HC Deb 29 June 1959 vol 608 cc18-9
45. Mr. A. Roberts

asked the Paymaster-General what recent developments have taken place in the research on high pressure gasification of coal.

Sir I. Horobin

I suggest the hon. Member awaits the report of the Committee on Coal Derivatives, the setting up of which was announced on 16th April.

Mr. Roberts

Are we likely to have this report in the near future? Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this development can be very important indeed to the mining industry? May I have an assurance that his Ministry will give all help possible, both materially and spiritually, to this side of the industry, as we think that it will play a great part in keeping some of our miners at work?

Sir I. Horobin

I agree with what, I think, the hon. Member has in mind—that if we can make a success of high-pressure gasification of coal great possibilities will be opened up both for the gas industry and for the coal industry. It is not, however, an easy matter. It is a tricky and rather modern process and one cannot hurry it. The scientists must simply be left to see whether they can solve the problem. I hope they can.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Should not the scientists be given greater resources in order to accelerate the programme? Can the Minister assure us that this experiment will not be closed down as the underground gasification experiment was closed down?

Sir I. Horobin

It will be closed down, as that experiment was closed down, if the experts come to the conclusion that it is no good. Hon. Members on this side of the House are not in favour of continuing to spend money even when we have no reason to suppose that we shall get anything for it.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not extremely unwise to save a little sum on research when we might achieve a great economic result by going on with an experiment?

Sir I. Horobin

In this case not a penny which has been asked for has been refused, because we still think it is a very hopeful programme. But we shall not go on spending money on it if the committee and all the experts concerned come to the conclusion, with great disappointment, that it is a non-starter.