HC Deb 19 November 1973 vol 864 cc926-7
8. Mr. Milne

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will outline the arrangements made for the expansion of coal use in power stations arising from the limitation of oil supplies.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Walker)

The CEGB has, with coal-fired stations already in operation, the capacity to increase substantially its burn of coal.

Mr. Milne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is a rather brief reply to a Question of this importance at this time? Will he remember that this is not just a short-term problem but a long-term problem too? Will he consider the negotiations with the miners against the background of coal expansion and ensure that coal-fired power stations are the order of the day in future?

Mr. Walker

There is considerable potential for increasing capacity from coal production between now and 1980. In the recent announcement we included reference to a design contract for further coal-fired stations, and the negotiations with the miners, the Coal Industry Act and the development of the phase 3 policy take carefully into consideration the need to do just that.

Mr. Burden

Was not the position made difficult by the considerable number of pits closed by the Labour Party and the discharge of about 200,000 miners from the pits? Is there not, therefore, great difficulty in getting miners back into the industry after they were phased out of it by the Labour Government?

Mr. Walker

It is true that in six years 286 pits were closed and 185,000 jobs were lost.

Mr. Palmer

Will the right hon. Gentleman be granting any further consents for oil-fired power stations? He has granted some fairly recently.

Mr. Walker

It is a matter of considering the whole future strategy of power stations, which includes nuclear stations. The important thing is to ensure that there is plenty of flexibility in the system, and there is now sufficient to increase substantially the uptake of coal.