HC Deb 28 November 1983 vol 49 cc635-6
2. Mr. Marlow

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will reorganise the National Coal Board in such a way as to permit workers in different geographical areas to acquire shares in their respective newly formed enterprises.

The Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Giles Shaw)

I am always willing to consider any ideas that give miners a participation in the fortunes of the industry in which they work.

Mr. Marlow

Would my hon. Friend be in favour eventually of a system of miners' co-operatives with access to private capital? If so, could he get the support of Mr. Arthur Scargill? If not, would that be helpful?

Mr. Shaw

The National Union of Mineworkers has not so far expressed much interest. I am aware of the report of my hon. Friend's working party, which recommended that loss-making pits should be handed over free of charge. However, that has not resulted in much support.

Mr. Mason

Will the Minister assure the coalmining industry that he has no intention of embarking on privatisation of the National Coal Board's operations, especially deep-mined coal output? Secondly, will he discourage the National Coal Board from devolving its regions into regional commercial economic entities?

Mr. Shaw

I can give the right hon. Gentleman the first assurance for which he asks. The Government have no plans for the privatisation of deep-mined coal. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear during Question Time recently that privatisation within The coal industry would primarily involve the disposal of ancillary industries.

The second question is a matter for the NCB, but there are discussions within the board about structural reorganisation.

Mr. Skeet

My hon. Friend will recollect that mines with fewer than 30 workers already exist in the private sector. Will he consider extending the number to 100 workers?

Mr. Shaw

My hon. Friend is right to remind the House that there is a thriving small private sector, producing about 1 million tonnes of coal, but he will recall that the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's recommendations about that are being considered.