HL Deb 16 July 1941 vol 119 cc833-4

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the question standing in my name.

[The question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government what steps have been taken or are in contemplation with the object of securing greater use of native solid fuel for motor transport vehicles in view of the imperative need for the most rigid economy in imported fuels during the present emergency.]

LORD SNELL, My Lords, I understand that Lord Barnby, in asking his question, has chiefly in mind the development of producer gas for vehicle propulsion, and I am glad to have this opportunity of letting your Lordships know the present position. Your Lordships will be aware that this gas, which can be used as an alternative to petrol in internal combustion engines, is obtained by burning anthracite or low temperature or other special coke in portable generators. A great deal has already been clone by the Government to encourage gas producers, and research work is still being actively carried on. A year ago a Government Committee, presided over by Sir Harold Hartley, brought out a design of a simplified producer for transport purposes. The work of this Committee has been continued by extensive road trials both of different fuels and also of other types of producer; by further research by the Fuel Research Station, the British Coal Utilisation Research Association, and other organisations; and by carbonisation tests at gas works. Moreover, certain tax and regulation concessions were granted at the end of 1939. The Government had hoped that with these various forms of encouragement, gas producers might have developed commercially on a large scale. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, this has not yet been the case. Nevertheless, encouraging progress has been made with the important technical problems involved such, for example, as the problem of the gas filter, which has a most important bearing upon the amount of cylinder wear in the engine. As the recently imposed restrictions on the use of petrol are now giving additional impetus to the movement, there is reason to anticipate an advance in the number of producer vehicles in use in the comparatively near future.