§ 5. Mr. Nabarro
asked the Minister of Power whether he will state the position with regard to undistributed coal and coke stocks at 1st July, 1960; to what extent the investment by the National Coal Board of approximately £125 million winter in respect of approximately 35 million tons has now increased or decreased; and what plans are now in hand for reducing this liability upon the Board's financial resources.
§ Mr. Wood
On 18th June, the Board's undistributed stocks were just over 34 million tons of coal and about 5 million tons of coke, valued at approximately £135 million. The corresponding figure at the beginning of the year was slightly more than £140 million. The Board is reducing production and aiming at a steady reduction in the level of undistributed stocks in the next few years.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Is it not the fact that the levels of stocks to which my right hon. Friend has referred are no less than 7 million tons higher than they were on this date last year? And whether the loss of the Coal Board is suggested to be £75 million at the end of this calendar year or £100 million, is it not the fact that a drug on the market of £135 million worth of coal ought to engage my right hon. Friend's much more urgent attention?
§ Mr. Wood
My hon. Friend will not be unaware that the present level of stocks is below the level at which we began the winter, and that instead of having an increase in stocks of the order of £16 million, as we had last year, it looks as though my estimate, made about 6 seven or eight months ago, of a reduction of about 1 million tons will not be very far out.
§ Mr. J. Hynd
Will the Minister tell us whether, apart from the industrial recession, part of the problem has been caused by remarkably mild winters, as a result of which we have not used coal that we otherwise would have used, and that these are reserve stocks? And will he explain why this is a tragedy?
§ Mr. Wood
The weather has certainly played a part, but we have discussed these matters in debates and the reason for the growth in stocks over the last two or three years has been examined in considerable detail. The position now is that the Board, as the House knows, is reducing production, and in fact the balance of stocks will, I think, show a small reduction at the end of this year.