HC Deb 28 March 1955 vol 539 cc10-1
15. Mr. M. Lindsay

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will give a general direction to the National Coal Board to make greater endeavour to improve the quality of household coal.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

The Board are making strenuous efforts to solve this problem: methods of hand-cleaning are being improved; some 140 washeries have already been built or extended, another 65 are under construction and some 82 per cent. of deep-mined coal output is now cleaned.

Mr. Lindsay

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the present general dissatisfaction with the quality of household coal and its very high price, not least in my own constituency of Solihull, and can he not give us an indication of when there is likely to be a substantial improvement in this matter?

Mr. Lloyd

I think the House knows that the difficulty arises from the fact that geological conditions in the mines are more difficult than they were in the past. However, the 65 new washeries now under construction, when finished, will account for the cleaning of an additional 40 million tons of coal.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not still the cheapest coal in Europe?

Mr. Lloyd

That is the fact.

Mr. Nabarro

Is it not the fact that in Western Europe there is at present a large surplus of coal suitable for domestic purposes, and as that is a soft currency source and our policy is the liberalisation of West European trade, why should we not import unlimited quantities of coal from Western Europe in order to get rid of house-coal rationing in this country?

Mr. Lloyd

That is a very interesting suggestion.

Mr. Holt

Is it acceptable?