HC Deb 15 July 1985 vol 83 cc2-3
1. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a further statement on the employment situation in the Scottish coalfield.

The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Peter Walker)

The National Coal Board tells me that at 6 July it had 10,216 industrial employees in the Scottish area. This compared with 12,590 at 31 March 1985. The net fall in numbers was therefore 2,374. During that period 2,332 men accepted voluntary redundancy.

NCB (Enterprises) Ltd. is actively seeking to encourage job creation in Scotland.

Mr. Douglas

Does the Secretary of State recognise the considerable grievance about the Scottish economy and job losses? We should all be happy to record an improvement in industrial relations and output, particularly in Fife, but would that not be enhanced if the Secretary of State used positive forces to ensure that the cases of more than 200 men dismissed during the strike are reviewed by the National Coal Board? At the same time, will the right hon. Gentleman use his good offices to ensure that good industrial relations are brought back to the Scottish coalfields?

Mr. Walker

I have already informed the hon. Gentleman that a review of all the dismissals in Scotland has taken place. I understand that the result of that review will be known shortly.

Mr. Skinner

Will the Secretary of State make absolutely clear to the House and to the nation that those employed in certain coalfields who have been treated differently from men working in other coalfields will get a fair crack of the whip, like the many Members of Parliament who have fallen foul of the law over the years but have somehow managed to retain their jobs, like his old pal Jim Slater, who cost the taxpayer £70 million——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is a bit wide of the question on the Scottish coalfield.

Mr. Skinner

—and is now exploiting people once again?. If he can apply something to Jim Slater, he can——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is an abuse of Question Time.

Mr. Walker

We notice the hon. Gentleman's pathetic utterances. Whenever he has a bad case, he does that. It would be appreciated if the hon. Gentleman showed a little interest in those who suffered from violence during the pit dispute.

Mr. Eadie

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Opposition welcome his statement that there will have to be some meetings concerning victimised miners in Scotland? It is an abuse of language to say that there has been a review. There has never been a review.

Is the Secretary of State aware that employment in the mining industry in Scotland will continue to contract as long as there is no investment in the area? As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, we have figures from Mr. Wheeler showing that from 1979 to the present time investment in the Scottish coalfield has been reduced. No investment means contraction of the industry.

Mr. Walker

The Government's investment record in the coal industry is much better than that of the previous Labour Government. Therefore, any comparison of investment must show that in coalfields throughout the country there has been a substantial improvement under this Government—an improvement that did not take place under the previous Labour Government. Whether the comparison is on closures, investment or anything else, this Government's record compares very favourably with that of the previous Labour Government.

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