§ 7. Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson
asked the Minister of Power whether he has now fixed a financial target for the coal industry for the current financial year.
§ 40 and 41. Mr. Ridley
asked the Minister of Power (1) if he will set identical financial targets for all the industries under his control, expressed in terms of a percentage return on capital employed;
(2) when he will announce the financial targets for the industries under his control.
§ 42. Sir J. Gilmour
asked the Minister of Power whether he has now fixed a financial target for the coal industry over a period of years in accordance with Government policy as set out in Command Paper No. 3437.
§ The Minister of Power (Mr. Roy Mason)
As regards gas and electricity, I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) on 29th April—[Vol. 782, c. 1134]. On coal, I hope to make a statement fairly soon. The financial objective of the British Steel Corporation is under consideration following the Report of the N.B.P.I. on steel prices.
§ Mr. Mason
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, but we have had to work within the framework of Cmnd. 3437, which has set difficult criteria, and we have had to have a fresh round of talks with all the nationalised industries before we could establish it. We are a month or two late, but it is for five years, so there is no urgency in that respect.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
But would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, in the absence of a target, there is no way of knowing whether these industries are being effected, and that his answer to my hon. Friend is no answer at all? Why has there been this delay?
§ Mr. Emery
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that, if the targets 231 should be altered from anything which has existed so far, the chances of the industries being able to make any alteration in management policy now which will be effective during this first year is almost minimal, and that we must know, before 25 per cent. of the year is through, or else it does not mean a thing?
§ Mr. Ridley
Since Cmnd. 3437 was published in November, 1967, what on earth have the Government been doing since then, when they announced their intention to set targets for all the industries? Would the right hon. Gentleman say if he is now prepared to set targets on the same basis; that is, a return on net assets for all the fuel industries?
§ Mr. Mason
The answer to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is that I cannot give such an assurance. They may vary. The answer to the first part is that Cmnd. 3437 set very difficult criteria to follow. It has, therefore, taken some time to finalise this matter. I hope, however, that we will be able to set them all and I also hope that we will be able to let the House know about this before the Summer Recess.