Clause 1. — (Extension of Power to Make Advances to the National Coal Board.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Coal Industry Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th January 1960.

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Photo of Viscount  Hinchingbrooke Viscount Hinchingbrooke , South Dorset 12:00 am, 27th January 1960

Hon. Members opposite are all too inclined to take the view adopted by the present Lord Morrison of Lambeth when the nationalised industries were set up and made accountable to Parliament. He said that it would do if Parliament looked at their affairs once in seven years. Will it do if we look at their affairs once in two years, while most of them are incurring increasing losses year by year?

As the bankers to these nationalised industries we have the right to require them to adopt certain tactics, certain approaches, certain methods of reorganisation which ultimately, we hope, will bring them into the position, laid down by Statute by the party opposite, that they should break even taking one year with another. That is all that this Amendment is designed to do, to try to meet the suggestion made just now by my hon. Friends. One has to consider the distribution of coal stocks, research in coal, and things of that kind and more concrete suggestions about how the industry is to be reorganised.

The other point I wish to raise concerns opencast coal. I do not understand the attitude of the Government about this. I share the view of the party opposite. I cannot see why opencast coal operations cannot be drastically curtailed and brought to an end, as my hon. Friend wants them brought to an end, except for a very small amount of production, within a year or so. I hope that the Minister is able to justify these enormous stocks of coal on the surface today—if he is not going to be so kind as to alter completely the line of policy which he has been pursuing in the last few months—as being ample fuel resources available in any emergency. Will he say that he fears another oil crisis and that we must have these stocks doubled up in the next two years? What is the justification for this large amount of public money being locked up in these increasing stocks? I hope that the Minister will pay particular attention to what has been said about this matter by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. We feel as strongly about this as about the financing.

I come back to the first point. We have now arrived at a state of affairs—I speak politically about this—where the flaccidity which has characterised the financing of the nationalised industries—not only coal, but all the other industries—since the end of the war must be looked into thoroughly by the Government. We cannot go on year after year finding enormous amounts of the taxpayers' money—