HC Deb 01 May 1950 vol 474 cc1396-7
29. Mr. H. A. Price

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will consider establishing basic standards for coal, based upon calorific value, in supplementation of the present system of classification into varieties within which enormous variation in calorific value can and does occur

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

No, Sir. The grading of coal is a matter for the National Coal Board. The Board's price structure cannot be based solely upon calorific values. In house coals, strong local preferences exist, and prices are fixed largely on the basis of commercial experience; in industrial coals, factors other than calorific value must also be taken into account. Broadly speaking, however, the present prices of different varieties of coal do reflect both their calorific values, and their other important characteristics, for example, size, ash, moisture and sulphur contents, hardness, etc. Large variations in the calorific value of any given coal are infrequent. If they do occur, they are dealt with in an ordinary commercial way between buyer and seller.

Mr. Price

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that coal has never been legally defined, and that well-known varieties often contain all sorts of foreign bodies varying from shale to carboniferous limestone? Since basic standards have been established for other nationally important commodities, why not for coal?

Mr. Noel-Baker

The National Coal Board have the hon. Gentleman's view very much in mind, and they have begun and have already carried a considerable distance quite new and very important work on scientific analysis and grading, which ultimately will help all consumers.

Mr. Hayman

Is my right hon. Friend aware that much of the coal which the ordinary consumer buys from his merchant contains a great deal of water?

Mr. Butcher

Do we understand from the right hon. Gentleman's reply that he has no control whatever over the prices charged by the National Coal Board or any authority over the quality of coal they deliver?

Mr. Noel-Baker

No, Sir, I did not say any such thing. In fact, prices are fixed in agreement with me.