asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the critical situation developing in many of the coal fields where pits are still working but are always on the verge of stopping owing to a shortage of empty railway wagons, and that this is causing particular difficulties for the National Coal Board at a time when its stock-piles are gradually being reduced; and, in view of the urgency of this matter, if he will give a general direction to the British Transport Commission to take steps to alleviate this situation.
No, Sir. I understand from the Commission that difficulties arose from shortages in the supply of empty wagons to collieries and opencast sites in the early part of the year, but these have now been substantially overcome.
Is the Minister aware that this has caused great concern in the Yorkshire coal fields for many weeks? Hon. Members who represent mining areas have had representations not only from the Yorkshire Area of the National Union of Mineworkers but also from the Yorkshire Colliery Managers' Association. Will he try to see that we do not have a recurrence of this situation in the future?
This is a matter which ought to be put to the management of the British Transport Commission, but I will see that the Commission is given notice of the Question asked by the hon. Member. The Commission meets the National Coal Board daily at regional level and weekly at national level. This shows that they are trying hard to cooperate in order to overcome the difficulty.
Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that everything has been done this winter to shift coal from South Wales and other areas by providing sufficient wagons and a sufficient number of workers on the railways, having regard to the vast stocks of coal which are accumulating at coal fields, the shortage of coal in the Lea Valley earlier this year and also in Pwllheli earlier this year, and the shortage in Swansea, on the edge of the coal field, only this weekend?