HC Deb 02 April 1984 vol 57 cc637-8
9. Mr. John Townend

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will now answer questions about the concessionary coal scheme.

Mr. Giles Shaw

Concessionary coal is supplied under the terms of an agreement negotiated between the National Coal Board and the unions. The concessionary coal payments scheme is a Government scheme to reimburse to the National Coal Board certain costs of supplying concessionary coal to redundant mineworkers under the terms of the relevant agreement.

Mr. Townend

Does my hon. Friend agree that the cost in retail prices of the miners' concessionary coal scheme is a matter of public interest? Does he further agree that there is growing resentment among many other employees because they are asked to pay increasing sums in taxation for their company cars while miners' benefits in kind remain completely tax free?

Mr. Shaw

I am well aware that my hon. Friend is right in saying that there is much unease about the prices charged for concessionary coal and its supply to miners, but, equally, he will be well aware that it is a very well-established benefit in kind, which has been supported for many years by Governments of both persuasions. The arrangements made are variable area by area and are the subject of individual discussion and negotiation between the area boards and the NUM.

Mr. Allen McKay

Will the Under-Secretary give a categorical assurance that there will be no interference with the historic concessionary coal allowance? Does he agree that the question asked by the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) is one of the most dangerous to ask at this sensitive time?

Mr. Shaw

I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks. He will note that in the orders passed last Wednesday provision was made for the continuation of such schemes.

Mr. Jim Spicer

Regardless of the merits of the concessionary coal scheme, does it apply while miners are on strike?

Mr. Shaw

The availability of coal will, of course, be a matter of the freedom of supply.

Mr. Hardy

Would the Minister be surprised if those working in the mining industry or dependent on it in the mining communities decided that while Bridlington returns a Member of Parliament with a rather nasty attitude they would be reluctant to continue to spend money in the resort that bears the constituency's name?

Mr. Shaw

I do not know which resort is the last refuge of a scoundrel, but the hon. Gentleman must accept that my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) has a perfect right to look most closely at the finances of any scheme undertaken by the NCB.

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