Orders of the Day — Fuel and Electricity (Control) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th November 1973.

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Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembrokeshire 12:00 am, 26th November 1973

The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) said more than once that the present crisis was about oil and not about coal, and yet he proceeded to devote the greater part of his speech to the coal industry. He jobbed back to a 1966 speech made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Jobbing back is always an interesting exercise, and, therefore, we should perhaps look back to the 1966 White Paper on energy, which, in effect, said two things : that there was no likelihood of an increase in the price of oil, and that there was no reason to think that we would face oil shortages. That was not a profound piece of far-sightedness by the previous Government.

The hon. Member for Chesterfield wrote his speech before listening to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Perhaps that was why so much of it appeared to be out of place. I agreed with the brief middle section of it in which he dealt with the oil crisis and oil shortages, but the political knockabout at the beginning and end seemed to be strangely out of line with the few brief remarks he made about the oil crisis. If it is right, as he said, that the life and functioning of the State are at stake, surely we on this side of the House are entitled to deplore the present action of the miners, because it follows that if we face an energy crisis the situation in the pits is also a threat to the life and functioning of the State and, therefore, to the well-being of every man, woman and child in it.

It is no good saying "But we have 10 weeks' stocks of coal", because if the situation is as serious as the hon. Member for Chesterfield painted it—and I think that he was right to paint it in those terms—we cannot run down those coal stocks. It is totally unrealistic to think about having 10 weeks' stocks of coal simply available to be burned.