asked the Minister of Power in settling his new short-term proposals for the coal industry, what estimates he received from the gas and electricity industries, respectively, of the effect these proposals would have on their prices in future.
Has not the Minister made an estimate of what will be the increase in price? Surely he realises that saddling these industries with uneconomic sources of fuel must put up their costs? Will he come clean and give the House what is his estimate of the cost? It is information that the House and the public should know.
The hon. Gentleman has got this entirely wrong. Both the electricity industry—whose demands on coal will go on increasing—and the gas industry will be heavily dependent on coal for a number of years to come. It surely is not making any exorbitant demand on them to ask that they take into account that their principal supplier should be looked after during the short period of the next two years?
How can the right hon. Gentleman reconcile the Government support for the declining coal industry in relation to other heat and power industries with the Prime Minister's General Election theme of greater efficiency and modernisation and the policy of the First Secretary of State of a greater stabilisation of prices?
One almost despairs of educating hon. Members opposite. This futile talk about the coal industry being some kind of declining asset with no future just is not true. It is the most efficient coal industry in the world. The coal industry of this country has a great future. If it were not the case that it is so highly efficient we should be in a shockingly bad state for energy in the near future.
I am not providing special protection through what the hon. Member describes as "economic misfortunes". I pointed out that we are improving productivity in coal at a faster rate than in almost any private industry in Britain. Because it is an extractive industry, it is necessary to contract some areas and to expand others. This is the process which is now going on.