§ 44. Mr. Hugh Fraser
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will take urgent steps to see that sufficient coal is delivered to merchants to enable them to meet the priority needs of permits issued to invalids and the aged; and whether he is aware that in many districts, including the Stafford area, these permits are still not being met by coal merchants, owing to decreased deliveries.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
As I have said in answer to earlier Questions, priority needs are given a first claim on household-coal supplies. The current supplies to Stafford, as to other areas, are being well maintained, and I am advised by the local fuel overseers in the Stafford area that they know of no case in which a priority need has not been met. If, however, the hon. Member will let me have particulars of any case of hardship which he has in mind, I will cause inquiries to be made.
§ Mr. Fraser
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these cases are often met only after weeks of delay? The local fuel overseers are paid servants and their order is not accepted and has to be passed to the regional department in Birmingham. As a result, that means weeks of delay. The coal merchants are informed that they must draw on their stocks but they have no stocks. Is the Minister aware that the effect of the proposed increase of 800,000 tons will not in any way meet the shortage of coal to the average-consumer?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
No, Sir. Throughout the winter months the merchants meet 70 to 80 per cent. of all their customers orders from current supplies. There are, therefore, always ample supplies to meet priority needs, and I am assured by reports from all regions that priority needs are, in fact, being met.