HC Deb 26 November 1984 vol 68 cc609-10
17. Dr. Mawhinney

asked the Secretary of State for Energy how much of the initial finance of the Coal Board's enterprise company has so far been allocated.

Mr. David Hunt

The board of NCB (Enterprise) Ltd. held its first meeting on 30 October. The company has received over 150 inquiries so far, and these will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Dr. Mawhinney

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he give the House a categorical assurance that when the first £5 million made available to the enterprise company has been used, more money will be made available if there are worthwhile projects?

Mr. Hunt

The Government attach great importance to the work of this very important enterprise company. I assure my hon. Friend that the resources available to the new company will be kept under very careful review.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State concede that there must be a relationship between giving finance where pit closures have taken place and are likely to take place and general regional policy? What discussions has he had with his right hon. Friends in the Department of Trade and Industry about keeping mining areas, such as Fife, at assisted area status?

Mr. Hunt

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. All I can say is that it is vital that that company succeeds. I hope that in doing so it will have the support of the whole House.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

The Minister's comments are welcome to the House, but will he explain why the Government and the NCB took so long to establish that organisation, in view of the undoubted success of British Steel Corporation (Industry) Ltd., particularly when they were asked to do so shortly after the beginning of the dispute by my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen)?

Mr. Hunt

Inevitably it takes time for a new company of that nature to be brought up to strength and for the right executive director to be found. However, every possible effort is being made to bring the company into activity as quickly as possible to meet the challenge that is necessary in these crucial areas.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

Is my hon. Friend aware—I am sure he is — that many businesses depend upon a prosperous coal industry, which is in trouble at the moment in the strike areas? When the company comes into operation, will he try to arrange for the NCB to give support to industries or businesses which employ people and which, if they are not helped, will contribute towards a rise in the unemployment figures, as they will go bankrupt?

Mr. Hunt

I assure my hon. Friend that we are watching carefully and with great concern the condition and strength of certain companies in mining areas. Inevitably, one is forced to the conclusion that the sooner this unnecessary and damaging dispute is over, the better the health of those companies will be.