§ 8. Mr. Michael Morris
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is the number of miners that have returned to work since the current dispute in the mining industry began.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. David Hunt)
In the eight months from the beginning of the strike to 1 November around 6,000 former strikers returned to work. In the 17 working days since then, over 14,000 more have gone back.
There have been considerable increases in the number of men at work in Scotland, the north-east, south Yorkshire, north Derbyshire, Lancashire and north Wales.
§ Mr. Morris
If my hon. Friend will give the House a categorical assurance that the 20,000-plus men exist, and that they are being paid, that would be some evidence. How does the answer square with Mr. Scargill's assertion at the weekend that there were 144,000 men on strike—4,000 more than a month ago, according to his figures?
§ Mr. Hunt
Yes, the figures that I have given are correct, and they are the figures for those being paid. The NCB's external auditors, Thomson McLintock and Company, have been to north Derbyshire and tested and confirmed the reliability of the board's systems for reporting the number of men returning to work. I, too, heard Mr. Arthur Scargill yesterday mention the figure of 144,275. The actual figure is 123,000. That shows the level of distortion that Mr. Scargill uses.
§ Mr. Dykes
Does my hon. Friend think that it is because the return to work figures are so good and encouraging that Mr. Scargill keeps going on secret trips to Paris, or is it that Mr. Scargill is beginning to get nervous about his own hit-men, as he has now grudgingly and slowly begun to half-condemn violence?
§ Mr. Rowlands
Do the Minister's figures include the Merthyr Vale pit at Aberfan, where two miners went to work last week and this morning? [Interruption.] They went in at 7 o'clock and left at quarter to 11. Is that what 609 constitutes two working miners? Instead of quoting figures, will the Secretary of State come down and see for himself what the argument is about? He has never been anywhere near the coalfields.
§ Mr. Hunt
The House must understand that to be among the first to return to work at a pit demands great courage. [Interruption.] It demands the sort of courage that was shown by the first six miners to enter the Bilston Glen colliery on 5 June. I am happy to report that nearly 900 men are at work there today.