HC Deb 02 April 1984 vol 57 cc640-1
14. Mr. Nellist

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will estimate the current cost to the National Coal Board of the coal stockpiled at the pithead.

Mr. Giles Shaw

As I told the hon. Member on 21 November 1983, the cost of funding coal stocks at pitheads currently exceeds £100 million per annum in interest charges.

Mr. Nellist

I challenge that figure, because the accountants in the NCB believe it to be double that, at £200 million. Therefore, will the Minister answer this question? Is it not a fact that over the past five years coal stocks have doubled as a political preparation for a miners' strike against redundancy or for pay increases? Would it not be better to use the £200 million spent annually on interest charges on coal stocks, the £1 million spent on the spot market for oil in Amsterdam for extra fuel supplies, and the £1 million spent to pay for the police on the picket lines, on maintaining jobs in the pits and paying the miners a decent wage?

Mr. Shaw

I am grateful for the fact that the hon. Gentleman is so concerned about the costs of interest charges on large stocks of coal. However, if he wants to get the best use out of those coal stocks, I suggest that they could be reduced if uneconomic production were reduced, as a result of which the industry would benefit in both ways.

Mr. Eggar

Was not the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) arguing for more pits to be closed?

Mr. Shaw

That appears to be the drift of his logic.