HC Deb 22 November 1982 vol 32 c567
6. Mr. Ray Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment he has made of the effect of pit closures upon the economy and social fabric of the Welsh valley communities.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

As is well known, pit closures have affected these areas of Wales for many years, and notably in the period up to 1970. A wide range of Government policies have been introduced to deal with the consequences and in particular to widen the employment base throughout South Wales.

Mr. Powell

Is the Secretary of State aware that pit closures since 1970 have had a devastating effect, particularly on the constituency of Ogmore, which has witnessed the closure of the Caerau colliery, and the closure last year of the Coegnant colliery? There is now a hit list which includes another colliery, Nant-y-Moel, in my constituency. In Ogmore there are now 8,000 people on the dole, but only 100 vacancies. What do the Government intend to do? Can the Secretary of State do something about the development of a new mine at Margam?

Mr. Edwards

There was a significant fall in the number of those employed in Welsh mines under successive Labour Administrations. However, since late 1981, when the Coegnant pit in the hon. Gentleman's constituency closed, there have been only three partial pit closures in Wales. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman is right to say that there has been a reduction in numbers. However, decisions about pit closures are a matter for the National Coal Board to negotiate with the unions.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Does not the best hope for a healthy coal industry in Wales and the maximum employment of miners lie in phasing out those pits which, for geological reasons, are no longer capable of profitable production, and, instead, concentrating resources on the potentially good producers?

Mr. Edwards

Two factors are involved. The first is the sensible and reasonable approach recently demonstrated by miners in refusing to follow their leaders into an impossible pay demand. The second is that we must concentrate on the pits with the greatest potential. Over a period that will inevitably mean the closure of some of our worked-out pits.

Mr. Alec Jones

Has the Secretary of State studied the document published in Brussels earlier this year entitled "The Role for Coal in the Community Energy Strategy"? Does he agree that, the call in that document for massively expanded imports of non-EEC produced coal could have disastrous consequences for the Welsh coal industry? Would it not make much greater sense for the Welsh coal industry to receive adequate investment to allow us to develop the Margam new mine and replace the Phurnacite plant at Abercwmboi?

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Very substantial investment is going into the coal industry. Total capital investment in the United Kingdom for 1981–82 was £722 million. The National Coal Board must decide in which pits it invests.