HC Deb 01 May 1950 vol 474 cc149-50W
44. Mr. Osborne

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware that European producers now have the biggest surplus of coal and coke for 15 to 20 years; that importing countries are substituting oil for coal, for cheapness; how this change is affecting British coal exports; and if he will make a statement on the prospects of reaching our export target for 1950.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

My information does not agree with that of the hon. Member. According to recent reports to the Economic Commission for Europe, there is likely to be a rough over-all balance between supply and demand in the European coal Market after 1950. But the reports add that the facts do not warrant fears of over-production in the early future. The replacement of coal by oil is not a new trend; it is caused by many factors, of which price is only one.

The Chairman of the National Coal Board declared last week that he can sell every ounce of British coal that we can spare for export for a long time to come. The forecast of exports in the Economic Survey for 1950 is from 19–22 million tons; in the first 15 weeks of the year. the annual rate was just under 20.5 million. The volume of exports was over one million tons more than in the corresponding period of 1949.