§ 13. Mr. Raffan
asked the Secretary of State for Wales if, when he next meets the National Coal Board's area director for Wales, he will discuss the effects of the current miners dispute on the future of the coal industry in Wales.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards
I and my Department are keeping closely in touch with the National Coal Board's directors about all aspects of the coal industry, including the effects of the current dispute.
§ Mr. Raffan
Has my right hon. Friend read the recent remarks of the area director for south Wales, Mr. Philip Weekes, to the effect that the strike is now adding £2 million a week to the losses of the south Wales coalfield and that he is extremely anxious that the coalfield will lose customers because it is no longer a consistent and reliable supplier? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the only way in which the miners of south Wales can secure their future is to ignore the political mischief-making of Mr. Scargill and the Labour party and to follow the excellent example of the miners at Point of Ayr in my constituency and return to work?
§ Mr. Edwards
I am sure that the future of the coal mining industry, which is receiving massive investment from the Government, cannot be helped by increased losses, safety measures being put at risk and markets being endangered. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend
§ Mr. Speaker
Questions to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for the Arts.
§ Mr. Coleman
Despite the obvious pleasure of Conservative Members at the miners' strike bringing hardship to mining communities, will the Secretary of State confirm that miners who go on strike, and their families, are entitled to receive exemption when requiring prescriptions if they notify DHSS offices?
§ Mr. Edwards
I should have preferred to have notice of that question. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman about it.
§ Mr. Barry Jones
When will the Government adopt a statesmanlike approach and intervene and encourage conciliation in the dispute? Why should the miners agree to pit closures when, in the south Wales valleys, male unemployment exceeds 20 per cent., and since 1979, under the Conservative Government, nearly 100,000 Welsh manufacturing jobs have disappeared? Should the closures go ahead, where will the new jobs come from?
§ Mr. Edwards
The Government have invested some £3.8 billion in the coal industry, compared with less than £1.5 billion by the previous Labour Government. We are planning to invest £3 billion over the next four years, and capital investment is being made at a rate of £2 million a day. I note that the hon. Gentleman referred to conciliation. Yet the Labour party is apparently allying itself with Mr. Scargill to obtain social and political objectives which Mr. Scargill is unwilling to put to a ballot of his own members.