The National Coal Board's latest estimate of known deposits of coal in the United Kingdom is 97·3 thousand million tons, of which some 3·8 thousand million tons were considered to be economically recoverable. This estimate is currently being re-evaluated in the light of changed circumstances, but it is too early to give a definite figure.
Does my hon. Friend agree that in spite of the welcome finds of oil in the North Sea the amount there may last only one or two decades at the most? Does not this mean that the proven amount of coal far outweighs that of oil? If so, will my hon. Friend consider increasing the amount of coal from our industry and making certain that the manpower is available to work future coal? Will he give greater consideration to wages and conditions and a good superannuation scheme, so that we can encourage people not only to remain in the industry but to enter it?
My hon. Friend is right. There is more coal available than any other fossil fuel. The estimates of reserves to which I referred were given in October 1973—a significant date. The recoverable figures are now probably twice that estimate, although only a tentative examination has so far been made. As for coal production and miners' conditions, we are carrying out an examination and will shortly submit a full report to the nation and Parliament.