Of all the shortages constraining government policy over the post-war period, the shortage of energy - and particularly of coal - was a m o n g the most damaging, taking second place only to the dollar shortage. T h e danger that the shortage wou ld gradually develop into a crisis was well recognized from the start. In the Debate on the Address in Augus t 1945 Attlee named housing and coal as ' t he t w o main anxieties that beset u s ' . 1
It had been necessary to draw on stocks dur ing the previous win te r and unless ou tpu t improved or consumers showed 'self-control ' in their use of coal, the same th ing wou ld happen again - and it did. There was a physical limit to the r u n d o w n in stocks, and as Douglas Jay emphasized in his minutes to the Prime Minister in 1 9 4 5 - 6 , that limit was likely to be reached after t w o more winters in February or March 1947 unless measures were taken well in advance to recruit more labour . 2 W h a t was apparent to the Prime Minister and his advisers was apparent also to other observers. Shinwell, the minister responsible, was not one of them. But he was entirely accurate when he declared in October 1946, 'Everybody knows that there is going to be a serious crisis in the coal industry - except the Minister of Fuel and P o w e r ' . 3
T h e ou tpu t of deep-mined coal had fallen year by year since 1939 from 231 million tons in that year to 175 million tons in 1945. In spite of this it had been possible to meet domestic requirements of coal t h roughou t the
war because of the cessation of exports (36 million tons in 1939) from the fall of France onwards . Consumers had been rationed and supplies had been augmented from open-cast sites. But distributed stocks had begun to drift d o w n after 1942 and there was a danger at the end of the war that this process migh t accelerate.