HC Deb 17 November 1958 vol 595 cc831-2
23. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Paymaster-General what were the accumulated losses of the National Coal Board at 30th June, 1958; and what estimate he has made of such losses at 30th September, 1958; and how such losses are to be financed by his Department.

30. Mr. Neal

asked the Paymaster-General what is the total financial loss sustained by the National Coal Board; and, in its requests to him for facilities for financing the loss, what proportion of it the Board attributes to the high stocks of undistributed coal.

Sir I. Horobin

The cumulative loss incurred by the National Coal Board between vesting day and 30th June, 1958, was £25.;5 million; for the third quarter figures, I would ask my hon. Friend to await the quarterly statistical statement which will be published in due course. The accumulated losses have been financed by the Board from its own resources.

Mr. Nabarro

Could my hon. Friend say whether the Board will continue to be in a position to finance losses from its own resources, having regard to the fact that the accumulated losses by the end of this calendar year will probably be of the order of £40 million, added to a figure of £60 million, being the value of the large quantities of unsold stocks, and as that represents in aggregation a figure of £100 million, can my hon. Friend say whether the Minister views with equanimity such a large sum of capital being sterilised?

Sir I. Horobin

I do not think we would view it with equanimity if it existed anywhere but in my hon. Friend's brain. Once again I think it would be better if we waited for these rather complicated figures to be discussed when the Order gives us an opportunity of doing so rather more adequately than by way of supplementary questions.

Mr. Neal

Since the undistributed stocks are mainly the result of Government economic policy, can the Parliamentary Secretary say when and how they will be reduced to normal proportions?

Sir I. Horobin

Again I am afraid I do not agree with what was no doubt the important part of the question, namely, the statement. It is not by any means true that all these additional stocks are the result of Government policy. For instance, there is a substantial fall in exports, which certainly cannot be anything to do with the Government. I am afraid it is also true that, in some sections of the coal trade at any rate, coal is pricing itself out of the market.

Mr. J. Hynd

Can the Minister explain to me why it is that an unexpected wealth of reserves in coal is regarded as a serious economic factor in the position of the industry?

Sir I. Horobin

I think there is a great deal in what the hon. Gentleman says. I do not think these stocks should be looked at in a panic way. On the other hand, they are a substantial financial problem for the Coal Board.

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