HC Deb 18 February 1970 vol 796 cc399-400
17. Mr. David Steel

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the effect on the electricity boards in Scotland of the proposed increases in the price of coal.>

Dr. Dickson Mabon

The recent increase in the price of coal will cost the Scottish electricity boards about £3 million in the financial year 1970–71.

Mr. Steel

Does the Minister not think it deplorable that domestic and industrial consumers of electricity should have to subsidise the cost of keeping uneconomic pits going? If there is a case for keeping uneconomic pits open for social reasons, why is there not a proper subsidy from the Treasury for this purpose?

Dr. Mabon

There is rather a long history to this, which I could not possibly attempt to give at Question time. The hon. Gentleman will recognise that the recent report by the National Board for Prices and Incomes discussed the economics of the National Coal Board. That is accepted, and the consequence of this is the 10 per cent. increase in the pithead price of coal as of 19th January, 1970. I could not go into all the explanations of the case. It would take too long.

Mr. Eadie

Is my hon. Friend aware of the new-found interest that the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) has taken in the coal-mining industry, to the extent that he is prepared to write it off? Will my hon. Friend give an undertaking that he will resist this campaign of blatant defamation against coal and the miners?

Dr. Mabon

The Government are trying sincerely to get the right balance between the four different fuels that we use in the economy. For that reason we are allowing conversions of certain coal-fired stations, such as Braehead, for example, on clean air grounds, while at the same time promoting a large one like Longannet for consumption of coal.