23 FEBRUARY 1940, Page 3

The Muddle in Coal Distribution

The Labour Party were abundantly justified in forcing the attention of the Government to the breakdown in the distribution of coal when the severe cold weather was at its height. Considerable suffering has been caused in many areas, especially among the poor who do not keep reserve supplies, through the difficulties in getting deliveries of coal. The question was raised in the House of Commons on Tuesday, when the Prime Minister promised to give the matter his personal attention, and was dealt with on Wednes- day in a reply by the Minister of Transport. He attributed the shortage to the increased demand for coal and to the dislocation of traffic caused by weather conditions, and explained that he was providing for large numbers of special trains and additional road transport to make good the shortage. But these steps, it will be observed, are only taken after many weeks of cold weather, and after remonstrances in Parliament. It should have been obvious to the Ministry some time ago that priority should have been given to the transport of coal. The immediate response to Parliamentary criticism shows, first, that effective measures to relieve the distress were not an impossibility, and second, that Parlia- mentary criticism has an important part to play in getting things done.