HC Deb 17 June 1974 vol 875 cc1-3
1. Mr. Stanley

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what decisions he has made regarding capital investment in coal production over the next 10 years.

The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Eric Varley)

The National Coal Board's future investment plans are a major concern of the current tripartite examination of the industry's future rôle and I would ask the hon. Member to await the publication of the interim report of that examination.

Mr. Stanley

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the National Coal Board is seeking a £500 million interest-free loan and, if so, will he confirm that before an annual subsidy of this magniture is granted it will require the approval of this House?

Mr. Varley

The NCB is not seeking an interest-free loan of the proportions referred to by the hon. Gentleman. I ask him to await the publication of the interim report. It will come out tomorrow.

Mr. Tom Boardman

Does the Secretary of State recall that before the previous administration asked this House to approve a massive investment in the coal industry they obtained from the union, under a 20-point plan, an assurance that coal miners' wages would not exceed rises in the cost of living? Will the right hon. Gentleman be obtaining any such assurance this time, and is he confident that he can hold the union to it?

Mr. Varley

That is not the basis of the tripartite examination, although many of the other matters mentioned by the hon. Gentleman will come out in the report of the examination.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Is not the situation in the coal industry now desperate? Are we not in a position where the April stocks of coal were 10 million tons lower than last year but where output per man shift is some 5 cwt less than in the comparable period last year? Now we face a claim for an additional £20 per week, which the union seems determined to press to the uttermost. How can the country have confidence in the industry when it faces these difficulties?

Mr. Varley

It is part of our policy to make sure that the coal industry has a new future and a new perspective. It is true that industrial relations and productive potential went down and suffered in other ways as a result of the policies of the previous Government. It is our aim to make sure that the industry has a new future, and that is what we are setting out to do.

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