HC Deb 05 March 1984 vol 55 cc597-8
15. Mr. Ray Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will indicate on what date he intends to meet the chairman of the National Coal Board to discuss the subject of pit closures in Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Although I have numerous informal meetings with Mr. MacGregor, I have no immediate plans for an official meeting to discuss pit closures.

Mr. Powell

I regret that the Secretary of State has given me that reply, because since 1979 in my area we have had the closure of the Caerau colliery and the Coegnant colliery. On 7 January this year the Wyndham Western colliery was closed. The St. John's colliery in Maesteg has geological problems. Is the increase of imported coal one of the main reasons for MacGregor wanting to close collieries, and does it have anything to do with the fact that his banking interests are concerned with the country of origin of the imported coal?

Mr. Edwards

That is a disgraceful suggestion and typical of the sorts of remarks made in the House by the hon. Gentleman. I last met the chairman in December, when we had wide-ranging discussions. As I made clear in the Welsh day debate last week, it will continue to be necessary to close grossly uneconomic pits. I know about the geological problems that have been encountered at St. John's. I understand that the management and unions are considering its future with a view to reporting in the next few weeks. In the circumstances, it would be wrong to speculate.

Mr. Franks

Is the Minister aware that at a recent reception Sir Walter Marshall, the chairman of the Central Electricity Generating Board, stated that if the board were free to import coal the price of its fuel could be reduced by 25 per cent., and electricity prices by between 10 and 15 per cent.?

Mr. Edwards

That is the sort of conflicting interest that must be taken into account when considering these matters. I am glad to say that in the south Wales coalfields Aberthaw has been able to take a substantially increased uptake this year, which has meant that there has been a lifting of stocks in the area.