HC Deb 26 June 1978 vol 952 cc1025-6
8. Mr. Joan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what representations he has received regarding coal imports in view of the large stocks of coal in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Eadie

We have received representations from the National Coal Board, hon. Members and other sources.

Mr. Evans

I recognise that my hon. Friend is aware of the views of the National Union of Mineworkers. Will he have discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who was in the South Wales coalfield last week? My right hon. Friend heard miners who, although satisfied with many of the Government's attitudes, are still deeply disturbed that while large stocks of coal have been built up in this country we still have contracts under which we are importing coal. Cannot something be done to tackle that problem?

Mr. Eadie

We are very much aware of the anxieties, not only in South Wales but all over the country, about the importation of coal. We have had a meeting with the bodies concerned. The emphasis was on coking coal. British Steel Corporation representatives were at the meeting, as were my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Industry and for Energy. The decision was that after consultation they would report back. I assure my hon. Friend that we are very much aware of the point he has put.

Mr. Budgen

In view of the Secretary of State's expressed preference for coal over other forms of energy, should he not take account of the serious possibility that the artificially high price of oil might fall as a consequence of the break-up of the OPEC cartel and that in future we might find cheap oil available? Should not he take account of that in his plans for future energy requirements?

Mr. Eadie

I do not think that the House would be surprised if I said that I endorsed the remarks of my right hon. Friend about coal. The hon. Gentleman is falling into a very bad habit. We learned before the Israeli-Arab war what happens when the whole Western world is dependent for its energy supplies on outside countries which are to some extent politically unstable. What the hon. Gentleman is suggesting is that we make the errors we said in 1973–74 we would never make. It is no use pulling the blankets over one's head on this issue. Energy is necessary if a country wishes to become an industrial country, and it should preferably be indigenous energy.