HC Deb 20 January 1975 vol 884 cc1013-4
21. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will state the present position in regard to the implementation of the tripartite plan for coal.

Mr. Eadie

On 4th November, in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English)—[Vol. 880, c. 41–2.]—my right hon. Friend made a statement in which he summarised the general conclusions of the final report of the tripartite coal industry examination. The Government are playing their part in implementing the recommendations of this report. In particular, a Bill to facilitate mining developments and to provide for the Government's contribution towards the cost of the National Coal Board's pneumoconiosis compensation scheme is to be introduced shortly.

Mr. Hardy

I welcome my hon. Friend's answer, particularly the last part of his final sentence. May I ask him, however, to take this opportunity to reaffirm his confidence that Britain will, over the next decade at least, maintain a capacity to produce an annual tonnage of coal in excess of that produced in 1973 or 1974?

Mr. Eadie

I give my hon. Friend the assurance that, arising out of the tripartite investigation, the NCB and the unions are confident that they will make sure that the mining industry is able to make a substantial contribution towards meeting the country's energy requirements.

Mr. Dempsey

Can my hon. Friend comment on the NCB's intentions concerning the closing of uneconomic pits? If we are to preserve coal as a form of energy, and to be less dependent on oil, does not my hon. Friend agree that the remaining few pits in Lanarkshire should be continued, even though they may be uneconomic for some time?

Mr. Eadie

I am aware of my hon. Friend's great knowledge of the matter. There will be pit closures, because the mining industry is an extractive industry. What is significant, arising out of the inquiry, is that more searches for new coal reserves are going on in Britain than there are searches for energy in the North Sea. We are looking for new reserves to sustain an increased coal production. In that climate, there is no need for fear over the point my hon. Friend raised concerning pit closures.