HC Deb 13 July 1970 vol 803 cc1142-3
51. Mr. Tugendhat

asked the Minister of Technology whether he will grant the Central Electricity Generating Board permission to convert three further coal-fired stations to oil; and whether he will make a statement on the Government's policy towards the board's purchasing policy in relation to oil, coal and natural gas.

Sir J. Eden

I am considering this. Purchasing policy is primarily a commercial matter for the board itself.

Mr. Tugendhat

Is my hon. Friend aware that the fact that the electricity industry has to give so much preference to coal means that the price of electricity here is much higher than in most other European countries, and that unless the C.E.G.B. is given the ability by the Government to purchase the lowest cost fuel that situation will remain?

Sir J. Eden

The interests of the electricity industry and of the coal industry will both have to be determined.

Mr. Alan Williams

May we have an assurance that before the Minister authorises any more conversions and approvals he will have full consultation with the N.U.M.? Is he aware that if suspicion built up in the coal industry that the interests of the coalminer are to be ignored, this could have extremely severe repercussions over the whole of the power field this winter?

Sir J. Eden

As I said in answer to a previous supplementary question, I hope to see some of the N.U.M. leaders later this week.

Mr. Palmer

Can the Minister say whether the C.E.G.B. has made application for these conversions, and if so, will he give the names of the stations concerned?

Sir J. Eden

Yes, Sir. That is why I said I am considering the matter. The stations are Aberthaw A, South Wales; Richborough, Kent; and Northfleet, Kent.

Mr. Emery

Does my hon. Friend realise that his statement is extremely important? He said that purchasing policy is mainly the responsibility of the nationalised industry. This is entirely contrary to the policy pursued by the previous Government, which made certain demands on the industry to purchase coal, at considerable expense to the taxpayer.

Sir J. Eden

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Eadie

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that if this policy is pursued it could mean unemployment for miners? Does he not also agree that there is a lot of propaganda coming from the C.E.G.B. and apparently from some of his hon. Friends in an effort to defame the coal industry, whereas the C.E.G.B. has problems in relation to the cost of nuclear power?

Sir J. Eden

I am aware that this is a very sensitive subject, but I think we ought to bear in mind what was said, for example, by the Chairman of the National Coal Board the other day, that if coal was not available for these power stations conversions would have to be considered.