§ 66. Sir G. Nabarro
asked the Minister of Technology whether he is aware that clean air policy is being retarded by impossibility of obtaining solid smokeless fuels in certain areas; and what measures he now proposes to assist in this situation, as a result of his consideration of the matter.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology (Mr. Alan Williams)
I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend said in the debate on 3rd February.—[Vol. 795, c. 344.]
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Will the Minister observe that there have been very disquieting statements since then by the heads of nationalised boards who have forecast that next winter whole areas of 32 this country, as the result of conversion to North Sea gas, will be without smokeless fuel altogether? What steps are the Government taking to increase the overall supply of smokeless fuel, both for the remainder of this winter and under their long-term planning arrangements for next winter? Stop mumbling. I am asking the Parliamentary Secretary.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
That is a very old parliamentary tag, but I was being interrupted by the Deputy Leader of the House who was mumbling at me throughout my supplementary question. Mr. Speaker, should you not seek to improve the right hon. Gentleman's parliamentary manner?
This matter was dealt with fully by my right hon. Friend during the debate. The Coal Board and private producers have plans to increase production during the forthcoming year. As yet it is impossible to predict the demand level because, for example, we do not know what will be the impact of price on demand.
I appreciate this, but the point about the slowing down of gas conversion is counter-productive in terms of clean air since natural gas is good clean-air fuel. Secondly, on the point of slowing-down of closures of existing traditional gas plants, we have looked at the costings and in some cases it would have meant an extra price increase of £14 a ton on any coke produced.
§ Mr. Maudling
My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) referred to statements made since the debate and the prospects for next winter. The Parliamentary Secretary answered it by referring only to the debate which had taken place earlier. Will he now answer my hon. Friend's question?
With due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I indicated that there were increases in the pipeline from the private and public sector, and I indicated the uncertainties of predicting at this stage the demand level next winter.