HC Deb 09 April 1973 vol 854 cc920-2
17. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, in view of the fact that experts are forecasting that the world's supply of oil will be below the demand for this fuel by the late 1980's, if he will have discussions with the chairmen of the nationalised fuel and power industries, and then report to Parliament before he gives his consent for the building of any more oil-fired power stations.

The Minister for Industry (Mr. Tom Boardman)

My right hon. Friend and I have periodic discussions with the chairmen of the nationalised industries and with the oil companies. World oil prospects are naturally one of the major matters discussed from time to time. Fuel supply prospects are taken into account in making decisions on the fuelling of stations when the electricity industry's capital investment programme is reviewed.

Mr. Wainwright

The hon. Gentleman has not said anything about the question of reporting any future policy to Parliament. Is he not aware that the 11 OPEC countries own at least 70 per cent. of the world's oil supplies, that they are now considering banking oil, thereby increasing its price, and that the needs of the world by 1985 will be greater than the supply? What will the hon. Gentleman do about it? What guarantee will he give to the coal industry that miners will be needed in the 1980's and 1990's? Does he not think it is time that something was done, with the Government declaring that Drax B should be a coal-fired power station?

Mr. Boardman

The hon. Gentleman must have forgotten the very great aid being given to the extra coal burn under the Coal Industry Act totalling up to £50 million, or £100 million, in the next three years to promote the sale of coal to the electricity boards.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does my hon. Friend realise that the coal industry in the United Kingdom has been run down much too far and too fast and that a coal output of 140 million tons is grossly inadequate for our needs? Will he set the objective of 300,000 men in the pits, added to an output of 175 million tons of coal, all by 1975, which would approximately meet our needs?

Mr. Boardman

My hon. Friend will recall that during the debates on the Coal Industry Bill we said that it was wrong to set objectives or targets for men or for output and that we should give the industry an opportunity to justify its size and the number of people employed with the help we were giving to it.

Mr. Varley

Is it not becoming obvious that the Government and the CEGB are getting in an appalling mess over power station policy? Is it not about time that the Minister took a more positive and active role in this matter? The Drax B station was put in the programme in 1969 as a coal-fired power station. Why are not the Government doing something about that? In view of the Press speculation in the last few days that the Government are likely to refuse to sanction more oil-fired power stations, why does not the Minister make a definitive statement on power station policy?

Mr. Boardman

Planning consent for Drax B was given some time ago and it is up to the CEGB to decide whether it wishes to include it in its investment programme. However, the discussions with the chairmen of the fuel and power industries take into account the projections for fuel requirements. All these factors are fully taken into account.