Coal Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 1st October 1942.

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What did they see? They saw a vast amount of coal being produced. They saw one man who, with one machine, dug 700 tons of coal in one day. They saw a production of not less than 30 tons per man employed; and they saw to their dismay thousands and thousands of tons of coal stacked in the fields at a time when it is badly needed in industry. My right hon. and gallant Friend says that this is not so, and that the Coalowners' Association, who are supposed to sell this coal for the Government, sell it without profit. I understood they were receiving 1s. a ton for handling this outcrop coal. I do not know whether I am right or not, but that is my impression. But if 1s. a ton is the sum paid, and whether they make a profit on it or not is not my business, they should be paid for handling it, and there can be no excuse for lack of sales at this time. I went to the head of the Midland amalgamated district for coal sales at Sheffield, and I said to him, "There is a vast amount of outcrop coal coming on to the market. It is coming, quickly. The director at the Ministry of Mines will tell you when it is arriving. He will tell you when it is coming and the approximate output. Before you are asked to sell it you will receive an analysis, made by the Government at Sheffield University, of each seam, so that you will know its calorific value and what it can be utilised for. It is up to you to make arrangements for its disposal in advance." He said, "That is easy. Do you know that I am dealing with 1,500,000 tons a week? "I said," Of course I know that, and so this extra 20,000 or 30,000 tons will not worry you." He said, "Not in the slightest. We want every bit you can get." That was before June. Since 5th June we have produced over 600,000 tons of outcrop coal, and in Yorkshire alone, 129,000 tons is now lying in the fields instead of factories and power stations. It has cost the Government 1s. a ton to stack it in the fields and it will cost them another 2s. a ton to pick it up and load. At one time during the course of its raising, it could have been taken direct to the power station or public utility companies within easy range.