§ 3. Mr. Shinwell
asked the Minister of Power what proposals have been brought to his notice by the National Coal Board for further closures of pits in the County of Durham.
I am asking the Chairman of the National Coal Board to write to the right hon. Member about its plans for pit closures in Durham in 1964 which are currently under discussion locally with the unions.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Does not some responsibility rest with the right hon. Gentleman, having regard to the social consequence of these closures? Is he aware that at the present time, according to the figures provided to me by the Minister of Labour the other day, there are more than 2,500 miners now registered as unemployed in the County of Durham, and in the course of next year it is expected that 4,000 additional miners will become redundant? Is it not time to ask the National Coal 454 Board to call a halt to these closures in view of the social consequences?
§ Mr. Erroll
I keep in touch with the Board about its closure programme, but decisions on the closure of individual pits are a matter for the Board, and therefore it is only right that it should announce its own decisions when its consultations with the unions are complete.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when he was in his previous office we used to criticise him heavily for his failure to steer alternative industry into those areas which were severely suffering from pit closures? Does he not think that he has a responsibility for delaying closures in areas where there is already heavy unemployment until the right hon. Gentleman who succeeded him at the Board of Trade has taken some action to provide alternative work?
§ Mr. Erroll
My statutory responsibilities are to secure an efficient and economical distribution of fuels throughout the country.