HC Deb 04 June 1984 vol 61 cc2-4
2. Mr. Ray Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment he has made of the effect of the current miners' strike on the economy in Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

All reports confirm that Welsh industry generally is continuing to operate without serious disruption.

Mr. Powell

I anticipated that complacent attitude in the usual reply of the Secretary of State for Wales. I am rather surprised. Where does his statistical evidence come from? Apparently, the CBI has said something completely different——

Mr. Best

Ask a question.

Mr. Powell

Does the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) wish to intervene?

Has the Secretary of State looked into the number of people in Wales who have been made unemployed as a result of the mining strike? Does he realise that billions of pounds have been wiped off the balance of trade figures because of the use of oil instead of coal? Does he appreciate the different views that industrialists are expressing about the number of people being made unemployed by the miners' strike? Will he be less spineless in the Cabinet and do the same as the miners and Arthur Scargill in trying to get and save jobs in Wales and the rest of the country?

Mr. Edwards

I receive daily reports of the industrial situation in Wales. The CBI says that the coal dispute has had little impact so far although, regrettably of course, it is having an impact on the coal industry. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will encourage those who are seeking to persuade the miners in this damaging dispute.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Has my right hon. Friend been able to make any estimate of the number of jobs in the coal industry in Wales which may have been lost as a result of the loss of markets in this strike, and has he any assessment of the number of pits which may have become permanently damaged in consequence of the strike?

Mr. Edwards

I have no figures, but it must be clear that if markets are lost, or if pits are not adequately maintained, there may be consequences in terms of future job losses.

Mr. Anderson

We understand that, as part of a package deal, the NCB is offering new investment in the affected areas. If that is so, will the Secretary of State ensure that the Margam pit investment is high on that agenda?

Mr. Edwards

I have already told the House that the board is reconsidering a possible investment in the Margam pit, and it is of course for the board to take decisions on that matter.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that some people in the mining industry, and outside it, say that the only time that the Secretary of State for Wales begins to shake himself about anything is when the Prime Minister's husband sends him a letter? Is he also aware that we do not expect other than complacent answers from him, because it is well known that the miners are on the road to a historic victory, especially now that the chairman of the coal board has been put on the substitutes' bench, and that he, the Prime Minister and the rest of the Cabinet are due to get the biggest political and industrial good hiding that they have had in their lives?

Mr. Edwards

What remains true, as it has throughout the dispute, is that a large number of miners are continuing to work, and many more wish to work.

Mr. Harvey

As the great majority of miners who are affected by closures have been offered jobs in other pits, will the Secretary of State urge the miners to go back to work forthwith in Wales?

Mr. Edwards

Quite clearly, the sooner this damaging strike is ended, the better. I hope that negotiations will lead to a successful conclusion and that we shall return to a situation in which the industry can have a future based on the substantial investment being made by the Government.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Will the Secretary of State speak to his hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and ensure that that Minister does not penalise the families of strikers in south Wales who are making sacrifices to defend the jobs of their husbands and their sons?

Mr. Edwards

I shall draw my hon. Friend's attention to the question that has been put.

Mr. Terlezki

Is my right hon. Friend aware how much financial contribution, if any, miners' leaders have made to the striking miners, since £35 million of the National Union of Mineworkers is stacked away, and the miners, according to some Opposition Members, are going hungry?

Mr. Edwards

Fortunately, I have no responsibility for that matter, and therefore I do not propose to answer questions on it.

Mr. Barry Jones

The proposed pit closures could mean the economic and social death of valley communities in south-east Wales. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that what is now required is an urgent, statesmanlike intervention by the Secretary of State for Energy and the Secretary of State for Employment so that genuine negotiations with a view to a settlement rather than Cabinet disengagement might come forward? Will he undertake to intervene in this direction, and will he say that he will fight for more new pits in south Wales and for more investment in the coalfields?

Mr. Edwards

I do not believe that Government intervention is required to produce genuine discussion and negotiation.