§ 20. Mr. Rankin
asked the Minister of Power what consultations the Chairman of the National Coal Board had with 21 him before making his statement at Gleneagles Hotel on future policy in regard to Scottish coalmining.
§ Mr. Rankin
Is the Minister aware that the statement made by the Chairman of the National Coal Board at the Gleneagles Hotel indicated not merely a desire to balance his accounts but that the £19 million loss in the Scottish coalfields had to be made good in Scotland? Does not that indicate that Lord Robens is looking at the problem from the point of view not of nationalisation but of regionalisation? If so, should not he have consulted the Minister responsible before he made a statement of that nature?
§ Sir W. Bromley-Davenport
With regard to future policy, will my right hon. Friend agree that the National Coal Board has followed the golden rule set by all nationalised industry, which is to inflict gigantic losses on the taxpayer and to give the consumer a worse service at increased cost?
§ Mr. Blyton
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there has been deep consternation about the speech of the chairman in Scotland? We all realise that pits which have exhausted their reserves are bound to close, but the Chair- 22 man said that uneconomic pits would have to close and that the Board could not carry the social consequences. Are we to take it that the Government's policy is that there should be no help on this problem and that men will have to be unemployed?
§ Mr. Wood
I think that the Board has made clear in the past that it is determined to do its utmost to see that other employment is available for those displaced from coal mining. I think that the present figures for Scotland bear this out. The general level of unemployment is about 3½ per cent., and the level of unemployed miners in Scotland is only about 1½ per cent. I therefore suggest that it would be quite wrong to condemn the Board in advance for what might not take place.
§ Mr. Blyton
The Chairman said in his speech that there would be redundancies. It is not a question of transference. It is the redundancy problem about which everyone is worried. The Chairman said that, unless the Government paid for it, the Board could not carry the social consequences. Can the Minister tell us, in view of that statement, what will be the future of the miners in the affected districts?