HC Deb 17 April 1962 vol 658 cc52-3W
Sir P. Roberts

asked the Minister of Power what guidance he has given to the Iron and Steel Board on the use of home iron ore.

Mr. Wood

I have recently written to the Chairman of the Iron and Steel Board in the following terms: In view of recent discussion of the Iron and Steel Board's policy of encouraging the use of home ore where this is economic, it seems to me that the Board might find it helpful to have an expression of view from the Government. The Government's general policy is to enable the iron and steel industry to use whatever ore is considered on balance most economic. The industry should therefore be free to use home ore from a particular site whenever it is clear after careful examination, if necessary at a public enquiry, that objections in the interests of agriculture and of the preservation of land on amenity, scientific and general social grounds, do not override the case made for its use on balance of payments and economic grounds. It has been suggested that our national resources in iron ore should be reserved for an emergency. That is not, in the Government's view, a convincing argument. Not only are our foreign ore supplies drawn from widely separated parts of the world, but I am told that it is easier to increase production quickly from areas already being worked than to open up new areas. The Government would not wish to make light of the inconvenience to the individual farmers whose land is affected by iron ore working, but from the national standpoint, arguments based on the loss of agricultural production do not by themselves appear to be strong. From a narrowly economic point of view, the working of iron ore is a more profitable use of land than the growing of crops or the raising of stock; and the loss of food production is in this case temporary. Although land that has been worked by opencast methods cannot be immediately restored to full production, modern restoration methods are good, land can soon be restored to its original use after iron ore has been extracted, and the value of the minerals is many times that of the agricultural produce lost. But the real possibility of doing irreparable damage to beautiful parts of the country must certainly be avoided. I propose to take an early opportunity of publishing the statement of policy expressed in this letter.