§ 15. Mr. Palmer
asked the Minister of Power if, in view of the expected delay in preparing his new White Paper on fuel and power policy, he will make an interim statement.
§ 32. Mr. David Griffiths
asked the Minister of Power if he will make a statement on the future energy needs of the nation.
§ Mr. Palmer
Is my right hon. Friend really being quite fair to the House in withholding this information for so long? Could he say if the speech made by his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary 1260 recently at Manchester, in which quite a numbers of figures were given, represents firm policy? If it does, should not that statement have been made first to the House?
§ Mr. Marsh
I have said over and over again that when we get to the stage of taking policy decisions, of course they will be announced to the House. However, no policy decisions have been taken. The speech which my hon. Friend made recently did not give any firm figures on coal production—that is a statement of fact, not of opinion. As soon as we have the policy settled, clearly it will be given to the House, as it should be.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Is it not time that someone got a move on—either my right hon. Friend or his staff? Is it not a fact that the miners of this country are bewildered and bewitched and do not know what is to happen? We have the steel industry fighting against gas and gas fighting against coal. What I want to know and what my people want to know is where we are going.
§ Mr. Marsh
I have a lot of sympathy with the point made by my hon. Friend. A good deal of the worry emerging from the coal mining industry recently is the result of ill-informed, irresponsible statements which are not connected with the facts. No policy decisions have been taken. When they are, they will be discussed with the parties concerned.
§ Mr. Alison
Is the Minister aware that his famous review of fuel policy is assuming the character of an aged and time-worn television serial which the producer dare not bring to an end? Will he not take his courage in both hands and crystallise the position now?
§ Mr. Varley
Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to a suggestion in certain high places that the Ministry of Power is not technically equipped to deal with fuel policy and that a fuel industry investment board 1261 should be set up? Would he care to comment on that?
§ Sir K. Joseph
When does the Minister think that his fuel policy will be ready, and can he tell us unequivocally whether the House and the country will be informed of this fuel policy by a White Paper or by other means of that sort?
§ Mr. Marsh
It would be wrong to rush it for the sake of rushing. There are vast amounts involved and important implications for the economy. My intention would be to make a definitive statement as early as possible, which I hope would be not too far removed, and to follow that with a White Paper. But there is nothing secret about this, and I give the assurance that the House will have all the information which we have available.
§ Mr. Eadie
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there must be suspicion on this side of the House about his coordinated fuel policy when only last week, for example, it was discovered that a secret working party had been meeting for eight months dealing with the future fuel policy and that the National Coal Board knew nothing about it? Is it not time that my right hon. Friend came clean?
§ Mr. Marsh
My hon. Friend should not believe everything that he hears. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that it is almost impossible to have secret committees in Government. On this one, the Chairmen of the nationalised industries have been kept fully in touch with all developments. I shall be meeting them again in the near future, and, indeed, I have met them all within the last two weeks.
§ Mr. Lubbock
According to published reports of the Parliamentary Secretary's speech in Manchester, a great many detailed figures were given, including a prediction that the production of coal would drop by 30 million tons a year by 1970, that oil would increase to between 132 million and 136 million tons of coal 1262 equivalent and so on. Will he see that a full transcript of his hon. Friend's speech is placed in the Library, instead of the sketchy outline of it which is available now?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is perfectly true that we do not believe all that we hear, but that the trouble is that we do not hear the facts of the situation from him? There is considerable disquiet in mining areas—my own in particular—because of the uncertainty and insecurity. In view of that and the fact that the General Secretary of the Mineworkers' Union has himself expressed disquiet, could not my right hon. Friend give a definitive intimation to the House about when he will be in a position to say what future coal production will be?
§ Mr. Marsh
I would like to be able to say something before the House rises for the long Recess. I can understand the uncertainties and fears which men in the coal industry have, because they are involved in a difficult position, but I think it ought to be made quite clear that no decisions have been taken in respect of the future of the coal mining industry, and people who go around pretending that they have do a great disservice to the industry.