§ 13. Mr. Barron
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what are the expected levels of oil imports for electricity generation in the next five years.
§ Mr. Giles Shaw
Oil at present accounts for less than 10 per cent. of the fuel used for electricity generation by the public supply system. The proportion imported will depend on the relative price at the time, but it is unlikely to be dramatically increased.
§ Mr. Barron
In view of the requirements of the electrical generating industry and the Government's commitment to the coal mining industry, will the Minister consider what will happen if the Government do not stop the import of oil for generation purposes as soon as possible and use instead the millions of tonnes of coal that are already available or are being mined efficiently by British miners?
§ Mr. Shaw
I understand fully the hon. Gentleman's concern for his constituents. As he knows, 75 per cent. of the electricity generated is from coal-fired stations. Oil constitutes a small percentage of the energy involved, but in many cases we have specialist oil-burning plants, which are essential for the maintenance of the national grid.
Mr. J. Enoch Powell
When assessing the future prospects, is any account taken of the potential contribution in the next five years of lignite in Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Rowlands
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that 340,000 tonnes of anthracite and 2 million tonnes of coking coal are imported annually because Britain is short of supplies? Would not the Government do better to invest in those south Wales fields that contain coking coal and anthracite instead of having such large and artificial coal imports?
§ Mr. Shaw
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point. He is aware that anthracite has been in notoriously short supply. Large investments have taken place in anthracite mining, including £12 million this year in the Betws complex. As soon as the extraction methods for anthracite are improved, more will be sold. In most cases, coal imports are of the types that are in short supply.