No. I think that I broadly answered this, as I said, in my reply to the hon. Member for Yeovil. Of course, the nationalised industries have a duty to break even on a year-to-year basis, but they also have other duties of a social nature, which were recognised in the former Government's White Paper on the Financial and Economic Obligations of the Nationalised Industries.
The right hon. Gentleman is becoming almost as skilled as his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at not answering Questions. Will he not recollect that he made this statement, which appeared at the time to be somewhat meaningless, six weeks ago? He has had plenty of time to consult these industries and the House is entitled now to ask him what contributions the gas and electricity industries, respectively, are making to maintaining the consumption of coal at 4 to 7 million tons above what it would otherwise have been? Would he answer?
My skill in answering is a direct reflection of the lack of skill of hon. Members opposite in asking. The electricity industry, which, as I have said, is by far the biggest customer of the Coal Board, will naturally make the bigger contribution. Discussions are still going on between the Coal Board and the Central Electricity Generating Board as to the actual amounts, but they are ordering forward and stocking more than would otherwise be the case.
There is also the domestic market. As the hon. Member knows, we are asking local authorities and others to help in this. The degree of success we achieve in the domestic market will represent the difference in the two figures on the cost.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that where an installation either of a nationalised industry or of a local authority is operating in an area surrounded by a large number of coal-fields, it makes economic sense in the long term, and is in agreement with the best principles of location of industry, to make use of coal? Will he encourage that policy as much as possible?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is an illustration of what I have said, that for many years ahead the electricity industry will increase its demand on coal. If the proper orders for coal were not placed now it may not be able to spend the capital to increase the level of supply.