HC Deb 03 November 1958 vol 594 cc597-9
30. Mr. Mason

asked the Paymaster-General if he is aware that there are now 33 million tons of small coal stacked in the country, half of which is undistributed; and, in view of this stock-piling, what general directions he has given to the National Coal Board to slow down output from opencast mining.

31. Dr. Stross

asked the Paymaster-General what applications he is considering for opencast coal mining in North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent; and, in view of the existing large stocks of small coal, if he will refrain from authorising the exploitation of new sites.

32. Mr. Moss

asked the Paymaster-General why it is still necessary for him to authorise the exploitation of further opencast coal sites.

Sir I. Horobin

Stocks of the smaller sizes of coal are much lower than the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) suggests, but they are at a high level, and the National Coal Board is keeping its production plans, including those for opencast, under close review. There are a great many considerations which have to be borne in mind, and my noble Friend cannot agree that no further opencast sites should be authorised, but he is being more selective, from the amenity, agricultural and other points of view, in dealing with applications for sites. There is no application by the Coal Board for working opencast coal in North Staffordshire at present under consideration.

Mr. Mason

Why, in present circumstances, is it necessary to continue this form of mining, which is, in the main, producing small coal which is being stacked up and which we cannot sell? Would it not be better, now that we have completed the geological survey of the near-surface coal, to leave it as an emergency reserve for fuel shortage or in the event of war?

Sir I. Horobin

That is one type of consideration to which I have referred, but we cannot turn these things on and off as with a tap. The hon. Gentleman is always asking for long-term plans stretching over years; it is a little inconsistent. We are considering the matter in the light of present circumstances, and. as I said in my original Answer, quite a number of sites which probably would have been worked a year ago will not now be worked immediately.

Dr. Stross

Did I hear the Parliamentary Secretary aright that in North Staffordshire no sites are being considered? If so, I thank him. Is he aware that this is not the view in North Staffordshire or in the City Council; and is he further aware that the sites which were proposed are the only sites available for future housing plans? Naturally, we are glad to have his answer today.

Sir I. Horobin

I think the hon. Member is referring to a particular site which was proposed and which, I now understand, it is not intended to pursue. If he will give me a particular name, I will look into the matter further. My information is that my Ministry is not considering at the present moment any further site.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

The Parliamentary Secretary said that the coal stock estimate of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) was inaccurate. Can he tell us what the actual stock is?

Sir I. Horobin

The exact figure is not known, but it is probably about 10 million tons less than the figure stated in the Question of the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason).

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