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Coal Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 26th June 1989.

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Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy) 9:45 pm, 26th June 1989

No, I shall not give way.

Some of his hon. Friends have tried to help the hon. Gentleman out of his embarrassment—it has happened again tonight—by trying to focus the argument on clean coal technology. Of course we all agree that the methods of producing electricity with reduced carbon dioxide emissions are a good thing, but do not let us kid ourselves. The building of a nuclear power station results in a 100 per cent. reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, while a coal-fired power station using the topping cycle —which is yet to be fully developed—is likely to produce a reduction of only about 20 per cent. The Labour party, in its attack on the nuclear industry, seems to be incapable of recognising that. Even a modern gas-fired station will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 40 per cent.

Perhaps it is because we do not have the cultural hang-up about the coal industry that is so deeply rooted in the Labour party that we have a clear policy on its future. It is precisely that policy which was spelt out by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy at the beginning of the debate. Through the massive investment of capital in modern machinery, which is still running at £2 million every working day, we intend to exploit the nation's best reserves of coal in such a way as to allow the industry to stand on its own feet, to beat off foreign competition as the supplier of choice to the electricity industry and ultimately—to answer my hon. Friends the Members for Gedling (Mr. Mitchell) and for Tatton and others who have raised the matter—to place it once more in the private sector.