HC Deb 21 April 1958 vol 586 cc603-4
25. Mr. A. Roberts

asked the Paymaster-General how many electricity generating stations with dual-firing apparatus are now using oil; when they will revert to coal burning; and what tonnage they will consume.

Mr. Maudling

One station with dual-firing apparatus is now burning oil exclusively and six others are operating partly on oil. In present circumstances, coal could not be substituted for any of this oil without involving the electricity authorities in breach of contract. The oil firing programme has, however, already been reduced and, as my hon. Friend told the hon. Member on 10th February, this will enable power stations to use up to 3 million tons more coal per annum in the nineteen-sixties.

Mr. Roberts

In view of the unbalanced fuel policy, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be in the national interest if these power stations were to consume more of the inferior coal than at the present time?

Mr. Maudling

They are taking oil supplies under contract and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) himself said in a recent debate he would agree, oil contracts entered into must be observed and it would be quite wrong to try to get out of contracts honourably entered into.

Mr. Palmer

Is there any escape clause in relation to these contracts?

Mr. Maudling

These are contracts between the Generating Board and the oil industry, not between the Government and the oil industry. As I have said, my information is that we could not substitute more coal for any of this oil without breach of contracts.

Mr. Fort

Is it not in the national interest to get competition between types of fuel for power stations?

Mr. Maudling

Yes, I think it is most important.