HC Deb 31 March 1958 vol 585 cc847-8
37. Sir W. Anstruther-Gray

asked the Paymaster-General what steps he is taking to encourage consumers of scarce grades of coal to convert their plant to the use of other grades of coal which are in plentiful supply; and what effect these steps have had up to date.

Sir I. Horobin

Use of the smaller sizes of coal is being encouraged directly or indirectly by the Clean Air Act, railway electrification, the Government loan scheme and Income Tax investment allowances, the National Coal Board's pricing policy, and the offering of technical advice. These steps have played a notable part in reducing the inland use of large coal from 53 million tons in 1956 to 49 million tons last year.

Sir W. Anstruther-Gray

While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, is he satisfied that, although we are making some progress, we are making sufficient progress in this matter? Will he take note of the feeling in all parts of the House that something more ought to be done in this direction?

Sir I. Horobin

I do not think we ought ever to be satisfied in this difficult industry, and we are prepared, as I am sure the National Coal Board is prepared, to consider any useful constructive suggestions, but at least it is a comfort to know that some progress is being made.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the Parliamentary Secretary, in addition to recommending to his right hon. Friend the need for speeding up the plans of the National Coal Board for the purpose of utilising small coal, also advise him that much of the small coal can be converted into powdered fuel for the purposes of generating electricity and thus making it unnecessary to proceed any further with hydro-electric schemes at great expense?

Sir I. Horobin

That, again, is difficult to answer very briefly. For instance, one of the hydro-electric schemes is intimately tied up with one of the proposed nuclear stations—pump storage—and I do not think the National Coal Board or the Electricity Generating Board or the A.E.A. can chop and change too rapidly in their long-term programmes as a result of what may be temporary changes in prices and conditions. All these suggestions are being considered by the technical advisers of these boards and of the Ministry, and, as I say, I think progress is being made.

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