§ 56 and 57. Mr. MALLALIEU
asked the Secretary for Mines (1) what technical improvements in the processes for the hydrogenation of coal have taken place since 29th June last;
(2) if he will cause a White Paper to be published with an explanation of the process of hydrogenation of bituminous coal, the improvements of methods which render this process now commercially possible, and the figures as to costs of production, &c., upon which the proposed action of His Majesty's Government is based ?
§ 58. Mr. LAWSON
asked the Secretary for Mines what reports he has received recently from Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited, Billingham, as to the success of their experiments in respect to the production of oil from coal; and what assurances of future development he has received from this company?
§ The SECRETARY for MINES (Mr. Ernest Brown)
Certain of the points raised will be dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reply to questions by the hon. Members for Colne Valley (Mr. Mallalieu) and Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). As regards the remainder, hon. Members are aware that it has been arranged to have a Debate on this matter to-morrow, and opportunity will then be taken to deal with the points raised.
§ 65. Mr. MALLALIEU
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the estimated loss of revenue due to the proposed action, foreshadowed by the Prime Minister, to encourage the production of petrol by the hydrogenation of coal?
§ 66. Mr. LAWSON
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish a White Paper giving the estimated cost to the Exchequer of the proposals recently made to the House in respect to the production of oil from coal; and whether he will give a list of the companies with which he has been negotiating preparatory to the recent announcement of policy?
It is not possible to make a, reliable estimate of any loss of revenue under the proposed guarantee, as this will depend on a number of uncertain factors, including the extent to which home-produced motor spirit dis- 2232 places imported spirit, the quantity of spirit produced, the amount of preference actually in operation, and the length of the period over which the guarantee extends. As regards cost to the Exchequer, further considerations, such as the relief of the burden of unemployment have to be taken into account. As regards negotiations, the discussions, begun three years ago, with Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited, have been continued. This firm has been engaged in research into the hydrogenation process for many years, and the Government considered it essential that before deciding or any action they should be satisfied that their proposals would ensure the erection of a large scale commercial plant for the production of motor spirit. I wish, however, to emphasise that the guarantee is not limited to spirit produced by the hydrogenation process, but is accorded to spirit produced from coal, shale, peat or derivatives of these by any process.
§ Mr. MALLALIEU
Is the House to understand that the Government are to embark upon this course of action without having counted the cost?
§ Mr. LAWSON
Have the Government received recent satisfactory reports from Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited?
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
Have the Treasury made any estimate of the direct cost to the Exchequer of the present rate of duties on the basis of the probable output of the plant now contemplated to be erected? From that, no doubt, unemployment benefit will have to be deducted, but has any estimate of the immediate cost been made
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I informed the House of the considerations which militated against giving any accurate estimate. If my right hon. Friend would like me to look further into the aspect of the question which he has raised, I will see what can be done in the matter.
How is it so many Members of tile Liberal party are anxious not to help the coal industry?