HC Deb 17 June 1974 vol 875 cc3-4
2. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what recent discussions he has had with the Coal Merchants Federation.

The Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Alex Eadie)

My Department has close links with the Coal Merchants Federation, and matters of common interest are discussed as necessary.

Mr. Rost

Do the Government realise that the majority of the 15 million consumers of domestic coal are relatively low income families? What will the Government do to cushion the effect of the £3 per ton increase in the price of domestic coal in the autumn? Assuming that these people can still afford to buy coal after the autumn, will the hon. Gentleman have discussions with his colleagues at the Department of the Environment to ensure that public sector houses are built with flues, so that there will still be an opportunity to use domestic coal in the future?

Mr. Eadie

There is constant consultation between the Department of Energy and the Department of the Environment. As for the hon. Gentleman's second point, the National Coal Board's prices to merchants will not be increased until November. However, other factors, such as increased distribution costs, may cause price increases. But distributors' profit margins are controlled by the Price Code under the counter-inflation legislation, and I was asked about the Coal Merchants Federation.

Mr. Sillars

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that many middle and high income families are very sorry that they did not take his advice in the period before 1970, and that they bought oil-fired central heating and now wish that they had put in coal-fired systems?

Mr. Eadie

My hon. Friend's point is a good one, and I tried to make it in a previous debate. I hope that the House takes note of it.

Mr. Redmond

May I press the hon. Gentleman a little further on the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost)? Is not there a complete lack of consumer choice in the forms of heating which can be put into buildings of all types where there are no flues and where, as a result. people are forced to use oil-fired central heating simply because they can instal no other form of heating?

Mr. Eadie

The hon. Gentleman does not have to convince me about that. I wish he had been as vociferous in trying to persuade his right hon. and hon. Friends when they were in Government. It is our intention to do our best to provide consumer choice.