HC Deb 26 March 1973 vol 853 cc906-7
17. Mr. Alexander Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he is satisfied that supplies of coking coal will be adequate to supply the steel industry and that they can be met from indigenous resources.

Mr. Tom Boardman

I am satisfied that the major part of the United Kingdom's steel industry's needs for coking coal can be met from indigenous sources.

Mr. Wilson

Is the Minister aware that there are ample reserves of coking coal in Scotland? In view of the unemployment situation and the dereliction in mining communities, has he encouraged the National Coal Board to make new sinkings in this type of coal-field in Scotland? If not, why not?

Mr. Boardman

We are encouraging the use of all possible sources of the right sort of coking coal within the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the provision made in the Coal Industry Act to give financial help towards coking coal production.

Mr. Eadie

Does not the Minister realise the importance of a statement being made about coking coal because of the substantial contraction of the steel industry involving the loss of thousands of jobs in Scotland? Will he make a statement now about the coking coal situation in Scotland to encourage the people who are engaged in this work?

Mr. Boardman

No, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that, as I have said before, we are anxious to encourage the production from all available sources of coking coal in this country.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Does the Minister realise that neither he nor the Government are convincing in what they say about the coal mining industry? We should be creating jobs for miners now, because in the next two decades there will be a world shortage of other fuels and we shall need miners. If we are not careful the Government will make certain that we do not have miners to produce the coal we shall need.

Mr. Boardman

The hon. Gentleman cannot describe the financial aid to the coal industry of approaching £1,000 million under the Coal Industry Act as being other than support for the industry. He will be aware that grants of up to £45 million in the years 1973–74 and 1975–76 may be made to United Kingdom producers of coking coal.