Coal Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:35 pm on 26th June 1989.

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Photo of Mr Cecil Parkinson Mr Cecil Parkinson , Hertsmere 7:35 pm, 26th June 1989

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has pointed out to the House that the capacity has been mothballed and can be opened up if it becomes economic. The plain fact is that the Scottish pits are far and away our most uneconomic. We are seeking to ensure that there continues to be a market for high-sulphur British coal. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] If we were to revert to low-sulphur coal, we would have to import massive quantities from overseas. The fitting of Drax and other stations with FGD equipment will ensure that there is a substantial market for British Coal, which would otherwise have been at a major disadvantage.

We have also agreed that British Coal should pursue a joint venture with the private sector to construct a pithead power station in Nottinghamshire, using a modern and efficient boiler design, and we are encouraging the next stage of the Grimethorpe topping cycle experiment, which holds out the possibility of much higher efficiencies than in conventional boilers. All these developments will help British Coal to compete more effectively and fairly against imported coal in the power station markets of the 1990s.

The Government have shown in many ways their commitment to coal. By its own performance and with the taxpayers' support, British Coal has put itself in a position to win the major share of the electricity industry's coal business.

By contrast, the "new pragmatists" in the Opposition are as ready as ever to revert to type and to the failed policies of the past. When the young lion roared today, what we heard was exactly the same noise as the old lion of Chesterfield used to make—protect, subsidise, interfere, direct, ban competition. They claim to care about the environment, but they plan to make us almost totally dependent on the most polluting fuel. They claim to care about the workers, but they back the most reactionary union in Britain, the NUM, and reject one of the most progressive.

I invite the House to reject the Opposition's defensive and defeatist motion and to support the Government amendment.