HC Deb 21 April 1958 vol 586 cc601-2
21. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Paymaster-General whether he will make a statement, including disposal and potential export arrangements, in regard to the current surplus of small coals, and the tonnages involved.

Mr. Maudling

The National Coal Board is taking every possible step to adjust the balance of production in favour of the larger sizes. Undistributed stocks, mainly of small coal, accumulated last year to a level of 8½ million tons which is not excessive in the light of the lessons of the past. The Board is exporting small coals wherever the openings exist, but is meeting with severe competition both from American and Polish coals.

Mr. Nabarro

My right hon. Friend referred earlier to the drop in North Atlantic freight rates. Is he aware that the price of British small coal sold for industrial use in Western Europe is still higher than American prices at the same ports? Is this not due to the fact that the National Coal Board is still demanding much too high a premium on coals which it is offering in Western Europe?

Mr. Maudling

I do not think that the National Coal Board is demanding or receiving much in the way of a premium at the moment. If I recollect correctly, freight rates on the North Atlantic have fallen from £6 to £1 a ton. Polish coal, which may be produced on a different economic basis to our own, is becoming a serious economic factor.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm the statement, which I have read in at least one newspaper and which brings back an echo of the 1930s, that Polish coal which is exported to countries in Europe in competition with our own is being subsidised?

Mr. Maudling

I should like notice of that. One of the problems is knowing when coal produced under a complete system of State enterprise is or is not subsidised.

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