Clause 1. — (Extension of Power to Make Advances to National Coal Board, and of Temporary Borrowing Powers of Board.)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th May 1951.

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Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire 12:00 am, 30th May 1951

And how are we to get the steel if we do not have the coal? That is the economic problem of rearmament. Hon. Members can talk as they like about the long-term plan for steel fitting in with the long-term plan for coal, but already the whole perspective of the Coal Plan has been completely altered by the shortage of steel. Representing a mining area, I believe that the re-armament programme has already broken down and will have disastrous economic consequences upon the future of the coalmining industry.

The Government are asking for a comparatively small sum and the only difference between the Opposition and the Government is £50 million. Instead of the Opposition bringing forward any constructive proposal for dealing with this serious problem—because it is a serious problem; it will develop into unemployment and economic crises, both in steel and in coal—apart from the hon. Member for Garston, who opened the debate and attempted to outline a certain amount of constructive suggestion, all we have heard is that we should cut the £300 million to £250 million. We have had no explanation of how or where it is to be done and what part of the coal industry is likely to be affected. If the pre-war figure of £1 million for sinking a shaft has already gone up, on 1949 prices, to £5 million, what will it be like in 1951 and 1952 if the economic crisis develops?

The Opposition have not a constructive solution but are pledged to the contradiction of re-armament which makes this economic problem impossible to solve. To suggest that they would perform a useful purpose by lopping off £50 million from £300 million is playing with the economic crisis which is looming as the re-armament programme proceeds.