HC Deb 26 March 1973 vol 853 cc893-4
3. Mr. Eadie

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what inquiries he has received concerning the present Coal Industry Act and its effect on pit closures.

Mr. Tom Boardman

Representatives of two local authorities have asked about the effect of the Act on pit closures.

Mr. Eadie

The Minister must know that this year two pit closures in Scot- land have been proposed or considered, one in West Lothian and one in Clackmannan. Can he explain why the Coal Industry Act does not operate to assist in that or similar situations?

Mr. Boardman

It would not be appropriate for me to comment on individual pits or to pass any judgment on that, which must be a matter for the National Coal Board. The hon. Gentleman will know that under the Coal Industry Act there is provision of up to £210 million over the next three years to moderate the rate of contraction. He will know also of the joint review procedure established between the unions and the board, a helpful procedure under which they can review the performance of pits and endeavour to find solutions in respect of those running at a level which is difficult to justify.

Mr. Skeet

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Act provides considerable sums for pensions, redundancy payments and other benefits?

Mr. Boardman

Yes, the Coal Industry Act makes substantial provision for help in such matters as redundancy payments and pensions. It provides about £50 million a year to cover these aspects, in order to alleviate hardship which may arise from pit closures and also to increase pensions to existing and future pensioners.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Minister tell us who is to operate Section 9 of the Act with particular regard to the colliery to which reference has been made, which is in Perthshire, not in Clackmannan, although most of the people involved are in my constituency? How will the books of the industry be made available to the union and the workers concerned?

Mr. Boardman

In the interests of time, I think that the easiest way to answer the hon. Gentleman is to refer him to the speech I made in Committee when we considered Clause 9 of the Bill. It is a responsibility of the National Coal Board to review the performance of pits and to say in advance what requirement it believes it will need to moderate the contraction. It is for the board to allocate its resources as it believes best in the interests of the industry, and with a view to producing an efficient and competitive industry.

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