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Gas Supplies (Consumption)

Volume 649: debated on Monday 20 November 1961

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asked the Minister of Power what estimate his department has made of the increase in demand for gas over the next five years; and to what extent this will reduce the demand for coal.

The Gas Council thinks the demand for gas may increase by about 8 per cent. over this period. The effect of this on the demand for coal is quite unpredictable.

As the Government recently decided to import liquid methane, will not this prove a strong contributory factor to the slow strangulation of the pits? As the Government have given the green light to imports of oil and gas, is not the Minister undermining what the National Coal Board is trying to do?

Perhaps this is my fault. I had the greatest difficulty in understanding the hon. Member's Question. He asked to what extent the expected increase in the demand for gas will reduce the demand for coal. I do not think anyone could answer that.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman encouraging this process? Quite apart from the difficulties of the National Coal Board in trying to solve its own market problem, is he not encouraging imports of oil and gas and, therefore, making it easier for some such imports to be made, although it is from politically unstable areas that we are importing them? Is not this process making it easier for the gas and electricity industries to undermine the National Coal Board?

I am not encouraging imports of gas and oil. If I had not given my assent to the Gas Council's proposals to import liquid methane, the likely alternative would have been imports of oil. I would think that it was wrong to refuse to the nationalised gas industry what I should not refuse to private industry. I could not refuse to allow it to import oil to take the place of methane.