and one of the very heavy costs in the distribution of timber is the bringing of the timber from the site where it is felled.