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Volume 13: debated on Monday 23 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what are the anticipated coal reserves of the United Kingdom; and what is the anticipated rate of exploitation of new sources of indigenous coal.

The National Coal Board estimates that about 45 billion tonnes of coal will ultimately be recoverable. The rate at which it will be necessary to exploit new sources of indigenous coal will depend upon such factors as future market demands and the anticipated output from existing mines.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Do the known reserves include the coal that has recently been discovered in South Warwickshire? How is it intended that we should recover the reserves? Shall we use existing pitheads, or is it proposed to sink new ones?

The latter part of the question relates to the detailed management of the National Coal Board. However, as regards the 45 billion tonnes, that covers all coal that the NCB thinks is ultimately recoverable, as opposed to the 7 billion tonnes which the Institute of Geological Services considers accessible from existing and planned new mines.

As regards coal reserves, the hon. Gentleman must be aware that there is a place called the Vale of Belvoir. Could he not do something to try to get that coalfield developed? It would be in the interests of the nation if we did that.

The hon. Member knows, as that question has consistently been asked, that this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, who will comment on it when he has completed the inquiry.