HC Deb 17 November 1958 vol 595 cc832-3
24. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Paymaster-General what tonnage of coal is held on surface by the National Coal Board unsold, and what financial burden this represents; whether any special loan facilities are to be arranged by his Department to finance these stocks; and what is the total tonnage of distributed and undistributed coal stocks at the latest convenient date.

Sir I. Horobin

On 1st November, stocks of coal at collieries and at opencast sites amounted to 17.7 million tons, valued at about £55 million; at the same date distributed and undistributed stocks together amounted to 36.8 million tons. The National Coal Board's working capital is normally provided by advances from the Minister; and an Order providing for these to exceed the statutory annual limit will shortly be laid before the House.

Mr. Nabarro

Far from my figures earlier being a figment of the imagination, I under-estimated the value of stocks. Now will my hon. Friend say, without viewing with equanimity the value of these stocks, how he proposes to sell this coal, much of which is deemed by the Coal Board and others to be unsaleable? Is that not a serious drug on the market in present circumstances?

Sir I. Horobin

I am sorry, Sir. The hon. Member may have information as to the Board's views which is not available to the Ministry of Power, but I am assured by the Coal Board that the written down value of these stocks is in its commercial opinion reasonable. The Board may be wrong, of course, and I dare say even the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) may some day be wrong, but in its view the written down value at which these stocks appear in its books is a reasonable one.