HC Deb 11 July 1955 vol 543 cc1555-7
18. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much coal was used for electric power generation in the United Kingdom during the 12 months ended 30th June, 1955; what estimate of coal consumption he has made for the ensuing 12 months; and how much coal the Central Electricity Authority are importing under direct purchase from foreign sources.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Power stations in Great Britain used 41½ million tons of coal of which 3 million had to be imported, and they may use nearly 44 million tons in the following twelve months; but the Central Electricity Authority make no direct purchases of foreign coal.

Mr. Nabarro

Yes, but why does it not? Is not it a fact that the National Coal Board today is being given the sole prerogative in the country of losing £2 per ton on imported coal? If the Electricity Authority wants imported coal, why should not it import it direct and lose the money itself rather than cause the Coal Board to lose it?

Mr. Lloyd

I have explained the policy of the Government, and I do not intend to depart from it.

Mr. Jay

But does not the Minister really think that there is a case for reconsidering the whole policy in the light of these facts?

Mr. Palmer

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Central Electricity Authority is quite prepared to buy coal from overseas at the world price?

Mr. Nabarro

In consideration of the fact that Britain is now the biggest coal-importing nation in the world, and that when the pits were nationalised nobody envisaged a state of affairs of this kind, would not my right hon. Friend, therefore, in view of protests from both sides of the House, undertake to review the whole of the present iniquitous price policy?

Mr. Lloyd

I think it is right that at present the price should be averaged, as it is, and that the National Coal Board should be the importing authority. It is not a fact that this country is the largest importer.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Will the Minister tell us why he thinks it right to continue now what we did in respect of one million tons in 1950? Surely, after this time and after the experience of the disastrous results which he is getting now, it would be right to think again and to make a change?

Mr. Lloyd

On the whole, I would say that it is fair to say that the price of coal imported: … is fixed so that it will sell here at the same price as British coal. That is obviously a fair thing to do; the burden is then evenly spread among all British consumers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1947; Vol. 444, c. 2105.] Those were the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) when he was Minister of Fuel and Power.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Does the right hon. Gentleman not remember that I have warned him many times since 1952 that this situation would arise unless the Government did something effective about coal economy, saving the coal we waste, and about manpower in the pits? If we have to import now it is because he has not persuaded his colleagues to take the action which it has been plain for years has been urgently required about coal economy and about manpower.

Mr. Lloyd

No, Sir. We have made much more progress in coal economy than ever took place under the Socialist Government.