HC Deb 04 July 1983 vol 45 cc4-5
3. Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what plans he has for the privatisation of the coal industry.

18. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will introduce proposals for privatisation in the coal industry.

The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Peter Walker)

I have no such plans at present.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the Secretary of State aware that that reply will be met with great satisfaction by Labour Members, but are there not skinheads on the Conservative Benches who want to hive off the profit-making sections of the coal industry? Will he resist the blandishments of those wretched people?

Mr. Walker

I know of no skinheads in the Conservative party. If, at some time in the future, the president of the National Union of Mineworkers pleaded with me to provide some co-operative for miners, I should have to consider that carefully.

Mr. Stokes

Might it not be a good idea to sell the coal industry to the miners?

Mr. Walker

Yes, but I do not think that the miners would consider it an equally good idea.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I apologise. I should have called the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley), who had a linked question.

Mr. Adley

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Does my right hon. Friend recall his excellent proposal some years ago for giving council houses to the people who live in them? Does he not seriously think that the proposal put forward some years ago by our former colleague, Mr. Benn, to put the ownership of the pits into the hands of some of the miners has some merit and could advantage the miners, the taxpayers and the production of coal?

Mr. Walker

It is important that Britain has a successful coal industry. Therefore, I have replied to the question by saying that there is no such proposal at the present time. I was not aware that a predecessor of mine, Mr. Benn, had made this proposal, but that makes it rather more dubious than I had previously thought.

Mr. Janner

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that there is no proposal to resell the resources of the Vale of Belvoir to the Duke of Rutland or anyone else? If that is not his proposal, why is there the present delay, and when will work begin in Asfordby?

Mr. Walker

I agree that the project is of immense importance to the coal industry, and I hope that decisions will be made speedily. I have had no application from the Duke of Rutland.

Mr. Rost

Will my right hon. Friend at least consider the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's recent recommendations that the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946 should be amended and, in particular, that opencast coal mining should be more privatised and the monopoly marketing organisation, which it regards as against the consumers' and industry's interests, got rid of?

Mr. Walker

As my hon. Friend knows, the private sector already has quite an interest in opencast mining. Several activities connected with that take place in the private sector. I have not yet had time to study the commission's proposals, but I shall certainly do so.

Mr. Eadie

Has not the Secretary of State given an important answer to the question that has been addressed to him today? Does he agree that to some extent it is addressed to the miners' conference, which is now meeting in Perth? Is the right hon. Gentleman specifically telling the House that he and the Government have no plans to sell off the coal industry to their friends in private enterprise?

Mr. Walker

Yes, there are no such plans. I can say to the miners' conference that a successful mining industry is of immense importance to Britain and is one of our great resources. I shall do all that I can to see that it is a success.