HC Deb 23 July 1962 vol 663 cc936-8
14. Miss Herbison

asked the Minister of Power if the will consider, in conjunction with the chairman of the National Coal Board, the provision of a Government subsidy for the keeping open of pits until alternative industry is available.

Mr. Wood

No, Sir. The Board hopes to offer work in other pits to the great majority of miners affected by colliery closures, and the Government will use its powers under the Local Employment Act to attract industry to needy areas.

Miss Herbison

Since the Minister and, I take it, the Government are unwilling to do anything about subsidising these pits until alternative industry is provided, may I ask the Minister if he is aware that those areas that have already been very badly hit by pit closures do not take any comfort from his telling us today that they will be helped by the Local Employment Act? Can he give us an assurance that the areas which have already been badly hit, and the same areas which are going to be very seriously hit by further pit closures, will have at least one of these industrial sites and advance factories built on them? Surely that is as little as the Ministry of Power can do with this disastrous policy in Scotland?

Mr. Wood

I do not wart to avoid any part of the hon. Lady's Question, but part of it should certainly be properly directed elsewhere. I must say that, in the past, the National Coal Board has been eminently successful in placing those miners who have been displaced from the pits that have shut. As to the future, the hon. Lady should realise that I am as anxious as she is to see that these miners are re-employed in new work, either in other pits or in new industry. In fact, what she is asking is that no pits should be dosed unitil there is actual work nearby for the miner to go to. If that principle were applied all round, we should have a completely static society in which no one moved from one job to another.

17. Mr. Lawson

asked the Minister of Power when considering the programme for the closure of pits in Scotland, what discussions (he had with the National Coal Board regarding its policy of importing coal from England into Scotland.

Mr. Wood

The arrangement of supplies is a matter for the National Coal Board. I have had no discussions with the Board on coal traffic between England and Scotland.

Mr. Lawson

Is it not the case that a very substantial quantity of coal is regularly sent from England to Scotland? Further, as the size of the Scottish coalfield in future is to depend on the sale of Scottish coal, is it not the fact that the more coal that is sent from England to Scotland the smaller will the Scottish coalfield be?

Mr. Wood

The traffic in coal between England and Scotland is two-way traffic. Rather more goes north than comes south, but it is two-way traffic. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the selection of the sources of supply is properly one for the National Coal Board's own administration, but I will certainly draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of Lord Robens.

Mr. Eden

Can my right hon. Friend say what is to be Her Majesty's Government's policy concerning the general picture of the importation of coal into this country?

Mr. Wood

I do not know whether that arises out of this Question, but if my hon. Friend will put down a Question about imports I will do my best to answer it.

Mr. Baxter

Is the Minister aware that most of the coal being imported into Scotland is coking coal, and that the Coal Board started the sinking of a pit between Airth and Plean in the Forth area, to cost in the region of £1 million; and that the work has been stopped? The project was intended to get down to the only coking seams in Scotland. When is that new pit to be completed?

Mr. Wood

That seems to be a question for the Board, but I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is right in his premise that most of the coal imported into Scotland is coking coal. There is quite a tonnage of house coal, and quite a considerable tonnage of coal for British Railways. But I will certainly ask the Board to look into the point he has raised.