HC Deb 26 June 1989 vol 155 cc688-9
10. Mr. Illsley

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what discussions he has had with the director general-designate of the Office of Electricity Regulation on the possibility of a fossil-fuel combustion tax.

Mr. Parkinson

None, Sir.

Mr. Illsley

In view of the speculation hanging over the future of the Department of Energy, and the recent publication by the Secretary of State for the Environment of a document advocating a carbon or coal tax, will the Secretary of State tell us who would be responsible for bringing in such a tax? Would it not be better to introduce energy efficiency measures rather than hitting the coal industry again?

Mr. Parkinson

My right hon. Friend made it clear the next day at a press conference that the views that he had expressed in that pamphlet were personal views. He was talking about discussions that are going on in international fora. He also made it clear that we had no plans to introduce a carbon tax here.

Mr. Mans

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, for many years now, the taxpayer has subsidised the production of electricity from coal, and that in view of that there is no question of a tax being levied on fossil fuel?

Mr. Parkinson

As I have said, there are no plans for such a tax. We and previous Governments have favoured coal strongly: far from penalising it, we have subsidised it.

Mr. Barron

In the constituency of the Secretary of State for the Environment, the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), is the Coal Research Establishment, which is a centre of excellence for research and development relating to clean coal burn, not just in this country but in Europe. Would the Secretary of State for Energy mind taking his right hon. Friend to visit that establishment to see how we can really start to talk about getting rid of greenhouse gases in the world?

Mr. Parkinson

I shall mention that to my right hon. Friend. He always welcomes helpful suggestions, and I am sure that he will welcome this one.

The hon. Gentleman is right to emphasise clean coal burn technology. We shall have to change the way in which we produce electricity from coal; coal is the great pollutant, and the way forward is more efficient cleanburn technology.