HC Deb 12 March 1947 vol 434 cc1312-3
22. Mr. Erroll

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the estimated coal reserves of Nigeria; and whether he has considered the possibility of largely increasing production and exports.

Mr. Creech Jones

The coal resources in Nigeria are thought to be substantial but no real estimate of their extent has yet been made or can be made until the geological survey of the probable areas has been completed. This is in hand but I fear will take some time yet to carry through. Both the Governor and myself are alive to the importance and prospects of this industry but at the moment increased production and export from the existing coalfield depend largely on the capacity of the railway and port to handle larger quantities and this aspect of the matter is receiving attention. Orders have already been placed for additional locomotives and equipment and delivery should begin very soon.

Mr. Erroll

Could the Minister say whether he will propose, when additional equipment is received, a reduction in the excessively high freight rates charged by the Government-owned railway?

Mr. Creech Jones

That is one of the aspects of the problem that is being looked at.

Dr. Segal

Is the Minister aware that there is an actual surplus of labour in these coalfields, that workers pay a premium to the widows of deceased miners in order to secure their work at the mine, and will he take additional steps to stimulate increased production of coal and encourage its export to areas further afield than merely West Africa?

Mr. Creech Jones

Yes, Sir, and that is a step we have already taken.

Squadron-Leader Donner

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered importing coal from Nigeria into this country?

Mr. Creech Jones

The purpose of the inquiry was to meet shortages and the Governor has a sense of urgency in regard to it.

Sir R. Ross

Will the Government consider denationalising the local railways?