HC Deb 15 November 1982 vol 32 cc6-7
5. Mr. Ray Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Energy in what circumstances his approval is required for pit closure proposals by the National Coal Board.

The Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. John Moore)

The National Coal Board does not require the consent of the Secretary of State for pit closures, which are, of course, a management matter for the board.

Mr. Powell

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that in all probability his Department was well aware of the list of 75 intended pit closures? If he received such information, why was it not disclosed before the miners' ballot? Is he aware that hon. Members whose constituencies contain collieries which are on the list are anxious to know what the National Coal Board will do?

Mr. Moore

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have listened carefully, as I did, to the words of the chairman of the National Coal Board, Mr. Siddall. He made it clear that there is no list of pits earmarked for closure. All hon. Members interested in the future of the coal industry will welcome the result of the ballot.

Mr. Richard Page

If my hon. Friend lost three consecutive votes in the House, I know that he would resign. Why does Arthur Scargill not do the decent thing and resign and leave the representation of the workers in the coal industry to those who care about coal and not personal politics?

Mr. Moore

We are not involved in the detailed management of the National Union of Mineworkers, for which we have no responsibility. I hope that all who are committed to coal and are interested in its future will welcome the result of the ballot, for the sake of the miners, the industry, and the industry's customers, let alone for Great Britain.

Mr. Eadie

Does the Minister agree that, amid a great controversy, it would help if the Government were to say that they regard the men who work in the mining industry as one of the nation's greatest assets and that they are opposed to a policy of pit closures and hit lists?

Mr. Moore

One has to reiterate facts again and again. There has been no change in the pattern of closures in this extractive industry for the period since "Plan for Coal" by this Government and the previous Government. Since "Plan for Coal" was published, 59 pits have been closed. Those committed to the industry should realise that since May 1979 1,300 faces have been closed as against 1,230 faces having been opened. Those of us who are committed to the industry are interested in the number of faces and face productivity.

Mr. Timothy Smith

How many compulsory redundancies have there been in the coal industry as a result of pit closures since "Plan for Coal" was published?

Mr. Moore

Details of the management and men and their relationships are a matter for the National Coal Board. The Government have improved substantially the arrangements for those who have accepted voluntary redundancy, which has, happily, been the pattern of successful development in the industry. The arrangements have been welcomed.

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