HC Deb 22 October 1984 vol 65 cc426-7
14. Mr. Best

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement about the coal and steel industries in Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

As a result of the current dispute the coal industry in south Wales has lost 33 weeks of operation, 4.2 million tonnes of coal and each miner has lost on average £4,500 in wages. In addition, future prospects may have been damaged and markets put in jeopardy. The Welsh steel industry has maintained its operations.

Mr. Best

Is it not a wicked cruelty to the miners of Wales that Mr. Arthur Scargill insists on maintaining this strike, when the National Coal Board has done everything that it can to seek a conclusion to it? Is it not a fact that to rehabilitate and bring pits in south Wales back to working order would now cost £10 million? Is not that figure increasing all the time, which must further jeopardise the likelihood of jobs in south Wales pits?

Mr. Edwards

The strike must be jeopardising the future of several pits. The NCB accepted the formula put forward by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service as a reasonable basis following discussions, but, regrettably, the National Union of Mineworkers rejected that formula. That is where we stand now. I believe that the formula put forward by ACAS forms a reasonable basis for a settlement, and it is regrettable that the NUM and Mr. Arthur Scargill are apparently prepared to press on with this deeply damaging strike, regardless of the consequences.

Mr. Ray Powell

Is the Secretary of State not aware that his Government appointed Ian MacGregor, the geriatric person of 72, to run the coal industry, when he had no knowledge of it? Is he further aware that it is not Arthur Scargill but the elected members of the national executive committee who make decisions about the strike? It is time that the Government accepted their responsibilities and, having appointed another person in place of Ian MacGregor, they should try to get the miners, the NUM and everybody else to reach a long-overdue settlement of this strike.

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Gentleman talks about elections. It is a pity that he does not talk about ballots and persuade the miners to have a ballot.