HC Deb 25 July 1983 vol 46 cc770-1
3. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what proportion of the electricity supply in the United Kingdom was coal-generated in the most recent year for which figures are available; and how this compares with the figure for 1974.

The Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Giles Shaw)

In 1974 coal generated 56 per cent. of the United Kingdom's public electricity supply. By 1982 this had risen to 74 per cent.

Mr. Knox

Does my hon. Friend agree that the figures show that satisfactory progress has been made since 1974? Does he anticipate any significant change, one way or another, in that figure in the next few years?

Mr. Shaw

The House will recognise that coal will continue to be the major fuel at least until the end of the century. Any answer to my hon. Friend's question strictly depends on the competitive nature of pricing.

Mr. Lofthouse

Will the Minister confirm that, as a result of the incident at Selby coalfield this week, less coal will be available for the generation of electricity? Does the Minister accept that there is great concern that a flooding of that nature can take place when the project has so far cost £1,000 million and is blessed with all the mining expertise and modern technology? Does he agree that there must be an investigation by Her Majesty's inspectorate, mining engineers and geologists to ascertain whether it was a one-off incident or whether it will be common to the Selby coalfield, and whether the coalfield will be safe?

Mr. Shaw

The Selby incident is unfortunate. It is primarily a matter for the coal board, which has issued a statement this afternoon. That throws a more informative light on the matter. The board must continue to deal with the incident.

Mr. Skeet

How will Ferrybridge, Eggborough, Drax and other power stations be supplied with coal if Selby cannot supply them? Will the incident have a long-term effect on the mine? How did the incident suddenly occur —a parliamentary party was there last week and had no knowledge of it? How did the problem suddenly surface?

Mr. Shaw

This is a matter for the NCB to assess. The first assessment suggests that the incident is such that it sees no reason for delaying the start of the second west face, scheduled for late December. I do not think that that will be delayed. In relation to supply to power stations, my hon. Friend is aware of the large stocks available.

Mr. Eadie

I return to the question by the hon. Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Mr. Knox). Does the Minister agree that coal-fired power stations in Britain remain partially unused because of lack of demand as a result of the economic recession triggered by the Government?

Mr. Shaw

Given the state of energy demand, there is a lack of demand for certain types of fuel. The question by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Mr. Knox) referred to the substantial preponderance of coal among the fuels required for electricity generation. That is the important point.