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Coal Imports

Volume 113: debated on Monday 30 March 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what assessment he has made of future trends of imports of coal for the remaining months of 1987.

Surely the hon. Gentleman must agree that it is nonsense to import foreign coal in the light of the fact that we have plenty of coal of our own and since the miners in this country are breaking productivity records every week? The Minister must also be aware that much of the foreign coal coming into this country is very unfairly heavily subsidised.

In 1979, when we inherited the coal industry from the Labour Government, the United Kingdom was a net importer of 2 million tonnes of coal every year. By 1983 we had converted that position and the United Kingdom was a net exporter of 2 million tonnes. Sadly, the strike destroyed that position. However, the best protection against imports for the United Kingdom coal industry lies in it achieving full production at prices that are competitive on the world market.

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that the Government will take no steps to prevent the import of coal? May I also inform him that the jobs of more than 600 men in my constituency depend on the import of coal? The constant attacks by Labour politicians aimed at banning coal imports would put a great many people in my constituency out of work.

I am happy to assure my hon. Friend that there are no restrictions on coal imports. However, judging by the productivity figures coming from the pits in the United Kingdom, the miners and management of British Coal have nothing to fear from the future.