HC Deb 18 June 1979 vol 968 cc889-90
8. Mr. Hudson Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will arrange to meet the chairman of the National Coal Board.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I have no plans to do so.

Mr. Hudson Davies

Does not the Secretary of State realise that this is deplorable neglect of his overall responsibility for the future of the Welsh economy? Will he reconsider this matter, and will he seek an opportunity to urge the chairman of the board to allay fears about the future of the Nantgarw coke ovens? Will he urge the chairman to have due regard to the potentially favourable long-term prospects for these coke ovens, to their importance for the economy of the Welsh coalfield and, in particular, to the level of production of several pits and to their relevance to employment in the area?

Mr. Edwards

I know of the hon. Gentleman's concern for the future of the Nantgarw coke ovens. I understand that National Smokeless Fuels Limited has said that it sees no danger of closure in the current year and, indeed, that it is prepared to keep the coke ovens open so long as there is a market for the product—and there is a market at present with the British Steel Corporation. But, of course, the future of the coke ovens and of the pits in the area will have to be considered in the light of the wider consideration of the tripartite committee's review and recommendations for the coal industry which we shall be giving and to which we attach great importance.

Mr. Jeffrey Thomas

Is the Secretary of State aware of the need for massive investment in the South Wales coalfield in order to avoid closures? What plans has he in that respect?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that the tripartite committee's proposals were put forward only in March. They contain major recommendations which the Government will be studying urgently. It would be in the interests of everyone concerned and of the future of the industry that really full consideration should be given to that important set of proposals.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Will the Secretary of State support the representations about the closure of the Deep Duffryn colliery being made by the National Union of Mineworkers at a meeting with the chairman of the National Coal Board today? In view of the present energy crisis and the need to maintain our underground production of coal, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the Government give the means of investment to the board to see that this pit is kept open and that there are no further closures in Wales?

Mr. Edwards

I was aware that there was to be a meeting this afternoon on this matter. The normal pit closure procedures have been followed in this case, and once again the decision rests with the board, as in previous cases.