Mr Cyril Culverwell: Did the hon. Gentleman see the statement by Mr. Frank Hodges to the effect that were it not for this absenteeism, we could get another 13,000,000 tons of coal?
Mr Cyril Culverwell: Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great waste of time, labour and personnel in the tremendous amount of overlapping in the services of these different Departments, and will he look into this matter?
Mr Cyril Culverwell: asked the Minister of Labour, whether his attention has been drawn to paragraph 18 of the Third Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, recommending that lighting in factories and workshops should be improved; and what action is he taking in the matter?
Mr Cyril Culverwell: If the scheme is such a success, will the Minister endeavour to utilise it elsewhere and, if necessary, use compulsory powers?
Mr Cyril Culverwell: asked the Secretary for Mines how many tons of house coal and industrial coal, respectively, are now in Government dumps as a reserve for use in an emergency; and how many tons does the Government hope to accumulate before next winter?
Mr Cyril Culverwell: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in a speech he made in the recent coal Debate he misled the House into thinking that the Government and not private individuals had nearer 30,000,000 tons than 20,000,000 tons of coal stocked, and is it right that the Government should rely on private householders to get them out of their difficulties? Should not the Government have more adequate stocks themselves?
Mr Cyril Culverwell: About a fortnight ago I raised the question of the coal shortage, with particular reference to Bristol, and accused the Government of lack of foresight in allowing this emergency to come upon them. The Minister, in his reply, bore out my contention, I think, when he said that in the last few weeks they had been able to augment supplies by various means. My criticism was that those means...
Mr Cyril Culverwell: If it is unavoidable, it cannot be voluntary.
Mr Cyril Culverwell: Perhaps the Minister will let me finish the letter, and then we can have a better explanation. The letter goes on: Another serious matter is, of course, voluntary absenteeism, and as the war wage has gone up the absenteeism has increased. The younger men are the principal offenders and do not hesitate to inform the managers and officials that they will only send sufficient coal to enable...
Mr Cyril Culverwell: I do not know whether the coalowner who is my correspondent has given the facts to the Department.
Mr Cyril Culverwell: I shall not go into that question at all. I am giving the facts contained in the letter, and I am asking for a reply. If the facts are untrue, the country will be very glad to have an explanation, if, upon investigation, the Minister finds they are so. This has nothing specially to do with Somerset. It is common knowledge, if one speaks truly, and does not mind hurting feelings, that men,...
Mr Cyril Culverwell: I do not know to what extent. I am giving the facts which have come to my knowledge, and I am asking the Minister to find out to what extent.
Mr Cyril Culverwell: I am not giving figures to the hon. Member. I am giving them to the Minister. I am not giving figures of voluntary absenteeism but of fall of output and of increased wages. I make no charge because I cannot substantiate it, but this is a serious matter, and if it is prevalent in other coal fields up and down the country the Minister should inquire into it. Reference has been made to the...
Mr Cyril Culverwell: I apologise, but the question of transport is so vitally linked up with the coal problem that any means which will relieve congestion on the railways will obviously help the coal position. If the Government would only let the railways know what are the requirements of the factories in material, either coming to or leaving the factories, it would put railways in a much better position to make...
Mr Cyril Culverwell: I did not say that. I said that that was not the main reason for the present shortage of coal, and that the Minister was very lucky that the damage had not been more severe.
Mr Cyril Culverwell: It would not make any difference if the whole of Bristol had been blown up, if the railway system was intact.
Mr Cyril Culverwell: Is it the policy of the hon. Gentleman next winter, or through the summer, to rely upon consumers stocking their cellars, or what are the Government going to do about stocks?
Mr Cyril Culverwell: I never suggested that the Minister should reduce only miners' wages. What I said was that it should have been Government policy to pin wages and prices. The Government have not gone far enough with a result that as miners' wages go up, so the cost of coal and the cost of living go up. [HON. MEMBERS: "No"] It is no use saying "No" because it is happening every day.
Mr Cyril Culverwell: The hon. Gentleman should remember that I read an extract from a letter in which the Bristol Gas Company complained of the quality of coal coming from Durham and asked why they could not get coal which they wanted from the Midlands, which is half the distance.
Mr Cyril Culverwell: The Minister suggests that during the summer months some better organisation of the distribution of coal will be effected. Is he relying entirely on merchants and retailers voluntarily getting together, or will he use any of his compulsory powers?