HC Deb 20 February 1984 vol 54 cc545-6
1. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement regarding the consultation which took place between the National Coal Board and his Department before the announcement on 3 February of the cessation of production at Bogside mine in Fife.

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

Colliery closures are a matter for the National Coal Board, which has well-established arrangements, agreed with the mining unions, covering procedures at local and national level. These do not call for consultation with my Department, and none took place.

Mr. Douglas

Is that not an extremely innocuous reply in the circumstances? As in England, the NCB sees fit, in its wisdom, to ask the mine managers' union to give cover, while in Scotland it has decided not to request similar cover for maintenance and safety, will the Minister institute an inquiry, preferably public, into all the elements surrounding the problems affecting the Bogside closure on 3 February, so that there will be a halt to the NCB's vindictive attitude in Scotland, which is causing disruption in the coalfield?

Mr. Shaw

I regret that the hon. Gentleman should see fit to criticise the NCB management in any part of the United Kingdom on such a matter. I do not intend to intervene in a matter involving safety provision. That must be for the local NCB management and the active discussion of those involved.

Mr. Mason

In view of the increasing numbers of pit closures in recent months, what changes have taken place in the closure procedures used by the NCB? Is the Minister aware that there seems to be a new element of dictatorship in pit closures? Who is responsible for the introduction of that dictatorship—the chairman, Ian MacGregor, or the Department of Energy?

Mr. Shaw

The right hon. Gentleman is referring to a range of pit closures, all of which have been through the normally accepted procedures, and all of which have resulted in closure by voluntary redundancies. The right hon. Gentleman should recognise that over 11 years there were 295 closures and over the years both management and many others commenting on the industry have said that that is essential if the industry is to recover some viability with its enormous loss-making capacity.

Mr. Orme

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) on his strong point. Does the Minister agree that there appears to be a change in procedure and an escalation in the effect of pit closures? Will he comment on the report in The Observer yesterday, which forecast the loss of 37,000 more jobs over the next 12 months, with 30 pits to close? Will that also lead to a change in procedure? What has the Minister to say to that?

Mr. Shaw

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong to infer that there has been any change in procedure. The procedure for the evaluation of pits is traditional in the industry, is annual in extent, and covers every pit in the United Kingdom, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. The facts of the closure are similar today in relation to decisions taken to those during the period of the Labour Administration when, in 11 years, 295 pits closed.

Mr. Douglas

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

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