HC Deb 27 November 1962 vol 668 cc190-1
16. Sir H. Studholme

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will give the figures for, and countries of origin of, pit props imported into this country for the latest 12 month period for which figures are available, and for the preceding 12 months.

Mr. Green

Statistics of imports of pit props, pit poles and pit bars by country of consignment are published in the Trade and Navigation Accounts. Trade in pit timbers has been declining but an increasing share of that trade has been going to home-grown timbers in recent years.

Sir H. Studholme

May I take it that it is not true, as I have heard it suggested, that the Board of Trade has advised the National Coal Board to buy some 90 per cent. of its pit props from abroad, including over 30 per cent. from the Soviet Union? Will my hon. Friend do everything to encourage still further the use of home-grown pit props in this country?

Mr. Green

The sources from which the National Coal Board draws its supplies are entirely a matter for its commercial judgment. We have given no such ukase as has been suggested.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

In his reply, my hon. Friend the Minister of State said that an increasing share was coming to the home industry. It may be an increasing share but it is a decreasing volume, and that is the point. Will he remind his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that this problem wants watching very carefully?

Mr. Green

I believe I gave that information in my original Answer.

Mr. Manuel

What proportion of pit props used in this country come from home-grown supplies? Forestry thinings produce many of the thicknesses necessary for pit props. Are these thinings up to date, or is there a lag resulting in our having to increase imports?

Mr. Green

I should like notice of that supplementary question so that I may obtain accurate figures. But home production in 1962 is so far one-fifth higher than the level of 1961.