HC Deb 10 November 1970 vol 806 cc201-2
Q5. Mr. Eadie

asked the Prime Minister if he will make an official tour of mining areas in Scotland.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. Eadie

If the Prime Minister should change his mind, bearing in mind that at one time he was concerned about prices, is he aware that the miners would probably tell him that it costs more to distribute coal than to produce it? Does he not think it ridiculous that the process of selling coal should be more expensive than that of producing it? When will he face the situation and give miners and consumers a fairer deal?

The Prime Minister

The distribution costs of coal are naturally particularly heavy when the coal comes from Scotland because of the distances which are often involved. That can be avoided only if one is prepared to embark on a large programme of subsidies for transport as well. Subsidies have proved not to be the saving grace but the undoing of this country.

Mr. Michael Foot

If the Prime Minister is not prepared to visit the Scottish coalfields, or the Welsh coalfields, to find out the situation for himself, will he ask his colleagues to report to him on how the "package" introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer has contributed to the sense of anger and frustration throughout the coalfields? Will he tell us what he will do to meet this situation, which arises partly from the direct action of his Government?

The Prime Minister

At no time have I said that I was not prepared to go to the Scottish coalfields or the Welsh coalfields. What I said in my Answer to the hon. Gentleman was that at the moment I am not planning to do so. In reply to the second part of the supplementary question, would not the hon. Gentleman be much better engaged in urging those on unofficial strike while the ballot is being taken to go back to work in the meantime?

Mr. Orme

Would not the right hon. Gentleman be better engaged in urging the Department of Employment not to stand back, but to play its rightful rôle and use the conciliation machinery so that the miners can negotiate and receive the increase to which they are entitled?

The Prime Minister

At the point at which a ballot is being taken of the membership of the union and the leaders of the union have recommended their members to accept the award, it is right for the Department of Employment not to take any action but to wait for the result of the ballot. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would join his colleagues in urging those on strike to get back to work while the ballot is being completed.