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Coal Utilisation

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 16 May 1961

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what type of research into coal utilisation is carried out by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what research into coal utilisation is being conducted by institutions for which he is responsible or which are in receipt of Government grants for such purposes.

Three of the research associations which are grant-aided by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research are primarily concerned with coal utilisation. These are the British Coal Utilisation Research Association, which deals with coal as an industrial and domestic fuel; the British Coke Research Association, which is concerned with the production from coal of coke for metallurgical and, to a much less extent, domestic use; and the Coal Tar Research Association, whose problem is to get the greatest value from the tar produced as a by-product during coal carbonisation.

In view of the fact that in the best interests of our national economy there is a need for further improvement and expansion in coal utilisation methods, will the hon. Member impress on his noble Friend that there is a need for D.I.S.R. to be given extended authority in order to widen its range in scientific research in this very important field? Will he draw his attention to this?

These three research associations are doing very valuable work. The hon. Member will realise that the adequacy or inadequacy of the total effort on coal utilisation is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power as part of his general responsibility under the 1945 Act.

Will the hon. Member bear in mind the alternative sources of heat energy which are becoming more readily available and particularly the desires of the Tory Central Office and certain of his hon. and right hon. Friends about the importation of cheaper fuels, including imported coal, and remember that the nation's great asset of its coal resources should be utilised to the fullest extent and our mines not allowed to become derelict? Is he not aware that we need a still greater measure of research into coal utilisation, regarding coal not just as a heating agent but for all possible processes? Will he ask his noble Friend to consider the co-ordination of the efforts of all people concerned to bring this about?

There is a great deal of co-operation between the research associations which I mentioned, and between the National Coal Board, the Central Electricity Generating Authority, the Gas Council and the appliance and equipment makers. We have gone a very long way towards bringing about the state of affairs which we should like to see. I assure the hon. Member that the Coal Utilisation Research Association has very much in mind the kind of points which he raised.

Is the hon. Member aware of the figures given by the recent Wilson Report on this very subject, showing that the amount of money spent on coal research is inadequate? The figure for D.S.I.R. is only £253,000, which is small. We need more expansion.

The figures which are quoted for D.S.I.R. in relation to the research associations can be fairly misleading because one of the aims of the research association movement is to try to get private enterprise to pay a larger proportion towards research. The total income of the Coal Utilisation Research Association last year was just over £450,000, that of the Coke Research Association just over £150,000 and that of the Coal Tar Association just under £113,000.

Will the Minister give an assurance that there is the fullest possible co-ordination between the Minister of Power and his noble Friend on this matter?