HC Deb 24 November 1952 vol 508 cc7-9
9. Mr. Beswick

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the estimated increase of the price of coal consequent upon the recently agreed increase of freight charges.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

It will vary with distance from the coalfields, but the average increase will be about 7d. a ton for industrial coals and about 1s. a ton for domestic supplies.

Mr. Beswick

Has the Minister discussed with his colleague, the Minister of Transport, what effect this increase in the price of coal will have on the cost of freight, and what policy is to be put forward to cut across this vicious circle?

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman knows the difficulties of this matter.

Sir W. Smithers

Is not the vicious spiral which this Question indicates the direct and inevitable result of six years of Socialist philosophy?

Mr. Manuel

Has the right hon. Gentleman any idea how this increased cost will affect British Railways?

Mr. Lloyd

That would be a matter for my right hon. Friend.

14. Mr. M. MacMillan

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the average retail price of household coal per ton in Glasgow, Inverness and at Stornoway, respectively; and the price, including transport cost, per ton to the consumer at Northbay, Isle of Barra.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

For coal of average quality the current maximum prices are 93s. 9d., 121s. 11d., 127s. 5d. and 137s. 3d. respectively.

Mr. MacMillan

Does the Minister not agree that the price for coal at Stornoway, and especially at North-bay, is exorbitant? Is he aware that the rates for some smaller villages further away from the ports, where the coal is delivered in bulk, are even more exorbitant? Will he consult the Minister of Transport and other colleagues concerned to see whether there cannot be introduced, at least, a system of freight equalisation? Surely he agrees that the prices charged to these people in the Islands is very high.

Mr. Lloyd

I realise the grievance, but the principle of freight equalisation has been a subject that has been raised very many times unsuccessfully in this House. I believe that in the case of Northbay one of the reasons for the high price is that very large ships are not able to dock there. In some other ports larger ships can get in, which lowers the freight rate.

Mr. MacMillan

As the Minister obviously agrees—he did not say he disagreed—that these prices are indeed exorbitant, is he not willing to bring to the notice of his colleagues the serious and real grievance of these people, with a view to initiating action in the interests of justice?

Mr. Lloyd

I will examine with care what action was taken by the last Government in this matter.

Mr. Rankin

Is the Minister prepared to justify what really amounts to a tax, and a high tax, on people because they happen to live in Stornoway?

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