HC Deb 07 May 1973 vol 856 cc17-8
18. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is his estimate of the output of coal during 1973.

The Minister for Industry (Mr. Tom Boardman)

The National Coal Board expects output in 1973 to be in the region of 135 million to 140 million tons.

Sir G. Nabarro

That figure is not very encouraging. Has not my hon. Friend done his homework on the figure I put to him the other day—that we ought to be aiming for 175 million tons of coal by 1975, which is perfectly within our grasp? Having regard to the obviously developing shortage of energy, which will be worldwide, including the United States, would we not be well advised to increase the output prospects for our own coal industry?

Mr. Boardman

Of course I have noted the figure which my hon. Friend gave the other day. Our objective is to have a coal industry capable of meeting the demand for coal and at competitive prices. My hon. Friend will, I am sure, agree that the Coal Industry Act was an earnest of that.

Mr. Concannon

When does the hon. Gentleman expect the Central Electricity Generating Board to announce its plans for a new power station at either Drax or West Burton B, so that we in South Yorkshire or in the East Midlands can plan ahead and sink the new pits whereby we can build up the total production which the country will need in the near future?

Mr. Boardman

It is a matter for the CEGB to put forward, if it wishes, plans for coal-fired power stations. So far it has not done so.

Mr. Skeet

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is not much good talking about the production of coal without also talking of the market for it? Can he say what is the current demand for coal and also the demand for oil and natural gas?

Mr. Boardman

That goes wider than the Question on the Order Paper, but all these matters are carefully taken into account to get the right balance between alternative fuels, taking into account operative prices.

Mr. Ashton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his reply to the effect that he is waiting for the initiative to come from the CEGB is not good enough? Is he further aware that in my constituency in Nottinghamshire coal can be produced cheaply? The coal is there, the site for West Burton B is there, and West Burton A is already in operation. Does he realise that nothing is needed except a little bit of muscle on the Minister's part to get this power station built?

Mr. Boardman

I hope that the hon. Gentleman has noted and appreciated the arrangements that have been made between the CEGB and the National Coal Board to provide for extra coal burn, which I am sure he will much welcome.