HC Deb 28 May 1968 vol 765 cc1527-8
30. Mr. Eadie

asked the Minister of Power if he will appoint an advisory committee on the disposal of surplus coal.

Mr. Gunter

No, Sir.

Mr. Eadie

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us on this side of the House will resist to the utmost the application of the machinations of profitability to solve this problem? When will he consider carrying out a modern scientific and technological investigation into the problem of derivatives from coal?

Mr. Gunter

The Question was about a committee on the disposal of surplus coal. The level of stocks of coal is kept under constant review by my Department, but the matter is primarily one for the National Coal Board. I am not quite clear what the purpose of setting up an advisory committee would be.

Mr. Emery

I accept that it is primarily the responsibility of the Chairman of the National Coal Board, but would not the Minister agree that over £200 million is now tied up in coal on the ground and the servicing of that amount of capital must run to over £16 million a year? Therefore, there is a need to take some more definite steps than have been taken in the past to find a way to dispose of that coal.

Mr. Gunter

The hon. Gentleman is aware of the Government's view on this. We think that the stocks are too high and that efforts should be made to reduce them. As Lord Robens has said on two occasions to my knowledge, he hopes to do so.

Mr. Swain

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is the fault of consecutive Governments, the Tory Government and ours, that 28 million tons of coal are on the ground? When will my right hon. Friend introduce a new fuel policy which will give coal a real chance to compete with other fuels?

Mr. Gunter

Coal has a chance. I hope that the idea that the coal industry is being run down will be eliminated. What the industry must do and is doing is to reduce its costs by greater productivity, and this is leading inevitably to a reduction in manpower. But all the gimmicks in the world will not save the coal industry. Only the coal industry itself can save it.

Mr. Lubbock

What is the point of the Ministry keeping this matter under review if it will not do anything about it?

Mr. Gunter

This is part of the process of consultation.