HC Deb 12 December 1967 vol 756 cc181-2
22. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Minister of Power if he will make a statement on his talks with the Chairman of the National Coal Board regarding the loss of 300,000 jobs in the coal mines, and how far devaluation has affected the coal mining industry.

The Minister of Power (Mr. Richard Marsh)

I would refer the hon. Member to the replies which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Hudders-field, West (Mr. Lomas) on 20th November and to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. G. Elfed Davies) on 5th December.—[Vol. 754, c. 267 and Vol. 755, c. 256.]

Sir C. Osborne

While I do not remember those Answers, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman why Lord Robens should not be given a free hand for two years to see if he can really produce coal as cheaply as imported oil and so save these 300,000 jobs which the miners will lose?

Mr. Marsh

The important point to get quite clear here about the figure for mining manpower run-down by 1980 is that there are no figures which can be justified with any reasonable argument. Having said that, I wish to make it clear that, from the point of view of flexibility to enable the coal mining industry to take advantage of increases in productivity, this is allowed for in the White Paper. If the coal mining industry does better and better in future, as it has done in the past, nobody will be happier than the Minister of Power of the day.

Mr. Swain

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in November, 1965, the then Minister of Power said that if coal output fell to below 170 million tons a year this would have a serious effect on the nation's balance of payments? Has my right hon. Friend decided what further serious effect on the balance of payments devaluation will have in terms of the import of further stocks of oil?

Mr. Marsh

I was trying to make this point earlier. Preliminary calculations show that the effect of devaluation on oil prices has meant an increase in the price of oil by an amount which is well within the margin taken into account in the second case in the Appendix to the White Paper, and not sufficiently large to distort the economic balance of payments advantages.

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