HC Deb 27 June 1960 vol 625 cc959-61
32. Mr. Mason

asked the Minister of Power if he can now say when he is to meet the new Chairman of the National Coal Board to discuss the future of the coal-mining industry; and when he estimates the Government's new plan for coal will be ready.

Mr. Wood

No, Sir. The Revised Plan for Coal which was published last October still stands. If the hon. Member has questions of organisation in mind, I would refer him to my statements in the House last Monday.

Mr. Mason

The right hon. Gentleman said "No" to the first part of my Question. He indicated in the House last week that he intended to meet the Chairman. Will he state when he intends to meet him? The new Plan for Coal is not a plan; it is Government interference. Is not the Minister aware that every week the Press is publishing articles about what is to happen to the mining industry, that this is causing a great deal of confusion and unnecessary annoyance to the miners and that he ought to make a statement at the Box to clear the air as quickly as possible?

Mr. Wood

The hon. Member asked me when I should meet the new Chairman. The new Chairman is not yet the Deputy Chairman, and I think that it would be better to let him be Deputy Chairman and work in the industry for a short time before I begin my conversations with him. A statement will therefore not be made for some time. As for the hon. Member's suspicions, I ask him to await the details of any plan which emerges, which cannot be issued until I have had a chance to discuss it with the new Chairman.

Mr. Lee

Does not the Minister agree that when the Plan for Coal was revised we did not know that the atomic energy programme was to be cut back in the way in which it is to be cut back? Is there not a need to revise the Plan for Coal, otherwise we may have a power gap by 1965?

Mr. Wood

I have a later Question to answer about the effect of the nuclear power revision on the Revised Plan for Coal. In fact it will have no effect, because the Revised Plan for Coal operates until 1965, when the change between the old and new nuclear programmes will begin to operate.

Mr. Blyton

In the present days of uncertainty in the coal-mining industry, can the Minister give an assurance that any future plan for coal will not mean a return to competition between the districts and that the districts will not be put upon their own economic ability to pay wages?

Mr. Wood

I should like to make two things quite clear. There has been speculation in the Press on two main points—first, that the Government intended to dismantle nationalisation and, secondly, that there was some question of a reversion to district wage agreements. I should like to make it clear—because I think this is necessary for the future of the industry—that there is no foundation at all in either of those suggestions.

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