HC Deb 10 November 1969 vol 791 cc4-5
4. Mr. Lane

asked the Minister of Technology how much coal production was lost through the recent unofficial strikes in the coalfields.

37. Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson

asked the Minister of Technology if he will give details of the total tonnage lost as a result of the recent strike in the coal industry; and what effect this will have upon the financial estimates for the year.

Mr. Alan Williams

About 2½ million tons were lost. It is too early to say precisely what the effects will be on the financial estimates for the year.

Mr. Lane

What action are the Government taking to prevent a recurrence?

Mr. Williams

The Government have already indicated their plan on industrial relations [Laughter.]—and, in so far as hon. Gentlemen opposite find this amusing, I would remind them that when the Leader of the Opposition was at the Ministry of Labour the coal industry lost more days in strikes in eight months than it has lost under a Labour Government in three years?

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Can the hon. Gentleman assure the House and the country that the wage increase which has been offered will not result in increased prices to consumers?

Mr. Williams

The hon. Gentleman really must know that nobody could give such an assurance. It has already been indicated by the chairman of the board that some increases may be necessary. I have as yet no statement to make about what the level will be, but discussions are going on with the N.C.B.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Would not my hon. Friend agree that the British miners have as good a record in industrial relations as any of their counterparts anywhere in the world and that recent events have shown that their record is much better than that of, for example, the miners of Germany?

Mr. Williams

I agree with my hon. Friend. The antagonism displayed towards workers in the nationalised industries by hon. Gentlemen opposite promises that in the unlikely event of their return to office, industrial relations would deteriorate, particularly in this sector.

Sir J. Eden

While it is in no way a question of antagonism, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that concern is being voiced by my hon. Friends because in this difficult period of contraction these sorts of strikes are taking place and that the resultant buying off by the Government in this respect can only harm the future progress of the coal industry?

Mr. Williams

That sort of statement is not likely to build any confidence in the N.U.M. towards the sort of approach that hon. Gentlemen opposite would have should they ever be returned to power.