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Industrial Supplies

Volume 531: debated on Monday 26 July 1954

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asked the Minister of Fuel and Power to what extent industry is obtaining coal below the cost of production.

The costs of production vary between different pits and coalfields but, taken as a whole, the prices charged by the National Coal Board for industrial and other coals are designed to cover the average costs of production.

Can my hon. Friend give us any idea, if necessary, in general terms, whether British industry is obtaining its coal cheaper than its foreign competitors are doing?

Is it not true that some pits are selling coal to industrial undertakings at actually below the cost of production?

I should think that that is very likely, but it is not within the competence of the Ministry to inquire into the internal workings of the National Coal Board.

If industry can obtain coal at cost price, is it not possible to establish, in the centre of each of the great cities, a place where the poor and the pensioned can obtain coal at cost price?

The Parliamentary Secretary said that it was not within the power of the Minister to ascertain the facts that were put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). Surely the Minister can ask questions of the Coal Board. Have we reached a stage when the Minister cannot even ask for information from the Coal Board?

My right hon. Friend can certainly ascertain the facts. I said that it was not within his competence to intervene in this matter.