HC Deb 17 June 1969 vol 785 cc243-5
8. Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson

asked the Minister of Power if he will make a statement about the price increases which have been proposed to him by the National Coal Board.

32 and 33. Mr. Waddington

asked the Minister of Power (1) whether he will refer to the National Board for Prices and Incomes the National Coal Board's proposals for increases in coal prices;

(2) what representations he has received about proposals to increase coal prices; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Mason

The proposals have been referred to the National Board for Prices and Incomes.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that since the Government have always shown such an interest in prices, it would have been wiser for them to have got the pricing policy of the N.C.B. right before having these prices considered?

Mr. Mason

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we could not have held this matter back when a noticeable increase was involved. This has a bearing on our ruling and on the statement which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made more than a year ago; and it was necessary for us to refer the matter to the Board.

Mr. Waddington

Will the Minister ensure that there are adequate consultations prior to the publication of any report, since there is to be a reference, so that there will not be a repeat performance of the chaos which followed the conclusions of the P.I.B. on steel prices?

Mr. Mason

While not accepting the hon. Gentleman's comments in this connection, I remind him that there are always adequate representations. As he knows, the private sector, ship builders and those representing the car industry made representations about steel to the P.I.B. In connection with coal, I have already received representations from the Domestic and Industrial Coal Consumers Councils, the coal distributors and the C.E.G.B.

Sir G. Nabarro

What is the right hon. Gentleman doing to prevent leapfrogging occurring between coal and steel? Is it not a fact that steel prices have recently risen by almost 10 per cent. and that increases in coal prices are pending? Shall we not, in a few months' time, have a further demand for increased steel prices consequent on the further increased coal prices?

Mr. Mason

I do not know to what extent I can answer the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question in full because, as usual, he has got his figures wrong. Between 1961 and 1968 the general average increase for steel was 10 per cent.—

Sir G. Nabarro

What about 1969?

Mr. Mason

—and the increases which I announced last week averaged 5.2 per cent.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Is it not true that steel prices of our leading competitors have also increased and our increases are by no means excessive?

Mr. Mason

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but I could not pursue that now because this is a question about coal and there are plenty of questions about steel on the Order Paper.

Sir G. Nabarro

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

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