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Fuel Industries (Co-Operation)

Volume 887: debated on Monday 24 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he is satisfied that there is sufficient co-operation and co-ordination between the competing fuel industries in the United Kingdom.

The industries certainly co-operate well with me and have demonstrated their willingness to work together when this is appropriate, for example, in the current energy-saving publicity campaign. But I shall be glad to consider any particular point my hon. Friend has in mind.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that sometimes in the past there has not been much co-ordination, and that that has probably encouraged various Governments to undertake pit closures? When he is giving guidance to the chairmen of the nationalised fuel industries will he bear in mind that the abundance of coal in this country far outweighs the value of what we shall receive from the North Sea in oil and gas? Because of that will he ensure that the chairmen of the fuel industries get together to formulate a national fuel plan, so that we can develop our coal mining as we should? Further, cannot something be done to encourage young people to go into the mines?

It is certainly our intention to encourage the development of coal mining. My hon. Friend will be aware of the tripartite examination and the additional £600 million expenditure to be incurred by the industry over the next 10 years. Certainly he will have seen that the recruitment figures have improved over the last few months.

What co-operation can there be among the electricity, coal and gas industries when the retail prices of all those commodities are going up? What competitive pricing policies can there be when the industries are not allowed to compete?

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is complaining about the pricing policy. It is our intention that there should be more realistic pricing policies for these industries, and we have said so over and over again in the past 11 months.