HC Deb 01 February 1960 vol 616 cc612-4
19. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Minister of Power what is the amount spent annually on research into the uses of coal by the Gas Council, the National Coal Board, and the Central Electricity Generating Board, respectively; and what is the amount spent annually on research by each of these industries on the uses of oil, including the gasification of oil.

The Minister of Power (Mr. Richard Wood)

This year the Gas Council is spending £120,000 on research into coal gasification, and the National Coal Board and Central Electricity Generating Board £680,000 and £130,000, respectively, on coal utilisation. The Gas Council is spending about £230,000 on research into the gasification of oil under a programme which is designed to contribute also towards improving the economics of coal gasification; and another £240,000 on research into problems of gas purification and the treatment of by-products.

Mr. Wyatt

Having regard to the enormous turn-over of the coal industry, does not the Minister think that these amounts spent on research into the utilisation of coal are absolutely minute and that private enterprise would be spending a far higher proportion in similar circumstances? In particular, does he not think it is scandalous that the Gas Council, operating a nationalised industry, should be spending £230,000 on research into the gasification of oil? Ought not his interests to be to persuade it to spend more money on research into the gasification of coal, a commodity which he ought to be protecting?

Mr. Wood

The answer to the last part of the supplementary question is, as I pointed out in my original answer, that the research which the Gas Council is carrying out is intended to lead to the gasification of coal. In answer to the general question which the hon. Gentleman has raised, I would repeat an answer which I gave him some time ago, which was that these matters of the further uses of coal were at the present time being examined by the Wilson Committee, which will shortly, I hope, be reporting, and if it suggests other lines of research I shall give every consideration to them.

Mr. Lee

Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire whether the gas industry is spending any money on research into the production of non-poisonous gases?

Mr. Wood

As I said at the end of my answer to the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt), £240,000 is being spent on research into the problems of gas purification, with which that subject is associated.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it not absurd that after years of propaganda about the need for research into the uses of coal —by-products and the like—and after the appointment of a scientific adviser to the National Coal Board in 1946 when the industry was nationalised, there is now talk about setting up a committee to consider the use of coal for by-products?

Mr. Wood

I think the right hon. Gentleman will have only another month or two to wait before we have a further authoritative statement on which to base our plan.

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