HC Deb 28 February 1983 vol 38 cc15-6
17. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement about the appointment of a new chairman of the National Coal Board.

Mr. Lawson

I am not yet ready to do so.

Mr. Evans

As newspapers are full of reports that Mr. MacGregor, the retiring chairman of the BSC, is to be appointed chairman of the NCB, when are we to receive confirmation of those reports, which are causing great anxiety in the coalfields? Will the Secretary of State have a tripartite meeting with the unions and the new chairman, or even the existing chairman, to deal with the problem that is developing in the industry because of the failure of investment in the south Wales coalfield?

Mr. Lawson

There has been no failure of investment in the south Wales coalfield. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said earlier, there is not only substantial investment, but even larger subsidies to keep open uneconomic pits. One way and another, there is a very substantial investment indeed in the south Wales coalfield. It is natural that the NCB should be looking for ways of staunching the loss, which is what it is doing, for the benefit of the industry as a whole. The appointment of the present chairman of the NCB, Mr. Norman Siddall, does not end until 3 July, and I congratulate him on the first-class job that he has done since he took office and continues to do.

Mr. Eadie

As this is, by common assent, an election year, does the right hon. Gentleman ageee that it would be highly improper to appoint a new chairman of the NCB, particularly if it is to be someone of the ilk of Mr. MacGregor?

Mr. Lawson

I assure the hon. Gentleman that neither I nor the Government will do anything improper. I note his assurance that this is an election year, but whether he is in a position to give that assurance is another matter.

Mr. Hannam

As neither the production targets nor the pit closure targets set out in the original "Plan for Coal" have been achieved, will my right hon. Friend ask the new chairman of the NCB to look carefully at the situation and to draw up more realistic targets for the future?

Mr. Lawson

I am sure that the new chairman, whoever he may be—my concern is simply to get the best man for the job—will look at these matters very carefully.