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Coal Exports

Volume 932: debated on Monday 16 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy on how many occasions he has met the Chairman of the National Coal Board during the past 12 months to discuss methods of how to increase the export of coal to the countries of the EEC; and if he will make a statement on the future plans for exporting coal.

Coal exports are a recurrent subject in discussions with the Chairman of the National Coal Board, and my right hon. Friend and I are satisfied that the Board, whose prime responsibility it is, is doing all it can to increase them. However, the plain fact is that although it is the lowest cost producer in the EEC, to which most of its exports go, in the present depressed state of the world market our coal is often not competitive with supplies from the major exporters—USA Australia, Poland, etc.—and direct price reductions to meet this competition would be extremely expensive. The problem is fully recognised within the European Community and various proposals for helping the situation are under discussion. Some of them are shortly to be debated in the House. In all this, both the Board and the Department are losing no opportunity to emphasise the importance to the Community as a whole of a thriving coal industry, and the Board is keeping up the pressure on coal importers and consumers in all its potential markets.