§ 6. Sir John Mellor
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the terms upon which the National Coal Board markets opencast coal as his agents, identifying the documents in which they are set forth; what royalties are paid by him to the Board, in addition to commission, in respect of opencast coal, and why; and whether these arrangements are intended to continue so long as opencast coal is worked.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
Before the nationalisation of coal in 1946, opencast coal was sold partly through normal commercial firms, and partly through joint selling organisations set up under the Coal Mines Act of 1930. A written contract was made with each of these agencies. Most of these contracts were taken over by the National Coal Board. The terms of the contracts vary a good deal, but the average selling fee is about 4id. per ton. These arrangements are being reviewed by the Ministry and the Board; it is hoped to fix a uniform fee which will broadly meet the actual costs which the Board incurs.
Royalties are paid to the Board, at the rate of 4d. a ton. The Board, of 1832 course, own all the coal; they have taken over the service of the Coal Commission Stock given to the previous owners as compensation. The hon. Member will find information about these royalties in the Sixth Report of the Select Committee on Estimates for the Session 1948-49. It is intended that these arrangements shall go on as long as opencast coal is worked.
§ Sir J. Mellor
Do not these arrangements result in the Ministry bearing all the losses and the Coal Board taking such profits as there are?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am glad to say there are no losses at present; opencast coal is paying for itself and will continue to do so.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is wrecking agriculture at the present time? Does he not want food as well as coal?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
No, Sir; I am not aware of anything of the kind. If the hon. and gallant Member will be good enough to be here on Wednesday I hope we may discuss the matter.