§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary for Mines whether he can make a statement on the measures which have been taken by his Department for regulation of coal supplies in time of war?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Yes, Sir. In view of the vital importance of coal in war time, comprehensive plans have been prepared in consultation with those concerned for the 24 maintenance of the production of coal in time of war and for the control of the distribution and price of coal, coke and manufactured fuel. To ensure the maintenance of production, the position of coalmining in the Schedule of Reserved Occupations has been safeguarded, while measures have been taken designed to secure the continued supply of the necessary machinery and materials under war conditions. Control of supplies and pithead prices will be exercised through the existing coal marketing schemes and arrangements have been made to deal with the control of supplies in the consuming districts as well as at the point of production. A system of priorities will be established to ensure the supply of coal to essential industries, and a scheme for regulating supplies of coal, gas and electricity to domestic and other small consumers has been prepared and will be administered through the local authorities.
The Departmental staff required to operate the schemes in an emergency will consist of coal supplies officers in the producing areas, divisional and assistant divisional coal officers in the Civil Defence regional areas, and coal export officers at the ports. These officers have all been appointed and the organisation could, if necessary, be brought into immediate operation.
I have indicated the main lines of the scheme in this answer, but for the convenience of hon. Members I propose to circulate a fuller statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Mr. Greenwood
While thanking the Minister for arranging to publish a further statement in the Official Report, may I ask him, first, whether on the proposals the mineworkers' organisations were consulted; secondly, whether the Cooperative societies, which are very large distributors of coal in this country are associated with the scheme; and thirdly— it is very difficult to grasp these things when they are read out—whether, while desiring to minimise the amount of luxury production, there will be no unnecessary hardship to small consumers of coal and, primarily, domestic consumers of coal?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Yes, Sir, the Mineworkers' Federation was fully consulted with regard to man-power and the Co-operative societies, as important distributors of coal, have been consulted throughout in the preparation of the scheme and would 25 play an important part in it. With regard to the third question, the plan for regulating supplies to domestic consumers by a rationing scheme is really a precautionary plan to restrict unnecessary and luxury consumption of coal in time of war. We have taken the view that there is no substantial luxury or unnecessary element in the consumption of coal by small consumers of coal, and, therefore, we have made arrangements by which the bulk of the working class will suffer no reduction of the amount of coal which they receive.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
Has the hon. Gentleman and his Department considered the contribution which might be made towards the provision of fuel, particularly to small consumers, from the large deposits of peat in Scotland, as well as in England and Wales?
§ Mr. G. Macdonald
I take it for granted that consideration has been given to the question of the relationship between exports of coal in peace time and in war time as it will affect home supplies, and has that been done in consultation with the Mineworkers' Federation?
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Have steps been taken, or will steps be taken to secure adequate stocks of coal for our own purposes and for those who will be associated with us in the event of war?
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
If control of the mines is still to be left in the hands of the coal-owners, as in the last War, will the Minister see that it will not be so lax as it was then?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am not so much bothered about the price control. I worked in the pits during the War, and I am satisfied that thousands of pounds went the wrong road. Will the Minister see that that does not happen again?
§ Following is the statement:
§ Organisation for the Control of Coal in War Time.
§ The Mines Department have made comprehensive arrangements in regard to the production, distribution and sale of coal in case of emergency.
§ The production of coal depends primarily on man power and special consideration has therefore been given to the coal mining industry in the Schedule of Reserved Occupations. The supply of machinery and materials is also of great importance, and steps have been taken with a view to the maintenance of production in war time in spite of inevitable changes in sources of supply and interruptions which must be anticipated.
§ Control of supplies at the point of production will be exercised through the machinery now in existence by virtue of the statutory coal-marketing schemes. Those schemes will be amended as necessary to meet war-time conditions. There will be in each coalfield an officer of the Mines Department, drawn from the industry itself and thus familiar with its working, who will be known as a coal supplies officer. His main duties will be to secure, in collaboration with the mining indust1ry, that the required quantities and qualities of coal are produced, whether for inland or export, and that they go forward promptly.
§ The interests of consumers will be looked after more directly by divisional coal officers, stationed in the various regions under the Civil Defence Emergency Scheme. These officers and their assistants stationed in different parts of the regions will be available to help consumers in cases of difficulty. A number of advisory committees of distributors will be set up in each region as it is hoped that, with their co-operation and assistance it will be possible to overcome many difficulties locally. Statutory powers of requisition will however be available to enable serious cases of difficulty in regard to supplies to be dealt with if voluntary effort fails.
§ Regulation of Supplies.
§ A scheme for regulating supplies by means of a rationing scheme on the basis of a proportion of consumption in a past period of coal, gas and electricity, by domestic consumers, offices, clubs, institutions and other small consumers has been prepared for introduction if necessary in the event of war. This scheme will be administered through local authorities, who have been asked to appoint local fuel overseers for the purpose. To take advantage of the co-operation and 27 assistance offered by the coal distributors (including co-operative societies) and the suppliers of gas and electricity, the local authorities will also appoint local advisory committees representing those interests, and these committees will be able to advise the local fuel overseer on all matters which he may refer to them.
§ Supplies to larger industrial consumers will be regulated by a priority system to ensure that in the event of a shortage available supplies are directed to those works whose continuance in war time is of greatest importance to the nation.
§ Control of Prices.
§ Prices of coal at the pithead will be controlled through the machinery of the statutory coal-marketing schemes. As comparable machinery is not available for controlling distributors' and export prices, control will' be exercised under Statutory Orders made for the purpose.
§ The export of coal, save with the permission of the Government, will be prohibited. In each of the principal shipping areas there will be stationed coal export officers of the Mines Department to whom all applications for permission to export coal must be addressed.
§ The organisation necessary to give effect to the foregoing is in being and coal supplies officers, divisional and assistant divisional coal officers and coal export officers have been appointed and are aware of their functions in the event of war.