HC Deb 06 April 1965 vol 710 cc213-6
1. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Minister of Power what is his policy on the protection of home producers of coal against imported oil.

3. Mr. Peyton

asked the Minister of Power when he will make a statement on the detailed provisions of his national fuel policy.

8. Mr. Palmer

asked the Minister of Power if he will introduce legislation to reduce the burden of interest charges carried directly by the National Coal Board, in order to assist the development of a realistic general fuel and power price structure.

16. Mr. McGuire

asked the Minister of Power what steps he has taken, following Her Majesty's Government's study of methods to assist the industry, in maintaining the present size of the coal industry.

30. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Power if he will make a further statement on the progress he is making towards capital reconstruction of the finances of the National Coal Board.

31. Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

asked the Minister of Power if he will now make a statement setting out his national fuel policy.

35. Mr. McGuire

asked the Minister of Power what steps he proposes to take to reduce net imports of fuel oil and gas oil from refineries abroad by encouraging greater use of home-produced coal.

The Minister of Power (Mr. Frederick Lee)

I am proposing to make a statement in the next few clays on the steps I am taking to assist the coal industry in the short term. As to the longer term, I would ask my hon. Friends and the hon. Members to await the outcome of the review of fuel policy I have in hand.

Mr. Griffiths

In view of the Minister's intended statement in a few days" time, will he bear in mind that, while it is appreciated that Lord Robens wishes to spread his costs over as large a production as possible, there is nothing sacrosanct about the figure of 200 million tons of coal if the country cannot use it? In making his statement, will he bear in mind the need of British industry for the cheapest possible fuel from wherever it is bought?

Mr. Lee

Those points were covered in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Kelley) on 9th February.

Mr. Peyton

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are all very glad that his coyness on this subject is coming to an end. Can he give us some assurance that his statement will be made in the House and that it will be a comprehensive statement on all aspects of fuel policy?

Mr. Lee

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman should have noticed my naturally coy disposition. I said that the statement on coal which I would make in a few days would be essentially a short-term statement. I cannot anticipate the date of the longer-term statement.

Mr. Palmer

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the unfair and arbitrary burden of interest charges as between the fuel industries makes a proper comparison of the fuel industries impossible?

Mr. Lee

Yes, and I have said that we are looking at that matter as it affects the coal industry.

Mr. McGuire

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the coal industry has done great service to this country, and particularly to industrialists, and was the only industry which about the time of the last Budget provided cheap fuel for the steel industry? Will he also bear in mind that what the people of this country and especially the miners are looking for is not a politician's answer but a statesman' answer, and will he also bear in mind—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think the Minister had better give his statesman's answer as far as we have got.

Mr. Lee

The most statesmanlike reply I can give is that not only has the coal industry served the nation very well in the past, but that it will continue to do so in future.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Has the right hon. Gentleman decided, like the First Secretary of State with his national plan, to keep his long-term fuel policy secret from the public and to release only selected bits of it when it suits him?

Mr. Lee

The long-term policy which I am working on is to be incorporated in the national plan.


Mr. William Hamilton

On a point of order, may I have an answer to Question No. 30?

Mr. Speaker

It was answered with Question No. 1, possibly in the possible absence of the hon. Member.

Mr. Hamilton

But there is no conceivable connection between Question No.1 and this Question.

Mr. Speaker

That may well be, but it is not a proposition on which I can become involved in argument. It was so answered.

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