HC Deb 23 July 1962 vol 663 cc938-9
18. Mr. Lawson

asked the Minister of Power what proportion of British coal being imported into Northern Ireland is now coming from the Scottish coalfield.

Mr. Wood

About a quarter.

Mr. Lawson

Does the Minister bear in mind that at the end of 1959 there was a sudden switch in policy on exports of coal from Ayrshire to Northern Ireland; and that that was very detrimental to Ayrshire and to Scotland? Since the position is now so black in Scotland, will the night hon. Gentleman reverse that policy, or have it reversed, in order that Ayrshire, or Scotland, can recover what was its long-established traditional market?

Mr. Wood

I have certainly been made well aware of the change that is taking place, but, again, that is a matter for the Board, as the hon. Gentleman recognises. I can certainly discuss it with the Board, but the Board must pay attention to the needs and wishes of consumers. At the same time, it must take into account the costs of production in the particular source of supply. It cannot ignore those factors in deciding from which source it will supply Northern Ireland.

Sir T. Moore

Can my right toon. Friend say—although I do not think that he can—why, just before the 1959 General Election, the National Coal Board announced that no more Ayrshire coal would be exported to Northern Ireland, and thereby lost me 2,000 votes? That announcement has since been forgotten, but why announce something that it was apparently not intended to carry out and so confuse the whole electorate about the Board's ideas?

Mr. Wood

Much as I should like to help my hon. Friend, he is quite right in his surmise—I cannot answer his question. However, I will make inquires and write to him about it.