HC Deb 14 November 1955 vol 546 cc25-6
43. Mr. Hamilton

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in view of the opinion expressed in the latest report of the Industrial Coal Consumers' Council, he will state the Governmental policy on coal exports.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

As I announced on 20th July, the Government have decided that a substantial reduction in the level of coal exports is unavoidable. Because of existing commitments, this year's exports will only be about 2 million tons less than in 1954, but next year there will be a further cut of about 5 million tons.

Mr. Hamilton

In view of the apparent impossibility of maintaining or increasing exports, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is rather ridiculous to export coal and then, as a result of exporting, import coal at a loss which the Coal Board has to pay and which it uses as an argument against the miners whenever they demand improved conditions?

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Member must be aware that there was a strong feeling in the coal industry for many years that it was wise to maintain our exports in order to keep a footing in our traditional markets because it might well be possible that we could take advantage of it later on. Unfortunately, owing to the fact that production is not capable of coping with home demand, that view has had to be abandoned, at any rate for the present.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Will my right hon. Friend confirm recent Press reports that the Coal Board has been exporting coal to Eire at a loss?

Mr. Lloyd

We do have to export coal to Eire under an agreement made with that country, but I am not aware that it is done at a loss.

Mr. Blyton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the cost of imported coal will not be accepted as an argument against any increase in miners' wages?