HC Deb 04 July 1983 vol 45 c12
10. Mr. Eggar

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the future structure of the National Coal Board.

Mr. Peter Walker

I shall endeavour to see that the structure of the coal board is appropriate for it to achieve the strategic objective that the Government have set for it.

Mr. Eggar

When will my right hon. Friend publish the objectives for the new coal board chairman? Will he confirm that they will cover at least two matters—an undertaking from the Government that they will not prevent the NCB from closing loss-making pits and that the chairman will be obliged to publish the financial results for individual pits as soon as possible?

Mr. Walker

I shall certainly examine my hon. Friend's second suggestion. A procedure already exists under which the NUM and other mineworkers' unions agree that any proposal for closure is discussed by the management and union representatives. I believe that that should continue.

Mr. Bermingham

As the structure of the coal board should cover the open cast executive as well, will the Minister give the same answer as he gave earlier in respect of the coal board—that there are no plans to privatise the open cast sector?

Mr. Walker

I said that there were no plans at present to privatise any of the activities of the NCB, but that does not mean that I exclude any consideration of it in future. —[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—Obviously not. As I said in reply to an earlier question, if the president of the NUM were to put forward a constructive idea, I should certainly consider it.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is essential for all parties to keep an open mind on the question of the introduction of private capital? Is he aware that several peripheral businesses, such as Sankey in the building merchants' sphere, compete with the private sector, and that there is no reason for them to remain within the perview of the NCB.

Mr. Walker

My earlier reply made clear the present position. The main activity, as my hon. Friend's remarks make clear, is mining. I am anxious that the coal industry should succeed in the decades to come because it is an industry of long-lasting and immense importance to the British economy. That is why I believe that the approach that has been made in recent years by the present chairman, and will I think be made by the future chairman — namely, getting an economic and sensible coal industry—is of immense importance to this country.