Coal Industry (Short-term Proposals)

Oral Answers to Questions — Coal – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th May 1965.

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Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury 12:00 am, 25th May 1965

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.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Sutton Coldfield

asked the Minister of Power what estimate he made of the additional cost to the Central Electricity Generating Board of giving a preference to coal.

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Surbiton

asked the Minister of Power, what estimate he made, before his recently announced measures to help the coal industry, of the extent to which the nationalised industries will need to increase their prices as a result of these measures.

Photo of Mr Frederick Lee Mr Frederick Lee , Newton

The effect of these measures will be small in relation to the total costs of the electricity and gas industries. I should not expect any increases in prices to result.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

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.

Photo of Mr Frederick Lee Mr Frederick Lee , Newton

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?

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Surbiton

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?

Photo of Mr Frederick Lee Mr Frederick Lee , Newton

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.

Photo of Mr Eric Ogden Mr Eric Ogden , Liverpool, West Derby

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the suggestion made from the benches opposite to the Prime Minister when they urged that he should buy British and that now they are changing their mind to justify the purchase of American or Middle East oil?

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

If the coal industry is not a declining industry, can the Minister say why he finds it necessary to afford it special protection through economic misfortunes?

Photo of Mr Frederick Lee Mr Frederick Lee , Newton

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.