HC Deb 11 June 1956 vol 554 cc13-5
19. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what progress he has made in his inquiries for replacing coal imports from the United States of America by British African coal.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

No significant quantities of African coal are at present available for export to the United Kingdom or are likely to be available for a considerable time; and such small amounts as could be exported now are of a quality unsuitable for use in this country and offer no advantage in price compared with more suitable coals obtainable elsewhere. It is however important, in the light of the growing world demand for fuel, to develop African coal resources to the utmost practicable extent. Although such development is not primarily my responsibility, my Ministry is in close touch with those anxious to contribute to this end and will give them every assistance within its power.

Mr. Nabarro

May we expect a report very soon on this important topic, and can it be something more than an inter-Departmental report? In view of the National Coal Board's recent plan, making it perfectly clear that we are to have to rely on coal from foreign countries for many years, would it not be wise to stop burning dollar bills and to invest in African coal in preference to dollar coal?

Mr. Jones

Much information has still to be collected on this matter. I do not in the least rule out the need for investment in African coal. Where I differ from

Mr. Nabarro

In view of the highly unsatisfactory answer on the question of the price of coal, I beg leave to give notice that I shall raise the matter again as soon as possible.

Following is the Table:

my hon. Friend is in his suggestion that this should be an alternative to investing in domestic coal. It may be a supplement, but not an alternative. As to his forecasts for the future, I think that if I were he I should be a little chary. I cannot forget that on 20th July, 1955, my hon. Friend said: My prognostication this evening … is this simple fact: next year. from the figures which I have already put before the House, I believe we shall have to import not 12 million tons of coal but 25 million tons.—"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 20th July, 1955; Vol. 544, c. 459.] The actual imports this year will be 64 million tons.
Mr. Speaker

Mr. Benn.

Mr. Nabarro

On a point of order. As an incomplete quotation has been given in reply to my supplementary question, may I not be allowed to add an explanation?

Mr. Speaker

Not now. I shall call the hon. Member in a moment.

Mr. Benn

I was only going to ask, since the Minister has given an assurance that there are to be no imports of African coal to help the miners, whether he will ban the import of zebras to help the Dockers?

Mr. Nabarro

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House that, in the proper context of the quotation he made just now, I referred to the calamitous cost of the replacement of indigenous coal by foreign oil imports and that the 25 million tons referred to coal or coal equivalent?

Mr. A. Jones

If I were my hon. Friend I still think I should be a little chary of too forceful prognostications.

Mr. D. Jones

A very good answer.

Back to