Former Solid Energy boss Don Elder was last night given the final say on whether he would appear before Parliament's commerce committee to answer questions about his role in the state coal company's near collapse.

After his fellow National MPs on the committee gave their assent, commerce committee chairman Jonathan Young yesterday sent a letter to Solid Energy requesting Dr Elder appear on Thursday.

The company last night confirmed it had forwarded that letter to him and was waiting for his response.

The committee had previously asked that Dr Elder attend last week's financial review of Solid Energy if the company thought it appropriate, but he did not appear.


At that review, it emerged Dr Elder was still on Solid Energy's payroll and chairman Mark Ford said he would have no problem if he appeared.

Solid Energy last night confirmed it would place no constraint on Dr Elder appearing but it could not compel him do so.

Labour's state-owned enterprises spokesman Clayton Cosgrove, who claims the Government was "asleep at the wheel" while Solid Energy made a series of poor investment decisions, has led calls for Dr Elder to appear. He is also calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the company's problems.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the company said reports that Dr Elder was still receiving a $1.3 million salary were incorrect. She said Dr Elder's $850,000 base salary before performance-based incentives was more likely to reflect his current pay rate.

Dr Elder was unavailable for comment last night but was expected to issue a statement.

He resigned in early February just two weeks before the company revealed it was in talks with the Government and its banks over a crippling $389 million debt burden.