HC Deb 07 April 1975 vol 889 cc805-6
11. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what will be the difference in price per therm between industrial coal and fuel oil after the recently announced round of price increases is implemented.

Mr. John Smith

Industrial fuel prices vary considerably depending upon the quality of fuel used, the location of the consumer and the terms and conditions of supply. Following the increases last December fuel oil prices are estimated to have risen to around 9½ to 10½p a therm, although the trend is now downwards. Following the increases on 1st March typical prices for industrial coal are now between 7p and 8½p a therm—that is, some 2p to 2½p a therm less.

Mr. Hannam

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that if there is another pay increase in the coal industry of the nature of that given earlier this year, coal will become more expensive than oil and probably will be twice as expensive in electricity generation as nuclear power? What do the Government propose to do about it?

Mr. Smith

We shall have to see what happens in wage negotiations in this in- dustry as in any other. Coal prices are competitive with oil prices.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Will my hon. Friend accept that many of us on this side of the House greatly welcome the Secretary of State's statement of his view of the coal industry in answer to Questions Nos. 7 and 9? Does my hon. Friend agree that irrespective of the price factor. looking towards the year 2000 and beyond, our energy requirements must largely depend on indigenous coal resources?

Mr. Smith

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has repeatedly made clear, particularly in the context of the interim report of the coal industry examination, that the future of the coal industry must be judged against a long-term view of energy prices and that the industry's planning should not be at the mercy of short-term fluctuations in the price of competing fuels.