HC Deb 07 July 1958 vol 591 cc7-8
12. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Paymaster-General, having regard to his statutory responsibilities for National Coal Board finances and borrowing, whether he will state the accumulated deficit, or loss forward, of the Board at 31st March, 1958; and, in view of falling production, rising absenteeism in the pits, exports at only one-half of last year's low level, and other factors militating against profitable enterprise, what steps are being taken to prevent a large increase in coal prices in the early future, thus undermining the success of anti-inflationary policies of Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Maudling

I invite my hon. Friend to await the Board's quarterly statistical statement for the first quarter of the year, which will be issued within the next few days.

Mr. Nabarro

But that is begging the question. Would my right hon. Friend have some regard to the fact that the accumulated losses forward of the Board at 31st December last were of the order of £30 million, and as only a tiny part of that might be offset in the first quarter of this year, can he give the House an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will not underwrite these continuing Coal Board losses by facilitating additional borrowing by the Board?

Mr. Maudling

The measures the Board is taking to deal with the situation and the need for economy include the restriction of adult recruitment, the suspension of Saturday working, the closure of uneconomic pits, the standstill on non-operational expenditure, and a limitation of overtime working, all of which, I think, should produce useful results.

Mr. Ridsdale

If it is a question of the price of coal being put up again, will my right hon. Friend reconsider the Government's import policy?

Mr. Maudling

As there is no proposal for an increase in the price of coal put to us, that seems to me to be a hypothetical question.