HC Deb 07 November 1983 vol 48 cc6-7
6. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will take action to increase the use of coal in industry.

Mr. Giles Shaw

The best way to increase the markets for coal is for those concerned in the industry to be able to assure customers of reliable supplies at competitive prices.

Mr. Dormand

What pressure is the Minister putting on the Department of Trade and Industry to make the boiler conversion scheme more effective? Does he agree that if the grant were increased from 25 per cent., if the scheme were extended beyond this year and, above all, if the scheme were made available to the whole of the public sector, a more significant contribution would be made towards making the coal industry viable?

Mr. Shaw

I have much sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman is saying. He is right to remind the House that the conversion scheme is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I accept that in the measurement of the scheme to date the Coal Board has identified about 2 million tonnes of additional coal burn. It is by measures such as these that we can expand markets. My right hon. Friend is having discussions to see whether it is possible to extend the scheme.

Mr. Sumberg

Is my hon. Friend aware that as more than £2 million a day has been spent by the Conservative Government on the coal industry since 1979, that represents a real commitment to the future of that industry?

Mr. Shaw

I welcome my hon. Friend's point. It is a fact, that with investment at little short of £800 million per annum, this country has invested enormously in the coal industry. With the National Coal Board, we seek to ensure that that investment produces profitable coal.

Mr. Lofthouse

If I understood correctly the Minister's answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), the hon. Gentleman supports the speech made by his right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Does that mean that the hon. Gentleman supports the privatisation of the mining industry? If so, what part of that privatisation, if it comes about, will increase the amount of coal used by industry?

Mr. Shaw

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it clear in his answer on 4 July that there were no plans to consider the sale of pits. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the contents of the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, he will see that it refers primarily to the opportunities for disposal, and that is what the board is doing in relation to its ancillary companies, some of which have been sold to the private sector.