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Coal-gas: Keep Transport Going. . T HE NEED FOR conserving coal

28th March 1918, Page 1
28th March 1918
Page 1
Page 2
Page 1, 28th March 1918 — Coal-gas: Keep Transport Going. . T HE NEED FOR conserving coal
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

is little understood generally because of official reticence concerning the reasons which have led up to the decision to cut down supply and to effect economy of consumption. But a certain amount of enligMenment has, in these columns and elsewhere, been thrown op the situation, and, in our opinion, a clearer presentation of the case would, in the long run, ease people's minds on a, matter which we can assure the departments concerned is causing considerable uneasiness. The three main causes of the coming shortage of coal (which, after all, may not be more than a, comparative shortage as compared with the plenty which, so far, has prevailed, thanks mainly to the wise and skilful administration of the Coal Controller) are : first, the calling up for military service of 50,000 miners ; second, certain new huge demands for munition work ; third, the °increased needs of our Allies in the matter of the maintenance of coal supplies, and last, the lack of sufficient transport for coal between the coal-bearing areas in the north and the large coal-consuming areas in the south. Whether the labour -withdrawn from the mines can be replaced with something (less efficient, inevitably, but probably of some value in these times of difficulty) remains yet to be seen. But, if at all practicable, we think the experiment should be made because the effective shortage of fuel must fall on and be shared between domestic needs and transport, so that it behoves all those who appreciate the advantages which must accrue from the maintenance of transport facilities to do their utmost to show the way in which transport can be kept going. A London " daily," in its comments upon the " Curfew " order, has signally failed to appreciate the situation. There is nothing strange in the discovery of the need for cutting down coal consumption when the winter is past ; nor is it curious that London and the south should be the first to be more closely rationed in light, heat and power. The southern parts farthest from the coal measures must inevitably be the first to suffer restriction, solely because of the difficulty of transporting the fuel, and it is certainly far better that the outdoor life of London should close down one hour earlier if thereby an effective economy may result. A few small economies in this and other equally unimportant directions will, unquestionably, mean that more gas will be available for essential transport. We urge upon the authorities, working through the Petrol Control Department, to do everything possible to keep transport, and, in particular, food transport running. .,. We understand that, at the time of writing, it is the intention of the Government that all existing gas permits for traction .parposes shall remain valid in all parts of the country, but that on account of the necessity for general coal rationing, fresh applications for permits will not be entertained except in respect of public utility transport undertakings in the coal-mining areas of the North, the cireumstances of each fresh application being considered on their merits. We regard this as the extreme minimum, and trust that every possible means will be. taken to improve upon it and extend the area.

Priority in Transport.

SHOULD A SYSTEM be introduced (and we have already given it as our opinion—to which we hold—that its introduction is inevitable) for the grading of road transport according to the measure of the importance of the work with which the transport is associated, the closest 'possible discrimination. must be shown if the creation of a strong sense of injustice is to be avoided and if the soundness of judg ment of those responsible for the grading is to be , reasonably free from question. We believe that the various industries which use transport are being (and, except for the final careful revision, have been) placed in a presumed order of national importance, and it is obvious that the widest and most expansive knowledge of commercial requirements is called for on the part of those who are usndertaking the task. . As the classification, when arrived at and applied, will, in the case of some industries, mean severe restriction, it seems as if it would be no more than fair that appeals against the order of the classification should be heard from those likely to be adversely affected by it. To representatives in the various industries appropriate priority certificates will,•no doubt, be issued, and these will serve to overcome the difficulty that the ' introduction of a priority system might' seem to create and that would otherwise confront the haulage and contracting concerns. They would simply be called upon to carry out the business offered to them in strict priority order as shown by the certificates. Yet another diffieultk which must be encountered in the grading of industries, the intention being to utilize all available transport first upon essential work, is the fact that certain trades demand and use vehicles of a suitable kind, the power, speed, and type of body depending upon the requirements of the trade. It will, we suggest, be unavailing to deprive, for example, the brewing industry of its vehicles in order that more transport shall be available for laundries, because the brewer's lorry would be quite uselessly uneconomical delivering baskets or bundles of laundry. Thus, the position in the list of a particular industry, 'considered. from the point of view of its transport, must, in a, measure, depend upon the suitability for other work of the vehicles it employs.

Laws and their Application.

LAWS ARE a necessary evil, inasmuch as, however carefully they are framed, it is impossible so to word them as to eliminate incidental injustices and the waste of much valuable time in the discussion of trivial technical points not really germane to the real issue. Thus, we find that, in a very proper endeavour to differentiate between those vehicles that are used for purposes essential to the commerce of the country and those which are used. mainly for the Convenience of individuals, the warding decided upon leaves loop-holes for much. argument and some interference in trade.

The right -to use the roads without payment of a licence fee is granted to vehicles constructed or adapted, and used, solely for the carriage of goods or merchandise in trade or industry. Perhaps no better definition for general purposes could have been arrived at, but it is when we come to apply this definition to other than its original purposes that it becomes evidently unsatisfactory. Thus, the lower scale of petrol tax is paid by the commercial vehicle so defined and the definition figures in various regulations affecting other matters, such as the supply of spare parts, at the present day. A commonsense reading of a definition would suggest that, to take a single example, goods or burden carried in the course of trade or industry should include the carriage of people, provided that the reason for their transit is essentially connected with the maintenance of business. Thus the commercial traveller, travelling by road with samples of his wares, is using his vehicle solely for trade purposes, yet the legal mind would cast doubts upon the right of the vehicle that carried him to be included among those covered by the definition.

Wben it is merely a, matter of paying a small licence duty, the point is hardly worth arguing, but when it is so applied as to determine whether the vehicle in question is to be given facilities for remaining in service at all, the case is very different. The point that we _wish to emphasize is that, whenever it may become necessary to restrict supplies other than to commercial vehicles, the commonsense' and not necessarily the legal, reading of a definition of this kind must be adopted.

Much the same sort of point is liable to arise in connection with the use of the phrase " Plying for hire." If it is desired to maintain in service a certain number of vehicles necessary for station and similar work, then the phrase quoted is open to abuse, because from a strictly legal aspect it could conceivably be taken to apply only to those vehicles, which are licensed to pick up fares at some agreed. rate in a. public place. Obviously the commonsense point of view would be to put the taxicab which may do this, and the hired car which may only be booked at its garage, in one category. Similarly, the char-bebancs used for taking munition workers to the factory should be in the same category as the motorbus. Anyone who had not carefully studied vehicle law would take this point of view without hesitation.

We need not press the point further, since all we are concerned with at the moment is to make sure that where, for convenience, legal definitions have to be used in cases to which they were not originally intended to apply, they should be construed not in a strictly legal manner, but—and this more particularly under the peculiar circumstances of the present day— in a, manner suggested by commonsense and not necessarily by the letter of the law.


Organisations: Petrol Control Department
Locations: London

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