HC Deb 08 December 1980 vol 995 cc612-3
10. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what representations he has had from the National Union of Mineworkers concerning the damaging effects which Government economic policies are having on the coal industry.

Mr. John Moore

It is always open to the NUM to bring its views to my attention, either in coal industry tripartite meetings or indeed at any time.

Mr. Evans

Has the Minister seen the NUM's publication entitled "The Miners and the Battle for Britain", which claims that the future of the coal industry is being placed in jeopardy, that the Government have reneged on the expansion plan, which has been in existence since 1944, and that a. new financial straitjacket has been imposed on the NCB by the Coal Industry Act? Does he realise that the NCB has marketing problems because of the downturn in the demand for steel? Will he consider these problems and meet the NUM to discuss them?

Mr. Moore

I have read the publication to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I spend a considerable amount of my time happily in the pits and coal areas of Britain. Despite the obvious difficulties in some areas, and despite the recession, we should bear in mind the improved productivity and the sense of success in maintaining and hatching the financial strategy, rather than berate the coal industry and the Government. One should not ask for congratulations on the Government's performance from the Dispatch Box, but the industry should be congratulated on keeping within the strategy at an extremely difficult time.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Does the Minister realise that, due to the stockpiling of coal and the Government's general attitude to the mining industry, there is fear in the industry that in the near future the Government will be on a collision course with it? Why do we not have more investment? Why cannot we have greater utilisation of coal? Why cannot we do something about the fluidised-bed system, which would bring coal to the fore?

Mr. Moore

I have difficulty in accepting the hon. Gentleman's comments. The industry is receiving over £800 million in long-term capital productive investment, which matches the requirements of "Plan for Coal". The industry is within a four-year financial framework. Despite the difficult circumstances in which we live, the industry is achieving its goals. We should be complimenting it and welcoming the long-term development of the fluidised-bed boiler systems. There is a question on the Order Paper on that topic.