asked the Minister of Power what is the result of his conversations with the chairman of the National Coal Board with regard to the supply of appropriate Welsh coking coals to the Steel Company of Wales at prices competitive with United States Virginian coals offered, in order to obviate the issue of an import licence; and whether he will make a statement.
I have been having general conversations with the chairman. The President of the Board of Trade hopes to make an announcement about the application by the Steel Company of Wales before the Summer Recess.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, having regard to the grave balance of payments difficulties and similar troubles of present circumstances, it would be incalculable folly to bring in American coal when, by a little intelligent manipulation, on commercial standards, of the present price structure of the Board adequate coking coal could be available from opencast and from deep pits in South Wales to meet the somewhat diminished demands of the Steel Company of Wales? Will he advise the President of the Board of Trade accordingly, giving support, of course, to the views I have put to him this afternoon?
My hon. Friend will realise that this is a wide subject and that he has raised one aspect of it. I assure him that the matters he has raised have been very much in the mind of my right hon. Friend for quite a few weeks.
Will the Minister, in consultation with the President of the Board of Trade, realise that, if by any chance the Government gave this permission, it would have a serious effect upon the view which the men take about the future of the industry in South Wales and aggravate an already serious manpower position?
I take note of that view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman.
In view of the fact that the Government will probably say "No" to this request of the Steel Company of Wales, why have they taken such a long time to make up their mind on such a simple matter?
It is not a simple matter at all. In fact, there are a great many considerations which have to be balanced. I shall not anticipate my right hon. Friend's statement, which, as I say, will be made in the next week or two.
Does not the Minister consider, seeing that the steel industry had the benefit when we were importing coal from America and selling it at the inland price, that it is rather impudent and unpatriotic now for it to seek to obtain cheap American coal at the expense of British industry?
I seem to remember most of these considerations being brought to my attention about a month ago.