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Western Europe (Production And Marketing)

Volume 464: debated on Monday 9 May 1949

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asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether any steps have been taken by His Majesty's Government either through the National Coal Board or otherwise to co-ordinate the production and marketing of coal in Western Europe as a whole.

Production and marketing of coal in Western Europe is coordinated through the Coal Committee of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation on which His Majesty's Government are represented. This Committee meets frequently in Paris to deal with solid fuel problems arising within the framework of the Organisation, in particular the forward coal prospects, requirements and availabilities of the participating countries. In addition, His Majesty's Government are represented on the Coal Committee of the Economic Commission for Europe which includes representatives of all European countries who are members of the United Nations. This Committee meets quarterly in Geneva to recommend allocations of the available supplies of coal, and has recently initiated a study of the long-term aspects of European coal production and utilisation. The National Coal Board is kept in close touch with the Paris and Geneva Committees through the Government machinery in London, and representatives of the Board also attend meetings of the committees as advisers to the United Kingdom delegate.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that after the first world war cut-throat competition between British, Polish, German and French coal industries resulted in every ton of coal cut being sold under the cost of production? Does he recognise the necessity for taking effective steps to see that this situation never recurs?

The hon. Member raises a very big issue with which I cannot deal in question and answer, but I can assure him that we appreciate the point he has made.

Does either of the bodies mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman deal with Ruhr coal which is being exported at a price substantially below the normal world price?

Certainly, the Economic Commission for Europe would be concerned with that, and also I think the other Committee.

Is the Minister aware that Polish coal is now being landed in Eire? Cannot something be done to make better co-ordination than that?

I am not aware of any lack of co-ordination. At any rate, so long as we can sell all the coal we can afford to export I do not think we need grumble very much.