§ 4. Mr. Shinwell
asked the Minister of Power whether he has prepared a scheme for the importation of United States coal next winter.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if the policy of closing down the pits continues and there is a rising demand due to industrial expansion it is very likely that there might be a shortage of coal and that importation of coal will be required? Is it not true—can the right hon. Gentleman deny it—that he has already had discussions with the National Coal Board on the possibility of importation?
§ Mr. Wood
I will be perfectly frank with the right hon. Gentleman. Discussions are now taking place. First, I think that it would be right for him to remember that productivity—I am very glad to say this, and I have said it before—in the industry is increasing and, therefore, it is certainly not true that merely because pits are closing down there will be a shortage of coal. The conversations between my Department and the National Coal Board are in relation to the White Paper on the Financial and Economic Obligations of the Nationalised Industries, and obviously the question of the part that imports, if any, have to play is relevant to that general examination.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I suspected that conversations relating to the possible importation of coal were taking place. 15 Can we have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that before any definitive action has been taken the House will have an opportunity of debating this subject?