HC Deb 21 February 1977 vol 926 cc1010-1
3. Sir J. Langford-Holt

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what are the stocks of smokeless fuel held in the United Kingdom.

34. Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will give details of the stocks of smokeless fuel currently held in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Eadie

Total stocks of solid smokeless fuels, including those for industrial uses but excluding those held by merchants, in the United Kingdom at 31st December 1976, the latest date for which figures are available, were approximately 3.7 million tons.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

In the Government's view, are these figures adequate? If they are adequate, can the hon. Gentleman explain why my constituents cannot get any?

Mr. Eadie

No, we do not regard them as adequate. There has been difficulty in respect of supplies. The National Coal Board hopes to have the new Betws Drift mine in production by April 1978, and when fully operational it will produce about half a million tons of anthracite per annum. In addition, the Board is seeking permission to open new opencast sites, one of which is estimated to contain about 700,000 tons of excellent quality anthracite that could be extracted over five years from the date of authorisation.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

On 8th February the Under-Secretary told me in a Written Answer that there had been 26 explosions since last September involving imported anthracite. From which country, or countries, is the dangerous fuel coming? Will he confirm that the reason for the explosions is the presence in the cargoes of unexploded detonators made of aluminium or some other non-ferrous material that cannot be detected by normal means?

Mr. Eadie

I am aware that the hon. Gentleman has been communicating about this matter. I cannot give him the details of the countries but I shall write to him. We are considering this matter.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Is my hon. Friend aware that in addition to the supply of anthracite there are manufactured smokeless fuels such as Phurnacite for which there is increasing demand? Will my hon. Friend have regular contact with the National Coal Board and ensure that regard is had to the people living in the areas where smokeless fuel is produced, as quite a deal of smoke is produced in producing smokeless fuel?

Mr. Eadie

I shall convey my hon. Friend's comments to the NCB.

Mr. Fell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that smokeless fuels are apparently so poor that they either fall straight through the grate or put out the fire?

Mr. Eadie

I am aware that there are many grades of smokeless fuels. As I understand it, some are in great demand by consumers.