HC Deb 31 January 1983 vol 36 cc1-3
1. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what has been the increase or decrease in labour productivity in the coal mining industry over the most recent 12-month period for which figures are available.

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

Provisional figures show that in 1982 overall revenue output per manshift averaged 2.41 tonnes, an increase of 1.3 per cent. on 1981.

Mr. Knox

The increase is very welcome, but does not my hon. Friend think that it is a little disappointing compared with the excellent figure for last year? Why has there been a slowdown?

Mr. Moore

It is a positive increase, but my hon. Friend is right in saying that it is obviously disappointing. Essentially, the reasons relate to two factors—the sympathetic industrial action with the health workers earlier in the year and the NUM overtime ban in October.

Mr. Hardy

Will the Minister confirm that, although the figure is more modest than for many years, it is evidence of the enormous technological achievements that have taken place in the mining industry? Will he also confirm that our industry is the most successful deep-mining industry in the world and that it can remain so if the Government ensure that adequate investment is forthcoming?

Mr. Moore

Yes. It shows clearly the massive investment that has gone into the technological advance of our industry, and obviously both sides of the House welcome that. However, it is disappointing to all of us who want coal to be successful that the expected increases in productivity under the "Plan for Coal" have not materialised so far.

Mr. Hannam

Does my hon. Friend agree that if the unions had been able to fulfil their side of the commitment in "Plan for Coal", as the taxpayer and the Government have done with their investment, electricity prices and general industrial costs would be lower than they are today?

Mr. Moore

It is clear that all those who use electricity—82 per cent. of our electricity comes from coal generation—would benefit from any improvements in productivity patterns in the coal industry.

Mr. Eadie

The Minister gave the figures. On the theme of disappointment, does he agree that it is also disappointing that, since this Government took office, there has been very little evidence of new pit sinkings?

What are the prospects for new pit sinkings? I ask that because there in lies the hope of achieving increased productivity?

Mr. Moore

I am delighted to see the hon. Gentleman back in the House after his recent operation.

The hon. Gentleman will know, of course, from his experience, that the vast majority of new investment since "Plan for Coal" has gone into the long-life pits in terms of improved technology. New pit sinkings are a facet of the long-term improvement of the industry, as also is the removal of the uneconomic capacity of the industry, which is part and parcel of that investment process.

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