HC Deb 26 March 1956 vol 550 cc1758-9
24. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much coal has been imported during the first 12 weeks of 1956, and at what cost, compared with the corresponding period of 1955; whether exports of coal are now being reduced to save imports, notably from the United States of America; what estimates he has made, first, of total coal exports for 1956, compared with the 11,500,000 tons exported in 1955, and, second, of total coal imports for 1956, compared with the 12 million tons, approximately, imported during 1955; and what overall economy in foreign exchange will thereby result from these import/export coal transactions.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

In the first two months of 1956, 1.36 million tons with a landed value of £10.6 million were imported compared with 1.39 million tons costing £8.2 million a year before. In 1956 both imports, including those of American coal, and exports will be about 5 million tons less than in 1955 with a saving of about £10 million in foreign exchange.

Mr. Nabarro

Do all those figures mean that our balance of payments is now improved as a result of a reduction of imports of coal as well as a reduction in the exports of coal, or is the proper interpretation that the overall position remains as dismal and depressing as in the year 1955?

Mr. Jones

The answer is neither. The answer means that on purely coal account, if such a term is permissible, there is still a deficit, but the deficit is £10 million less than in the last year.

Mr. G. Wilson

Are any investigations going on into the possibility of importing African coal instead of American coal to save dollars?

Mr. Jones

Any importation of African coal—by which, I take it, my hon. Friend means Rhodesian coal—is of necessity a long-term and not a short-term proposition. The need is a short-term one.