HC Deb 06 February 1968 vol 758 cc218-9
5. Mr. Ridley

asked the Minister of Power how many pence per therm coal costs to mine in the United Kingdom at present on average.

Mr. Freeson

In the year 1966–67 the average cost of production, including interest, of all N.C.B. deep-mined coal was 4.6 pence per therm.

Mr. Ridley

How then can the Coal Board make offers of 3d. or 3¼d. a therm, as has been reported, or are those offers not true?

Mr. Freeson

I stated in the debate last week the position of the Department concerning the offers that have been reported in the Press. I have nothing further to add to what I said then.

Mr. Shinwell

My hon. Friend has referred to average prices. Surely he knows that there are great variations in the quality of coal. If we take into account the kind of coal that is used for the generation of electricity, the therm cost is very much below the figure he gave.

Mr. Freeson

Not only that, but, as the years go by and the industry modernises itself, the average cost will come down even further. This is the intention of the N.C.B., and there is every reason to believe that it will achieve its objective.

Mr. Woof

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Coal Board's recent offer to supply coal to the Central Electricity Generating Board at 3¼d. a therm for a power station at Seaton Carew was based on the likelihood of coal being highly competitive in the 1970s? Is he further aware that the recent rebuff by the Chairman of the Central Electricity Generating Board should be challenged either by his right hon. Friend or by the Government? The Government are supposed to be the real gaffers. What is at stake is the livelihood of thousands of people in the 1970s.

Mr. Freeson

I think my hon. Friend is mistaken when he describes the reaction of the C.E.G.B. to the National Coal Board's offer in this case as a rebuff. There was a counter offer referring to supplies in connection with the whole of the requirements of the C.E.G.B.—not a rebuff.

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