HC Deb 03 November 1980 vol 991 cc944-5
11. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what consultations he has had with the National Coal Board and the British Steel Corporation about the importing of coking coal in 1981.

Mr. John Moore

It is for the BSC to arrange its own coal supplies after discussions with the NCB. I have not been involved in these discussions, though I have been kept informed of developments.

Mr. Dormond

Is the Minister aware that the agreement reached for 1981 between the NCB and BSC includes the purchase by the NCB of 1 million tons from pits in the North-East? Is he satisfied with that arrangement? Is he further aware that the coking coal involved necessitates a subsidy from the NCB of £14 per ton? Should not that money come from the Government, as is the case with our competitors?

Mr. Moore

To answer the first part of the question would, as I said earlier, require me to be involved in the detailed management of the industry, which is not my function. The agreement provides for both organisations to be free to operate commercially and to reach agreements. The agreement announced was successful for both sides of the industry, as opposed to the taxpayer.

Mr. Michael Brown

Do I take it from that answer that BSC has commercial freedom to purchase its coking coal from the cheapest source?

Mr. Moore

As the Government have made clear on many occasions, nationalised industries are free to pursue their commercial interests. BSC has negotiated an arrangement, the details of which are commercially confidential, and it is pursuing further negotiations concerning a longer period. Yes, the BSC has commercial freedom.

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