Orders of the Day — Industrial Fuel Supplies

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th February 1947.

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Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne 12:00 am, 7th February 1947

That question has not been answered. There ought to be someone who would look at the question and find out whether anything had gone wrong or not. I would like to hear the answer, though right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite prefer to talk about other things. The other point I would have liked answered is this: Why, in assessing allocations, some regard is not paid to minimal requirements, and why the cut is made from maximum usage with no reference made, as far as one can tell, to what is minimally required, in, order to keep plant from wasting and to keep a measure of employment going.

My constituency is almost entirely a cotton constituency. At this moment, something between 60 and 70 per cent. of its workers are unemployed because of the coal shortage, and we are told this afternoon that now there is a possibility —I admit it was not certain—that there is to be a cut of electrical power to Lancashire. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) talked about the greatest national crisis for 20 years. In Nelson, 60 or 70 per cent. unemployment is a crisis, but it is not a crisis to which they are unaccustomed. They would not call it the greatest crisis in 20 years. There never has been a period since I have known the constituency, when it has had less than 60 or 70 per cent. unemployed, and hon. and right hon. Members opposite did not care about production in those days. They did not regard it as a national crisis, they did not raise Debates about it, they did not attack Ministers about it. Not at all.

The thing that makes it serious today is that Nelson thought that under this Government it was getting out of it. We were getting people back into the cotton trade. People have been employed for 12 months almost 100 per cent. Four weeks ago there was no unemployment in Nelson; now it is 60 or 70 per cent. The real test will be how long that lasts. I cannot get an answer now, but I want to know how long allocations, which first reduced the coal supply to cotton producing firms to -65 per cent., and then delivered less than half of that 65 per cent., will go on, and whether they are due to any administrative cause that can be quickly rectified.