HC Deb 21 April 1958 vol 586 cc595-6
13. Sir P. Roberts

asked the Paymaster-General what directions he has given to the National Coal Board to increase the export of coal and coke in view of the large stocks of coal in the country.

The Paymaster-General (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

None, Sir. The Board is already making every effort to increase exports.

Sir P. Roberts

Does the Minister think that these efforts are effective? Is he aware that in Europe—which is one of the traditional markets for British coal—European importers at present have contracts with America amounting to over 38 million tons per year? Some of these contracts were made as recently as October, November and even January of this year. Surely that is not a very satisfactory position.

Mr. Maudling

The fact is that coal is now very much in a buyer's market in Europe, and German and Belgian producers are meeting considerable difficulty in disposing of their output. But the National Coal Board is making a great effort in this matter. It has been able to improve exports to Spain and the Argentine.

Mr. Nabarro

Is my right hon. Friend aware that since the war such British coal as has been sold in Western Europe has been sold at a substantial premium—about £1 to £2 a ton—above home market prices? Is not one of the answers to this problem to reduce the price of British coal offered in Western Europe to lower prices and thereby re-create the huge market that we have lost?

Mr. Maudling

I think my hon. Friend has omitted to notice the very large fall in Atlantic freight rates in coal, which are the main cause of the change in the situation.

Sir P. Roberts

In view of the importance of this matter, not only to our industry but our economy, I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

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