HC Deb 12 March 1984 vol 56 cc5-6
4. Mr. Ray Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he now has figures for the total amount of coal imported in 1983 and the country of origin.

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

The United Kingdom imported only 4 per cent. of its coal requirements in 1983. The majority of the coal imported, some 70 per cent., came from Australia and the United States.

Mr. Powell

Is the Minister aware that, although imports amounted to only 4 per cent., that coal might have saved three of the collieries that have been closed in my constituency since 1979? Is he aware that that coal might also have been mined in a new pit in Margam, if the Government should decide that it should go ahead? Will the Minister tell me also whether Ian MacGregor has any direct or indirect personal interest in any of the countries from which we are importing coal?

Mr. Shaw

The hon. Gentleman's last point is scarcely worth answering. He should fully understand that the chairman of the National Coal Board is doing everything in his power to increase exports of British-mined coal. As to the hon. Gentleman's other point, he will know better than I that, in the continuing shortage of certain special coals, including anthracite, there is indeed a market for imported coal. However, the long-term intention must be to develop coal at a price that will satisfy the market, and the Central Electricity Generating Board has guaranteed to take 95 per cent. of its requirement from the NCB for the next few years.

Mr. Favell

Has the Minister had an opportunity of discussing the recent statement by the chairman of the CEGB that, if he could import his total requirement of coal, it would reduce electricity prices by 15 per cent? When he takes that opportunity, will he tell the NCB what effect that would have on this country's industry and in particular, jobs in other industries?

Mr. Shaw

I take note of my hon. Friend's comment, and I am, indeed, aware of the comment of the chairman of the CEGB. However, the chairman is committing the CEGB to take 95 per cent. of its required volume from British sources.