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Polish Coal

Volume 527: debated on Monday 17 May 1954

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36.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware that 250,000 tons of coal are being imported from Poland; and if, in view of the effect of this on our trade balance and the fact that there is unlimited coal in Britain, ne will in future refuse to give his authority for such imports.

37.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much Polish coal is being imported this year; what is the total cost of such coal and by whom is it borne; and what proportion of those imports has to date been carried in British ships.

The National Coal Board have contracted to buy 100,000 tons of Polish coal. About 4,800 tons have so far arrived carried in two Polish ships. I am not prepared to state the terms of the contract, which was based on commercial considerations. My right hon. Friend considers applications for such imports in the light of the circumstances at the time.

Will the Minister inaugurate an educational campaign among miners to tell them that Britain is the one country that cannot become self-supporting, that our survival depends on our ability to export goods and services at competitive prices, of which coal could be a major factor, and that unless we can do that there will be no wages for the miner or anybody else?

I think the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers have already made the general sense of that observation quite plain throughout the coalfields.

Is the Minister aware that the miners need no education from hon. Members opposite? Would the hon. Gentleman indicate why, since it is a Government decision to import this coal, the National Coal Board should have to make good the loss, and that that should be used as an argument against further wage increases for the miners? Further, might I ask him why this coal is not being carried in British ships?

The reason why it is not being carried in British ships is because the quotations for these two shiploads were lower than any others, but I am happy to say that further charters have been entered into at competitive prices with some British ships.

My hon. Friend said in his reply that he could not state the terms, which were based on commercial reasons. Will he say what are the commercial reasons?

What I actually said was that the terms of the contract were based on commercial considerations. The contract has not yet been completed, and I do not think it would be desirable to make the terms public as yet.

Can the Minister state the difference in freightage charges operating now and those when coal was imported into this country under the late Administration?