The National Coal Board has completed the basic design work for its liquefaction project at Point of Ayr. I am delighted to be able now to announce that the Commission of the European Community has offered aid of £4·8 million. The board expects to begin work on the construction phase early in the new year.
Does the Minister agree that liquefaction is most important for the future of the coal industry? Does he agree that the Government first used the excuse of lack of private capital for the slow development of coal liquefaction? Is the Minister now using the miners' strike as an excuse for even slower development? The Minister has said nothing about Government finance. Will he say something about it now?
This Minister is well aware of the hon. Gentleman's interest in the subject. It is a vital subject. The National Coal Board is discussing terms of participation with a private sector company. Such participation is expected to release the £2·5 million balance of the Department's contribution, which has already been substantial in the design stage.
Does the Minister realise that his Department has been fiddling around with the liquefaction scheme for five and a half years? At the end of that it seems that all we shall have will be a glorified laboratory scheme on a colliery site. Is it any wonder that our scientists are disillusioned with the Government's approach to science and technology?