HC Deb 08 December 1964 vol 703 cc1302-3
24. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Minister of Power if he will give a general direction, in the public interest, to the National Coal Board to increase its output of bricks, and to modernise its plant for this purpose.

Mr. Frederick Lee

No, Sir, but I have been in touch with the National Coal Board and understand it is planning a substantial increase in its production of bricks.

Mr. Ridley

If there is to be an increase in the production of bricks or anything else by the Coal Board, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he intends to squeeze out the private manufacturers outright, because it is important for them to know the answer to that question?

Mr. Lee

I do not know why the hon. Gentleman should object, especially at a time when there is such a great shortage of bricks—probably brought about by the lack of planning on the part of his right hon. Friends when they were in Government. As a matter of fact, the production of bricks by the Board in the year 1963–64 was 488 million. This year it is expected to be 506 million. Current plans provide for an increase up to 550 million by 1966–67.

Mr. Popplewell

Will my right hon. Friend rest assured that he will have the full support of hon. Members on this side of the House if he restores to all the publicly-owned undertakings for which he is responsible full commercial freedom to carry out whatever undertakings they determine are in the best interests of the nation?

Mr. Lee

As I said in answer to a previous Question, there are within the Statutes powers to manufacture. I have also pointed out that we propose to conduct an inquiry to see whether those powers are wide enough. When we have concluded our inquiry I will let the House know the result.